Archive for the ‘Reflections’ Category

So, you’ve probably heard of Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey. If you haven’t, let me give you some background, because it’s important to talk about. So, Winnie the Pooh predates Disney and was originally some stories written by AA Milne. Some of those stories became public domain back in 2021, so now anyone can make a story about Pooh Bear so long as they don’t use anything exclusive to the Disney version. A British filmmaker took advantage of that to make a horror film based on the characters, Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey. And ever since its announcement, this film has gotten a ton of buzz, so even if it’s terrible, it’s likely going to make bank.

I’m actually going to see it at the one night screening at my theater. I can’t wait.

Unfortunately, not all of the buzz is positive. Recently, one of the actresses in the film, Danielle Roland, said the cast and crew got a lot of hate for being part of the film. Rhys Frake-Waterfield, who directed and co-produced the movie, even got emails saying he should die. You can read the original article here.

Now, I can understand if people are upset about this film being made, let alone the phenomenon it’s become. Winnie the Pooh is a popular character and childhood icon for many people around the world. Seeing him and Piglet used in a horror film might be upsetting. But death threats? That’s going way too far! You’re threatening to kill someone over a fictional character! Might as well threaten to kill someone over the Easter Bunny!

And here’s the thing: no one is forcing any of these people to watch the film. It’s not like men with guns are going to go into people’s homes and kidnap them to the movie theater for the one-night screening, or force them to put it on their various streaming platforms to watch in their living rooms. If you don’t want to go see it, don’t see it. Even better, pretend it doesn’t exist! You can continue to enjoy your childhood bear without having to acknowledge the one that’s going to be taking an axe to a bunch of college students next month.

Unfortunately, death threats like this, as well as over-the-top reactions to fictional media of any sort, have become more and more commonplace over the year. Or maybe they’re being reported by news outlets more. Either way, it’s bizarre to read about. When I was in college, I read about people threatening to ruin Charlaine Harris’s career or kill themselves depending on what she wrote into one of her Sookie Stackhouse books. After college, when Marvel had a storyline in the comics where Captain America was revealed to be a Hydra agent, I read articles about people threatening Marvel’s writers for this storyline. One person alleging to be a Marine even said he was going to abandon all his values because of Cap’s betrayal and even become a killer (I seriously hope that was hyperbole). In 2020, when The Last of Us Part II released, people review-bombed the game based on leaked plot points. Part of this was fueled by homophobia (several of the characters in the game are openly LGBT), but a lot of this was due to fans hating the supposed direction of the game. Not only that, but one of the actresses for the game received death threats for playing a villain.

People got way too upset over this one scene.

And now people are threatening to kill folks associated with this new horror film because it’s about a beloved childhood character.

I don’t care about the circumstances or the reasons why. I don’t even care if the people making the threats are serious. I’m more concerned that anyone thinks reacting like this is appropriate. No matter why, you shouldn’t threaten people’s lives like that.

Let me share you a story from my high school days. Back then, I worked for my gym teacher selling tickets to volleyball and basketball games at the door. When I wasn’t taking tickets, I did homework, ate dinner from the snack bar, and read. It was a good gig. One day, however, I was steamed because I had just finished a Dean Koontz novel and absolutely hated its resolution. After the game, I was picked up by my stepmom, who proceeded to drive me home. And as I’m complaining about the book’s ending, my anger radiating off me like heat from a space heater, my stepmom turned around and said, “Rami, it’s fiction! It’s not real! Don’t get so upset about it!”

Well, that shut me up. And it turned out to be very helpful for me, because it made me realize something: as much as I love stories and characters, none of it is real. The absence of these characters and stories from the world wouldn’t change much, let alone their presence. And among all the things to get mad about in the world, a book resolution or how a character is portrayed isn’t one of them.

Since then, as wrapped up in fiction as I get sometimes, I don’t allow myself to get emotionally out of hand because I don’t like the direction. Yes, I’ll share my thoughts on it, but I’m not going to threaten people over it! And if I really dislike it, I just won’t have anything to do with it. My stress levels stay down and everybody stays happy.

And I wish more people would react that way. Or maybe not react at all. If they did, I guarantee we would all be much happier.

(WARNING: The following post discusses some recent movies that not everyone has seen yet. I’ve tried to avoid spoilers, but if you’d rather see these movies without knowing anything, then stop reading now and come back later. You’ve been warned.)

It’s no secret that I’m an eccentric, and I channel that eccentricity into my fiction all the time. I mean, my most popular novel is about a young woman who’s turned into a plant/human hybrid. If that’s not an example of weird fiction, then I’m a high school girl in an anime. And I’m not!

