Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

June has always been a special month for me. For one thing, it’s the month I was born. But not only that, I have a lot of publishing anniversaries during this month, and this is a lucky anniversary. On this day, seven years ago, Snake was published.

So if you’re not familiar, Snake is my second published novel and third self-published book. The novel follows a young man who descends into madness when a powerful Mafia family takes something important to him. He becomes a serial killer, desperate to get back what he desires most. Even if that means becoming a monster worse than the ones he’s hunting. It’s kind of like the movie Taken meets a slasher movie.

I had a lot of fun writing this novel in college. Along with Taken, it was heavily influenced by slasher movies like Halloween and Friday the 13th, James Patterson’s Alex Cross novels, and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit reruns. I got to tell a really long story, with lots of violence, action, and a complex character whom audiences found themselves rooting for despite the fact that, you know, he’s a serial killer.

And apparently readers agreed. Here’s what some of them had to say:

This book is another awesome creation by Rami. This book is scary and brings the reader to the depths of how evil the human character can be and how anyone can be driven to commit acts of torture. The author does a wonderful job of developing the plot and characters and there are certainly twists and turns. I highly recommend reading this book if you love a good frightening thrill.

ENJ, Amazon

Rami Ungar makes a promise to (the reader) in all his writings: he WILL scare you, and if he does “his job is done.” Snake will scare you. I am a huge Stephen King fan, so this should give you some idea of my tolerance level for gore, death and mayhem – I was scared. Rami takes you into places you would never have believed possible, and manages to pull his hero (and eventually his heroine) out of them against all odds. If you like to be scared. If you LOVE to be scared. You should read this book.

Angela Misri, author of the Portia Adams novels and other books

Riveting story and great characters. I loved this book from front to back.

Leon Sluijter
If you end up getting a copy, please also post a photo. I love seeing people enjoying their print editions of my books.

That last one was actually from Germany. This books has international fans!

And did I mention at ParaPsyCon that this novel was really popular? It was actually my top sellers, more than Rose even! People were drawn in by the cover and then drawn in by the story. I guess a lot of people like serial killer stories.

Despite that, it’s not gotten as many readers or reviews as Rose, so I’m working hard to get more people interested. And that’s part of why I’m posting the anniversary. If this gets people interested in the book, even just a bit, I’ll be happy.

And if you like what you’re reading in this blog post, please consider checking out the novel using the links below. And if you like what you read, please let me know somehow. Positive or negative, I love reader feedback, and it helps me, as well as other readers, out in the long run.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m having a four-day weekend, so I’ll be out celebrating my freedom and life and Snake. Until next time, don’t get into strange cabs at night after receiving mysterious phone calls and pleasant nightmares!

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

Good evening! Or is it morning? Whatever. So, as you are no doubt aware, IABE Chicago was canceled recently due to that stinking COVID-19 virus causing issues with the venue. The organizers, being a determined lot, scoured the area for a new location. And guess what? They found one!

Indie Author Book Expo Aurora will be taking place on August 7th, 2021 at the Prisco Community Center in Aurora, Illinois, about an hour west of Chicago. This will be an amazing gathering of authors of all sorts of backgrounds and stories, and from what the organizers tell me there will even be food vendors.

So, if there are any Followers of Fear in Chicago or the nearby area, or just general fans of books and supporting smaller-scale authors, then you won’t have to go too far out of your way to come out and see us. You can find out more information by checking out the Indie Author Book Expo website here.

And I’m happy to note that, while nothing is set in stone yet, there are some talks for events in the Halloween season. I’ll update you as soon as I have concrete news on that.

Anyway, I hope you’re having a good time wherever you are. And I hope I can see you in Aurora later this summer (if you can’t I’ll post links to my work below). If you need me, I’ll be posting about IABE on my social media and maybe filming a quick YouTube video. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

Agoraphobia: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada

Mother of the King: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada

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

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

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

Across the plains of the imagination,
What terrifying creature
With head and neck and body of a thousand arms and eyes
Slithers forwards to the realms of reality,
Waiting to be spread?

Can you figure it out?

If not, you’ll have to wait to find out.

