Some of you may remember I reviewed the novel Perfect Blue: Complete Metamorphosis, the inspiration for the anime horror film I’m a huge fan of. Turns out the novel had something of a sequel, an anthology of tales by the same author, Yoshikazu Takeuchi, about idols being stalked by obsessive fans. I’ve been meaning to read it forever, but only just got my paws on a copy recently. Hoping it would compare well to the original novel, I read it in about a night.

Um…I’ve read better.

The anthology has three stories inside, a short story called “Wake Me From This Dream;” a novella called “Cry Your Tears;” and a novelette called “Even When I Embrace You.” Yeah, they all sound creepy just from the titles. However, the quality ranges from story to story.

“Wake Me From This Dream” follows one fan’s strange experience when he actually gets to be with his idol (after a fashion). It’s kind of creepy in how it approaches its premise, as well as hard to look away until the end. The story actually reminds me of Stephen King’s quote about short stories, about it being a kiss in the dark from a stranger. It’s especially true of this story, though the author seems to confuse social anxiety and laziness in a less-than-helpful way.

“Cry Your Tears,” the longest story, is a standard celebrity stalker story. Guy is obsessed, in love with his favorite singer; his idol is creeped out by his intrusion into her life; a bloody climax ensues. Meanwhile, our heroine whines about how hard her life is. Like I said, it’s standard and doesn’t really do anything to pull itself away from the other standard stalker stories.

“Even When I Embrace You” is probably the weirdest story: a new idol singer who isn’t even sure being an idol is what she wants to be as an entertainer is pursued by a guy in a bunny costume. The premise is interesting, I’ll give it that, and it’s nice to see a heroine who’s a bit more rounded and doesn’t mind fighting back when she has to. However, the supernatural element to the story isn’t well thought out, and the bunny costume just sounds like another impractical movie killer costume.

On the whole, Perfect Blue: Awaken From a Dream is probably best left to the die-hard fans of the original novel and/or the movie. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving it a 2.3. Outside of that first story, the rest feels run of the mill and uninspired, though they are well-written.

Yeah, not the best book. But I did get an idea for a novel from something the author said in the afterword, so that’s a plus.

Until next time, my Followers of Fear, stay safe, pleasant nightmares, and STOP TRYING TO FIND OUT WHERE I LIVE! I mean come on, do you know how dangerous that is? You might as well walk into the tiger enclosure at the zoo (and you’d probably have a better chance of survival while there).

I’ve never reviewed a true crime book on my blog before. As you well know, I tend to specialize in horror of the fictional variety. But for a while now, since first hearing of the Cecil Hotel (which made one of my lists of haunted places to visit) and the death of Elisa Lam there in 2013, I’ve wanted to learn more than what I could glean from a ten minute YouTube video or from reading the Wikipedia page. And earlier this year, someone finally released a book about the case. Despite mixed reviews, I decided to buy a copy, and read it over the course of my vacation.

Here are my thoughts.

Gone at Midnight focuses on the case of Elisa Lam, a Chinese-Canadian student who disappeared in early 2013 in Los Angeles. Several days after her disappearance is reported, she is found dead in one of the water tanks of the infamous Cecil Hotel, a location known as “The Suicide” for its history of violent deaths and even having serial killers as residents at certain points. The incident is only made weirder by the release of footage from a hotel elevator showing Elisa acting strangely on the night she disappeared. Author Jake Anderson traces Elisa’s path over the last two years of her life, as well as how the case took a viral life of its own with websleuths on the Internet and the many problems with the police conclusion on the case.

I have to say, Anderson does a very good job of writing a convincing narrative. The book could easily have gone into the deep end a la The Mothman Prophecies by John Keel, with talk of synchronicity, paranormal happenings at the hotel, and theoretical physics, among other subjects. However, he keeps the narrative on track, only bringing up the weirder aspects as they relate to the case of Lam’s death and his own investigation into the case as a journalist. Anderson also does a terrific job of laying out the various problems with the police’s conclusion, and offers several alternative possibilities about what may have happened.

