Posts Tagged ‘Hanukkah’

Pour the drinks! Start the party music! Feed the dragon bats a little extra blood and meat with their dinner tonight! I’ve had two acceptances! That’s right, you read that correctly. Two. And I am so excited that the editors loved them enough to include them in upcoming publications, let alone that you will get to read them.

So, the first acceptance actually came last week, but I only just got permission to start screaming from the high heavens. A short story I wrote is being accepted by “The Jewish Book of Horror,” an anthology from the Denver Horror Collective coming out this holiday season in time for Hanukkah. That’s right, a book emphasizing horror from a Jewish slant. When I first heard of that, I knew I had to write something for it, which I did: a short story called “The Divorce from God.”

I’m adding to Jewish literature! It’s not typical Jewish literature, but I’m not complaining!

“The Divorce from God” is a story that was inspired by the New York divorce coercion gang. For those of you who haven’t heard, the New York divorce coercion gang was a group of ultra-Orthodox Jews who forced men into divorces. Yeah, even the Jews have our fair share of fanatics, and they do bad things sometimes. In this case, they meddled in divorces. In traditional Judaism, divorce has to be granted by the husband, and occasionally that’s held over the wife’s head to hurt her. Normally, non-violent means are sought to encourage the husband to grant a divorce, but in this case, the gang members went to violent means. It’s pretty sick and twisted stuff and I encourage you to read up on it if you’re curious.

Anyway, I took the case and put my own fictional spin on the story. After letting some beta readers give me some feedback, I made some edits and submitted it. And I’m happy to say it’ll end up in the anthology! Woo-hoo! I get to be part of a big contribution to Jewish literature while still being scary! I’m sure my parents and teachers and rabbis are proud of me.

Also, apologies that I didn’t write a blog post for this story like I usually do. The subject matter and the targeted anthology was so specific, I didn’t want to post about it only for it to maybe get rejected. But I’m telling you now, so it’s all good, right?

And today, I got some more good news! I wrote an essay recently on a character trope I call “the broken child.” What is that? Well, you’ll have to wait till August to find out. It’s going to be published in the August edition of House of Stitched magazine (don’t you just love that name?). They were looking for articles on the craft and process of horror writing, and I’d been turning over some article/essay ideas in my head, including an examination of the broken child. I wrote it and sent it in, keeping my fingers crossed. And today they sent me a contract. I signed and now I’m on cloud nine!

I mean, wouldn’t you be? Last year, I was only able to release one story. But two months ago, I was able to get an article published on Ginger Nuts of Horror and release a new scary story. And in just one week, I was able to get a short story and an article accepted as well! It’s very encouraging and makes me hopeful for what’s to come.

I’ve been writing up a storm lately. Glad to see it’s been worth it.

A big thanks to the Denver Horror Collective, who will be putting out “The Jewish Book of Horror,” for accepting “The Divorce from God.” And an equally big thank you to the team of Stitched Smile Publications, the publisher of House of Stitched magazine, for accepting “The Horror of the Broken Child.” I’m so excited to be working with both of you and I hope your readers enjoy my contributions as much as I hope you did.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I hope you’ll pick up a copy of the August issue of House of Stitched magazine and “The Jewish Book of Horror” once they’re released. I’m off to enjoy a walk in the nice weather. I’ll probably also have a beer or two tonight in celebration as well. And I’ll be working on my next short story as well. Gotta keep up the writing and submitting so I can get a few more stories out there.

Until next time, my Followers of Fear, stay safe, pleasant nightmares, and don’t approach my dragon bats! They may be cute, but they’re alpha predators for a reason.

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.

You know, I’ve written a lot about my identity on this blog. Or rather, because every person is highly multifaceted and puts themselves under several labels (even when they eschew all labels), my identities: writer; horror fan; bisexual man; autistic individual and disability advocate; total nerd; Ohio State Buckeye; feminist; liberal; possible entity from another dimension; and many more. But there’s one identity I’m only realizing now that, while I’ve mentioned it more than a few times on this blog, I’ve never really gone into detail about it in relation to my life and my writing. Not in six-plus years of blogging (believe me, I checked).