I’m sure you’re all champing at the bit to hear how ParaPsyCon was. And I think the best word to describe it would be AWESOME! I mean, it was a convention full of ghost hunters, psychics and mediums, and authors, among others, inside the Ohio State Reformatory, one of my favorite places on Earth (as well as one of the most haunted). I got to meet so many cool people, hear about so many different businesses and places, and, of course, I may have minted some new Followers of Fear.

Now, of course I took a lot of pictures and video. In fact, I created this YouTube video, which you can see below.

Fun fact: this video was originally supposed to be longer, but due to a glitch some of the footage I took got corrupted. I figured out what caused it and how to avoid it in the future, but I had to make some cuts because of the issue.

Which is unfortunate, because even if the video was at the intended length, you only get so much from it. ParaPsyCon was an experience, and the video only relays so much of that experience. So, let me tell you all about my trip to the Ohio State Reformatory this past weekend and what occurred there.*

I love coming to this place.

So, if you’re unaware, ParaPsyCon is a convention held at the Ohio State Reformatory, an old prison in Mansfield, Ohio that’s now a museum, filming location (most notably The Shawshank Redemption), and haunted hotspot. The convention was held in three areas across two floors: the West Cell Block, where the bigger tables and the celebrities were (I don’t show it in the video, but the prison showers were turned into a makeshift auditorium. I wish I’d taken a photo, it was so surreal); the Central Guard Room, which one could call the center of the convention; and the East Diagonal Room, where I was situated.

And this convention had everything. Ghost hunters and paranormal groups were showing us their equipment and the books about their experiences, while mediums were doing readings and authors like myself were trying to rope in new readers (I also did Tarot readings). But that was just a small fraction of the booths. There were people selling T-shirts, jewelry, self-care products. One or two booths specialized in reiki healing, while one woman near me was selling jewelry she said could improve moods and mental states. There was another table advertising the Haunted 1889 McInteer House in Kansas (a place I’m adding to my next list of haunted locations), while down the row from me were a mother and daughter selling creepy dolls which I wished I could afford.

My friend Tim McWhorter’s booth looks pretty cool.
Tim McLaughlin and his wife Carol at their booth.
The table I mentioned with the creepy dolls. I wish I could have bought them, but they cost too much for me!
Did I forget to mention meeting Bumpy, the mascot for the Bump in the Night Society?

Not to mention the number of tables selling New Age products, cool sculptures and crystals and jewelry, homemade soaps and snacks, books and Tarot cards and so much more. There was an even a table for a group that believes Bigfoot might be real, if you can believe it! And who knows? While I’m skeptical, there’s plenty in this world I don’t know about.

Of course, I already had a few friends at this convention. Greg and Kathy Fetekik of Tri-C Ghost Hunters, whom you may remember from my trip to the Bellaire House last year, were running the convention and it was cool to see them again. Plus, there was Tim McWhorter and Tim McLaughlin, whom you saw in the video, two authors I’ve gotten to know fairly well through HWA Ohio and through Twitter. It was nice seeing them.

And it was nice seeing so many people at the convention. We had a really good turnout, which I chalk up to a number of factors, including the location, convention subject, and people just wanting to get out during a pandemic. I’m not sure how many people were there, but the parking lot was full both times I went out to grab lunch (they had concessions in front of the prison), and they had cars parked on the grass. So there’s that.

Hell, even my dad and stepmom stopped by to see how I was doing. That was a nice surprise (and yes, they were originally supposed to be in the video, but their footage was corrupted as well).

My table wasn’t the most extravagant, but it still got some good traffic.

My favorite part though was probably all the people coming to my booth. I actually got quite a bit of traffic, even though my booth was one of the more understated of the convention. I handed out a lot of my business cards, but I also got to do plenty of Tarot readings, which most people found accurate to their circumstances. I’ve gotten very good at reading Tarot since Iowa last year, so I think that helped. That and maybe my cards really are magic.

And, of course, I got to sell some books. All my books–The Quiet Game, Snake, and Rose, as well as the chapbooks of “Agoraphobia” and “Mother of the King”–sold copies. And it was a delight to have so many people get excited to read my work, and then to sign said work for them. I hope I get to hear from them soon about what they thought.

