Archive for the ‘Reflections’ Category

What would happen if I featured my faith more in my stories? Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

I’ve been thinking a lot lately on Jews in the media I consume.

As you probably know, in addition to being an eldritch abomination from another universe in human form, I’m Jewish (we need faith too, you know). I’m not super-religious, but I follow many rituals and feel close to my heritage and my definition of God. But except for a couple of stories, my religion doesn’t really show in my writing. Or at least, characters who share my faith don’t show up in my stories a lot.

There could be a lot of reasons for that. Part of it could be that horror, the genre I’m drawn to and find most exciting, doesn’t necessarily need religion. Horror may draw on religious beliefs a lot, but that doesn’t mean the stories are religious. Religious elements are just tools for telling a good horror story. Also, Judaism itself isn’t really a scary religion. We don’t have a Devil or Hell, and demons and evil spirits are still subservient to God’s Will and Plan. Beyond golems and dybbuks, the biggest sources of horror for us is our history of being oppressed. And finally, I may have never felt a real need to emphasize the beliefs of my characters. It just doesn’t matter that much. Unless I need to state it, their religion is, “Whatever.”

But lately, I’ve been thinking a bit about that. It started with an essay on Variety about Jews in Hollywood and how we’re represented that brought up some good points. I’ll let you read the article yourself, but it made me aware that I don’t see many members of my faith in the media I consume. And that includes in horror. Yeah, there are some: Stan Uris in IT; Yakov Ronen in The Vigil (one of the best horror films I’ve seen yet this year); Tzadok in The Possession (played by musician Matisyahu, believe it or not); and then some.

But still, it’s a small number. And in an age with resurgent anti-Semitism, I feel like that’s something that needs to change.

Besides, I want to challenge myself. What kind of stories can I tell with a Jewish character as a lead? And not just any kind of Jew, but an amalgamation of the Jews I’ve known throughout my life, from secular to religious and old to young, from all walks of life and all types of spirituality? What if I decided, for a few stories, not to make their religions “whatever?”

Well, I actually already know the answer to that. As you probably are aware, my short story “The Divorce from God” is to appear in The Jewish Book of Horror this holiday season, and a short story in this collection I’m working on has two Jewish men as the leads. And I like to think both stories are good (I only have confirmation of one).

But what if I expand that? What if I tell more tales–not all of them, but some of them–with my fellow members of the Tribe? What if their faith is both an aspect of themselves, though not the only one, and a source of strength? What if the lead is that amalgamation I mentioned?

Well, perhaps I’ll find out sooner rather than later. I’ve mentioned it before, but I’m thinking of working on another novel after I’ve finished editing this collection and a couple more stories. And while I don’t think it’s necessary for the lead, I can also see them being Jewish. It could actually fit them very well.

We’ll see what the future holds.

I look forward to the stories I write in this vein.

You know, it’s funny. At one point when I was young, a grown up tried telling me I should write less horror and more of what I know. Which at the time was mainly going to a Jewish day school, having rabbis for parents and being annoyed by my sisters. I absolutely refused, telling this well-meaning grown up “that would be boring.” I think they were worried I was going to turn out to be some psychopath who murdered people in basements and then wrote about it (we horror lovers and creators are so misunderstood!). Still, I wasn’t going to write something I wasn’t attracted to or found boring. Stories are an escape from reality, not a regurgitation!

Now I want to incorporate what I know into a horror story. I guess it’s true what they say, when people “write what they know,” they’re writing it in a completely different way than expected. I wonder that well-meaning adult would make of this now? Hopefully they’d be intrigued enough to read it (and realize I grew up much more well-adjusted than they anticipated).

Anyway, it’s late and this post has gotten insanely long. I’m going to sign off and say Shabbat Shalom, an early Happy New Year (Rosh Hashanah starts Monday evening, it’s our New Year), pleasant nightmares, and a good night. See you next time, my Followers of Fear!

Have you ever written part of or an entire novel, and then nothing has happened to it? Maybe you edited the hell out of it and tried to find a publisher. Maybe you got some feedback from a beta reader that made you hesitate to put it out in the world. Or maybe you realized that, as much as you loved it and as much work as you put into it, it’s not very good and you’re better off moving on. So this project you’ve worked months or even years on gets put away, stored in a box or on a shelf or in a file drive to gather dust and likely never see the light of day.

If you have one of these novels, you have a “trunk novel.”

What are trunk novels, you may be asking? Well, trunk novels are as I said above: novels that were put away because, for one reason or another, they weren’t suitable to be released or marketed. Prior to computer storage, you might literally put them in a trunk so nobody ever saw them but you. Hence the name.

At least, I think that’s how it got its name. Tracking down the origin of the term was kind of impossible.

