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Back in January, a gunman took a Texas synagogue hostage, making antisemitic statements and slurs while he was at it. The hostages were able to make it out alive, thanks in part to courses offered by law enforcement in case of terrorist action the rabbi and other members of the synagogue had taken.

This past week, a security guard at the Jewish day school I attended and graduated from, Columbus Torah Academy, was arrested. He had been making threats against the school and its students on social media, including photos of himself holding a gun and threatening to shoot parents picking up children. This was a man the teachers and students knew, saw often and maybe even trusted and liked! And he talked about killing the students, including young children, like they weren’t human.

And a few days ago, another man here in Ohio was arrested for making similar threats online. No word at this time if he’s connected to the security guard who threatened my old school, though it wouldn’t surprise me if they were connected.

These are just the most prominent incidents, or the ones I’ve heard of, in the United States. The Anti-Defamation League has tracked numerous incidents in just the past few days, ranging from graffiti and fliers to assaults and threats of violence. And there are more out there. There were two series of murders in Israel recently, for example. And God only knows how many others have happened out there.

It’s hard not to be afraid. My people have to take courses from law enforcement in case of hostage or shooting crises, of which we’ve suffered several in the past few years. I have to worry that the school I went to from fourth grade through graduation can’t trust the people hired to protect them. I have to worry that the school I went to has to hire security! And I have to worry because there are more of these monsters out there who think my people are an insidious influence on the world and that we need to be stamped out. That they’re planning on doing horrible things, together and independently, and bragging about it on social media as if it’s something to be proud of!

I’m afraid too. I don’t go to synagogue often, but when I do, I’m always mapping exits and checking to see who arrives who looks like they don’t belong, or are acting suspiciously, or are just openly carrying a gun around, because some people think that’s a good idea! I worry that next week, when Passover starts, I’ll be reading news articles about beatings, stabbings, shootings, and God knows what else.

And I’m angry. No one should have to live like this because of their beliefs and lineage.

And I can write stories where anti-Semites get their asses kicked and where Jews come out on top. And maybe some of them will get published. At least two already have, and I hope to have more on the way. But it only alleviates the stress I feel. It doesn’t make the problems go away. It doesn’t make anti-Semites change their beliefs or keep people from adopting anti-Semitic beliefs.

I want to do something to fix this problem. So that my people and I don’t feel as scared. So that I can walk into a synagogue without worrying about being shot. And so that more people know what you wonderful Followers of Fear already know: that the vast majority of Jews, like any group of people, just want to get along and live in peace.

I haven’t figured out what I’ll do yet. But if and when I do, I know I’ll go at it full-throttle as I usually do and probably make a difference. God help the anti-Semites who might try to get in my way.


Hey, Followers of Fear. I needed to get this off my chest after finishing a new story with Jewish themes/characters last night and reflecting on all the shit my people have gone through or might’ve had to experience recently. It’s a good way to take care of myself.

And that’s all for now. I was hoping to have some good news to share by now, but it looks like you’ll have to wait a little longer. As soon as I have something to share with you, though, I will. Until next time, good night and pleasant nightmares.

I heard a movie based on this book was coming out later this year, so I thought I would check it out. And since I had to drive up to Cleveland yesterday (it’s a Passover thing, don’t ask) and the audio book was long enough for the drive to and back, I thought I would listen to it. I started as I pulled out of my parking space and finished about a mile from my complex on the way home. And I have to say, it certainly added to the drive.

Set in an unnamed village on Halloween night 1963, Dark Harvest follows Pete McCormick, a teenage boy who is participating in the Run, an annual harvest ritual where he and the other teen boys in town chase a living pumpkin-headed scarecrow known as “Sawtooth Jack” and “The October Boy.” The kid who manages to catch and kill Sawtooth Jack before he reaches the church in the center of town by midnight wins great prizes for him and his family, including the right to leave the village. Pete is gearing to win this year, even if it means breaking some rules, but he soon finds out there’s a darker truth to the Run. And losing might not be the worse thing in the world.

