Archive for the ‘Reflections’ Category

Robert Johnson’s studio portrait, one of the few verified photos of him.

I come across the most fascinating subjects sometimes, and when I do, I just have to learn as much as I can about them. Especially if I think I can write a story around them. Robert Johnson is one of those subjects. And if you haven’t heard of him before, that’s a damn shame. Because guess what? Robert Johnson may be the most enigmatic figure in American music history, as well as blues history.

So if you haven’t heard of Robert Johnson, let me give you the quick summary: Robert Johnson was a blues singer who traveled around the American South during the Great Depression. He recorded several songs and two albums in the two years before he died in 1938 in obscurity. However, he made a comeback in the 1960s, influencing musicians like Eric Clapton and the Rolling Stones.

There is very little knowledge about him as a person. Very few photos of Johnson exist, and everything we do know is from scant records and recollections. No one’s sure how he died, they just know that he did at the young age of 27 (my age at the moment, BTW). All this has led to a huge amount of speculation and mythology around the man. The most famous myth is that Johnson sold his soul to the Devil at a crossroads for talent.

If you’re paying attention this far down and you know me well, you can guess this was why I showed interest in Johnson in the first place.

But let me tell you, the Crossroads myth, as it’s known, only scratches the surface of this mysterious man. I’ve listened to all his music several times (which, by the way, is excellent), watched one biographical video on him, listened to one audio book biography about him and am in the middle of another (also on audio), and watched the movie Crossroads which heavily references Johnson and his legend (it was a lot better than I thought it would be). I’ve been down the rabbit hole on Johnson, and there’s so much more to him than just a myth about the Devil.

If you’ve ever wondered where the crossroads myth in Supernatural is from, Robert Johnson’s legend is an influence.

Robert Johnson was a man whose life was defined by music and impermanence. He was playing from a young age, and traveled all over the United States, and maybe even to Canada. He invented new guitar practices, some of which are still used by artists today. His relationships were often short and fleeting, and even the people closest to him, except maybe his family, weren’t entirely sure who he was. He was such an enigma, his death wasn’t officially confirmed until thirty years after the fact, when his death certificate was found by a researcher. His cause of death is listed as “Unknown Causes.” Even his gravesite is in dispute.

All this and more, from the legends around Johnson, to how he became the influence he is today, and of course his music, make him someone I want to learn more about.

And did I mention his music is wonderful? Because it is. I can put it on in the background and just zone out while I cook or work or write. Yeah, it has an older sound, but there’s something about Johnson’s playing and voice that stick with you, gets into your soul.

And I’ll keep listening to him and researching him for a while yet. I’m still learning what I can about him, and I haven’t figured out what sort of story I want to write around Johnson. I don’t want to write about the Crossroads myth, because that’s been done to death. I was going to do something set in the Cthulhu Mythos, but as much fun as playing in that sandbox is, I want to do more than play with someone else’s toys.

Well, I’m sure I’ll come up with something. May be today, may be next year, but I’ll come up with something. And in the meantime, I’ll keep writing and listening to Robert Johnson’s small but beautiful discography.

And if this makes you want to listen to and/or learn more about Johnson, I recommend the Centennial Collection, which contains the clearest sound of Johnson’s music. I also recommend Crossroads by Tom Graves and Up Jumped the Devil by Bruce Conforth and Gayle Dean Wardlow if you want in-depth biography on him. But first, you should listen to probably Johnson’s most famous song, as well as one of the songs that feeds the Crossroads myth, “Cross Road Blues:”

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I hope this made you interested in learning more on Johnson. Now, if you need me, I’ll be working on Toyland while watching a debate (Evil Dead original vs. remake. It’s going to get bloody).

Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

I’ve two words for you:

Fuck 2020.

That’s how people have been reacting since around January, though it really ramped up around March or April. I’ve been among the people who’ve been saying it. Until recently, however, I thought I was dealing with it pretty well. Except for that short period back in March, I’ve been able to keep my writing flowing. Hell, some even say my output is extraordinary or something to look up to. I’ve been doing really well at work. I’m maintaining a healthy lifestyle, for the most part. I’ve been reading a lot. I haven’t fallen behind on any of my bills. I still have a roof over my head, and I keep my apartment clean (or clean enough).

But lately, it’s been a lot. COVID-19; the election and those intent on derailing it for their own benefit, before, during and after November 3rd; hurricanes; wildfires; black people getting murdered and the justice system failing to help those left behind; the deaths of people like Chadwick Boseman and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who inspired and brought hope to so many people; science deniers and “fake news” and “alternative facts;” and so much more. Add in that September has never been my favorite month, and also happens to be a really busy time for me at work, and it’s had an effect on me.

