Posts Tagged ‘anxiety’

As many of you are aware, last October I announced that I would be releasing a new collection of short stories, Hannah and Other Stories, with BSC Publishing Group. Like my previous collection, The Quiet Game: Five Tales to Chill Your Bones, these are all original and unpublished stories that have gone unread except for a few other people at this point. Unlike The Quiet Game, however, Hannah will be seven stories instead of five, and I have a professional editing team working with me to polish up the stories before they’re released.

It’s that editing process I’m here to talk about. As I mentioned in a previous post, BSC is sending me the notes for each story one at a time so that I’m not overwhelmed. I appreciate that, as the last time I was overwhelmed editing a book, I spent a good amount of time watching Sailor Moon on Blu-Ray while trying to quell my anxiety. And recently, they sent me the notes for the second story in the collection, Queen Alice, which they told me is their favorite story in the collection so far.

I started editing Queen Alice recently after several delays (you can guess one or two of the delays were). And there are a lot of notes from the editors.

Not that I’m complaining. I’m grateful that they’ve been so thorough, picking things up that I missed in all that editing and polishing I did last summer before submitting Hannah. However, it is a challenge. I’m seeing a lot of stuff that needs to be clarified or rewritten or cut out, and doing all that so the story turns out better than it was before can be tough at times.

I’m a little nervous about how things will go down the line, when it comes time to polish up What Errour Awoke. Great story in the Lovecraftian universe and it did help me with my anxieties regarding the COVID-19 pandemic when that first began, but I know there’s plenty there that’ll need to be worked on. Especially in the latter half!

Still, I’m working it. I’m taking it one page and one section at a time. And I’m already seeing vast improvement with Queen Alice. At the moment, the story is kind of like a Lovecraft story: great concept, but the writing needs work (thankfully no racism or xenophobia). My goal right now is to get the writing up to the same standard as the concept and the story that my editors fell in love with.

That way, when it gets to you guys, you won’t be disappointed by it, but thrilled. Or maybe, just maybe, you’ll be terrified.


Just a couple of quick notes, my Followers of Fear:

First, as you know, The Pure World Comes has been out five days. And so far, my Gothic horror novel about a maid in Victorian England going to work for a mad scientist has been doing pretty well. It’s not selling like a Stephen King novel (I wish), but it’s been selling steadily and people have been leaving positive reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. This has made me hopeful for the book’s future and I plan to continue letting people know about it so they’ll want to read it (including a more in-depth post on it in the near future).

If you would like to check out The Pure World Comes, I’ll leave links below, including to Goodreads. You can read what people are saying, decide whether to purchase a copy, and maybe, if you like what you read, leave me a review letting me and others know what you think. It would be a big help to me, and let me know just what you thought of the book.

The Pure World Comes: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, Kobo, Goodreads

Also, ParaPsyCon is one week from today! If you’re unfamiliar, this is an awesome gathering of ghost hunters, psychics, authors and more at the Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield, Ohio, one of the most haunted locations in America (and the filming location for Shawshank Redemption). If you want to stop by on May 21st and 22nd, please do! I’ll be selling signed copies of books, including TPWC, and entrance fee is just one ticket for a self-guided tour of the prison. Hope to see you there!

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Until next time, good night and pleasant nightmares!

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.

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)

I would like to thank my friend Kat Impossible for tagging me for this (especially since I was in the mood to blog something other than an “Agoraphobia” update, just didn’t know what). Go check out her answers on her blog.

Now, I don’t know how much I’ve talked about my alcohol preferences on this blog (though I’m sure it’s come up once or twice). But while I do like beer, I also enjoy wine every now and then (in fact, Brothers Drake honey wine, better known as mead, is what I use to celebrate finishing novels or getting them published). I’m especially fond of sweet wines, like Moscato, Japanese plum wine, or the abovementioned mead. That’s why I’m kind of excited to do this tag, even if it involves wines I don’t normally drink. So, without further ado, let’s begin.

BOX WINE–a book that people will judge you for liking but you like it anyway!

I can think of only one book that could possibly fit this category, and believe it or not, it’s a Stephen King novella! The Library Policeman, which you can find in his collection Four Past Midnight. The story involves a real estate agent who runs afoul of a creature masquerading as a librarian and which intends to use the agent for its own nefarious purposes. While it’s good and extremely unnerving, there’s a pretty graphic scene in the story that’s essential to the story, and it’s one of the first things people think of when they think of the novella.