In any case, it happens more than we like to admit. We write a story and no matter how hard we try, it doesn’t get past the first draft or never leaves our computers. We may have thought it was the next big thing, or something that could have been published and been a small success, or at least could have gotten a publisher or agent interested. But in the end, it just doesn’t cut the mustard in one way or another, so it gets stowed away somewhere. You may say you’ll work on it again someday, but rarely does that happen.

And it happens to all of us. Really. Even Stephen King has them. He wrote four novels before Carrie was published. Only one of the previous three, Rage, was ever published (and King kind of regrets that). I did a poll in one or two horror writing groups I belong to, and all of the people who answered have trunk novels somewhere in their pasts.

I have several from my younger years, finished and unfinished, that are trunk novels. And one of the novels I wrote in college, Laura Horn, which I am still really proud of, is pretty much a trunk novel now. Why? Several reasons, but the fact that some of the events in the book resemble events that occurred in recent years might have something to do with it. Putting the book out given what’s happened in the last five years just feels wrong.

And I guess you could consider the Reborn City books trunk novels, even though I previously self-published them before taking them out of circulation.

And you know what? That’s alright. Yeah, our feelings towards our trunk novels may sometimes be complex. And we may regret at times that the stories never saw the light of day. But they are still important milestones in our career. They are the results learning to become writers, to learn what works in writing fiction and in learning the discipline of writing. They are the foundation of becoming us. Of becoming the authors we were meant to be.

So, as much as it sucks when a novel goes into the trunk, don’t regret it or feel too bad. It’s just another foundation stone in what is becoming your career.

Do you think I should get one of these and put literal manuscripts inside?

All that being said, I hope none of my completed, as of yet unpublished novels go into the trunk. I’m still shopping around River of Wrath with the hopes of finding a publisher for it, and I plan to work on Toyland again someday soon in the hopes of shopping that around too. What will happen to them? I honestly don’t know. But if they do end up in the trunk? Well, at least I had a hell of a time working on them and honing my skills with them.

Do you have any trunk novels? Would you mind talking about them with me? How do you feel about them? Let’s discuss.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I still have time left in the evening and I have only one story left in the collection I’ve been editing, so I’m going to get to work on that. Afterwards, I have a couple more short stories to edit (including one with dragon bats in it), and then…well, I’m not sure. A couple of new short stories? Perhaps a new novel? I’ve certainly been itching to get into something longer. And now that The Pure World Comes is out (check it out on the Readict app), I think I can afford to put together another sixty thousand-plus word story of terror and woe. We’ll see what happens.

Until next time, my Followers of Fear, good night, pleasant nightmares and–OH NO! MY TRUNK NOVELS, AS WELL AS MY TRUNK NOVELLAS, TRUNK NOVELETTES, AND TRUNK SHORT STORIES, HAVE BEEN COMBINED TO FORM A GIANT MONSTER MADE OF PAPER! Excuse me while I get the boom stick and fight it off. Ta ta!

Lately, I’ve been contemplating word counts. Not mine personally, at least not only mine, but in general. Specifically, I’ve been thinking about the difference between a novella and a novel.

Now, ask any publisher, agent, or writers advocacy group (go Horror Writers Association!), and they’ll have their own guidelines on what designation to give a story based on its length. Even other authors have their own ideas about when a short story becomes a novelette, a novelette becomes a novella, and a novella becomes a novel.*

For several years, I went with the following classification guide:

  • Flash fiction: 1-1000 words
  • Short stories: 1,001-10,000 words
  • Novelettes: 10,001-20,000 words
  • Novellas: 20,001-59,999 words
  • Novels: 60,000 words and up

But for the past couple of years, I’ve used the one used by the Horror Writers Association:

  • Flash fiction: 1-1000 words
  • Short stories: 1,001-7,500 words
  • Novelettes: 7,501-17,500 words
  • Novellas: 17,501-39,999 words
  • Novels: 40,000 words and up

While I use the system, however, I still find parts of this system odd. The changeover from short story to novelette and novelette to novella, I’m fine with. After all, it’s only a difference of 2,500 words from my old system. That’s not much in terms of fiction writing (especially when I write). And most publications set their short story limits at about five or seven thousand words, so it makes sense.

But the difference between novella and novel bothers me. It’s a difference of twenty thousand words, which is a lot no matter who’s writing. And perhaps because of that, forty thousand feels a bit short for me to be comfortable calling any story at forty to sixty thousand words a novel.

Especially when you consider some famous novellas are well above forty thousand words. My favorite novella by Stephen King, The Library Policeman, is over 77,000 words! That’s as long as the first Harry Potter novel, which is a novel by any definition. Other novellas by King, such as The Mist and Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, are well over forty thousand words. Believe me, I checked.

Still not sure how this counts as a novella. At least by HWA standards.