For one thing, I was actually sick today. Yeah, I think the stress had an effect on my physical health and I had to call off work. Sucks, especially since I was supposed to give a presentation today.

And not only that, but (*gasp!*) I haven’t been able to work on stories this week.

Yeah, I know. Last night, I only managed to edit three pages of Toyland. Took over an hour to do. I was just like, “Forget it! No point at working at it if I need an hour to get three pages edited!” If I was working on a new story, I wouldn’t be surprised if I wasn’t able to make my minimum of 500 words per writing session. I’d be disappointed, but not surprised.

It’s a shame, but sometimes life gets you down and affects everything.

So, I’m taking steps to improve things. I may only have so much power to change this world,* but I have plenty of power to help myself. In fact, since I was sick today, I spent the day doing self-care. I slept in, made Japanese rice gruel (great for when you’re under the weather), watched Enola Holmes on Netflix,** did some hypnosis for stress relief, and watch cute videos of foxes and cats and dogs (thank you, YouTube).

And I’ll be doing some more self-care over the next few days. Yeah, I know there’s an emphasis in this country on being constantly productive until retirement. But you know what? Fuck productivity! What’s the point of getting all that done if I’m a wreck? Sometimes, taking care of yourself is the best thing you can do. And I wish more people realized that, rather than grinding themselves to death for…what? A possible bonus? Bragging rights? I don’t know.

So, I may not get much more done for the rest of the month. Whatever. Once I’m back in the saddle and feeling better, I’ll be pounding out words and stories at the usual crazy rate. And in the meantime, I’ll enjoy all the relaxation and self-care I can. Life’s too short and crazy not to enjoy it, after all.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Stay safe, take care of yourselves, and pleasant nightmares.

*I could use some of my dark powers to make really big changes, but that involves too much paperwork and some nasty unintended consequences. After this year, I’d like to avoid both.

**Short opinion: the mystery is a bit simplistic and obvious for a story involving a detective named Holmes, but it’s a lot of fun. Millie Bobby Brown is great, there are plenty of funny moments, and it scratches my Victorian itch. Give it a watch if you need something nice to get your mind off your problems.

The other day, I was scrolling through my Twitter feed and I saw a tweet from a fellow writer in the writing community (or #WritingCommunity). This was the tweet.

Now, if the tweet hasn’t loaded properly into this blog post at the time you’re reading this, it’s from writer Rey Roland using the hashtag @rrowlandwrites and goes like this:

#WritingCommunity do you think that characters have to make mistakes in a story?

I found the question stimulating, so after some back and forth between us, I decided to do a full post on the question (hope you don’t mind, Rey).

So, can and should characters make mistakes? First, let me start with can: yes, characters can make mistakes. In fact, there are plenty of stories where characters make mistakes which become integral to the plot. And yes, characters should on occasion make mistakes, though it depends heavily on the story. A character shouldn’t make a mistake just for the sake of making one when it serves no purpose to the story. Otherwise, the readers will think it’s weird.

Of course, this leads to an even bigger question: is there a benefit to having characters make mistakes? Actually, there are multiple benefits to having a character who makes mistakes.

For one thing, characters who make mistakes are easier to empathize with. Not to say characters incapable of making mistakes can’t be empathized with, but it does make a character more human and easier to identify with for the audience. The possibility of a reader continuing with a story can depend greatly on their connection to the protagonist, so showing them as being like the reader–more human–can be an advantage.

Edmund Pevensie’s mistake was a major driver of the story.

Another reason to have characters make mistakes is that it can help the story along or add to its complexity. Sometimes, it’s even the catalyst of the story. In The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, Edmund makes the mistake of falling under the White Witch’s spell, and betraying his siblings adding both an extra dilemma to an already difficult situation and giving the character a redemption arc during the story. And in the manga Death Note, Light Yagami tries to eliminate suspicion of himself as the murderer Kira by killing the FBI agent following him, as well as the other FBI agents following other suspects. However, this eventually just leads to him becoming a prime suspect again, a problem which lasts the rest of the series.

Of course, it isn’t just protagonists who make major mistakes. Minor characters make mistakes all the time, and they often benefit the plot significantly. In Ania Ahlborn’s novel The Devil Crept In, the protagonist’s mother makes the mistake of not treating her son’s obvious mental issues, which has major consequences before, during and after the story. And in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Cho Chang’s best friend Marietta Edgecombe tells Umbridge about Dumbledore’s Army, leading to the organization’s dissolution, Dumbledore’s exile and Umbridge’s assent at Hogwarts, and boils to appear on her face in the shape of the word “SNEAK.”

