Posts Tagged ‘Gothic horror’

Well, this was a great day. I got out of work early (long story, don’t ask), which allowed me to finish the third draft of The Pure World Comes around 5:30 PM. And that was great, because by coincidence I was going to meet some friends who had also had their vaccinations for dinner and drinks. So I had the opportunity to turn a good night out with friends into a celebration.

Of course, then I had to wait till I was good to drive before coming home. And then I had to take a shower and check my email and whatnot. Hence why I’m writing this so damn late. Sorry about that. But hey, sometimes that’s life.

So, if you’re not aware, The Pure World Comes is a Victorian Gothic novel I wrote last year revolving around a maid who goes to work for a man who could be charitably called a mad scientist. I did a second draft a few months ago and sent them off to some beta readers for feedback. After getting their feedback and finishing the latest draft of River of Wrath, I started on the third draft. And after only a week or so, the third draft is completed!

Now, this story has always been a lot of fun for me to work on. I’m a huge fan of the Victorian era of British history (see my reasons here), and this novel was a love letter to that era. But this draft was especially fun because I got to read my beta readers’ comments while I worked. They really enjoyed the story and had a lot of good suggestions to improve the story. It’s great hearing what people think of your story (which is why it’s so important to leave reviews after reading an author’s story, by the by). But getting such positive feedback while the story’s still being refined was especially nice and made me hopeful for the story’s future.

Speaking of which, what is the future of this story? Well, it’s late, so I’m not going to do anything further with it tonight. However, tomorrow I’m going to try to submit it. As I said when I finished River of Wrath, I usually start shopping novels after the third draft. And based on the feedback I got on the second draft and the improvements I’ve made, I think this draft has a good chance of finding a home pretty quickly.

As for my next writing project…tough to say. I’ve been mulling a few ideas for short stories, especially ones I could write for specific anthologies. On the other hand, I recently had an idea for another story set in Victorian England, and I at least want to develop it a bit more. Problem is, that story has a good chance of becoming a longer project, maybe another novel if I’m not careful (and I’m not always too careful about word length). So, I might have to mull it a few days.

Whatever I choose, so long as I’m having fun with it, it’ll be okay.

Well, that’s all for now. I’m heading to bed so I’m not a wreck at work tomorrow. Until next time, good night, pleasant nightmares, and please consider getting vaccinated if you’re able to. It’ll protect your health, the health of others, and maybe allow us to move out of this insanity of a pandemic sooner.

As many of you know, I recently read and reviewed Whisper Down the Lane by Clay McLeod Chapman (read my review here). And now, I’m very happy to let you know that I recently was able to connect with Mr. Chapman and pick his brain a bit. So you know what happens next, Followers of Fear: it’s a brand new author interview!

So, without further ado, let me introduce Clay McLeod Chapman!

Rami Ungar: Clay, welcome to the show. It’s good to have you. Please tell us about yourself and a bit about what you do.

Clay McLeod Chapman: First off, just to say it, thanks for having me out… I really appreciate you inviting me to answer some questions and chat about Whisper Down the Lane.

So. My name’s Clay. I was born at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Roanoke, Virginia, and eventually raised in Richmond. I lived in Virginia for pretty much all my childhood, with a year in North Carolina, before moving up to New York. That’s been home for over twenty years now.

As far as my work is concerned, I’ve been pretty damn fortunate to live a humble existence writing and telling stories in a few different mediums… I get to write fiction, both short stories and novels for readers both young and old, while also writing for comics, film and television, theater and podcasting. It’s been a master-of-none kind of life.

RU: Tell us about Whisper Down the Lane. What is it about, how did you come up with it, and what was it like writing it?

CMC: Whisper Down the Lane is a story told in two different time-lines—one set in 1983 and the other in 2013—and how the moral mania of the Satanic Panic period of the 80s continues to echo out into our contemporary culture. The basic premise is: Sean, five years old, tells a little white lie to his mother. That lie ripples out and effects his family, his friends and classmates at school, the teachers and the administration, on to the community at large and then consuming the rest of the country…

Now, imagine thirty years later, meeting a man named Richard. He’s a newly-married teacher with a stepson. Life is good, until one day, the lies that Sean told decades ago somehow seem to manifest themselves within Richard’s life. The stories Sean made up as a boy are becoming true for Richard.