All in all, I consider ParaPsyCon a great experience and came home exhausted but glad I went. I made some great memories (not to mention bought some great souvenirs), and managed to make about double what I put down on my table. And I got some great ideas on how to improve for next year should I go (which I think is a good possibility). For one thing, I’m investing in a sign with changeable letters, so that could draw in more attendees who like horror at future conventions.

For now though, I’ve got video evidence to review, souvenirs to hang up, a podcast tomorrow (click here to check that out), and–oh yeah, stories to write. Not to mention, I’ve got things I can’t talk about yet until the time is right and a day job that’s eating up a lot of my time. So I’ll catch up with you later, my Followers of Fear. I hope this post made you want to consider going to the next ParaPsyCon, no matter where you are right now.

Either that, or subscribe to my YouTube channel. Or both. I’m not picky.

Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

*I’ll be saving the supernatural stuff for another post, as I still have to look over some of the footage I took and see if I got anything spooky on camera. However, I can say that I did experience some things, so keep an eye out for more videos and another post.

Hello humans. Can you believe we’re two-thirds of the way through the month of May? Time is flying by almost too quickly. Though with the fun coming my way, I’m not sad or angry.

Anyway, I wanted to give you a heads up on some of the stuff going on in my professional life. Things are cropping up, and I want to make sure that you are all aware. And I hope some of you would like to know.

First, I’ll be joining my friend Dellani Oakes on her podcast What’s Write for Me on Wednesday! That’s right, I’ll be back on my good friend’s podcast for the first time since Rose first came out. That’s about two years, so I’m glad to finally have a reason to be back on the show. A few, actually: including my Arthurian fantasy “Mother of the King” and my creepy short story “Agoraphobia,” I have my short story “The Divorce from God” being published in The Jewish Book of Horror this Hanukkah and my article “The Horror of the Broken Child” in House of Stitched Publications. And who knows? I may have more good news to talk about when the show starts.

The logo for Dellani’s show.

So, why not get on now while I have the chance?

And even better, I’ll be joined by Scott Moses, an author and editor I’ve recently had the pleasure to get to know over Twitter. He’s got a new project or two to talk about, so I’m looking forward to hearing what he’s going to talk about and what we’re going to talk about with Dellani.

Anyway, if you would like to check out the show, it’ll be on Wednesday, May 26th, 2021 at 4 PM by clicking on this link. Also, make sure to check out Dellani’s website by clicking here. She writes more stories than I do, so who knows? You might find something you’d enjoy.

On another, much sadder note, I’m sad to say that Indie Author Book Expo Chicago has been canceled. Yeah, I’m sad too. But it looks like there was a COVID-19 issue with the venue, and I am very happy that the organizers are putting our health first. Speaking of whom, the organizers are looking for alternative venues in the Chicago area. However, at this time, I am guessing that I’ll have to find something else to do this June 19th, 2021 (and so will you). Too bad. I was looking forward to driving to and from Chicago. My first interstate road trip!

Sad to say, but this is canceled.

Anyway, I’ll let you know if it gets rescheduled and where and when. Keep an eye here for that here and on my social media pages. I’ll include links below.

This weekend!

On the bright side, guess what’s still going on this weekend? If you guessed ParaPsyCon, you are correct!

This Saturday and Sunday, ParaPsyCon will be held at the Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield, OH! I’m so excited to be heading back to the Reformatory and to be participating in this awesome convention. There will be ghost hunters, authors, psychics and mediums (oh my!), and so many others. All it takes to attend is to buy a self-guided tour of the prison, and you get automatic access to the convention. You can learn more by clicking on the link here. Hope to see you there.

Anyway, that’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I hope I’ll get to see you in some form or another soon. In the meantime, stay safe, enjoy the beautiful weather this weekend, and pleasant nightmares.

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I’ve always considered that receiving fan art is one of the highest compliments you can receive as a creator, as well as a sign that you really have made it as an author, illustrator, mangaka, YouTuber, video game designer, whatever. Last week, as I was celebrating the accomplishments of both a short story and an article being accepted by various publishers, I received another reason to celebrate: fan art.