And villains make mistakes all the time. Often, that’s how their downfall begins. Often, these mistakes are due to the villains’ pride, ignorance, or some other character flaw. Voldemort doesn’t believe anyone will find his Horcruxes; Bane talks too much and doesn’t watch his six; Annie Wilkes is so obsessed with her Misery Chastain novels, she falls for Paul Sheldon’s trick; the White Witch doesn’t read the instructions carefully and misses the deeper magic in the Stone Table; Kaecilius also doesn’t read the instructions and misses what actually happens when you join Dormammu’s dimension; and the Wicked Witch allows water in her castle for some reason, even though she has a serious water allergy (I guess the book version thought Dorothy would never think to use water against her?).

As you can see from the above, not only can and should characters be able to make mistakes, but there are numerous benefits to doing so. Whether to include one or not depends on the author, character(s), and story in question. However, if an opportunity comes up and you think it’ll ultimately benefit the plot, I say do it. Who knows? It could be a major turning point in the story, and the moment readers talk about for years to come.

I hope you found this post edifying, my Followers of Fear. I had fun writing it. And I hope Rey Rowland (whose Twitter page you can find here) enjoys reading this. Thanks for the mental stimulation.

That’s all for now. I’ll check in with you all very soon, I’m sure. So, until next time, stay safe, pleasant nightmares, and DON’T TAKE THAT ACTION! IT’S THE KIND OF MISTAKE THAT’LL LAND YOU IN A HORROR STORY! AND NOT ONE WRITTEN BY ME.

Reborn City, Book 1 of the Reborn City series.

As many of you know, I started this blog while working on a sci-fi series, the Reborn City trilogy. It follows street gangs in a dystopian future, and focuses mainly on the Hydras, a gang whose leaders have strange powers and abilities. At the very core of the series was a theme of overcoming various prejudices, especially racial and Islamaphobic. I self-published the first two books, Reborn City and Video Rage, and started work on the final book, Full Circle.

However, trouble started around the third book. Midway through the first draft, I realized the direction of the story wasn’t epic enough for what I wanted for the series. It neither provided the action, nor the catharsis needed to end the series. So I stopped working on the story, with the hope that eventually I could finish the series.

That was 2017. It’s 2020. And I’ve realized some things about the series. Things that made me change how I feel about those books, and about selling them to people. The biggest thing being that I’m a different person than I used to be. I’m not the same person I was when I first started writing those books.

Let me explain. When I first started that series, it was 2009, I was sixteen, and I was full of the naive, optimistic hope that most teens are filled with. That hope filled Reborn City and its themes of the power of tolerance, which I hoped would do some good in the world. I thought if I could take those themes and work them into a story, I could beat back some of the horrors that were plaguing the world.

In a way, I still think it’s possible to write a story and make a difference through literature. We’ve seen it with multiple books that have withstood the test of time and build conversations around difficult topics. I just don’t think the Reborn City books can do that anymore.

It’s now 2020. Eleven years have passed, I’m twenty seven, and I’m a lot more educated, as well as a lot more jaded, about the very issues I was writing about. I think we all are. We’ve seen too much these past several years, felt too much heartbreak and harsh realities. Knowing that, I look back at the Reborn City books and realize that those stories don’t fit their purpose anymore. It’s like you try to build a better hose to put out house fires, but you find out after the fact that what’s needed is a fire hose, and you built a garden hose. And the whole house is on fire.

See where I’m going? I can’t finish the books because I know the hose I’m building is inadequate, and I don’t feel right selling the books for the same reason.

This, among other reasons, is why earlier this week, I made the decision to take both Reborn City and Video Rage off Amazon and Smashwords.

Reborn City and Video Rage. As of today, I’m not selling copies on Amazon or Smashwords.

Yeah, I can hear some of your shock. Believe me, I’m not happy about it, either. But it is what it is. I won’t sell a product (and make no mistake, that’s part of what I’m doing as a writer) that doesn’t work, and these stories just don’t work. You can maybe still find the last few paperback copies of them on Amazon, but after those are gone, that’s it.

That being said, there are a couple of bright sides. For one thing, I may revisit the world of Reborn City again someday. I still think there’s some potential with those characters and that world, I just need to write a story around them that works with what I know now. And in the meantime, I still like to put the issues I care about into the stories I write, like I did with Rose, or with River of Wrath. The latter of which, by the way, tackles some of the same issues Reborn City and Video Rage did.