I was so curious about this, I actually asked my followers on Twitter and the other members on the HWA Facebook page what they thought. And while I wouldn’t call this a scientific study by any means, the responses I’ve gotten so far have been illuminating. Over on Twitter, about 77% of respondents said a novella became a novel at fifty or sixty thousand words. Meanwhile, on the HWA Facebook page, the majority of my comrades said they felt a novella became a novel at forty thousand words. Sixty thousand was the minority opinion.

What does this all say? I don’t know. Maybe that these designations are pretty arbitrary and that calling a story a novel, a novella, or even a short novel, doesn’t really matter much. Unless you want to give editors, agents and the like an idea of what they’re getting into, or what category you’re submitting a story to for an award.

Or, if you’re like me, you want to cut a short novel to novella length:

One of the stories in the collection I was shopping around is actually technically a short novel. I wasn’t planning on editing it, but I decided to edit all the stories,** and I realized that this one not only needed another pass, but a big reduction in word count. I think it would be better off as part of a collection rather than as a standalone novel.

Problem is, it’s a lot of words to get through. And while I’ve reduced it by a lot already, it’s still got a long way till it’s novella length.

Then again, if King can put together a bunch of short and not-so-short novels and call them novellas, I guess I could put one short novel in a collection of short stories, novelettes and novellas.

Though I’ll still try to get it under forty thousand words while still being a good story. And believe me, there were places where the word count could be cut to make a better and more succinct flow.

Me trying to edit this story and get its word count down.

Anyway, thanks for reading, my Followers of Fear. I was trying to get my thoughts off my chest, so this post kind of turned into a ramble. And given how crazy this subject is, I’d love your thought on the subject. Where do novellas become novels? And does it really need to be defined? Or is it better for the story to be defined so you know what to do with it?

Until next time, my Followers of Fear, good night and pleasant nightmares!

*Not that the guidelines really make that big a difference. Even if there was some uniformity on the matter, magazines and publishers decide what word counts they’ll accept, such as “Only short stories under 2,000 words” or “novellas between 20,000 and 25,000 words.” Still, for contests and awards like the Bram Stoker Awards, it’s useful for figuring out which stories go into which categories.

**Good thing too. I realized one story needed to be edited a lot more till it was ready, and another was just crap. I’m taking them out and only shopping the first one once I know it’s of a better quality.

I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I’ve been shopping around a collection of original short stories and not been having much success. After the last rejection, I decided that I might as well take another look and do another round of editing, in case that had anything to do with it. There are nine stories in the collection, and I thought I’d give at least four or five a good run through. Now though, I’m planning on giving all but two (those that have been edited to death already) another pass.

I didn’t think what I would find would be so bad. Most of these stories were written in the past five or six years, so they should be fine. Right? Right?!

*Sigh*

I looked at the first story. I was horrified that it wasn’t as I remembered it. There were several mistakes that I needed to fix. Not just grammar/spelling/punctuation. but just plot issues that I should’ve fixed or excised in earlier drafts. And if the other stories are like this, I’m not surprised I kept getting rejected!

Well, can’t change the past. I’m taking another look at these stories now, that’s what’s important. I’m already over halfway through the first story, and it’s shown remarkable improvement. If I see similar improvement in the other stories, then…well, I can’t really say what’ll happen then, let alone if the collection will be published.

I even asked my Tarot cards if the collection would find a publisher after all the edits. When I pulled the future card, I got The Moon, which represents uncertainty. Which says it all, really. The writing and publishing game is full of uncertainty. You never know if you’ll find a home for your story when you send it out. Let alone collections!

Still, we play the game, because we love what we do. And I’ll continue working on these stories in the hope that I can improve them enough that someone will want to publish them in a collection.

Or, if things are going well for me, I have the cash to spend, and I think they’re edited enough, I could self-publish. It’d be quite a bit of work all on my own, for certain, but it would likely be worth it. I hope.

Anyway, that’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m going to try to finish up one story tonight, then perform a surgery on a ghost, then start editing the next story. Until next time, good night and pleasant nightmares!


One more reminder: in honor of my ten-year blogging anniversary on Monday, I’m having an Ask Me Anything, or AMA, to celebrate. All readers are encouraged to participate, and one lucky person will receive a prize! Just send an email to ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com before tomorrow night, July 28th, 2021 at 11:59 PM EST. I look forward to reading your questions!

And no, I won’t be sending the winner a dragon bat. Not even a baby one. I’m sorry, but the adults are ferocious, the babies need too much care to be separated from their parent, and the laws regarding transporting them are too much a pain in the ass to deal with. Sorry, but thems the breaks.