I have to say, while I was able to predict certain things, I enjoyed the story. I was sucked in by the immediate weirdness of the tale and by the haunting atmosphere. There’s this explosive potential in the narration and the reveling in violence and death that comes from the story. It really fits the Halloween vibe, as well as the cruelty and nihilism that comes with it. And while some things were predictable, as I said, it’s such a joy watching them unfold.

That being said, the style of narration was kind of annoying at times. There’s a lot of addressing the reader and rambling on the thoughts of individual or multiple characters. Great, it’s lots of psychological flowery language, but I would like to reach the next exciting bit of the story, and what does this all add to the overall book?

That, and it wasn’t really explicit about why the Run exists. It’s hinted it’s some sort of pagan ritual to help with next year’s corn harvest and keep people in town, but it’s never really spelled out or how this sort of thing began in the first place. Mostly, you hear stuff about how the Run is part of a way of life, but that only explains so much.

Still, I had a great time with this novel and was glad I finally got around to reading it. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving Dark Harvest by Norman Partridge a 4.3 out of 5. It’s a fun little Halloween romp that you can gobble up in a day or so. Whether or not you plan to see the movie version, if you haven’t read this one and love your Halloween stories, I recommend checking it out.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I hope to have some exciting news out very soon. Until next time, good night and pleasant nightmares!

Jeffrey Mansion in Bexley, Ohio.

Been meaning to write this post for about a week now, but life got busy and there was never a good time. Don’t you just hate it when that happens.

Anyway, as I’ve mentioned before, I’m working on short stories in-between edits on Hannah. Or shorter stories, seeing as some of them are novelette or novella length stories. Might work on a novel if the itch gets really strong, though I’m not sure if I’ll edit Toyland again or finally start on Crawler. But for this particular story, which I’m guessing will be a novella, I had a particular location in Columbus that I wanted to check out as a basis for the setting.

I’ve been to the Jeffrey Mansion many times when younger. I used to live a few minutes away from it and sometimes would play on the playground or walk the woods on the property. But I had never been inside before and had never heard of it being potentially haunted.

Then I discovered this video:

I thought since it was so close and easily accessible, and since I had a story in mind taking place in a similar location, I thought I would go and see it. Sadly, I didn’t find any evidence of hauntings. Just a weird moment when, in the library, the camera app on my phone started acting weird and wouldn’t work again until I left the room again. That being said, I could only access the first floor and basement, as the upper floors were reserved and off-limits to visitors. Also, it was daytime, so I couldn’t do a proper investigation. Perhaps the mansion is haunted and there are spooky things just waiting to be found.

Probably not the woman in white or the hanging man spirit from the video, however. The former is likely kids being afraid of the then-living janitor of the premises, and the original owner died in a hospital in the 1960s, so it’s unlikely he’s the hanging ghost if there is one.

But that’s not the point. The point is, I don’t get to stop by actual locations for research for stories that often. Sure, I’ve been to locations and used them as the basis for stories later on, but never to a location with a story already in mind. Going there, walking the grounds and taking photos of the lower two floors, my mind was moving at a thousand miles an hour and thinking up all sorts of great details for the story.

In the garden room: “This would probably double as a ballroom for parties. Oh, and this room will be an important location for the story. That will be in here.”

The tiny staircase hidden in the garden wall: “Ooh, I wonder if I could make use of this somehow. Maybe as a location to meet?”

The dance studio: “Didn’t know this was down here. But it works for me. Some of my characters are dancers, after all.”

It’s just insane how much of a boon my imagination got from coming here. It really helped me develop plot points and the location my story would take place in, right down to the location’s history and what would happen in which rooms. If I ever get a chance, I would like to go to another location for a specific story in mind, just to see what would happen to my brain and to the story. Who knows? Doing so might help me create my best work yet.

