Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

I can’t believe it’s been nearly a year since I did one of these! No kidding, the last one was December 4th, 2020. What a gap. Thanks to my friend and fellow writer Iseult Murphy for reminding me this is a thing and to do it again.

So, if you’re unfamiliar with #FirstLineFriday, this was a meme I used to do quite often as a way to get people’s opinions of opening lines for stories (opening lines can be the hardest part of writing fiction sometimes). Here are the rules I usually went with:

  1. Create a post on your blog called #FirstLineFriday, hashtag and all.
  2. Explain the rules like I’m doing now.
  3. Post the first line or two of a potential story, a story-in-progress, or a completed/published story.
  4. Ask your readers for feedback and try to get them to try #FirstLineFriday themselves on their blogs. Tagging is encouraged but not necessary.

This time, however, I’m doing it with a twist. I’ve been lucky enough to have a bunch of publications recently, including two novelettes and a novel. So, I’m going to give you the first three openings of each of these works! Triple Publication Edition! Woo-hoo!

First, we have “Cressida,” my mermaid horror story, which was released in Into the Deep, from Jazz House Publications. I’m really proud of this story and think it’s some of my best work. And my dad, who just read it recently, agrees. Enjoy:

Mark Honig drove the rental car towards his uncle’s beach home. On the driver’s side was a great cliff face dappled with green moss, while on the other side the ocean lapped against the cliff face dappled with barnacles and mollusks.

“Cressida,” Into the Deep, July 2021.

It’s a quiet opening, but at least it paints an image in your head. Enough to make you keep reading and get to the good stuff, I hope.

Our next story is “Blood and Paper Skin,” which is being serialized in Issues 8-10 of The Dark Sire. The story is about a bunch of teens that end up trapped in a jail-like room in someone’s basement for a dark purpose. I’m looking forward to how people react to the conclusion. For now, though, here’s the opening:

Grey held onto the side of Mark’s Chevy Tahoe for dear life, cursing his supposed best friend for making him endure the chilly winds whipping around the car. How the hell did I end up in this situation? he wondered for the millionth time.

“Blood and Paper Skin,” The Dark Sire Issue 8, July 31, 2021.

A guy hanging onto the side of a car. What a way to open a story. I had fun with that. And guess what? It was inspired by something I saw last year on my birthday.

And last but definitely not least, the opening of my novel The Pure World Comes. This was published on the Readict app, run by VitaleTek Inc. The novel follows a maid in Victorian England who goes to work for a mad scientist. It’s my love letter to Victorian England and to Gothic literature.

A stream of shit and piss fell from the second floor of the Avondale house to the street below, where it mixed with the piss, shit and mud that already littered the avenue. From the second-floor window of Mr. Avondale’s dressing room, Shirley Dobbins put down the chamber pot belonging to Mr. and Mrs. Avondale and picked up the one belonging to their daughter, Miss Lucinda.

The Pure World Comes Ch. 1, August 2021

How many novels start with piss and shit? I don’t know, but this one does! And it sums up Victorian living in many ways.

But what do you think of these openings? Did anything catch your eyes and make you want to read more? Let me know in the comments below. And if you want to read the rest of the stories, I’ll leave the links for them below.

And as for who should do this next, I’m going to tag Priscilla Bettis, Allen Huntsman, and Brian B Baker. You don’t have to, but it would tickle me if you did. And I hope you’ll tag back here if you do the challenge.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. It’s past midnight, so I’ll see all your comments in the morning. Until next time (which should be soon, believe it or not), pleasant nightmares!

The Pure World Comes: Readict app (free with ads)

The Dark Sire Issue 8: Amazon

Into the Deep: Paperback, Ebook

I’ve been working on editing a collection of original short stories for the past month and a half. I was shopping this collection around, but after getting a few rejections, I thought I’d spend some time on the collection and see if I could edit the stories and make them better.

Since July, I’ve been going over each story, taking out the weak ones or the ones that will need more than a single draft to be polished up and making the rest presentable for submission. And as of today, after rewriting the final third of the final story, I’m done with the collection!

