FAQ

If you have a question or a request, please read this page in its entirety before filling out my contact form. If you ask me something that’s answered on this page, I’ll most likely just ignore your message.

What do you think of my idea for a ghost story?

An idea is the absolute bare-bones version of a story, sort of like the blurb on the back of a book. I’m sure you can think of a time when you picked up a book and read the back, thinking “This sounds great!” only to get halfway through the story inside and slam the book shut in disgust. Likewise, an idea may sound totally stupid at first, but in the hands of a capable writer can become a phenomenal story.

In short, I can’t answer your question because I haven’t read your story yet, and I can’t read it because it hasn’t been written. That means it’s time for you to start writing.

Will you critique my ghost story?

I love reading ghost stories, and since I can be a rather critical person, I also enjoy critiquing things. There are just a couple caveats.

First, if your story is long, I may just critique a part of it. Don’t worry though; there’s a good chance that anything I point out in the small part I read is also present in what I didn’t read. Use the general principles I mention and apply them to the rest of your story.

Second, reading and critiquing a story takes time—time that I’m essentially giving away for free. As a point of courtesy, I’d really appreciate it if you subscribed to my newsletter when asking me for a critique. This actually helps both of us. It helps me get the word out about new ghost stories, and it helps you because the more ghost stories you read, the better you’ll get at writing them yourself. Don’t worry about getting inundated with emails; I only send about one a month.

As long as you agree to the above terms, there’s no need to ask permission before sending your story to me. Just include it (or a link to it) in your message when you ask.

When I critique a story, my primary focus will be on making it scarier. I’ll also point out plot holes, character development issues, and potential technical improvements, but I will not correct grammar or spelling. The most I’ll do in that regard is advise you to proofread if I find excessive mistakes.

If you request a critique but don’t subscribe to my newsletter, I reserve the right to ignore your message entirely.

How do I do this in my ghost story?

This includes questions like:

If your question sounds like one of those, make sure you read my guide to writing ghost stories. There’s a good chance your question is already answered there. If not, then feel free to ask. However, if you ask a question that I feel is adequately answered in that article, then I reserve the right to ignore your message.

Will you write a ghost story about my idea?

The short answer is no.

Now for the longer answer. You’re essentially hiring me to write your story for you, only you aren’t paying me. Writing a story requires a lot of creative energy, and I’d rather expend that energy on my own ideas. Also, if I did write your story, I wouldn’t be able to take full credit for it. I know that makes me sound like a very selfish person, but there it is.

That’s not to say I would never write a story based on your idea. Ideas have a funny way of marinating in our brains until we forget where they came from, combining with other ideas until they become a brand new idea.

If you aske me to write a story based on your idea, I reserve the right to ignore your message. However, if you visit The Noctrium one night and find a story that resembles your idea, odds are it was just a sliver that worked its way up from some forgotten corner of my subconscious. At any rate, you shouldn’t be mad, because you’ll have gotten what you wanted in the first place.

Where do you get your inspiration?

Music (especially dark ambient), other ghost stories, movies, images, dreams—inspiration can come from just about anything that gives me the right feeling. The idea for The Babysitter came to me while walking around a craft store and seeing a decorative dress mold on display. I thought of how creepy it would be if…well, read the story if you want to know more. Swamp Children started out as a campfire tale told by my father. Trick or Treat was based on one of my most memorable Halloween experiences as a child. My longest work of horror, Hallowdale, was conceived while listening to Midnight Syndicate’s album The 13th Hour.

If you have a question about a specific story, then go ahead and ask, but general “where do you get your ideas from” inquiries will be ignored.

What’s Your Writing Process Like?

This includes questions like:

I’m not a terribly organized writer, although I hope to change that in the future. By extension, I don’t have a formal process. Sometimes an idea strikes me so fully formed that I can just dive in and write it in an hour. Other times I have to spend weeks trying out ideas and creating outlines. Occasionally this is because the story is long or complicated, but usually it’s because I just don’t feel like working on it. Some people might call it writer’s block, but I prefer to call it what it is: laziness.

Yep. I think writer’s block is just an excuse. I’ve found that when the symptoms show up, it’s actually caused by a lack of preparation on my part, not the absence of a muse. I don’t know what happens next in the story because I haven’t planned enough. I don’t feel inspired because I haven’t spent enough time around sources of inspiration. Sometimes I’m just too close to the current story to see what’s good and what’s bad, and that’s when it helps to have multiple stories in progress at the same time. Hit a wall with one, move on to another.

Also, I usually don’t write everything in order. Usually I’ll start with the beginning, but then I’ll bounce around. This helps get past tricky scenes in a story. If you write the scenes that come before and after it, you’ll have a better idea about what to do. Sometimes it ends up writing itself.

When are you going to publish a new ghost story?

During my on-season, I publish a new story once a month. In October, I might publish more than that, and after Halloween my off-season begins. During my off-season, which typically lasts from Halloween to late spring/early summer, I don’t publish any new stories.

If you want to be notified as soon as I release a new ghost story, then subscribe to my newsletter.

How often do you send out email newsletters?

Every time I publish a new ghost story. See the above question for more details on that. I also might send one if there’s an important announcement regarding The Noctrium, such as if the site address ever changed, but that is very rare.

Will You Post My Story on The Noctrium?

No. I built The Noctrium to be an archive for my own work. I will never accept guest submissions for publication in the library, and unsolicited submissions masquerading as comments will be deleted. However, if you publish your story on another website, feel free to send me a link. If I think your work is good enough and in line with the themes of The Noctrium, I may feature it in the chronicle.

Why haven’t you replied to me?

Before you ask this question, wait a week. It’s possible I’ve just been busy and haven’t had a chance to respond.

There are several reasons I might not reply to your message.

If you ask some variation of the questions above, or fail to follow the given instructions for a request, I might ignore you. The logic behind this decision is that, since you’ve chosen to ignore what I’ve already written, why should I waste my time writing something else for you to ignore?

When you filled out the contact form, did you give me your real name? Sometimes people give me a name that is obviously fake, and it really rubs me the wrong way. I’ve given you my real name, and I expect the same courtesy in return. Providing a fake name doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll automatically ignore you, but it certainly won’t do you any favors. If you’re really paranoid about your privacy, at least choose a credible alias.

On a related note, did you fill out the entire form correctly, and was it successfully submitted? The ghosts in The Noctrium try to help you there, but every now and then they make a mistake and let an incomplete submission get through. If you’re certain you’ve done everything else right, try resending.