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.

I saw a few trailers for this film, but wasn’t sure what to expect. Still, the premise sounded interesting, so I went to check it out. And that’s my intro.

Directed by David Bruckner and starring Rebecca Hall, The Night House follows Beth, a teacher whose husband committed suicide recently. As she tries to handle day-to-day activities, she finds out that her husband kept things from her. He may have had a secret life full of darkness. And as supernatural events happen around her, Beth begins to discover that something dark has come for her. And it can be found in a reversed replica of her and her husband’s lakehouse across the lake from them.

The first two thirds of The Night House were really good. Rebecca Hall does an excellent job playing a woman grappling with grief and the senselessness of her husband’s death. There’s a genuine atmosphere of unease that starts fairly quickly and keeps building throughout most of the film. A lot of this is done through what’s not seen as much as what is seen, and that proves to be really effective. Add in how skillfully they pull back the layers surrounding the husband, making him seem more and more complicated and twisted with every reveal, and some genuinely terrifying special effects, and you’ve got yourself a horror movie.

I will say, however, that the final reveal didn’t land very well with me and affected how I liked the final act. I think if they changed a few things, it would have kept up the terror of the film and made it a more effective reveal. As it was, however, it wasn’t as powerful or as terrifying. I respect what they were trying to do, especially as it ties into the film’s themes of grief and loss. I just wish they’d approached it in a way that kept the film as scary as it was for the first two-thirds.

All in all, I’m giving The Night House a 3.9 out of 5. As I said, if the final reveal was more to my taste, it would’ve been a better movie and gotten a higher score. Still, the first two-thirds are very scary, so I’d recommend it just to see that.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ll be back before too long, believe me. For now though, it’s late and I need to sleep if I’m to do anything this weekend. So, 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!

There’s a phrase about opportunity and knocking on doors, but I can’t think of what the exact phrase is. Oh well.

So, I recently found out I’m going to be a guest author at the Licking County Local Author Festival in October. For those of you who aren’t familiar, Licking County is one county over from Franklin County, where I live and work. It’s a decent drive, but nothing too strenuous. Anyway, I heard about the festival a while back and signed up. Today, I found out I’m going to be among the authors there. And I hear they may have a special section just for those Halloween-loving, terror-propagating writers such as myself.

Plus food stalls (yum!).

Anyway, if you want to stop by, it’s Saturday, October 16th, 2021 from 10:30 AM – 2 PM at the Downtown Library at 101 West Main Street in Newark, Ohio. I hope you’ll stop by.

And as you already know, we’re just over three weeks away from the Indie Author Book Expo in Aurora, Illinois. That’ll be on September 11th from 10 AM – 3 PM at the Prisco Community Center in Aurora, about an hour west of Chicago. I look forward to driving out there and seeing you there.

Heck, I hope to see you at both events. Authors from all over the place and a variety of backgrounds will be at the book expo and the author festival. We’ll all be meeting readers, helping you find your next great read, and maybe making friendships and connections to last a lifetime along the way. So please, come on out!

And if you can’t make it out but still want to support me, you can always find my stories online (the stories of the other authors are another matter entirely). I’ll provide links below. And if you decide to read one of my stories, please let me know what you think. Positive or negative, I love reader feedback, and it helps me in the long run. Not just by giving me encouragement to write, but by letting other readers know whether they should check out the stories as well.

What will you choose, I wonder? A quick tale about King Arthur or a recluse forced out of his home in a hurricane? The story of a young woman turned into a human/plant hybrid (and that’s just the start of her problems)? A collection of creepy tales that has been scaring audiences for over eight years? Or the tale of a serial killer hunting members of New York’s most powerful mafia family? Whatever you pick, I hope you like it!

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m off to get shit done. Until next time, good night, pleasant nightmares, and only 75 days till Halloween! Are you excited? Because I am.

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

Remember Five Nights at Freddy’s? Well, if you don’t, Five Night’s at Freddy’s, or FNAF for short, is a video game franchise that was pretty popular in the mid-2010’s. The games revolve around surviving the night, usually at a haunted Chuck E. Cheese knockoff, while fending off killer animatronics. The unique and simple gameplay, combined with the dense lore revealed in the games, made it pretty popular for a while. There have even been in-universe novels (all of which I reviewed) and a movie has been in development hell since 2015.

And in the meantime, a couple of other films have been released that use the same concept but are just different enough to avoid IP problems. Thus, we get Willy’s Wonderland, which fills the gap for animatronic carnage horror films FNAF leaves quite well.