Anyway, that’s all for now, My Followers of Fear. Next up for me is to do some edits for the short story I’m using for That Which Cannot Be Undone (that’s still coming along wonderfully) and then, if there are no new edits for Hannah, I’ll get started on this new story. And, of course, I’ll let you guys know if anything exciting comes up.

In the meantime, enjoy more photos of Jeffrey Mansion. Until next time, good night and pleasant nightmares!

First photo of the mansion. Beautiful Jacobethan structure. I would love to do a full paranormal investigation there or see it used in a movie based off my work.
Side view of the mansion. Kids at the preschool get picked up there, though I imagine it was used to drop off important guests once upon a time.
Close up of the mansion’s entrance. It’s pretty striking.
Back of the mansion. It looks like it could be a movie set someday. I know plenty of kids like to use them while playing on the playground nearby.
Back of the carriage court. Back in the day, it was where the owners stored their carriages and cars. Now, it’s used as event space.

You know, many great stories were originally published in serialized form. From Charles Dickens’ many novels to the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs and HP Lovecraft, many writers we still read today had stories serialized in newspapers and magazines.

I’m not saying that “Blood and Paper Skin” is one of those great stories, but I do think it’s cool that it’s not only been serialized, but that the last part is now available.

So, if you’re wondering what I’m talking about, “Blood and Paper Skin” is a novelette I wrote some time ago about a bunch of teens and college students who go out to get drugs, only to be taken captive and held in a strange prison-like room. The story has been serialized by The Dark Sire literary journal, a quarterly journal that specializes in horror and dark speculative fiction and poetry. And they also do serializations of longer stories, such as “Blood and Paper Skin.”

I’m very happy that TDS has released the final part of the story, especially this is the publication’s last print issue (they’re moving entirely to e-book after this issue). It’s a story I didn’t think would find a home, so I was glad it did and that the team behind that home loved the story. Every time I talked to them, they praised it and said they got so much feedback from readers who love “Blood and Paper Skin.”

Anyway, if you would like to check out “Blood and Paper Skin,” I’ll include the links for all issues of The Dark Sire where the story appears, starting from the most recent. And if you would like what you read, either of “Blood and Paper Skin” or The Dark Sire, please make sure to leave reviews and check out our other work. We both work really hard to deliver to you the best stories, so we hope you continue to check them out and let us know what you think.

Anyway, I’ve got a new story rattling around in my wacky head, so I’m going to start outlining. If you need me, you know where to find me. Until next time, my Followers of Fear, good night and pleasant nightmares!

The Dark Sire Issue 10 (“Blood and Paper Skin” Part 3): https://tinyurl.com/2p99ahfm

The Dark Sire Issue 9 (“Blood and Paper Skin” Part 2): https://tinyurl.com/4cdnkevt

The Dark Sire Issue 8 (“Blood and Paper Skin” Part 1): https://tinyurl.com/ya6r77ww

The editing process can take a toll on authors’ mental health, no matter their experience.

As I’ve mentioned more than once (especially during the past few weeks), the publishing process for Rose was something of a roller coaster for me. At least, it was on the mental health scene. There were days and weeks I was feeling on top of the world, and then there were weeks where I was freaking out and wondering how the hell I would ever get this novel into a state fit for publishing.

It’s been nearly three years since Rose was released, and I’m older, wiser, and I want to say calmer. However, I know that roller coaster could start up again during the editing process of Hannah and Other Stories, so I’m writing this post. Both as a reminder to myself, and to help anyone who might go through something similar with their own upcoming books.

Here’s are some tips for getting through the editing of publishing of your upcoming book and the mental health rollercoaster that it is.

First off, remember that this is natural. There’s nothing wrong with you, you shouldn’t be expected to stay happy because you’ve got a book coming out (whether it’s your first or your 247th), and every author goes through difficult periods in life. We have human brains, and those brains, while being the most advanced supercomputers on Earth, have some quirks built in. Our neurochemicals don’t always act naturally, and life can upset those chemicals as much as genetics. So if you’re having a bad period, don’t heap further stress on yourself by being upset with yourself. Just remember that this will pass and good periods will happen as well.