The past is never quite through with us, I guess you could say, no matter how hard you try to run away.

The idea for Whisper Down the Lane came about when I had a dinnertime conversation with my mother about a particular moment that I remembered from my childhood… that she insisted wasn’t true. It was unnerving to me because the two of us couldn’t reach a consensus point on this specific event that I would’ve sworn was true, but she was pretty emphatic was not. If she was right and this memory wasn’t real, what else about my childhood was I wrong about? What else could I have made up in my imagination? This led me to think a lot about false memory syndrome or repressed memory therapy, which was one of the foundational aspects to the Satanic Panic period… planting the seed for Whisper.

Writing the novel was pretty terrifying, to be honest. I’m not an author who comes to the table with a lot of confidence, and this project in particular always threatened to get away from me. I had very little self-esteem while writing it, essentially working in a constant state of panic… which I think, to a certain extent, actually aided in the paranoia that runs rampant throughout the narrative. Not that I personally recommend writing anything under those conditions.

RU: The story is heavily influenced by the Satanic Panic and the McMartin preschool trials of the 1980s. Do you have any memories of those events and did they have any influence on the book?

CMC: As a child of the 80s, essentially living in a Spielbergian lens flare, I do remember the vaguest hints of Satanic Panic. I definitely didn’t know about the McMartin preschool, but I was certainly entrenched in stranger danger and the vocabulary of the devil… As children, my friends and I were told to always watch out for the white van with no windows that prowled our neighborhood. I vividly remember seeing with my own eyes a spray-painted pentagram on the walls of our neighborhood swimming pool. It was a wild time to be a kid, because our parents essentially let us loose after school to Schwinn throughout the neighborhood with zero supervision… It was amazing we didn’t break our necks or get run over. And yet, there were these warnings from our parents about some ethereal threat: Men we didn’t know who would lure us into their cars with promises of candy or long-haired teens smoking cigarettes and spray-painting pentagrams while listening to heavy metal music. Our parents made boogeymen out the things they were scared of, in order to frighten us into complicity, but I think in an odd way it just made these potential risks feel all the more mythic. This all rooted the writing the novel in a pretty personal place… I got to write about what scared me as a kid. Ozzy Osbourne or the razor blade in the chocolate bar. 

RU: I found the characters and the paranoia that spread among those characters to be very believable. How did you accomplish making these characters and their terror feel so real?

CMC: Well… whew. Thanks for saying that. It’s a huge relief to hear. I’m a big fan of Poe and the unreliable narrator, so for Richard in particular, I wanted to map out the mental trajectory of a narrator losing his mind. You have to start with a sturdy foundation before you can really chisel away at the bedrock below a character like that… so I found myself really having to exercise restraint before going batshit. This book needed to be a slow burn. Lay down the mental/emotional landscape first, then destroy it.

For Sean, which was a more difficult section to write, everything had to be filtered through the perspective of a five-year-old and somehow still feel believable. Writing through a child’s eyes, I feel, can be the kiss of death for a lot of books because the prose itself seems to talk down to the reader, as if they were a child themselves. It’s a tough balance to get the innocence and naiveté to ring true, while also keeping a toe-hold of a narrative that extends beyond the purview of a child… Third person certainly helps.

But here’s the truth: For both Richard and Sean, I’m just writing about things that scare me. I was—to an extent—that kid growing up, so I simply chose to write from a perspective of what frightened me as a boy. Now I’m a dad who’s utterly petrified of sending my sons into this dangerous, terrifying world… so I get to write about that newfound fear of mine. When the horror is personal, when the horror comes home, I think it simply rings true in a way it wouldn’t otherwise.

RU: What was research for the novel like? Did you learn anything that you didn’t already know that surprised you?

CMC: This book was a complete joy to research. I say ‘joy’ and I don’t mean to sound glib. I find the whole period utterly fascinating. I got to read so many amazing books on the subject… I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my most favorite: We Believe the Children by Richard Beck. It’s an absolute must for anyone who’s curious about the Satanic Panic period.

RU: You also have experience in the comics and film industries, among others. Can we maybe look forward to a graphic novel or movie adaptation of Whisper?

CMC: Well… I’d be lying if I didn’t say I would happily sell my soul to the devil for a film (or television) adaptation.