Starring (and produced by) Nicholas Cage, the film follows Cage as a mysterious drifter who gets stuck in the tiny town of Hayesville after a car accident. To pay for repairs, he accepts an overnight cleaning job at Willy’s Wonderland, an abandoned family entertainment center complete with giant, creepy electronics and a bloody history. What he’s not told is that the animatronics are alive and murderous. Thus begins a standoff between the eight deadly robots and the drifter. One that will be more explosive than anyone expects.

I’ll say this, these new slasher horror-comedies can be quite surprising. And if films like Happy Death Day, Freaky, and Willy’s Wonderland are the beginning of a new trend in horror, I hope it doesn’t get old too fast.

This film is a bonkers fun time! I think my favorite part is Cage’s unnamed character, who’s kind of a riff on Clint Eastwood’s Man With No Name. He’s always got this sour look on his face, and his silence, addiction to energy soda, and routine make him nigh inscrutable. I also enjoyed the animatronics, which were visually interesting, moved well and were in the right area of the uncanny valley to be both funny and creepy. Add in some stellar action scenes and a good balance between the humor and horror elements and you have a really fun time.

I do have some complaints, however. For one thing, some of the slasher tropes felt kind of shoehorned in because they were expected. You would think this long after the slasher boom, even fictional teens would know not to do some of that dumb shit in a situation right out of a horror film. Speaking of which, several of the teen characters are not at all interesting or sympathetic. Honestly, one or two came off as detestable. Which might have been the point, given which tropes they engaged in, but I really could have done without that aspect of the film.

All in all, though, Willy’s Wonderland is a fun, bloody good time that will leave you amused and wanting more. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’ll give it an even 4. A sequel or prequel is supposedly in the works, and I would love that. You could have a whole trilogy around Cage’s character getting into horror movie shenanigans. It would be hilarious and you could come up with so many inventive ways for him to get into scrapes with monsters or bad guys.

And in the meantime, if you want some FNAF movie goodness and can’t wait for that film to be made,* go check out Willy’s Wonderland.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I hope the next post isn’t a review (though I guarantee nothing). Until next time, good night and pleasant nightmares!

*Assuming it gets made. Supposedly a script was approved and filming was supposed to begin this spring, but nothing happened and we haven’t had any updates in a while. Between that and the franchise having passed peak popularity, I feel like even if the film gets made, it’s going to face the same issues Slender Man’s film did. Namely that it was too late and there wasn’t enough interest, to say nothing of the quality (see my scathing review here).

I did say in my last post that I was going to try to get my thoughts out on this novel soon. As it happens, I ended up finishing it before bed, and now’s the first time I’ve had the opportunity to write out my thoughts.

The basis for the famous 1999 horror film from Takashi Miike, Audition follows Aoyoma, a father and widower who is ready to date and love again. However, he’s no idea where to start looking for a potential new wife. Luckily for him, his best friend has an idea: they’ll hold auditions for a movie they never intend to make, and Aoyama can pick a girl from any of the applicants. Through this crazy plan, Aoyama meets Yamazaki Asami, a former ballerina who is as mysterious as she is beautiful. And she’s quite beautiful. Problem is, there’s a bit of a dark side to her, and Aoyama is going to discover it pretty quickly. With disastrous consequences.

I may have gone into this one with too-high expectations. I know J-Horror can be hit or miss with me sometimes, but I’ve heard nothing but praise for the movie, so the book had to be good. Right? RIGHT?!

Sadly, I was wrong. As it turned out, this book felt kind of amateurish. The language is elegant and well-written, and the scenario presented within isn’t implausible. And Aoyama’s progression from a salaryman with a somewhat sexist/voyeuristic view of women to a very besotted man with a very narrow view of a particular woman is well written. However, the storyline is basic and nothing special, and there isn’t enough to Aoyama for us to really root for him. I would call it a slow-burn, but there has to be some tension to really make it worth that slow pace. It just comes off as slow and kinda boring.

And Asami’s reasons for becoming the villain that she is feels like it might have been written by a high schooler whose only knowledge of psychology comes from watching Criminal Minds reruns. Not to mention kind of ableist (though that might just be my interpretation).

All told, I’m assigning Audition by Ryu Murakami a 1.3 out of 5. One critic likened it to an early draft or treatment for the movie, and I kind of have to agree with that assessment. It’s the bare bones of what could have been a good, suspenseful story about a man’s love with a twisted femme fatale. As it is, though, it’s at best something to compare to the movie and maybe write an academic paper about.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I have one more review coming up, this one for a movie (not the Audition movie, though I will try to get my hands on that). And if anything else comes up, exciting news or weird musings, I’ll let you know.

