Posts Tagged ‘2021’

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I’ve been told that today is the 21st day of the 21st year of the 21st century. Putting aside the fact that time is an illusion, particularly to non-human entities such as myself, you’d think that today would be kind of extraordinary because it was the 21st day of the 21st year of the 21st century. But, beyond it being President Biden’s first full day as commander-in-chief, it’s not extraordinary. The day itself was ordinary, just another day in a strange time for me.

What, you may ask, makes my life so strange? It’s a number of things. For one thing, I’m moving next week. Surprise! A two-bedroom apartment in my complex opened up recently. My rental managers knew I was planning on moving out at the end of my current lease anyway so I could have more space and they didn’t want to lose a good tenant. So, they offered it to me and I accepted.

And I’m excited for the move. I’ll be able to have a home office in the second bedroom, and there will be enough space for me to get some cats without their food bowls or litter boxes becoming tripping hazards. But it means I’ll have to uproot myself from my current apartment, which I’ve lived in for nearly five years. I’ve slowly been ticking items off my to-do list, like notifying various companies I pay bills to or taking down all my wall art and decorations. And it’s odd to see this apartment prepare to become not my apartment, but empty. Like I’m erasing my presence from this space.

I went through so many changes and had so many experiences here: started my first full-time job, published a book, got my drivers license, etc. All those experiences will still stay with me, but the location will no longer be accessible. It will no longer be my home.

And then there’s the fact that I’m not motivated to write lately. I know, shocker! But I’ve got one short story being released as an e-book exclusive, several other stories being read over by alpha or beta readers, a couple of other projects that I can’t talk about now in the works, and a few other writing-related things going on. Is it any wonder I don’t feel like doing anything more than some basic outlining?

Add in the change of Presidents yesterday, in a transition of power that feels more significant than any in living memory. Not only that, but it comes hot on the heels of an insurrection in the Capitol building. And that I’ve taken the next couple of days off for the move. And it’s January, so the year is still new. And all this and other events in my life and the world are coming one after the other after the other.

In a way, I feel like this pup. Photo by Dominika Roseclay on Pexels.com

And that, despite it all, I’m feeling kind of Zen lately. Or as Zen as I can be. With my neuro-atypical brain, turning my mind off and being thoughtless has never been my strong suit. Believe me, I’ve tried. But I feel something. I feel happy and clear and relaxed. Even as I go about my goals and daily tasks, I feel very attuned. Like I’m where I’m supposed to be, doing what I’m supposed to be doing. I’m at peace with myself and the world. I’m moving through the world and part of it. There’s no reason for me to feel this way that I can see, but there it is.

Is it any wonder that my life feels weird right now?

And you know what? It’s not a bad way for life to be. I mean, yeah, as an eccentric, my life is always a little weird. But this is a different kind of weird. A beneficial, relaxing, pleasant sort of weird. And I’ll enjoy it while it lasts.

Which will likely either be till I go back to work, or when I need to get some serious writing work done. Not sure, ask me later.

Good night, my Followers of Fear. And until next time, stay safe, enjoy the 21st day of the 21st year of the 21st century, and pleasant nightmares!

You know, I still remember when it took me months to write a short story. Or it felt like months. It might have been less. But it took a lot longer. I didn’t always have that great discipline when it came to writing, so projects took a lot longer than they do now. I guess that’s growing up and getting experience.

Well, at least it doesn’t take that long to get stories written now. Because, guess what? I just finished my first short story of 2021!

Can I get a GIF of Kermit the Frog being totally excited right now?

Was that necessary? Not at all. Did I enjoy putting it in there? Quite.

So, I’m sure you’re curious about the short story I’ve written. The story is called, “The Divorce from God,” and is unusual for my work because it draws very strongly on my Jewish heritage. Yeah, I may be Jewish, but that doesn’t appear in my fiction very much. Probably a number of reasons for that, but I guess there’s just not many stories I feel like telling where my heritage could fit comfortably in.