Honestly, I’m glad I decided to take another look at some of these stories. It had been a while since I looked at some of them, so I noticed problems that I hadn’t noticed before. One story needed a lot more added to the ending before I could call it finished. Another needed an entire section taken out for being extraneous. One story needed to be removed because it needs a lot more work before I can consider putting it out for publication. And one was just terrible, so I trashed it (sometimes it happens).

But overall, I’m satisfied with the work I did on this collection. And as I sip a beer and write this post, I think I’m ready to send this collection out again. Whether or not it’ll find a publisher, I’m not sure, but I think it’ll be a lot more successful in that department than I was before. And if I still have trouble, I have enough confidence in these stories that I think I could self-publish it without any issues.

Or without too many issues, at least.

Anyway, besides submitting this collection, I’ll be putting the final touches on a few other projects before sending them out. After that, I have two stories I’ll need to edit before I can submit them anywhere. And after that…I don’t know. I definitely want to work on some more shorter works, but I’m also warming up to the idea of starting work on another novel. Maybe this November or December (though not as a NaNoWriMo project). We’ll see what happens.

Anyway, that’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ve got a collection to start shopping around. Until next time, good night, pleasant nightmares and WATCH OUT FOR THE AX MURDERER!!!

Hi everyone! Just a quick update on events I’ll be at.

First off, a reminder: Indie Author Book Expo in Aurora, Illinois is cancelled! Don’t show up at the Prisco Community Center on September 11th, 2021! Yeah, this pandemic is messing up a lot of events. But anyway, don’t show up at the event if you’re in the area.

However, October is going to have a few events. As you already know, I’m going to be at the Licking County Local Author Festival on Saturday, October 16th, in Newark, Ohio. It’ll be at the Downtown Library at 101 W. Main Street. I’ll be selling copies of my books in time for Halloween and selling Halloween knickknacks to boot.

And guess what? Something’s being planned for Wednesday, October 13th in Columbus. Name of the event and other details haven’t been finalized yet, but we’ve got a venue and a time and date. I’ll hopefully have more for you soon enough.

Anyway, that’s all for now. This is, as I said, just a quick update. If any more events turn up, or if there are any changes, I’ll let you know. And if you’re not able to make those events, I’ll leave links to my work below. That way you can check them out yourself if you so desire (and getting this close to Halloween, I highly recommend it).

Until next time, Followers of Fear, pleasant nightmares!

The Pure World Comes: Readict app

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

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

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

Agoraphobia: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada

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

What would happen if I featured my faith more in my stories? Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

I’ve been thinking a lot lately on Jews in the media I consume.

As you probably know, in addition to being an eldritch abomination from another universe in human form, I’m Jewish (we need faith too, you know). I’m not super-religious, but I follow many rituals and feel close to my heritage and my definition of God. But except for a couple of stories, my religion doesn’t really show in my writing. Or at least, characters who share my faith don’t show up in my stories a lot.

There could be a lot of reasons for that. Part of it could be that horror, the genre I’m drawn to and find most exciting, doesn’t necessarily need religion. Horror may draw on religious beliefs a lot, but that doesn’t mean the stories are religious. Religious elements are just tools for telling a good horror story. Also, Judaism itself isn’t really a scary religion. We don’t have a Devil or Hell, and demons and evil spirits are still subservient to God’s Will and Plan. Beyond golems and dybbuks, the biggest sources of horror for us is our history of being oppressed. And finally, I may have never felt a real need to emphasize the beliefs of my characters. It just doesn’t matter that much. Unless I need to state it, their religion is, “Whatever.”

But lately, I’ve been thinking a bit about that. It started with an essay on Variety about Jews in Hollywood and how we’re represented that brought up some good points. I’ll let you read the article yourself, but it made me aware that I don’t see many members of my faith in the media I consume. And that includes in horror. Yeah, there are some: Stan Uris in IT; Yakov Ronen in The Vigil (one of the best horror films I’ve seen yet this year); Tzadok in The Possession (played by musician Matisyahu, believe it or not); and then some.

But still, it’s a small number. And in an age with resurgent anti-Semitism, I feel like that’s something that needs to change.