His reconstructions of what Lam may have been thinking during her final years (something I’ve found in a lot of true crime I’ve read), based on her many blog posts, also has an eerie authenticity to it. And his examination of the websleuth community, the pros and cons of the movement and how it all relates to Lam, is quite interesting. I wouldn’t be surprised if this book is used later for a sociological study into websleuthing.

There is one major criticism I have, and it’s one I share with a lot of other critics of the book: Anderson spends a lot of time on his own mental health. And while in some places it’s relevant to what we’re reading about, at other times it’s distracting. I understand why he did it: like Lam, the author has his own mental disorders, and his struggles strengthened the kinship he felt with Lam, despite having never met her. I too feel a strange kinship with Lam: not only was she a little older than me when she died, I also have my share of mental struggles, and enjoy writing and blogging like she did, among other things.

However, as I said, it’s distracting at times, and I feel like Anderson’s struggle with his mental state, while relevant, should have been kept in a foreward or afterward to the book, or maybe even in an essay published separately from the book.

All told, Gone at MIdnight: The Mysterious Death of Elisa Lam by Jake Anderson is as of this moment the definitive book on the Lam case, and deserves to be so. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving the book a 4.3. After reading this, I’m going to be doing a bit more research into the case, but Anderson might have me convinced on his take on the Lam case.

Grab a copy, take a deep breath, and jump right in. You’ll find yourself on a roller coaster that may, as it did for me, hit close to home.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m finally back from my trip, so I’ll be posting quite a bit over the next two weeks (especially since I’m quarantining myself to make sure I didn’t catch anything). Keep an eye out for more reviews, breakdowns of the paranormal activity I encountered, the places I visited, updates on my writing, and so much more.

Until next time, stay safe and pleasant nightmares!

From left to right: Charles Naylor, Joleene Naylor and myself, masked up in front of our hotel and ready to rock.

Hey, Followers of Fear! I didn’t think I would have a moment to let you guys know how I’m doing, but I ended up having some spare time in the airport while waiting to head to South Carolina. With that in mind, I thought I’d take a moment to update you guys on what I’ve been up to. Now obviously, I can’t update you on the Villisca Axe Murder House, not until I’ve had some time to upload my videos to YouTube. However, I can tell you about my time in Des Moines, and the book expo I attended.

I arrived in Des Moines on Friday at about three in the afternoon, and took an Uber to the airport, where I met with my friend and colleague Joleene Naylor and her husband/my friend Charles Naylor. We went out to dinner at a themed burger joint called Zombie Burger (and yes, it looks just like you’d expect. See my Instagram for photos). We then spent some time driving around Des Moines and seeing the sights.

But it was the next day that was on our minds, as well as the reason why we were there: the 5th annual Indie Author Book Expo.

We arrived Saturday morning for the first day of the Expo at the Valley West Mall in Des Moines. We were located in a wide-open area on the first floor near a children’s area, with several tables spread around the area. I found my table, which was hidden in the shade of the second floor balcony and right bny two stores called Buckle and University Sports, and set my stuff down before introducing myself to Jenn Thompson, the woman who let me come to the Expo in the first place. After that, I got my booth set up and waited for 11, when the stores and the Expo would begin.

My table at the Indie Author Book Expo. Thanks to Joleene Naylor for the photo.

Some observations about the Expo:

-First, I need to work on my display. My table was the most bare-bones of the authors. I had my copies of Rose, one of which was on a stand; a Tarot deck; and a homemade sign stating my prices. Meanwhile, look at Joleene’s below.

Joleene’s booth at the Expo.

Holy crap! She’s got intricate displays, a tiered-display with pet vampire rocks and bottles of vampire blood on it, candy dishes filled with freebies! Plus a banner and a few other odds and ends! And many of the other authors had other additions to their booths: big banners that went behind their booths for photos, cheap little bobs and bits for sale to go with the books you buy, etc. And Joleene mentioned that at other expos and conventions she’s been at, people have used prize wheels, raffles, and more to entice readers. In fact, she usually uses selfie banners so people can take photos of themselves with vampire fangs (not something to do in this day and age, but still).