Now, you might have seen on my blog, as well as on some of my social media accounts, mentions of my dragon bats. What are the dragon bats? Well, they’re bats, obviously. They’re big enough to earn the designation dragon, with a ten-foot wingspan. They have tough skin on their bellies that looks kind of scaly. They are carnivorous, and while they don’t breathe fire, their bites are either full of potent venom or very dangerous pathogens that can kill you in minutes. Either way, they’re like Komodo dragons: they’re the biggest of their kind, we’re not sure what’s in their bite, and we have to be very careful while finding out. And they have dragon in the name, though neither are proper dragons (Komodo dragons are actually the largest species of monitor lizards).

Also, a group of dragon bats is known as a coven. Just worth mentioning.

Anyway, the mention of my beautiful dragon bats inspired the artistic side of a particular Follower of Fear, my friend and fellow author Iseult Murphy. Before I knew it, she’d created a couple of pieces of fan art featuring her interpretation of the dragon bats. The first, which I received Friday, is below.

Pretty neat, huh? As you can see, I am on the right unleashing my dragon bats on what I can only assume is either a hapless victim or one of my noisier neighbors (I have a few, unfortunately). Said victim has lost their head while blood spurts out, which the dragon bats are slurping up. And at the top of the picture is “Congrats,” referring to my story and article being accepted.

Obviously, I loved it, so I went ahead and shared it across my Twitter, Facebook and Instagram profiles. Besides being from a friend, I was flattered that anyone was interested enough to create art based on my ideas and stories. And it was good artwork too, to boot.

Then yesterday, I got another surprise from Iseult. She made another piece of fan art!

I like this one too. It shows three dragon bats on a branch having a nap after gorging on blood and meat from helpless victims. I love the sheer amount of detail in this picture. The branches have a lot of detail you would expect from tree branches in real life, and I love how all three have different colors and characteristics. Kind of like Danaerys Targaryen’s dragon babies.

I love this artwork too, and obviously spread it around the social media channels too. And, as you can see, I decided to post both pieces here on my blog so they could be appreciated by a wider audience. But I also got to thinking. If the dragon bats were getting fan art, I should really write them into a story. Maybe give Iseult and other potential readers something for their creatives sides to cogitate on.

And yesterday, I did come up with a story. A short story or novelette featuring the dragon bats that I might work on later this year. It’ll be dark, creepy, and yes, very bloody and gory. And don’t worry Iseult, I’ll let you beta read it when it’s done. I won’t put you into the story, however. I only do that to people who have really wronged me in the past.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed Iseult’s interpretations of the dragon bats. If you see one or a coven in the future, please find some sort of shelter and hide, because they are vicious. And if you want to check out Iseult’s blog, which you can find here, I recommend you do. She does great fiction reviews and publishes her own dark and creepy fiction as well.

And thanks again for the fan art, Iseult. It means a lot to me and makes me really feel like I’ve made it as an author. I hope my strange ideas and stories continue to inspire you and many other creators in the future.


One last thing: I’m sure you’re tired of hearing this, but ParaPsyCon will be held this coming weekend, May 22nd and 23rd, at the Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield, OH. This is the biggest convention of authors, ghost hunters, psychics and mediums, and more around, at one of America’s most historic and haunted prisons. Cost of admission is one ticket for a self-guided tour of the prison, $25. I’ll be there selling copies of my books, reading Tarot, and hopefully having fun, so stop by if you can and say hi. More information on the website here.

Also, I’ll be in Chicago for Indie Author Book Expo Chicago at the Quarry Chi on June 19th, 2021. This is a small expo of an eclectic gathering of authors, so you’re bound to find something there that’s up your alley. So if you’re in the area, please stop by and say hi. You can find out more information on the website here.

And if you’re unable to make either of those events but still want to support me, I’ve got links to my books below. Please consider checking them out and, if you like what you read, please consider leaving a review somewhere. Positive or negative, I love reader feedback and it helps me, as well as other readers looking for something to read, in the long run.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I have to go feed my coven of dragon bats and then work on some of my side projects. Until next time, stay safe, hope to see you soon, and pleasant nightmares!