RU: Wouldn’t we all. Now, I know you had a novel accepted by the same publisher as Whisper. Can you tell us anything about that book?

CMC: I can’t say much about the next book quite yet… It’s a ghost story, though, which I’m really excited about. I wanted to write a haunted house story and essentially spent most of my quarantine imbibing as much gothic literature as I could. We’ll see how much of it seeps into the next book, but I’ve got high hopes.

RU: Finally, data to back up my claim that people would be reading/producing a lot of Gothic and haunted house stories during this pandemic (see my initial prediction here).

Anyway, when you’re not writing, what are you doing with your time?

CMC: Those damn kids, man… I’m telling you. Raising children during these uncertain times. I’m just keeping their lung tissue as clean as humanly possible.

RU: For which I wish you the best of luck. I have enough trouble with my own lungs and people not wearing masks around me. Now, what advice would you give other writers, regardless of background or experience?

CMC: It’s an old saw, but it’s honestly the best advice—the only advice—anyone should ever give or follow: You got to put in the time. You got to write. I’ve written so much junk, and I still do… But I have to get it out of my system. I need to exercise the muscle of my imagination in order to exorcise these stories. If I don’t write them out, they just get clogged in my head. Are they all worth reading? Absolutely not. But they won’t be haunting me any longer. I’m free.

RU: I hear that. Final question: if you were stuck on a desert island for a while and could bring only three books with you for entertainment, which ones would you bring?

CMC: Geek Love by Katherine Dunn. Vice by Ai (or The Collected Poems of Ai). The Tin Drum by Gunther Grass.

Thanks so much for chatting with me! This was a total blast… Looking forward to chatting some more!

RU: Thank you for stopping by. Please let us know when your next book comes out and we’ll get you back on the show!

If you enjoyed this interview, you can check out Clay McLeod Chapman on his website, as well as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Make sure to also check out Whisper Down the Lane (after reading my review, of course). And if you’re an author with something coming out soon and would like to be interviewed, consider sending me an email at ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com. If I’m able, we’ll make some magic happen.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m going to take a walk before I get to work on dinner and watch a movie. Until next time, happy reading, stay safe and pleasant nightmares!

I think I’ve been hearing buzz about this novel since it was released last year. However, I only just got around to reading it recently (or more accurately, listening to it on audio book). I had somehow managed to stay spoiler-free despite the buzz, and knew nothing beyond the fact it was a Gothic novel set in 1950s Mexico. And knowing nothing, I was going in expecting something amazing.

Mexican Gothic follows Noemi Taboada, a young high-society woman living in Mexico City in 1950. That is, until a mysterious letter from her cousin Catalina arrives at the family home. Concerned, Noemi is sent out to check on her cousin, who has been living in the countryside since her marriage to a mysterious Englishman named Virgil Doyle at his family’s estate, High Place. When she arrives, she’s not surprised to find things are not what they appear. However, the biggest surprises are yet to come. And if Noemi’s not careful, she’ll find these surprises may keep her from leaving High Place. Forever.

I can see why this novel was nominated for a Bram Stoker award, it’s excellent!

For one thing, the language this book is written in is just beautiful, like a Victorian novel without being too stuffy or overly wordy and dramatic. From the opening chapters, I felt like I was listening to the sort of writing I aspire to write (maybe someday I will). And Moreno-Garcia uses this brilliant language to not only bring the novel to life in your mind, but to bring out this strong sense of atmosphere and dread. I could almost see High Place and feel the horror that Noemi felt.

Speaking of which, I loved Noemi. She’s a very spunky young woman who refuses to compromise or let anyone tell her what to do just because she’s a woman. I loved watching her go up against the stodgy, stuffy Doyles with their rigid ways and gloomy lives, as well as how she refused to submit.

In addition, Mexican Gothic‘s story has a unique twist on the concept of a haunted house. I won’t go into details, because it’s more fun for you to read it yourself. Let me just say, it’s different than anything I’ve read and you’ll probably find it pretty clever on a number of levels.

I can’t think of any real downsides to this story. If I did, it would be nitpicking on my part. I will warn some readers that there are some things in the novel that might be triggering to them. One of the characters turns out to be…skeevy, to put it mildly. Just warning you.