Our brains. Great supercomputers, but they aren’t perfect. So these feelings are natural.

That being said, if your feelings become too much or last for prolonged periods, consult a licensed doctor/psychiatrist/therapist. They may be able to help you with medication, the talking cure, and strategies for coping with those wacky neurochemicals.

And that brings me to my next point: have a support network and coping methods in place if you can. I know everyone’s circumstances are different, but it really helps to have someone to talk to or multiple people who can come together when you’re feeling down. Having those people who will stand by you and help take your mind off of the craziness of the publishing process can make things all the more bearable.

Not to mention those coping strategies. Taking some time for self-care when you need it improves things immensely. I already have Sailor Moon DVDs awaiting me in my room and ice cream in the fridge. Those are my comfort foods and anime, and they got me through more than a few crazy nights. Not to mention that methods such as hypnosis and meditation, going for a run or dancing, a nice drive, a good book and so many other things, can really help when your mental health starts to spiral.

That being said, certain coping mechanisms should only be done sparingly. For example, I tend to eat more sugary foods and drink alcohol when I’m under stress. Not the healthiest way to deal with my feelings, so I have to be careful not to do it too much.

Okay, now that we’ve gone over the self-care stuff, here are some practical tips when it comes to the editing and publishing of the book:

  • Edit in chunks or manageable blocks. This is something BSC Publishing Group, which is publishing Hannah, is doing with their clients. Rather than sending notes for the entire book all at once, they send notes for a few chapters or a single story at a time. That way, neither author nor editor is overwhelmed by the process and it feels more collaborative.
    I kind of like it, as it means I have less of a giant workload to get through, and I can work on other projects in-between chapters. And if you like it, maybe talk to your editor or publisher to see if you can do something similar.
  • Expect big gaps without activity. You know how you have to wait several weeks or months to hear if a short story is accepted or rejected by a publisher? It’s even worse with a book. Case in point, three months would often go by between submission of a new draft of Rose and getting new notes. And the time between acceptance of Hannah and the first round of notes was about six months.
    So no, you didn’t do anything wrong. And no, the publisher isn’t ignoring you. They’re just juggling a lot of projects, and they have to devote time to all of them.
  • Approach each issue/suggestion individually. Finding out your stories has issues, such as a plot hole or a character that doesn’t make sense, or a scene that doesn’t work like you thought it would, can seem insurmountable. Just know that every novel and collection has issues that need work on, including great ones. For Rose (which I like to think is great), after I got my anxiety under control, I went after each problem individually. First I handled the main problem with the antagonist, then the issue presented with the amnesia, and then the monumental problem with the flashbacks, which led to two-thirds of the book getting rewritten.
    Hopefully that won’t happen to you (though on the plus side, it did rid the book of some problems later in the draft). But taking it one problem at a time does yield results over trying to tackle, and agonizing over, all of them at once.
  • Remember, the publisher believes in your book enough to publish it. Sometimes, editing the book and guessing what people will think of it, we tend to doubt our own abilities. But remember this: the publisher believes your book is not only good, but it’s good enough that it’ll sell copies and they won’t take a loss on it. And that’s in an unedited state with issues!
    So if you could write something that good in that state, you’re more than capable of getting it up to scratch for publication. Just keep reminding yourself that and it might boost your spirits a bit.
  • Finally, keep reading and writing. During the quiet periods in-between drafts or before you go to bed. When you’re wondering how to tackle a problem with your book or when you’re just looking for some down time. When inspiration strikes you or when the new book by your favorite author comes out. Just keep reading and writing. Do it because you love it. Because it’s nice to get lost in imaginary worlds with imaginary problems and imaginary people. Because it’s relaxing and a great way to let the problems of the world slip away.
    Plus you occasionally get insights from the stories of others to improve your own stories. But that’s not important. It’s important to just sit down and enjoy these activities, because they’re what got you into the storytelling business in the first place and have led you here. And they will lead you onwards from here too.
Rose had plenty of issues before publication, and Hannah still has its share. Still, the publishers for both believe/believed in them to publish them, and that’s an important thing to keep in mind.

