Archive for the ‘Reflections’ Category

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

I would like to thank my friend Kat Impossible for tagging me for this (especially since I was in the mood to blog something other than an “Agoraphobia” update, just didn’t know what). Go check out her answers on her blog.

Now, I don’t know how much I’ve talked about my alcohol preferences on this blog (though I’m sure it’s come up once or twice). But while I do like beer, I also enjoy wine every now and then (in fact, Brothers Drake honey wine, better known as mead, is what I use to celebrate finishing novels or getting them published). I’m especially fond of sweet wines, like Moscato, Japanese plum wine, or the abovementioned mead. That’s why I’m kind of excited to do this tag, even if it involves wines I don’t normally drink. So, without further ado, let’s begin.

BOX WINE–a book that people will judge you for liking but you like it anyway!

I can think of only one book that could possibly fit this category, and believe it or not, it’s a Stephen King novella! The Library Policeman, which you can find in his collection Four Past Midnight. The story involves a real estate agent who runs afoul of a creature masquerading as a librarian and which intends to use the agent for its own nefarious purposes. While it’s good and extremely unnerving, there’s a pretty graphic scene in the story that’s essential to the story, and it’s one of the first things people think of when they think of the novella.

It’s also why people might judge you if you say you like the story, or if you want to see an adaptation of The Library Policeman. Which, honestly, given the subject matter, would be a hard sell. Still, if you either approached the problematic scene in the right way or rewrote it in a way that preserves the impact…anyway, that’s my choice. Don’t judge me too harshly now!

ORGANIC WINE–a book that doesn’t have any added crap in it and is just written perfectly.

I was going to put one novel here, but I’m saving it for later, so I’ll put this one here. The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum. *shiver!* That book is famous for how traumatizing it is. And considering that the events it’s based on aren’t too different from what’s in the book, that somehow makes it even more terrifying. But that kind of lends itself to winning this category, as none of what’s depicted in the novel is technically gratuitous or unnecessary. It’s just a reflection of real events.

Not only that, but if Ketchum wasn’t such a talented writer, he couldn’t write the novel the way it is and make it so terrifying. In another person’s hands, they may have added all sorts of melodrama or other unnecessary elements. But in his hands, and with his willingness to push boundaries, it’s a masterpiece!

That being said, anyone going in for the first time should prepare for a ton of anxiety and maybe some nausea. You’ve been warned.

Accurate representation of many first-time readers of The Girl Next Door.

GLUEHWEIN–a spicy, wintry read.

Never heard of that wine. Also, what do you mean “spicy?” Like, sex scenes? Whatever, I’m going with The Shuddering by Ania Ahlborn. It takes place in winter, in ski country, and there are a lot of romantic subplots in the story, so I think that works. Plus, it’s scary. For those unfamiliar, it’s kind of a cross between a creature feature and a good, old-fashioned splatterpunk slasher story. I enjoyed it immensely. Why haven’t they made a movie out of it yet? Keep the monsters in the shadows but keep the focus on the survival instinct and it’ll be great!

SAUVIGNON BLANC–a really sharp and aggressive read that you couldn’t put down!

I actually had to look back through my reviews to find a book that works for this one. In the end, I found one that fits “sharp and aggressive,” and that’s The Five by Hallie Rubenhold. This book takes a look at the Canonical Five, the five confirmed victims of the serial killer known as Jack the Ripper, and uses historical records and an understanding of Victorian social mores and beliefs to reexamine their lives. Doing so, the author Ms. Rubenhold strips away every belief we’ve had on the victims, and therefore the Ripper, till we’re forced to look at the case in an entirely new light.

This book was an eye-opener for me, and I found the author’s argument highly convincing. In fact, I even referred back to The Five while writing The Pure World Comes, where the Ripper is an important aspect of the story. And if you read the book, you’ll understand why I place The Five in this category.

Click here for my full review of the book.

PINOT NOIR–a book you didn’t expect much from but ended up getting blown away.

