Archive for the ‘Living and Life’ Category

I’m really not sure where to start with this one. I mean, how do you tell people about the realization of your childhood dream in one blog post, let alone be coherent? I feel like going in fifty different directions with this post, that’s how excited I am!

Well, I guess I’ll start at the beginning. Or what I think makes a good beginning, anyway: back in March of last year, my friend and fellow novelist Matt Williams (check out his blog HERE) announced that his novel, The Cronian Incident (which I recommend if you’re into science fiction and detective stories, by the way)  had been accepted for publication by Castrum Press, a company based out of Belfast in North Ireland which, in the year since Matt’s been accepted, has gained a bit of a reputation for publishing great speculative fiction and treating its authors very well. Later that year I did an interview with Matt and then received an eARC copy of Incident from Castrum to read and review. After hearing how Matt liked the company and seeing how well his book was doing, I asked if he’d make an introduction for me to the company’s editor. He said yes.

I talked with Castrum’s owner, Paul, and he asked to see some of Rose. This was after the third draft had been finished, if I remember correctly. I sent him the first ten pages, letting him know I planned to do one more draft after the beta readers were done with the manuscript. He sent back some notes and asked to see more of the book when it was done. One draft later, I sent him the fourth draft of Rose, hoping against hope that they’d like it enough to publish it.

Cut to last Friday, and I receive an email when I get home from work. It was Castrum: they wanted to discuss publishing Rose. After jumping up and down like a kangaroo and screaming high enough to break glass, I replied saying I’d be happy to work with them. Paul sent a contract yesterday, and after having some of my questions answered, I signed the contract and sent it back to him this afternoon, with the realization that my dream has been accomplished. A novel of mine is getting published by a company.

To which there’s only one thing to say:

By the way, if you’re unfamiliar with Rose, this is a novel I first wrote as my college thesis during senior year. It follows a young, amnesiac woman who starts turning into a plant woman. And that’s just the events of Chapter One. And trust me, it’s a full-on horror novel from there, complete with psychological and supernatural terrors galore. I tried editing it again in 2016 and couldn’t make it work, tried again in 2017, and after that things kind of just snowballed from there. And now it’s getting published.

Obviously, I’m feeling a number of emotions right now. Excitement about the publication process and seeing Rose out in print, nervousness about how it will be received by the book-reading public, satisfaction that this dream has been achieved, hope for the future, and a feeling of goodwill about things to come. Especially that last one. Since at some point during the third draft of Rose, I had a feeling that things were about to change, that something big was about to start. And since the New Year, I’ve had this very strong feeling that not only was 2018 going to go slower than 2017 did, but that 2018 was going to be my year. And so far, it seems I was right on both counts. And I hope I can continue to be right on both counts.

Rose will appear in this medium very soon.

There’s so many people to thank for this wonderful event. Firstly, my friend Matt Williams for connecting me to the company, my beta readers Joleene Naylor and Dr. Black (my chiropractor, believe it or not), as well as Paul Camper, Maura Heaphy, and Manny Martinez for looking at the book back in college, and of course to Castrum for taking a chance on this indie author from Ohio. But most of all, I’d like to thank you, my Followers of Fear. For nearly seven years, you’ve stood by me and supported me through my various writing endeavors, my college experience, finding and getting a job, my ups and my downs, and so much more. You’ve all supported me and helped me get this far, and I can’t thank you enough for that. I hope you continue to support me (and maybe even read Rose when it comes out) as I continue down this road and try to make sure Rose is a huge success.

So what happens next? Well, I’ll work with Castrum to produce a fifth and hopefully final draft of the novel. We’ll get to talking about cover art and at some point we’ll set a release date (I’m hoping before Halloween, but we’ll see). And of course, I’ll make sure to let you know of any major developments.

Until next time, my Followers of Fear, I wish you pleasant nightmares (I’ll, of course, be having nothing but pleasant dreams)!


Last year, I saw my first ballet, Romeo & Juliet, performed live on stage here in Columbus. Since then, I’ve gone to see a production of Swan Lake, watched a video online of Fall River Legend, based on the Lizzie Borden case (no need to guess why I looked up that one), and last night I went with my mother to see Giselle live on stage. And I have to say, after a year of watching/attending performances, I’m pretty much a committed ballet fan.