Besides, I want to challenge myself. What kind of stories can I tell with a Jewish character as a lead? And not just any kind of Jew, but an amalgamation of the Jews I’ve known throughout my life, from secular to religious and old to young, from all walks of life and all types of spirituality? What if I decided, for a few stories, not to make their religions “whatever?”

Well, I actually already know the answer to that. As you probably are aware, my short story “The Divorce from God” is to appear in The Jewish Book of Horror this holiday season, and a short story in this collection I’m working on has two Jewish men as the leads. And I like to think both stories are good (I only have confirmation of one).

But what if I expand that? What if I tell more tales–not all of them, but some of them–with my fellow members of the Tribe? What if their faith is both an aspect of themselves, though not the only one, and a source of strength? What if the lead is that amalgamation I mentioned?

Well, perhaps I’ll find out sooner rather than later. I’ve mentioned it before, but I’m thinking of working on another novel after I’ve finished editing this collection and a couple more stories. And while I don’t think it’s necessary for the lead, I can also see them being Jewish. It could actually fit them very well.

We’ll see what the future holds.

I look forward to the stories I write in this vein.

You know, it’s funny. At one point when I was young, a grown up tried telling me I should write less horror and more of what I know. Which at the time was mainly going to a Jewish day school, having rabbis for parents and being annoyed by my sisters. I absolutely refused, telling this well-meaning grown up “that would be boring.” I think they were worried I was going to turn out to be some psychopath who murdered people in basements and then wrote about it (we horror lovers and creators are so misunderstood!). Still, I wasn’t going to write something I wasn’t attracted to or found boring. Stories are an escape from reality, not a regurgitation!

Now I want to incorporate what I know into a horror story. I guess it’s true what they say, when people “write what they know,” they’re writing it in a completely different way than expected. I wonder that well-meaning adult would make of this now? Hopefully they’d be intrigued enough to read it (and realize I grew up much more well-adjusted than they anticipated).

Anyway, it’s late and this post has gotten insanely long. I’m going to sign off and say Shabbat Shalom, an early Happy New Year (Rosh Hashanah starts Monday evening, it’s our New Year), pleasant nightmares, and a good night. See you next time, my Followers of Fear!

Have you ever written part of or an entire novel, and then nothing has happened to it? Maybe you edited the hell out of it and tried to find a publisher. Maybe you got some feedback from a beta reader that made you hesitate to put it out in the world. Or maybe you realized that, as much as you loved it and as much work as you put into it, it’s not very good and you’re better off moving on. So this project you’ve worked months or even years on gets put away, stored in a box or on a shelf or in a file drive to gather dust and likely never see the light of day.

If you have one of these novels, you have a “trunk novel.”

What are trunk novels, you may be asking? Well, trunk novels are as I said above: novels that were put away because, for one reason or another, they weren’t suitable to be released or marketed. Prior to computer storage, you might literally put them in a trunk so nobody ever saw them but you. Hence the name.

At least, I think that’s how it got its name. Tracking down the origin of the term was kind of impossible.

In any case, it happens more than we like to admit. We write a story and no matter how hard we try, it doesn’t get past the first draft or never leaves our computers. We may have thought it was the next big thing, or something that could have been published and been a small success, or at least could have gotten a publisher or agent interested. But in the end, it just doesn’t cut the mustard in one way or another, so it gets stowed away somewhere. You may say you’ll work on it again someday, but rarely does that happen.

And it happens to all of us. Really. Even Stephen King has them. He wrote four novels before Carrie was published. Only one of the previous three, Rage, was ever published (and King kind of regrets that). I did a poll in one or two horror writing groups I belong to, and all of the people who answered have trunk novels somewhere in their pasts.

I have several from my younger years, finished and unfinished, that are trunk novels. And one of the novels I wrote in college, Laura Horn, which I am still really proud of, is pretty much a trunk novel now. Why? Several reasons, but the fact that some of the events in the book resemble events that occurred in recent years might have something to do with it. Putting the book out given what’s happened in the last five years just feels wrong.

And I guess you could consider the Reborn City books trunk novels, even though I previously self-published them before taking them out of circulation.