Recently, the United States celebrated the first occurrence of Juneteenth as a federal holiday. For those unaware, Juneteenth commemorates when General Gordon Granger of the Union Army entered Galveston, Texas on June 19th, 1865 and announced the end of slavery there. This was two-and-a-half years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, though often emancipation had to be enforced by Union soldiers. Nevertheless, many African Americans count June 19th, known as Juneteenth, Jubilee Day, Black Independence Day, and Emancipation Day, as the day slavery ended and for celebrating African American culture.

President Biden signing the holiday into law makes Juneteenth the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1983. And hopefully, both holidays will now serve as opportunities to educate the masses on the history of African Americans in the United States and what they’ve gone through. It could even make for an interesting discussion when we contrast it with July 4th, Independence Day, which will be in just a few days.

That is, if teachers in certain states aren’t kept from talking about the stories behind Juneteenth and MLK Jr. Day by law.

If you’re from outside the United States or just haven’t heard, many state legislatures are enacting laws to try and keep teachers in those states from teaching Critical Race Theory, or any form of in-depth discussion of race’s effect on the history and culture of the United States. Opponents say that CRT or any other form of in-depth discussion as “left-wing propaganda” or “trying to shame white people for actions of the past.” Some of these bills have been passed into law, which might technically make discussion of why we have these holidays technically illegal.

Which worries me, because as we’ve seen, ignorance isn’t bliss. It only furthers divisions.

You probably heard of this, but recently, a certain United States congrresswoman compared mask mandates in the US to the Yellow Star worn by Jews in Nazi Germany and Nazi-controlled areas. This same congresswoman then defended herself, saying that any rational Jewish person would agree with her.

Well, I may be eccentric, but I am Jewish and I consider myself rational. And I think there’s a huge difference between public health measures that are meant to protect people from disease–you know, like having proper sewage disposal systems rather than letting poop contaminate our drinking water and cause cholera outbreaks like what happened in 19th-century London?–and measures that were meant to isolate and stigmatize people of a minority religion, keep them from most professions and taking part in a nation’s political, economic and social circles. These same people were then forbidden to practice their religion, forced into tiny communities and concentration camps, and endured harsh slave labor and systematic murder.

Last I checked, no one is trying to do any of that with people who don’t wear masks or aren’t vaccinated. Governments and businesses just want people to continue following measures taken to keep people from getting sick. You know, like not mixing poop into your drinking water? Victorian Londoners learned that one the hard way!

Anyway, that congresswoman realized she made a mistake, went to the Holocaust Museum in DC, and publicly apologized for her comments. And I want to believe she’s at least learned some kind of lesson from this. But I know that there were plenty of people who backed up her ignorance when she was defending herself, and would have resisted any attempts for her, or for themselves, to find out that why what they said and did was wrong.

I can only chalk some of this response to blatant white supremacy and anti-Semitism. It is part of it, no doubt, but ignorance has played its part as well. Since the Civil War, many history textbooks have been written with the aim of keeping people ignorant of the actual causes of the war, the horrors of slavery, or why things are still very unequal. And while Holocaust education has made great strides since WWII, it’s not emphasized enough if the level of ignorance displayed by our elected leaders is anything to go by.

(Not to mention the number of Holocaust deniers out there.)

Look, I’m white. I may not be treated as such sometimes because of my religion (anti-Semitism is weird that way), but I am white. And I’ve never once felt ashamed of my skin color due to learning of how white people treated black people in the past. Our fifth grade history unit mainly focused on the slave trade, Underground Railroad, and the Civil War, and I feel like it allowed me to feel more empathetic to African Americans. At the same time, I wish I had learned about the 1921 Tulsa race massacre, which was basically an American pogrom, or the coup in Wilmington, North Carolina, which I’m still fuzzy on.

Both events, by the way, I only learned about in the last year! And that doesn’t sit right with me.

From the way I’ve been writing this, you would think that I’m going to conclude that a better handle on history would solve these problems. I wish it were so easy. There has to be a multi-pronged approach to fixing not just the ignorance of the past, but the divisions and pain of the present so they don’t continue into the future. But teaching a history that takes in multiple perspectives, follows more than one or a few groups, and takes a look on how those histories affect our modern day world and culture, would be one of those prongs.

Otherwise, nothing will change. No matter our background, us and our descendants will not receive a history that’ll help us deal with the modern world. We’ll just receive some stories with lies, propaganda and fairytales mixed in. And teaching fiction as truth helps no one.

General Mark Miley testifying before Congress on why critical race theory is taught at West Point.

And we also have to learn why certain circles, mainly composed of white conservatives, have come out so strong against CRT. To quote General Mark Miley, who recently testified before Congress on critical race theory being taught at West Point, “I want to understand white rage–and I’m white.” This pairs very well with what my recently retired boss, who is African-American, gave as the reason why we needed a European American group in our organization, alongside groups for African-American, Latinx, Asian Americans, Native American, LGBT, veterans, and disabled employees,* “We need to have EVERYBODY at the table.”

