Archive for the ‘Reflections’ Category

Today I ordered an Uber ride from my apartment to the Drexel Theaters in the Bexley neighborhood for a special event. And there I saw something terrifying: the poster for Tommy Wiseau’s The Room. That film is horrible! I’ve seen clips of it, and it’s painful. And apparently the theater shows the film every now and then. And people apparently come to see it. That’s some dark, sadomasochistic stuff right there.

But I was really there because Gramercy Books Bexley was having a big weekend in honor of its opening, and the highlight of this opening weekend celebration was a viewing of the Goosebumps film, followed by a reading and a book signing with RL Stine himself!

Now if you don’t know who RL Stine is, what rock are you living under? Well, he’s the author of the popular Goosebumps children’s books, which are probably the most famous horror series for kids in literature. I’d read them as a kid, well before I knew I wanted to write horror, and was probably an early influence on me. So when I visited Gramercy a couple weeks ago (they’ve been open for a little while now, but they had their celebration this weekend. Kind of like a belated birthday party, I guess) and saw they were hosting RL Stine, I knew I had to buy a ticket to meet him. And I bought a couple of his books too, including some of his adult fiction (did not know the guy wrote adult fiction, but I was happy to purchase a couple books from him).

Sunday came. I enjoyed the movie (see my review of the movie from 2015), and was amazed by the mix of adults who grew up with the series and kids who were reading Goosebumps twenty-five years after the first book came out (yeah, twenty-five years. Time flies, huh?). I always thought Goosebumps was a phenomenon of the 90’s and early 2000’s, but it’s endured beyond when I stopped reading the books. Perhaps kids will be reading the Goosebumps books years and years from now, like how we read Alice in Wonderland and Anne of Green Gables over a hundred years after each book came out. I certainly wouldn’t mind reading them to any kids I might have in the future.

rl-stine-reading

Anyway, the film ended. We waited as the staff from Gramercy set up a podium and microphone at the front of the theater. And then Mr. Stine himself ambled down the aisle, a hunched-over over man in a dark red shirt and dark khakis with large glasses and an amiable smile. He told us about how he had used to visit the Drexel Theaters to watch cartoons and old monster movies, the titles of which he said influenced how he titled his own stories. He also told us a story about how he actually might’ve seen a ghost as a kid (and which he hinted very heavily he made up for us), and then read for us some stuff from his upcoming book, Slappy Birthday to You. Hearing him read it brought me back to my childhood, I tell you.

After that, we all got in line in the theater lobby to get our books signed. The line was very long, circling around the lobby, and I managed to get into it around the circle area. After about ten minutes in line or so, I finally got to the table. And the whole time I was thinking to myself, “Don’t embarrass yourself, Rami. Don’t embarrass yourself.” His wife took my copy of Stay Out of the Basement, the book I’d decided to have Mr. Stine sign and which might’ve been the first Goosebumps story I ever read (I can’t remember very well, I think I was six when I started reading them). He asked me my name, and I said it, though I think he heard “Robbie,” given the noise of the lobby. He signed it, and then I told him what I wanted to tell him:

“I just wanted to thank you, Mr. Stine. I read your books as a kid, and now I write horror and science fiction. And I think you were an early influence of mine. I just wanted to thank you for that.”

Me with RL Stine himself.

Me with RL Stine himself.

He gave me back my book with a smile. If he said anything, I can’t remember what it was. Maybe “That’s nice,” or “You’re welcome,” or perhaps just “Uh-huh.” I think he’s heard that maybe a few times at this point in his career and that he’s used to it, but I was happy to have told him.  And I was allowed to take a photo with him afterwards, which you can see here.

I left after that, got an Uber home. Overall, I was happy. I said I’d felt like a child earlier, and in a way, I was. My inner kid was there this whole afternoon, from watching the movie to hearing and finally meeting RL Stine himself, feeling wonder and exultation at getting to meet this early influence of mine. That kid is often with me, reminding me why I write scary stories and powering the imagination needed to tell these stories. And I’m glad he came out with me today.