It’s also why people might judge you if you say you like the story, or if you want to see an adaptation of The Library Policeman. Which, honestly, given the subject matter, would be a hard sell. Still, if you either approached the problematic scene in the right way or rewrote it in a way that preserves the impact…anyway, that’s my choice. Don’t judge me too harshly now!

ORGANIC WINE–a book that doesn’t have any added crap in it and is just written perfectly.

I was going to put one novel here, but I’m saving it for later, so I’ll put this one here. The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum. *shiver!* That book is famous for how traumatizing it is. And considering that the events it’s based on aren’t too different from what’s in the book, that somehow makes it even more terrifying. But that kind of lends itself to winning this category, as none of what’s depicted in the novel is technically gratuitous or unnecessary. It’s just a reflection of real events.

Not only that, but if Ketchum wasn’t such a talented writer, he couldn’t write the novel the way it is and make it so terrifying. In another person’s hands, they may have added all sorts of melodrama or other unnecessary elements. But in his hands, and with his willingness to push boundaries, it’s a masterpiece!

That being said, anyone going in for the first time should prepare for a ton of anxiety and maybe some nausea. You’ve been warned.

Accurate representation of many first-time readers of The Girl Next Door.

GLUEHWEIN–a spicy, wintry read.

Never heard of that wine. Also, what do you mean “spicy?” Like, sex scenes? Whatever, I’m going with The Shuddering by Ania Ahlborn. It takes place in winter, in ski country, and there are a lot of romantic subplots in the story, so I think that works. Plus, it’s scary. For those unfamiliar, it’s kind of a cross between a creature feature and a good, old-fashioned splatterpunk slasher story. I enjoyed it immensely. Why haven’t they made a movie out of it yet? Keep the monsters in the shadows but keep the focus on the survival instinct and it’ll be great!

SAUVIGNON BLANC–a really sharp and aggressive read that you couldn’t put down!

I actually had to look back through my reviews to find a book that works for this one. In the end, I found one that fits “sharp and aggressive,” and that’s The Five by Hallie Rubenhold. This book takes a look at the Canonical Five, the five confirmed victims of the serial killer known as Jack the Ripper, and uses historical records and an understanding of Victorian social mores and beliefs to reexamine their lives. Doing so, the author Ms. Rubenhold strips away every belief we’ve had on the victims, and therefore the Ripper, till we’re forced to look at the case in an entirely new light.

This book was an eye-opener for me, and I found the author’s argument highly convincing. In fact, I even referred back to The Five while writing The Pure World Comes, where the Ripper is an important aspect of the story. And if you read the book, you’ll understand why I place The Five in this category.

Click here for my full review of the book.

PINOT NOIR–a book you didn’t expect much from but ended up getting blown away.

It’s easier to pick a movie than to pick a book for this one. Still, if I go back far enough, there’s one book that I can think of. The Amulet of Samarkand, the first book in The Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud. I was a huge Potterhead when I was younger, so my mom suggested it to me while we were shopping in a Barnes & Noble one day. At first, I was dismissive, but eventually I was convinced to try it out. And then I read it.

Hoo-boy. The lead characters are awesome and easy to relate to, Bartimaeus himself is hysterical, and the world building was quite an eye opener after reading nothing but Harry Potter for ages. Add in some political intrigue, a plot with twists and turns, and excellent writing, and I was hooked. I was really sad when the series ended, because it was just so good (there was a prequel, but without certain characters, it just wasn’t the same).

Still mad that they haven’t made a movie franchise or TV series off of these books. Supposedly, a movie adaptation is in the works, but until I see some actual progress, I’m not getting too excited.

CHARDONNAY–a good summer read that was super zesty.

What does that even mean, super zesty? Does the story have to have melted cheese with a sharp taste on it or something?

Oh well, I’m going with Battle Royale by Koushun Takami. I mainly associate it with summer reading, and while not covered in cheese, it’s an exciting thrill ride that really engrosses you as you get into the story. So, I guess that makes it super zesty. In any case, this book was the first book in the battle royale genre (which is why it gets away with using the name) and does it better than anything since, especially Hunger Games.

Click here for my review of the book, old as it is.

ROSE–a book that has a little bit of everything in it.

Why, that’s easy. It’s my novel Rose! Just kidding. I’m not that kind of guy.

