The original photo that started the Backrooms. At first, not too creepy, but then you realize that there’s no sign of human habitation. And that’s what makes it really terrifying.

Well, I didn’t think I’d get it done this weekend, but I somehow managed to do it. Merry Christmas/Happy Hanukkah/Happy Boxing Day/Happy Holidays to me.

So, as I mentioned in my last article on Ginger Nuts of Horror, I was developing a story based on the Backrooms, an internet urban legend that’s become really popular in the past year or so. For those who don’t know, the Backrooms were inspired by a photo of an empty office decorated with yellow wallpaper and some accompanying text, both posted anonymously. The text went something like this:

“If you’re not careful and you noclip out of reality in the wrong areas, you’ll end up in the Backrooms, where it’s nothing but the stink of old moist carpet, the madness of mono-yellow, the endless background noise of fluorescent lights at maximum hum-buzz, and approximately six hundred million square miles of randomly segmented empty rooms to be trapped in
God save you if you hear something wandering around nearby, because it sure as hell has heard you.”

Spooky, no? The Backrooms has since gone viral, becoming a series of games, YouTube videos, and fan art, among other things. However, there isn’t a lot of prose fiction set in the Backrooms yet, so I thought I’d try to get ahead of the crowd and give it my own original twist while I was at it. After all, it was stuck in my head. Might as well make something with that.

Thus, I have created “It Changes You: A Backrooms Story,” which I have spent basically all of December working on. The story follows a bunch of people, particularly two teen girls named Kat and Ginger, who end up falling into the Backrooms, and what happens to them as they try to find a way out.

This story was a blast to work on for so many reasons. The first half is very strange and psychological, while the second half has body horror, some really gross stuff, and a bit of cosmic horror that was terrifying even to me! I also had a lot of fun making the main characters nerds into anime and Doctor Who like I am, and Kat in particular is a writer who also happens to be aromantic, like me.* I also based some characters loosely on characters from shows I watch, including Law & Order, and let my mind go in some really weird directions with this story, which allowed my characters to take over to a greater degree than I’d ever seen before with a story. Overall, it was just a great experience writing it.

And let’s not forget how much ambience helped me write this one. Prior to Kat and Ginger finding themselves in the Backrooms, I listened to YouTube videos of outdoor crowd ambience to get in the mood. Afterwards, I listened to ten-hour vids of fluorescent buzzing to really help me feel like I was in the Backrooms, and during the final scenes of the story, I listened to creepy horror music to get me in that cosmic horror mood.

And now this story is finished, a novella of decent length of nearly 27,000 words. Yeah, that long. No wonder it took all month to write. Anyway, I’ll let it rest a while before editing it and then sending it to a beta reader to look at. But honestly, I think it has potential. The Backrooms are still not as well known as other internet horror creations like Slender Man or Momo, so there’s plenty of room for this story to make a splash. That’s the hope, anyway.

So, now that this story is done, what’s next for me? Well, I’ll save that for another blog post. Right now, I haven’t had dinner, so I’m going to fill my belly, watch a late movie, and then hit the hay. Until next time, my Followers of Fear, good night, pleasant nightmares, and happy holidays! I hope Krampus didn’t visit you this year. Or maybe I hope he did, I honestly don’t know how many other people love the guy like I do.

*Aromantic means I don’t feel romantic attraction or want to be in a romantic relationship. Like, I’m physically incapable of doing so. It’s a real thing and a discussion for another blog post, but I liked putting it into a story through one of my characters.


One more thing before I forget, my Followers of Fear: in the hopes of starting 2023 off on the right foot, I’m having a special sale on my published stories. The electronic copies of most of my books will be discounted to 99 cents for the first week of January, and the audio book of The Pure World Comes will also be discounted for that first week from certain retailers. If you’re interested, please head to the retailer of your choice after the new year and download a copy.

And if you like what you read, please leave me a review letting me know what you think. Positive or negative, I love reviews, and they help me out in the long run. Not only that, but reviews help other readers figure out whether they want to read a story or not. Pretty sweet, right?

Right, now that’s the real end of this post. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On today’s interview, I have a very special guest with an amazing story. Some of you are probably already familiar with her story: earlier this month, fellow Ohio author Chelsea Banning took to Twitter to vent her feelings. She’d been at a book signing for her debut fantasy novel, Of Crowns and Legends, where forty people RSVP’ed that they would attend, but only two arrived. The response from the Writing Community was unexpected and massive, with many authors, including Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, and Joyce Carol Oates offering their own stories of poorly-attended events and offering their own help for Ms. Banning’s career. Stephen King even went out of his way to let his entire Twitter following know about her next event the moment she tweeted about it!