Also, while those books are no longer available, my two other books that I self-published, the short story collection The Quiet Game: Five Tales to Chill Your Bones, and the horror-thriller Snake, are both still available. While those stories aren’t perfect, they’ve weathered the test of time better than the Reborn City books did, so I feel more comfortable putting them out there. I’ll include the links for them below.

I’m sorry to drop sad news on you on a Friday night, my Followers of Fear. But I thank you for reading, and for your understanding. Do know that I plan to keep putting out quality stories in the future, and I hope you’ll stick around to keep supporting me while I work on that.

That’s all for now, and I’ll be back soon. Until next time, stay safe and pleasant nightmares.

 

The Quiet Game: AmazonCreatespaceBarnes & NobleiBooksSmashwords, and Kobo.

Snake: AmazonCreatespace, Barnes & Noble, iBooksSmashwords, and Kobo

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

Cover of the first Hellraiser film.

If you’re not familiar with the Hellraiser series, let me start with a bit of background. Based on the novella The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker,* the films follow a magical puzzle box which, when solved, open a gateway to a hell dimension inhabited by creatures known as Cenobites. Anyone who comes into contact with the Cenobites is then pulled into their world, where the boundaries between pain and pleasure are explored until they all blend into suffering. All the films in the series follow people who come into contact with the puzzle box, with the fourth film exploring the puzzle box’s creation and history, though only the first four were released theatrically.

I saw the first three films years and years ago, but was recently spurred by a colleague rewatching some of the films to revisit them and finally watch the fourth one. And I have some thoughts on the series.

For one thing, I get the appeal of the series, which first released in the 1980s during the height of the slasher boom. However, unlike other slashers of the time, which focused either on silent killers like Jason or Michael Myers, or funny, over-the-top characters like Freddy Kreuger, the Hellraiser films were outliers. The monsters of those films weren’t silent stalkers or wise-cracking undead. They were more like scientists of sensuality and suffering rather than killers. Death was just sometimes part of their work (at least for the first couple of films). In fact, in the first few films, the lead Cenobite Pinhead, nearly always played by Doug Bradley, is articulate, intelligent, and dispassionate except when speaking of his work.

In addition, the first two films don’t follow a regular slasher structure. Instead, the focus shifts around to various characters and their motivations, making the films feel almost like novels in how their stories are told. And the first two films also have a surreal aspect to them, especially the second one, which adds to the feeling of horror and unreality that the films are going for.

And finally, the films weren’t focused on gory deaths. They focused instead on desire, on what made people do horrible things in exchange for their wants and needs, even if those wants and needs included horrific sadomasochistic experiments. If that sometimes led to death, then so be it.

Pinhead, leader of the Cenobites and the most prominent character in the series.

Given all that, I can see why the films were popular and have stuck around. That being said, I can see how the series fell in quality as early as the third film. While that one was good, it structured its story in the vein of a more traditional, good-vs-evil supernatural slasher. It also eschewed the more weird aspects and added in some campier aspects with some of the new Cenobites. And then the fourth film, while giving a history to the puzzle box and an “ending” for the series, sacrifices quality and scares in the process.

It’s really no wonder the series went to direct-to-video from there on out, or why the subsequent films have tried for a more psychological approach rather than an out-and-out gory supernatural style.**

Despite all that, the first two films, while they have their issues, are still masterpieces and the third film is worth a watch (though I would stop after that). And, like all good slashers, the very concept is powerful enough to make you want to see more. to explore more from the safety of your living room. It’s why the series has endured, and why a reboot and a TV series are both in development (though we may not see anything new for a long, long time).

And if I’m being honest, I wouldn’t mind a reboot. This series has gone through so many ups and downs, a fresh take done with love for the original concept might just be what the series needs. And if one does get made, I hope antagonist Julia would be given a bigger role. She was such a powerful character in the first two films that at one point, it was considered giving her the role of main antagonist over Pinhead, and I think the character’s exploration of her own darkness and sexual desires would go over well with modern audiences.

And if you’re interested in checking out the Hellraiser films after this post, here’s where I’d rate them on a scale of 1 to 5:

Any other Julia fans out there?

  • Hellraiser – 4.3
  • Hellbound: Hellraiser II – 4.5
  • Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth – 3.9
  • Hellraiser: Bloodline – 2.6

But tell me, what are your thoughts on the Hellraiser franchise and my observations? Do you support a remake? And is there anyone else here who thinks Julia is much more terrifying than Pinhead? Let’s discuss.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ll likely have a new review out soon, so keep an eye out for that. And until next time, stay safe and pleasant nightmares.