Agoraphobia: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada

Mother of the King: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada

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

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

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

Pour the drinks! Start the party music! Feed the dragon bats a little extra blood and meat with their dinner tonight! I’ve had two acceptances! That’s right, you read that correctly. Two. And I am so excited that the editors loved them enough to include them in upcoming publications, let alone that you will get to read them.

So, the first acceptance actually came last week, but I only just got permission to start screaming from the high heavens. A short story I wrote is being accepted by “The Jewish Book of Horror,” an anthology from the Denver Horror Collective coming out this holiday season in time for Hanukkah. That’s right, a book emphasizing horror from a Jewish slant. When I first heard of that, I knew I had to write something for it, which I did: a short story called “The Divorce from God.”

I’m adding to Jewish literature! It’s not typical Jewish literature, but I’m not complaining!

“The Divorce from God” is a story that was inspired by the New York divorce coercion gang. For those of you who haven’t heard, the New York divorce coercion gang was a group of ultra-Orthodox Jews who forced men into divorces. Yeah, even the Jews have our fair share of fanatics, and they do bad things sometimes. In this case, they meddled in divorces. In traditional Judaism, divorce has to be granted by the husband, and occasionally that’s held over the wife’s head to hurt her. Normally, non-violent means are sought to encourage the husband to grant a divorce, but in this case, the gang members went to violent means. It’s pretty sick and twisted stuff and I encourage you to read up on it if you’re curious.

Anyway, I took the case and put my own fictional spin on the story. After letting some beta readers give me some feedback, I made some edits and submitted it. And I’m happy to say it’ll end up in the anthology! Woo-hoo! I get to be part of a big contribution to Jewish literature while still being scary! I’m sure my parents and teachers and rabbis are proud of me.

Also, apologies that I didn’t write a blog post for this story like I usually do. The subject matter and the targeted anthology was so specific, I didn’t want to post about it only for it to maybe get rejected. But I’m telling you now, so it’s all good, right?

And today, I got some more good news! I wrote an essay recently on a character trope I call “the broken child.” What is that? Well, you’ll have to wait till August to find out. It’s going to be published in the August edition of House of Stitched magazine (don’t you just love that name?). They were looking for articles on the craft and process of horror writing, and I’d been turning over some article/essay ideas in my head, including an examination of the broken child. I wrote it and sent it in, keeping my fingers crossed. And today they sent me a contract. I signed and now I’m on cloud nine!

I mean, wouldn’t you be? Last year, I was only able to release one story. But two months ago, I was able to get an article published on Ginger Nuts of Horror and release a new scary story. And in just one week, I was able to get a short story and an article accepted as well! It’s very encouraging and makes me hopeful for what’s to come.

I’ve been writing up a storm lately. Glad to see it’s been worth it.

A big thanks to the Denver Horror Collective, who will be putting out “The Jewish Book of Horror,” for accepting “The Divorce from God.” And an equally big thank you to the team of Stitched Smile Publications, the publisher of House of Stitched magazine, for accepting “The Horror of the Broken Child.” I’m so excited to be working with both of you and I hope your readers enjoy my contributions as much as I hope you did.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I hope you’ll pick up a copy of the August issue of House of Stitched magazine and “The Jewish Book of Horror” once they’re released. I’m off to enjoy a walk in the nice weather. I’ll probably also have a beer or two tonight in celebration as well. And I’ll be working on my next short story as well. Gotta keep up the writing and submitting so I can get a few more stories out there.

Until next time, my Followers of Fear, stay safe, pleasant nightmares, and don’t approach my dragon bats! They may be cute, but they’re alpha predators for a reason.

Yep, I’m doing this again. But I gotta make sure people know. Otherwise, how will people know to come?

So, if you’re unaware, I’m doing some events as an author this spring and summer. And, in the hopes that some of my Followers of Fear might join me at one or two of them, I’m updating you on the details of each.

First off, we have ParaPsyCon 2021, which I’m glad to say is happening! ParaPsyCon is a convention hosting plenty of ghost hunters, psychics and mediums, and authors (including yours truly), among other things. The convention takes place this May 22nd and 23rd at the Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield, OH. If you recognize this building, it’s the former prison where they filmed Shawshank Redemption, and is one of the most famous haunted prisons in America. Cost of admission is just one ticket for a self-guided tour of the prison, so you can see where they filmed famous scenes from the movie and then check out the convention.