Skinamarink’s poster displayed outside my usual movie theater.

With all that expertise, I can say with certainty that there is plenty of room in fiction, especially in horror fiction, for weird. The novel House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski, is a prime example of this. It’s a story about a documentary about a recounting of one family’s experience living in a home that has a giant labyrinth hidden inside it. The novel is full of footnotes, some of which have footnotes, as well as pages with only a few lines of text, or the text laid out in an odd manner, forcing the reader to hold the book at weird angles. From what I’m told, it makes for an experience both agoraphobic and claustrophobic.*

No wonder that book has an enduring relevance among horror readers, despite the author and some readers seeing it more as a love story than a horror story.

All that being said, there is both a good way to make a story weird and a bad way to make a story weird. Especially in the horror genre.

Some of you may have heard of the new Canadian horror movie Skinamarink. The movie revolves around two children who wake up one night to find that their father, as well as the doors and windows to their home, have mysteriously vanished. There’s been a lot of talk about the film online, with some loving it and others reviling it. I went to see it on Friday, knowing that one way or another, I would get a weird experience.

Well, I did get that weird experience. It’s filmed in a way meant to evoke a child’s perspective and reflect their nightmares, with the majority of shots focused on hallways, things high overhead or on the television in the den. Anything but the characters themselves. The entire film is also filtered to look like a home movie from the 80s or 90s, and the use of effects is minimal and mostly reliant on practical effects. A lot of the dialogue is told in whispers, so subtitles are used throughout the film. There’s no music, and plenty of surreal moments throughout the film, especially near the end.

That being said, everyone in my theater, including me, hated it. I even spoke to someone who was in the theater with me afterwards, and he told me he fell asleep during the film. I can see why: except for a few effective jumpscares, there was nothing to actually unsettle the viewer or keep them tense or focused, let alone scare them.

Since seeing the film, I’ve been characterizing it like someone took the cursed videotape from The Ring and tried to make it into a feature film, but took out what made that video so scary in the first place.

Now, I’m not saying anyone who enjoyed Skinamarink or found it scary is wrong or bad. The wonderful thing about horror is how subjective it is and how there are many different niches to suit every fan. Nor am I shitting on the director for the choices he made. I reserve that for the Friday the 13th remake and its creators, because that film is trash that gets everything good about the franchise wrong. Most of the people involved in it should get a good kick in the pants!

No, what I’m saying is that the weird is emphasized at the expense of the horror. Online, Skinamarink is characterized as “an experimental horror film” and that feels like an apt way of putting things. From the way the film is shot, to the use of subtitles and the story (flimsy as it is), you can tell that it’s all been an experiment by the director to conjure up a unique viewing experience. And in that respect, his experiment was a success. However, in terms of creating an effective horror film, the experiment was a bust.

Hatching is, in my humble opinion, a great example of weird horror done well.

Now, compare that to another recent horror film, Finland’s Pahanhautoja, or Hatching. The film follows a girl who finds an egg in the forest and incubates it, only to end up the caretaker of a large bird/dinosaur monster that she calls Alli. Yeah, that’s weird, especially when you see the ugly-ass creature, which is brought to life mainly with practical effects and puppetry. But it also helps to tell a story about a very repressed girl who is struggling as part of a toxic family dynamic and being ruled by a narcissistic, social media-obsessed mother. Rather than overtaking the story, the weird aspects help drive the story and explore its deeper themes.

And that’s where the big difference between Skinamarink and Hatching is. The former’s weird aspects overtake the film and drown out the horror, while the latter’s weird aspects help out the horror and the story in order to be told more effectively.

To summarize, when telling a story of the weird variety, it’s important to remember that you’re telling a story first and foremost. Thus, while you can add as many weird elements as you want, if they overwhelm the story you’re trying to tell, you risk alienating rather than engaging your audience. And that’s something every storyteller wants to avoid. Including eccentrics like me.

*It’s on my TBR list, but that list is long and I only have so much reading time. Thus, it’s going to have to wait a while till I get to it.


Just a reminder, my Followers of Fear: this coming weekend I’ll be at ConFusion at the Sheration Detroit Novi in Detrot, Michigan. This is a big science fiction and fantasy convention that’ll be held from Friday, January 20th to Sunday, January 22nd. I’ll be there selling books and doing Tarot readings, so if you’re in the area, feel free to stop by and say hi. I’d be more than happy to see you.

You can find out more information about the convention by checking out its website here.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Until next time, good night and pleasant nightmares.

Holy crap, sweet Moses, and am I too young for a midlife crisis?