In any case, Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia is a wonderful addition to the Gothic horror genre. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving it a 4.7. Wonderfully written, ingenious and spooky. Pick up a copy and find out for yourself why people are raving about this book. Preferably before they decide the Bram Stoker winners in May.

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

I made a nice graphic for “The Pure World Comes.” It’ll work till I get a proper cover for the story.

My first major achievement of 2021 occurred this morning at around 2 AM (yeah, I’m not sure how I’m functioning right now, either). After a crap ton of editing and a bit of Doctor Who, I finished the second draft of The Pure World Comes.

Now if you don’t know what The Pure World Comes is, it’s a Gothic horror novel I wrote back in Spring 2020 and started editing last month. The novel, which is set in Victorian England, follows a young maid who goes to work for a mad scientist. Beyond being a fun and exciting story to work on, it was my love letter to the Victorian era and a great opportunity to showcase my theory of who Jack the Ripper was.

Yeah, I worked Jack the Ripper into the story. And I think it worked as an addition.

Now, if you remember my post about prepping to return to Victorian England, I had some specific goals with this draft. Namely, I wanted to make the story feel more authentic by improving the dialogue, explaining all the odd ideas and customs of Victorian England (*cough* mourning rituals *cough*), and adding little details like steam engines, Covent Garden, and bath tubs heated with giant metal contraptions. While I’m still iffy on the dialogue, I think I did a great job with the other stuff. I tried to give readers some explanation or context for some of the things that were common then but would be considered odd now, and I think I added enough little details to make the story feel authentic.

Of course, I’ll leave that up to the beta readers (more on them in a bit).

Also, did I mention how much this story has grown since the first draft? The first was 214 pages (8.5 x 11 inches, double spaced, 12-point Times New Roman font) and 59,333 words. The second, however, was 228 pages and 64,269 words! That’s an increase of nearly 14 pages and nearly five-thousand words! Yes, a lot of that comes from explaining some things or expanding some sections so they’re less confusing. Believe it or not, it might’ve been more, but as I got further into the draft, I ended up cutting a ton of material as well.

So, what’s next? Well, I’m going to hand the novel off to a couple of beta readers to look over. I’ve already gotten confirmations from two colleagues who are well-versed in historical fiction (as well as my work) that they’ll take a look, and I’m reaching out to a few others who are big horror fans themselves. With any luck, I’ll find out not only if The Pure World Comes is any good, but what I can do to improve it in the third draft before trying to publish it.

And while they’re looking at the second draft, I’ll be taking a break from any serious writing for a short while. Beyond any administrative work on my various projects or the occasional blog post, it’ll just be easy street for the next week or two. After that…well, I have some ideas.

I look forward to receiving feedback for the third draft.

For now though, I’m just excited to be reaching this stage in the novel’s development and hope I get to share it with you very soon.

And if, in the meantime, you’re looking for something new to read for 2021, I have a few other projects out on the market that might fit the bill. I’ll leave the links below. All I ask is that you leave a review online somewhere if you do end up reading my stories, as they help both me and other readers.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m off to enjoy some dinner, some classic Doctor Who, and an early bed time. Until next time, stay safe, Happy New Year, and pleasant nightmares!

Mother of the King: Amazon US, Amazon CAN, Amazon UK

Rose: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada, Audible

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

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

Audible’s audio edition of Dracula by Bram Stoker. Turns out, it was just what the Count ordered.

Everyone has heard of Dracula. Most likely, you’ve seen some version of him in a movie or a TV series .* But how many of you have ever read the original novel? Not many, surprisingly. Besides the fact that Dracula’s melted so thoroughly into pop culture, the source material is a Victorian novel written in the form of diary entries and letters. Even veteran bookworms have to steel themselves for those!

I tired once or twice in my younger years to read Dracula, but found it harder to get through than some Lovecraft stories and had to stop reading. Last month, however, Audible offered its own audio version for free as part of my subscription. I was like, “Maybe I’ll enjoy it more in audio form” and downloaded it.

Turns out, while Audible may have a dumbass exchange policy (and yes, fixing Audible and Amazon’s issues are still works in progress), the audio book was just what I needed. Great cast that brought the story to life and allowed me to get into it while driving or working out or cooking.