So if you’re keeping count at home, I’m a Jewish horror writer who’s openly bisexual, who enjoys nerdy things like superhero movies and anime/manga, reads plenty of scary stories, collects dolls and figurines, enjoys Buckeye football, has attended heavy metal concerts and listens to a lot of 80’s music, is on the autism spectrum and advocates for disabilities, knows how to cook and bake and enjoys it, and also enjoys going to the ballet. If there’s a stereotype I fit neatly into, I don’t know what it is!

But back to ballet. How did I get into it? Well besides possibly having a thing for tutus (but come on, who doesn’t?), I’m not sure when my interest in the medium first arose. I think it might’ve been from an episode of Sailor Moon I saw when I was a kid back where the episode revolved around a ballet teacher (Sailor Moon, how many ways do you continue to influence me?). Before that, I’d dismissed ballet as for girls, but after that episode, I started to wonder if there was something to like.

And then of course, the desire to check it out went dormant, because the only filters I had for experiencing ballet were through my sisters and their direct-to-video ballet movies and specials. But I think the desire awoke again in college. I’m not sure what the catalyst was, but by senior year, I wanted to go see a production from BalletMet, Columbus’s premiere ballet company, and ballerinas started appearing in some of my story ideas (one of these days I’ll hopefully write most of those ideas). However, I could only really afford to see a show after I was employed long enough that paying for tickets wouldn’t break my bank account (turns out they’re actually pretty affordable compared to other forms of live entertainment, but I didn’t know that until recently).

Thus last April I saw Romeo & Juliet, and absolutely loved it. The combination of music, acting, costume and choreography to tell a story was beautiful and mesmerizing, and at the end, actually a little heartbreaking. I even had an idea for a ballet a day or two after seeing the show (BalletMet, email me! We’ll make an original production people will love!). It’s no surprise I’ve made a point to see more shows since then. And after watching a few shows, I’ve noticed some interesting things about the medium:

  1. It’s not just an art form, it’s also a sport. Ballet requires feats of the body that are similar to what athletes go through. They train for several hours a day, several days a week; some dancers need to build their upper body strength, especially for lifting other dancers; some leaps and dance moves look right out of a gymnastics or track and field competition; and dancers get some of the same injuries professional sports players get. It’s definitely a lot more involved than just twirling around on a stage and looking pretty, as some people might think.
  2. The stories are often simple. Not to say they’re stupid or without depth, but the stories in ballet are often a lot easier to understand than something like Game of Thrones, which is based a lot in various histories, plots, intrigues, mythologies, etc and would be difficult to convey through dance alone. They’re more often based in love stories or fairy tales, things everyone can get without much difficulty. And that’s good, in my opinion. After all, despite being considered “cultured,” ballet is supposed to be an art form for the masses to enjoy (ironic, given that the form first arose as a way to instruct Italian noble children on how to act in court). It makes sense that the stories would be aimed at the masses, rather than at only a tiny segment.

    The Willis at the end of Giselle last night.

  3. Ballet is a lot like watching a silent film. Because ballet is entirely without dialogue (with a few exceptions, like the first act of Fall River Legend), facial and body language is almost as important as being able to dance. Joy, rage or anguish, it’s important to convey how the character feels in any situation. In that sense, dancers are very much like modern silent film actors (without the make-up that makes them look like serial killers, of course).
  4. Filler moments. This is what I call moments when ballet extends certain scenes with dance routines not necessarily connected to the plot. As I said, ballet is sans dialogue, which would be used to lengthen plays or musicals. So instead they have longer dance sequences that may not be connected to the plot. In Swan Lake, there’s a sequence where Odette and Siegfried are offstage and the other swan dancers do a dance for a few minutes before the protagonists arrive back on stage, for example. It doesn’t really have much to do with the actual conflict of the story, but it’s very well done and extends the ballet so we feel like we got our money’s worth.
    Not that this is just something done to extend the show’s runtime. At times, it makes sense to have these filler moments. For example, Giselle takes place during a fall harvest festival. During the production I saw last night, there were various dance sequences in the first act where only male dancers would dance, then female dancers, then children, then lovers, etc. And this feels like something that would happen during a village harvest festival, various dances that different groups of people would take part in. This makes the illusion of the show feel more real and not just a performance.

    The main characters of Giselle.

