Posts Tagged ‘ballet’

Back in 2021, I got my first author fan art. Iseult Murphy, my friend and colleague, created a couple of pictures based on a made-up creature I mentioned in a tweet, the dragon bats. You can see them below.

Pretty cool, especially since they didn’t belong to any story. At least, not then. The fan art inspired me to write a novelette, “Disillusionment and Trauma Sometimes Go Hand-in-Hand.” That story was published in Ink Stains: A Dark Fiction Literary Anthology in October 2022.

And this past month, Iseult created some more fan art, which she’s sent me. The first is a story-accurate picture of the dragon bats, down to the orange fur and cat-like faces. Even their scaly, armored bellies are featured! Now imagine if one of these were real, and as big as a large dog! Now imagine hundreds of them, flying around and feeding upon you. Did I mention they may be venomous? A single bite can be deadly!

But that’s not the only piece of art Iseult sent me. Yesterday, she sent me this picture based on my story “The Dedication of the High Priestess.” That story is a fusion of ballet horror with the cosmic horror entity The King in Yellow. Check it out:

DAAAAMN! That is beautiful! The dancing figure of Anastasia in yellow, her shadow underneath her, and the giant form of her master, the King in Yellow, watching over her as she dances. It’s just an amazing piece of art. Also, was that painted with oil pastels? Because it looks like it, but I’m no art expert. Iseult, please let me know.

Whatever it’s made with, I LOVE this picture. I’ve said it before, but I feel like “Dedication of the High Priestess” is one of my favorite and best stories. And fan art is one of the sincerest forms of flattery you can give a creative, as well as showing your love and appreciation for that creative and their work. And from this, I really felt the love Iseult has for this story. So, I printed out a copy of this picture, bought a frame for it, and am now trying to find a good place to hang it up.

Check my Instagram to find out where I eventually hang it up.

Anyway, I wanted to post this fan art for you all to see. Iseult’s art needs to be appreciated by more people, so I made sure to put it on my social media and on my blog.

And I hope to receive more fan art in the future. Not just from Iseult, though I would be happy to see more of her work. I hope, as I continue to publish more stories and reach more readers, I’ll see more fan art based on my work. And, as long as it’s manageable to do so, I may even post more fan art to this blog and to my social media.

Perhaps there will be more fan art once Hannah and Other Stories releases later this year. I can see the stories Queen Alice and Fuselli’s Horses getting some fan art.

In the meantime, I have plenty of stories that are worth reading. You don’t have to create fan art from them if you don’t want to. I just want you to read them. And maybe let me know what you think. And you should also check out Iseult Murphy’s stories, which you can find links to on her blog. I recommend 7 Days in Hell and 7 Weeks in Hell.

Anyway, for my books, here are my links. For starters, if you want to check out “Disillusionment and Trauma Sometimes Go Hand-in-Hand,” you can grab a copy of Ink Stains here. If you want to check out “The Dedication of the High Priestess,” you can listen to it on the Tales to Terrify podcast here. And below are the links for my books.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m off to work on a new short story while trying to figure out where to hang Iseult’s picture. Until next time, good night and pleasant nightmares.

The Quiet Game: Five Tales to Chill Your Bones: Amazon, Createspace, Barnes & Noble, iBooksSmashwords, and Kobo.

Snake: AmazonCreatespace, Barnes & Noble, iBooksSmashwords, and Kobo

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

The Pure World Comes: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, Kobo, Goodreads, Audible, Chirp, BingeBooks, LIbro.Fm, Storytel, Palace Marketplace, Hoopla, Vivlio, Smashwords, Thalia, Scribd, Spotify

Mother of the King: Amazon

Agoraphobia: Amazon

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!

My AI art portrait of the King in Yellow. Couldn’t think of anything more perfect to showcase with this story’s release.

Oh Glory to the King in Yellow! My story “The Dedication of the High Priestess” has finally been released! And even better, it’s been released in an audio format, which is always very special!

Now, if you don’t know, “The Dedication of the High Priestess” is a short story I wrote back in late 2021 combining both my love of ballet with the story of the King in Yellow (see this incredible video by The Tale Foundry if you would like to know more about the character before going into the story itself). It follows a young ballerina who finds herself chosen for a special role by the King, and what happens when she becomes exposed to his influence.