And let me tell you, Dracula the novel is good! It’s a slow burn Gothic story that takes its time building up an atmosphere as well as a conflict. By the time the action really gets rolling, the suspense and dread is so well-constructed that you actually feel a bit of worry with every encounter or setback the characters endure.

I also liked how a lot of my expectations were subverted while listening to the novel. Yes, his name’s on the cover, but Dracula himself doesn’t show up that much in the story past the first act. He’s mostly on the edge, only showing himself every now and then. While this may upset some readers who expect the Count to be front and center, it’s actually pretty effective. Whenever Dracula shows up, you know shit is likely to get real, and you’re waiting for that shit to happen.

Contrary to what the movies portray, Dracula is more on the edges and backgrounds than front and center.

Another surprise: while I expected Dr. Van Helsing to be an important character, Mina Harker (nee Murray) really stole the show. She’s easily smarter than most of the other characters, including the doctor, and could almost be seen as a proto-Buffy. The only reason she doesn’t do any slaying is because Victorian mores made it impossible for anyone, including Mina herself, to see her taking on a more active role against Dracula (much to their regret later). Kind of makes you wonder if Stoker was making some sort of feminist statement there. I’d love to see an adaptation where Mina’s the one kicking ass. You know, instead of falling for the Count and/or being totally helpless.

And there were some details in the story that I found fascinating, simply because they never make it into any adaptation. For example, Van Helsing hints that Dracula, for all his power and evil, has a very childlike brain when it comes to planning or deep thinking, and that hinders him when he comes to England. It’s amazing what never gets translated to the adaptations.

All that said, the novel isn’t without flaws. The character of Renfield, Dracula’s faithful madman, is pretty extraneous to the plot. He’s really just a vampire radar, and other than that, he doesn’t do much beyond be crazy and help develop Dr. Seward’s character. Then there’s Quincy Morris, a character from Texas who feels more like a parody of Texans from Western novels than a real Texan. And yeah, I would have liked to see a bit more of Dracula, as well as him being a big bad. That might just be my pop-culture image not lining up with the novel, but can you blame me?

All in all, though, I think Dracula is deserving of a 4.8 out of 5. It’s moody, well-written and worth the read if you find a format that works for you. Hell, I think I might go on a binge of Dracula-related media: some essays on the story’s deeper meaning, some adaptations, that novel co-written by Stoker’s descendant (yes, that’s a real thing). I might also write a story involving Dracula and characters in the novel. Who knows?

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. If you need me, I’m celebrating the first night of Hanukkah with vampires and jelly donuts (weird combination, I know). Until next time, happy holidays and pleasant nightmares!

*Speaking of which, I’m still sad that the 2014 NBC TV show was cancelled after one season. All because they didn’t give it the advertising it deserved. The fact that this might be the first you’ve ever heard of it unfortunately proves my point.

How I’m feeling most days. Photo by Marcus Aurelius on Pexels.com

This won’t be a long post. Nor will this be a rant or a long list of complaints. It’s just to say one thing: Goddammit, I’m a busy non-human entity!

In addition to writing, editing and trying to find publishers for my stories, I’m also organizing events and meetings for the Ohio chapter of the Horror Writers Association. And I’m trying to put together an anthology with some other Ohio horror writers for writers in our state. And I’m tracking sales/reviews and making decision for “Mother of the King” (more on that in a later post). And I’m doing some research before I try to edit my Victorian Gothic novel The Pure World Comes.

Add in the work from my day job, the many tasks a responsible adult has to do to keep a roof over their heads, trying to stay healthy, finding time to relax so I don’t burn out, and a few things in my personal life that I can’t talk about yet. Oh, and let’s not forget about time to eat and sleep.

And I have to ask: when did my dance card get so full? I feel like I either need more time or another me to get all this work done!

Ooh, another Rami Ungar. There’s a scary thought. Imagine just what sort of terror we could get up to while we were out and about!

Well, with any luck, things will ease up a bit as I continue to cross things off my list. There have been hiccups along the way–kid you not, I may have double-booked myself for some stuff at work tomorrow–but I’m dealing with them. I realize that it might be easier if I took on less responsibilities, but some of them can’t be given up so easily and others I took on because this is all part of the path of the writer. You gotta take what opportunities you can sometimes.

Thank you for supporting me while i work on these stories.