It’s easier to pick a movie than to pick a book for this one. Still, if I go back far enough, there’s one book that I can think of. The Amulet of Samarkand, the first book in The Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud. I was a huge Potterhead when I was younger, so my mom suggested it to me while we were shopping in a Barnes & Noble one day. At first, I was dismissive, but eventually I was convinced to try it out. And then I read it.

Hoo-boy. The lead characters are awesome and easy to relate to, Bartimaeus himself is hysterical, and the world building was quite an eye opener after reading nothing but Harry Potter for ages. Add in some political intrigue, a plot with twists and turns, and excellent writing, and I was hooked. I was really sad when the series ended, because it was just so good (there was a prequel, but without certain characters, it just wasn’t the same).

Still mad that they haven’t made a movie franchise or TV series off of these books. Supposedly, a movie adaptation is in the works, but until I see some actual progress, I’m not getting too excited.

CHARDONNAY–a good summer read that was super zesty.

What does that even mean, super zesty? Does the story have to have melted cheese with a sharp taste on it or something?

Oh well, I’m going with Battle Royale by Koushun Takami. I mainly associate it with summer reading, and while not covered in cheese, it’s an exciting thrill ride that really engrosses you as you get into the story. So, I guess that makes it super zesty. In any case, this book was the first book in the battle royale genre (which is why it gets away with using the name) and does it better than anything since, especially Hunger Games.

Click here for my review of the book, old as it is.

ROSE–a book that has a little bit of everything in it.

Why, that’s easy. It’s my novel Rose! Just kidding. I’m not that kind of guy.

No, I’m going with the Kieli novels by Yukako Kabei. The series follows an orphan girl who can see ghosts and other spiritual beings. Who befriends/falls in love with an undead soldier with an attitude problem. They travel the world together, which has a dystopian, steampunk aesthetic. Most of the planet is also ruled by a tyrannical church. And the planet is an exoplanet that was colonized by spacefaring humans centuries prior to the book’s storyline. And on this planet, they deal with monsters, ghosts, dangerous church figures, criminals, and so much more. All the while trying to wrestle with their feelings for each other.

See, it has a little of everything in it! And I’m honestly sad not more people have read the books, even among fans of Japanese light novels (novels with the occasional illustration thrown in). If, however, the above description sounds interesting to you, I suggest reading it. I loved it in my teens and early college years, and I’m sure you would too.

Click here for my review of the series.

How I describe the Kieli books.

SHIRAZ–a full-bodied book that is dark and juicy.

By “full-bodied,” do you mean doorstopper thick? If so, I’m going with Needful Things by Stephen King. Not only does it have one of King’s best antagonists, but it makes fun of and delves deeply into human materialism and greed. How much will you go to keep something you desperately want? To own something, or to be right, or to get answers and/or revenge? While a lot of what occurs in the book seems silly, it also feels like some of this stuff could really happen.

I especially love the audio book, which King narrates himself. He has a much better speaking voice than I do, and he gives each of the characters a distinctive voice. You have to listen to it to believe it.

Also, it’s a damn shame that the only adaptation of this book was a movie, and a really bad one at that. I think a comic book adaptation would work very well. Not only could the artists actually depict some of the darker, weirder, or smuttier stuff without constraint like in a movie, it would just be fun to read and see how they depict some scenes or situations (*cough* two middle-aged ladies who think they’re having sexual affairs with Elvis Presley *cough*).

MERLOT–a smooth, easy read with a soft finish.

Ooh, tough choice. I guess I’ll go with Remina by Junji Ito. For those unaware, it’s a manga about a mysterious planet that appears in the night sky and is named after its discoverer’s daughter. As the planet starts approaching Earth, however, other planets start to disappear, leading to trouble for both its discoverer, and young Remina as well.

I love this book. It’s a great story that you can finish in just one sitting, but it has quite the impact that leaves you satisfied. The last few pages especially leave you with this strong feeling that there is no other way the author could have finished the manga without sacrificing the quality. Yeah, some elements are a little hard to believe, but who cares? It’s still an excellent science-horror story that shows how humans react in the face of annihilation, and how attributing blame to the wrong person can ruin lives.