And you know what? That’s alright. Yeah, our feelings towards our trunk novels may sometimes be complex. And we may regret at times that the stories never saw the light of day. But they are still important milestones in our career. They are the results learning to become writers, to learn what works in writing fiction and in learning the discipline of writing. They are the foundation of becoming us. Of becoming the authors we were meant to be.

So, as much as it sucks when a novel goes into the trunk, don’t regret it or feel too bad. It’s just another foundation stone in what is becoming your career.

Do you think I should get one of these and put literal manuscripts inside?

All that being said, I hope none of my completed, as of yet unpublished novels go into the trunk. I’m still shopping around River of Wrath with the hopes of finding a publisher for it, and I plan to work on Toyland again someday soon in the hopes of shopping that around too. What will happen to them? I honestly don’t know. But if they do end up in the trunk? Well, at least I had a hell of a time working on them and honing my skills with them.

Do you have any trunk novels? Would you mind talking about them with me? How do you feel about them? Let’s discuss.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I still have time left in the evening and I have only one story left in the collection I’ve been editing, so I’m going to get to work on that. Afterwards, I have a couple more short stories to edit (including one with dragon bats in it), and then…well, I’m not sure. A couple of new short stories? Perhaps a new novel? I’ve certainly been itching to get into something longer. And now that The Pure World Comes is out (check it out on the Readict app), I think I can afford to put together another sixty thousand-plus word story of terror and woe. We’ll see what happens.

Until next time, my Followers of Fear, good night, pleasant nightmares and–OH NO! MY TRUNK NOVELS, AS WELL AS MY TRUNK NOVELLAS, TRUNK NOVELETTES, AND TRUNK SHORT STORIES, HAVE BEEN COMBINED TO FORM A GIANT MONSTER MADE OF PAPER! Excuse me while I get the boom stick and fight it off. Ta ta!

Last month, you might have heard about a novel of mine, The Pure World Comes, being accepted for publication. To be specific, the story was accepted at VitalTek Inc, the owner of the Readict literature app. Here’s the blurb I wrote up for the novel:

Shirley Dobbins wants nothing more than to live a quiet life and become a head housekeeper at a prestigious house. So when she is invited to come work for the mysterious baronet Sir Joseph Hunting at his estate, she thinks it is the chance of a lifetime. However, from the moment she arrives things are not what they seem. As she becomes wrapped up in more of the baronet’s radical science, she realizes something dark and otherworldly is loose within the estate. And if left unchecked, it’ll claim the lives of all she holds dear.

Not a bad summary for a Gothic horror novel set during the Victorian era, is it?

What appears on my phone when I pulled up The Pure World Comes today.

Anyway, I’ve a nice surprise for you. As of this morning, The Pure World Comes has been released on Readict’s app! That’s right, it’s out!

Honestly, it feels a little unreal. Things happened so quickly.

Regardless, I’m excited that the book is out and I can’t wait for you all to read it. You can get the Readict app from your app store of choice (I think I use Google on my phone). Please make sure to check it out. And if you do read it, please let me know what you think. Positive or negative, I love reader feedback, and it helps me out in the long run.

As for whether or not it’ll end up on ebook or paperback, I’ll keep that to myself for now. But I never say never.

Of course, I still have plenty of stories in paperback and ebook if you’re interested. I’ll leave links below in case you want to see. I wonder, will you check out my collection of short stories? Or my serial killer thriller? Or the fantasy-horror story of a young woman turned into a plant creature? Whatever you choose, I hope you enjoy it.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I have a busy evening ahead of me with this story out. Until next time, good night, happy reading, and pleasant nightmares!

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

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

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

Agoraphobia: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada

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

Richard Chizmar, author of Chasing the Boogeyman.

Back in late 2019, I had the opportunity to interview Richard Chizmar, owner and publisher of Cemetery Dance Publications, as well as the author of several stories (including one or two in collaboration with Stephen King). Well, a lot’s happened since then, and Mr. Chizmar has a new novel called Chasing the Boogeyman that’s just released, Chasing the Boogeyman. In this novel, Chizmar himself plays the protagonist as he returns home post-college to write, prepare for a wedding…and deal with a serial killer that is hunting in his hometown.