No, I’m going with the Kieli novels by Yukako Kabei. The series follows an orphan girl who can see ghosts and other spiritual beings. Who befriends/falls in love with an undead soldier with an attitude problem. They travel the world together, which has a dystopian, steampunk aesthetic. Most of the planet is also ruled by a tyrannical church. And the planet is an exoplanet that was colonized by spacefaring humans centuries prior to the book’s storyline. And on this planet, they deal with monsters, ghosts, dangerous church figures, criminals, and so much more. All the while trying to wrestle with their feelings for each other.

See, it has a little of everything in it! And I’m honestly sad not more people have read the books, even among fans of Japanese light novels (novels with the occasional illustration thrown in). If, however, the above description sounds interesting to you, I suggest reading it. I loved it in my teens and early college years, and I’m sure you would too.

Click here for my review of the series.

How I describe the Kieli books.

SHIRAZ–a full-bodied book that is dark and juicy.

By “full-bodied,” do you mean doorstopper thick? If so, I’m going with Needful Things by Stephen King. Not only does it have one of King’s best antagonists, but it makes fun of and delves deeply into human materialism and greed. How much will you go to keep something you desperately want? To own something, or to be right, or to get answers and/or revenge? While a lot of what occurs in the book seems silly, it also feels like some of this stuff could really happen.

I especially love the audio book, which King narrates himself. He has a much better speaking voice than I do, and he gives each of the characters a distinctive voice. You have to listen to it to believe it.

Also, it’s a damn shame that the only adaptation of this book was a movie, and a really bad one at that. I think a comic book adaptation would work very well. Not only could the artists actually depict some of the darker, weirder, or smuttier stuff without constraint like in a movie, it would just be fun to read and see how they depict some scenes or situations (*cough* two middle-aged ladies who think they’re having sexual affairs with Elvis Presley *cough*).

MERLOT–a smooth, easy read with a soft finish.

Ooh, tough choice. I guess I’ll go with Remina by Junji Ito. For those unaware, it’s a manga about a mysterious planet that appears in the night sky and is named after its discoverer’s daughter. As the planet starts approaching Earth, however, other planets start to disappear, leading to trouble for both its discoverer, and young Remina as well.

I love this book. It’s a great story that you can finish in just one sitting, but it has quite the impact that leaves you satisfied. The last few pages especially leave you with this strong feeling that there is no other way the author could have finished the manga without sacrificing the quality. Yeah, some elements are a little hard to believe, but who cares? It’s still an excellent science-horror story that shows how humans react in the face of annihilation, and how attributing blame to the wrong person can ruin lives.

Still waiting for a movie based on this. The fact that nobody has yet bewilders me. Get on that, Hollywood!

Click here for my full review.

CHAMPAGNE–Your favorite book!

That’s an easy one, it’s Kill Creek by Scott Thomas. Still my favorite novel these days. Four famous horror writers go to a reputedly haunted house for a publicity event, but end up awakening something powerful and dark. Something that takes control of their lives and twists them for its own use. And if they’re not careful, they will die because of it.

This novel was a revelation for me. It basically lists the qualities of Gothic novels in the early chapters and then uses those qualities to great effect. Plus, the characters all feel like real people and you really come to love them, especially the four writers (TC Moore, you are the bomb!).Hell, it’s so good I bought my own copy after listening to the audio book fifty thousand times, and I sent a copy to a friend who did me a big favor recently as a thank you.

If you’re a horror fan but haven’t read this one yet, at the very least put it on your TBR list. Trust me, you won’t regret it.

Click here for my full review.


Those are picks. What did you think? Have you read any of them? Are there any you want to read? What would you pick? Let’s discuss in the comments below.

And if you like this tag and think you’d like to try it, THEN CONSIDER YOURSELF TAGGED!!! I hope you enjoy doing the tag and maybe you’ll link back to me so I can see your answers.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I hope to be back for another post very soon. Until next time, I’m off to enjoy a beer (I’m saving the wine for Passover, because that’s really the only alcohol you can drink during that holiday) and do a late-night writing session. Pleasant nightmares and watch out for “Agoraphobia” coming out in just over nine days (links below!).

Agoraphobia:Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada

I’ve two words for you:

Fuck 2020.