Seeing all that made me realize that, in future expos and fairs and conventions, I will need to step up how I display and sell my work to draw in more people. I’m not sure how, seeing as Rose and my other works don’t necessarily lend themselves to little toys or raffle wheels or whatever. But I have a year before my next scheduled convention (assuming COVID-19 doesn’t cancel that as well). I have time to think of something.

And if you have any suggestions, my Followers of Fear, I would love to hear them.

-Second, COVID-19 had its effect on the expo. As you can see in the photos, Joleene and I are wearing masks, and obviously we took our time and effort to keep ourselves and others safe. But the pandemic took its toll on the expo, to be sure. Most of the people who would go out of their way to attend an expo with authors at a mall are also the type who would not want to risk getting the virus, so they stayed home. That meant the mall was filled with mostly employees and people who were there to pick up what they came for and leave. Which made our job of getting books and other products into their hands that much more difficult.

And it was under those circumstances the expo began. The first day did not go as well as I’d hoped. Not only had I left my cloak at the hotel room, but given what I said above, it was hard as hell to sell books. I only sold one copy of Rose near the end of the day, plus a couple of Tarot readings. I got a lot of people passing by or saying no, including one guy who said he and his wife were moving to Malaysia and were downsizing by fifty percent. I’m not sure if that was just a line or the truth, but man, that was a strong rejection!

The second day, Sunday, on the other hand, actually went much better. I don’t know if it was remembering my cloak this time or the stars were right, but I sold about three copies of Rose and did a few more Tarot readings. Overall, a successful day. My favorite part was giving a young woman a Tarot reading about something close to her heart. Apparently the reading was very accurate to her life, and she liked what she heard in terms of what might be in the future for her. It made my day to give her a reason to smile and hope for the future.

I’d say, despite all the barriers up against us, the Expo was, at least for me, was a success. Sure, I didn’t make back everything I put down for this, very few can,* but I still sell some books and met some new readers. For me, that’s a success. A bigger one than the Bexley Local Author Festival last year, even.

Plus, I got to buy some art from Jenn’s daughters and made some new connections with other writers, so that’s a plus.

Thanks to Jenn Thompson for allowing me to come out for the Expo, and thanks to Joleene and Charles for all the help they gave me. Hope we can do it again someday.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I don’t know when I’ll be back again, but I’m sure I’ll have plenty to talk about when I do log onto WordPress again. Until next time, stay safe, watch out for the giant flying sheep, and pleasant nightmares!

For those of you who are unaware, Slasher is a Canadian-American TV series that’s like American Horror Story, with a different story and cast every season, but more bent towards slasher horror. I’ve reviewed the first two seasons (see my reviews here and here), and have enjoyed watching the evolution of the show from a so-so derivative AHS knock-off to a very thrilling and bloody murder mystery in the second season. And while it took me a while to get to it, I finally got around to the third and final season. And what a season it was!

Subtitled Solstice, the story begins with the murder of Kit Jennings, a bisexual party boy who is violently murdered at his apartment building by a masked murderer known as the Druid. A year later, all the residents living at the apartment building at the time of the murder are still living there, and start to die under horrific and bloody circumstances. As the police rush to find the returned Druid killer, the apartment residents will have to watch their backs. Because everyone has a connection to Kit, everyone has a secret, and everyone is a target.

I don’t know if the third season was intended to be the final season, but in a way, I’m glad it was. There’s no way they were going to top this season.

For one thing, I love how they manage to take these diverse characters, flesh them out to make them feel real, and then weave a narrative around them. It could have easily come across as hard-to-believe, or silly, or dumb, but the writers made it believable and truly thought out every aspect of the story to make it thrilling. I also like how the emphasis on this season was on connections and community. There’s a lot of commentary on how people are united and divided in a community, both online and offline, people can be. You have white supremacists living next to Muslims, straight couples living by LGBT families, caring people living beside monsters. All that gels together in a way that feels organic and believable, and I loved it.