Still waiting for a movie based on this. The fact that nobody has yet bewilders me. Get on that, Hollywood!

Click here for my full review.

CHAMPAGNE–Your favorite book!

That’s an easy one, it’s Kill Creek by Scott Thomas. Still my favorite novel these days. Four famous horror writers go to a reputedly haunted house for a publicity event, but end up awakening something powerful and dark. Something that takes control of their lives and twists them for its own use. And if they’re not careful, they will die because of it.

This novel was a revelation for me. It basically lists the qualities of Gothic novels in the early chapters and then uses those qualities to great effect. Plus, the characters all feel like real people and you really come to love them, especially the four writers (TC Moore, you are the bomb!).Hell, it’s so good I bought my own copy after listening to the audio book fifty thousand times, and I sent a copy to a friend who did me a big favor recently as a thank you.

If you’re a horror fan but haven’t read this one yet, at the very least put it on your TBR list. Trust me, you won’t regret it.

Click here for my full review.


Those are picks. What did you think? Have you read any of them? Are there any you want to read? What would you pick? Let’s discuss in the comments below.

And if you like this tag and think you’d like to try it, THEN CONSIDER YOURSELF TAGGED!!! I hope you enjoy doing the tag and maybe you’ll link back to me so I can see your answers.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I hope to be back for another post very soon. Until next time, I’m off to enjoy a beer (I’m saving the wine for Passover, because that’s really the only alcohol you can drink during that holiday) and do a late-night writing session. Pleasant nightmares and watch out for “Agoraphobia” coming out in just over nine days (links below!).

Agoraphobia:Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada

(Note: All stories and publications have had their names removed. This way, my stories and my career won’t be negatively affected by mentioning anyone by name. I would flatter myself by adding that the circulation of the publications won’t be negatively affected, but we all know that’s never gonna happen.)

Before you ask, no, I was not happy to receive a rejection because the publication was actually run by bad people or ethically dangerous or whatever.

Also, no one likes getting a rejection, least of all me. It’s never nice to hear that your story isn’t going to appear in a publication or an anthology. That all those hours of hard work, of writing and editing, of making sure your story is as exciting and memorable and well-crafted as possible, weren’t enough to sway an editor to publish your story. It can dishearten anyone. There have even been times where I’ve gotten rejections and have not wanted to submit anything ever again (or perhaps just for several months).

But every now and then, you get a rejection where the editor takes their time to let you know what they thought of your story. And sometimes, even in a rejection, it elevates your mood like nothing else.

Take yesterday, for example. I received a rejection for one of my stories. However, the editor noted that the story wasn’t bad. Far from it, actually: he said that this submission period the magazine got a huge number of submissions, and some decisions had to be made. He also included one editing suggestion for the next time I submit the story, which I listened to after a bit of thought (it was something cosmetic that I didn’t really think would make a difference, but apparently to him it did).

So, that was very nice. Yeah, the story isn’t going to appear in the next issue of the publication. However, the editor did imply he liked it, he just had to make a tough decision. And he also gave me some advice for the next time I submit the story (which has already gone out again. Here’s hoping it finds a home at the next place). I love it when people enjoy my stories, so even if this editor didn’t take the one I sent him, I was still happy he thought so highly of it.

Turn your rejections into fuel for your creative bonfire. Trust me, it works.Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

And this isn’t the first time this has happened, either. A while back, I got a rejection from a well-known publication whose editor I happen to know personally. While it was a rejection, what the editor had to say made me really happy. They gave me some strong feedback and some ideas on how to further improve the story. I was so happy with the message, I sent them a private message on Twitter just saying how helpful I found their advice. If I remember right, they responded with a smiley face.

What’s the point of recounting all this? Well, I guess it’s just to remind writers who submit stories and get rejections that this happens to everyone. The rejections, anyway. We all get passed on or told our stories aren’t a good fit or that the editor found the story hard to believe. But then we get the ones that encourage us. That tell us the stories, or that we the authors, have the potential. That if we keep writing and editing and submitting, and with a bit of luck, we can get our stories published.