I got to sit down with Mr. Chizmar to discuss the new book, the COVID-19 pandemic, and what he’s been reading lately. Here’s what we talked about.

Rami Ungar: Mr. Chizmar, welcome back to the show. Tell us about Chasing the Boogeyman and how the novel came to be.

Richard Chizmar: I always wanted to write a novel set in my hometown of Edgewood, Maryland. I pretty much assumed it would be a big fat coming-of-age horror novel – in the vein of IT or SUMMER OF NIGHT – but that’s not how it worked out. Instead, I couldn’t shake the idea of a small town being held hostage by a monster of the human variety. A town on the verge of losing its innocence and never being able to gain it back. In the summer of 1988, after graduating from college, I got engaged and my fiancée and I decided it would be smart to save rent money until the wedding. So I moved back in with my parents for a period of eight or nine months to work on the first issue of Cemetery Dance and write short stories. It was a strangely wonderful time. There I was standing on the doorstep of full-fledged adulthood, yet I was living in the house I’d grown up in and eating dinner with my mother and father most nights. It was an interesting period in my life, very fertile creatively, and it felt like the perfect setting for a novel about innocence and terror.

RU: You made yourself a character in the novel. Can you tell me how you decided to do that and what writing your character was like? Was it difficult or did you find it easy?

RC: It happened very naturally. When I first started jotting down notes for CHASING THE BOOGEYMAN I quickly realized how much of my true self would be surfacing in the story. I was writing about my past, my family and friends, my hometown, and most importantly, my early life hopes and fears. It just made sense to me, in that moment, that I wouldn’t even pretend to be someone else. Once I got past those normal early feelings of self-doubt, the rest of it was a breeze. It almost felt self-indulgent at times because I was having so much fun.

RU: Speaking of your character, would you say your character is close to what you’re like in real life?

RC: My character in the book is as close to the real me at age twenty-two as I could make him. In real life instances that occurred within the novel, I drew on memory and described them exactly as I remembered. When it came to the make-believe, I asked myself: what do you think you would have done? How do you think you would have acted or reacted? And then I put pen to paper as honestly as I could. That was important to me, and a promise I made to myself when I first started writing the book.  

RU: Going back to the boogeyman in the title, what do you think it is about the boogeyman character that makes it and its equivalents in other cultures enduring figures in our collective imaginations?

RC: Two things: longevity and proximity. The Boogeyman – in its various forms – has been around forever. That dark shape lurking in the woods or the alleyways or the shadowed neighborhood streets has always existed and been feared. And every town has one. Just like every small town has a haunted house located somewhere within its borders, every town also has its Boogeyman.

RU: I’ve been hearing this novel hyped for about a year now. What’s it like having one of the most anticipated novels of 2021?

RC: On the one hand, it’s very exciting when readers are talking about your book so far in advance and there’s a lot of positive press and buzz. On the other hand, it’s also nerve-wracking and can feel like a lot of pressure. I just try to roll with the punches as they come and enjoy the moment. Even eleven months ago when the book was first announced, I knew that publication day would be here before I knew it. From Day One, I’ve been determined to enjoy the process as much as possible. I’ve been in the business now for close to 35 years and CHASING THE BOOGEYMAN is technically my debut novel (GWENDY’S MAGIC FEATHER was billed as a novel, but it’s really a short novella), so it’s natural that it would come with a decent amount of fanfare. I just hope it does well for Simon & Schuster who really believed in the book.

RU: Pivoting to a new subject, you’re still running Cemetery Dance Publications and Cemetery Dance magazine. Have you noticed a change in the fiction you’ve been getting since the COVID-19 pandemic began? If so, what?

RC: That’s an interesting question. Unfortunately, I don’t have an interesting answer. We haven’t been open to public submissions for a while, so I haven’t seen any sort of trends developing. My bet is that we’ll see those trends appearing in published fiction over the next couple years.

RU: I have no doubt about that! Speaking of which, what have you been doing while stuck inside during the pandemic? Has it had an effect on your writing and productivity?

Chasing the Boogeyman. Available now.