That’s how people have been reacting since around January, though it really ramped up around March or April. I’ve been among the people who’ve been saying it. Until recently, however, I thought I was dealing with it pretty well. Except for that short period back in March, I’ve been able to keep my writing flowing. Hell, some even say my output is extraordinary or something to look up to. I’ve been doing really well at work. I’m maintaining a healthy lifestyle, for the most part. I’ve been reading a lot. I haven’t fallen behind on any of my bills. I still have a roof over my head, and I keep my apartment clean (or clean enough).

But lately, it’s been a lot. COVID-19; the election and those intent on derailing it for their own benefit, before, during and after November 3rd; hurricanes; wildfires; black people getting murdered and the justice system failing to help those left behind; the deaths of people like Chadwick Boseman and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who inspired and brought hope to so many people; science deniers and “fake news” and “alternative facts;” and so much more. Add in that September has never been my favorite month, and also happens to be a really busy time for me at work, and it’s had an effect on me.

For one thing, I was actually sick today. Yeah, I think the stress had an effect on my physical health and I had to call off work. Sucks, especially since I was supposed to give a presentation today.

And not only that, but (*gasp!*) I haven’t been able to work on stories this week.

Yeah, I know. Last night, I only managed to edit three pages of Toyland. Took over an hour to do. I was just like, “Forget it! No point at working at it if I need an hour to get three pages edited!” If I was working on a new story, I wouldn’t be surprised if I wasn’t able to make my minimum of 500 words per writing session. I’d be disappointed, but not surprised.

It’s a shame, but sometimes life gets you down and affects everything.

So, I’m taking steps to improve things. I may only have so much power to change this world,* but I have plenty of power to help myself. In fact, since I was sick today, I spent the day doing self-care. I slept in, made Japanese rice gruel (great for when you’re under the weather), watched Enola Holmes on Netflix,** did some hypnosis for stress relief, and watch cute videos of foxes and cats and dogs (thank you, YouTube).

And I’ll be doing some more self-care over the next few days. Yeah, I know there’s an emphasis in this country on being constantly productive until retirement. But you know what? Fuck productivity! What’s the point of getting all that done if I’m a wreck? Sometimes, taking care of yourself is the best thing you can do. And I wish more people realized that, rather than grinding themselves to death for…what? A possible bonus? Bragging rights? I don’t know.

So, I may not get much more done for the rest of the month. Whatever. Once I’m back in the saddle and feeling better, I’ll be pounding out words and stories at the usual crazy rate. And in the meantime, I’ll enjoy all the relaxation and self-care I can. Life’s too short and crazy not to enjoy it, after all.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Stay safe, take care of yourselves, and pleasant nightmares.

*I could use some of my dark powers to make really big changes, but that involves too much paperwork and some nasty unintended consequences. After this year, I’d like to avoid both.

**Short opinion: the mystery is a bit simplistic and obvious for a story involving a detective named Holmes, but it’s a lot of fun. Millie Bobby Brown is great, there are plenty of funny moments, and it scratches my Victorian itch. Give it a watch if you need something nice to get your mind off your problems.

 

 

Hereditary was one of the scariest films of 2018. It’s considered so unnerving and terrifying, watching it a second time is considered by some to be a masochistic act (believe me, I was called that when I watched it again a month or two ago). So when we all heard director Ari Aster was following it up barely a year later with Midsommar, horror fans everywhere get excited. We were even willing to forgive him diving back into the evil cult trope just because he did so well with it in Hereditary. With the bar set high, I went to the theater today to see if this follow up could measure up to its predecessor.

Midsommar follows Dani, a young woman who, after suffering a family tragedy, joins her boyfriend and his friends on a trip to Sweden for a summer solstice festival held in the childhood home of one of the friends. While at first things seem innocent enough–minus a bit of drug use, of course–it soon becomes clear that these rituals and celebrations have a dark side to them. And not everyone will survive the nine-day festival.

I can say this movie is weird and fucked up. But not in a good way.

Obviously, this movie’s going to be compared a lot with Hereditary. But you know why that film worked? Because everything in it, from the painful breakdown of the family to the supernatural occurrences–felt like one big domino effect or Rube Goldberg machine. And in the end, it turned out to be that way. And it was done by looking into every situation where horror could be derived and then exploiting it to its most effective length. There’s none of that here. It felt like Aster just took one of the most prominent factors in Hereditary–the cult aspect–and extended it with psychedelic imagery and as much weird stuff as possible, though with barely any rhyme or reason, let alone with a Rube Goldberg-like exactness.