Since then, word about Of Crown and Legends has also spread and has become an Amazon bestseller with plenty of positive reviews (seventy-five at the time of posting). This is hopefully the beginning of a prosperous career, so I thought I’d pick the author’s brains sooner rather than later. So, please welcome Chelsea Banning, author of Of Crowns and Legends, to my blog.

Rami Ungar: Welcome to my blog, Chelsea. Tell us about yourself and your book, Of Crowns and Legends.

CB: My name is Chelsea and I am a Young Adult/Teen Librarian by day and author by night. I am also a self proclaimed geek. I love Marvel, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, cosplay, and Renaissance Faires. My book Of Crowns and Legends follows the twin children King Arthur was never supposed to have 20 years after his death. It is about their struggles to live in his shadow while also dealing with an upcoming war.

RU: I’m something of a big Arthurian legend fan myself, and have even written about it as well. What is it about the mythos that draws you to it?

CB: You know, it’s hard to say. I think it’s as mysterious as who exactly King Arthur is himself. There’s just some sort of magic that draws people into this story.

RU: Please describe your research and writing process for the book.

CB: I pretty much devoured any King Arthur book, movie, and TV show I could get my hands on. As I write, I did a bit of research along the way if I had questions. It’s a high fantasy, so it’s not historically accurate at all, but I did want to incorporate as much of myth as I could from all the different stories.

RU: Can you tell us about the book signing where only two people showed up and what happened later? What was your reaction to that?

CB: Yeah, I had reached out to Pretty Good Books after I saw them have another author signing. I had heard from quite a few of my friends saying they were planning on coming out, and then when the signing happened and only 2 people came, it was a little disheartening. I was still feeling a little bummed the next morning and just wanted to kind of get the feelings off my chest so they wouldn’t keep resonating in my head.

I did not expect it to take off the way it did and when I initially saw it, I was just in pure shock.

RU: Have any of the authors who encouraged and boosted you reached out to you personally? Have any of them read the book? What were their reactions to it?

CB: Brigid Kemmerer offered to help with advice about agents, and my old writing professor, Christopher Barzak, who is an award winning author himself, has been a huge help through all of this!

Joanne Harris offered some advice as well and it’s been so heartwarming. I love the writing community.

RU: So do I. Now, Of Crowns and Legends is currently an Amazon bestseller and averaging a 4.2 out of 5 there at the time of writing this. How does it feel to have found so many readers and getting so much positive feedback?

CB: It feels amazing. That’s every authors’ ultimate dream, isn’t it?

RU: Yes, it is. So, what’s next for you, both in terms of your writing and your career? Also, is there an audio version of your novel in the works? Asking for a friend who is actually me.

CB: I am currently working on book 2, as Of Crowns and Legends will be a trilogy. After completing this, I definitely plan to write more books. And I am working on an audio!

A very fantasy-esque photo of Of Crowns and Legends.

RU: Good to hear. Now, what are some books you’ve read recently and that you would recommend to other readers?

CB: Legendborn and Bloodmarked by Tracy Deonn, Queen and Conqueror by Isabelle Olmo, The Black Witch Chronicles by Laurie Forest, Among the Hunted by Caytlyn Brooke and Akithar’s Greatest Trick by Jason Dorough.

RU: What is some advice you would give to other writers, regardless of background or experience?

CB: Keep writing and don’t give up. Do some research on the writing process and pick out what works for you. Not every writer will be the same, and once you found your rhythm, writing will start to come easier.

RU: Final question. If you were stuck on a desert island for a little while and could only take three books with you for the duration of your stay, what books would you pick?

CB: A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas, Lord of the Rings, and The Other Merlin by Robyn Schneider.

RU: Well thank you for joining me here, Chelsea. I look forward to getting my hands on a copy of Of Crowns and Legends.

If you would like to check out Of Crowns and Legends, you can find it at most retailers where great books are sold. And if you would like to connect with Chelsea Banning, you can find her on her website and on Twitter.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I hope this piqued your interest in the novel (my interest certainly was). Until next time, good night and pleasant nightmares to all!

Well, it’s actually been two months, one week and four days since the book was published (not that anyone is really counting). But there’s a reason why we’re doing this so late. It’s because something extraordinary is happening today for the anthology.

Actually, there’s a lot happening with this anthology. Quite a lot of amazing things.

