Posts Tagged ‘HP Lovecraft’

If you’ve been with me a while now, you know I’ve become a fan of The King in Yellow by Robert Chambers. First published in 1895, the important stories in the collection (and the best ones) revolve around a play called The King in Yellow, which is so twisted that reading it can drive you mad (or make you a slave to the titular entity, if you believe he’s real). The collection has proved influential and has been touted as a classic by many horror writers, including HP Lovecraft, as well as being partially integrated into the latter’s Cthulhu Mythos.

I read the collection after hearing about it last year, and since then, I’ve become a little obsessed. I bought my own copy of the collection, I wrote a short story called “The Dedication of the High Priestess” that combines the character and the lore with ballet (this story will be narrated on the Tales to Terrify podcast some time before the year is out), I created some AI art of the figure, and now, I am the King in Yellow. For Halloween, at least.

What do you think? I went with something more simplistic than I originally planned (big white gloves, an ornate crown resembling antlers and tree branches), and boiled it down to a robed figure with a mask. However, that’s basically the things that most people agree upon when it comes to the character’s appearance, so it works. And I even got a photo of me holding my copy of the collection like it’s the play itself. I think that’s a nice touch.

Credit for the photos go to my sister, Adi, by the way. She did a great job taking the photos this afternoon.

Anyway, I look forward to wearing this costume to events like A Night of Horror at the Bexley Public Library and the Local Author Book Fair at the Licking County Library, as well as hopefully to a party or two (my exact plans for Halloween are still up in the air). And even if people don’t know who the character is, this might get them to read the collection, or at least look him up. But hopefully the former, because it makes for some great Halloween reading.

Speaking of which, if you’re looking for something spooky to reading this Halloween season, might I recommend some of my books? I have four books out now and they’ve all been received well. Some readers have even found them quite terrifying. I’ll include a quick summary of the stories and links to check them out below.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I hope you liked my Halloween costume. But tell me, what are you planning to dress up as this Halloween season? Do you have any big plans? Let’s discuss in the comments below.

Until next time, good night, pleasant nightmares and only 43 days till All Hallows Eve!

The Pure World Comes: A maid goes to work for a mad scientist and gets wrapped up in his experiments. Terror ensues. Gothic horror novel. Very Frankenstein meets Crimson Peak.
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, Kobo, Goodreads, Audible, Chirp, BingeBooks, LIbro.Fm, Storytel, Google Play

Rose: A young woman gets turned into a plant/human hybrid (and that’s just the start of her problems). Fantasy-horror. Very Kafkaesque and has a lot of Japanese mythology mixed in.
Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada, Audible, B&N

Snake: A serial killer hunts mobsters in New York City. Who is he and why is he killing? Slasher horror. Think John Wick, Taken and Friday the 13th got smooshed into a horror novel.
Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada, Barnes & Noble, iBooksSmashwords, and Kobo

The Quiet Game: Five Tales to Chill Your Bones: Five creepy tales from my early writing and publishing career that will entertain as well as scare you. They’re weird, eerie and a lot of fun. You know, like their author.
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
My favorite films surrounding my remote control.

You know, this may not be the biggest issue in my life. And it may not be the meaningful thing I could write about on this blog. But you know, it’s something I find myself pondering from time to time. What do my Top 6 Favorite Horror Movies say about me and my interests?

(It used to be 7, but I realized while making my list that while I enjoyed the film, it wasn’t something I would gladly watch again and again and again, just say the word go. Also, my tastes change over time, so this list could look very different in ten or even five years, as well as grow or shrink.)

But what does it say about me that I enjoy these particular films? What about them draws me to them? I tried to figure it out by listing them and then listing what I liked about them. Here are the films in question:

Perfect Blue (1997)
Based on the novel by Yoshikazu Takeuchi and directed by Satoshi Kon, Mima Kirigoe is a J-Pop idol who is forced by her agency to transition into acting. This and a violent stalker sends Mima into a violent psychological down-spiral, one which may very well claim her life.

  • One of the few good examples of anime horror I’ve come across in my life. The art style is also excellent, where characters and scenes are animated with a sense of realism rather than the usual anime exaggerations. This gives the horror a certain sense of realism that you wouldn’t normally find in anime.
  • The movie works to make you question, along with Mima, every moment of reality. What is real, what isn’t, what’s a dream, what’s part of Mima’s TV drama and what’s her actual life. It’s all up for debate throughout the movie, with the use of color, quiet scenes vs acting and dancing scenes, and repetition of events making you feel the disorientation Mima feels. All leading up to a final third with a horrific twist.

Color Out of Space (2020)
Starring Nicholas Cage and based on the novella by HP Lovecraft (one of my favorites by him, BTW), a meteor falls in a small West Virginia farm, giving off an odd color that can’t really be categorized. Soon after, strange events start happening on the farm, changing the plant life, the family, and reality itself. All leading to a devastating conclusion.