*Which I really need to get around to reading one of these days.

**Or so I’ve read. I have not seen anything past #4 yet, and I’m not sure I want to.

Queen Victoria and her grandchildren by her daughter Princess Alice, mourning their mother and sister Princess Marie.

Yes, this is another Victorian England post. Don’t worry, it’s going to be relevant to horror and to the stories I write, believe me.

During my research into the era, I found that the Victorians really had a thing for mourning. In fact, they made ritualized mourning into something of a fine art or a pseudo-religious practice (hence why I call it a cult). You know how during a funeral, it’s tradition to wear black? Victorians took that to extremes: when someone you know died, you were required to mix black into your clothing, how much depending on your level of closeness to the deceased. A widow would have to wear full black clothes, usually made from crepe fabric; a child would wear black with white cuffs and frills; and servants would wear black bands around their arms (maids could also wear one around their caps or bonnets, or fully black caps and bonnets).

Also depending on the closeness to the deceased would determine the length of the initial mourning period. Yeah, you read that right: initial mourning period. For the Victorians, there were stages of mourning, particularly for close relatives. For widows, for example, the initial mourning stage could last up to two years, during which time they could only wear black clothes and black jewelry; black clothes was hung on mirrors and windows; and they were to refuse all socializing. Any letters they sent out had black borders, and it was encouraged for them to forget the outside world to focus on the deaths of their husband.

Of course, this was slanted very much towards women: men were allowed to wear only a black armband and go out because they were typically breadwinners. They could also remarry or enter the social scene sooner, because men were expected to have wives to take care of them and a mother for any children.

Furthermore, only women from the middle or upper classes took part in the full mourning ritual. Women from the lower classes, while still wearing black, would have to go out to earn a living. If one could be earned, of course; I’m not entirely sure, but I think I read that women could have difficulty finding work during mourning, if they previously weren’t working. In fact, many women and families went into debt or became homeless by observing mourning rituals.

Why did they do all this? Part of the reason may have been Queen Victoria herself: when her husband Albert, Prince Consort, died, she went into lifelong mourning for him, wearing black for the rest of her life and refusing to remarry. For a time, she even retreated from her royal duties. This inspired the cult of mourning and its associated rituals.

Part of it may have also been (and this is just my hypothesis, but I could be onto something) the resurrection men, grave robbers who stole bodies and sold them to medical schools for anatomy lessons. Back then, there was a huge demand for bodies at medical schools, but never enough supply, so resurrection men would step in to meet the demand (as well as be paid handsomely for it).* And because not everyone could afford safeguards to keep their coffins from being raided and stealing a body technically wasn’t a crime yet, all resurrection men had to worry about was getting caught by an angry mob.

Ad for Black Peter Robinson’s Mourning Warehouse, and the image that inspired my current story.

Regardless of what caused it, the cult of mourning existed, and everyone was expected to obey, especially married women. To fail or to opt out was to be accused of never having truly loved or been family with the deceased, or to be cold and cruel.

And where there is devotion, there is money to make off it: while poorer families would dye their clothes black or got them secondhand, those who could bought them from specialized “mourning warehouses,” department stores that sold mourning wear, as well as coffins and items associated with mourning. Some even rented out hearses and horses for their clients! Some of the biggest were the London General Mourning Warehouse, or Jay’s, and the Black Peter Robinson Mourning Warehouse.

But wait, there’s more! Post-mortem photography was also popular during this period. Photography was a lengthy and expensive process, so many families would only get photographs of their loved ones when they’d just passed. They would then be posed and prepared to look like they were sleeping, often next to living family members. Rather than morbid, this was seen as a good way to remember the dead and help with grief.

A post-mortem photograph. Because of course I would include one.

Of course, a lot of this fell out of fashion in the early twentieth century, first among the upper classes and then trickling down to the lower. Cheaper funeral practices became preferred, and post-mortem photography became unnecessary as getting a photograph became easier and more affordable. Today, only characters in books and neo-Victorians still practice any of these (yes, that’s a thing, but for another post).

And yes, resurrection men are largely a thing of the past.

Why do I bring this up? Well, besides being interesting, the story I’m writing now focuses on Victorian mourning to an extent, and doing some further research into Victorian mourning practices made me want to blog about them. So thank you for coming to my TED talk (I love making that joke).