I’ll be there selling copies of my books, including chapbooks of “Mother of the King” and “Agoraphobia,” as well as doing Tarot readings and selling a few other odds and ends. And who knows? Maybe I’ll catch a ghost on camera. You never know. Anyway, hope to see you there. And if you want more information, please click on the link here.

The other event I’m currently scheduled to be at (assuming I don’t sell out at ParaPsyCon), is the Indie Author Book Expo, or IABE, in Chicago on June 19th. And as you can see, I’ve included the posters above.

IABE Chicago is from the same group who hosted the expo I was at in Des Moines last year (you can read all about that here). It’s got a very eclectic mix of authors coming by the Quarry Chi in Chicago. So, if any of my Followers of Fear, or anyone who would be interested, happen to be in Chicago (or Illinois in general), please feel free to stop by. And for more information on IABE’s events, click this link here.

Anyway, that’s all I got going on right now, my Followers of Fear. I’m trying to set up more events for summer and fall, particularly around the Halloween season, so I’ll let you know if any of that turns out to be successful. In the meantime, I hope some of you are able to stop by the events. And if you’re not able to, then maybe consider alleviating your boredom and supporting me at the same time by checking out some of my stories.

Yes, I’m doing another plug for my books, but can you blame me? Gotta get them into readers’ hands somehow!

Anyway, I’ll leave the links to my work below. And if you like what you read, please consider leaving a review online. Reviews not only help me out, but they also help other readers decide whether or not a story is worth their time.

That’s all for now. Until next time, my Followers of Fear, stay safe and pleasant nightmares!

Agoraphobia: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada

Mother of the King: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada

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

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

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

Well, this was a great day. I got out of work early (long story, don’t ask), which allowed me to finish the third draft of The Pure World Comes around 5:30 PM. And that was great, because by coincidence I was going to meet some friends who had also had their vaccinations for dinner and drinks. So I had the opportunity to turn a good night out with friends into a celebration.

Of course, then I had to wait till I was good to drive before coming home. And then I had to take a shower and check my email and whatnot. Hence why I’m writing this so damn late. Sorry about that. But hey, sometimes that’s life.

So, if you’re not aware, The Pure World Comes is a Victorian Gothic novel I wrote last year revolving around a maid who goes to work for a man who could be charitably called a mad scientist. I did a second draft a few months ago and sent them off to some beta readers for feedback. After getting their feedback and finishing the latest draft of River of Wrath, I started on the third draft. And after only a week or so, the third draft is completed!

Now, this story has always been a lot of fun for me to work on. I’m a huge fan of the Victorian era of British history (see my reasons here), and this novel was a love letter to that era. But this draft was especially fun because I got to read my beta readers’ comments while I worked. They really enjoyed the story and had a lot of good suggestions to improve the story. It’s great hearing what people think of your story (which is why it’s so important to leave reviews after reading an author’s story, by the by). But getting such positive feedback while the story’s still being refined was especially nice and made me hopeful for the story’s future.

Speaking of which, what is the future of this story? Well, it’s late, so I’m not going to do anything further with it tonight. However, tomorrow I’m going to try to submit it. As I said when I finished River of Wrath, I usually start shopping novels after the third draft. And based on the feedback I got on the second draft and the improvements I’ve made, I think this draft has a good chance of finding a home pretty quickly.

As for my next writing project…tough to say. I’ve been mulling a few ideas for short stories, especially ones I could write for specific anthologies. On the other hand, I recently had an idea for another story set in Victorian England, and I at least want to develop it a bit more. Problem is, that story has a good chance of becoming a longer project, maybe another novel if I’m not careful (and I’m not always too careful about word length). So, I might have to mull it a few days.

Whatever I choose, so long as I’m having fun with it, it’ll be okay.

Well, that’s all for now. I’m heading to bed so I’m not a wreck at work tomorrow. Until next time, good night, pleasant nightmares, and please consider getting vaccinated if you’re able to. It’ll protect your health, the health of others, and maybe allow us to move out of this insanity of a pandemic sooner.