I sadly didn’t get Mr. Stine interested in reading my books, but that’s okay. I was just glad I didn’t embarrass myself by saying something stupid or offensive (I sometimes get a little starstruck in front of famous or powerful people, and that makes my logic circuit misfire sometimes). And it’s something to aim for, you know? I’m working on finding ways to make sure more people want to read my stories, and maybe someday one of those people will be RL Stine, along with all the other authors I look up to. I just have to keep writing and working hard and maybe someday all I dream will come true.

And I have four RL Stine books on my bookshelf in the meantime to keep me occupied. Definitely feel happy about that.

Thanks to the Drexel and Gramercy Books for making my weekend. I hope you can tell what this opportunity meant to me just by reading this post. I look forward to continuing to support you both in the years to come.

Back in late 2012, I published a post about a guy who asked me point blank if I was autistic. It was a pretty irking episode for me, and I stewed over it for about a week before I posted about it.

Now, I do have autism spectrum disorder (though at that time, my condition was called PDD-NOS, and was considered an autism-related disorder. A couple years back they put out a new diagnostic manual for this sort of thing, and now PDD-NOS and Asperger’s are just plain autism. At least now it’s easier to say and remember). I contended then and I contend now that while I am on the spectrum, it does not define me or is the most definitive trait about me. I don’t say, “I’m on the spectrum, so I can’t do this or that.” Nor do I use it as an excuse to do things I know I shouldn’t. It’s just one facet in the many that make up my life.

But, as I grow older, I see more and more how my autism has affected my life, especially since graduating high school.

I honestly didn’t know I was even on the spectrum until I was in my late teens. Though honestly, spectrum is not the best term for autism. A spectrum makes you think of a long bar where whatever the bar signifies becomes more intense as you move further along it. Really, autism is a group of characteristics that present themselves in affected individuals, and differs from person to person. Perhaps a better name would be autism characteristics disorder, but I’m not on the board of whatever organization names these things. At any rate, I apparently displayed a lot of characteristics that typify autism from day one, according to my mother (and she’s pretty reliable on this kind of stuff). Of course, she and my dad didn’t realize what the problem was until I was in preschool or so. Up until that time, they just thought the stuff in the baby manuals didn’t apply for every baby. It wasn’t until a teacher told the I was having a hard time understanding what was being said to me that they realized I might be a bit more different than they imagined.

Thus started years of therapy, which I didn’t realize the purpose of until much later in life. I knew I was receiving one-on-one attention, and that I was the only person I knew doing so. I knew I had doctor’s appointments that other kids didn’t go to. I just didn’t question it or think about it too hard. It was part of life, like watching TV or sitting on the toilet. You can think about them pretty hard, but it’s not necessary.

I also didn’t think much about the repetitive behaviors I sometimes displayed, or how when certain things changed in my environment, it could upset me and totally ruin my day. And while I got along well with people, there were times where I would do something, someone would react badly, and I wouldn’t understand the big deal.

Understand, I’m high-functioning. I can get by in society pretty decently. I just see and interact with the world a bit differently. It’s like rearranging a puzzle piece to form a new picture, with the pieces being able to fit where they’re not supposed to go, and I don’t see the difference between the intended arrangement and my arrangement. And that’s probably why I didn’t realize until my late teens, when my mother clued me in that I was on the spectrum.

Autism is often like a weird arrangement of this.

Autism is often like a weird arrangement of this.

Of course, once I got to college, it became much more prevalent in my mental awareness. I met every week with a counselor at Ohio State’s Office of Disability Services, and partly through their intervention, I had my own dorm room with attached bathroom in one of the calmer dorms on the north end of campus for two whole years (among other benefits)! When I graduated, I got my internship in Germany through a program that helped people with disabilities get internships and jobs with the federal government, and a year later that same program helped me get my current position. In my job, I often help people with disabilities receive accommodations for their disabilities so they can continue in their jobs, and use my own disability to help me empathize with the people I’m working with.