 

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m sure I’ll be back soon with more to rant or gush about. In the meantime, thanks for enabling my love of the Victorian era. And until next time, stay safe and pleasant nightmares!

*H.H. Holmes, one of America’s first recorded serial killers, did this with his victims, which leads me to think he was more interested in making easy money than in killing.

My latest Tarot reading. What it indicates…only I can tell.

About five years ago, I bought a Tarot deck and a how-to guide on how to use the cards. And after a few readings, I used it infrequently, maybe once a year. Until recently, that is. A book I read and really enjoyed featured Tarot quite heavily, as well as a few friends and acquaintances who read the cards (including one who mentions it on her blog quite regularly), spurred me to try reading the cards again. Which became something of a regular habit. And then I hit upon the idea of doing readings at the Indie Author Book Expo in Iowa last month. I bought a second deck (never use a deck for yourself and for others. It mixes energy in all the wrong ways).

And I’ve come to an opinion on Tarot. One I would like to share with you.

But before that, let me tell you about Tarot if you’re unfamiliar. Tarot cards are like playing cards, but instead of hearts, diamonds, spades and clubs as the four suits, there are wands, swords, cups and pentacles (sometimes called disks). In addition, there are twenty-two trump cards called the Major Arcana, for a total of seventy-eight cards. Originally used as playing cards, the cards started being used in cartomancy, or fortune telling through cards, in the 18th century, with each card having a different meaning, often several meanings, and affecting the reading.

So yeah, I’m breaking the Torah’s prohibition on fortune-telling. But I already break the prohibition of consulting spirits at least twice a year, and God hasn’t struck me down since, so I think I’m fine.

In any case, Tarot isn’t supposed to tell the future. Many users will attest that Tarot is supposed to be used more for insight and guidance, like asking for advice. Perhaps it’ll tell you what could happen in the future, but like the future, that could change from day to day. That’s what I say, anyway.

Now that we’ve gotten all that out of the way, what are my thoughts on Tarot? Well, before this week, I would’ve maintained that I’m undecided, and that perhaps the cards do have something to them, but it could all just be coincidence and humans looking for patterns where there are none.

But on Sunday, I had a reading that proved scarily accurate. So far, it’s been very on the nose about events that have occurred this week, to the point I shouted a very naughty word to my otherwise-empty apartment. Now, I’m not sure. Perhaps there is something there, like with the haunted locations I visit. To say the least, it’s weird.

Whether or not there’s anything to Tarot, I can’t lie that it has an effect. At the Expo last month, I did a reading for a young woman asking something near and dear to her heart of the cards. The reading the cards gave her seemed to lift her spirits and give her hope, and she seemed very interested in buying a deck of her own. I hope things work out for her, and I’m glad I was able to put some joy in her day.

So, I’ll keep reading the cards. I’ll use my Gilded Tarot deck (a reading of which is pictured above) for myself, and the Ghost Tarot deck (pictured to the right) for others. Besides being something I could do at conventions and expos, it’s fun and does give insight. Never a bad thing.

Do you have any experience with Tarot? What are your thoughts on it?

Everyone, sing it with me.

Happy Birthday to the blog,
Happy Birthday to the blog.
Happy Birthday to Rami Ungar the Writer
Happy Birthday to the blog.

Great job singing, everyone. Except you. Yes, you. You were off-key.

So, as this post says, Rami Ungar the Writer, the very blog you’re reading right now, is nine years old as of today. And even though my memory of starting this blog at my local library has faded over time, this blog hasn’t. True, there were times where I thought it would. During the first year or two of college, there were days where I was lucky to get one or two views a day. I would wonder if writing this blog was even worth it, given how few people were reading what I had to say as I tried to make something of myself as a writer.

But I kept at it. I’m stubborn when it comes to goals, particularly writing-related goals, and I kept blogging. And you know what? People found my posts. They liked them, commented on them. Some even decided to subscribe to the blog. When my books came out, some of those subscribers elected to read them. And many of my subscribers have become dear friends of mine. I’ve even had the pleasure of meeting a few in person, and making happy memories with them. It’s been quite the ride.

As of writing this post (and I know it’s tacky to brag, but nine years! That’s a long time to be blogging, especially in Internet time), Rami Ungar the Writer has 1,694 posts (including this one); 1,217 subscribers; 6,160 likes; and 4,526 comments. Crazy to think about. Even crazier, despite all common sense, some of you are actually proud to be Followers of Fear. I think one or two of you even used the title in hashtags on Twitter. The world is truly something else.