    And at other times, filler moments allow for some amazing creativity and storytelling: in Romeo & Juliet, when Juliet is deciding whether or not to take the potion to fake her death, they actually show her struggling with whether or not to go through with her choice, and then is confronted by the ghosts of Petruchio and Tybalt, as if to remind her of what she’ll be apart of if she doesn’t take the potion. That’s not something you’d see in the original stageplay, and is something that could only be born from a performance without dialogue. Similarly, during the second act of Giselle, when we meet the supernatural spirits the Willis, we get some interesting dance moves that intimate to the audience that these are ghosts that act as one on a mission. It is really amazing.

As you can tell, I’ve gotten a lot out of going to the ballet. And with more shows out there to find and watch, I hope I can see them and get even more from them. The creativity, blending of music, dance and storytelling, and the devotion and work put into productions is why ballet has endured for so many years, and why it will continue to endure and evolve over time. And if you get the chance, I highly encourage you to go take in a show. You never know what you may experience.

Well, it’s been a year since I last had a Lovecraft binge (see Parts 1, 2, and 3 for my previous binges). And while I didn’t read any actual Lovecraft stories in the year (holy cow, that long?) since my last binge, he was certainly never far from my mind. I read a lot of fiction influenced or modeled after his work, including the Lovecraft/YA novel Awoken* (read my review here), shopped around my own Lovecraft-themed story The Red Bursts (still working on that), and wrote an article about why there’s not more adaptations or even a cinematic universe based on his work. No, surprise, after all that I was ready for another dive into his work. And boy, did I enjoy the eldritch swim.

So if you’re not familiar with HP Lovecraft (and I’d bet good money that you’re not), he was an early 20th-century author whose ideas and stories proved very influential on storytellers like Stephen King, Guillermo del Toro, and Allan Moore, among others. He’s considered the father of cosmic horror, the idea that humans are basically ants in our universe, that there are beings and truths so great and terrible that even glimpsing them can cause madness and death. It’s pretty bleak stuff, if you think about too much about it (which I have).

So this time around, I read “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward,” Lovecraft’s only finished novel, “The Colour Out of Space,” “The Dunwich Horror,” “History of the Neconomicon” and “The Whisperer in Darkness,” as well as several fragments, one letter excerpt, and one parody story, but I won’t go over those. And I got to say, these were definitely some of the most enjoyable of Lovecraft’s stories. They were consistently creepy and kept me engrossed in the story, as well as with the most accessible language (dude liked to pretend he was a contemporary of Poe, rather than a contemporary of Ernest Hemingway). Or am I just used to his style now?

The interesting thing about these highlighted stories is, they also mark Lovecraft’s shift from pure horror to science-horror. Sure, he’s done that before–“Herbert West: Reanimator” is the story of two men trying to discover the key to bringing back the dead using science, a theme also explored in “Charles Dexter Ward,” but more thriller and magical than science-fiction–but here there was definitely a more sci-fi element in his work. “The Colour Out of Space” and “The Whisperer in Darkness” both involved aliens, with the former involving a sort of alien infection and the latter involving aliens that have been visiting Earth for centuries.

Why did Lovecraft make this shift? Well, around the time these stories were written–late 1920’s and early 1930’s–was also the birth of science fiction as a proper genre. Pulp magazines like Amazing Stories and Astounding Stories were huge sellers, and since pulp rags like these were where Lovecraft normally published his work, he would’ve been aware of the young genre and its exploration of humanity’s possibilities through space exploration, technology, and aliens. It’s no surprise that he’d take elements from those stories and give them a freaky twist. And lo and behold, it led to Lovecraft writing some of my favorite works by him (especially “Colour Out of Space.” God, that was freaky, considering that what happened in that story could maybe happen in real life).

Honestly, I’m glad I decided to check out HP Lovecraft two-and-a-half years ago. Sure, his early works can be hit-and-miss, but as time went on, he got better. And by this point in his bibliography, he was very good at writing stories that stayed in your mind. It’s a shame he didn’t achieve more of a following during this time, because maybe then we’d have more works by him (sadly, he died in 1937 at barely forty years of age), and he’d be more well-known today.

And while I’m done with my latest binge, I’m looking forward to my next one, whenever that is. Especially if the stories from this point on are as good as the ones I read this time around. And seeing as At the Mountain of Madness is the next story in my collection, I’d say that’s a definite possibility.

Have you read these stories or others by Lovecraft? What are your thoughts on them?