Okay, maybe that’s a little overdramatic. Still, it doesn’t change the fact that I’ll be turning thirty this summer. And I’m feeling a bit…uneasy about it? Maybe some disbelief?

I mean, I always knew this time would come. And, at times during this pandemic, I felt like I was already in my thirties. I mean, I work a full-time job that pays a decent salary and benefits. I pay a lot of bills. And as of last year, I’m paying a mortgage on my own home. But you know, it always felt far away and nebulous, like the death of the sun or the Andromeda galaxy. And since passing the six-months-away mark, it’s been more concrete. Less nebulous. And I’m a little freaked out by it.

It’s so weird. When you’re young, you look forward to birthdays. It’s not just a day when everyone showers you with attention and presents and you hopefully do fun things with your friends and family. It’s also a day when you get more freedoms and responsibilities, as well as fresh new opportunities. What excitement awaits now that I’m8 or 9 or 10? 13 or 14 or 15? Now that I’m old enough to get a license, or see an R-rated movie on my own, or I’m a legal adult? What about when I’m old enough to buy alcohol?

But then the milestone birthdays kind of end, and you have to deal with being an adult. At 25, which some define as the end of youth, something shifts and you start to slowly feel less like the kid or the teen or young/new adult you used to be, and more like the grownup your parents are. Birthdays come, and they can still be fun, but the feeling of accomplishment and new opportunity isn’t as strong as it used to be, if it’s still there.

And now, approaching thirty, what’s going to happen to me? I’ve always thought of myself as having a strong, youthful side that helps fuel my imagination and my zest for life. All this helps make me the author and human (or creature pretending to be human) that I am. Will that suddenly change when I turn thirty? Will something shift and I’ll suddenly lose that little spark inside myself that I feel is a big part of me? And how will that affect everything else? My writing, my hobbies, my goals, my enjoyment of life?

Yeah, I know. This is probably just some unfounded anxiety giving me unnecessary fears. People change over time, it’s true, but not that dramatically. Still, I know change will be inevitable. My health is definitely going to be harder to maintain once I get to that point, and I bet there will be pressure from various sides to be more responsible or practical with my life. Like, “Why isn’t he doing more at work and climbing the corporate ladder?” Or “Why is he collecting dolls or making wine or writing stories when he’s an adult with a mortgage?”

Or maybe nothing will change. Maybe it’ll just be another day and I’ll still be the wacky, goofy, scary dude people have come to know and love. And honestly, I’m hoping that’s the case. I don’t want to feel like my life is over or all the fun times are behind me once I turn thirty.

Whatever happens, I hope I can make my birthday extra awesome this year.

You know, I never understood people who would claim their birthday was just another day. Yeah, at a certain point you don’t really feel the transition of age, but why not celebrate? Why, except for vanity’s sake, would you want to avoid your birthday? But maybe there’s something in calling it another day. Because that way, nothing earth-shattering or life-changing will happen just because you made another rotation around the sun.

Well, I’m sure I’ll have plenty of time to figure things out between now and the big 3-0. Plenty of time to get used to it and face any changes that may or may not come my way. And if I’m going to turn thirty, I’m sure as hell going to do my best to celebrate the transition. I’m talking multiple parties, some wilder than the others, lots of fun with friends and family, and maybe some splurging on myself.

After all, it’s not every day you turn thirty, is it? And if I’m going to jump over that threshold, for better or for worse, I might as well do it with a bang.


Just two more things before I sign off, my Followers of Fear. First off, thank you to everyone who participated in the recent New Year’s Sale I held on most of my books. It really made for a great start to the year to see so many people purchasing copies of my books. Hopefully it’s the start of a very successful year for me . Anyway, happy reading to you all, and I hope you let me know what you think of the books when you read them. After all, reviews not only help me, but they help your fellow readers.

Second, update on The Great Editing: last night, I finished editing “Fuseli’s Horses,” one of the stories in my upcoming collection Hannah and Other Stories. This means there are three more stories in the collection to edit, and at least five more overall that I’ll be doing a new draft on. I’m looking forward to tackling the next couple of stories and seeing them improve. Hopefully after this latest round of editing, they’ll be ready for publication, or at least that much closer to being ready.

Anyway, that all for now. I’ve got guests coming over to try homemade plum wine soon (hopefully I can get their reactions on camera). Until next time, good night and pleasant nightmares!

I’ve been saying it all weekend, in person and on my other social media: one of the things I love about writing (among others) is getting to add my interests to the stories I write. And not just interests: I get to play with my favorite tropes, character types/archetypes, locations, and so much more.