So what’s next? Well, even without a pandemic, I doubt much would change. I’ll be writing and editing stories and working on getting them published. I’ll have reviews on new works of horror as I come across them (and a few new ones are now cheap enough to rent through YouTube, so that’ll work). If I want to discuss a particular aspect of writing or of horror, I will. And if there’s any ghost-hunting or travels to be done, I’ll post about it.

Anyway, thanks for celebrating the blog’s ninth birthday with me. I’m so glad to have so many Followers of Fear interested in my stories and what I have to say. I hope you’ll continue to read what I write, blog or book form, and even let me know what you think.

Also, what do you think I should do for the tenth anniversary? Buy a cake and some champagne? Do another AMA on YouTube? Throw a wild party? I guess we’ll just have to wait till next year to find out.

So, until next time, thanks for being here. And as always, pleasant nightmares!

Before I start on the main subject of this post, I thought I’d ask a question of you, my Followers of Fear: how are you? You doing well?

Hey, it’s a pandemic and the world seems to get crazier every day. Might as well ask. Let’s talk in the comments below.

Anyway, you see that title? Inspiration, Motivation, Focus, Consistency. They’re more than just words. In fact, I think they’re why I’ve had such a crazy output of stories since November, including two novels.

Inspiration. This isn’t just limited to ideas for stories to write. Yeah, you want to have stories that excite you and that you think will excite others to read as much as it excites you to write them, but you also want inspiration for your drive. Let me explain: since Rose came out more than a year ago, I’ve heard from so many people who’ve enjoyed reading the book. I’ve had the pleasure of signing copies and talking to people about it, and even meeting the narrator of the audio book!

Being able to share my work with people, and knowing that they like it and even want to read more, is a huge inspiration for me. Imagining what someone might say for Rose or another story inspires me to sit in the chair at my desk and pound away at the keyboard on the laptop.

Motivation. If inspiration comes from knowing that people liked Rose and want to read more, then motivation is making sure I can do it again. I’m motivated to prove to the world that I’m not a one-book author (or one book by a publisher and four books published independently). This is another reason why I sit down in front of the computer every evening.

It’s also a good motivator for me to spend more time reading and less time streaming TV or anime, even though that is fun. I’m reading authors who have gotten their stories published—sometimes a few, sometimes many—and I’m thinking to myself, “Why did this story get published? Why does this work? What can I learn from this to improve my own stories?” And I think it works. At the very least, even the rejections come with good feedback more often than not.

Getting to meet Sara Parlier and discuss the book we worked on together was a great inspiration.

Focus. I always set a goal in mind for when I’m working on a story. When it’s writing, I try to get around 500 words down on paper, and everything after that is icing on the cake. For editing, I aim for at least three pages, and again, everything afterwards is icing on the cake. They’re simple goals, but more often than not they work. And at some point, a switch usually flips and I end up getting way more done than just those goals above. So, it works.

Consistency. None of the above three work unless you’re doing them often, though, and I’ve noticed the productive authors are always the ones who are doing them often. I tell people that a time fairy isn’t going to come to grant you time to write or meditate or exercise. You have to carve out the time yourself. It may take away from watching Netflix, but those shows will always be there waiting for you. The goals you’re trying to achieve? They won’t be there unless you make them a priority.

And you don’t have to go crazy in being consistent. A gradual build is good as well. I didn’t start writing most nights out of nowhere, I had to build up that habit over time. And it may take a lot more time than you want to build up the habit. But that’s okay. Trying too much too soon may overwhelm you, so it’s better to take it slow and build up your stamina so you can eventually be as consistent as you want to be.

Inspiration, Motivation, Focus, Consistency. They’re not always easy to find or build, but when you gather them together and use them, you can accomplish amazing things (and not just writing, either). How you go about finding them is up to you. But once you have them, you’ll be amazed at how hard it is to let them go. And just how much they improve your life.

 

So that’s all for tonight, my Followers of Fear. I’m deep in researching and outlining, so I’ll get back to that. In the meantime, stay safe, ask your doctor if demonic possession is right for you, and until next time, pleasant nightmares!

Oh, and since I mentioned it, I’ll post the links for Rose down below. If you haven’t read it yet and would like to check it out, please do. And if you enjoy what you read, leave a review online and let me know. I love reader feedback, and it helps me out in the long run. Enjoy!

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

From left to right: Charles Naylor, Joleene Naylor and myself, masked up in front of our hotel and ready to rock.

