Posts Tagged ‘authors’

So, you’ve probably heard of Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey. If you haven’t, let me give you some background, because it’s important to talk about. So, Winnie the Pooh predates Disney and was originally some stories written by AA Milne. Some of those stories became public domain back in 2021, so now anyone can make a story about Pooh Bear so long as they don’t use anything exclusive to the Disney version. A British filmmaker took advantage of that to make a horror film based on the characters, Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey. And ever since its announcement, this film has gotten a ton of buzz, so even if it’s terrible, it’s likely going to make bank.

I’m actually going to see it at the one night screening at my theater. I can’t wait.

Unfortunately, not all of the buzz is positive. Recently, one of the actresses in the film, Danielle Roland, said the cast and crew got a lot of hate for being part of the film. Rhys Frake-Waterfield, who directed and co-produced the movie, even got emails saying he should die. You can read the original article here.

Now, I can understand if people are upset about this film being made, let alone the phenomenon it’s become. Winnie the Pooh is a popular character and childhood icon for many people around the world. Seeing him and Piglet used in a horror film might be upsetting. But death threats? That’s going way too far! You’re threatening to kill someone over a fictional character! Might as well threaten to kill someone over the Easter Bunny!

And here’s the thing: no one is forcing any of these people to watch the film. It’s not like men with guns are going to go into people’s homes and kidnap them to the movie theater for the one-night screening, or force them to put it on their various streaming platforms to watch in their living rooms. If you don’t want to go see it, don’t see it. Even better, pretend it doesn’t exist! You can continue to enjoy your childhood bear without having to acknowledge the one that’s going to be taking an axe to a bunch of college students next month.

Unfortunately, death threats like this, as well as over-the-top reactions to fictional media of any sort, have become more and more commonplace over the year. Or maybe they’re being reported by news outlets more. Either way, it’s bizarre to read about. When I was in college, I read about people threatening to ruin Charlaine Harris’s career or kill themselves depending on what she wrote into one of her Sookie Stackhouse books. After college, when Marvel had a storyline in the comics where Captain America was revealed to be a Hydra agent, I read articles about people threatening Marvel’s writers for this storyline. One person alleging to be a Marine even said he was going to abandon all his values because of Cap’s betrayal and even become a killer (I seriously hope that was hyperbole). In 2020, when The Last of Us Part II released, people review-bombed the game based on leaked plot points. Part of this was fueled by homophobia (several of the characters in the game are openly LGBT), but a lot of this was due to fans hating the supposed direction of the game. Not only that, but one of the actresses for the game received death threats for playing a villain.

People got way too upset over this one scene.

And now people are threatening to kill folks associated with this new horror film because it’s about a beloved childhood character.

I don’t care about the circumstances or the reasons why. I don’t even care if the people making the threats are serious. I’m more concerned that anyone thinks reacting like this is appropriate. No matter why, you shouldn’t threaten people’s lives like that.

Let me share you a story from my high school days. Back then, I worked for my gym teacher selling tickets to volleyball and basketball games at the door. When I wasn’t taking tickets, I did homework, ate dinner from the snack bar, and read. It was a good gig. One day, however, I was steamed because I had just finished a Dean Koontz novel and absolutely hated its resolution. After the game, I was picked up by my stepmom, who proceeded to drive me home. And as I’m complaining about the book’s ending, my anger radiating off me like heat from a space heater, my stepmom turned around and said, “Rami, it’s fiction! It’s not real! Don’t get so upset about it!”

Well, that shut me up. And it turned out to be very helpful for me, because it made me realize something: as much as I love stories and characters, none of it is real. The absence of these characters and stories from the world wouldn’t change much, let alone their presence. And among all the things to get mad about in the world, a book resolution or how a character is portrayed isn’t one of them.

Since then, as wrapped up in fiction as I get sometimes, I don’t allow myself to get emotionally out of hand because I don’t like the direction. Yes, I’ll share my thoughts on it, but I’m not going to threaten people over it! And if I really dislike it, I just won’t have anything to do with it. My stress levels stay down and everybody stays happy.

And I wish more people would react that way. Or maybe not react at all. If they did, I guarantee we would all be much happier.

(WARNING: The following post discusses some recent movies that not everyone has seen yet. I’ve tried to avoid spoilers, but if you’d rather see these movies without knowing anything, then stop reading now and come back later. You’ve been warned.)

It’s no secret that I’m an eccentric, and I channel that eccentricity into my fiction all the time. I mean, my most popular novel is about a young woman who’s turned into a plant/human hybrid. If that’s not an example of weird fiction, then I’m a high school girl in an anime. And I’m not!

Skinamarink’s poster displayed outside my usual movie theater.