  • Ask most film critics, it’s one of the best HP Lovecraft/Lovecraftian horror adaptations ever made.
  • The film’s very misleading, at first playing up Cage’s penchant for odd acting and adding in plenty of comedy. Later on, however, Cage’s performance goes from funny to sinister, and the humor vanishes as the number of scary events occur and build, filling with you with dread.
  • The mix of practical effects and CGI is well done, with the latter only being employed as absolutely needed and the former being used enough to make fans of The Thing proud. This allows for the final scenes to be really horrifying, even when chock-full of CGI.
  • Just watch the cutting board and alpacas in the barn scenes. You’ll be scarred for life.

Overlord (2018)
During the D-Day invasion, a small troop of American soldiers sneak into a French town to take out the Nazi’s radio tower, preventing the Nazis from calling for help. What follows is a harrowing ride through hell as the team confronts not just Nazis and the horrors of war, but deadly experiments that may end up changing the tide of the war.

  • Despite being a “Nazi zombie” film, which is usually silly or played for laughs, this film plays it much more seriously. The zombies are almost a secondary feature of the film. The real emphasis is on how war scars and changes you, how horrible the drive to win can make a person, and how war brings out the depravity in all of us. When the zombies are on screen, they’re used sparingly, only to heighten the horror and the stakes.
  • During the scenes where the protagonist explores the laboratory, the emphasis on mood and atmosphere creates a powerful dread of what’s around every corner, under every sheet. If you’ve ever seen or played the game Outlast, it often feels like you’re in the middle of that game, and that is a terrifying thought to have.

Sleepaway Camp (1983)
As a young girl, Angela sees her father and brother killed in an accident on a lake adjacent to Camp Arawak. Years later as a teen, Angela and her cousin Ricky go as campers, only for a strange series of deaths to ruin the summer fun. And in the center of it all, Angela seems to be a fixture.

Who else had their mind blown by this moment in the film?
  • This is a rather unique 80’s slasher. For one thing, the campers are all played by actual teens and tweens, rather than adults pretending to be teens. Coupled with the teens language and behavior, it often reminds me of my own camping days, except less Jewish and more murder-y.
  • There are also prolonged periods between (admittedly inventive) kills, which allows you to really get to know the characters and remind you that these are just kids. This makes each instance of death even more shocking and brutal than it would be if they were in your face one after the other.
  • The twist in this movie is rather famous and forces the viewer to recontextualize everything in a new light. I won’t say what happens, but ooh boy, it’s not the sort of thing you could do today. I’d be interested to see how a remake handles this twist and reworks it for a modern audience. Also, I wish there was a novelization for this movie, because it would be great.

The Taking of Deborah Logan (2014)
A medical student is filming a documentary about an older woman’s battle with dementia. While out at her country home, however, it becomes increasingly clear that this woman is dealing with something else besides dementia: a dark presence has come for Deborah Logan, and it’ll use her to accomplish its sinister goals.

  • Both a found footage and a possession movie, the take on the latter is very unique, both in the victim of possession and who/what is doing the possessing. However, since this is a film about a woman with dementia, it misleads you at first so that you don’t know if what you’re experiencing is really supernatural at first. And when it becomes clear that something supernatural is happening, it becomes both terrifying and tragic.
  • Did I mention this film is terrifying? Not just for anyone whose relatives have experienced dementia (and I’ve heard from people that that’s a form of terror in and of itself), but just as a horror movie it is terrifying. From dark and claustrophobic scenes in an abandoned mine to strange happenings in the house and one bloody scene that freaked me the hell out, this is not a film you want to watch with the lights out.

Prince of Darkness (1987)
A Catholic priest discovers an ancient artifact in the basement of an abandoned church that points to the fulfillment of an obscure end-of-world prophecy. Needing to prove it to the world, the priest enlists the help of several prominent professors from a local university and their grad/PhD students to help quantify this strange, evil miracle. As you can guess, shit really hits the fan.

  • One of John Carpenter’s lesser known masterpieces (which I think is a damn shame), the film has a unique take on God and Satan that feels more at home in a UFO cult, but works really well here. It also has some interesting ideas and themes to explore, such as the nature of evil, the relationship between religion and science, and even an allegory for the AIDS epidemic, which was at a peak when this film was made.
  • Also, while not the scariest thing ever, it is pretty damn creepy and has some truly great moments of horror.

So, there you go. These are my favorite horror films right now. And I struggle to find a unifying theme about why I elevate them above all others. Half of them are from the last decade, two from the 1980s, and one from the 1990s. They all place a lot of emphasis on psychological horror, but how and how much varies from film to film. Only two of them are adaptations of anything. No similar genres, directors or writers, different themes are explored in each one, and I own copies of all of them on DVD or Blu-Ray.