*Funny story about Awoken: so I follow this woman named Lindsay Ellis on YouTube (check out her channel here) who does a lot of videos on our media and culture. Yesterday she uploaded a video about whether or not the hate over the Twilight franchise was warranted. During said video, she mentions she and friend/frequent collaborator Antonella “Nella” Inserra wrote Awoken as a parody of Twilight, only with Lovecraft characters instead of vampires. My mouth hit the floor. I had no idea that the novel was a parody of Twilight, let alone written by those two women under a pen name. Though now that I think about it, it explains quite a bit.

I reached out to both women on YouTube and Twitter, letting them know that I read the novel, my ignorance of its authorship, how much I actually liked it, and that I reviewed it on this blog. They asked for a link, and I sent it to them. Since then, I’ve gotten hundreds of views from their readers/viewers on that one review, and the number of reads is still growing. Wow. Didn’t expect that. Pretty cool. Probably won’t last a week, but it’s still cool.

Also, I learned about Poe’s Rule: if you write a parody of something, unless you ad a healthy dose of comedy, people will think it’s serious fiction in a particular style. Which is apparently what happened to me, as these readers are telling me. Good to know.

I’m far from perfect. And there are lots of areas I can be better (especially my impulse control when it comes to sweets). However, this post will be focused on the writing aspects I can improve upon.

There are a couple of reasons why I want to talk about that here. One is that for personal things I want to improve upon (damn you, sweet tooth! Damn you to hell!), I only talk about those sort of things here when it’s really important. Like if I’m really struggling with my choices in life, or if I want to talk about being on the spectrum. And at the moment, there’s nothing in my life I feel like talking about here at the moment. Second, this is a blog for a writer, so it makes sense that if I’m going to talk about improving stuff, it’ll be about improving my writing. And finally, while a lot of people I know in real life and even a few people online treat me as THE writing expert, especially when it comes to fiction writing, I’m far from an expert. If I were an expert, I’m pretty sure I’d have several bestsellers out by now, a few of them would have been made into movies already, and I’d be writing full-time in a nice three-bedroom, one-and-a-half bath house (I have goals that I aim for).

Point is, as a writer there are areas I’d like to improve in, so I thought I’d list some of those and ask for your feedback. Many of you who follow this blog are writers, and have much more experience than I do. Perhaps you’ve dealt with some of the issues I’ve dealt with, and have some tips on how to deal with them. Anything’s possible, right?

1. I’m addicted to adverbs and gerunds. Now if you don’t remember most of the fancy terms from grammar class, adverbs are words that end in “ly” (wildly, musically, horribly) and gerunds are words ending in “ing” (ending, writing, killing). And I overuse them in my writing (see? Did it right there). One of the biggest criticisms I got from Rose, truth be told, is that I overuse them. In fact, I almost used “actually” instead of “truth be told” in that last sentence. And in the one before this, I started writing “nearly” before I switched to “almost.” And in that last one, “I switched” started as “switching.” And before that–oh, you get the idea!

A couple of years ago, I wrote a post about how I had a similar problem with semicolons. I overused them, especially when they weren’t needed. Once I recognized the problem, I was able to correct it. But I have a feeling correcting these issues won’t come so naturally (see?). For one thing, while the semicolon issue was about fixing incorrect uses of punctuation, what I’m doing here isn’t technically wrong. These are speech patterns used everyday, you just don’t see them in a lot of fiction to the extent I use them. At least, not really good fiction. So one thing I’d like to do is know when to use adverbs and gerunds, and when not to use them.

2. Passive vs. active voice. I have a lot of trouble telling those two apart. Which is bad, because editors and publishers tend to prefer active voices in fiction, and I somehow always end up writing in passive voice. What’s the difference? Is there a video I need to watch or something that explains this? Help!

3. Writing snappier action. This is something I’ve taken steps to improve, but it’s still a work in progress. I tend to write these long sentences that illustrate a character taking a certain action. Example: “She stood, walked to the kitchen, and placed the glass in the dishwasher.” It’s a good sentence, but for fiction, this is better: “She put the glass in the dishwasher.” Boom! And if I’ve already established that the character is on the couch, it works even better. It shows the same amount of action with less words.

I’m trying to implement this sort of snappy action into my stories. Editors and publishers seem to like it, and when there are limits to how many words a submitted story can have, it’s helpful in reducing the word count. Still, it’s going to take some work. This, like the adverbs and gerunds and possibly the passive voice thing, are deeply ingrained habits.