And speaking of the cast, I don’t think I’ve ever found a horror story where I wanted so many despicable characters to get murdered! The white supremacist; the white supremacist’s prejudiced, slutty daughter; the housewife who believes sharing everyone’s pain across her gossip vlog is real journalism;* the creepy teenager who thinks bringing up people’s trauma is funny. Each one of them is written and played so well, and I only hope I can portray such characters so well in my own work.

Finally, this season contains some of the most brutal kills in a slasher story I’ve ever seen. Kid you not, I cringed more than I normally do with these kinds of stories, and that’s saying something. If you decide to check this season out, be prepared. This season goes the limits.

If there’s something I didn’t care for, I would’ve liked to see more of protagonist’s, Saadia Jalalzai’s,** parents and family. They leave for a trip at the beginning of episode one and then are pretty much gone from the season. I honestly would have enjoyed seeing a bit more of them and their reactions to everything that occurred within the course of the season.

All in all though, Slasher‘s third season is a gory, terrifying delight for any slasher fan. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving the season a 4.7. Get on Netflix, settle in for eight episodes and, if you live in an apartment building, thank whoever that even your worse neighbors probably aren’t as bad as the ones in this show.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I wanted to get one more blog post out before I left on my trip tomorrow, and I’m glad it was this one. Don’t know when my next one will be, but I’m sure whenever it is, it’ll be the first of several. And in the meantime, if you’re in Des Moines this weekend, come by the Valley West Mall for the 5th annual Indie Author Book Expo. I’ll be selling books and doing Tarot, so I hope to see you there!

Until next time, stay safe, beware of machete-wielding maniacs, and pleasant nightmares.

*BTW, if I ever get as addicted to my online following as that woman or some of the other characters in that show, please break my phone and slap me silly. I’ll need it.

**And yes, I was reminded a bit of my character from the Reborn City series, Zahara Bakur, but I’m pretty sure they just share an archetype.

I’ve kept silent on this matter long enough. Maybe I’ve kept silent so long because, while it made me angry, I wasn’t yet angry enough to post about it on my social media. It was enough for me to let my views be known through the stories I write and the way I conduct myself. However, I think I’ve been silent long enough. I need to speak and to let the world know what I’m thinking.

If you weren’t aware, JK Rowling, author of the Harry Potter novels, has over the past two months voiced problematic views on the transgender community through her social media. I won’t go into a full breakdown of events, you can find that in plenty of articles online, but I will summarize a few major points. Since June, she has: criticized an article that used the phrase “people who menstruate,” meant to include trans men and non-binary individuals; said use of above phrase was “erasing the concept of sex” and “the reality of women globally;” spread misinformation about transgender individuals, including that allowing transgender women to use the bathroom of their choice was giving men license to step into women’s bathrooms and assault them; and on Sunday, equated hormone therapy to gay conversion therapy.

It’s this latest piece of news that has pushed me to speak. I have had the pleasure of being friends and occasionally even colleagues who are trans. None of the above stuff is true of them, or of the trans community at large. Furthermore, as a bisexual man, I am disgusted that Rowling would compare medication that allows trans people to feel more comfortable in their own bodies to a practice that makes members of the LGBT community hate, deny and repress their true selves in favor of someone else’s very narrow worldview on sex and gender.

But I’m not going to talk about all that. I’m going to instead join all the voices who have come out against Rowling’s views. This includes members of the writing community, some of whom I consider colleagues and friends, others I consider role models and teachers; most of the cast of the Harry Potter films; and an overwhelming section of the Harry Potter fandom. What we have to say is this: we are disappointed that Rowling, whose books have always espoused equality and understanding, would support these views, let alone use her platform to influence and possibly turn her fans against the trans community. And while we differ on how we’ll interact with the world of Harry Potter, which is so intertwined with its creator as to be almost inseparable–some are severing their relationship with the franchise, while others are saying they will continue to enjoy Harry Potter while avoiding giving money or other support to Rowling, etc.–we are united and committed to not letting hate go unpunished.*

To be honest, I’m saddened that it has come to this. It’s because of Harry Potter and JK Rowling that I started writing fiction in the first place. You may not have ever heard of me (at least not in the context of a writer) if it hadn’t been for the Wizarding World and what it did for me as a child. I owe Rowling a debt for that, and I’ll always be grateful for the effect she had on my life.