Maybe it’s just that they stick in my head more than others, or that they impressed me in some way that other horror films haven’t. Perhaps they’re the kind of stories I wish I’d wrote, or I like thinking of what I’d do with the material. Wait, no, it’s not that. I think that with every horror film.

If nothing else, I’ll be able to discuss films like Perfect Blue and Prince of Darkness with more people.

Well, maybe you’ll help me find some insight. If nothing else, there’s a chance you’ll be curious enough to see these films if you haven’t watched them before, or give them another watch if you have. You may even notice something I don’t.

You may even make some of them part of your Halloween watchlist this year (63 days till Halloween at the time of this writing). And if you do, I also recommend adding Carnival of Souls (1962), Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988), Rosemary’s Baby (1968), As Above, So Below (2014), The Void (2017), both versions of The Fly (1958 and 1986), the 2013 remake of Carrie, It (2017), and Freaky (2020). All make great additions to your Halloween viewing lineup. Not to mention all the movies coming out starting next month. I’m getting chills just thinking about it!

Anyway, this has been a long post and it’s getting late. I’m going to end it here and call it a night. Until next time, my Followers of Fear, good night and pleasant nightmares!

What are your thoughts on these films? Did you notice anything I didn’t? What are your favorite horror films that you recommend to everyone?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

Well, I found my least favorite novel of 2021. Given how much hype it’s been getting since 2020, I’m disappointed.

Drawing on Japanese folklore and mythology (gee, who do I know who’s done that before?), the story follows five college grads who go to an old Japanese mansion for a wedding ceremony (sounds like my dream wedding). The mansion is supposedly haunted by a bride whose fiancé died on the way to the wedding, and then had herself buried alive underneath the house. As night falls, strange things occur in the mansion, putting everyone at risk.

I hate to be negative about a novel. I know how hard it is to get your work published. But that being said, I’m still not sure how this novel got published in the first place. There’s so much to hate!

While the location and the concept are cool and the climax did make things more interesting, the rest is a hot mess. For one thing, I barely know these characters, because very little time is spent actually developing them. I know even less about our narrator, Cat, because what we learn about her is mainly just hints. We understand that she has depression and it messed with her pretty bad, but the specifics aren’t given and it just leaves the reader so confused.

As for the other characters, there’s nothing to like about them. One’s a “perfect” billionaire who’s sorry about something he did to the narrator (what, I don’t know); another is supposed to be the narrator’s best friend, but I don’t know anything about him to really get me to like him; one is supposed to come off as funny and instead just comes off as annoying; and the ironically most developed character is the best friend’s fiancée, who just hates the narrator because she’s insecure and think the narrator wants her man. They all seem to hate each other, yet insist that they’re all friends and should get along. Why they hang out with one another, I have no idea.

At least looking up hitobashira put that one Junji Ito story into context. Didn’t make it any scarier, but it did make it easier to understand.

As for the rest of the novel, there’s a scary story hidden in there that wants to come out, but it’s buried under a lot of problems. The language is trying to be flowery, but there are words in here that I’ve never read before. In the English language, no less! It feels like the author was trying to out-Lovecraft Lovecraft with the wordplay, and succeeded in all the wrong ways! Not to mention the Japanese stuff is never explained. I had to look up most of it myself, which is not a good sign if the book doesn’t spell it out for the unfamiliar reader.*

And finally, the psychological stuff is trying and failing to be psychological. It’s just wacky. Like watching a bunch of people on drugs trying to be profound and get into your mind. And the characters are drunk, but that’s no excuse. If you’re going to go for psychological, at least make sure it’s effective!

On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m going to award Nothing But Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw a 1.3. One reviewer on the book’s back cover called it “The Haunting of Hill House for this century,” and I agree, in the sense that it takes the worst parts of that book and coalesces it into another haunted house. Avoid this one, and go read something else. Trust me, your time will be much better spent on other books.

*When I was editing Rose, I made sure that the Japanese concepts of kami and oni were spelled out because I knew plenty of my readers, including my parents, wouldn’t know anything about them. The novel has gotten a couple of negative reviews, but nobody’s criticized it for not understanding the Japanese mythology/folklore/religious stuff.

I won’t say Rose is better because of that, though. I’ll leave that up to the readers to decide. I’m just explaining what I did differently.


Just a note, Followers of Fear: today marks one week till the crowdfunding campaign for That Which Cannot Be Undone goes live. If you’re not aware, some of my fellow Ohio horror writers and I came together to create a small publisher, Cracked Skull Press, with the goal of putting a spotlight on Ohio horror writers. We’re gearing up for our first anthology, That Which Cannot Be Undone, the stories of which will be set around the theme “that which cannot be undone,” set in Ohio, and written entirely by Ohio horror authors.