However, this story was inspired by a recent scandal in the ultra-Orthodox community, so this time the Jewish heritage fit in quite well. In case you weren’t aware, back in 2013 an ultra-Orthodox rabbi was arrested for some serious crimes. You see, in Judaism, a woman can only get a divorce if her husband gives her a document called a get. Without that, she’s forever tied to him. And sometimes, husbands will hold that over their wives, leaving them with few options. Women stuck in this situation are known as agunot, or chained women.

I bring this up because the rabbi I mentioned was being hired by these women to kidnap their husbands and torture them until they granted the divorce. And the guy charged thousands of dollars for his services, too! He got away with this for decades, protected by his victims’ unwillingness to testify or by the charges being dropped. However, after one of his victims came forward, the FBI pulled a sting and he and his cohorts were arrested. Most of them are still serving their sentences, last I checked.

Click here for a great article from GQ magazine on the scandal, which was essential for my research.

I first heard about this story last year when I heard that a movie was being made about it. The story immediately inspired me with ideas. And then, about a week ago, I heard about an anthology of Jewish horror being published later this year, so I thought, “Might as well write this story now. It’s a good fit.”

It was a good night of writing, all told.

And hopefully, once I’ve done some edits, it will be. I’ve already sent it to my dad, who’s a rabbi and who’s agreed to take a first look, to give his feedback on the Jewish aspects of the story and if I do a good job explaining those aspects for a non-Jewish audience. After that, I’ll probably let a beta reader or two take a look at it and do some edits before sending it in for consideration. Fingers crossed, the editors will like it.

For now though, I think I’ll celebrate with a cup of tea and a late viewing of Die Hard 2, which is probably the best of the Die Hard sequels. Tomorrow, I’ll probably talk about my next major project. Or watch and review a horror movie. Or both. We’ll see what I’m in the mood for.

Good night, my Followers of Fear. And until next time, stay safe and pleasant nightmares!

Last year, I posted about a couple of conventions and book expos I was signed up to attend as an author or vendor. I’m putting out a quick update on that to keep you all updated. And I’m hoping a couple of you will be able to come and see me if you know about them well enough in advance.

First, there’s the Paranormal and Psychic Convention, or ParaPsyCon 2021. This is an annual event held at the Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield, Ohio. You know, the former prison that was used as the set for the Shawshank Redemption and which is very haunted? Anyway, they released a new poster on Facebook today, which I’ve included below, and has said that, at the present, the convention is still a-go. This makes me very happy, because I love this location and I look forward to seeing all the different vendors there. Not to mention some friends and readers.

If you’re interested in attending, it’s going to be May 22nd-23rd. All you need to do is buy a regular ticket into the prison to attend. The convention is wrapped into the ticket cost! You can find out more details here.

And if you’re a vendor interested in joining in on the fun, I think the convention is still taking applications for vendors. You can look at their vendor application page here.

The other event I’m scheduled to attend is the Indie Author Book Expo in Chicago, or IABE Chicago. Sponsored by the same group who held the event I attended in Des Moines back in July. This one will be held at the Quarry Chi on E. 75th Street in Chicago, Illinois on June 19th. I don’t think the location has ever been haunted or used as a film set, but the photos online show a very nice event space. You can walk around, check out some authors and books, and maybe say hello to me while you’re there.

And that’s the total number of events I’ll be attending this year. So far, anyway. It’s still early in the year, so if something comes up that I can go to, I will. And I’ll post about it too. (Let me know if you know of any I could go to.)

And yes, I know that COVID-19 could interfere at any time. Believe me, it interfered with ParaPsyCon last year. As in canceled it. But with the vaccine rolling out and early results showing promise, I’ve reason to hope. And make plans. And maybe see some Followers of Fear in real life, rather than through a screen.

Well, I just wanted to update you on all that. If anyone needs me, I’ve dinner to make and the first short story of 2021 to write. Until next time, stay safe and pleasant nightmares!

As many of you know by now, I’m in the middle of editing The Pure World Comes, a Gothic horror novel I wrote earlier this year. The novel follows a maid living in Victorian England who goes to work at the estate of a mad scientist (yes, that’s my elevator pitch for the story). Since a mad scientist features prominently in the story, I thought I’d take a moment to discuss the trope, as it’s extremely common in fiction, especially sci-fi and horror.