However, I am against all forms of prejudice, including but not limited to racism, antisemitism, sexism, Islamophobia, ableism, ageism, homophobia and, of course, transphobia. I’ve seen the effects of what these prejudices have on people and it disgusts me. My day job allows me to combat these problems within the workforce, something I’m quite proud of. And I won’t stand idly by as an author with a major platform uses theirs to hurt others because of their own prejudice.

And to Ms. Rowling, if you’re reading this, I’m afraid that this is, to quote Albus Dumbledore to Cornelius Fudge, “the parting of the ways.” I will always be grateful to you and to your creation, as I said. But I can’t stand by your views or support your work. Losing me won’t hurt you in the slightest. But if it makes you think, or makes someone else think about how vulnerable the trans community is, or if it helps a trans person feel less alone in a scary world, then it’ll be worth it. With that, Ms. Rowling, I let you go.

Thank you for reading this, everyone. I know this isn’t my normal sort of post, but I had to write it. Thanks for reading. And while I was planning on doing a late-night writing session, I think I’m tuckered out and will hit the hay instead.

Goodnight, Followers of Fear. Until next time, stay safe and pleasant nightmares.

*I know this post may upset some of my Followers of Fear, and they may not want to follow me or read my works anymore. If that’s the case, I’m sad to see you go, but I wish you the best and hope we can someday meet on common ground. And if you decide to get rid of my books, please do so in a manner that doesn’t burn down your house or something crazy like that. I know burning them seems fun, but is it worth your home and life?

I may have stayed up late last night reading this one. What can I say? Riley Sager knows how to take a damaged young woman with a past, put her in a scenario reminiscent of famous horror films and novels, and then create a compelling mystery-thriller. Such is the case with Home Before Dark, where Sager takes on Gothic horror and The Amityville Horror.

Home Before Dark follows Maggie Holt, an interior designer who also happens to be one member of a family that experienced an Amityville Horror-esque situation that forced them to flee their newly bought home, the infamous Victorian mansion Baneberry Hall, after only twenty days. Her father Ewan later wrote a book about their “experiences” in the haunted house, which became a bestseller and has forever followed Maggie. Twenty-five years later, Maggie returns to Baneberry Hall, a place she doesn’t even remember, to renovate the house and find the truth hidden in her dad’s book. But as figures from the book emerge as real people and Maggie digs deeper, she finds an even deeper mystery within the manor. One with possibly deadly consequences.

From the start, the novel draws you in and makes it hard to put down. The story switches between Maggie’s present and passages from Ewan Holt’s “tell-all,” House of Horrors, and it’s fun to see how things that “happened” in the past line up with or contrast with what Maggie experiences. I also liked Maggie as a character. You could really feel how much her life has been affected by her family’s deceptions and the popularity of the Book (as she calls it). I almost felt angry at her parents just reading about how much they twisted her life.

And of course, there were numerous twists and turns along the way. I saw none of them coming and they really really kept the tension high and my mind boggled at the possibilities. They’re part of the reason why I was up past midnight last night.

If there’s one thing I didn’t like about the novel, it’s that during the sections quoting the Book, the plot seemed lifted from today’s B-horror films. You know, the kind that have paint-by-the-numbers plots, rely heavily on CGI and jumpscares, and you forget about them a year or so after they release? I get that it’s supposed to be a pastiche or satire of Amityville Horror-style haunted house stories, but at times it felt like I was reading a bad ripoff of The Haunting in Connecticut or one of the poorer Conjuring films. Not really my thing, as you well know.