No reason to add this photo. I just want to show you my new author profile pic.

4. Short story writing. I’ve written novels or works meant to be novels for most of my life. That’s what I mostly read, so that’s what I mostly wrote. I’ve learned how to write short stories and read plenty of them since high school and college, but I’m still not as good at them as I am at novels. Which is sad, because I’ve had many, many ideas for short stories and novelettes over the years. And since I’ve spent most of my time on novels, I’ve written only a few short stories, and not many of those have been published.

What I want to do is write more short stories and novelettes, get better at writing them, and get a few of those published. Is it necessary, especially since I prefer novels? No, but a lot of authors I like do great short fiction, so I’d like to do great short fiction too. Good news is, I’ve been reading a lot of anthologies lately, and I should have a bit of time after I finish the fourth draft of Rose. That should give me time to practice.

5. Not listening to my anxieties. All writers deal with anxieties, especially with how their work will be received. Sometimes I let them have too much control of my mind, and I start freaking out Just yesterday, I got panicky over whether certain characters in Rose might be called tacky stereotypes. After a lot of discussion online with friends and colleagues, I don’t believe they are, but the worry ate at me for a while.

The important thing for me is just to be a bit more confident in myself, and the stories I write. And I should work on techniques to combat those anxieties when they try to tear at me. Because at the end of the day, I’ve still written some decent fiction. And I won’t let doubt or fear keep me from improving it and making it into possibly publishable fiction.


Well, those are the things I want to improve on with my writing. What are your suggestions on fixing those issues? Let me know in the comments below.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ve only six chapters of Rose left to edit, so I’ll hopefully get started on the next one tonight. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

Hello, Followers of Fear, and welcome to our first author interview of the year. Today we have a previous guest who has been my friend for a number of years. She’s written several books and has even visited my house when I was still living with my dad, the first author friend/blog friend to ever do so. And today, she’s here to talk about the two books she published in 2017, Unfinished and Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare (I’ve requested my local library to order copies, and I’m still waiting to hear back). Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Pat Bertram!

RU: Welcome back, Pat. It’s good to have you here again. Now as I mentioned above, you published two books in 2017, Unfinished and Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare. Please tell us what they’re about.

PB: Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare is about fun, dance, and murder! When Pat’s adult dance classmates discover she is a published author, the women suggest she write a mystery featuring the studio and its aging students. One sweet older lady laughingly volunteers to be the victim, and the others offer suggestions to jazz up the story. Pat starts writing, and then . . . the dying begins.

Unfinished is about buried secrets and a woman finding herself when she finds herself alone. While sorting through her deceased husband’s effects, Amanda is shocked to discover a gun and the photo of an unknown girl who resembles their daughter. After dedicating her life to David and his vocation as a pastor, the evidence that her devout husband kept secrets devastates Amanda. But Amanda has secrets of her own. . .

RU: You weren’t writing fiction for quite a while. What made you get back into it?

PB: I don’t like leaving things unfinished, and besides, both Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare and Unfinished deserved to be written. So I just . . . wrote.

RU: I love it when a story makes you want to write it. So tell us, what was the inspiration for the two novels?

PB: That’s easy. The inspiration for Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare came from my dance class. It was their idea, and they provided the fodder for the characters. Inspiration for Unfinished came from my life. Too often, I have read novels where the spouse dies, and after a few perfunctory tears, the one left behind continues as if nothing ever happened. Grief does not work that way. It’s not so much that we go through grief, but that grief goes through us, and I wanted to show the truth, both about the changes such an upheaval brings and the courage it takes to accept those changes.

RU: Now, Madame ZeeZee’s was based on you and your dance class and classmates. How much of them and of you made it into the novel?

Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare by Pat Bertram

PB: Many of my dance class mates — and the teacher! — made it into the novel. For the sake of reader’s sanity, a couple of times, I combined two or three women into one character. (Too many non-essential characters in a book confuse me as a reader, and I can only assume others are the same). And, though he isn’t a classmate, a fellow I know by the name of Rami Ungar made it into the book. As for me — well, Pat is Pat. At least, I think she is. I know one thing — if I ever decide to write a series, I will use Pat as the main character. It was incredibly easy writing myself as a character — I didn’t have to create characteristics, either positive or negative, and the character arc came naturally.