I know I say this about a lot of my stories that are published lately, but I do feel this is some of my best work. I really feel that I got to capture the main character, Anastasia Hummel’s, despair and abrupt transition into adulthood very well while also telling a great horror story. Honestly, I haven’t been this excited for you all to read one of my stories in a while, that’s how much I love it and how good I think it is.

Not to mention that it’s being released on the Tales to Terrify podcast. As you can guess from the title, the Tales to Terrify podcast is dedicated to reading aloud terrifying stories submitted by writers like you and me and narrated by professional narrators. And boy, did they do an amazing job with “Dedication!” The narrator, Amy Paonessa (God, I hope I spelled that correctly), brought Anastasia to life perfectly and mirrored her emotions so well. I was impressed and amazed as I listened, unable to stop. And I’m sure you all feel the same way when you hear her narrate the tale.

I hope you take the time to listen to the story and then let me know what you think. Hell, maybe you’ll even spread it around so that other people can hear it and experience it for themselves. I would very much appreciate that, as would the good folks at Tales to Terrify.

Anyway, I’ll leave a link for you all below. I can’t wait to hear what you think of the story. Now, if anyone needs me, I’ll be spreading the word about the story and thinking about how it came out right as lots of ballet companies around the world are putting on their annual Nutcracker productions.* Then I’ll drive out to see some family while also writing the script for the movie version in my head.**

Until next time, good night, pleasant nightmares, and be careful who you punch out during Black Friday sales today. They might come for you and do more than punch you back!

Tales to Terrify – Episode 565 – Rami Ungar

*Coincidence? Probably, but a cool coincidence.

**No, a movie version isn’t planned at this point, but that has never stopped me from dreaming. And I feel “Dedication” would make a great psychological horror film.

If you’ve been paying attention to the news lately, you may be aware that billionaire Elon Musk bought Twitter and has been turning it from a somewhat tolerable landscape to a freaking hellhole. I’m not going to go into details, because you can read all that elsewhere, but suffice to say, a lot of people have been wondering if now is a good time to get off Twitter and find a new platform to interact with that does the same thing as Twitter. For us writers, we’ve been looking for a new platform where we can talk about writing and maybe avoid the vitriol that seems to have been given free reign on Twitter these days.

One of those platforms is called Hive Social, which I’ve seen a lot of posts about on both Twitter and Facebook this past week. It seemed like a good platform, a lot of writers and horror types I’m connected with were trying it out, and I’m usually slow on new social media trends and wanted to not be the last again, so I decided to give it a try yesterday. Besides, the platform’s website says it doesn’t tolerate hate speech or any other sort of awful behavior, which honestly appeals to me in the wake of certain decisions by Twitter’s new leader.

So, now I have an account on Hive. I’ve gotten about forty-something followers, posted a couple of times, and have liked other people’s posts as well. How does it compare to Twitter?

Well, it does have some room to improve. The app is slow to load or register likes at times, and the search engine feature doesn’t always bring you to the person you’re looking for, even when you type their full name in. You can’t access the app from the laptop just yet, only your mobile devices, and occasionally the app just shuts itself off mid-use. And you can’t leave a link so people can directly go to your page on the platform.

However, this may be because of its sudden popularity. I doubt anyone running the app could have foreseen so many people migrating over to Hive as Twitter continues to implode, so they’re probably scrambling to make sure the app is at least somewhat able to handle all these people. In fact, I did see a post from the app’s company asking people to be patient as they try and deal with the new influx of users.

So, there is a chance this app could improve as time goes on. Of course, there’s also a chance that it won’t replace Twitter and that we’ll stay on there. Or maybe we’ll go off both apps and find something else. It’s hard to tell the future. All we know is that Twitter might not be a good place to stay for the foreseeable future and that we may not be able to stay on there for much longer.

In the meantime, I’ll keep trying both apps for a while before I make any final decisions, one way or another. And while I can’t leave a link to my page on Hive, I can leave links to my other social media (though you can also look to the left and see them listed there). If you want to check me out on any of these platforms, please do. And if you end up subscribing, I hope you and I will have plenty of wonderful interactions on these other apps.