Considering that I was not only raised Jewish, but raised Jewish by two rabbi parents, went to synagogue nearly every weekend for years, went to Jewish day school from fourth grade through high school, attended youth groups and summer camps, was a frequent attendee at the Ohio State Hillel, and a whole bunch of other things than is listed in this run-on sentence, that is weird. And I’m not entirely sure why I haven’t really ever gone into detail about it. Maybe I thought I’d covered it in one of my 1300+ blog posts at some point, or maybe I just thought it wasn’t important enough to cover at any point. I have no idea.

Well, I guess better now than never (especially since this is my blog and you’re all hostages to whatever I feel like writing each day). How does Judaism affect my life and my writing?

Well for my life, it affects a lot. I’m more spiritual than religious, like many millennials, but I still practice certain rituals. I keep kosher and eat vegetarian when I’m out. I bring in Shabbat every week, and light candles on Hanukkah (you like the picture of my menorah? I’ve had it since I was a kid). I have a mezuzah on my door frame that marks my apartment as Jewish, and the only jewelry I wear is Jewish in theme (Jew-elry, if you will). I don’t attend services at my synagogue that much (I tend to sleep in on Saturdays because the week drains me. Sue me), but I pray often and keep in touch with friends through social media and hanging out. I’ve been to and support Israel, though at times the words and actions of its government concerns me. I pay attention to how my people are portrayed in the news and popular culture (I get seriously annoyed by how most Jews on TV and movies are like, “We’re like the rest of you, we just say some funny words and talk about our health issues a lot.” Seriously, we’re more diverse than that!), and get really psyched when I find stuff on it that educate people about our beliefs:

No need to post that video. I just like spreading it around. Especially since so many people know what Christmas is but so few outside the Tribe know what Hanukkah is.

So Judaism does affect my life. Does it affect my writing?

Well, yes and no. I don’t write what’s known as typical “Jewish literature,” which in my experience is usually about Jewish characters dealing with persecution from non-Jews or dealing with their Jewish faith and identities. I know my dad wished I would write those sorts of stories when I was younger, probably because he was afraid I’d be the next Ted Bundy if I kept reading and writing Stephen King-style horror, but that sort of story never interested me (thankfully, he’s come to like my fiction as is). I do feature Jewish characters in my work on occasion (my Lovecraftian short story “The Red Bursts,” which I’m trying to get published, features a gay Jewish couple who are active in their synagogue), but their religious background isn’t usually a big part of the story. Their are stories I’ve written or plan to write where Jewish characters are featured prominently, and where their background can be emphasized, but like I said, they’re not a huge focus in my fiction as a whole. I like telling a scary story first and foremost.

But my Jewish identity does feature throughout my fiction in a different way. Like every author, I insert my worldview, my morals and beliefs into my stories, and a good lot of that is shaped by Judaism, especially this phrase by one of Judaism’s greatest scholars: “Love thy neighbor. All the rest is commentary.” It’s why I like to use diverse casts in my stories, not just Jewish characters. People unlike me are my neighbors as well as those like me, so I give them all a fair shot in my stories. And this is just one of many ways I emphasize my faith in my writing (I’d go into it a bit deeper, but this article is getting long).

So yeah, my faith is still very important to me. And it even shows up a little in my stories. It may not show up overtly in my stories, but it does show up in the subtext. And for my particular style, that works pretty well. It might even get me somewhere as a writer someday. One can only hope.

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

So good news, folks: as of around 6 PM today, I’ve received feedback from both of my beta readers for Rose, which means I can start the fourth draft of the novel! Why is the fourth draft so significant, you may be asking. Well, this is the last draft I plan to do until I get an agent and/or publisher! And I think that is significant enough to write a blog post (which would’ve been written earlier this evening, but I was at my dad’s for Hanukkah dinner).