So, for those of you who don’t know, That Which Cannot Be Undone, or TWCBU, is an anthology of horror stories where every story is set in Ohio, written by Ohio authors, and revolves around the theme “that which cannot be undone.” It came about because some of my fellow Ohio horror writers and I wanted to see an anthology that emphasized how creepy our state can be. We even formed a small publishing company, Cracked Skull Press, to make it happen. It took a lot of work, a lot of planning, a very hectic crowdfunding campaign, and more marketing than you can shake a stick at, but we got the anthology written, edited, and published.

And as I said, a lot of amazing things have happened since TWCBU came out. We’ve received glowing reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, where the book averages a 4.7 out of 5 and a 4.3 out of 5, respectively. We also got a positive review in the Akron Beacon-Journal, which was pretty cool. A lot of libraries, including my local library, the Columbus Metropolitan Library, have bought copies of TWCBU (for those of us in Columbus, it’s been a big boost to our egos to learn that). But biggest of all is what’s happening with Kirkus Reviews.

Now, if you’re not familiar with Kirkus Reviews, it’s a magazine that has been publishing book reviews for nearly ninety years. Each review is read by an actual human, is honestly written, and is published on their website (if the writer/publisher likes the review). A while back, my friends and I at Cracked Skull Press submitted That Which Cannot Be Undone for a review, and they gave us a glowing one, which you can read here.

Now, getting a positive review from Kirkus is great. As I said, none of the reviewers are paid to say nice things. They give you their honest-to-God opinion when they read your book. However, as I said, Kirkus is a magazine. And while about ten-thousand reviews appear on the website every year, only ten percent of reviews submitted by the smaller presses and indie authors end up in the print magazine.

You might’ve guessed it, but the review for That Which Cannot Be Undone is going to be in the print version of the magazine. Which releases today, no less!

This is a big deal not just for TWCBU, but for everyone involved in its creation, especially the authors! What started out as just a dream among a few authors and a bunch of talk has led to a published book that is going to be read about in a magazine with nationwide circulation among readers and industry professionals alike! It could mean all sorts of doors will open up for the anthology and the people who helped make it happen.

And I’m so incredibly proud to be one of those people involved in the creation of TWCBU.

Of course, I have to be aware that all of you were instrumental in making this happen. Many of you pledged to our crowdfunding campaign, spread the word about the campaign and the book, read it when it came out, and then wrote reviews on blogs and websites, including Amazon and Goodreads. So, we wouldn’t be even celebrating this milestone, let alone all these amazing developments, without your help. And for that, thank you so very much. It means the world to me, the team at Cracked Skull Press, and those of us who sacrificed time, blood, sweat, tears, and more blood to bring TWCBU.

If you would like to check out That Which Cannot Be Undone, I’ll leave links for Amazon and Goodreads down below. You can get yourself a copy right in time for the holidays! And if you like what you read, please be sure to leave a review or a rating letting people know what you think. After all, we can’t know unless you tell us, and it helps us out in the long run.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Until next time, good night (or is it good morning?) and pleasant nightmares.

That Which Cannot Be Undone: Amazon, Goodreads

I did warn you this post was coming, didn’t I?

So, as you know, I attend a lot of events as an author, usually selling copies of my books and sometimes doing Tarot card readings. This past year of 2022, I attended more events than ever before, which helped to make this my most successful year as a writer since I started keeping track of how much I earned from the craft. And for 2023, I’m confirmed to be going to quite a few events. And in case anyone can attend, I’m listing all the ones I’ll be at.

If one of these is near you, please come by and say hi. If you can’t come by, find a way to come by anyway, because I would love to see you. Just be aware that with Stoker Con, I won’t be selling books and will be mostly socializing with my fellow writers of the craft. But hey, I think that means we can hang out. Provided you’re not my stalker, of course.

ConFusion 2023
Where: The Novi Sheraton Hotel in Detroit, Michigan
When: January 20th-22nd, 2023 (times vary per day)
Description: Michigan’s longest running science fiction convention, with an emphasis on the written word and publishing.
Website: https://2023.confusionsf.org/

Hidden Marietta Paranormal Expo 2023
Where: Washington County Fairgrounds, Washington County, Ohio (they kind of outgrew the Lafayette Hotel ballrooms!)
When: May 6th, 2023 from 10 AM – 4 PM
Description: One of the most awesome paranormal conventions in Ohio.
Website: https://www.hiddenmarietta.com/paranormal-expo

ParaPsyCon 2023
Where: The Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield, Ohio
When: May 20th-21st, 2023 (times vary per day)
Description: The most famous paranormal convention in Ohio, held in one of the most haunted spots in Ohio (as well as the filming location for the Shawshank Redemption).
Website: https://www.parapsycon.com/