So yeah, my ASD has had a huge effect on my life, whether I realized it or not.

But it does not define me. This blog isn’t Rami Ungar the Austistic, it’s Rami Ungar the Writer. I place a lot more emphasis on the writing aspect of my life to define who I am. Judaism as well: I think my religion has done quite a bit to shape me. Not to mention anime and manga, the many books I’ve read throughout the years, my relationships with people, the things I’ve learned in school, the places I’ve been and the things I’ve seen. Those have had just as much effect on me as autism has. And that makes sense, because human beings (I admit, I am a human being, despite my best efforts to say otherwise) are multifaceted creatures. It’s rare when a single one is the defining quality.

And by the way, I don’t see my autism as a disability. I mean, it is a disability, but I don’t necessarily see it that way. Remember that puzzle metaphor? I see my ASD as an opportunity, an opportunity to see the world differently and use that viewpoint to make a difference. Whether that is through my writing, through work, or just by trying to be a decent person. And I wouldn’t give that up for anything.

I’ve just published my first article of the year on the site Self-Published Authors Helping Other Authors. This time, it’s Backstory isn’t Character, and is in response to some things I’ve seen recently in various works of fiction. That problem, as you can tell from the title, is writers thinking a backstory is the same as having a character with a fully-rounded personality. Um, no it isn’t. And in this article, I discuss why that is and how to avoid it in fiction you write, so make sure to check it out if you’re interested.

In addition, I highly encourage you to check out Self-Published Authors Helping Other Authors in full. It is a great website to get advice on writing, editing, publishing and marketing effectively as an independent writer, and it is absolutely free. It’s from authors, by authors, and for authors. Check it out and see for yourself what an excellent resource it is.

Well, I’m doing that thing where authors look at the year before and be hopeful about the year to come. And I have to say, 2016 was not the easiest year to deal with. Even the people who called 2015 shitty say 2016 was worse. Many people we cared about, from celebrities to icons to just ordinary loved ones, died. The world was rocked by a number of incidents, big and small, that showed that hate and prejudice is still alive and well in many countries one would consider tolerant (let alone the openly-intolerant countries). Groups like ISIS, and events like Brexit and the American presidential election left people the world over confused and terrified about the future. Illnesses and conflicts and starvation raged, and people suffered.

And movies that were supposed to be great, like Batman v. Superman, Suicide Squad, and Ghostbusters, either were terrible or didn’t make the money they should’ve (stuff like that bums me out).

Yeah, this year has been tough. But there have been some amazing things, good things, that have happened this year. We have comedians like Trevor Noah and Jon Oliver and Samantha Bee, who are using their platforms to educate people about existing issues and even find ways to do some good. Thousands of refugees from war-torn Syria and other areas have found homes in more stable countries, and have started rebuilding their lives. Celebrities like Jennifer Lawrence and Emma Watson are using their fame to fight for issues like feminism and equal pay. Hollywood is putting out more movies and TV shows that reflect their viewers, including black-ish, Speechless, and the Fast & Furious movies, to name a few, and while there are still missteps here and there, this shows that the makers of our media care about our opinions. And we nearly had our first female president! It didn’t happen, and it would’ve been cool if it did, but it still shows how far this country has come in terms of women’s rights. And the world got Tape Face from America’s Got Talent. I swear, I could watch his video every day, he’s so clever with the visual gags!

But wait, there’s more! This from YouTube and Vine star Thomas Saunders on reasons to smile:

God, that’s a lot of good, isn’t it? I wish he would’ve added Lucifer on that TV show listing though. That show makes my day!