And I’m not the only one: Stephen King likes to set his stories mostly in Maine or other parts of New England, have characters who are either writers or psychics (with the latter often being children), and just getting into weird ideas like aliens or extradimensional entities. Anne Rice enjoyed placing her stories throughout history, particularly places that are beautiful in some way or another, and telling stories that delve into our cruel but beautiful world (AKA the Savage Garden) via supernatural but very human creatures. Riley Sager enjoys deconstructing and turning classic horror movie tropes on their heads by making them the entire plots of his books, female leads who have some deep trauma in their pasts that affect their present, and a male romantic interest whom they should have no business getting with. HP Lovecraft–wait, let’s not get into him. We know what he liked, as well as what he hated.

As for me, I’ve got a few. For one thing, I like to include ballet and ballerinas in my stories. Part of that is that I love ballet like some people like football, but there’s also a symbolic reason. As I’ve said before, corruption of the innocent is one of my favorite elements of horror and ballerinas, particularly young ballerinas, are a symbol of innocence to me. With that reason, it’s no wonder I tend to add ballet and ballerinas to my stories when I get the chance. Though given that I write horror, I often put those poor dancers through hell. Just look at Maddy Taggert in Rose and Annie Hummel in “The Dedication of the Hight Priestess.”

Though whether or not that pattern holds with the dancer character in Crawler, I’ll let you guess.

I also enjoy putting my nerdy interests into my stories when I can. For example, in my WIP I’m working on now, I’ve included references to anime, fantasy tropes, and Doctor Who, among other things. In that same story, I also modeled two characters after the original detectives in Law & Order and named them after the actors who played them. And with half the story still left to write, I can probably find more room to add those in. It’s a blast when I do!

Some other things I like adding with my work when I can are:

  • setting my stories in Ohio
  • making some of my major characters Jewish like myself
  • noting the tropes I might be using while the character denies that their life is working like a story.
  • references to famous movies and books, especially those in the horror genre
  • my favorite periods in history (such as The Pure World Comes for Victorian England)
  • and powerful, sometimes godlike entities that often come from realms very much unlike our own
I love it when I get a chance to reference this show in a story.

And these are just the ones that I’m aware of. Some things are more noticeable to authors than others. I’m sure as I write and publish more, others will point out things about my writing that I never noticed before but will find very true.

But yeah, this sort of thing is a perk of writing fiction. They say “write what you know,” but what that actually entails is often quite different than what our writing professors often preach. Instead of basing our stories entirely on our own experiences and reality, we weave what we love into our stories and use it to spice up our stories. To make them the stories we would enjoy reading ourselves. And when you release those stories and find people enjoy them and the elements you add in…well, that makes it all the better, doesn’t it?

What are some elements you enjoy putting into your stories when you can, Followers of Fear? Let’s discuss in the comments below.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I mentioned this sort of thing to my folks after seeing Nutcracker last night and on social media after the Doctor Who reference was written into the story last night. After all that, it just felt natural to blog about it. Now, if anyone needs me, I’ll be making dinner and then getting back to my WIP. Until next time, good night, pleasant nightmares, and happy second night of Hanukkah!

For some reason, you guys really liked it when I wrote a similar post last year, so I’m back to examine how 2022 was and what I’m hoping 2023 will be like. Or maybe you guys liked the graphics I used and am using again. But I like to think it’s the former rather than the latter.

Well, I don’t think anyone will argue that 2022 was a rollercoaster designed by someone who clearly didn’t mind putting us through the ringer. Among the lows, Russia invaded Ukraine; we lost numerous great people who helped shape many of our lives growing up and through adulthood; inflation and gas prices going through the roof; a maniac billionaire took over Twitter; and a housing crisis that continues to today. Among the highs, we got the darkest, grittiest and probably the best Batman adaptation ever; a third world war did not break out; the midterms were among the smoothest elections we’ve had in recent years (which might be saying something); and we got a stunning sequel to Black Panther that handled grief really well.

On a personal level, this year was just as much a rollercoaster as it was on a global/national/whatever level. That being said, the highs were pretty awesome. Among other things, I:

  • I bought and moved into my first home, a lovely condo with its own dishwasher, washer and dryer, and a garage. It’s a huge step up from my old apartment, made all the better that it’s quiet and getting way more bang for my buck. I love it here, I love being able to decorate the condo how I want, and I like having a lawn I can turn into a Halloween display every October (next year’s display is going to be even bigger and better).
  • I released The Pure World Comes in paperback and ebook in May, and had it professionally narrated for the audio book, which was released in August. That was a big deal for me!
  • I also had three stories and an article published, two of which I consider among some of my best work. I also wrote way more than I expected to, and even started a new novel that’s about a quarter of the way through right now. And this was probably my best year as an author, selling more books than I ever had before. Hell, I even got a nice grant in February, which was a big deal for me and helped me pay for a lot of author copies.
  • That Which Cannot Be Undone, the anthology of Ohio-based horror my friends and I came together to produce, was fully funded and released back in October. It has some amazing stories in it (I’ll let you decide if mine, “Is Anyone There,” is among the awesome ones), and has been racking up positive reviews left, right and center! And I have a feeling that more and more people are going to be discovering this anthology and loving it as time goes on, as well as spreading that love to their friends and families.
  • I was able to spend a lot of time with friends and family, some of whom I hadn’t seen since before the pandemic! Now that was something special.
  • And I’m still somewhat healthy, gainfully employed, have some savings, and able to pursue my dreams while living my life and occasionally doing a treat for myself/something impulsive.

That being said, not everything about 2022 was good. It was definitely an expensive year, inflation notwithstanding. Moving into my home, as well as all the money I spent on DIY home improvement projects and other necessities really put a drain on my finances. And as much I learned from writing, I also spent more than I thought I would, which was not ideal (I’m going to be way more frugal next year). And the whole moving process was a strain mentally, with every mishap really bringing down my mood and making me want to tear my hair out. And while in the end, all that stuff worked out, it was still a drag to go through.

There were other things, as well, like work. Work was extremely difficult this year. There are a number of reasons for that, none of which I’m going to go into. However, it was a lot of reasons, and they were problems throughout the year, so that made my life difficult and made me want to break out the beer and wine or the sweets more often than was probably healthy (don’t worry, for the most part, I held off). And there were other things that just made me want to scream and shout and tear my hair out.

Yeah, when this year was good, it was good, but when it was rough, it was perfectly shitty. Which is why I rate 2022 a “Meh.” Not as bad as the hell that 2020 was, but definitely could have been better.

Still, I try to focus on the positive stuff, so let’s do that. And next up is 2023. And there’s already a lot to look forward to this coming year. On the writing side of things, I’ll be finishing up edits on and releasing my collection Hannah and Other Stories, as well as hopefully getting other stuff written, edited, and published. I’ll also be attending numerous conventions as both a vendor and just a regular attendee, way more than this past year. Hell, I’m even going to StokerCon, the biggest horror convention in the world, for the first time! I have no idea what to expect besides an awards show, but I’m looking forward to all of it.

Not only that, but I also turn thirty this year. Yeah, the big 3-0, so I’m going to make sure my birthday celebration is as big as that deserves to be. I already have a few things planned out, but I’m looking forward to adding some more to make the celebration amazing and memorable. Hey, might as well go big or go home, right?

And I’m just looking forward to growing in my new home (which, at this time last year, I did not expect I would even have) and seeing what the new year will bring. New friendships, new stories, new adventures. I look forward to it all and hope that it’s all wonderful and crazy and just a blast. It probably won’t be, but it can’t hurt to dream and hope and pray.

How was your year, my Followers of Fear? What are you looking forward to in 2023? Let’s discuss in the comments below.

So glad I got to have a Halloween display this year. I can’t wait to see what I do next year.

One more thing before the blog post ends, Followers of Fear. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but we’re in the holiday season. And if you’re looking for a new horror story to read, or know a horror fan who wants to read something other than Stephen King, why not get yourself or them a book by yours truly? As you know, I have a number of stories available, with another book on the way, and they make great gifts for horror readers of all stripes. Not to mention, you’d be giving me a gift by helping me to advance my career and get my stories in more readers’ hands.

With that in mind, I’ll leave links down below, including for That Which Cannot Be Undone, in case you want to check out the books. And if you get one and like what you read, be sure to leave a review somewhere so I know what you thought of it!

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Until next time, good night, pleasant nightmares, and happy Krampusnacht (yes, that’s tonight. Behave yourself and be very careful if you go outdoors for any reason).

That Which Cannot Be Undone: Amazon

The Pure World Comes: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, Kobo, Goodreads, Audible, Chirp, BingeBooks, LIbro.Fm, Storytel

Rose: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada, Audible, B&N

Snake: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada, Barnes & Noble, iBooksSmashwords, and Kobo

The Quiet Game: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooksSmashwords, and Kobo.

I have some exciting stories on the way, just you wait and see.

Today’s December 1st, 2022, and it’s almost midnight as I’m finishing this post. Just over 29 days till 2022 is over. And yesterday, November 30th, 2022, close to 11 PM, I finished a new novelette. I wanted to blog about it, but it was getting late and I had to go into the office today, so I went to bed instead.