Canal Town Book Festival
Where: Downtown Dover Ohio, at the corner of Wooster Ave and 3rd St.
When: May 27th, 20223 from 10 AM – 3 PM
Description: Part of the Canal Dover Festival, this is a great opportunity to meet local Ohio authors and discover new books
Website: http://www.doverlibrary.org/about-2/canal-town-book-festival/

Stoker Con 2023
Where: The Sheraton Pittsburgh Hotel at Station Square in Pittsburgh, PA
When: June 15th-18th, 2023
Description: The premier event for horror writers and fans in general. It’ll be my first time attending.
Website: https://www.stokercon2023.com/

And that’s what we have on the calendar so far. I’m going to have a busy May!

Not only that, but there are likely going to be other events to attend throughout the year. I’m hoping to return to Mystics & Marvels and the Columbus Witches’ Ball later in the year, and there are others I’m waiting to hear about. I’ll keep you posted on those.

And, like this past year, I’ll only post about these events when I have new ones on the calendar or there’s one rapidly approaching that I want to remind you of.

Anyway, I hope you’re able to join me at some of these events and that we get to talk. And if not, you can continue to support me by reading my books and leaving reviews online so I know what you thought. In fact, that’s one of the best ways to support your favorite authors. And I hope I rank somewhere close to your favorites.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ll see you very soon. Until next time, though, good night and pleasant nightmares.

I hate that I never have enough time to read physical books. Audio books, I can listen to while working, cooking or driving, but a paperback takes time because I’m busy all the time. I’m glad I was finally able to get through this one, though it took much longer than I would have wanted to. Oh well. Here’s the review.

Ghost Eaters follows Erin Hill, a college graduate who feels purposeless and is trying to find some meaning or mooring in her life through the usual avenues: dating, a possible dream job, etc. The only bright spot in her life, as well as the one person who might be holding her back, is Silas, her friend and former lover from college, who has since spiraled and dies after a disastrous intervention. Desperate to connect with Silas one last time, Erin and her friends use an experimental drug called Ghost that supposedly connects you with your dear, departed loved ones. But be careful when you call out to the dead: you never know who might answer. And Erin is going to find that out the hard way.

What a book!

Ghost Eaters is an eerie novel that gives a chilling vision of not just what the afterlife could be like, but what might happen when you try to interact with the afterlife. Personally, I feel like anyone who reads this book will shudder at this depiction and hope whatever’s after death won’t be the same as in Ghost Eaters. Especially given the gruesome descriptions of the ghosts who are hungry for life and will go to disgusting means to get to it.

I also liked how effortlessly thematic the novel is. By another author, the book might hit you over the head with its ideas, but here it’s woven in quite well. The main themes are about addiction, both addiction to drugs, addiction to certain people, and addiction to connection. I also like how the addiction and dependence on Ghost has a very religious, cult-like air to it, especially towards the end of the book. In fact, one could make an argument that the relationship between a cult and its adherents can be an addiction, and that’s shown quite well here.

And speaking of which, Silas is kind of like a cult leader himself in the style of Charles Manson. He has this ability to make everybody around him feel special and loved, and they become hooked on that. It’s to the point even when they know they should drop him and later, when he dies, he still exerts a significant hold on their life.

I did have some issues with the story, however. Erin and her friends, for example, are not very likable. I think part of it is that they’re all so adrift, are barely able to live on their own, have no idea what they want in life and are trying to find meaning in all the wrong things (like Silas). And I know that’s something that a lot of people struggle with, but I feel like I’d like these characters more if they all got some much-needed therapy.

But then again, if they did that, I doubt we’d have a story, would we?

Anyway, Ghost Eaters by Clay McLeod Chapman is one of the best books I’ve read this year (a small number, given my reading pace, but you get the idea). On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving this novel a 4.4 out of 5. I personally still like the author’s other novel, Whisper Down the Lane (see my review of that here), more, but I dig this book too. And I bet, with the right director and not too much of a reliance on CGI, it might make for a terrifying supernatural horror film. Give it a read and see for yourself.

Also, I feel like Ghost Eaters and the new Hellraiser film would make better tools to get kids from taking drugs than anything the DARE program ever came up with. Both deal with addiction and are frightening enough to make young people associate drugs with being plagued by the supernatural. “Hey kids! You want to do illegal substances? Be careful! You might get on the radar of interdimensional sadomasochistic demons or wandering ghosts hungry for life. Don’t believe me? Check out this horror novel and movie and see for yourself!”