Well, those are my thoughts on mental health and the publishing process. I’d include some stuff on marketing, but then we’d be here all night. Anyway, I hope you found these tips helpful. If you think of anything I missed, feel free to put it in the comments. And if you have a book you’re working to get up to snuff for publishing, I wish you the best of luck. You’re in the middle of a tough journey, but you can get through it. And if you managed to get through the trials of writing and editing the book in the first place, you can get through the trials of getting it in shape for the publisher.

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

Just a quick update. As you know, I’m trying to post these less and less often. Trying not to spam you with news of these events, especially when it’s unlikely you’ll be able to visit. Still, in case you’re able to visit, I’m going to put these out when a new event is on the schedule and remind you leading up to the event.

So, as previously reported, I’m going to be at ParaPsyCon at the Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield, Ohio. This will be taking place on May 21st and 22nd, and all you have to do to gain access is to buy a self-guided tour of the prison. You get in, see where they filmed The Shawshank Redemption and where plenty of ghosts still hang out, and you get to meet over 90 authors, ghost hunters and paranormal investigators, psychics, and so much more! Plus some celebrity speakers too. You can find out more from the website here.

But my beloved Reformatory isn’t the only prison holding a convention this summer: the West Virginia Penitentiary in Moundsville, West Virginia will be having its annual Paracon on August 13th, 2022! Like ParaPsyCon, it’ll have plenty of authors, paranormal investigators and equipment vendors, psychics and so much more. More details, such as cost of admission and the full vendor list, will be posted as we get closer to August. In the meantime, you can check out their Facebook event page for more info.

And that’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Obviously, if I get signed up for any more events, I’ll be sure to let you know ASAP. Same goes for any changes, such as a date change or (God forbid) a cancellation. Anyway, I hope you’ll be able to stop by one of these events and say hi as I sell books and do Tarot readings.

And yes, that post on mental health while publishing a book will be published at some point this month. I promised, didn’t I?

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

The placeholder cover I made for Hannah and Other Stories. I can’t wait to show you all the official cover someday soon.

Well, the story I was writing for that one anthology will have to be put on pause. Good thing I don’t have to submit till June.

So, as many of you are aware, back in October I signed with BSC Publishing Group to release a collection of short stories. The collection is going to be called Hannah and Other Stories and will consist of seven short stories, novelettes and novellas, including: Hannah, which follows two ghost hunters whose latest investigation has consequences for multiple people; The Autopsy Kid and Doctor Sarah, about a young girl’s relationship with a budding psychopath; and Poor, Unfortunate Souls, in which a rave underneath the streets of Paris receives an unexpected and horrifying guest.

Anyway, since I signed that contract, some time has passed, and I’ve been writing and editing stories like crazy so I don’t get rusty. And today, I finally received the first round of edits. And it looks like I have a lot of work to do!

Man, I wish all those edits I’d done back in spring and summer last year were enough to spruce up the stories. But I guess I wasn’t so lucky.

On the bright side, I still have some pretty clear memories of when I edited Rose back in 2018 and 2019. That was the last time I edited an entire book with a publisher, and it was quite the learning experience. Given what I remember, I will take it story by story, part by part, and try to identify the same issues my editors did, as well as using their suggestions to improve the story.

I will also make sure to take care of my mental and emotional health. It’s not something that’s talked about enough in the writing community, but this path we walk takes a toll on us writers. And that’s especially true when it comes to publishing an entire book! When I got the first edits back on Rose, for example, I went into a tailspin of anxiety. There were a lot of issues with the novel, a couple of which led to me rewriting around two-thirds of the book. Needless to say, I was upset with myself that I missed so many issues and worried I wasn’t going to be able to fix them. It took a lot of work for me to calm down again and start to work on the book again.