Even worse, it wasn’t scary. Actually, at times it feels kind of comical. One guy in the theater laughed at out at one point, and I couldn’t blame him. What happened was ridiculous.

And the majority of the characters are flat as rocks. You can sum most of them up with a single sentence, and it’ll encompass all of them completely and succinctly. You have the horndog who’s pissed he’ not having sex every other minute; you have the scholar who only cares about the research; you have the boyfriend who clearly isn’t happy but is guilted into the relationship; and you have the friend who invited everyone and is obviously hiding a lot.

Oh, and there’s something involving disabled villagers which just…didn’t sit right with me. I won’t go into spoilers, but I’m troubled by it, and let’s leave it at that (if you know what I’m talking about, let me know if you were troubled as well in the comments below).

Was there anything good in this film? Well, there’s some beautiful cinematography, shots that take weird angles or go on for minutes at a time. The psychedelic imagery, at times, is pretty cool. There are moments where flowers seem to breathe, which is visually stunning. And Dani is not only a fully realized character, but one whose battle with anxiety and depression come across as very genuine. You really see this woman who has been beaten down by life, and is just trying to find some joy and happiness while on this trip. It’s really heartbreaking.

But on the whole, Midsommar feels like a promise broken after the gem that is Hereditary. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving the film a 2. If you really want to watch this one, I’d wait until it’s on DVD or streaming. Either that, or watch either Wicker Man movie, because they deal with similar concepts. Or The Apostle or The Ritual on Netflix, because they have similar concepts as well and are done soooo much better.

Either way, Ari Aster will have to do a lot better with his next film to regain our trust.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Hopefully the next review I do is for something that really hits it out of the park. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

This is kind of how I imagine fighting my anxiety. Only, you know, I’m actually wearing something when I do.

It was around this time last year that I started recognizing the symptoms of what would be diagnosed later as a generalized anxiety disorder. I was feeling dread when I was by myself or in a crowd, sure that anything I said or did might come back to haunt me. I was paying extra attention to what i posted online or what stories I wrote because I was sure it would lead to me becoming a pariah. If I was around people, I was afraid something I’d say or do would be misinterpreted and would lead to consequences.

There was also a touch of pessimism in the state of the world, and the possibility of a soulless universe that would cease to exist in a couple billion-billion years started rolling around in my skull a bit more. That happened.

I saw my psychiatrist, who gave me a prescription which has helped me with the majority of my symptoms. I’ve started recognizing triggers for my anxiety and situations where it was more likely to manifest. And I developed coping mechanisms to stave off or dull the anxiety, even enlisting the help of a counselor at work for further advice. All this came together to make sure 2018 didn’t get riddled with anxiety for me.

Still, it hasn’t been all wine and roses for me. There were times when I still felt really anxious, especially when it came to what I was writing or trying to make a name for myself as a writer. And sometimes, especially in the evenings, I still feel a bit of dread, and it makes me reluctant to write or do anything productive. Just the other night, I had to listen to a whole lot of my favorite music and some hypnosis just so I could put some words on paper. I ended up getting a little over a thousand words in a new short story down, but for a while it looked doubtful I could get a sentence or two down.

Yeah, having anxiety is far from easy.* No matter the coping mechanisms and the medications, my brain’s overproduction of one neurochemical or another is a constant problem, and I have to fight it everyday. That’s how I see it, as fighting. I imagine myself dressing up in armor and going to fight with a sword shield a many-headed monster which spawns rats that it directs to bite me (the rats, if it’s not obvious, represent my out-of-control thoughts). It’s the one-time I’m not thrilled to fight a demonic creature!

Thankfully, this is a battle that I’ve won almost every time. Sure, there are days where the beast gets the upper hand for a little while, but with the weapons I’ve been developing and adding to my arsenal over the past year, those moments don’t last very long. I know I’m stronger than the beast created by my brain chemicals, and I know how to fight it when I need to. And I know I have so many of you supporting me today, giving me the strength to fight even on my worse days.

And know that if you have an anxiety disorder, I’m supporting you. You’re not alone: approximately forty million people in the United States deal with anxiety every year. We’re all connected by this disorder, and we’re all in this fight together. By recognizing what we have and not giving into the stigma of mental illness, we can fight off the many-headed beast and regain control of our lives. Together, we can be happy.