On a more personal level, 2016 actually went pretty well for me. Yeah, all the nasty stuff I mentioned up above bummed me out, but there were many good things this past year. For one, my mother got married to her partner of several years, which was made possible by the 2015 Supreme Court ruling allowing gay marriage nationwide. That was a blast, and something I was glad to see finally pass. My mother and stepmother are so happy together, and I’m glad they get to be together in the eyes of the law as well.

Around that time, I got offered a couple of jobs/internships! One of them was here in Columbus, and it translated into a full position that I’m still working at right now. It’s a great job, where I’m promoting diversity in my organization with an office full of good people, and getting great pay and benefits while I do it.

In addition, my job has allowed me to move out of my dad’s house and into my own apartment, and even to buy new furniture and a new laptop. I’m paying all my bills on time and still have money to save, which is huge for me! And if things continue to go as they are, who knows? I could even get a cat or save up for a dream vacation to the UK and Ireland! I would love for those to happen.

My sciatica has improved! Yes, for those of you who don’t know, I have sciatica, a condition in which a nerve in the back is squished by spinal discs, causing severe pain in one leg and the lower back. I’ve had this since some time around graduation, but over the summer and through fall and beginning of winter, I started doing some new exercises and other stuff to improve my condition. At the time I’m writing this, I feel only mild discomfort, and sometimes not even that. By next summer, I could be completely cured of it!

This got published!

This got published!

But that’s not all. I released a new book, Video Rage, back in June, and it’s finally started to get some reviews! In addition, nearly all of my books have received new reviews this yer, and more people are discovering them every day. Heck, even my coworkers are reading my books! And on the social media side of things, my blog has grown, accruing nearly 900 subscribers, and passing the five-thousand like milestone. And pretty soon, I’ll be passing the fifty-thousand views milestones. One of my posts actually went kind of viral, garnering over nine-hundred views in the first five weeks of being published, and receiving more views since then.

But there’s more! I started the final book in the Reborn City series, and as of the most recent chapter, I’m a sixth of the way through the book! I could have it released sometime next year! I’ve also written several short stories, and I’ve had some great ideas, both for stories and for strategies to make sure more people discover and read my books. I can’t wait to put some of these to work.

Look folks, this has been a tough year. But for everything I’ve said above, and stuff I haven’t said, it’s been a pretty good one too. And while a lot about 2017 looks scary, we can do a lot to make it a great year. It’ll take some work, but we can make 2017 suck less than 2016 did (I can even post about some of my ideas on how to do just that in another post if you guys want), and to achieve all that we ream.

So will I make a thousand followers? Will I publish another novel and some short stories? Will I get an agent or a contract with a publishing company? Will I get a cat or that vacation? Will we cure AIDS, or improve education, or save the environment? Will the new American president be good at his job? I can’t say with any certainty. But it’s what I hope for. And if not, I’ll do all I can to improve that situation.

Happy New Year, my Followers of Fear. May 2017 bless you and leave you with plenty of reason to smile.

Illustration from The Red Shoes.

Illustration from The Red Shoes.

When I was growing up, every protagonist I came across in fiction–comic books and manga, novels, TV shows, movies–were people you automatically liked. They were sympathetic, they had problems you could identify with, or they found themselves in situations and something about them made you want to root for them, even if they were just good guys set up to fight the evils of the world. At that age, I probably couldn’t have imagined a protagonist who wasn’t likable.

As I got older though, I did come across protagonists who, for some reason or another, I just couldn’t like. And I realized, in some cases, that was the intention. Their creators, for whatever reason, wanted these characters to be assholes, or losers, or just so hateful you found yourself cheering a little when they failed. This had me asking: why would you want an unsympathetic protagonist? And can you actually have a good or even a successful story based around one?