I completely agree. We need everybody at the table. Because all Americans are at the table. And we need to be better able to understand each other if we want this country to continue on. Otherwise, there’s a good chance that, like a table with rotten legs, it’ll simply collapse.


Thanks for reading this essay, everyone. I know this was a rather unusual sort of post for me to write, but given current events in this country, I felt it was necessary. I look forward to discussion in the comments, but I only ask that you keep things civil. After all, the only things that are supposed to intimidate or scare people on this blog are me and my stories! The comments section are neither.

Until next time, Followers of Fear, thanks for reading, and pleasant nightmares.

*For those who don’t know, my day job is at a supply agency where I work in an office that promotes diversity and inclusion in the workforce. My main duties involve getting accommodations for disabled employees so they can do their jobs, arranging interpreting for deaf employees, and assisting with programs meant to highlight the contributions and accomplishments of the various groups above. It’s a fulfilling job in many different ways.

I know you all are desperate to hear about ParaPsyCon went after this past weekend. And believe me, I want nothing more than to tell you about it. However, getting that post out is going to take time. Especially when you have a day job and need to sleep.

But I didn’t want you to think I had fallen off the face of the Earth or anything, so I thought I’d let you know about a piece of good news. I recently wrote and had another article accepted by Ginger Nuts of Horror, the same website that published my article on that the spider scene in 1958’s The Fly. This article, however, is quite different. This article is about THE THEATER!!!

“When The Theaters Reopen, They Should Do More Horror Stories,” is about how Broadway and the West End, as well as local and regional theaters, should consider putting on more horror-themed productions. Why? Because theater is going to be very popular once the pandemic is over (let’s face it, we love the experience), both theater and horror are escapes for their respective audiences, and after the horrors we’ve experienced during this pandemic, we could use a double escape.

Of course, I go into more detail as to why we should have more horror productions and even give some suggestions as to stories that I feel would make great stageplays or musicals. Obviously, I avoided my own work,* as well as the classics and Stephen King (he’s had more than a few stageplays based on his work). What works did I suggest? You’ll have to read the article yourself to find out.

And then, if you can and willing, I hope you’ll help me make this pitch a reality. I would love to see some more horror stories on stage. Whether it would be a Broadway show or something more local.

Speaking of which, you can read the article by clicking this link. I hope you like it and let me know what you think. Also, what are some works you think would make some great stageplays? Other than mine, of course.**

Also, a big thanks to Ginger Nuts of Horror for publishing another article by me. I’m happy you like what I have to say and feel it’s worth sharing. Hopefully, I can send you something else in the near future. Especially with at least one story coming out this year (fingers crossed for another one at some point or another).

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I am tired, so I’m going to go to bed. Hopefully tomorrow I can at least start on my recap of ParaPsyCon. Until then, good night and pleasant nightmares.

*Though I would be flattered if someone wanted to adapt my work for the stage.

**I mean, you could mention my work if you wanted. Just remember, flattery won’t get you anywhere with me.

I recently was able to watch the new Netflix true-crime docuseries “The Sons of Sam.” For those of you who haven’t seen it, the docuseries follows how a man named Maury Terry became convinced in the wake of the arrest, conviction, and incarceration of David Berkowitz, AKA the Son of Sam Killer, that Berkowitz didn’t commit all the murders and was in fact part of a Satanic cult. Berkowitz himself claimed to be part of such a cult, naming the sons of Sam Carr, the man who owned the demon dog (and who, by the way, were both dead and unable to defend themselves at the time of the allegations), as members.

Now, I’m not here to argue whether or not Berkowitz was the lone killer. Most historians and investigators agree anyway that the claims of a cult are unlikely for a number of reasons. Berkowitz himself has been diagnosed as antisocial and seems to enjoy the attention, so he would say anything to stay in the spotlight/keep up the image he’s built for himself since first getting arrested.

What I’m here to talk about is the true horror of the docuseries. It’s not how terrifying Berkowitz and his crimes were, though that is scary too. Nor is it the idea of a nationwide Satanic cult that Berkowitz may have been part of (and which, given how often it keeps cropping up in American history, feels more silly than scary nowadays). It’s the price of obsession. Of becoming so sure of an idea or a hidden truth, that you look for anything that could be considered evidence and end up linking things that might not be evidence at all. You may even lose sight of objective reality and the truth, as well as the respect of your peers and relationships with your loved ones, just to find what you are looking for.

The doucseries revolves around the conspiracy theory that David Berkowitz did not commit the Son of Sam murders alone.

And quite often, what you’ve been looking for has been right in front of you all along. You just refused to see it.