This time around, I’ll be better prepared. As I said before, I’ll take each story one at a time, and I’ll try not to let the issues with each story get under my skin. After all, not only have I been through this ordeal before, but I wrote these stories already and the publisher thought they were decent enough in their imperfect state that they wanted to publish them. If I was able to do that, I can edit the stories to a state where they can be released.

Plus, I have a support network I can rely on if things get to be too much, and I’ve already ordered my comfort anime from the library (nothing like a Sailor Moon binge to make you feel refreshed). Add in some ice cream and the occasional pizza delivery, and I’ll be fine.

Anyway, I’ll keep you all updated on the progress of the book, as well as my other projects. I may also write a post on maintaining your mental health during the publishing process at some point. In the meantime, if you’re looking forward to Hannah and can’t wait to read it, or you need something to read in the meantime, I’ll include links to Rose and my other books down below. Who knows? You might just find your new favorite horror story down below. Let me know what you think.

And please also check out the anthology Dead of Winter from the Dublin Creative Writers Cooperative and Spark Street Media, which contains the story “Azazel Dances” by myself and Richard Gerlach. It’s a great story inside a great anthology, so why not check it out?

And with that, I’ll take my leave. Until next time, my Followers of Fear, good night and pleasant nightmares.

Dead of Winter: Amazon

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

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

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

Agoraphobia: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada

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

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

A handy graphic for understanding the three act structure, courtesy of Wikipedia.

The other day, I was talking with some other writers about how to write a decent short story (an eternal question among writers, including the ones who’ve gotten them published). And I noticed that, with a lot of my recent short stories, most of them fall into a decent three act structure. And then I said, “I know the existence of the three act structure is dubious, but it’s the truth.”

And, like many odd things, that little exchange has stuck in my head.

So for those of you who don’t know, the theory of the three act structure states that all stories, especially longer ones, can be divided into three separate acts or sections: the setup, the confrontation, and the resolution. The acts may then be divided into smaller scenes or subsections, but they all fit into those categories. Some examples given of stories with the three act structure are Star Wars, Die Hard, and Avengers: Endgame (though I sometimes think everything before the five-year jump is its own separate act or prologue).

While many of us are taught this structure in school, most of our teachers will let us know that not everyone believes in the three act structure, let alone say they use it. Some prefer using a five act structure. Others say storytelling is too complicated and diverse to say a story can be divided into a formulaic structure. And nearly all playwrights will agree that if it can’t be told in one act, tell it in two.

Good example of a story in three acts (supposedly).

That last one might be a joke.

I’m usually of the camp that believes storytelling is too complicated and diverse to boil down into a structure. Look at Stephen King stories. Most of his shorts, like Graveyard Shift, Night Surf or The Boogeyman, are simple one-scene stories with maybe a twist at the end, and I dare you to try to fit books like IT or Salem’s Lot into three acts. Then there are stories like Kill Creek by Scott Thomas or Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice, which feel like they fit into four acts.

As for my own books, Snake is in multiple sections, much like the books I was reading up to and during the writing process, and I see Rose as in-the-apartment and after-leaving-the-apartment (if you read the book, you know what I mean). I can’t see the stories in The Quiet Game as anything but a progression of events. And I wouldn’t even know where to start with The Pure World Comes or the stories in Hannah.

So, is the three act structure a real thing? Well, yes and no. I feel like it’s more of a framework for people to examine fiction, both others and their own. You don’t have to use it if you feel it doesn’t work for you or if you feel a story has too much happening in it to divide the plot into three separate sections.