RC: I’m pretty much a recluse in even the best of times, so the pandemic didn’t really affect my day-to-day comings and goings as much as it did most folks. In between insanely long bouts of cable news viewing, I managed to write a couple novels and a handful of short stories and essays. I was pretty pleased with that output.

RU: I guess we had a similar pandemic writing experience, then. Now, can you tell us about your upcoming projects?

RC: I’m about to start working on a new novel, which I’m too superstitious to say much about. In February of next year, GWENDY’S FINAL TASK, the third book in the Gwendy Trilogy, will be published. As with the first book, I co-wrote this one with Stephen King and had an absolute blast. Hopefully, after that, there will be a new novel release, as well as a collection of novellas. 

RU: Good luck! And finally, what are some books you’ve read recently that you would recommend to others?

RC: I’ve been on a good run of reading lately. One gem after the other. GOBLIN by Josh Malerman. THE BURNING GIRLS by C.J. Tudor. MY HEART IS A CHAINSAW by Stephen Graham Jones. ROAD OF BONES by Chris Golden. THE FINAL GIRL SUPPORT GROUP by Grady Hendrix. I’ve been spoiled!

RU: Oh, one of those is on my TBR list. Glad to know you recommend it.

If you would like to check out Chasing the Boogeyman, it’s currently out and available wherever fine books are sold (or lent if, like me, you went to your local library). And if you would like to keep up with Richard Chizmar, you can find him on his website, on his Twitter, and on Cemetery Dance’s website and Twitter.

If you would like to check out other author interviews, including my first with Mr. Chizmar, you can find it on my Interviews page.

And if you’re an author with something coming out soon and want to have an interview with me, email me at ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com. If I’m available, we can make some magic happen.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ll be back with a couple of new reviews this week, as well as some other stuff so this blog doesn’t become a review and interview blog (nothing wrong with that, but it’s not what this blog is). Until next time, good night and pleasant nightmares.

Maxwell I. Gold, author of Oblivion in Flux.

After so many years of writing and networking, I’ve had the pleasure of making many friends who also enjoy a good scary story. Recently, one of those friends had a collection of prose poetry, Oblivion in Flux, released, and I had the opportunity to sit down and talk with him. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to Rami Ungar the Writer my fellow HWA Ohio member and creator of the Cyber Gods, Maxwell I. Gold!

Rami Ungar: Welcome to the show, Max. Tell us about yourself and your career as a writer.

Maxwell I. Gold: I’ve always had a passion for storytelling and believe it or not, poetry was not my first love. Growing up I read mostly literary fiction and fantasy (Robert Louis Stevenson, Dante, Victor Hugo) and was only exposed to weird horror and cosmic fiction much later in my post-graduate years. I didn’t begin my career, not my favorite term, as an author until 2017 when I had my first prose poem Ad’Naigon published in Spectral Realms from Hippocampus Press. Since then, I’ve published over 100 poems and short stories in both print and online formats.

RU: For many readers, prose poetry is something they’ve never heard of before. The name itself sounds kinda contradictory. Can you tell us a bit about what prose poetry is and some famous examples?

MIG: Prose poetry is not a new art form, I’m merely another creator who’s attempting to shed some light on this exquisite act of poeticism. A lot of confusion that arises when reading prose poetry is people tend think there must be a narrative, and there certainly can be, but it’s not a requirement. For me, when I am writing a new piece sometimes, I imagine brief snippets of a memory possibly forgotten, or a broken dream. All jagged pieces of something bigger that connect in a mad Escherian jigsaw puzzle.

A few famous and favroite examples of mine are Clark Ashton Smith’s Memnon’s of the Night and Arthur Rimbaud’s The Drunken Boat.

RU: Look those up if you’re curious, folks. Now tell us how Oblivion in Flux came to be.

MIG: There’s no fluid answer to this question as it arose out of a few serendipitious conversations with editors, and I wanted to have a collection of prose poems that painted a broad picture of the vivid world where the Cyber Gods dwelled.

RU: Great segue, actually. What are the Cyber Gods you feature in your work and how do you come up with them? And is there any influence from the Cthulhu Mythos?