All in all though, Home Before Dark is a twisty, satisfying read. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving Riley Sager’s fourth book a 4.7. Grab a copy, settle into a comfy chair, and prepare to be thrilled. You’ll be “haunted” even after the very last page.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I might get another post out this week, but given that I’m leaving for my trip soon, that’s going to take up my attention this week. And it’ll be really hard to blog until after I get back. Nevertheless, once I do come back, I promise to have quality content for you. Or something you can use to fill five minutes of your life, depends on how you view it.

And in the meantime, if you’re able to come to the fifth annual Indie Author Book Expo in Des Moines, Iowa this coming weekend, please do. I’ll be selling copies of Rose, doing Tarot readings, and interacting with people, and I’d be happy to see you.

Until next time, stay safe and pleasant nightmares!

Some time ago, a friend/colleague on Facebook invited friends who enjoy writing to join him for a virtual write-in. Curious, I asked him to include me, and the following Sunday, I logged in with several other writers. And you know what? It proved to be very helpful, at least for me.

So what is a virtual write-in? Well, if you’re unfamiliar with write-ins, they’re when a bunch of writers get together and use the presence of one another to motivate you to write and get words down on paper. It’s also helpful if you need advice from your fellow creatives. A virtual one is one that’s not held in-person, but online.

In this case, we’ve been meeting over Zoom. We log in at a set time by a link provided by the host (my colleague), talk about what we’re going to be working on, and then mute our microphones before trying to write for two hours. At the end, everyone who can jumps back in and talks about how much progress they made.

I’m usually pretty good about getting words on paper (to the point that people joke I’m writing a novel a week or something), but I’ve found these write-ins to be helpful for me. For one thing, having all these other writers writing alongside me, even if they’re not physically nearby, has a psychological effect. I start to think that these other writers are making progress, and that makes me want to make progress. My mind then gets into a frame where it can make progress, and then I do make progress.

And an added benefit to these virtual write-ins is that it allows for safe communication during the pandemic. COVID-19 has made it dangerous to so much as stop by a Starbucks, let alone meet with a bunch of other authors. But these write-ins take out that risk, as well as giving writers who may live far away from the host a chance to participate without a long car or plane ride. And in an age where going grocery shopping is dangerous because the store may let people in who aren’t wearing masks (how irresponsible), that’s a good thing to have.

Finally, these virtual write-ins allow us to make connections in a comfortable environment. Since starting these write-ins, I’ve met a few writers whom I’ve been able to connect and talk work with. Just recently, I had a chat with one of the participants about various aspects of publication after we connected through the write-in. Another gave me some feedback on an essay I wrote that proved helpful during the second draft. And a few are now Facebook friends!

My writing workstation. Which, by the way, is also a comfortable place to meet people during a virtual write-in.

Of course, virtual write-ins aren’t without their drawbacks. Not everyone is able to make every single meeting, sometimes people have to come late or leave early because life is crazy, and sometimes these write-ins aren’t that helpful for some writers. However, if you’re in a good group, you’ll find the other members understanding of your life or your writing style. I know the folks in mine are.

Anyway, these write-ins have been helpful. Hell, I’ve benefited so much, I’m planning one for the Ohio chapter of the Horror Writers Association, possibly one that lasts a good chunk of the day.

And since they’re so helpful, I’m spreading the word about them. Who knows? Maybe if you’ve had trouble lately with writing, getting a couple of your friends together for a virtual write-in might be just what you needed. And if it’s not, at least you’ve discovered another thing that doesn’t help with your writing. Always a plus.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m going to bed now. Hopefully in the morning, I’ll be able to finish the outline of a new story. Hope you all have a happy Fourth of July, even if you don’t live in America.

And until next time, stay safe, pleasant nightmares, and HAMILTON IS AWESOME!!! I hope you have the chance to watch it on Disney+. That movie had me in tears by the end.