With all that expertise, I can say with certainty that there is plenty of room in fiction, especially in horror fiction, for weird. The novel House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski, is a prime example of this. It’s a story about a documentary about a recounting of one family’s experience living in a home that has a giant labyrinth hidden inside it. The novel is full of footnotes, some of which have footnotes, as well as pages with only a few lines of text, or the text laid out in an odd manner, forcing the reader to hold the book at weird angles. From what I’m told, it makes for an experience both agoraphobic and claustrophobic.*

No wonder that book has an enduring relevance among horror readers, despite the author and some readers seeing it more as a love story than a horror story.

All that being said, there is both a good way to make a story weird and a bad way to make a story weird. Especially in the horror genre.

Some of you may have heard of the new Canadian horror movie Skinamarink. The movie revolves around two children who wake up one night to find that their father, as well as the doors and windows to their home, have mysteriously vanished. There’s been a lot of talk about the film online, with some loving it and others reviling it. I went to see it on Friday, knowing that one way or another, I would get a weird experience.

Well, I did get that weird experience. It’s filmed in a way meant to evoke a child’s perspective and reflect their nightmares, with the majority of shots focused on hallways, things high overhead or on the television in the den. Anything but the characters themselves. The entire film is also filtered to look like a home movie from the 80s or 90s, and the use of effects is minimal and mostly reliant on practical effects. A lot of the dialogue is told in whispers, so subtitles are used throughout the film. There’s no music, and plenty of surreal moments throughout the film, especially near the end.

That being said, everyone in my theater, including me, hated it. I even spoke to someone who was in the theater with me afterwards, and he told me he fell asleep during the film. I can see why: except for a few effective jumpscares, there was nothing to actually unsettle the viewer or keep them tense or focused, let alone scare them.

Since seeing the film, I’ve been characterizing it like someone took the cursed videotape from The Ring and tried to make it into a feature film, but took out what made that video so scary in the first place.

Now, I’m not saying anyone who enjoyed Skinamarink or found it scary is wrong or bad. The wonderful thing about horror is how subjective it is and how there are many different niches to suit every fan. Nor am I shitting on the director for the choices he made. I reserve that for the Friday the 13th remake and its creators, because that film is trash that gets everything good about the franchise wrong. Most of the people involved in it should get a good kick in the pants!

No, what I’m saying is that the weird is emphasized at the expense of the horror. Online, Skinamarink is characterized as “an experimental horror film” and that feels like an apt way of putting things. From the way the film is shot, to the use of subtitles and the story (flimsy as it is), you can tell that it’s all been an experiment by the director to conjure up a unique viewing experience. And in that respect, his experiment was a success. However, in terms of creating an effective horror film, the experiment was a bust.

Hatching is, in my humble opinion, a great example of weird horror done well.

Now, compare that to another recent horror film, Finland’s Pahanhautoja, or Hatching. The film follows a girl who finds an egg in the forest and incubates it, only to end up the caretaker of a large bird/dinosaur monster that she calls Alli. Yeah, that’s weird, especially when you see the ugly-ass creature, which is brought to life mainly with practical effects and puppetry. But it also helps to tell a story about a very repressed girl who is struggling as part of a toxic family dynamic and being ruled by a narcissistic, social media-obsessed mother. Rather than overtaking the story, the weird aspects help drive the story and explore its deeper themes.

And that’s where the big difference between Skinamarink and Hatching is. The former’s weird aspects overtake the film and drown out the horror, while the latter’s weird aspects help out the horror and the story in order to be told more effectively.

To summarize, when telling a story of the weird variety, it’s important to remember that you’re telling a story first and foremost. Thus, while you can add as many weird elements as you want, if they overwhelm the story you’re trying to tell, you risk alienating rather than engaging your audience. And that’s something every storyteller wants to avoid. Including eccentrics like me.

*It’s on my TBR list, but that list is long and I only have so much reading time. Thus, it’s going to have to wait a while till I get to it.


Just a reminder, my Followers of Fear: this coming weekend I’ll be at ConFusion at the Sheration Detroit Novi in Detrot, Michigan. This is a big science fiction and fantasy convention that’ll be held from Friday, January 20th to Sunday, January 22nd. I’ll be there selling books and doing Tarot readings, so if you’re in the area, feel free to stop by and say hi. I’d be more than happy to see you.

You can find out more information about the convention by checking out its website here.

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

I’ve been hearing about this one in one of my Facebook horror groups, so I got interested and got the audio book. And on the ride home from work, I finished it today.

Set in 1994, The Exorcist’s House follows the Hill family as they move into a farmhouse in West Virginia with the goal of flipping it for a profit before the new baby arrives. However, the house used to belong to a local exorcist who spent much of his life fighting demons. And there’s plenty to suggest that while the exorcist is no longer living there, or even living, something else is. And if the family doesn’t do something soon, they may not live much longer.