MIG: Strangely enough, this has been a continuously evolving question and that was purposeful. The Cyber Gods began as a thought experiment, like something meant to be beyond the scope of human reason still borne of our own confused, deranged, and quietly destructive philosophies. Something worse than any Elder God or Old One. I was not directly influenced by Lovecraft’s pantheon of gods as much as I was by this concept of cosmic nihilism, that no matter the value placed on a thing or a valued system of things we’re still like mites scrambling to justify meaning in a world we’ve either doomed to oblivion or worse.

As for the Cyber Gods themselves, they aren’t esoteric as much as they are conceptual. This doesn’t mean they aren’t personified in my stories or poems. For example, Hazthrog is a cosmic virus, but appears in one story as a literal ball of sludge that consumes the planet. Ad’Naigon, the first Cyber God, exists 14 billion light-years away at the edge of known space as a yellow neutron star. This is because at the time I created the character the farthest humans could see towards the edge of known space was 14 billion light-years.  

RU: What is it about prose poetry and dark fiction that draws you to them?

MIG: As I mentioned previously, I enjoy creating terrifying moments sometimes more than writing longer pieces of fiction.

Oblivion in Flux by Maxwell I. Gold

RU: What are you working on now? Any projects in the near future you can tell us about?

MIG: I’m currently working on a collaborative book of poetry with Bram Stoker nominated author Angela Yuriko Smith, titled Mobius Lyrics. I’m also working on a novella titled The Unspeakable: A Cyberland Tale.

RU: Cool! What are you doing when not writing?

MIG: Watching too many shows on Netflix or reading or playing the piano.

RU: I know two out of three of those way too well. What is some good advice you would give to another writer, regardless of experience or background?

MIG: Never stop writing. I know that sounds cliché, but it’s true, persistence pays off in the end.  Always write when you can, and always try something new when you can.

RU: Final question: if you were stuck on a desert island for a while and could only bring three books with you for the duration of your stay there, which would you pick?

MIG: Craig L. Sidney’s Sea Swallow Me, John Langan’s The Wide, Carnivorous Sky and Other Monstrous Geographies, and Matt Cardin’s To Rouse Leviathan.

RU: Thanks for joining us, Max. It’s been a blast!

If you enjoyed this interview, you can find Maxwell I. Gold on his website, The Wells of the Weird, as well on Instagram as @CyberGodWrites, and on his Amazon Author Page. And of course, make sure to read Oblivion in Flux if you’re a fan of dark poetry like what Max writes! You can find it here.

You can find more conversations with my fellow authors on my Interviews Page here.

And finally, if you’re an author with something coming out soon and want to talk about it, hit me up at ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com. If I’m not too busy, we might be able to make some magic happen.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m sure I’ll have more to talk about soon. Until next time, good night and pleasant nightmares!

Where is the year going? We’re nearly midway through August! I swear, God was feeling bad that 2020 played on 0.5x speed, so He put this year on 1.5x speed!

Oh well. As you are no doubt aware, I was supposed to be at an event in Chicago back in June, but COVID-19 messed with things and we had to relocate to September.* I’m happy to announce that, in one month, Indie Author Book Expo Aurora, or IABE Aurora, will be happening!

As the above graphic states (and yes, I’m aware Illinois has three L’s. What about it?), IABE Aurora will be held at the Prisco Community Center in Aurora, Illinois on September 11th from 10 AM – 3 PM. In addition to myself, there will be a bunch of other authors there as well, telling all sorts of other stories and selling all sorts of cool wares! And I think there may be food stalls, though I wouldn’t swear to that.

Anyway, if you can make it, please do so. It’s a great opportunity to support lesser-known and indie authors. And events like this have all sorts of hidden surprises, so it’s definitely worth checking out. You can find out more at IABE’s website here.

Well, that’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ll be in touch again soon, if things progress as planned. Until next time, good night, pleasant nightmares, and what’s that crawling up your leg?

*And please, so that nobody else gets sick and no more dates get changed, GET VACCINATED IF YOU’RE ABLE TO, AND WEAR A DAMN MASK!