In the meantime, let those rejections be the fuel for your creative fire. They’ll keep you going strong until you reach the end.

At least, that’s what I think. And the Tarot cards seem to back me up, so that’s what I think. Hey, the Seven of Wands means overcoming obstacles to reach your goals. When that appears in the Future position, you know you gotta keep trying because you know those rejections are just more fuel. Better listen and get to work.

Well, that’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I hope you found this post inspiring for your own creative work. Let’s not get bogged down with rejections (even when it seems everyone else is getting acceptances) and get to work. Who knows? We may just end up finding the perfect home for our story with the next submission.

Until next time, stay safe and pleasant nightmares!

For the past week or so, I haven’t been really focused on any one project, and I’ve been confused by that. Usually, when I’m working on something, I go all in. And I almost have a project to work on. Yet beyond a couple of blog posts, I’ve had nothing to settle on working. Or I have, I just haven’t worked on them.

I’ve been thinking about why that might be, why I’m not going all gung-ho on any project, even ones that really call to me at times. And I’ve come to a simple conclusion: I’m looking into starting a new projects when there are older projects that need my attention. In other words, I need to focus on editing. Which honestly, I don’t know why I didn’t realize that sooner. I have several short or shorter stories that need editing right now, and I’m likely to hear from the last beta reader for The Pure World Comes very soon. Not to mention I’m probably going to want to do another draft of River of Wrath, and if I’m lucky enough to get one or more stories accepted, I’ll be editing those as well before they’re published.

With all that in mind, as well as the many projects and other obligations I’m juggling (kid you not, I’ve three Zoom meetings this weekend related to my writing life), and the needs of daily life, now’s not a good time to be working on anything new. Instead, I’m going to focus on trying to get some stories as polished as possible and then try submitting them to various places.

Once all those stories are “done,” as my old high school English teacher used to say–in his opinion, you couldn’t get a story “perfect,” but you could get it “done,” meaning no more work can be done to polish or better it–and are being sent out and about to find homes, I’ll work on some new stuff. Maybe a new novel, maybe a bunch of shorter works, but something new.

Until then, however, I’m going to start work on a new draft of my novelette “Blood and Paper Skin.” Hopefully this is just the start of sprucing up some really scary, strange and ultimately read-worthy stories.

So, that’s the latest update on what I’m doing, my Followers of Fear. I’ll see you all very soon. Until next time, stay safe and warm, pleasant nightmares, and watch out for unusual creatures in the snow. Some have a taste for human flesh, after all.

So this past week, I watched an anime series that turned out to be pretty bad (I swear, this is related to writing and isn’t another anime-themed post). There were several reasons why it was terrible, but a major reason was that the main character was the reincarnation of a guy who died in our world and was reborn into a fantasy world with most of his knowledge and memories intact.

As we’ve discussed on this blog before, anime where characters from our world end up in fantasy worlds are called isekai anime. Because the main character(s) are from our world, that usually plays a large part in their character. The audience can’t watch the show without remembering that this character is from another world and the original world influences their personality and decisions in a hundred different ways.

And this anime…didn’t really do that. Like, the protagonist used some of his scientific knowledge from his previous life to make his magic stronger and invent new devices. But other than that, I often forgot he was from another world. At one point, I found myself thinking, “You know, they’ve already established this guy as a quirky magic genius. They could have written out the isekai element, attributed his knowledge of oxygen and the theory of folding space to his unusual brain, and the show would have one less problem. It wouldn’t be great, but it would have one less problem.”

And that long-winded intro leads into the subject of today’s post. How do you find a story element that’s actually hampering the story rather than improving it? What prevents a writer from creating the sort of pitfalls, be it an unnecessary character or adding an isekai aspect to the story when it serves no purpose? Or if they do, how do they find it and get it out before the story is published?

I had to make a lot of these decisions during the editing of “Rose.”