Thanks for the all the support, everyone. It means a lot to me. And if you’re struggling with anxiety and need some strategies, I list some in this article from when I first came out about my anxiety. Who knows? You might find some of the tips helpful.

Well, I’ve got dinner to make and a scary story to write. Until next time, my Followers of Fear, pleasant nightmares!

*Along with autism, ADHD, allergies, partial albinism, and back pain. Yeah, I’m a hot mess. But at least I’m humorous about it and try not to let it get me down.

Some days it’s harder to know where you stand than others.

Last month, a white supremacist went on a shooting rampage in Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. All of the victims were senior citizens and a few were Holocaust survivors. That they should live so long and survive so much, just for one hateful man to snuff out their lives, hurts and horrifies me and several other members of the Jewish community on so many levels. In my own response to the shooting, I mentioned I felt connected to the attack in a very personal way. I almost ended up living in Pittsburgh when I was a kid instead of Columbus. Imagine what mght’ve happened if I’d stayed there, and if my synagogue had been Tree of Life?

Since that horrific day, there have been more anti-Semitic incidents. None on the scale as the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, but still horrific. In Baltimore, a man interrupted a performance of Fiddler on the Roof, a play revolving around Jewish characters dealing with change and anti-Semitism, by shouting “Heil Hitler! Heil Trump!”; in Wisconsin, nearly an entire class of graduating high school boys threw up the Hitler salute for a prom photo; in Cleveland, flyers with links to a neo-Nazi website around Case Western University; and in Argentina, soccer fans rioted and shouted “Kill the Jews to make soap!” after a team composed of mainly Jewish players defeated the team whose stadium they were visiting.*

And that’s just the ones I know about. There are probably other incidents that have yet to reach my ears.

I know that what I and the Jewish people is nothing new or out of nowhere. Many minorities are facing discrimination and harassment right now, and it seems to only be growing. Regardless, all these incidents happening within such a short span of time, and after the Pittsburgh shooting to boot, have me on edge. It makes me wonder if this wont become a much bigger trend, where anti-Semitism becomes an everyday occurrence.

It makes me wonder whether or not it’ll be safe to stay in this country much longer. And if it should become too dangerous, where would I go? Canada? Europe? Israel? Would it only be a matter of time before more violence broke out? Before I had to flee from those who would see me dead just for being born a certain faith and heritage?

Still, I have reason to hope and to stave off the fear.

We’ve all heard the poem by Lutheran pastor Martin Niemoller, but it bears repeating.

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and i did not speak out–
Because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me.

While there are still plenty of people who aren’t willing to speak out,** I’ve had the pleasure of knowing plenty of people in and outside the Jewish community and the United States who will speak out against injustice. Many of them I’ve met through blogging and online interaction as well as face-to-face communication. They’ve reached out to me when I needed it and have stood up for me too. I know that well before things get too harsh to live safely in this country, they will come to my side and stand by me.

So if you’re reading this, I urge you to speak out when you see hatred and injustice. Right now it may seem like a struggle not worth going through with insurmountable barriers to face, but it can be done. By showing up to events, by giving to causes, by voting in every election (especially voting in every election!), by sending your voice out through the world to be heard, you can make a difference. And I urge you to do so. If not for us, for you. So you can say you fought to keep the world a little less hateful and a little more kind.

Thanks for letting me talk about this, my Followers of Fear. I know it’s shocking that some things scare me, but it’s true. I’m trying to channel that fear into the story I’m working on now, make it an even better story. Until then, keep safe and pleasant nightmares.

*This incident feels eerily like deja vu to me, because something similar happened to my school’s soccer team in high school. As some of you know, my high school was a Jewish day school, so all the students and half the staff were Jews. One day in my junior year, the soccer team won against another school, and the latter started shouting anti-Semitic names and rants at my school’s team. I don’t remember much beyond that it nearly came to blows, but it goes to show this isn’t a new thing or coming out of nowhere.

**The superintendent of the school district where those students gave the Nazi salute, for example, said she couldn’t punish them for their acts because of First Amendment rights and she “couldn’t be sure” of the intentions of the students. Seems pretty obvious to me, and people get fired or punished for things they say all the time!

I was hoping I’d be under better health when I talked about this, but unfortunately I’m dealing with a summer cold right now. Forgive me if this post isn’t as eloquent as I wanted it to be, but it had to be written today. Otherwise, I’m not sure I’d write it at all.