Worked out in the end though, because not only do I get to talk about this new story, but also what I’m going to work on next, and maybe a third or fourth thing as well.

Benefit of having a blog: you can write whatever you want to write (so long as it doesn’t break any laws or causes harm to others or yourself, of course).

So, my latest story is something I’ve been working on all November and finished last night in a mad dash to get it done by a self-imposed deadline of 12:00 December 1st. It’s called “Forever Young,” and follows the career of an actress who never ages past childhood. It’s currently a little over thirteen-thousand words, and I swear there’s a good story somewhere in there. It’s just lost in a rough draft that probably has too much in it or not enough. A lot of ideas that just need someone to sift through them and cut the gold from the shit.

Thankfully, a friend and a fellow writer agreed to beta read and critique it for me, so hopefully they can give me some idea on how to get it edited up to snuff. I’m sure it’ll take a lot of edits and maybe some rewrites, but I like and believe in this story too much (and I’ve spent too much time on it) to give up on it. With any luck, I’ll be able to make it into a story that people might enjoy and find a little thrilling.

So, what’s next? Well, I spent last month trying to write a novelette. I think I’ll spend this month trying to write a novella.

If you read my article on Ginger Nuts of Horror last month, you saw that I’m developing a story based around the Backrooms, an Internet-born urban legend about an endless maze of empty office hallways that stretch on for miles and are inhabited by entities that resemble nothing close to natural. At least, not as we define it. Anyway, I have the outline for that story ready and I’ve already written about eleven hundred words, so I’m going to try to finish this story by 11:59 PM, January 2nd, 2023. That’s when I’ll likely start working on Hannah and Other Stories again and will only be doing other stuff in-between edits of stories in the collection.

But hey, I’m looking forward to the challenge. I’m very excited for this story and the possibility of making my own unique twist on the Backrooms mythos that has been created. The Backrooms are a fascinating idea, very psychological and uncanny valley in their strange nature, and I want to further highlight how strange the space is by dropping some people in there and making them deal with the impossibility of the space, as well as what is capable of happening there.

Well, despite what I wrote at the beginning of the post, I don’t have a third or fourth thing to talk about. I guess I just wanted to talk about what I wrote last month and what I got on deck next. But hey, I had fun doing that, so I guess it’s cool. Like writing stories, as long as I’m writing what I enjoy, that’s all that really matters.

That, and I look forward to sharing with you all these strange and macabre stories I have coming down the pipeline. Stay tuned.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. As the year winds down, I’ll be back with thoughts on the past year, as well as plans for the upcoming year. And if any good news pops up, I’ll be sure to let you all know.

Until next time, good night and pleasant nightmares.

I don’t know how writers who write in silence do it. Unless I’m trying to sleep, I absolutely hate silence. I’m not saying I need noise all the time. That’s part of the reason I moved out of my old apartment complex: I couldn’t stand the noise my neighbors were always making and the lack of support from management to quiet the noise. But it’s rare when I’m comfortable with complete quiet and I’m not trying to sleep.

And there are writers who are able to write in silence. Hell, some even need it!

Me? I need something in the background. Especially when I write. It’s rare that I can write in silence. If I do, my brain automatically starts playing something on loop in my head just to make up for the silence. So, when I write, I need to listen to something when I work. And it has to be the right sort of thing for the project I’m working on. Otherwise, I find it hard to concentrate and get any words down on paper.

Sometimes, this is easy to do. Usually I can put on 80s music or the soundtracks of my favorite musicals and just write, no matter the story. No joke, I wrote The Pure World Comes entirely to my favorite hits of the 1980s. Or I listen to ASMR videos on YouTube, especially if I’m blogging. (And if you don’t know what ASMR is, I’m not going to explain it here. Just know, I find it very relaxing when done right.) And when I’m editing, I can put on music, or maybe have an anime on in the background, and just get it done.

Other times, it has to be very specific, or I can’t work at all. For my novel Toyland, I needed to listen to the Moulin Rouge soundtrack (Broadway musical based on the movie, not the movie itself) for nearly the entire writing process. Until the final few chapters, I could not write without that soundtrack. It only occurred to me ages later that my mind probably chose that album subconsciously because, like Toyland, both plots involve a story within a story. I might need to listen to that soundtrack again when I do one more round of editing on it and then try to find a publisher.

I’m still trying to nail down what works best for Crawler. Some days I’m in the mood for 80s music, other days I’m in the mood for a musical soundtrack. Once I even listened to the Mad Max: Fury Road soundtrack just because it was so epic I couldn’t help but write to it!