As many of you know, I recently read and reviewed Whisper Down the Lane by Clay McLeod Chapman (read my review here). And now, I’m very happy to let you know that I recently was able to connect with Mr. Chapman and pick his brain a bit. So you know what happens next, Followers of Fear: it’s a brand new author interview!

So, without further ado, let me introduce Clay McLeod Chapman!

Rami Ungar: Clay, welcome to the show. It’s good to have you. Please tell us about yourself and a bit about what you do.

Clay McLeod Chapman: First off, just to say it, thanks for having me out… I really appreciate you inviting me to answer some questions and chat about Whisper Down the Lane.

So. My name’s Clay. I was born at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Roanoke, Virginia, and eventually raised in Richmond. I lived in Virginia for pretty much all my childhood, with a year in North Carolina, before moving up to New York. That’s been home for over twenty years now.

As far as my work is concerned, I’ve been pretty damn fortunate to live a humble existence writing and telling stories in a few different mediums… I get to write fiction, both short stories and novels for readers both young and old, while also writing for comics, film and television, theater and podcasting. It’s been a master-of-none kind of life.

RU: Tell us about Whisper Down the Lane. What is it about, how did you come up with it, and what was it like writing it?

CMC: Whisper Down the Lane is a story told in two different time-lines—one set in 1983 and the other in 2013—and how the moral mania of the Satanic Panic period of the 80s continues to echo out into our contemporary culture. The basic premise is: Sean, five years old, tells a little white lie to his mother. That lie ripples out and effects his family, his friends and classmates at school, the teachers and the administration, on to the community at large and then consuming the rest of the country…

Now, imagine thirty years later, meeting a man named Richard. He’s a newly-married teacher with a stepson. Life is good, until one day, the lies that Sean told decades ago somehow seem to manifest themselves within Richard’s life. The stories Sean made up as a boy are becoming true for Richard.

The past is never quite through with us, I guess you could say, no matter how hard you try to run away.

The idea for Whisper Down the Lane came about when I had a dinnertime conversation with my mother about a particular moment that I remembered from my childhood… that she insisted wasn’t true. It was unnerving to me because the two of us couldn’t reach a consensus point on this specific event that I would’ve sworn was true, but she was pretty emphatic was not. If she was right and this memory wasn’t real, what else about my childhood was I wrong about? What else could I have made up in my imagination? This led me to think a lot about false memory syndrome or repressed memory therapy, which was one of the foundational aspects to the Satanic Panic period… planting the seed for Whisper.

Writing the novel was pretty terrifying, to be honest. I’m not an author who comes to the table with a lot of confidence, and this project in particular always threatened to get away from me. I had very little self-esteem while writing it, essentially working in a constant state of panic… which I think, to a certain extent, actually aided in the paranoia that runs rampant throughout the narrative. Not that I personally recommend writing anything under those conditions.

RU: The story is heavily influenced by the Satanic Panic and the McMartin preschool trials of the 1980s. Do you have any memories of those events and did they have any influence on the book?

CMC: As a child of the 80s, essentially living in a Spielbergian lens flare, I do remember the vaguest hints of Satanic Panic. I definitely didn’t know about the McMartin preschool, but I was certainly entrenched in stranger danger and the vocabulary of the devil… As children, my friends and I were told to always watch out for the white van with no windows that prowled our neighborhood. I vividly remember seeing with my own eyes a spray-painted pentagram on the walls of our neighborhood swimming pool. It was a wild time to be a kid, because our parents essentially let us loose after school to Schwinn throughout the neighborhood with zero supervision… It was amazing we didn’t break our necks or get run over. And yet, there were these warnings from our parents about some ethereal threat: Men we didn’t know who would lure us into their cars with promises of candy or long-haired teens smoking cigarettes and spray-painting pentagrams while listening to heavy metal music. Our parents made boogeymen out the things they were scared of, in order to frighten us into complicity, but I think in an odd way it just made these potential risks feel all the more mythic. This all rooted the writing the novel in a pretty personal place… I got to write about what scared me as a kid. Ozzy Osbourne or the razor blade in the chocolate bar. 