Still, it’s a lot. Perhaps if I’m ever able to write full-time, it’ll get easier (especially if writing does become my day job). For now though, I just gotta keep on keeping on and hope I don’t get sick from exhaustion or something.

In the meantime, I want to thank you, my Followers of Fear. Whether I’m traveling at the speed of light or exhausted from work, you’re always there to support me. It means a lot to me that I have this growing community around me who like what I write and support me in my quest to make my dreams come true.

Also in the meantime, it’s the holiday season, so you’re probably wondering what to get your friends and family who like spooky stuff, why not consider some of my stories? Fans of horror are always looking for new scares to devour, so they would probably appreciate something they might not have found otherwise. I’ll include the links for them, as well as for “Mother of the King,” below.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I hope you’re having a good month so far. Until next time, stay safe, pleasant nightmares, and tell Santa to stay out of your chimney until he’s had his temperature checked!

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

Mother of the King: Amazon US, Amazon CAN, Amazon UK

What is sleep? There’s too much to work on right now! And I just got another thing done! The second draft of Toyland is finished! Glory hallelujah, pour the alcohol (in this case, German festbier) and play some celebratory music (Voodoo Child by Rogue Traders better be on the playlist).

So, if you don’t know, Toyland was last year’s National Novel Writing Month project (glad I managed to finish it before the one-year anniversary of starting the book). It’s a Gothic horror/dark fantasy novel revolving around a boarding school in southern Ohio, and the spirit that’s said to haunt it.

My God, this draft was a roller coaster. As I said in a previous post, I had a lot of cleaning up to do. Lots of unwieldy passages and paragraphs where I thought to myself, “What the hell was I thinking when I wrote this?” But I managed to keep going despite the cringe factor and knock out a second draft.

And I think I was successful in cutting out anything unnecessary from the story, including the epilogue chapter. Yeah, it was a good epilogue, but ending it without the epilogue made for a better ending and a better story overall.

Speaking of which, I just did a word count. Even without the epilogue, there’s not much of a difference between drafts (so maybe I added a ton more material than I cut?). The first draft was 360 pages (8.5 x 11-inch paper, Times New Roman 12-point font, double spaced) and 97,128 words. The second draft was 358 pages and 96,088. Still a bit shorter than my longest novel, Snake, but still long as hell.

So, what’s next? Well, I think a few more drafts. The novel’s a good deal better, but it still could use some work. Maybe a beta reader or two ought to take a look at it at some point. And then I can consider what route to go with publishing it.

Of course, there’s a few other things that need to happen, along with more drafts, before I can get to that point. What they are, I can’t say. But I think I’ll accomplish some of those within the next year or so.

Well, it’s late, so I think it’s time I hit the hay. I do have work tomorrow. Good night, my Followers of Fear. If you see some dragons flying through the sky, they’re not mine. I swear. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

Ugh, today was an awful day. I did not get any sleep last night, so I was running on fumes and frustration this morning. Then I started feeling off after lunch, so I had to take leave for the rest of the day. I took a long nap, and felt better, but I had to get this post out today before an early bedtime. There goes my movie plans for the evening. At least I got an email from work informing me of a pay bump. That was a bright side.

Where was I? Oh right. Big announcement. Back to it.

I hinted in my last post that I was going to make a big announcement about my next writing project. After all, when someone says in their last post, and I quote, “And as for my next project…well, I’ll save that for a blog post tomorrow,” you get a feeling it’s going to be a big deal. And this is a big deal. For my next project, I’ll be working on…the second draft of Toyland!

Yeah, I made a new graphic for Toyland. It’ll work until I can find the story a publisher. Also, fun fact: the font the title is written in is called Germania One. It’s based on older German fonts like Fraktur, as well as newer fonts like certain sans serifs. You see it used in titles relating to Germany or Germany-related subjects, such as one of my favorite horror movies, Overlord (on my list of underrated horror films to watch this Halloween season).

Getting back on topic, if you’re unfamiliar with Toyland, it was my National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, project last year. I started it in November and finished it in late February this year. It’s a Gothic horror/dark fantasy novel set in a boarding school in the southern half of Ohio, one haunted by a ghost. A ghost obsessed with a children’s book and who appears to be terrorizing the student body.

Yeah, weird concept, but would you expect anything different from me.