Facebook

Twitter

Instagram

YouTube


One more thing before I sign off tonight, my Followers of Fear: I found out today that my short story “The Dedication of the High Priestess,” which combines ballet with the figure of the King in Yellow, will be read aloud on the Tales to Terrify podcast this Friday. I’m so excited for you all to experience this story! I’m quite proud of it and I really hope you enjoy it. I’ll be sure to post a link as soon as it’s out.

I wanted to post something before Halloween, but there wasn’t any one particular topic I was passionate enough to write an entire blog post about. So instead, I thought I’d do an update post, because there’s a lot going on right now and you should know about it. How much is going on? Well, let’s take a look and find out.

Crawler and Toyland

So, for my mummy novel with the tentative name of Crawler, I’m making steady progress in it. I’m currently writing Chapter Seven and think I could get to Chapter Eight by the end of the week. Hell, I might finish it by the end of the week, if life is kind! (It’s usually not, but one can hope, right?). After that, I’ll take another break to work on shorter works (more on that below), and then get straight to Chapters 9-12. It may take longer than usual, but I will get this novel done eventually.

As for Toyland, I hope to do another draft of it before sending it out to publishers. I feel that this Gothic novel of a boarding school under attack by a ghost obsessed with a children’s novel has a lot of potential and I want people to read it. However, I want to get Hannah and Other Stories out of the way before I tackle that novel again (there’s a good reason why Hannah needs to be done first, but I can’t tell you that just yet). So hope Hannah gets released soon.

Hannah and Other Stories

Speaking of Hannah, BSC Publishing and I are looking to get that out sometime in 2023. Currently, the publisher is starting its winter vacation a month early in November rather than December, so I’m getting a little break from Hannah to work on more of my other projects. However, once we hit January, it’ll be a furious pace to wrap up the edits on the book and get it ready for publication. I can’t wait to share with you this terrifying collection of short stories featuring ghosts, budding serial killers, and meat-eating horses, among other things, so keep an eye out for news after the new year.

Other Shorter Works

As many of you know, I have one more short story, “The Dedication of the High Priestess,” scheduled to come out before the end of the year. Literally: Tales to Terrify, the podcast that will be reading the story aloud on their show, said it will come out before the end of the year. And with 61 days left, there’s only so much year left, so I should be getting news on that any day now. When I get that news, I will let you know.

I will also, of course, let you know the moment I hear of any other stories of mine getting published.

In the meantime, I plan to do some writing and editing on some other stories over November and December, once I finish Chapter Eight of Crawler. For one thing, I plan to finally edit They Sleep Within the Rock, the novella I wrote last winter where I terrorize neo-Nazis. I have no idea why I put it off for so long, but I have and I want to give it some edits so I can maybe find it a home. I also want to write some more novelettes and novellas that I’ve been feeling passionate about working on for some time. A lot of these stories center around common themes, so I think I would not only enjoy writing them, but maybe putting them into a collection.

I may also write a short story involving bugs, but I’m not sure if I want to. Yeah, there’s an anthology I could submit it to, but I prefer to write stories that I feel I would enjoy writing rather than what I think would get accepted or make some money for me. We’ll see how I feel after I finish those chapters of Crawler.

Anything Else?

Quite a bit, actually. Let’s talk about it.