So since about December last year, I’ve been dealing with a generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). What this means is that I get anxious about a lot of things in my life, or sometimes I get anxious about nothing at all. I just feel this awful feeling of dread, like something under my skin is itching my nerves and making me afraid of everything. I have my ideas about what stressors, the event or events in my life that set it off, but these days I’m less concerned about stressors and more about triggers, what makes me anxious now that I have this condition. These days, that’s mainly the writing career: how will Rose be received; can I make it successful; will it be laughed and hated to the point that I can’t write ever again, etc. Those may seem like issues every author worries about, but in this case, it’s less of a small worry and more like an overriding wave, taking up all my thoughts and making it difficult to think or breathe because you’re just considering the many things that could go wrong.

That’s my GAD.*

The good news is, I started treating this almost as soon as I realized what I was dealing with. I moved up my appointment with my psychiatrist, and she prescribed me medication. I’ve come up with strategies to take the bite out of my triggers, and I’ve been talking with a counselor to further help me with that.

And I’m not alone. I recently came out to a bunch of people that I have GAD. Not only did I get an amazing amount of support and love, but I heard from all sorts of people who have the same sort of issues or know someone who does. We commiserated on the struggles, and were glad that we weren’t so alone. This is such a common disease,** much more common than even I thought, and it affects people in a variety of different ways. Knowing that there are so many other people out there dealing with the same thing made me feel better. It seems like that the opposite would be true, but it’s not. We may have anxiety, but we find peace in our shared struggle.

With that in mind, I thought I’d share some strategies I’ve been using to fight my anxiety. If you have this issue, you might find these strategies just as helpful as I do. Maybe even more:

  • Recognize your anxiety for what it is. For whatever reason, people often deny that they have an anxiety issue. I think this might be because of the stigma that still surrounds mental illness. However, the sooner you acknowledge you’re having anxiety, the sooner you can start fighting back. I recognized this for what it was early on, and I’m so much better for recognizing it in the first place.
  • Don’t be afraid of medication. I know a lot of us don’t like putting anything more than Tylenol into our systems, but taking medication can help. My first day taking medication for my anxiety, I felt freer and lighter than I had in weeks. My anxiety could not touch me that day! And if one medication doesn’t work for you, there are many others available. You just have to be open and honest with your doctor, and they’ll help you find the prescription that’s right for you.
  • Talk to a counselor. Sometimes it’s just good to have someone to talk to about what you’re worried about. I saw a counselor, and they’ve been helping me find more ways to deal with my anxiety. And honestly, just spending forty minutes in that office and talking to someone really helped me out with my fears and made them harmless again. I’m really glad I decided to talk to someone.
  • Logic your anxieties to death. This is something I started doing the moment I realized I had anxiety. Every time I had a fear come up, I would use logic to render it harmless. I would look at all the ways this anxiety made no sense, and argue these points to myself until I felt better. It really works, and I’ve managed to kill most of my anxieties with this.
  • Keep an anxiety notebook. This is something my counselor recommended to me. He said that by keeping a journal and writing down your anxieties, your brain is somehow able to process them and render them mute. I’ve done something similar when it comes to writer’s block, so I know this variation on the theme can work. I even recently bought a notebook to write in the next time I’m feeling anxious. And although I hate being anxious, I’m looking forward to seeing the results.
  • “Follow your happiness.” This is something I came up with. I have no idea why it works, but telling myself over and over, “Find your happiness,” and playing upbeat music either in my head or on my iPod really blocks out the negative thoughts. I’m really partial to “All Night Long” by Lionel Richie (my theory is that we’re all fans of his, whether we know it or not).
  • Hypnosis, meditation, and ASMR. I know what you’re thinking, but these really do help. I’ve done hypnosis, meditation, and ASMR (see this video for a fuller explanation of what that is) for years, and they’ve always helped to relax me. If you open yourself to them, they may just help you deal with these issues.

While I may never be totally rid of my GAD (for some people, these things come and go), the important thing is that I recognize what it is, and that I’m dealing with it in a healthy manner. And if this post helps others recognize their anxiety and deal with it, I feel like I’ve accomplished something good. Because while this disorder is common and can be debilitating, it can also be treated. And if it can be treated, we can make our days a little brighter.

What strategies do you have for dealing with anxiety or GAD?