Hey, Followers of Fear! I didn’t think I would have a moment to let you guys know how I’m doing, but I ended up having some spare time in the airport while waiting to head to South Carolina. With that in mind, I thought I’d take a moment to update you guys on what I’ve been up to. Now obviously, I can’t update you on the Villisca Axe Murder House, not until I’ve had some time to upload my videos to YouTube. However, I can tell you about my time in Des Moines, and the book expo I attended.

I arrived in Des Moines on Friday at about three in the afternoon, and took an Uber to the airport, where I met with my friend and colleague Joleene Naylor and her husband/my friend Charles Naylor. We went out to dinner at a themed burger joint called Zombie Burger (and yes, it looks just like you’d expect. See my Instagram for photos). We then spent some time driving around Des Moines and seeing the sights.

But it was the next day that was on our minds, as well as the reason why we were there: the 5th annual Indie Author Book Expo.

We arrived Saturday morning for the first day of the Expo at the Valley West Mall in Des Moines. We were located in a wide-open area on the first floor near a children’s area, with several tables spread around the area. I found my table, which was hidden in the shade of the second floor balcony and right bny two stores called Buckle and University Sports, and set my stuff down before introducing myself to Jenn Thompson, the woman who let me come to the Expo in the first place. After that, I got my booth set up and waited for 11, when the stores and the Expo would begin.

My table at the Indie Author Book Expo. Thanks to Joleene Naylor for the photo.

Some observations about the Expo:

-First, I need to work on my display. My table was the most bare-bones of the authors. I had my copies of Rose, one of which was on a stand; a Tarot deck; and a homemade sign stating my prices. Meanwhile, look at Joleene’s below.

Joleene’s booth at the Expo.

Holy crap! She’s got intricate displays, a tiered-display with pet vampire rocks and bottles of vampire blood on it, candy dishes filled with freebies! Plus a banner and a few other odds and ends! And many of the other authors had other additions to their booths: big banners that went behind their booths for photos, cheap little bobs and bits for sale to go with the books you buy, etc. And Joleene mentioned that at other expos and conventions she’s been at, people have used prize wheels, raffles, and more to entice readers. In fact, she usually uses selfie banners so people can take photos of themselves with vampire fangs (not something to do in this day and age, but still).

Seeing all that made me realize that, in future expos and fairs and conventions, I will need to step up how I display and sell my work to draw in more people. I’m not sure how, seeing as Rose and my other works don’t necessarily lend themselves to little toys or raffle wheels or whatever. But I have a year before my next scheduled convention (assuming COVID-19 doesn’t cancel that as well). I have time to think of something.

And if you have any suggestions, my Followers of Fear, I would love to hear them.

-Second, COVID-19 had its effect on the expo. As you can see in the photos, Joleene and I are wearing masks, and obviously we took our time and effort to keep ourselves and others safe. But the pandemic took its toll on the expo, to be sure. Most of the people who would go out of their way to attend an expo with authors at a mall are also the type who would not want to risk getting the virus, so they stayed home. That meant the mall was filled with mostly employees and people who were there to pick up what they came for and leave. Which made our job of getting books and other products into their hands that much more difficult.

And it was under those circumstances the expo began. The first day did not go as well as I’d hoped. Not only had I left my cloak at the hotel room, but given what I said above, it was hard as hell to sell books. I only sold one copy of Rose near the end of the day, plus a couple of Tarot readings. I got a lot of people passing by or saying no, including one guy who said he and his wife were moving to Malaysia and were downsizing by fifty percent. I’m not sure if that was just a line or the truth, but man, that was a strong rejection!

The second day, Sunday, on the other hand, actually went much better. I don’t know if it was remembering my cloak this time or the stars were right, but I sold about three copies of Rose and did a few more Tarot readings. Overall, a successful day. My favorite part was giving a young woman a Tarot reading about something close to her heart. Apparently the reading was very accurate to her life, and she liked what she heard in terms of what might be in the future for her. It made my day to give her a reason to smile and hope for the future.

I’d say, despite all the barriers up against us, the Expo was, at least for me, was a success. Sure, I didn’t make back everything I put down for this, very few can,* but I still sell some books and met some new readers. For me, that’s a success. A bigger one than the Bexley Local Author Festival last year, even.

Plus, I got to buy some art from Jenn’s daughters and made some new connections with other writers, so that’s a plus.

Thanks to Jenn Thompson for allowing me to come out for the Expo, and thanks to Joleene and Charles for all the help they gave me. Hope we can do it again someday.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I don’t know when I’ll be back again, but I’m sure I’ll have plenty to talk about when I do log onto WordPress again. Until next time, stay safe, watch out for the giant flying sheep, and pleasant nightmares!