Since it was announced that King was releasing another collection of four novellas last year, I’ve been looking forward to reading it. The shutdowns due to COVID-19 delayed me getting my copy from the library by about two months (thanks, coronavirus!), but as soon as I had it, I settled down to read it and see how it stacked up against collections like Four Past Midnight and Different Seasons.

It took me maybe two weeks to read the book. What did I think?

Oh God, I was disappointed. I’m a huge King fan, but–oh God. This is definitely not one of Stephen King’s strongest collections of novellas. Out of the four stories in the collection, I disliked or was indifferent to three of them:

The first story, “Mr. Harrigan’s Phone,” follows a young boy whose relationship with a rich, elderly bachelor takes on a supernatural twist. And while it goes for a creepy coming-of-age story vibe with comments on technology addiction and how business takes place online, it feels like just your average coming-of-age story that tries to be creepy a few times. And not very well. If perhaps the story had dropped some of the literary focus and instead tried to focus on the protagonist through more supernatural terror, I might have enjoyed it a bit more.

The second story, “The Life of Chuck,” is actually three stories in one, all focusing on a man named Chuck Krantz at various stages of his life. And I didn’t see the point of all three stories being included together as one story. The three parts don’t really link up that well except for the titular character, and each has a different focus: the first is an interesting take on the verse from the Talmud “He who saves a life, saves a world entire;” the second is about an impromptu flash mob in Boston; and the third is a spooky ghost story set during Chuck’s childhood. I think if the three parts were released in separate collections, they honestly would have been stronger, especially the first and third. As they are though, I was just left annoyed and confused.

The final story, “The Rat,” is a semi-interesting story about an author trying to finish a novel in a remote cabin during a storm that takes a dark fantasy turn during the last third. And the way it takes that turn is so silly, I’m wondering if King meant for that to be a comedy/horror piece and I missed it. As it is, it’s not going to leave anyone with nightmares anytime soon.

The one story I actually liked is the third, “If It Bleeds,” starring Holly Gibney from the Bill Hodges trilogy (which I haven’t read) and The Outsider (read my review here). In this story, private eye and cinephile Holly Gibney realizes a monster like the one from The Outsider is causing death and misery after a school is bombed. It’s got a great mystery at the center, a thrilling climax, and some nice character development on the part of Holly (who, might I add, is on the spectrum with me. Positive representation!). It’s not exactly top-notch King, but it’s still very good, and I’d check out an adaptation if one were made and it was on a channel/streaming service I have access to (*hint hint wink wink*).

All in all though, If It Bleeds by Stephen King is not going to keep anyone up at night. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving the collection a 2.3, and that’s mostly for the titular story. Major King fans are going to read this one, but I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who’s either a casual fan, a new King reader, or just looking for a scary collection of stories.

For that, I recommend his collection Four Past Midnight.*

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m disappointed that this book didn’t resonate with me, but I already have my next read, Home Before Dark by Riley Sager, waiting for me to start. Hopefully that’ll scratch my horror literature itch, especially if I finish it before it has to go back to the library. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

*And would someone please make a movie based on the third story in that collection, The Library Policeman? PLEASE?!!! I would help make it and make it the best it can be if someone did.

Well, I didn’t think I would get it done, and especially not today. But get it done, I did, and now it’s time for a blog post.

As you well know, earlier this month I started working on the second draft of River of Wrath, a novel about a small town in 1960s Mississippi whose dark history is dredged up when one of the circles of Hell described in Dante’s Inferno appears in the town. I’ve been meaning to get to this draft for forever, but the deaths of George Floyd, Breona Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbury, among so many others, forced me to pull this one off the flash drive and get to work on it again. One of this story’s main themes is racism and racial violence, after all, so I can’t think of a better time to work on this story.

And I’m honestly amazed I got this story finished. For one thing, I didn’t think I’d get to keep to that goal of getting one story done a month, but I guess I did, after a fashion. And I didn’t think I’d finish it today. After all, I had about 75 pages left to edit when I got up this morning. However, a lot of work and I just kept going. Before I knew it, I only had 30 left, and I just couldn’t stop. Now it’s a bit after midnight and I’m done with the second draft. Imagine that.