RU: I found the characters and the paranoia that spread among those characters to be very believable. How did you accomplish making these characters and their terror feel so real?

CMC: Well… whew. Thanks for saying that. It’s a huge relief to hear. I’m a big fan of Poe and the unreliable narrator, so for Richard in particular, I wanted to map out the mental trajectory of a narrator losing his mind. You have to start with a sturdy foundation before you can really chisel away at the bedrock below a character like that… so I found myself really having to exercise restraint before going batshit. This book needed to be a slow burn. Lay down the mental/emotional landscape first, then destroy it.

For Sean, which was a more difficult section to write, everything had to be filtered through the perspective of a five-year-old and somehow still feel believable. Writing through a child’s eyes, I feel, can be the kiss of death for a lot of books because the prose itself seems to talk down to the reader, as if they were a child themselves. It’s a tough balance to get the innocence and naiveté to ring true, while also keeping a toe-hold of a narrative that extends beyond the purview of a child… Third person certainly helps.

But here’s the truth: For both Richard and Sean, I’m just writing about things that scare me. I was—to an extent—that kid growing up, so I simply chose to write from a perspective of what frightened me as a boy. Now I’m a dad who’s utterly petrified of sending my sons into this dangerous, terrifying world… so I get to write about that newfound fear of mine. When the horror is personal, when the horror comes home, I think it simply rings true in a way it wouldn’t otherwise.

RU: What was research for the novel like? Did you learn anything that you didn’t already know that surprised you?

CMC: This book was a complete joy to research. I say ‘joy’ and I don’t mean to sound glib. I find the whole period utterly fascinating. I got to read so many amazing books on the subject… I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my most favorite: We Believe the Children by Richard Beck. It’s an absolute must for anyone who’s curious about the Satanic Panic period.

RU: You also have experience in the comics and film industries, among others. Can we maybe look forward to a graphic novel or movie adaptation of Whisper?

CMC: Well… I’d be lying if I didn’t say I would happily sell my soul to the devil for a film (or television) adaptation.

RU: Wouldn’t we all. Now, I know you had a novel accepted by the same publisher as Whisper. Can you tell us anything about that book?

CMC: I can’t say much about the next book quite yet… It’s a ghost story, though, which I’m really excited about. I wanted to write a haunted house story and essentially spent most of my quarantine imbibing as much gothic literature as I could. We’ll see how much of it seeps into the next book, but I’ve got high hopes.

RU: Finally, data to back up my claim that people would be reading/producing a lot of Gothic and haunted house stories during this pandemic (see my initial prediction here).

Anyway, when you’re not writing, what are you doing with your time?

CMC: Those damn kids, man… I’m telling you. Raising children during these uncertain times. I’m just keeping their lung tissue as clean as humanly possible.

RU: For which I wish you the best of luck. I have enough trouble with my own lungs and people not wearing masks around me. Now, what advice would you give other writers, regardless of background or experience?

CMC: It’s an old saw, but it’s honestly the best advice—the only advice—anyone should ever give or follow: You got to put in the time. You got to write. I’ve written so much junk, and I still do… But I have to get it out of my system. I need to exercise the muscle of my imagination in order to exorcise these stories. If I don’t write them out, they just get clogged in my head. Are they all worth reading? Absolutely not. But they won’t be haunting me any longer. I’m free.

RU: I hear that. Final question: if you were stuck on a desert island for a while and could bring only three books with you for entertainment, which ones would you bring?

CMC: Geek Love by Katherine Dunn. Vice by Ai (or The Collected Poems of Ai). The Tin Drum by Gunther Grass.

Thanks so much for chatting with me! This was a total blast… Looking forward to chatting some more!

RU: Thank you for stopping by. Please let us know when your next book comes out and we’ll get you back on the show!

If you enjoyed this interview, you can check out Clay McLeod Chapman on his website, as well as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Make sure to also check out Whisper Down the Lane (after reading my review, of course). And if you’re an author with something coming out soon and would like to be interviewed, consider sending me an email at ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com. If I’m able, we’ll make some magic happen.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m going to take a walk before I get to work on dinner and watch a movie. Until next time, happy reading, stay safe and pleasant nightmares!