Until next time, good night and pleasant nightmares!

I’ve seen Max Booth’s tweets on Twitter a bit, but this was the first time I’ve read one of his works. I was spurred to do so by the trailer for the upcoming film adaptation, which looks terrifying (click this link to watch it). I had an audio book credit and the novel looked short enough, so I downloaded it and got to listening.

We Need To Do Something follows Melissa, a teenage girl who gets home from a friend’s as a massive storm hits the area and tornado sirens wail. As her family hides in the parents’ bathroom (no basement in the house), a tree falls in front of the door, trapping them inside. As Melissa, her little brother Bobby, her mother Diane and her father Robert, struggle with time, hunger, and their own dysfunction, they’ll also go on the ride from Hell. Possibly in more ways than one.

This novel is predicated on the concept “Hell is other people” and I love it!

What I really was blown away by is that everything takes place in the bathroom. Even flashbacks take place in the bathroom, presented as dreams or as hallucinations rather than as full flashbacks. This really gives you the sense of isolation and claustrophobia the characters are feeling. And this space acts like a pressure cooker, forcing them to confront their problems, themselves and each other. It is intense, and the confusion Booth weaves into the narrative only makes it worse. Are they really experiencing all of this? Is part of it something supernatural, or is there an element of shared delusion? You’ll read till the end asking those very same questions.

It doesn’t help that when the outside world does make an appearance, it’s only to make things crazier. Truth be told, you could learn a lot about writing tension from this novel.

As for the characters, you get to know them quite intimately. You also come to like them quite a bit–well, most of them. Robert, Melissa’s father, is an alcoholic with serious anger and toxic masculinity issues, and does not see the irony in calling his daughter a “snowflake” at one point. You love to dislike this guy from early on. But the others, you do start to feel sympathy for the others. None of them are perfect–Melissa has her own anger, Diane has been suffering for years and probably wishes her life was closer to a fifties sitcom than what it really is, and Bobby exists to annoy his sister and make fart and pee jokes–but you do grow to like them. And Melissa especially has more to her than what you meet in the first few pages, which at first glance is a typical phone-obsessed teen who’s annoyed with her folks.

The one downside is that there’s a lot of ambiguity and not everything you’d think would be clarified is. Now, for me that doesn’t really take away from the novel, but for others it’s going to be frustrating.

Altogether, We Need to Do Something by Max Booth III is a terrifying rollercoaster of a novel. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving it a 4.5. Grab a copy, use the toilet real quick (not during a storm, though), and get settled in. You’re going to want to read this one.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m hoping to get you my thoughts of Audition by Ryu Murakami by the end of the week. And when the movie for this novel comes out, I’ll probably review that too. And I’ll likely have more to say in the near future. Point is, there will be more from me soon.

In the meantime, however, I’ve got work tomorrow, so I’m getting ready for bed. Good night, sleep tight, 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.

Followers of Fear, I just want to make you aware of one thing: ten years. Do you know how long that is in terms of Internet existence? In human life? Ten years ago, I was still fresh out of high school, so naive and with no idea about what the future may hold for me. I just hoped blogging would give me an audience so that when I finally released some fiction, there would be people eager to read it.

Well, that did end up happening. Over ten years, I did cultivate an audience who like what I write. If you’re reading this post, you’re one of them.

That being said, I got so much more from blogging. This blog, and the people who read it, have been here for all those ten years. Through college, first publications, trips to Europe, anxiety and depression and mental health struggles, job searches, jobs found, ups and downs, accomplishments and failures, and so much more. And I don’t know if I could’ve done all I did without you guys. This amazing community who have supported and encouraged me in my writing. I’m so thankful for all of you and can’t thank you enough for what you’ve done for me this past decade.

That being said, let me take a moment to brag and post some stats. Over ten years, this blog has acquired:

  • 1,840 posts
  • 123 thousand views
  • 1,324 followers (not counting those who come from other social media platforms)
  • Around 6,900 likes
  • Over 5,100 comments
  • And over 1.1 million words!

I guess no one can ever say I was lazy, can they?

But now, onto the juicy bits. I asked my Followers of Fear to participate in an Ask Me Anything, or an AMA, with one lucky participant getting a prize. And guess what? I got a few responses. So without further ado, let’s see what everyone wanted to know. After all, I promised.