  • Events: This coming Saturday, I’ll be operating a booth at the Columbus Witches’ Ball. This is an awesome event featuring plenty of paranormal enthusiasts, psychics and mediums, authors, and so much more. Plus, plenty of dancing and ritual (or so I’m told). I’ll be selling books and doing Tarot readings there, so I hope you can stop by. The event is November 5th, 2022 from 6 PM – 11 PM at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. I’m not sure you can get tickets at the door, but I know you can buy them from Eventbrite by following this link.
    In addition, I’m already signed up for events in 2023! I’ll be making reappearances at Hidden Marietta Paranormal Expo (which will be in May this year and in a bigger venue) and at ParaPsyCon. I’ve also put down a deposit for another booth at Mystics & Marvels and am waiting for confirmation on a few other events, so I’ll keep you posted as those come up.
    And, of course, I’ll be at StokerCon in Pennsylvania in June, so if any of you are planning to be there, I really hope I get to see you and give you a great big hug (if you feel comfortable with it).
  • I saw Dracula the ballet yesterday. As you probably know by now, I’m a huge ballet fan, and I’ve long held that ballet can be a great venue to tell horror stories. I got to see that in action yesterday when my local company BalletMet performed Dracula, which was as amazing and as horrifying as I could have hoped. It was scary, really delved into the themes of Victorian terror regarding sexuality and anything considered aberrant through its choreography, and even managed to surprise me at times, especially with the conclusion. If I ever get a chance to see it again, I will.
    And, of course, if there are any other horror ballets, I would love to see those too. Hell, I have a few ideas for ballets that are both horror and otherwise, so if any companies would like to collaborate, email me. Let’s work together! I’m easy to get along with, and I don’t cost an arm and a leg, so why not?
  • New YouTube video. I’m going to try to post a new video to YouTube tomorrow before my Halloween festivities really get underway (having a friend over for pizza, drinks and scary movies. I can’t wait!). If I can’t, I’ll get it out as soon as possible. In the meantime, please check out and consider subscribing to my YouTube channel while you wait. You can also check out my other social media by clicking on the widgets on the right.
So looking forward to putting this bad boy out on the stoop tomorrow.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. As usual with these sorts of posts, I’ll post links to my published works down below in case you want to support me that way or if you’re just looking for something spooky to read. Until next time, good night, pleasant nightmares, and one day till Halloween! Get ready to hop around a bonfire in costume with terrifying creatures from the other side!

The Pure World Comes: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, Kobo, Goodreads, Audible, Chirp, BingeBooks, LIbro.Fm, Storytel

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

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

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

Hello, Followers of Fear. There are sixty days till Halloween. What have you done to prepare?

Artwork produced by artificial intelligence, or AI art, has become kind of a thing as the technology has advanced. In fact, some months back, there was an app that became a fad for horror writers to generate images and even book covers. And earlier this week, John Oliver featured it on his TV show, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. Here’s the video, if you’re interested. It’s hysterical.

John Oliver’s wife and children must have such a blast telling people who don’t know who he is what he does for a living. “Oh, my husband/dad? He sexually harasses Adam Driver and marries cabbages on TV once a week.”

Anyway, it got me interested enough to want to play around with AI art, so I made an account with one of the recommended companies, Midjourney, and went to work. The results were not only fascinating, but gave me some thoughts on the nascent AI art industry.

First, here are some of my successes. As it turns out, Midjourney’s AI program does very well with Lovecraftian/cosmic horror entities. For example, here’s Cthulhu destroying Las Vegas because I’m not a big Vegas fan (though under the right circumstances I’d visit again).

Then, in order, we have Yog-Sothoth, Shub-niggurath, Nyarlathotep, Azathoth, two pictures of the Deep Ones, the Color from Outer Space, and the King in Yellow.

And portraits of famous people tended to go well with the program. Here are Stephen King, Anne Rice, and HP Lovecraft, three of my biggest influences as a writer, as well as one of Lizzie Borden with an axe. Because why not?

And because I love ballet and try to put dancers in my stories when I can, I made a series of ballet posts, with their titles in the captions.

Dancer and Wolf on the lake
The Little Ballerina Ghost
Dancer in the Egyptian Temple
Dancers on a Moonlit Beach
Little Dancers Running from Lava
Little Dancer and Anubis

Pretty cool, right? Most of them look really good. However, those were success stories, like I said. Here’s what happened when I tried to create Jason Voorhees from the Friday the 13th films.

Yeah, I know. None of those come close to looking like Jason! He’s arguably more famous than Cthulhu, but these were the results. And then there was my attempt at Freddy Kreuger from A Nightmare on Elm Street. Oy freaking vey!

Yeah, who is that? Not Freddy Kreuger, who is definitely more famous than Cthulhu! Honestly, it looks more like my conception of Leland Gaunt, the antagonist from Needful Things by Stephen King. How could the AI get our favorite subconscious serial killer so wrong?