Well, part of it is experience. Namely, as we become more experienced writers, we get used to figuring out what elements work and what don’t. It’s like a voice in the back of our heads is asking, “Does this work? What does it bring to the story? Would the story suffer if I removed it?” This happened a lot when I was doing major rewrites of Rose. Rose’s fiancé Mark had a slightly larger role in earlier drafts, but during the rewrites, when I was taking the plot in a different direction, I realized that Mark couldn’t fulfill that role anymore. He still had a part to play, but the part he’d played previously made no sense in the new direction. If I kept it, it would have not served the story. Thus, Mark’s role was reduced to what it is in Rose now.

Something similar happened while writing The Pure World Comes, but that will have to wait till it’s published.

But if you do miss something, that’s where beta readers and editors come in (and why it’s important to use them before you try submitting/publishing a story). Back to Rose, while I was rewriting the book, my publisher recommended I cut out the flashbacks, which were about a third of the book. I was confused and a little upset, as I was very proud of those scenes. However, I realized that flashbacks need to connect to the main events of the story. And while the flashbacks did explain plenty about Rose‘s character in earlier drafts, it didn’t connect much to the current events, so I nixed them and started rewriting.

See? Editors and beta readers do help.

But what if you really like an element in a story and there’s a strong indication you need to nix it? Well, then you have a choice to make as the creator. In the case of the anime I mentioned, the creator, if confronted with this choice, could have either made the fact that the protagonist was from another world more essential to his character or the plot. Or, like I suggested, he could have nixed it.

You may not like it, but sometimes you have to throw out problematic elements if you can’t find a way to make them work. Photo by Steve Johnson on Pexels.com

And that’s what it often boils down to. Authors can either cultivate those elements so that they actually matter and don’t bring down the story, or they can “kill their darlings” and nix the elements. This can be hard to do, as we may love those elements as much as we love the very stories we write.* However, it’s a decision we eventually have to make with our stories if we want to not only continue with these stories, but share them with as many people as possible.

No author likes to hear that they need to nix something from their story because it adds nothing or brings the story down. However, it’s important to hear and learn to deal with them, as in the end, it helps to improve the story and maybe even get it into the hands of many readers. And besides, it’s better than having a lot of people complaining about the problem elements after release, right?

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I have a busy week ahead of me, but I’ll be back before too long. Until next time, stay safe, pleasant nightmares, and if you’re looking for a good isekai anime, let me know. I have recommendations.

*Though I think the creator of the source material for the anime, he did it because isekai stories are hot right now, to the point that they’re inundating the market. It’s a problem we anime fans both joke and groan about.

So, I’ve been living in this new apartment for two and a half days. And I’ve been adjusting pretty well. Unlike my skeleton roommate Jonesy, who had a bit of a miniature freak out after arriving in the new home.

He then fainted.

Thankfully, he adjusted after a while. Now he’s just hanging around until I can find a permanent place to put him.

Jonesy’s hysterics aside, the move has been easy. As it was in the same complex as my old apartment, getting all my stuff from one to the other wasn’t too hard on me or the movers. Getting stuff out of the boxes was a simple task. Honestly, the hardest task so far has been putting up a shelf on the wall of my bedroom, but that was mostly because of issues with the tools.

Anyway, I imagine I’ll be done moving in and turning the apartment into my new realm of nightmares by Saturday. I’m still putting together a new bookcase (the one I bought secondhand in college fell apart during the move. Apparently it wasn’t meant to last more than seven years, which I didn’t know when I bought it), and I have yet to put up my wall art, masks or Jonesy. But after that, I plan to film a tour of my new home, particularly the home office (I love having my own office in my home). And after that?

Well, I hope I can get back to my routine. Kid you not, I have not been doing any serious fiction writing for several days and I miss it. Part of that is the move, but there’s also various projects I’m working on, including Agoraphobia, that are taking up my time. I’m also waiting on feedback from some alpha and beta readers so I can work on the next drafts. And today I went back for the work for the first time since last week, so that took up some time.

Oh, and I need to sleep. Seriously, I make Jason Voorhees look like a harmless little rabbit when I’m sleep deprived.