RU: I love that we’re both characters in your book! And your characterization of me is a lot nicer than what most people give me when they write me into a story.

What about Unfinished? Did you or anyone else you know make it into that book as characters?

PB: I seem to write only about me anymore. Although I gave that poor woman a different name and a different life, she was definitely me. At least everything she felt, I felt.

RU: What were your biggest challenges writing these novels and how did you overcome them?

PB: The biggest challenge is always me. Some writers can sit down at a keyboard and the story flows from their fingertips as if it wants to be written. In my case, I have to drag every word from somewhere deep in my brain, and sometimes the effort is more than I want to make.

For Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, when I got tired of trying to figure things out or to search for the proper words, I went to class and asked the appropriate “character” what she wanted me to do. It’s amazing how simple that makes everything! Other times, I used something that happened in class to push me along.

For Unfinished, I had to persevere. Make the determination to finish the book and just do it. It was hard, though, dredging up all those feelings.

RU: Are you working on anything now?

Unfinished by Pat Bertram

PB: I am finishing a fifty-day blog challenge, to blog every day for fifty days. And I have a sort of apocalyptic novel I am decidedly NOT working on. I have a mental block against the poor thing because I was working on it when Jeff (my life mate/soul mate) died, but one of these days, I will get my head in gear and find the determination to work on it.

RU: And finally, what are your writing goals for 2018?

PB: I intend to keep up the daily blogging, at least a while longer. In May, I plan to take a road/camping/hiking trip along the Pacific coast (or near the coast anyway), and I hope that experience will bring me insights for fabulous blog posts. As for fiction — well, real life has me in its clutches. Hopefully, I will be able to free myself one day and get back into the alternate reality of fiction.

RU: Well, thank you for joining us Pat. It’s always a pleasure to speak with you.

If you would like to check out Unfinished, Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, or any of Pat’s other books, you can check out her Amazon page. I also highly encourage you to check out her website, her blog, and her Facebook. Trust me, she’s someone full of strength and insight, and you can benefit from knowing her.

And if you have a book coming out in the near future, hit me up on my Interviews page, and we’ll make some magic happen. Have a great evening, Followers of Fear. Until next time (probably Saturday), pleasant nightmares!

Aokigahara forest.

On December 31st, YouTube star Logan Paul visited Aokigahara, a forest in Japan that is visited by thousands of tourists, families, and school trips, but has a dark side. Aokigahara is a popular suicide spot, to the point that its nickname is Suicide Forest. The Japanese government has even posted signs throughout the forest encouraging visitors to choose life rather than take their own lives. While there, Paul and his friends came across a hanging body, filmed it, and posted the video on YouTube (the body’s face was blurred out). The video quickly went viral, garnering a lot of negative controversy. Within a day, Paul took down the video, and issued an apology over Twitter, but people are still very upset and there has been a lot of talk online about his actions.

Before I get into the main thrust of what I wanted to talk about with this post. Firstly, I am about to talk about a sensitive subject, and I am going to approach this with as much care and respect as possible. Still, I am an imperfect being and I make mistakes, like everyone. So if I say something that offends you or that you disagree with, please understand that is not what I intended. I’m just trying to make sense of a difficult topic in a world that doesn’t make sense that often, and sometimes I miss things that cause misunderstanding between others and myself without meaning to. So please bear with me as I try and explore a topic that a lot of people have strong opinions about.

Second, there are two things about me I would like to tell you all. One is that I have experienced depression before, and a couple of times it made me think of suicide. Those times when I considered suicide, it was because I had toxic people in my life who made me miserable. I still remember the crushing despair, the feeling that things were never going to get better, and the thought that I could just make it all better by leaving this life and falling into–I don’t know. Something better. It took the extraction of these toxic people in my life, as well as the help of a lot of good friends and family to help me find happiness and hope again.

The Yahrtzeit candle I lit at Sachsenhausen.

The other thing I would like you to know is that back in 2014, I visited Sachsenhausen, a concentration camp twenty-two miles north of Berlin as part of my study-abroad trip. Around thirty-thousand people died at that camp while it was operational. When I arrived, it struck me as a very tranquil place. There was lots of grass and trees, the sun was shining, and there were only a few buildings left from when the camp was operational. But you spend enough time there, and this pall of despair settled over me. It was like the prisoners had felt over seventy years ago had seeped into my very body. An hour there, and it was just hard to even breathe there. I lit a Yahrtzeit candle, a ritual candle in Judaism for memorializing the dead, at a wall used by firing squads. And when I left, I was glad to get out of that anguish-infected place, even as I was glad to have visited a place connected to the history of my people.