Lately, I’ve been contemplating word counts. Not mine personally, at least not only mine, but in general. Specifically, I’ve been thinking about the difference between a novella and a novel.

Now, ask any publisher, agent, or writers advocacy group (go Horror Writers Association!), and they’ll have their own guidelines on what designation to give a story based on its length. Even other authors have their own ideas about when a short story becomes a novelette, a novelette becomes a novella, and a novella becomes a novel.*

For several years, I went with the following classification guide:

  • Flash fiction: 1-1000 words
  • Short stories: 1,001-10,000 words
  • Novelettes: 10,001-20,000 words
  • Novellas: 20,001-59,999 words
  • Novels: 60,000 words and up

But for the past couple of years, I’ve used the one used by the Horror Writers Association:

  • Flash fiction: 1-1000 words
  • Short stories: 1,001-7,500 words
  • Novelettes: 7,501-17,500 words
  • Novellas: 17,501-39,999 words
  • Novels: 40,000 words and up

While I use the system, however, I still find parts of this system odd. The changeover from short story to novelette and novelette to novella, I’m fine with. After all, it’s only a difference of 2,500 words from my old system. That’s not much in terms of fiction writing (especially when I write). And most publications set their short story limits at about five or seven thousand words, so it makes sense.

But the difference between novella and novel bothers me. It’s a difference of twenty thousand words, which is a lot no matter who’s writing. And perhaps because of that, forty thousand feels a bit short for me to be comfortable calling any story at forty to sixty thousand words a novel.

Especially when you consider some famous novellas are well above forty thousand words. My favorite novella by Stephen King, The Library Policeman, is over 77,000 words! That’s as long as the first Harry Potter novel, which is a novel by any definition. Other novellas by King, such as The Mist and Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, are well over forty thousand words. Believe me, I checked.

Still not sure how this counts as a novella. At least by HWA standards.

I was so curious about this, I actually asked my followers on Twitter and the other members on the HWA Facebook page what they thought. And while I wouldn’t call this a scientific study by any means, the responses I’ve gotten so far have been illuminating. Over on Twitter, about 77% of respondents said a novella became a novel at fifty or sixty thousand words. Meanwhile, on the HWA Facebook page, the majority of my comrades said they felt a novella became a novel at forty thousand words. Sixty thousand was the minority opinion.

What does this all say? I don’t know. Maybe that these designations are pretty arbitrary and that calling a story a novel, a novella, or even a short novel, doesn’t really matter much. Unless you want to give editors, agents and the like an idea of what they’re getting into, or what category you’re submitting a story to for an award.

Or, if you’re like me, you want to cut a short novel to novella length:

One of the stories in the collection I was shopping around is actually technically a short novel. I wasn’t planning on editing it, but I decided to edit all the stories,** and I realized that this one not only needed another pass, but a big reduction in word count. I think it would be better off as part of a collection rather than as a standalone novel.

Problem is, it’s a lot of words to get through. And while I’ve reduced it by a lot already, it’s still got a long way till it’s novella length.

Then again, if King can put together a bunch of short and not-so-short novels and call them novellas, I guess I could put one short novel in a collection of short stories, novelettes and novellas.

Though I’ll still try to get it under forty thousand words while still being a good story. And believe me, there were places where the word count could be cut to make a better and more succinct flow.

Me trying to edit this story and get its word count down.

Anyway, thanks for reading, my Followers of Fear. I was trying to get my thoughts off my chest, so this post kind of turned into a ramble. And given how crazy this subject is, I’d love your thought on the subject. Where do novellas become novels? And does it really need to be defined? Or is it better for the story to be defined so you know what to do with it?

Until next time, my Followers of Fear, good night and pleasant nightmares!

*Not that the guidelines really make that big a difference. Even if there was some uniformity on the matter, magazines and publishers decide what word counts they’ll accept, such as “Only short stories under 2,000 words” or “novellas between 20,000 and 25,000 words.” Still, for contests and awards like the Bram Stoker Awards, it’s useful for figuring out which stories go into which categories.

**Good thing too. I realized one story needed to be edited a lot more till it was ready, and another was just crap. I’m taking them out and only shopping the first one once I know it’s of a better quality.