We see this play out with Maurice Terry in “Sons of Sam.” After Berkowitz is arrested and sent to jail, Terry believes that Berkowitz may not have committed all the murders or acted alone because most of the police sketches don’t resemble him or because one or two people saw Berkowitz far from the site of a Son of Sam murder minutes before it happened. Rather than chalking it up to disguises, the noted unreliability of police sketches, or that all these sightings took place at night under low visibility settings, Terry believes there may have been multiple people involved in the shootings.

This leads to him looking into Berkowitz’s hometown and alleged Satanic rituals occurring near Berkowitz’s home, which leads to conversations with people who claim to have belonged to the cult or know people who were, including the Carr brothers mentioned above. He goes on to link the Manson murders, the murder of a woman at Stanford University, and the deaths of a billionaire and a filmmaker to the cult, the last two being members who were allegedly killed to silence them.

And sometimes it seems convincing. Mutilated German shepherds were found in the park near Berkowitz’s home, as well as Satanic graffiti. Charles Manson was likely influenced by belief systems such as Christianity, Satanism, and Scientology, just to name a few. Some of the people who knew or met the Carr brothers say they were interested in the occult and at least one of them was afraid of being followed. And Berkowitz, as we stated above, has said he was part of a cult, though he refuses to name names other than the dead.

The problem is, none of these can be definitively proven as being Satanic. Yes, dogs were mutilated near the park, but there’s no way to prove that it was Satanic or Berkowitz was linked. Satanic graffiti can be found all over the place (I saw plenty in the college bathrooms at Ohio State), and doesn’t mean Satanists are at work. Manson and his followers never claimed to be linked to any other group, though they’ve at times claimed that Manson was God, Jesus and the Devil all at once. The Carr brothers aren’t around to defend themselves, and we don’t have enough information to know if they suffered from mental illness or if their alleged interest in the occult was serious. A couple of the murdered people Terry linked to the cult have since been solved and have mundane, if horrible, explanations.

And Berkowitz, as noted, is likely a psychopath who enjoys the attention. He would say anything if it keeps him in the spotlight.

The horror of consipracy theories is that, while they seem plausible and preferable, they hide the truth and can destroy so much in the lives of believers.

We especially see this in the interviews Terry has with Berkowitz. A lot of the questions Terry asks Berkowitz seem leading, and he seems less concerned with getting to the truth than with confirming what he already believes. Berkowitz himself doesn’t give any new information that can be investigated, like a name for an active member of the cult or where proof like member logs or photographs can be found. But Terry believes it, because he wants to believe.

And that’s the horror. Terry has woven a spider web of possible links and maybe connections around himself. And it’s so tightly and thickly woven with “facts” that he’s unable to see anything that might disprove this theories. He, and those who believe like him, only see the idea of the cult that they say committed the Son of Sam murders. In the process, Terry drives away many people close to him, ruins his credibility as a journalist, and suffers from health issues while searching for his truth. And in the end, he dies still pursuing his truth.

It’s unfortunately an all-too common story. Since time immemorial, mankind has spun spiderwebs of conspiracy theories around themselves and others, refusing to see the truth because it doesn’t fit with their worldview or beliefs. In the US alone, we’ve seen it time and time again with a variety of boogeymen and alleged cover ups. Since 1692, the idea of Satanists operating in the US has been especially prevalent, most recently gaining new life in the 1980s with the Satanic Panic (which Terry unintentionally contributed to trying to convince people of his beliefs) and with today’s QAnon conspiracy.

The result is not just the actual truth being ignored or denied by many people. It can lead to lost relationships, ordinary people being misled, the ruination of reputations, laws being broken, and day-to-day life being severely disrupted. Occasionally, lives are even lost.

And all because someone sees something, may not like or understand what it means, and an alternative presents itself that seems to make more sense. To an outsider, it can seem impossible and extraordinary when so many different and unrelated people, events or things are connected or enlisted to “support” the central idea of the theory. But to the believer, it’s all so simple, and if the connections out of left field help to make the core idea make sense or more believable, or if powerful figures back it up for whatever reason, all the better.

It’s preferable to admitting that a sick and twisted individual work alone and takes lives for their own sheer pleasure. Or that some people have never liked a former President because of what he said/stood for and enough came out and voted against him to keep him from a second term. Or that horrible stuff happens, and there isn’t some grand, simple, good-vs-evil reason behind it.

And to admitting you might’ve been fooled and gone through so much just to be wrong.