Now to the point of why I’m writing this blog post. You see, a month before I went to Sachsenhausen, I wrote a blog post about haunted locations I wanted to visit, and Aokigahara was on that list (even before it became a suicide hotspot, the forest was well-known as a place for hauntings, hence why it was on the list). Given that, I feel like I have a responsibility to talk about this controversy, as well as my desire then, and now, to visit Aokigahara.

Obviously, what Logan Paul did was extremely disrespectful, the equivalent of taking a photo of the corpse at a funeral, or a selfie at Auschwitz or at the Berlin Holocaust Memorial. It shows total disregard for the deceased and their loved ones in favor of quick-lived social media attention, and should be discouraged at every opportunity.

However, there is nothing wrong with wanting to visit Aokigahara in itself (hold your comments, let me finish). As I pointed out above. Aokigahara is visited every year for totally innocent reasons. However, no matter what reason you go to visit the forest, it should be done with respect. Any death is horrible, and suicides are especially tragic. We can never know what is going through someone’s mind or what is happening in their lives, let alone someone dealing with depression and suicidal thoughts. Not unless we’ve been there ourselves, and sometimes not even then. But in every case, it is terrible, and shouldn’t be treated lightly.

With that in mind, anyone who visits the forest should do so with respect and cognizance for what has happened there, the same same way I approached visiting Sachsenhausen. Be respectful of what has happened and is happening there, understand that depression, suicide, and the forest itself has affected a lot of people in horrible ways, and if God forbid you do come across a body, leave it alone and notify the authorities. Only take photographs or footage if it is to help the authorities find the deceased, not for views or likes or whatever. Other photographs can be taken of the forest, or of the tourist attractions there such as the Narusawa Ice Cave and Fugaku Wind Cave, but definitely not of the bodies.

Remember, 1-800-273-TALK.

This is how, if I am ever lucky enough to visit Japan and I end up visiting Aokigahara, I will approach the forest. Not for ghosts, not for likes, and definitely not for suicide, but to pay respects to the dead and to draw attention to the ongoing struggle of suicide the world over. I may even bring a Yahrtzeit candle or some incense to burn, provided I can make sure it won’t cause a forest fire or injuries. Because what happens in this forest is a tragedy, and should be treated as such, no matter who you are or what your background is. Even as I enjoy the beauty of the forest and the tourist sites, I will remember these people, and hope they find rest, even as I hope others find the will to continue on and live.

And if you’re dealing with depression or suicidal thoughts, please know that things do get better. There were times when I thought my life couldn’t get better, but it did, and now, my life is great. And if you keep living, there’s always a chance your life could get better too. Every day is an opportunity for improvement. All it takes is the will to continue on. I support you, I’m there for you, and I hope you take this message to heart.

And again, if I said something wrong or caused offense, I beg your forgiveness. It is not my intention to cause any hurt feelings. I only want to make sense of something horrible and help those in troubled times. Thank you for reading.

If you’re dealing with suicidal thoughts, please also call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. The counselors there will help you through this crisis, and help you find the light to fight off the darkness.

I’m not going to lie, 2017 was a tough year in a number of ways. In some ways, it even rivals 2016, which everyone agrees was kind of a shit year, pardon my language. We dealt with really horrible terrorist incidents, learned that some of our most beloved figures in entertainment and other industries were secretly monsters, and saw terrible devastation from hurricanes that left communities without good food, water or electricity. This and a whole lot more affected so many lives, and definitely not in a good way.

However, there were a lot of good things about 2017 too. Many of the things I described above caused people to come together and fight. Not too long after the bombing at Ariana Grande’s concert in Manchester, she and several high profile artists put on a charity concert to raise over ten million pounds for the families of the victims. After the shooting in Las Vegas this October, thousands rushed to donate blood at the Red Cross, with lines reportedly snaking around city blocks and lasting up to six hours, and millions were raised for the families of the victims! Plus in response to the shooting, Massachusetts banned bump fire stocks, which were used in the attack, and several bills were introduced into Congress to hopefully prevent attacks like this from happening again.