So, I couldn’t help but see this as kind of Conjuring-esque. I mean, it feels like something that would be inspired by The Conjuring. A family moves into an isolated home in the middle of the country with a history of the paranormal, demons start to oppress and try to possess them, it all takes place in an era that’s starting to become nostalgic in the public’s memory, an exorcist or two are involved in the story, and plenty of Catholicism to boot. Near the end, I couldn’t help but think that the author could do a whole shared universe around some of these characters, especially the exorcist of the title.

That’s not detracting from it, I’m just saying that’s how it feels.

All that being said, it was an enjoyable read. The story is well-written and the characters are quite fleshed out, especially mother Nora who has a strong character arc in regards to her own inner demons (pun intended). Even daughter Alice, who is a stereotypical teenager, is more than just a flat stereotype. There’s also some really scary scenes, such as the scene with Nora in the basement in the first half of the book (I got shivers while listening to that chapter in the car), as well as a few twists that I didn’t see coming.

And that ending! Not sure if the author really is setting up for a sequel or a shared universe al a The Conjuring, but even if he isn’t that ending left me satisfied as only a horror fan can be.

That being said, there are some tropes that we’ve seen a hundred times, such as an exorcist being brought in during the third act for the big confrontation, so at times it does feel a little predictable.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m going to award The Exorcist’s House by Nick Roberts an even 4. Plenty of good scares, a decent story and possibly the launching point for a shared universe. Also, the audio book has a great narrator with a ton of range. Pick the format of your choosing and get settled in for a nice read.


That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. This will, in all likelihood, my last review of the year, and likely my last post of 2022 (unless something comes up between now and Saturday and 11:59 PM). Thank you all for your support in 2022 and I look forward to sharing with you my adventures, trials and accomplishments in 2023. Until next time, happy new year, good night and pleasant nightmares!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That Which Cannot Be Undone: Amazon, Goodreads

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What a book!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I don’t know how writers who write in silence do it. Unless I’m trying to sleep, I absolutely hate silence. I’m not saying I need noise all the time. That’s part of the reason I moved out of my old apartment complex: I couldn’t stand the noise my neighbors were always making and the lack of support from management to quiet the noise. But it’s rare when I’m comfortable with complete quiet and I’m not trying to sleep.

And there are writers who are able to write in silence. Hell, some even need it!

Me? I need something in the background. Especially when I write. It’s rare that I can write in silence. If I do, my brain automatically starts playing something on loop in my head just to make up for the silence. So, when I write, I need to listen to something when I work. And it has to be the right sort of thing for the project I’m working on. Otherwise, I find it hard to concentrate and get any words down on paper.

Sometimes, this is easy to do. Usually I can put on 80s music or the soundtracks of my favorite musicals and just write, no matter the story. No joke, I wrote The Pure World Comes entirely to my favorite hits of the 1980s. Or I listen to ASMR videos on YouTube, especially if I’m blogging. (And if you don’t know what ASMR is, I’m not going to explain it here. Just know, I find it very relaxing when done right.) And when I’m editing, I can put on music, or maybe have an anime on in the background, and just get it done.

Other times, it has to be very specific, or I can’t work at all. For my novel Toyland, I needed to listen to the Moulin Rouge soundtrack (Broadway musical based on the movie, not the movie itself) for nearly the entire writing process. Until the final few chapters, I could not write without that soundtrack. It only occurred to me ages later that my mind probably chose that album subconsciously because, like Toyland, both plots involve a story within a story. I might need to listen to that soundtrack again when I do one more round of editing on it and then try to find a publisher.

I’m still trying to nail down what works best for Crawler. Some days I’m in the mood for 80s music, other days I’m in the mood for a musical soundtrack. Once I even listened to the Mad Max: Fury Road soundtrack just because it was so epic I couldn’t help but write to it!

Thankfully, for the two projects I’m working on while I’m break from Crawler and before getting back to editing Hannah, identifying the background sound I need was easy. For one project, which involves a very unique child actress, I’m listening to the Phantom of the Opera soundtrack. Makes sense: both involve people in the fine arts who are not what they seem. And the other, which involves my own unique take on a recent piece of internet folklore, will involve ambient noise videos on YouTube. I already got the first part of the story done while listening to a video of noises at an outdoor mall (guess where that scene took place?).

It’s lucky that I was able to figure those out so quickly. Otherwise, I might not be able to write a single word!

Still, I was able to identify what I will (likely) need, so I’m glad for that. I have good feelings about these stories and I look forward to writing them. And I’ll thankfully have the right sounds to listen to them while I do.

Do you listen to music while you write? Do you need it or can you do without it? What do you prefer to listen to?

And if you prefer silence, why? How are you able to write like that? Let’s discuss.