On another note, this draft is now longer than the first draft! When I finished the story the first time around in October 2018, the novel was 192 pages (8.5 x 11 inches on MS Word, double-spaced, 12-point Times New Roman font) and 60,059 words. The second draft…is 204 pages and 63,843 words! I added twelve pages and nearly four-thousand words! I’m not sure if most of those words came from adding more in-depth explanations about Dante’s Inferno, as one of my beta readers advised, but it’s quite an addition. One, hopefully, that’s well worth the work.

So what’s next, both for River of Wrath and for myself? Well, before I start a third draft of River, I’d like to get it looked at by some sensitivity readers. As I said, this story deals with racism, and I want to make sure it’s not accidentally hurtful to African-Americans despite my best intentions. Hopefully, they’ll give me some insight to improve the novel and make it so that the only people who find it offensive are people whose offense I don’t care about, aka white supremacists.

As for me, I’m going to take a break for a short while. You know, watch some movies, read some books, prepare for my upcoming trip to Iowa and South Carolina. However, I’m sure I’ll get in front of the keyboard and start banging out a new story soon enough. I have an idea that’s been rattling in my head for awhile now that I think I can do a lot with, so I’m looking forward to working on it.

But for now, it’s late and I need to sleep. Good night, my Followers of Fear. And until next time, stay safe, be kind, and pleasant nightmares!

It’s hard to imagine, in the midst of this pandemic, that I have travel plans. In fact, I was SURE around March that these plans would be canceled. But, by accident and chance or by the grace of the Overarching Entity who runs this dimension, I’m doing some traveling very soon. And, as I have in years past, I’m telling you about it. Especially since there might be a chance to run into me.

Let me explain: next month, I will be traveling to Iowa and South Carolina. In Iowa, I will be visiting my good friend and fellow author Joleene Naylor, whom you’ve probably seen around the blog, as well as her husband Charles Naylor, whom you probably haven’t seen around the blog. While we’re together, we’re going to be doing some pretty cool stuff.

One of those things (and this is the part where you should pay attention), is to attend the 5th Annual Indie Author Book Expo in West Des Moines, Iowa. Specifically, we’re going to be selling books as authors. I’ll be hawking copies of Rose, of course, and Joleene will be likely selling copies of her Aramanthine vampire series. That, and there will be a whole bunch of other authors there selling wares, so you should totally come! It’s Saturday and Sunday, July 11th and 12th, from 10 AM – 6 PM on Saturday and 11 AM – 5 PM on Sunday at the Valley West Mall in West Des Moines (which is somehow both part of Des Moines and its own separate city). Come on by if you can, take some photos, get a signed copy of Rose, and maybe find some other reads to check out.

We will also be, along with two friends of Joleene and Charles, staying overnight at the Villisca Axe Murder House! That’s right, I’m staying overnight at another haunted location, and it’s another with a history of axe murder! And this time, I’m bringing friends and a GoPro along with my dowsing rods, and hopefully we’ll see some paranormal activity and catch it on video. Videos to be uploaded as soon as I can upload them.

After those adventures, I’ll be heading out to South Carolina to see my friend Ramsey Hardin, who you might remember from my New Year’s YouTube video (oh, such innocent days, when we thought 2019 couldn’t get any worse and 2020 would be full of happiness and joy! I miss those days). We’ll spend some time around his hometown, and then we’ll go to Charleston for a couple of days to explore some museums, enjoy the beach, and go on a ghost tour at night (because of course I would arrange for that! And yes, we will be taking video. Hopefully we’ll catch something cool). Should be a ton of fun.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to my trip and am gathering everything I’ll need. If you’re able to come to the expo, I hope you do. I would love to see you. And if you’re not able to be there but want to see me in Charleston or something…maybe. You may have to email well in advance and take precautions against COVID-19, though. Just saying.

Anyway, that’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. There’s a horror movie calling my name, so I’m going to put that on. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!