I figured out answers to these questions a while back, but I’ve always wanted to blog about them. Now I’ve got the time, so I’d like to go into the strange phenomena that is the unsympathetic protagonist.*

First, why do authors sometimes write unsympathetic protagonists? It seems almost counter-intuitive: why would you want a character whom readers/viewers might hate? Well, one reason is as a moral warning. In the fairy tale The Red Shoes, the protagonist is vain and selfish, and her attitude leads her shoes being enchanted so that when she dances in them, she can’t stop until someone chops them off. I bet a lot of kids got the message loud and clear from that! Another example is from the novel The Coldest Winter Ever by Sister Souljah, in which the protagonist, the daughter of a crime boss, tries to regain her lifestyle and reputation after her father loses his empire. However, the protagonist uses mainly crime and manipulation to get what she wants, and looks down on getting a real job or an education. The result is that she ends up in jail and loses everything she ever cared about. The lesson? Crime doesn’t pay, go legit, and listen when people try to help you on the right path.

Another reason is that creators might want to explore territory previously unexplored, and characters whom you might sympathize or consider as heroes doesn’t allow that. Ever heard of Lolita? The entire story revolves around a man having a sexual/romantic relationship with a preteen girl and his attempts to control her and keep her with him forever. It’s a strange novel about desire, unreliable storytelling, and corruption (I think, anyway. I haven’t read this one yet, and given the subject matter, I’m not sure I want to), and it’s not a story we’d usually explore through the eyes of a likable protagonist.

Lolita: a great example of a book with an unlikeable protagonist.

Lolita: a great example of a book with an unlikeable protagonist.

And finally, there’s another reason: sometimes it’s just great fun! In certain stories with unsympathetic protagonists, you get a sort of excitement  that you don’t get from other stories, and this can come from the plot or the characters. In Gone Girl, for example, protagonist Nick Dunne is unlikable for any number of reasons, but you still follow along because you want to know if he really did do something to his wife, and if he’ll wiggle out of trouble whether or not he did do something. Another example we can look to is certain horror films, especially in the slasher genre, where the only mainstay is usually the villain and a lot of gory deaths. As part of that, slasher sequels often come to focus more and more on their villains, and people come back just to see these villains. Just ask anyone who enjoys a good Nightmare on Elm Street or Hellraiser film: they’re there for Freddy or the Cenobites, not for the horny teens who happen to be starring in the movie this time around.

So we’ve established why people create unlikable protagonists. The next question is, can you have a good and/or successful story with an unlikable protagonit? Well, I think that question was also answered above. The Red Shoes has been retold and revamped hundreds of times since Hans Christian Andersen first published his little morality tale. Lolita is considered one of the greatest works of modern and modern Russian literature, as well as one of the most controversial. Gone Girl was a runaway hit with a huge movie based on it. There is plenty of proof that unlikable protagonists can still be part of very good stories.

Neon Genesis Evangelion: great series, annoying lead.

Neon Genesis Evangelion: great series with an annoying lead.

Of course, this brings up another question: what makes a story with an unlikable protagonist good? Well, I often find that either the character is doing something pretty amazing, or the story or world is so amazing that even if you don’t like the character, you keep going for that story/world. Going back to Gone Girl, the protagonist is easy to dislike, but the mystery he’s wrapped up in is so intriguing that you want to find out more. That’s the example of a character doing something interesting. With an amazing story or world, I’d point to the anime Neon Genesis Evangelion: the protagonist is seriously unlikable, but the world he lives in is so cool–it involves teenagers piloting giant robots to fight aliens–that you just want to keep watching.

So you can have a story with a main character whom people may not like. As long as you give people a reason to keep reading or watching, it’s entirely possible. And who knows? Perhaps it’ll be one of the greatest stories ever written.

Just don’t do one centering around a pedophile. I think one of those is enough!

What’s your take on unlikable protagonists? Did I miss any good examples of the trope here in this post? 

*Oh, and in case anyone who’s not familiar is wondering, there is a difference between a hero and a protagonist. A hero is just that: a hero. They save lives, they fight evils, they are the ones we root for. A protagonist can be a hero and vice versa, but a protagonist is the main character, the person whom the story focuses on or from whose perspective we get the story. And as I outline in this post, that difference is bigger than one might think.