*So for those of you keeping score at home, I have autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, acid reflux, partial albinism, allergies, and anxiety. One more with an “A” prominent in the name, and I should receive a set of steak knives or a gift card or something!

I’m also farsighted and have back issues. And I have a cold right now. I’m a hot mess!

**And this is a disease, no different than diabetes or a number of other disorders. It’s just a disease affecting our mental state. Anyone who says we just need to learn to chill out or says we’re just imagining it doesn’t know what they’re talking about. Might as well tell someone with crippling arthritis to just move more and ignore the inflammation.

Last week I had a dream that started pleasantly and ended up being kind of nightmarish: it involved me and a friend of mine from high school navigating an area with lots of rivers and creeks on surfboards. We were looking for a mythical golden treasure trove that many had searched for and failed. We’d heard the treasure we were looking for was cursed, but we went searching for it anyway, because nothing bad has ever come from seeking and finding cursed objects. Somehow we found the treasure where so many others had failed, split it up between us, and go home. However, soon after that, weird stuff starts happening: things move on their own, the faces on the coins change shape, and that’s just the start of our problems. Well before it gets really bad though, my friend and I realize that we have to return the treasure to where we found it.

At some point, someone in the dream says I could write a story about what’s happened to us. To which I replied, “Someone already did. It’s called Pirates of the Caribbean.”

After we agree to take the treasure back, I woke up. It didn’t take me long to figure out the main message of the dream (besides the fact that I can point out when my situation resembles a famous film in my dreams). You see, the night before I’d taken a swipe at starting the fifth draft of Rose, based on my publisher Castrum’s comments and suggestions. I got about a page in, and I hit a metaphorical roadblock. I couldn’t figure out how to advance. So I ended up going to bed not sure how to move further in editing this novel while at the same time integrating my publisher’s suggestions (many of which I agree with and think could elevate the quality of the novel).

That dream was my subconscious giving me a rather creative presentation of my doubts and anxieties regarding the editing and publishing process for Rose: that signing with a publisher was a really bad idea, that there’s nothing I’ll be able to do to make this novel publishable, that even if I somehow get it released, it’ll suck and anybody who reads it will leave bad reviews. A dark side to achieving my dream and finding a publisher, represented expertly by cursed gold.*

And then on Saturday, I tried again. And it went extremely well. I got thirteen out of sixteen pages in that chapter done. Yesterday, I got the last three pages done, plus all eleven of the next chapter (and while taking in a double feature on the Blu-Ray Player in the afternoon). And then today, I got another chapter done within a couple of hours. That’s an average of a chapter a day! Take that, conscious and subconscious fears involving working with a publishing process.

Obviously, these are still early stages of the fifth draft, and I’m going to encounter moments where I’m not sure what to write or how to integrate a suggestion from the publisher. Luckily though, my publisher has been great about answering any questions I have (thank God they don’t see me as a pushy American) and offering feedback to my ideas on how to integrate their suggestions. And with these last three chapters, I’ve been able to move forward mostly on my own. And with time, I’m sure I can get through the rest without trouble, and well before May 16th. I just have to keep being creative and persevere.

Obviously, doubts about what I’m doing and where I’m going will plague me throughout my writing career from here on out. I’ve passed a new turning point in my career, and it’s a whole new playing field from here on out. But the next time I feel those worries start to get to me, I’ll remember the dream about the cursed gold, and the productive weekend that followed. And I’ll just keep editing through my doubts.

And while I still have your attention, I’d like to give a shout out to my good friend and fellow novelist at Castrum, Matt Williams. He just finished writing his novel The Jovian Incident, Book Two of the Formist series, and will hopefully have it out later this year. I can’t wait to read it, as I really enjoyed the first book, The Cronian Incident, which currently holds a 4.7 out of 5 on Amazon based on 12 reviews. If you would like to read some hard-boiled detective fiction in a futuristic universe, this series may be the one you’re looking for. Check it out and leave Matt a review while you’re at it.

Until next time, my Followers of Fear, pleasant nightmares (hopefully none that resemble popular contemporary movies, though).

*Still not sure why I was using a surfboard to navigate rivers and creeks (obviously a reference to the various paths we authors take to finding a publisher), as well as why that particular friend was with me (I love the guy and it always seems like no time has passed at all when we see each other, but he’s not a fiction writer, so I can’t think of why he would be in the dream).