And those are just a few examples. I went through several failures trying to get anywhere close to a specific idea or image, only to give up when I realized the program just couldn’t create it. I couldn’t even create a decent Sailor Moon or an accurate tiger image, and both those prompts have enough references out there that they should have been easy to create something accurate.

Even some of the successes took a lot of work and experimentation, such as The King in Yellow or Little Dancer and Anubis. I won’t even go into detail about how hard it was to get a good Alice in Wonderland pic that wasn’t too trippy. I mean, I know the source material is plenty weird, but not all art based on it has to be super-surreal!

And while I call some of them successes, they aren’t perfect. You can especially see it in the ballerina series, where features like the head and limbs look odd or bent in ways you wouldn’t see on a normal dancer or a Degas painting. Only the tutus and bodices come out well. The rest of their bodies can be a mixed bag.

It kind of reminds me of that scene in 1986’s The Fly, where Jeff Goldblum puts steak through the teleporter and it comes out tasting weird. He figures out that the computer hasn’t learned how to move organic materials, and is instead creating an interpretation or bad imitation of what it thinks steak is. That’s what we have here: the AI has learned how to mimic and create, but it’s still leagues away from making certain things.

And honestly, I’m glad. Art is art because there’s someone behind it with a vision or a passion. You can program a computer to recreate famous art pieces or original pieces, including Batman comics and scripts or horror screenplays. And the computer might even do a good job at times. But there won’t be any passion or soul behind it. Art is art because we’re putting our love and soul into our creations.

And getting to work with a creator? That’s even more special. Believe me, I’ve done it before, and it’s amazing to see your vision come to life with their help. Especially when working on art pieces like book covers. That truly is something special.

That being said, I can see AI-generated art being used for cheap book covers as the technology improves, and the services of artists becoming more expensive. This could especially apply for small presses or independent publishers who need to lower costs while maximizing profits. The only time publishers may use a real artist is if the author is big enough to warrant it.

Hopefully that doesn’t happen, because it would mean we wouldn’t get to see some really amazing collaborations. So, for the meantime, I’ll stop with the AI art (I’ve scratched that itch and I don’t want to pay a subscription for Midjourney, anyway), and continue supporting the artists who create amazing art. Especially horror art.

And now, here are some more pieces I created. Except for a few I’m waiting to reveal till the time is right, here are my other successes. You can ask what was going through my mind when I created these in the comments below. Enjoy, and until next time, my Followers of Fear, pleasant nightmares!

Vampire Mothers and Child
Jump Rope with a Ghost
Jack the Ripper in an Alley
Flaming Giraffe #1
Flaming Giraffe #2
The Necronomicon
Bunny Girl and Hammer
Spooky Alice in Wonderland

Praise to the King in Yellow! I’ve got my first acceptance of the year! Even better, it’s a story I was having trouble finding a home for!

So, you’re probably all excited to hear what the story is about and when and where it’ll come out. “The Dedication of the High Priestess” is a story I first wrote back in winter after I got back from my vacation. The story follows a young ballet student named Anastasia “Annie” Hummel. She dreams of being a famous ballerina, and being selected as a model for a famous artist’s latest series of paintings seems like a great boost to her fledgling career. However, what actually happens is that Annie is awakened to her true destiny. A destiny that will change the course of her life, and the world. forever.

If you read my post about elevated horror the other day, you might realize from the description and my opening shout of praise that this is the ballerina-meets-the-King-in-Yellow story I mentioned. And yes, I realize it got accepted right after I mentioned trying to find it a home. Not sure if that counts as irony, but it is funny.

And if you’re wondering what this King in Yellow thing is, don’t worry, you’re not alone. Sadly, I think The King in Yellow is even less well-known than HP Lovecraft and the Cthulhu Mythos.* It’s a collection of short stories written in 1895 by Robert Chambers. Most (and the best) of the stories revolve not around the titular character, but around a play bearing the character’s name and which is said to be so twisted, reading the second act will drive you mad (or make you a servant of the King, depending on if you believe he’s a real entity).

The stories have proven influential, being beloved by Lovecraft and becoming partially integrated into the Cthulhu Mythos by later writers. If you would like to find out more, you can read my own blog post on the collection, which I wrote back when I first read the stories, or you can watch this awesome YouTube video on the collection. Or you can read the collection yourself, that’s a valid choice as well.