Reborn City, my first published novel

Reborn City, my first published novel

One hot summer day eight years ago, a young high schooler was walking home from the library with the plan to stop by Dairy Queen and grab some ice cream. While he was walking, he was listening to a new CD he’d picked up from the library, the soundtrack to a movie he really liked. And while he listened to the first track, a rock/hip-hop style song called “Stoopid Ass,” he found himself thinking of another movie he’d seen recently and really enjoyed, Freedom Writers. He loved that movie, about how gangsters were inspired by a teacher to be more than what they and others thought they could be. The high schooler thought about how the song he was listening to might have fit well on the soundtrack for that movie as well. And then, very casually, he thought to himself, “I should write a gangster story.”

And like that, ideas started exploding like fireworks in his head. He began thinking of ways to make it more unique compared to other gangster stories, where to set it, what sort of characters there should be. He spent the rest of the afternoon thinking of his new story and what kind of story it could become. The very next spring, he started writing it, making a few notes in a notebook before creating an outline on a laptop in his mother’s basement, which was his usual writing space in those days. Over two years, he wrote and wrote, until about a month before he graduated high school, he finished his new novel, Reborn City, a story about street gangs in a dystopian future and the trials they face while trying to find a life better than the ones they’re currently living in.

In college, he edited and edited, and had a friend help him make sure he missed nothing with the final draft. Because he wasn’t having that much luck finding an agent or a publisher, he took advantage of the growing self-publishing industry, and published Reborn City on November 1st, 2013. Some months later he finished writing the sequel, Video Rage, which he’d begun writing over the previous summer, and which he published in June 2016, the day after he moved into a new apartment to be closer to a new job. And today, on November 1st, 2016, he’s going to start the final novel in the Reborn City series, Full Circle.

Video Rage, the second book in the RC series.

Video Rage, the second book in the RC series.

Switching to first person, I’m very excited that I’m finally at this juncture at this series. The Reborn City series has been a labor of love for so long, about seven or eight years worth of sweat, blood and tears. And it’s been worth it. A lot of people–some of whom are not related to me and obligated to read my books, surprisingly–have discovered the series and enjoyed reading it. Nobody’s told me yet that the series has changed their lives (I hear that’s rare anyway), but they’ve told me how they identified with the characters, or how imaginative the world of the story is. And one person told me that some of the themes in the book–racism, Islamapohobia, terrorism, urban violence, etc.–make the series pretty relevant to today’s problems, which I feel is quite the compliment.

And tonight after work, I’ll be starting the final book, Full Circle. Honestly, I’m a little surprised that I’ve made it so far. Even after Video Rage came out, I kind of felt towards Full Circle like George Washington and Benjamin Franklin probably thought about the end of the millennium: it’ll happen, but it’s so far away, why even bother thinking about it?  And now I’m about to start work on it, on the same day I published the first book in the series. Boy, did it creep up on me.

You know, in a strange way, I feel like I’ve come full circle, just like this book’s title. When I published the first book, I felt like I was starting something really big, even if the book never sold a million copies or was well-reviewed. And now that I’m starting the final book, it feels like I’m starting the beginning of the end of something, in more ways than one. It’s really exciting, and I can’t wait to see where it brings me.