But if you do find it helpful, use it to your heart’s content. I’m sure many writers, especially plotters like myself, find the three act structure helpful for planning their stories. And as I said above, many of my recent short stories, including the ones that have been published, fall into three acts. Though I think of them less as acts and more like beats, scenes, settings, or occurrences. And if I’m trying to keep a story within a certain word count, I can see using this structure to my advantage.

So what is the three act structure? It’s a prism to understand some fiction stories through, as well as an actual tool for writing. It’s not perfect, and most stories don’t fit into it that well, but that doesn’t mean the idea isn’t useful. Hell, it might even help you hone your craft and get a few more short stories out there. And that is never a bad thing.

Unless you’re trying to write an award-winning musical. Then you might want to keep it to two or maybe just one act.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. March has just started and it’s already looking a lot better than January and February is (world events notwithstanding). I hope I can update you on exciting developments in the near future. And until next time, pleasant nightmares.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have our first publication of 2022!

Some time ago, I met another Jewish horror writer by the name of Richard Gerlach. There was an anthology being created at the time of holiday horror stories, and we thought we’d team up to write one with a little Jewish flair. We wrote a story set around Hanukkah and submitted it. It didn’t get in, but it birthed a friendship and we both believed in the story, so we kept shopping it around.

Dead of Winter from Dublin Creative Writers Cooperative and Spark Street Media, which contains mine and Richard Gerlach’s story “Azazel Dances.” Looking forward to hearing what you think of it!

Some time last year, the story was accepted by the Dublin Creative Writers Cooperative,* who in partnership with Spark Street Media are releasing the anthology Dead of Winter. And our story, “Azazel Dances,” is featured in the anthology! Which is out today!

Honestly, Rich and I are so excited for you to read this story, which centers on a demon who interferes with two feuding Jewish families around Hanukkah. Not only do we get to add to the ever-growing subgenre of Jewish horror (something I’ve been trying to do anyway), but we worked really hard on this story. Like really hard. Like oh my God, the amount of work that went into this story to make sure it was ready for publication! And it was not easy for either of us to find time to edit it, either. Like, I tried to buy the guy a bottle of wine because we somehow made the deadline despite the amount of work and how crazy our lives got! Sadly, mailing alcohol without subscriptions or memberships to special clubs is troublesome.

The point is, we put in a lot of hard work, and I’m very proud of the work we put in to write and edit this story together. So I hope you read it and see what we managed to create together. And if you like what you read, please make sure to spread the word somehow. Goodreads, Amazon, Twitter, Instagram or TikTok, whatever. Leaving your thoughts online somewhere allows us writers to know what people think of our work, as well as helps other readers decide whether or not to check out the book.

Anyway, that’s all for now. I’ll leave a link to check out Dead of Winter below. Ebook is already available, and paperback shouldn’t be far behind. Either edition, there are a lot of great stories in there besides the one by Rich and me, so it’s worth your while. And while you’re at it, you should also check out Richard Gerlach. He’s a great writer with another story in another anthology and has more on the way. He also writes for Divination Hollow Reviews and is a co-host for the podcast Staring Into the Abyss. You can find him on his Twitter account here, his previous publication here, Divination Hollow Reviews here, and the Twitter account for the podcast here.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I don’t know how we got to the end of February so fast, but I’m looking forward to whatever March brings. So until next time, good night, happy reading and pleasant nightmares!

*Dublin Ohio, which was used for a short scene in Rose. Not Dublin, Ireland. Just clarifying.

DEAD OF WINTER Amazon Page

Fairy tales have been on my mind a lot lately. Granted, that’s nothing new. When writing Toyland, I knew fairy tales and children’s stories were going to play a part in the story, since it was about a school haunted by a ghost obsessed with a children’s fairy tale. And yes, I still hope to get that book published.