If you want to check out “The Sons of Sam” docuseries on Netflix, by all means go ahead. I’m not saying you shouldn’t. Just go in with quite a bit of salt. It may make what you’re watching feel more psychologically difficult, because it’ll feel like you’re watching someone fall down a bottomless pit of conspiracy and experiencing the fallout of it. But it’s a fascinating watch nonetheless, and it might deepen your understanding of the allure and journey into conspiracy.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Thanks for reading through my entire TED talk. I just wanted to discuss what I’d watched and how it made me feel. I had no idea it would get this long. Hopefully, I made it interesting enough.

Anyway, I plan to have a shorter but just as exciting post out before too long. Until then, you know me. I’ll be busy writing stories and trying to find them homes, as well as experiencing (and in some cases, causing) all the terrifying phenomena I can. Should be fun.

Also, ParaPsyCon is only two weeks away. This is the biggest convention of authors, ghost hunters, mediums, psychics and more around, and it’ll be held on May 22nd and 23rd at the Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield, OH. Cost of admission is just purchasing a self-guided tour of the former prison, about $25. I’ll be there as well, so I hope you’ll stop by and say hi. You can get more information by checking out the website here.

Until next time, Followers of Fear, stay safe, have a good weekend, and pleasant nightmares.

I can’t remember who first said that to me, or whether it was said to me in a tweet or a Zoom chat. I also can’t remember if I’ve been saying it to others who have been dealing with rejections (my memory can be like a sieve some days). Nevertheless, it’s been on my mind a lot lately, as I’ve had a few rejections lately, and I thought I would share it.

“If you’re getting rejections, then you’re probably doing something right.”

It’s true, you know. Yeah, nobody likes getting rejections. We would rather just have things come to us, including story acceptances. We don’t like to hear that these stories we’ve thrown our sweat, blood and tears into aren’t wanted or acceptable or good enough for the publication or publisher in question. Enough that you want to stop submitting.

Which, I guarantee, every author has gone through at least once.

However, you know what you could be doing? Not submitting at all, which would mean no chance to get accepted OR rejected. You’d be cutting yourself off from any chance to get that story out there. Sure, you’d be free from rejections, but what’s the chance someone would discover your stories another way and ensure that it reached a wide audience who might love it? Probably not very high.

So, keep submitting, because that ensures you’re getting your work out there. Even if you get rejections, consider it discovering just one place that isn’t right for your story. You just have to try the next place, and keep writing, polishing, submitting and hopefully someday you’ll get that publication.

That’s what I tell myself. And it works.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I just wanted to get this off my chest and share it with you. If you need me, I’m about sixty pages away from finishing the latest draft of River of Wrath and submitting it. Hopefully it won’t be rejected (though if it is, at least I know that publisher wasn’t the right place for the book).

And while I still have your attention, this is a reminder that ParaPsyCon 2021 is just over a month away. This is a convention of ghost hunters, purported mediums, and authors taking place at the historic Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield, Ohio (filming location of The Shawshank Redemption). This year, it’ll be May 22nd-23rd, 2021 and the cost of admission is the same as entry to the prison, about $25. I’ll be among the vendors there, so I hope you’ll stop by if you’re able. You can find more information about the convention HERE.

Until next time, my Followers of Fear, pleasant nightmares!

I think this fits the theme of the post very well, don’t you? Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

In my last post, I mentioned that I would soon be tackling editing River of Wrath and The Pure World Comes, two novels that each have gone through some edits and which I would like to try submitting this year. As promised, I have started editing River of Wrath, which is about one of the nine circles of Hell appearing in a small town in 1960s Mississippi (you can guess what sort of themes are included with that description).

And so far, the biggest obstacle I’m dealing with is my narrator’s voice.

For a bit of background, my narrator, Audrey Falley, is writing down her experiences as she remembers them. She’s a character I thoroughly enjoy. She’s an Army wife in the 1960s, but she’s not demure like you would expect from that sort of character in that time period. She’s brash, street smart, she admits she drinks, swears, and has sex with her husband. In other words, she’s unladylike, and proud of it, and I tried to make that show in how she tells her story.

Which is challenging. In addition to all that above, Audrey is also not your typical narrator. By which I mean, this is her first time really telling a story, as her life hasn’t had many opportunities for her to practice creative writing. She also breaks the fourth wall a lot in a way Deadpool might approve, pointing out things about her word choice and how at certain times she sounds like she’s writing a romance novel.

And yet she’s very much aware what sort of story she’s telling.

And here I am, on the computer, trying to tell this story through this character’s unique perspective, while also balancing that perspective with the needs and tone of the story. Not only that, but I have to make the language used sound both like they were written by Audrey and by me, a writer who has a few published books and stories under his belt. And I have to ensure it reads like a horror story.

All told, it’s a bit of a juggling act. And I’m feeling the struggle. There are plenty of points where I’ve wondered to myself, “Does this sound good? Or does it sound totally amateur-ish?” It can affect how I look at the project at times.