So, what can readers expect from the last book? Well, I’ll keep the spoilers away for readers who haven’t read the books yet and might want to, but I’ve got some fun stuff planned for Full Circle. For example:

  • I’ve got a great line-up of antagonists. I always knew for the final book, I wanted bad guys like nothing seen before in the series. And I’ve come up with those villains. As a group, they’re called the Navagraha, which is a Hindu form of astrology revolving around seven gods and two demons, and they’re going to push the main characters in ways they’ve never been pushed before. You’ll also get to see an old foe of the main characters, Jason Price, transformed in ways that make him even more evil than he was before. I’m going to have fun exploring his character in this new role for him.
  • New revelations and challenges. In addition to the Navagraha and the challenges those guys pose, the main characters will have to deal with some changes that they never saw coming. Our male lead Rip will learn things about his past, a past that he thought was lost to him. And Iori will find herself in an unimaginable position, and what she decides to do once there will affect her in so many different ways. Not to mention, finding herself in this position brings about new choices for the main characters, new paths they can take on the road of life that they thought closed to them.
    I know, sounds very vague. But I’ve been setting some of these things up since as far back as the first book, and I’m looking forward to writing them. When you, dear Followers, read them, I hope you find them just as enjoyable.
  • I’ll be doing my best George RR Martin impression. By that, I mean I’ll be killing off a lot of characters, including ones that readers may really like and be attached to (you thought that I was going to have lots of politics and gratuitous sex, didn’t you? Nope, not that kind of series). I really don’t want to kill off some of these characters, but I feel like it’s best for the story if I do. So get your tissues ready. I’m wielding an executioner’s axe with my laptop, and it’s about to rain heads.

That’s all for now. As it’s National Novel Writing Month, I don’t know if I’ll be very active on the blog this month. You know, trying to get as much of fifty-thousand words in a month written as possible. But I hope you’ll still continue to support me as I work hard to finish this series and bring the final book to you guys. In the meantime, if you would like to check out Reborn City and Video Rage, I’ll post the links below. If you end up getting a copy, and you like what you read, please let me know what you. Positive or negative, I love feedback from readers on my work, and I would love yours.

Until next time, my Followers of Fear!

Reborn City: Available from Amazon, Createspace, Barnes & NobleiBooksSmashwords, and Kobo

Video Rage: Available from Amazon, Kindle, CreatespaceBarnes & Noble, iBooks, Smashwords, and Kobo

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

Five years. It’s been five years since I started this blog, feeling my way haphazardly through the process of writing and posting about my writing and my life (in order of priority), with the hopes of building an audience so that by the time of I published my first book (at eighteen, I figured it was only a matter of time before that happened), I might have some ready readers eager to buy my first book, and every one after.

That didn’t go exactly as planned. But I have gotten a lot out of Rami Ungar the Writer. For one things, I’ve made lots and lots of friends. Angela Misri, Matthew Williams, Kat Impossible, Ruth Ann Nordin, Pat Bertram, Joleene Naylor, Dellani Oakes, and so many more. I’ve had the chance to write for other blogs, including Self-Published Authors Helping Other Authors, and, yes, I’ve met people who’ve picked up my books and read them.

I’m also this close to nine-hundred followers, as well as so very close to five-thousand likes (like, sixty away! Sixty!). That’s something I’m very excited to achieve, though I’m not sure when either of those will happen.

But it’s more than just stats or book sales. The fact is, you’ve all been with me through a lot. Four years of college, the highs and lows of that fun, crazy experience. Progress in my writing career, including my first three published books, and the creation of several more, which I hope to get out as soon as possible. My study abroad trip, and then my internship in Germany, and all those fun, cool experiences. The long period of unemployment that nearly drove me insane, and finally the beginning of my new job/internship, which I hope will someday become a full-time position (God willing!). All of you, my Followers of Fear, have been with me through these past five years, and I’m really grateful for all the love and encouragement and interaction you’ve had with me. I hope that in the next five years, we can continue with this awesome relationship of ours, and maybe grow to let more people into this awesome community we’ve constructed online.

And that’s what the blogosphere is, when you get down to it. It’s a community. Connections of thousands upon thousands of writers on a million different subjects, getting together to talk about whatever. It’s a beautiful thing, and I’m so happy to be part of this community, no matter the size of my following or what we talk about on this blog.

