PWC 2019: Day One

featuring zombies, vampires, demons, and human monsters

Day One of #PWC2019 was everything I thought it would be and much more. I took classes with Shirley Hailstock, Jonathan Maberry, and Brian McKinley. I’d like to share some highlights from the conference.

Shirley discusses the types of plots, protagonists, and villains and recommends avoiding superhuman qualities unless I’m prepared to put them in situations that challenge these qualities. She reminded that most villains should have at least one streak of kindness and a favorite pet. In my current WIP, I have my protagonist being rescued. In the rewrite, my protagonist will still be rescued, but she will have almost finished her escape before the cavalry arrives. I’m thinking now that villain should love birds the way I do balloons. 🎈🎈

Brian discussed trends and advises that zombies have gotten old and recommended biological means as a way to craft good horror fiction. Thankfully, my previous job as a respiratory therapist helps this cause. He also recommended Dean Koontz’s rules on good fiction. To summarize, Koontz suggests multi-dimensional characters, anticipation to create suspense, avoiding something other than their own survival.

Jonathan discussed the business end of writing, query letters, and the technique of pitching a book. If I query someone, I will skip the cuteness and be professional. Save the Mylar balloon stories for Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, for balloons are my brand or uniform. Maybe allow a week to type that query letter because it needs to be strong. As for verbal pitching, I know now that I’ve been going about it wrong. Jonathan recommends noting five things that the book is about and five things that the book is not about. For example, Steel Rose has zombies, Mylar balloons, and fighting scenes between humans and hostile aliens, but that’s not really what the book is about, so I might not mention them. It’s about Alexis struggling with health problems and learning that she’s stronger than she thinks she is. She’s finding out that the world isn’t what it used to be. It’s about a Kryszka doctor trying to fit into a human environment. It’s about two people learning to love again.

For pitching, he recommends having feeling in your voice. That is something I struggle with. Perhaps I’d best practice with my Mylar balloons. In the meantime, I will prepare a follow-up blog with my thoughts on day two and three.

About Barbara Custer

Author of: Twilight Healer Steel Rose Life Raft: Earth City of Brotherly Death Close Liaisons Infinite Sight When Blood Reigns Infinite Sight Publisher / Editor of Night to Dawn Books & Magazine
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6 Comments

  1. I enjoyed reading this excellent summary of the conference. You mentioned all the main points and gave good examples. Thanks, Barbara.

  2. What kind of birds did you have in mind? I remember Lex Luthor in The New Adventures of Superman TV series favored birds of prey for a while there. The man who developed the Spitfire made a study of birds and how their wings functioned. The Rollys Royce engine that powered the Spitfire was name Merlin after the falcon by that name. In medieval times certain birds of prey became the property of certain members of the aristocracy. In Greece, in particular Athens, owls have their special place in mythology. In Canada an owl calling your name is a portent to your own demise. Me? I have a soft spot for Frog-mouths, once thought of as owls. Anyway, for villains I do believe cats have been overdone.

    • I was actually going to use a cardinal or something like that but knowing my character, he might prefer a bird of prey. So glad you mentioned this. I’ve never used a cat for a villain, though Laurel of Steel Rose did have a dog named Pluto. 🙂 Barbara of the Balloons

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