I’m sure you’re wondering why it took me so long to get to work on a second draft. That’s just usually how I roll. I need to put a story away for a while in order to look at it with fresh eyes for the second draft. That’s especially so with novels. The longer the novel, the more space. And Toyland was over ninety-seven thousand words long, the second-longest story I’ve ever written.

So I focused on shorter stories. And I wrote one more novel, The Pure World Comes, though that was on accident. Anyway, I’ve gotten an average of one story a month written since then, some of which I’m shopping around to various publishers, others I’ll edit soon. But I think it’s damn time I get to work on editing Toyland. That won’t mean it’ll be ready to be published, but the story will be a bit closer to that point.

I hope to start this editing process tomorrow or Wednesday. Given that I edit faster than I write, I think might be done some time around Halloween, maybe a bit later. And after that…we’ll see.

In the meantime, I’m exhausted and need a nap. I’ll see you guys soon with a new review.

Until next time, my Followers of Fear, stay safe and pleasant nightmares!

Oh, and if you need something to tide you over until I get Toyland or something else out, I have a short story collection and two books for you guys. Click the links below and check them out. And if you read them, please leave a review letting me know what you think. I love reader feedback, and it helps me out in the long run anyway.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time, stay safe and pleasant nightmares!

So with the completion of The Pure World Comes last night, that brings a total of three novels I have waiting in the wings. By “waiting in the wings,” of course, I mean three novels I need to edit, update and hopefully someday publish. And since some of you have been asking about those books, I thought I would take a moment to update you on each individual story, as well as tell anyone who’s unfamiliar with them what they’re about.

River of Wrath

 

River of Wrath, inspired partly by Dante’s Inferno, is about a small town in Mississippi which, one day in the early 1960’s, is visited by one of the circles of Hell. I recently got back all the beta reader copies, so I can finally begin doing some editing on this story. And given that the plot of this story deals with a lot of issues that are as current now as they were in the 1960’s (you can guess which ones), it might be a good idea to get to work on that one sooner rather than later.

In fact, I was hoping to get started on River this summer. Most likely August, if things work out for me. Seeing as I finished this one in 2018 and it’s now 2020, and the problems of racism only seem to have gotten worse since then, I think it’s about damn time.

 

 

Toyland

I don’t know what it is about Toyland, but for some reason, several of my Followers of Fear are champing at the bit for this story. My National Novel Writing Month project which I began in November 2019 and ended in late February, Toyland is a Gothic horror/dark fantasy novel centered on a boarding school in southern Ohio and a ghost there obsessed with a children’s book affecting the students. Yeah, that’s the plot. It’s bonkers, but did you expect anything else from me?

As for when editing will commence on this one, it will hopefully happen very soon. But as for publishing, that might take a while. I need some things on my end to happen before I can think of shopping this book to publishers (or consider self-publishing it. That’s a possibility as well). What those things are, I can’t say at the moment, but I deem them necessary to happen before Toyland can be released. As events unfold, I hope to have more updates on this subject. For now though, just know I’m working on paving the way for Toyland‘s publication as best I can right now.

 

The Pure World Comes

I know I finished it last night and you have probably read the elevator pitch already, but I’ll restate it anyway. TPWC takes place in 1894 and follows a maid who goes to work for a mad scientist. As I said last night, I have sent this novel off already to someone for feedback. With any luck, I’ll get some pointers on how to improve this story in the second draft and where to send it.

Speaking of which, I do hope to find a publisher for this one, but I can see it being rather successful if I self-publish it. In fact, I had an idea for that: many novels written in Victorian England were released chapter by chapter in a serial format, usually in a magazine or newspaper. Charles Dickens did this to great effect, using reader feedback after each chapter to improve the story by upgrading or downgrading certain characters and following plot lines readers found interesting. In other words, he gave the fans fanservice, and it worked for him. Anyway, after all the chapters had been released, only then would they be collected in a traditional book format.

I doubt I’ll do the whole give-in-to-fanservice thing Dickens did, but I could see myself releasing each chapter one at a time, perhaps as an ebook exclusive, before releasing the full book as both paperback and ebook. What do you think? Would that be a fun way to read a book, as well as a great callback to the publishing methods of yesteryear? Let me know.

 

Anyway, that’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m off to relax and regain my creative energies, but I’m sure you’ll hear from me by the end of the week. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!