But recently, I took a class offered by the Horror Writers Association on fairy tales, which got my imagination working. And then I watched a couple of TED talks on YouTube on the subject. And last week, I wrote my own twisted, dark fantasy version of Cinderella in just one sitting while everyone else was watching the Super Bowl. This was at the same time I spent two weeks coming up with an idea for a novel involving fairy tale elements, the idea finally crystallizing on Saturday before going to see Giselle. A ballet, by the way, that could be considered a fairy tale. It certainly has enough fairy tale elements to qualify as one.

All this has made me hyper-aware of just how much fairy tales have permeated our society. Not just as stories or elements of our favorite stories, but in advertising, fashion, music, art, and even our expressions (“Cinderella story,” anyone?). They are freaking everywhere, and used/enjoyed not just by children, but by teens and adults too.

“But wait,” you’re probably asking, “aren’t fairy tales just kid stuff?”

Not exactly. In fact, fairy tales were often for adults as much as children. Early written versions of Little Red Riding Hood were told as parables to warn young ladies about getting into bed with the wrong sort of man, or as metaphors about entering womanhood (especially if cannibalism is kept in the story). In fact, that is still the case in some places: in Ireland, many still believe in fairies and tell stories, or “tales,” about them and what places to avoid. And in parts of Scandinavia and Iceland, beliefs in trolls and elves are still popular. Many countries in Asia, especially in southeast Asia, still believe in many types of spirits (and according to the classical definition of fairies, just about any supernatural entity can be considered a fairy, so it counts), and use stories to warn new generations of the dangers of pissing them off.

This adaptation of “The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter” is a prime example of how fairy tales can be recontextualized for new eras.

But beyond warnings, fairy tales, like many other kind of stories, are reflections of how we look at our world. Hansel and Gretel, for example, was probably told in an age of famine, poverty and witch hunts, given its elements and the lessons imparted in it. Even better, fairy tales can be recontextualized for new ages. Cinderella tales are increasingly told to make the lead less passive and more in control of her own life, and the Studio Ghibli film The Tale of Princess Kaguya, based on the Japanese fairy tale The Story of the Bamboo Cutter, retells the story with the theme of how Kaguya wants none of the finery her foster parents gift her, only to be surrounded by people who love her. This feels relevant in an age with rising consumerism, online image-building, and social isolation.

And that’s the cool thing about fairy tales, too. You can retell them in so many different ways. Hell, you can even come up with new ones. Plenty of writers are creating their own fairy tales, such as Diana Wynne Jones did with Howl’s Moving Castle, Melissa Albert with The Hazel Wood and many more. And many stories today use elements of fairy tales. The inclusion of “The Three Billy Goats Gruff” in Stephen King’s IT isn’t just a fun choice by King, after all: King originally started plotting that story as a modern interpretation of “The Three Billy Goats Gruff.”

Makes you wonder what elements of fairy tales and legends you’re putting into your stories, doesn’t it?

And that’s the thing. Even you can make up your own original fairy tales or retellings. In fact, plenty of writers are, and will as the world changes. I wouldn’t be surprised if we get an updated version of Anansi and the introduction of stories to the world in the wake of so many states attempting to rewrite history or schools attempting to ban books. And I wouldn’t be surprised if this pandemic, or any of the major conflicts we’ve experienced in the past several years, make their way into a new or an old fairy tale. I’ve already come up with a few ideas for some, and might write one or two in the near future.

And I bet, no matter who’s telling the stories, they’ll continue to influence society for years to come. From the “Once upon a time” beginnings to the optional “they all lived happily ever after.”

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I spent most of President’s Day writing, so I’ll take the rest of the night off. I’ll be back soon, as I’m expecting to share some good news very soon. Until then, my Followers of Fear, good night, pleasant nightmares, and don’t try to wake me up with a kiss. I bite.

Also, here are some of the videos I watched while researching fairy tales. Give them a watch. They’re quite edifying:

Transforming our Understanding of Fairy Tales by Anne Dugan

Why We Absolutely Need Fairy Tales by Jason Link

Myths, Folklore & Legends: We Still Need Our Fairy Tales by Heidi Shamsuddin