All that being said, I wouldn’t say that this time spent not writing has been wasted. I’m coming to like this bigger apartment, as well as decorating it to my unusual tastes. The work can be exhausting, but it’s satisfying, in its way. And those other projects are coming along well. Agoraphobia‘s ready from a text standpoint, and I’m talking with an illustrator for a cover. I heard back from one beta reader for The Pure World Comes, and she said she loved the story. And my dad read another story I wrote recently, as his perspective as a rabbi was required for this story. He said he enjoyed the story and we’re going to find time soon to talk over the phone (or maybe Zoom?) and discuss the story.

I look forward to getting back to this. And yes, this is an accurate representation of what my writing sessions look like.

And I’ve done a bit of work for a new story set in the world of “Mother of the King.” Still need to do some outlining, but I’ve laid the groundwork, so hopefully a first draft isn’t too far behind.

So yeah, time hasn’t been wasted. And once all the moving in is done, I’ll be able to get back to a routine and continue telling stories that terrify the crap out of people.

Well, that’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. It’s been another long day, so I’m looking forward to a nice, long nap. Until next time, stay safe, pleasant nightmares, and if you’re a stalker trying to find my new place, do so at your own risk. They still haven’t found the remains of the last stalker who broke in, after all.

Well, they did find a finger. But hey, I was sleep-deprived.

In my last post, I mentioned that I was prepping to move into a bigger apartment and was getting ready to do so. While going through some stuff, seeing what I wanted to keep and what I wanted to donate, I was surprised by what I found hidden at the bottom of a box: my three contributor copies of the Winter 2011 issue of TEA, A Magazine. This is significant because this was the first time I was paid for a published story!

While my memory can be very unreliable sometimes, I remember that story, and that magazine, so well. I was still in high school then, and I was just starting to try and get into the short story market. In those days, I was regularly borrowing these annual guides on the short story market, reading the articles for anything I could use to improve my own storytelling techniques and looking at the listings of magazines and small presses I could submit my work to. One of the listings was for TEA, A Magazine. You can guess what it was focused on. Articles, ads, recipes, and even fiction centering on tea.

I was a big tea drinker even then, so I was intrigued. And I thought, Why not try to write a short story about tea and send it their way? And I did, a short story called “Summers with Grandmother Fumika.” And as you can tell from that title, I was a huge nerd for anime, manga, and Japanese culture back then. In fact, I was crazier about it then than I am now! But back to the short story. “Summers with Grandmother Fumika” was about a young Japanese-American girl who stays with her grandmother during the summers, and one summer, they perform a tea ceremony for a kitsune, a multitailed fox spirit.

Definitely more fantasy-based than Rose was, though they both drew upon Japanese culture. And it had a happier ending.

I don’t think I really expected TEA to accept my work, but to my surprise, the editor actually enjoyed the story and wanted to work with me on it. A couple of months of edits, and they sent me a contract. Not too long after, they sent me a $100 check for the story, as well as my contributor copies.

My short story in the issue, “Summers with Grandmother Fumika.”

Edgar Rice Burroughs, the creator of Tarzan, once said that he could make a million dollars in his lifetime, but he would never feel richer than he did the moment he received a $400 check for his first story, A Princess of Mars. For me, I have the same feeling about that $100. Not because I grew older and $100 didn’t seem like such a big deal as it did in high school. But because that check came with more than just monetary meaning. It came with validation.

Imagine, only 17 and someone thought that something you had written was not only good, but they wanted to pay money for it! To include it in a magazine read by hundreds, maybe even thousands of people! “Intoxicating” doesn’t even begin to cover the feeling I had then. And I’ve been chasing that feeling ever since, trying to replicate it.

Of course, like any addiction, nothing ever compares to that first high. Thankfully, with this addiction, there are plenty of other perks when I manage to publish something people enjoy. You can probably guess what they are.

I’m glad I was able to rediscover that story and those contributor copies. It’s been so long, I’d forgotten that I even had them. And with it being around ten years since that issue of TEA was released, it feels almost timely. Makes me want to do something with “Summers with Grandmother Fumika.” Maybe a reading on a YouTube video? It’d be more fantasy than horror, but I’m sure there would be some people interested in hearing me read it. We’ll see after the move.