Thankfully, for the two projects I’m working on while I’m break from Crawler and before getting back to editing Hannah, identifying the background sound I need was easy. For one project, which involves a very unique child actress, I’m listening to the Phantom of the Opera soundtrack. Makes sense: both involve people in the fine arts who are not what they seem. And the other, which involves my own unique take on a recent piece of internet folklore, will involve ambient noise videos on YouTube. I already got the first part of the story done while listening to a video of noises at an outdoor mall (guess where that scene took place?).

It’s lucky that I was able to figure those out so quickly. Otherwise, I might not be able to write a single word!

Still, I was able to identify what I will (likely) need, so I’m glad for that. I have good feelings about these stories and I look forward to writing them. And I’ll thankfully have the right sounds to listen to them while I do.

Do you listen to music while you write? Do you need it or can you do without it? What do you prefer to listen to?

And if you prefer silence, why? How are you able to write like that? Let’s discuss.

Surprise! I got a new article out!

So, if you haven’t heard of Ginger Nuts of Horror, it’s a huge website dedicated to horror and the horror community. Reviews, interviews, scholarly articles, you name it, they have it. Previously they’ve published a few articles of mine, and I’m happy to have another article on their site. This one is called “From Slender Man to the Backrooms,” and explores how horror folklore such as Slender Man and the more recent Backrooms goes viral.*

If you have a few minutes available, you can go and read the article online now. No paywalls, so you can read it without any issue. And if you like what you read, or disagree with my ideas, I hope you’ll let me know what you thought. I’d be happy to continue the discussion with you all.

Just be respectful if you disagree with my opinion or if you have a thing against Slender Man or anything. I know it’s all the rage to rage at people who disagree with you, but this blog is a place to show respect.

Anyway, link’s below. I look forward to hearing what you think of the article. In the meantime, I’ll be writing during the commercial breaks. Are you watching American Horror Story tonight? God, this season is really good! I hope they can keep it up for the rest of the season.

This post is going all over the place, isn’t it? Oh well, it’s my blog, so a little randomness is to be expected. Until next time, good night and pleasant nightmares!

GINGER NUTS OF HORROR — FROM SLENDER MAN TO THE BACKROOMS

*If you’re not familiar with the Backrooms, go look it up after reading the article. It’s such a trip!

What are some of the first things you think of when it comes to Stephen King’s IT? Is it Georgie being dragged down the drain by Pennywise the clown? The fortune cookies filled with eyeballs and mutated bugs? The final battle with Pennywise in his lair? That one scene that dare not be spoken?

I’m sure all these and more occur to you, because they’re significant plot points and they carry a whole lot of scares.* What you might not think about are the quieter moments in the story: the building of the dam in the Barrens, or Ben, Beverly and Richie going to see a movie together, or Bill going for a ride on his old bike Silver after not having seen it for over a quarter of a century. They’re the quieter moments of the story, the moments that allow you to get to know the characters better and see them about their daily lives. And they’re just as important as the scarier parts of the story.

I’ve been thinking of these moments more and more lately, because I just wrote an entire chapter for Crawler, my mummy novel-in-progress, that was a quiet moment. In it, two of the characters, one of whom is in mourning over a sudden loss, bond with each other over the course of a lazy afternoon. Nothing scary happens, no mentions of the horrors driving the plot take place, and there’s no ground laying or foreshadowing for future scares. It’s just a sweet, quiet scene where two characters form a relationship.

Honestly, I’m not used to writing those sorts of scenes. In shorter works, every word has to be necessary so the story can fit within a word count. There’s no room for quiet scenes showing the creation or deepening of bonds, getting to know a character better, or seeing them grow. You need that room to create a short story that packs a punch, especially for horror stories. And with my novels, every chapter and scene was necessary to the plot in some way, furthering the story, foreshadowing future plot points, or scaring the shit out of the reader in some way. Writing a scene over the course of two or three days that was just exploring the budding relationship between two characters, was new for me. And I feel like I learned a lot while doing it.

Which is good, because other writers, not just King, include those quieter moments throughout the books. Ever wonder why Harry Potter includes Quidditch matches in the books? Because they’re fun, normal things a wizard would learn in school and serve as breaks from the intrigue of whatever was happening any year at Hogwarts.

Now, having these scenes aren’t always necessary for every story. But it can be a good idea to include them if you need an organic way to flesh out your characters, deepen their relationships, or show them growing. Especially you can’t think of any way to insert such moments into the more essential scenes, like Georgie getting dragged into the sewers or whatever.