Throughout the year, men and women came together to protest sexism and the treatment of women in America and abroad, with marches throughout the year. The revelations of Harvey Weinstein led to dozens of women and men to open up about their experiences with sexual assault and harassment, catalyzing the #MeToo movement and leading to the ousting of several serial abusers from a variety of industries for their crimes which, up till now, they could get away with, and started a conversation that is continuing today about how to combat sexual assault by powerful people who use the system to get away with it. Heck, voters in Alabama came together to keep a man who has been accused of assaulting multiple teen girls from becoming a Senator despite widespread support for him. That’s huge!

A Red Cross station post-Las Vegas shooting.

And while Puerto Rico and other areas of the world are still recovering from natural and man-made disasters, a lot is being done online and offline to help. Thousands are still sending money, supplies, and even solar power equipment (looking at you, Elon Musk) to help Puerto Rico out of the rubble. Despite the United States pulling out of the Paris climate agreement, many corporations, cities, and even states have said they will continue to abide by the agreement’s guidelines in order to combat global warming, which likely contributed to the many hurricanes we saw this year. And plenty of people each day are pressing for relief to peoples in trouble, both at home and abroad, from their leaders. It’s amazing to see that happen.

I could go on (I really want to speak about the entertainment industry’s positive contributions this year), but I fear this post will go on too long if I do, and there’s quite a bit I’d like to talk about. I’ll just summarize by saying that there was a lot of positive things that happened this year. And while the bad stuff does sometimes seem to overshadow the good, it’s important to recognize the good and cheer ourselves for what we accomplished, as well as what we can accomplish in the coming year. Which seems to be plenty, if we put our minds to it.

On a more personal note…

2017 was a pretty good year for me. Yes, the things I listed above, good and bad, may have affected me at times (they affect everybody, don’t they?), but in terms of my own personal life, I had a very good year. A lot of positive things happened to me , and if you don’t mind, I’ll just highlight some of the big ones:

  • My health seriously improved this year. I lost about thirty pounds of unneeded weight, which means I’ve had to take fewer sick days and I’m less likely to develop certain diseases. My back pain has also lessened tremendously, thanks partly to weight loss and to seeing a chiropractor. I can now move as I used to pre-back pain, and while I’m still working on improving my back and my health, the fact that I’ve accomplished this much already is a great motivator for me.
  • This was a good year for writing for me. I got halfway through the first draft of Full Circle (still on break from that until I feel ready to tackle it again), finally pushed out a new draft of Rose, and even wrote and edited some short stories. I also published two short stories, the science romance novelette Gynoid, and the LGBT fantasy romance story What Happened Saturday Night. Not only that, but over sixty new people started following this blog, putting me within striking distance of the thousand-follower milestone! For me, that is huge, and I can’t thank you guys enough for making that happen.
  • As many of you know, I work for a supply organization in a role that involves getting disabled employees accommodations and organizing events to highlight the diversity in our workforce. As of December, I’ve been with the organization for eighteen months, and it’s been great. I’m doing work that helps people with a great team around me, and I get great pay and benefits too. What’s not to love?
  • I went on the best vacation ever to Massachusetts with my dad back in July, and it culminated with a night at the famously haunted Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast. I cannot even begin to tell you what a big deal that was for me.
  • All the movies I was super-excited to see this year were awesome, as I’d hoped. Especially the new version of It. That was the It we deserved.

And those are just a few of the highlights of 2017 for me. Yeah, it was a good year. And I hope 2018 goes just as well or even better. Especially if any of these happen:

  • More good news on the writing front, particularly with a fourth draft and maybe the publication of Rose, as well as several new stories and hitting the thousand-follower mile marker.
  • Continued improved health.
  • Continuing to do well at work.
  • Maybe a bit of travel, and definitely a bit of fun, whether that be going to shows or seeing friends.

And that much more.

So guys, I want to wish you a Happy New Year, and to remind you that, as hard as 2017 is, it’s 2018, and there are endless opportunities to have a better year. You just have to be brave enough to try and make a change.

And again, thank you all for being my Followers of Fear and reading my work. I’ve grown so much over the past couple of years, and you guys have been there for every accomplishment and lesson I’ve experienced. I hope you’ll continue to support me for this year too as I try to accomplish all my dreams and scare people silly.

Until next time, pleasant nightmares.