Anyway, thanks for strolling down memory lane with me, my Followers of Fear. It was a nice, warm, nostalgic moment in my day and I wanted to share it with you. And it reminds me that, even though it’s been awhile since I’ve had an acceptance, it doesn’t mean it won’t happen in the future. Hell, if I can do it at 17, then I can do it at 27. Just a matter of time, work and finding the right publication.

Until next time, my Followers of Fear, good night, Shabbat Shalom, have a good weekend, and pleasant nightmares.

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Pexels.com

I’ve been told that today is the 21st day of the 21st year of the 21st century. Putting aside the fact that time is an illusion, particularly to non-human entities such as myself, you’d think that today would be kind of extraordinary because it was the 21st day of the 21st year of the 21st century. But, beyond it being President Biden’s first full day as commander-in-chief, it’s not extraordinary. The day itself was ordinary, just another day in a strange time for me.

What, you may ask, makes my life so strange? It’s a number of things. For one thing, I’m moving next week. Surprise! A two-bedroom apartment in my complex opened up recently. My rental managers knew I was planning on moving out at the end of my current lease anyway so I could have more space and they didn’t want to lose a good tenant. So, they offered it to me and I accepted.

And I’m excited for the move. I’ll be able to have a home office in the second bedroom, and there will be enough space for me to get some cats without their food bowls or litter boxes becoming tripping hazards. But it means I’ll have to uproot myself from my current apartment, which I’ve lived in for nearly five years. I’ve slowly been ticking items off my to-do list, like notifying various companies I pay bills to or taking down all my wall art and decorations. And it’s odd to see this apartment prepare to become not my apartment, but empty. Like I’m erasing my presence from this space.

I went through so many changes and had so many experiences here: started my first full-time job, published a book, got my drivers license, etc. All those experiences will still stay with me, but the location will no longer be accessible. It will no longer be my home.

And then there’s the fact that I’m not motivated to write lately. I know, shocker! But I’ve got one short story being released as an e-book exclusive, several other stories being read over by alpha or beta readers, a couple of other projects that I can’t talk about now in the works, and a few other writing-related things going on. Is it any wonder I don’t feel like doing anything more than some basic outlining?

Add in the change of Presidents yesterday, in a transition of power that feels more significant than any in living memory. Not only that, but it comes hot on the heels of an insurrection in the Capitol building. And that I’ve taken the next couple of days off for the move. And it’s January, so the year is still new. And all this and other events in my life and the world are coming one after the other after the other.

In a way, I feel like this pup. Photo by Dominika Roseclay on Pexels.com

And that, despite it all, I’m feeling kind of Zen lately. Or as Zen as I can be. With my neuro-atypical brain, turning my mind off and being thoughtless has never been my strong suit. Believe me, I’ve tried. But I feel something. I feel happy and clear and relaxed. Even as I go about my goals and daily tasks, I feel very attuned. Like I’m where I’m supposed to be, doing what I’m supposed to be doing. I’m at peace with myself and the world. I’m moving through the world and part of it. There’s no reason for me to feel this way that I can see, but there it is.

Is it any wonder that my life feels weird right now?

And you know what? It’s not a bad way for life to be. I mean, yeah, as an eccentric, my life is always a little weird. But this is a different kind of weird. A beneficial, relaxing, pleasant sort of weird. And I’ll enjoy it while it lasts.

Which will likely either be till I go back to work, or when I need to get some serious writing work done. Not sure, ask me later.

Good night, my Followers of Fear. And until next time, stay safe, enjoy the 21st day of the 21st year of the 21st century, and pleasant nightmares!

You’d be surprised how many people would want to see a ballet with this guy.

Many of you already know that I’ve been a huge fan of ballet for the past several years. Those of you who didn’t, now you do (and can read this post for my full thoughts on the art form). Ballets and dancers sometimes appear in the stories I write, and I have even had a few ideas for ballets that I’m keeping in reserve.* And since this pandemic began, I’ve missed going to the ballet and seeing these amazing shows. I hope that when the pandemic ends, I can see them live again.