That being said, there are moments where I look at the changes I’ve made and I’m like, “Yeah, I got this.” I had one of those moments when I was editing the scene the novel goes from period piece with strong romantic overtones to full-on horror story. Here’s the passage in the previous draft:

Before either of us could answer, there was a scream from the edge of the park. It was followed by several other screams, not just women, but men and children. Dogs barked, and birds flew into the air and away from the park entrance. Around the park, and in Little Angola as well, people stopped what they were doing, stood up if they were sitting down, and looked in the direction of the screams.

And then there’s the section from the current draft (asterisks are to prevent spoilers):

From the edge of the park came a woman’s scream.

Everyone, including Gordon and me, froze before turning in the direction of the scream, which was the same direction we’d come from. We could hear more people screaming, not just women, but men and children too. And that wasn’t all: dogs were barking, birds were flying in every direction, and everyone in the park, from the folks in ********, to the families at their picnic benches, to the children on the playsets, and to the couples in the flower garden, stiffened.

Later on, it occurred to me that we were all feeling the same thing. We weren’t just afraid. We were dreading whatever was causing those people to scream and making the animals go crazy. We dreaded it in our very bones.

Busy editing. Hopefully by the time I’m done, this novel will look a whole lot better and I’ll have a better idea if it’s ready to be submitted anywhere.

How was that? It’s not perfect, but it is better written than the previous version. Feels more like something you might read in a professionally-published horror novel. And that difference really made me feel like I could balance all those things I mentioned above. I don’t know if by the end of the draft, the novel will be ready to submit to publishers as I’d hoped, but if the new passage is anything to go by, I’ll at least get a bit closer.

Anyway, that’s where I’m at right now. I think, as the draft continues, I’ll hopefully not only get a better idea of where the story is in its development, but maybe even be able to go back to the beginning and do a better job of polishing up the story. We’ll see what the rest of the draft holds.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ll check in again soon, though I’m not sure when or what I’ll be talking about. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

This morning, I checked my memories on Facebook, and what popped up in 2018? No, not an embarrassing photo from that year’s Purim celebration. I killed the person who took the photo and destroyed their phone’s SIM card before they could post it. No, it was the announcement that my novel Rose had been accepted by Castrum Press, a publishing company based out of Belfast, North Ireland.

And over the course of today, it just kept hitting me. Three years. Three whole years. It felt like so much longer (and not just because of the mess that was 2020). And given all that happened with the book over those three years, it only feels right to blog about it.

So if you’re unfamiliar, Rose is a novel I first wrote as my college thesis and which later became my first novel published with a publisher. The story is a Kafkaesque fantasy-horror tale about a young woman who wakes up with no memory of the past two years. She then finds herself transfigured into a plant/human hybrid by ancient magic, setting her on a path of no return.

As I said, a lot happened with Rose in the three years since Castrum Press accepted the novel. The novel itself went through a heavy editing and rewriting process that lasted about fifteen months, from March 2018 to June 2019 when the book was released. Characters were changed or written out, plot points were added and pulled out, and at one point two-thirds of the book needed to be thrown out and rewritten. Yeah, that happened. Word of advice, don’t add flashback scenes that have nothing to do with the main plot of the story, let alone make one-third of the book flashbacks and the other third somewhat dependent on the flashbacks.

But it was worth it. The book came out soon after my twenty-sixth birthday, and people started reading it. Soon, I had some great reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, and they kept growing. In August, I had a reading at Brothers Drake, a local bar and meadery, or distiller of honeywine. In December, the audio book released, narrated by the incomparable Sarah Parlier, who made chills go up my back with her narration. 2020 came in, and the book continued to do somewhat well. I wasn’t making Stephen King money, but I was doing okay for an author of my skill and reach.

Honestly, though, the fact that anyone’s reading Rose at all, especially with so much good horror out there, is incredible. Yeah, people enjoy it, but I had to do a lot of plugging over the course of these three years to get people interested, let alone willing to read it. That’s part of the author lot, truth be told: you gotta do a ton of work to let people know your book is available. No one’s going to do it for you, at least not without compensation.

Well, I’m not complaining. All the work has paid off. More and more people are reading Rose, and are leaving reviews. I just got a new four star review today from an author I know through Twitter, which made my day. It makes me happy. And I’m hoping, with continued work, some devoted fans, and a few conventions/author events, Rose will continue to do well.

If you would be interested in reading Rose, I’ll leave links below for you to check out. And if you end up reading it, I hope you’ll take the time to let me know what you think. Positive or negative, I love reader feedback, and it not only helps me, but your fellow readers in the long run.

That’s all for now. I’m off to enjoy the weekend. Until next time, my Followers of Fear, good night, Shabbat Shalom, have a great weekend, and pleasant nightmares!

Rose: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada, Audible