Someone tell me I’m not the only person who’s thought that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That Which Cannot Be Undone: Amazon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time, good night and pleasant nightmares.

The following review features mention of suicide. If you or someone you know is feeling suicidal or considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline by dialing 988 in the United States. Other nations have similar hotlines set up and they are just a Google search away, so please make that call if dark thoughts are plaguing you. Thank you.

Black Paradox follows four individuals who meet on an online suicide message board. However, almost immediately odd events derail their plans, most notably the discovery that one of their members has a portal in their belly to another dimension and keeps vomiting up precious gems (yes, you read that right). However, the gems contain a dark secret, and their discovery in our world set events into motion that will affect not just the four protagonists, but the entirety of humanity.

I would say that the word that describes this short series is “inventive.” Almost immediately, weird stuff happens and it is generally very freaky. The gems, later called “paradonite,” are also an inventive touch, as well as what they do. I haven’t seen much horror around gemstones unless it’s like a haunted/cursed necklace or something. Plus there’s a robot in there, doppelgangers, and quite a few other things that will surprise you. The paradonite itself is an interesting object, as it has a few surprises associated with it.

The art is also quality. Ito being Ito, you know he’s going to put a lot of effort into his work to create an evocative and at times unsettling illustration. It’s especially effective with sequences of body horror, which are rife throughout this book.

However, it does feel like at times Ito was making it up as he went along, and not in a good way. There are certain threads that are left dangling at the end of the series, and while in horror it’s okay to sometimes leave certain questions unanswered, especially with Ito’s work, it didn’t work too well this time around. Also, I don’t think the topic of suicide was handled as delicately as it could have been. At times, as events unfold, it’s almost brushed off and forgotten as inconsequential.

Also, there’s a four-page bonus story at the end that’s kind of included as a joke. It’s not very good. I’m not sure why it was included.

Despite all that, however, I would call Black Paradox quintessential Ito and worth a read. I struggled on what score to give this one, but I kept coming back to 3.8 out of 5, so I’ll go with that. If you are looking for a strange and surprising horror manga, I would recommend Black Paradox (though Uzumaki and Remina are still leagues better).

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. It’s been a hell of a month, but a good month nonetheless. I hope December is just as good and that we all have a stress-free time during the last 34 days and three-or-so hours of 2022. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

My AI art portrait of the King in Yellow. Couldn’t think of anything more perfect to showcase with this story’s release.

Oh Glory to the King in Yellow! My story “The Dedication of the High Priestess” has finally been released! And even better, it’s been released in an audio format, which is always very special!

Now, if you don’t know, “The Dedication of the High Priestess” is a short story I wrote back in late 2021 combining both my love of ballet with the story of the King in Yellow (see this incredible video by The Tale Foundry if you would like to know more about the character before going into the story itself). It follows a young ballerina who finds herself chosen for a special role by the King, and what happens when she becomes exposed to his influence.

I know I say this about a lot of my stories that are published lately, but I do feel this is some of my best work. I really feel that I got to capture the main character, Anastasia Hummel’s, despair and abrupt transition into adulthood very well while also telling a great horror story. Honestly, I haven’t been this excited for you all to read one of my stories in a while, that’s how much I love it and how good I think it is.

Not to mention that it’s being released on the Tales to Terrify podcast. As you can guess from the title, the Tales to Terrify podcast is dedicated to reading aloud terrifying stories submitted by writers like you and me and narrated by professional narrators. And boy, did they do an amazing job with “Dedication!” The narrator, Amy Paonessa (God, I hope I spelled that correctly), brought Anastasia to life perfectly and mirrored her emotions so well. I was impressed and amazed as I listened, unable to stop. And I’m sure you all feel the same way when you hear her narrate the tale.

I hope you take the time to listen to the story and then let me know what you think. Hell, maybe you’ll even spread it around so that other people can hear it and experience it for themselves. I would very much appreciate that, as would the good folks at Tales to Terrify.

Anyway, I’ll leave a link for you all below. I can’t wait to hear what you think of the story. Now, if anyone needs me, I’ll be spreading the word about the story and thinking about how it came out right as lots of ballet companies around the world are putting on their annual Nutcracker productions.* Then I’ll drive out to see some family while also writing the script for the movie version in my head.**

Until next time, good night, pleasant nightmares, and be careful who you punch out during Black Friday sales today. They might come for you and do more than punch you back!

Tales to Terrify – Episode 565 – Rami Ungar

*Coincidence? Probably, but a cool coincidence.

**No, a movie version isn’t planned at this point, but that has never stopped me from dreaming. And I feel “Dedication” would make a great psychological horror film.