And I hope that some of those ballets might be based on or around horror stories.

Yeah, I know what some of you are thinking. Ballet based on horror stories? When it’s so beautiful and sophisticated? But hear me out, it’s not such a crazy idea. There actually have been ballets written around horror stories or dark subjects. Dracula has a famous ballet, after all, and Frankenstein, Sweeney Todd and The Tell-Tale Heart, among others, have been adapted for dance. Giselle‘s entire second act is a ghost story involving vengeful female spirits; La Syphide features a spirit called a sylph and a coven of witches; The Rite of Spring was literally designed to unnerve people with its music and choreography; Fall River Legend is a loose retelling of the Lizzie Borden murders; and The Cage is literally about insectile females who eat their male counterparts!

And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Black Swan, which melded psychological thrills with ballet, albeit being very inaccurate about life in a company.

So clearly, there is already a history of horror in ballet. And I think it would be cool and perhaps even groundbreaking to write some new, darker ballets after the pandemic ends and companies have had a chance to get back to putting on shows.

Were you aware ballet could be so scary?

And before you say, “But lots of families go to the ballet. Won’t these stories traumatize them?” I do admit that’s possible. However, I’m sure plenty of kids have come out fine from seeing Giselle or Rite of Spring. Besides, kids are often more resilient than we give them credit for. And nobody seemed bothered enough to ask that question when they were making family films in the 1980s (*cough* Secret of NIMH, Return to Oz, The Witches *cough*).

And there are plenty of properties and stories to adapt from. Obviously, I’ve got a few stories up my sleeve.** But if you’re still unsure, here are some stories I think would make great ballets if a company were to try:

I really think The Shining could make a great ballet if given the chance.
  • The Shining. I know this one has already been made into a movie, a TV miniseries, and an opera, but I think The Shining could make a stunning ballet. Compared to King’s other works, it’s not very complicated, and the story is quite personal as well as scary. The Overlook Hotel would make for a great set piece. And besides Carrie, The Shining is the only story I can think of suited for dance (and Carrie already has a so-so musical already, so perhaps not).
  • Friday the 13th. I know what you’re thinking, but hear me out. Friday the 13th has a passionate fanbase who will go mad for anything new in the franchise, including fan films. The films always feature a lot of action, which could easily translate to dance. And I’ve seen people bring up a Friday the 13th ballet on Twitter and get enthusiastic responses. Granted, when I did a poll on the subject, I only got two responses, but they both said they’d pay to see that kind of show, and the poll only went on for three hours. A longer poll might get more responses.
  • Something featuring a werewolf. As vicious beasts, as warriors against witches, and as tragic figures trying to understand their place in the world, werewolves are versatile creatures with an extensive mythology. It wouldn’t be too hard to come up with something involving them.
  • Something with cosmic horror. Again, I know what you’re thinking. But as I said in a previous post, cosmic horror is on the rise, and there are plenty of ways to tell an excellent story about great, indomitable entities without actually featuring them (or all of them). Like werewolves, it wouldn’t be too hard to come up with something. Just needs a little imagination.
  • The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Washington Irving’s tale lends itself well to adaptation, so I think having a ballet around it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch.
  • Carmilla. A vampire novel predating Dracula, it’s famous for its Gothic storyline and lesbian themes. I think with a few tweaks (not to the LGBT romance), it could make an enchanting story.

As ballet is a constantly evolving art form, I think there’s plenty of room to experiment with adding horror to a company’s repertoire. Sure, it might not be conventional, but it could be a lot of fun. And who knows? In addition to bringing in new fans, a ballet based around a horror story could become as big as Nutcracker or other famous ballets. You never know.

What do you think about having horror-themed ballets? Are there any stories or storytellers who would be well suited to the art form? Let’s discuss.

*BalletMet, or NYCB, or any company who might be interested. Give me a call or send me an email. I’m not only easy to work with, I don’t cost an arm and a leg.

**Seriously, just email and ask.