With that being said, I decided to do some research before working on The Pure World Comes. I couldn’t find many articles on the trope (and those I did were pitifully short), so I asked one of my Facebook writing groups for help. I got way more responses than I’d expected. Some of them gave me some funny responses like including wild, white hair and a funny accent, or differentiating mad scientists, who do mad experiments, to mad engineers, who build mad things. Some were not helpful at all, like imagining them as autistic overachievers (excuse me? I’m on the spectrum and an overachiever! I take offense at that).

However, there was some good information given to go with the few articles I could find. To start with, the mad scientist trope is over two-hundred years old, with the prototypical mad scientist being Victor Frankenstein of the novel Frankenstein.* However, the stereotypical look of the mad scientist–wild hair, crazy eyes, and “quasi-fascist laboratory garb1“–as well as the outlook for the lab, was influenced by the character Rotwang and his lab in the German silent film Metropolis. Rotwang also had numerous traits we associate with mad scientists (more on that later). After the horrors of WWII, such as German experiments and the atom bomb, and the outbreak of the Cold War, mad scientists began to reflect the horrors and fears of that age, often working on projects that could destroy all or almost all of mankind.

Given the state of the world now, I’m expecting an influx of mad scientists interested in virology and/or social engineering.

Alongside their history, I found out mad scientists have some common subtypes:

Victor Frankenstein (here renamed Henry for some reason) is a great example of an unethical mad scientist.
  • Mythical scientists. These are the mad scientists who seem to be working with godlike powers, either through unexplained, futuristic science bordering on magic or actually studying/utilizing magic items. Science-colored wizardry, as one FB commenter put it.
  • Unethical scientists. These are the scientists who are actual scientists but have dropped their ethics/morals. These types are usually based on the Nazi scientists, the Tuskegee doctors who studied on unknowing black men, and so many more (sadly), though Frankenstein technically falls into this category.
  • Cutting edge obsessive scientists. These types aren’t always so bad. They are good at their work and love it deeply, but tend to get obsessive to the point it can cause trouble for them or other characters. Often, after causing a lot of trouble, they can get a redemption arc. A good example is Entrapta from the She-Ra reboot.
  • Scientists with mental illness. These are self-explanatory, and are becoming more and more common in media these days. This can be a bit of a double-edged sword, as it can be great representation for the disabled, but it can also give a bad name to the disabled by linking their evil behavior to their mental illness.

Obviously, these types can cross over with each other. And there’s probably more than what I’m listing here.

Whatever their type, type combination, or era of creation, all the types have some commonality. For one thing, they generally deeply believe in their goals or research. They also tend to think of themselves as a protagonist in their own personal story. Even the ones who acknowledge they’re evil still believe they’re a main character on the world stage. Pride, greed, or the belief that they know better is generally what drives them, and is often what leads to their downfall.

As for how to write mad scientists, it’s less having to do with the trope and with the character itself. Because of what the mad scientist can do, they’re often used to fulfill a number of needs in stories, but unless you’re making them a satire of the trope or just including them for comical effect, you need to really think about their character. What motivates them? What are their odd ticks or quirks? Think of them like you would any other character and apply the same amount of love and development. Hopefully then you can create a great mad scientist.

Entrapta in the She-Ra reboot is a great subversion of the mad scientist trope.

You can also try going against clich├ęs. Most mad scientists are older white males with nefarious intentions, so going against one or more of these traits and then making the character your own might be a good idea. Looking at you again, Entrapta from She-Ra! You wonderful, robot-obsessed, magic-haired princess, you!

Mad scientists are common characters in fiction and for good reason. And while there’s no sign they’re going away any time soon, there’s plenty of room to innovate and make them your own. Especially if you do your science homework before you start writing.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. This will probably be the last post I make for 2020. If that’s true, I’ll catch you all next year. In the meantime, I’ll be bingeing TV, sleeping and editing The Pure World Comes (I’m currently in the chapter where I reveal who Jack the Ripper is).