Now if you have no idea what Rose is, it’s a novel I wrote as my thesis in college, which I started working on again earlier this year and finished editing back in October. The story follows a young woman with amnesia whose body starts going through incredible, magical changes. The only person she can rely on for help and information about these changes and about herself is a young man who says he’s her boyfriend, but he’s keeping things from her, and things are not at all what they seem.

Yeah, it is not a fun story. Not by a long shot. But I think it’s a good story, made even better after the most recent draft, which fixed a few issues with the story and doubled the word count (don’t less that scare you, it’s shorter than the second Harry Potter book).

Of course, before you start submitting it to publishers or agents, you want to make sure your novel is actually good. Not just good in your opinion, but in others’ opinions, and that’s where beta readers come in. They take a look at stories you write, and let you know what works, what doesn’t, and give you feedback on what can be made better.

One of my beta readers for Rose was my dear friend, Joleene Naylor.  She read the novel in about a month, and got back to me with a ton of notes, as well as plenty of feedback. Overall, she enjoyed the novel. She thought my characters and their development was deep and reminded her of anime characters, which are often complex and never completely good nor completely evil, but often a mix of both (you can now tell who inspired that post about why writers should check out anime). That made the characters within Rose not only multilayered, but often very surprising. For one particular character, Joleene hated him at first, but then she found out some things about him and actually became kind of sympathetic towards him. Then she learned some more things about that character, and her feelings changed again. It’s very hard to do that in fiction, to have your emotions about characters change that rapidly, and Joleene liked that.

However, she did have some thought about a few things, including grammar and word usage, and she thought some things could be fixed, changed, or worked around in order to make the novel that much better. Her feedback makes a lot of sense to me, so I’m going to be incorporating a lot of it into the story.

My other beta reader got back to me earlier today, and I was very glad to see his feedback. Who is this beta reader? Believe it or not, he’s my chiropractor. As many of you know, I have back problems, so I’ve been seeing Dr. Black since June to remedy them (and the progress has been amazing!). You see someone so much, you get to talking, and it turns out Dr. Black is a huge horror fan, so obviously we got to talking about Stephen King, HP Lovecraft, and my writing. When I was getting close to finishing Rose, he offered to read it as a horror fan, and I said I’d like that.

This is what a beta reader or two can lead to: a published novel.

Now, Dr. Black is not a writer, but a reader. However, it is important to have the feedback of readers, as they are who we write for. And Dr. Black did give his reader approval. He thought the novel kept his attention throughout, and that he especially enjoyed the flashbacks in the novel. I’m glad he told me that, because those were parts I actually worried about. Flashbacks are difficult to do, and different readers and writers react to them in different ways. I’m glad Dr. Black enjoyed them, and what they added to the story.

He also mentioned one issue he had in the story while reading one chapter, which I hadn’t realized was a problem, so I’ll make sure to fix that up so that the end result won’t have that same problem.

So I have both of my beta readers’ feedback, and I can start on the fourth draft. To be honest, I’m really glad I finally have all that feedback. I haven’t really been in a writing mood lately, waiting on getting that much-needed feedback. Sure, having my laptop in the shop for over a week didn’t help, but even when I had it, I just wanted to work on Rose (even if I was working on a great story in the meantime. A story I’ll have to put on hold for now, but whatever. I’ll get it done eventually). When you put this much work into a novel, and you think it has so much potential, you really want to see that potential fulfilled, I guess.

And now that I’ve gotten my feedback, I’ll put out a couple of blog posts I’ve been meaning to write for a while, and then I’ll get to work. I doubt it’ll take very long to get through this time, so hopefully that means I’ll have some good news soon.

Thanks to Joleene and Dr. Black for their valuable feedback. It means so much to me that you took the time to do this for me.

And thanks for keeping in touch with me, my Followers of Fear, and following my progress of this novel. I hope that if it comes out, that you decide to pick up a copy and that you enjoy it. Until next time, pleasant nightmares and Happy Hanukkah!