This is my copy of the collection. Seriously, you should check it out!

Anyway, my take on the stories and the character combines both elements from the collection, from what later writers have added, and adds ballet, because let’s face it, I’m a huge fan of ballet and I’m sad there aren’t more ballet-themed horror stories. As to how I use ballet in the story, you’ll have to wait till it’s out to discover that.

Speaking of which, “The Dedication of the High Priestess” will be published as an audio story by the horror podcast Tales to Terrify. This is a podcast where professional narrators read one or two short stories or short novelettes per episode, the goal of each story being to chill you silly. I listened to a couple of episodes a while back and thought it might be a good place for my story, so I sent it in. I’m so happy they agree.

As to when it comes out, all I can say at that point is that it’ll be some time in 2022. Yeah, that’s vague, but that’s just how it is sometimes. And anyway, the moment it is out, I’ll be sure to let you know so you can check it out yourself.

I want to thank Tales to Terrify for accepting my story and I can’t wait to hear what you guys do with it. I’m very proud of this one and I’m glad it was able to find an excellent home.

And that’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ve got some other stuff cooking that I’ll be announcing soon, so keep an eye out for that. And I have dinner cooking, so I’ll keep an eye on that. Until next time, good night and pleasant nightmares.

*Which is a damn shame, because I think it’s better than Lovecraft in many ways, though I still like the stories the latter wrote.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Transforming our Understanding of Fairy Tales by Anne Dugan

Why We Absolutely Need Fairy Tales by Jason Link

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

Last month, I wrote a story that combined art and my love of ballet with the stories of the King in Yellow. This was after finally reading the stories earlier this year, which was after hearing about them and their titular subject for a few years. Recently, I edited that story and then submitted it to a publication that I think will like it. And after doing so, I just wanted to write a blog post about the King in Yellow, and see how many of the Followers of Fear are familiar with the character.

So, for those of you who don’t know, The King in Yellow is a collection of short stories published in 1895 by Robert Chambers. The first four stories revolve around the titular character. Or to be more precise, around a fictional play revolving around the titular character. This play has the uncanny ability to make those who read/see it lose their hold on reality. Or, in another sense, to put them under the sway of the King in Yellow.

If you would like a more in-depth analysis of the character, the play, and stories than I can give here, you can watch this video which goes in depth on the collection and the stories in question.

Not bad, huh? I find the Tale Foundry channel puts out some incredible work on all things writing and literature.

Anyway, The King in Yellow–the book, the play, and the character–have had quite an effect on horror literature. HP Lovecraft was actually heavily influenced by the book, and some of the themes in the book could be considered proto-Lovecraftian. Some writers have even included the King in the Cthulhu Mythos under the name of Hastur, a name from the original collection, as well as the half-brother of Cthulhu. And plenty of other writers have played in the sandbox of The King in Yellow, both in and out of the Cthulhu Mythos. He’s appeared in tabletop games, video games, all sorts of stories, and even was heavily referenced in the TV show True Detective.

Question is, why? What is it about these four stories and the King that has caused them to endure and slowly germinate into our popular culture?

Well, that’s the thing: it does germinate. Or the play does, anyway.

If you’ve read the stories or watched the video, you might have noticed that the King himself only appears once. Even then, you can’t be sure this isn’t the hallucination of a madman. Really, what we see in the stories is the effect of the play. It’s power to corrupt people, as well as the public outcry against it, has ensured that if someone hasn’t read it, they at least know of it and have seen the damage it’s caused.

Sounds like Twilight, but better and horrifying in the right ways, if you think about it. And it’s a great metaphor for how stories can spread through a populace and change people and culture, for better or worse. Not just fictional texts, like Harry Potter or Uncle Tom’s Cabin, but non-fiction tomes like The Travels of Marco Polo and Herodotus’s Histories, and religious texts like the Bible. All of these had huge effects on the societies they spread through, changing cultures, beliefs, and minds in so many ways.

The metaphor is even more apt if you think of the play as a religious text for those who worship the King in Yellow.

Just one edition of the King in Yellow collection. There are as many as there are ways to tell a story with the character.