Until next time, stay safe (and don’t travel), Happy New Year, and pleasant nightmares!

*Fun fact, Victor Frankenstein never actually finished college, so he’s not a doctor, though people think he is. But since the discipline of science hadn’t been formalized and all the other stuff by the early 19th century, we can still call him a mad scientist.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for a while, you’re likely aware that 2020 ends this week. And by God, are we all glad of that! COVID-19, forest fires, horrific murders leading to massive civil unrest, false claims of election fraud that nevertheless have weakened our democracy, and did I miss anything? Probably, it’s been such a horrible year.

Yeah, on a personal level, things were good. I wrote so much, it kind of became an in-joke among my fellow writers; I got to do a lot of traveling and visit a few haunted places; I started saving for a home; and I was able to grow my audience and have my stories reach more people. Yeah, I was only able to publish one story and I didn’t get any acceptances like I’d hoped for, but I got good feedback on the stories I submitted and think I could get them into other publications or accepted by other presses.

And yeah, some things on the national and global stage were good. Even under the strains of COVID-19, we managed to get some great stuff in the entertainment realm.

But still, this was a hard year. So, unlike previous years, I won’t write a post about how 2021 will be better. And I certainly won’t post another video like I did at the beginning of 2020 speculating on what might happen this year. Yeah, remember that? I remember New Year’s 2020 clearly, which is crazy because usually time just blends together for me, but I remember December 31st, 2019 and January 1st, 2020 as clearly as if they’d just happened. And I remember the hope that I and so many others felt. 2020 was going to be so good! After 2019 was such a shit heap, we couldn’t imagine things being worse.

Boy, were we wrong!

So, I’m not going to say 2021 is going to be better. More than likely, it’s going to be a hard and continuous struggle for the first half to two-thirds of the year. We’ll need that time for the new COVID-19 vaccines to make it among the population and see how effective they are. We’ll also need that time for the new government to get to work and hopefully pass some legislation that helps the American people. And a million other things that need to occur across the world.

Making 2021 better than 2020 is going to feel like a Sisyphean task most of the time, believe me.

So, I won’t say 2021 will be better. I will say there’s room to improve the situation. And hopefully things will improve.

And hopefully some of the things I aim to accomplish this coming year will happen. I’ll hopefully continue to write and edit new stories that excite and scare people. Maybe some of them will get published (perhaps in a few publications or by a couple of presses?). I’ve a couple of other projects in the works that I hope to see pan out, and I hope to continue expanding this wonderful audience known as the Followers of Fear.

Oh, and I might go to a couple of conventions. That’s a thing.

And on a more personal level, I’ve got some things happening that I’m excited about. I’ll be moving into a bigger apartment this year and hopefully getting a cat soon after (I’ve been wanting a kitty of my own for sooo long!). I hope to get lots of reading done, and maybe even do some traveling later in the year. And maybe I’ll get to meet some of you amazing Followers of Fear in person! That certainly would be cool.

But for now, I’m approaching things cautiously. I’m living that old Arab proverb of “Trust in God, but tie your camel.” And while I would like for 2021 to be an improvement, I know it’s going to be hard to make that happen.

We can only struggle and work to make things happen, I guess. And hopefully that will have positive results.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ve stories to edit, chores to do and a few other things besides. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

Are you hopeful for 2021? What are your plans for New Years? What are you hoping to accomplish next year?

One piece of writing advice I don’t often seen given is that you sometimes need to change what you’re doing. I don’t mean you need to abandon your projects to embrace a new genre or resort to crazy gimmicks like dancing in the middle of the road and passing flyers out to passing drivers about your book/website (though that does sound memorable). It’s just that sometimes, if a particular method for getting your work out there doesn’t work, it can be a good idea to examine what you’re doing and maybe make some changes.

I’ve been examining my own methods as of late, and given my own goals in the short-term and long-term, I’ve made a decision regarding my short(er) stories. While I’ll still attempt to get some of these stories published in magazines and anthologies, I’ll also be releasing some of those stories as e-book exclusives.