Just don’t scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page to see if you won. Believe me, it won’t end well for you.

Okay, onto the questions!

Priscilla Bettis asks, “Where do you see your writing headed in the next five years? You know, like more Goth, more slasher, short stories, etc.”
Good question. Honestly, I’m hoping my writing allows me more time for writing. And if possible, I’d like to be able to work on a lot more short stories and novelettes, with at least a novel a year. As for what those novels and short stories are about, I can’t say right now. All I can say is, I have some fun ideas I can’t wait to work on. And I hope you’re excited to read them someday.

Alain Davis asks, “What is your most favorite/prized memory from visiting haunted attractions?”
You know, that’s a tough one. But I think my entire stay at the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast would have to be my choice. As much fun as my other experiences have been (and as much as I’m always up to visiting the Ohio State Reformatory), that one night at the Lizzie Borden House was a big deal for me and I keep wishing I had more time there. As well as more opportunities to experience ghostly phenomena.
Well, who knows? Maybe someday I’ll hold an event there. A book reading followed by an all-night ghost hunt. Anything’s possible, right?

Ronald Gillepsie asks, “Many authors create one character to base an entire series around (e.g. Ian Fleming with James Bond). This helps to ensure book sales and retain a readership. Are there any characters you’ve created which you would plan on expanding into a series? Alternatively, do you plan on writing a series?
PS I probably already know the answer to this with your Arthur character in Mother Of the King.”

Yeah, still working on that one. I’ve made progress on a sequel, but it’s something that I only do every now and then when I have the energy. As for other stories, maybe the Snake from the novel of the same name. I loved that character, I have ideas for sequels, and I would love to work on them. However, I’ll need a lot more demand for sequels of Snake to even consider writing another Snake story.
That being said, I can see a shared universe being a thing. Characters from some stories appearing in other stories in varying capacities. It could be a lot of fun. I’ve actually already taken steps to do that. We’ll just have to see if any of those stories get published.

Iseult Murphy asks, “What keeps you writing on the days when you’re ready to give up? (Mounting rejections coming in, or a bad book review, or just a dark day when everything seems pointless and impossible).”
Well, as the beginning of this post made clear, my Followers of Fear keep me writing. Their love of my work and eagerness to read more keep me writing even at low points.
Also, while I love my day job, it’s not what I want to do for the rest of my life. I want to write full-time, so you need to keep writing to make that happen. That’s a good motivator.
And I think if I stopped writing, I might die. At this point, it’s just a compulsion. I need to get these stories out if I’m going to survive.

Allen Huntsman asks, “what is the most useful writing advice you’ve ever received?”
I think it might be, “Don’t be afraid to try new stuff. Follow your interests. You never know what it’ll lead to.” Did my dad tell me that? I think he did. Thanks, Abba. You do have the odd pearl of wisdom every now and then, don’t you?

Well, those are all the questions I received. Now onto the winner.

IF YOU SCROLLED DOWN HERE TO FIND OUT WHO WON THE PRIZE WITHOUT READING WHAT CAME BEFORE, THEN GET BACK UP THERE! YOU HAVE A LOT TO READ BEFORE WE GET TO THAT POINT, AND THE WINNER ISN’T GOING ANYWHERE. SO SCROLL UP AND GET READING! THAT CLEAR? GOOD. SEE YOU WHEN YOU’RE DONE READING.

Okay, if you actually read through all that, then let’s talk about the winner of the special prize. The winner is…Alain Davis! Congratulations Alain, you have won the following prize.

That’s right, you’ve won a copy of each of my chapbooks and an Aztec death whistle. I own one myself that’s not too different from this one, so you and I can both summon dead Aztec spirits now. I’ll be contacting you soon to get your mailing address.

And to all the other participants, thank you for your questions. I had a lot of fun reading and answering them. And thank you all once again for continuing to support me through thick and thin. It means a lot to me.

And if you’d like to continue to support me beyond just following and reading my blog/social media, I’ll leave links below for my stories. That’ll include “Into the Deep,” “The Dark Sire,” and “House of Stitched” magazine. After all, purchasing and reading those ensure those publications and their publishers continue to release new work, which just benefits everyone.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m so glad you could celebrate this major milestone with me. Now if you need me, I’ll be drinking some good wine later and just generally having a good time. Until next time, good night and pleasant nightmares!

House of Stitched Magazine Fall 2021 Issue: Blurb.com, Amazon

The Dark Sire, Issue 8: Print

Into the Deep: Ebook, Paperback

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