Add in that the stories are psychological works where a lot is left to the imagination, combined with some decent and eerie storytelling, as well as ideas that resonate with writers the way Lovecraft’s world would years later, and it’s no wonder people began playing with and adding to the concept of the King in Yellow. And this was happening even before the stories entered the public domain.

Is it any wonder the King has been partially absorbed into the Cthulhu Mythos now?

And like the Cthulhu Mythos, the King in Yellow is becoming more well-known and mainstream, albeit slower than the Mythos. Still, the fact that it showed up in True Detective says a lot. And I hope, should the story I wrote be published, that it’s considered a nice addition to the King’s legacy, as well as helps to spread awareness of the original stories.

Speaking of which, I highly recommend checking out the original King in Yellow short story collection. They’re really eerie and you probably won’t regret checking them out. At the very least, you’ll be able to see how another classic work of horror has influenced the genre as a whole.

Just don’t read beyond the first four stories. The ones afterward don’t really connect to the stories about the play and aren’t as good, making you wonder why Chambers included those stories. I heard that if you read the book in reverse, it reveals something, but I can think of a lot of other stuff I would rather do with my time.

Have you read The King in Yellow or come across works inspired by it? What do you think of the stories? Let’s discuss.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m going to make dinner, read a story a friend sent to me for feedback, and imagine putting together a King in Yellow costume. Until next time, good night, pleasant nightmares, and beware the Yellow Sign.


One more thing: the crowdfunding campaign for That Which Cannot Be Undone is at 29% funded! And we’ve added a whole bunch of new perks to the campaign, as well as a new author to the anthology!

If you’re unaware, I’m part of a small publishing press and we’re crowdfunding our first anthology, That Which Cannot Be Undone, which will highlight Ohio writers. It’s an exciting new venture, and we’re very excited for you to read the stories that will be included. I’ve already written one story that will be in the anthology, so I hope you’ll support us in making this anthology a reality.

If you’re interested, you can click on the link below and learn more about the anthology. I hope you’ll lend us your support! Thanks, and have a good night!

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/crackedskullproject1/that-which-cannot-be-undone-an-ohio-horror-anthology

This has been a very busy, crazy day. But so far, it’s been worth it. And this is one of the reasons why!

So, if you didn’t hear, my story “Cressida,” which follows a man who finds out his uncle is keeping a mermaid in his basement, was accepted for publication. It was to appear in the anthology “Into the Deep” from Jazz House Publishing, which is to release on July 20th. And unless you’re a time traveler and stuck in another period of time/space, today’s July 20th! Which mean “Into the Deep” is out!

First off, can we just admire that artwork? I mean, wow! That is so terrifying, that for a horror fan it’s kind of sexy. Kudos to the cover artist!

Second, this looks to be a great collection. There are ten other short stories and novelettes in the anthology, all of them focused on the ocean and the deep blue sea. One is an aquatic retelling of the ballet Giselle (being such a fan of ballet, I’m looking forward to reading it). Another involves a heist in the Marianas Trench. And there are more that I have yet to discover! I’m so excited to get my copy!

Speaking of which, if you want to read “Into the Deep,” I’m including the link below at the end of the post. At the time I’m writing this, only the ebook version is available. The paperback will be available later today, so keep checking back for that (I’ll post an update when that’s available as well). Please give it a read if you’re at all interested.

And if you do, please let us know what you think. Not just for my sake, but for the sake of all the authors and the publishing company. A lot of work by many different individuals went into this anthology, so letting them know what you think not only brings a boost to their moods, but let’s other readers know if they should check out the anthology.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy “Into the Deep,” and that you like “Cressida” when you read the story. I’m especially proud of that story and think it’s some of my best work. I hope you agree.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ll be back soon with more news and reviews and whatnot (whether you like it or not). Until next time, pleasant nightmares and ph’nglui mglw’nafh R’lyeh Cthulhu wgah’nagl fhtagn.

Into the Deep: Ebook


Just a reminder: there’s only eight days left to submit questions for the Ask Me Anything, or AMA, to celebrate my ten-year blogging anniversary. One lucky participant will receive a prize, so be sure to send your question to ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com by 11:59 PM on July 28th. I look forward to reading your questions.