That’s right. There’s going to be a lot more stories of mine available now. In fact, I plan on releasing one before the end of the year, and then releasing two or three throughout 2021.

The reasons why I’m doing this are many, so I’m not going to bore you with the details. But the main reason is that I want more people to be exposed to my work, and the industry as it is now allows me to be a gatekeeper alongside publishers, so why not take advantage of that?

But wait, there’s more! I also plan to release print versions of the stories. These stories will be available as little booklets (or chapbooks, as they’re known in the industry, and I’ll have to write a blog post about those someday), and they’ll be available at events like conventions and book expos. This means anyone who has a physical copy of one of these stories will have a special, exclusive piece of fiction memorabilia!

And who knows? If these stories do well both as e-books and as booklets, then I might produce audio versions, or maybe put them out as collections. That might be fun to do. Especially if there’s a demand for it.

I hope to have an announcement out about which short story will be released first. I’ve already selected the story, but I want to give it another edit and create a cover first. So, that’s the big project today. Hopefully soon I’ll be able to post an announcement and a release date, as well as get the marketing machine up and running again.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ll be back before too long, believe me. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

Also, a big thank you to our troops, both past and present, for their sacrifice and service. We here in the United States would not enjoy the freedom we do without you, and we can’t thank you enough for what you’ve done. May the memory of your great deeds live throughout time and remind us to never take what we have for granted.

My table at the Indie Author Book Expo in Des Moines this past year. I’m hoping to have wonderful experiences at the events I’ll be attending this coming year as well.

I know it’s early. We still have three months and nine days left of 2020. I also know that, with COVID-19, any planned event is subject to change or cancellation. And there’s no telling when this pandemic will end. But I want to be optimistic and hope things work out before these events happen.

Plus, I’ve already talked about one of these events on most of my other social media in order to help get more vendors there. And if you want to get this stuff on people’s calendars, you gotta get the word out as early as possible. Before they put weddings and bar mitzvahs and other conventions on their calendars.

What was I talking about? Oh right. So, I’m signed up to be a vendor or author at a couple of conventions and book fairs next year. And I’m letting you know about them in case you’d be interested in them or going to them.

First, there’s Paranormal and Psychic Convention 2021, or ParaPsyCon 2021. This is an annual event at the Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield, OH. You know, the haunted former prison where they filmed the Shawshank Redemption. The one I’ve been to twice and filmed some of my best haunted footage at. It’s from May 22nd-23rd, 2021,* and all it takes to get in is admission to the convention is to pay for admission to the prison. You can find out more on their website here.

Fun fact: I was actually supposed to be at this convention earlier this year. But we were in the early days of the pandemic, and the convention organizers were wise to cancel it. They then offered to put me on the vendor list for 2021, and I accepted. I’m hopeful that by then, things will be a bit safer and we can go to the convention in peace.

Then the month after, I’ll be at an event hosted by Indie Author Book Expo, or IABE, the very same group who hosted the expo I went to in Des Moines back in July. However, this time, I’ll be at IABE Chicago in Chicago, Illinois. It’ll be held on June 19th, 2021 at the Quarry Chi on E. 75th street. Not sure what the parking situation is, or if this location has been used as a film set, or if it’s haunted. But hey, doesn’t mean it won’t be a good time. You can find out more about it, as well as the other events IABE will be holding next year, on their website here.

I’ll be at both events, selling books,** doing Tarot readings, meeting readers, writers and others alike, and just trying to have a good time. So, if you’re able to come to either, please do. I’d be happy to see you.

And if I sign up for any other events, I’ll be sure to let you know well in advance that I’m attending. Don’t know if there will be. Some won’t happen unless the pandemic gets better. Others won’t let you sign up unless you’ve had a book published within a certain time period, so my attendance will depend on what occurs over the next year or so. We’ll see what happens.

Anyway, that’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. If any of you are able to make these events, I hope I’ll see you then. Until next time, stay safe and pleasant nightmares.

*Same weekend as StokerCon, I know, but I already had this on the calendar. What are you going to do?

**And some other things. I’ve had a few ideas on other items I can sell alongside my books. And I’ll probably think of a few more before the first convention.