In any case, I’ll probably write a few more of these scenes in Crawler, as it’s a very character-focused story, so I’ll get plenty of opportunities to practice. Perhaps afterwards, I’ll be able to write a post about writing quiet scenes and writing them well. And maybe when I do, I’ll write it with a quiet satisfaction.

*Except that one scene, I know, but we’re not going to talk about it, are we?


One more thing, my Followers of Fear: this Wednesday at 4-6 PM EST, I’ll be joining fellow horror writers Heather Miller and Daemon Manx on the podcast “What’s Write For Me” with Dellani Oakes. We’ll be recording live, so you’re encouraged to join us live by following this link, and we’ll be discussing and even reading from our scariest works, so I hope you’ll join us. See you there!

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. It’ll be a busy week leading up to Halloween, but I hope it’ll be a fun and memorable one. Until next time, good night, pleasant nightmares, and eight days till Halloween! Have you carved a Jack-o-Lantern yet? I have, and for the first one in my own home, I don’t think it turned out half-bad. What say you?

So, for those of you not following my social media, particularly Instagram and Twitter, I got a home winemaking kit for my birthday last year. So far, I’ve made two batches of wine with it. The first is plum wine, while the second is pumpkin wine. Yes, you can make wine from pumpkins. You can make wine from all sorts of fruits, vegetables, and other materials you normally wouldn’t think of for winemaking. Anyway, I haven’t tried any of the wine yet. And winemaking, as it turns out, is a lot like writing fiction. I’ll explain both in a moment.

First, let me give you a quick rundown of the winemaking process. You basically take all the ingredients, including the crushed/chopped/quartered/otherwise cut up main ingredient (ex. grapes, plums, pumpkins, etc.), put them all into a big container with fermentation yeast and oxygen, and let it simmer for a week or so. During this time, the yeast breaks down sugars and releasing flavor from the main ingredient. This is primary fermentation. Then you put it in a smaller container with as little oxygen as possible, where it undergoes secondary fermentation. This can last anywhere from a few weeks to a few months, changing containers every couple of weeks until the wine is clear. At that point, you bottle it and let it age for a year before drinking.

This is the pumpkin wine I finished making earlier this week. Looks good, right?

That’s why I haven’t had any of the wine yet. The plum wine won’t be ready until January, and I just bottled the pumpkin wine earlier this week, so it won’t be ready till next Halloween. I hope it tastes good when I finally taste it. Otherwise, I’m going to feel very bad for anyone who drinks the wine with me.

Now, here’s a pop quiz: using multiple ingredients to create a single thing? Going through multiple processes to further refine it? Taking at least a year to work on before it’s ready for consumption? This does describe winemaking, but what else can it describe?

If you guessed fiction writing, congrats. You win a glass of wine from your own stores. But yeah, it does sound a lot like fiction writing. The ingredients for the wine are like the plot, the research, and the words; the primary fermentation is the rough draft; the secondary fermentation is the subsequent drafts where you clean up the story; and the year after it’s bottled is the time until publication, during which you may do further refining for the story until it’s out.

Plum wine, just before it begins primary fermentation, when it’s just a bunch of disparate elements in a bucket.

And, like writing, winemaking takes time and trial and error to get good at. Like I said, I haven’t tried the wine yet. I tried both the plum wine and the pumpkin wine before secondary fermentation, but at that stage the wine is tart and full of yeast and other matter floating around. It was alcoholic, yes, but was it good alcohol? No. Just like a first draft is technically a completed story, but it’s not something you want to immediately release into the world! I mean, all those errors and plot holes you might miss before giving out the story!

But getting back to the wine, I have no idea how either batch will taste once I open them up. They may be completed, but will they be any good? It might take years of trying and failing before I make a good batch of wine. And that’s kind of like writing, too. You can write a story and go over it many times, but you have to keep writing until you’re any good at it.

But maybe that’s why I enjoy making wine. I mean, yeah, I love wine, especially sweet wine, but I also like the process of it. I like taking my hands and using them to create something that people can enjoy with me. I like that it takes hard work, precision, trial and error, and your love of something to create it and bring it together. And I like the many possibilities it presents.

It’s like writing to me. Only I don’t intend to sell this stuff: that requires a license, and I’m not going to jump through hoops for that!

Also, I’m going to need a wine rack and more empty bottles before I make any more wine. Otherwise, I’m going to run out of space for it all in my condo!

Anyway, I just wanted to share my thoughts on wine-making and writing with you guys. I’m going to do a little late night writing and then hit the hay. Good night, pleasant nightmares, and fifteen days and thirty-four minutes to Halloween. Anyone else vomiting spiders in excitement?