Though I am happy that some of you are into horror and that some of you also read my books. I appreciate that a lot!

Now, onto the other stuff I promised with this post. First, a reader-suggested Q&A, with questions from this blog and from Facebook, as well as a couple of things I wanted to unload off my chest, so I asked myself (yes, I ask myself questions. I just don’t usually answer back. That would be weird). So without further ado, let’s begin:

What is your earliest recollection of your love of writing? (Sherri Kauth, from Facebook)

I don’t think there was ever a time I didn’t love to write. Or rather, a time I didn’t like storytelling. I would draw for hours, pretending I was making a great fantasy story or the storyboards for the next Pokemon movie. When I started learning how to spell and write and read, my pictures were accompanied by words, and as I got older I used more and more words, until I was writing novels. It wasn’t until I was ten that I really set myself to writing (with the occasional flirtation of becoming a mad scientist or a rockstar), but all things come in good time, am I right?

If you had to write in a completely different genre from what you’ve done so far, which one would you choose? (Kat Impossible, from the blog)

Easy, I’d go with erotica! I’ve read erotica before, and there’s definitely an art to it. It’s more than just simple porn, it’s a story revolving around sex. And I’ve written a sex scene or two in my time, one of which ended up in the final draft of Snake (of which someone close to me said, “He nailed it!”). I even have an erotic pen name I’d use if I ever got into the genre, along with some ideas for stories.

Of course, I’m not so sure my current employers would enjoy having an erotica writer on staff. Then again, they’re okay with me writing horror stories, so long as I don’t talk about them at work, so…

What is a favorite hobby besides reading, writing, or watching horror movies/TV? (Joleene Naylor, from the blog)

Oh goodness, that’s most of what I do when I’m not at work or eating or sleeping. Hmm…I guess rocking out to music or reading too much manga. And hanging out with friends, and family too (when I feel like I can retain my sanity).

Who is the favorite character you have created? (Tammy Whaley, from Faceebok)

Ooh, another tough one. In a way, I love all my characters. They’re like my children. Even the psychopathic ones. But if I had to choose, I’d have to go with Laura Horn, from the novel of the same name that I’m working on. In a way, she’s the character that I’ve made go through the hardest trials, and for whom her growth as a character is especially dramatic. For all of that, I want to give her a hug and tell her that she’ll be okay, even though I’m the source of her suffering (like I’ve said before, Writers are Cruel Gods). So I guess her suffering makes her my favorite character. What does that say about me?

What’s something from the past year you regret?

This is one I’m asking myself. Yes, I do have something: back in winter, I said I was going to do a series of posts about mental illness and its portrayal in horror stories. However, since then I’ve been so busy with so many different things, I haven’t had a moment to really work on this series, let alone do a post about attitudes about mental illness in general. So that’s been a problem for me. I felt guilty about it, since a lot of you were enthusiastic about me doing the project. And if I ever have actual time for it in the future, I will try my hardest to do the project. For now though, it’s on a far back burner until I can actually do something about it.

Well, I’m getting to the point where I’m really worrying about length, so I’ll wrap up the Q&A there (too bad, because I wanted to include more questions). Thanks to everyone who submitted questions, and I hope you liked the answers.

And finally, the giveaway. If you are interested in getting an autographed copy of one of my books, here are the rules. Below in the comments, you have to submit the following:

  1. Your name, as it would be listed on your mail (if you have a nickname you’d prefer, we can talk about that later).
  2. Which book you’d like from me (the choices are The Quiet Game, Reborn City, Snake, or Video Rage).
  3. What you find scary personally.
  4. The hashtag #RUscared? (See what I did there?)

Include all that below, and I’ll pick a winner a week from today, on August 9th. I’ll contact the winner, and send them the book, no matter where they live. Excited? Good. Ready? GO!

Well, that’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ll let you know if anything comes up before Friday. In the meantime, thanks again for sticking with me through all this time. I really appreciate it.