Of course, we’re going to need your help to make it happen. We’re doing a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter starting November 29th and hoping to raise ten thousand dollars for paying the authors and editor, as well as other costs. And if you support the anthology, not only will you help us shine a light on Ohio horror, but there are perks to be gained for pledging your support.

And if we don’t make our goal, you won’t be charged for it. So your pledge won’t be taken unless we make our goal. That being said, we hope and think we’ll make our goal, so we hope you’ll join us. You can check out the project and sign up for notifications using the link below.

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

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m off to work so I can work on my stories later. Until next time, good night, pleasant nightmares, and, if I don’t check in before Thursday, Happy Thanksgiving!

Let’s face it, every creative out there (especially those who weave stories together) has put themselves into their work. Often, they do it more than once, and the resemblance to themselves, accurate or in their own heads, varies from self-insert to self-insert.* HP Lovecraft loved to put himself through cosmic horror and dreamlike ordeals as Randolph Carter (does that count as masochism?), and Stephen King’s The Dark Half is obviously him having fun with a fictional version of himself and his pen name Richard Bachman.

And don’t forget, Dante Alighieri made himself the star of The Divine Comedy, where the poet Virgil and later Beatrice, the dead girl he crept on when she was alive, led him through Hell, Purgatory and Heaven.

You know, now that I’m typing this, I realize that a lot of self-insert characters get to go on the biggest, most grandiose adventures. I mean, Dante traversed the afterlife and recorded it in detail! And remember Lani Sarem, the lady who conned her way to the top of the New York Times bestseller list? Her novel’s protagonist, who from the cover art is basically her under a different name, was a witch who basically became the delight of the Las Vegas entertainment scene using her abilities.

There’s an article to be found in this, I’m just not in the mood to research and write it right now.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes. Self-inserts. I’m no exception to the rule. Throughout my writing career, I’ve included different versions of myself in my stories. One or two have even been included in published stories (I’ll let you guess which ones those are). And once more, I’m inserting myself into the story I’m currently working on. Only this time, this might be the most obvious and blatant self-insert since Dante!

Okay, that’s an exaggeration. But it feels like it! My character is basically what I hope will be me in a few years: a full-time writer with his own home, hosting costume parties in his living room and able to focus on creepy tales as a living. His last name is an anagram of my own and his first name also begins with an “R.” So yeah, pretty obvious self-insert.

Still, I’m having fun with it. The story’s focus isn’t on my character, he’s just a good way to get this story going. And since I can focus on telling the story and not making my self-insert seem like the bee’s knees to readers, I can get a little ridiculous and have a ton of fun with it. Whether that will lead to a decent ghost story (because of course I would put myself into a ghost story!) remains to be seen. But perhaps with some edits…well, we’ll see.

Anyway, I’ll get back to this story soon. And I’ll likely have a post or two for you all very soon, so keep an eye out. And in the meantime, check out this book trailer for The Jewish Book of Horror that was uploaded to YouTube last night. It’s really cool, and you can even see my name listed beside my story, “The Divorce from God,” at one point. Give it a watch and consider getting a copy of the book when it releases.

Until next time, my Followers of Fear, good night and pleasant nightmares.

*That’s the preferred term, as I understand it.

Visual image for Blood and Paper Skin.

Well, isn’t this the most exciting and post-filled weekend ever! I think this is my fifth post since Friday!

So, as you can see, I’ve gotten another story acceptance, and I am over the moon about it! In fact, I went outside, jumped straight into the sky, and appeared to my neighbors to jump over the moon. Some are now sure I’m evil and are preparing to move out of the complex.

The story in question is my novelette “Blood and Paper Skin,” and it’s going to be published over three issues in the magazine The Dark Sire (you can check out their website here). The story follows a bunch of young twenty-somethings who go out to buy drugs, only for some of them to end up in a prison-like room. They soon find out they’re being held there by a middle-aged man, and he has a sinister but mysterious purpose for them being there.

I’m telling you, I’m very happy that this story has found a home. As it’s close to fifteen thousand words, I was really worried “Blood and Paper Skin” would have trouble finding a home. Who would have thought, after a lot of editing, it would get accepted by the first place I sent it! And because it’s a novelette, the story will be divided into three issues–Issues, 8, 9 and 10.

You know, that’s really old school. Plenty of famous short stories and novels were published in multiple issues as both a way to save room in the magazine and to keep suspense going. Examples include most of the works by Charles Dickens; Herbert West: Reanimator and The Lurking Fear by HP Lovecraft; and Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Even Stephen King had a story, Dolan’s Cadillac, published this way (though that was published through his newsletter, so some might say that isn’t the same).

Anyway, the first installment of “Blood and Paper Skin” will be published in Issue 8 of The Dark Sire, which should release at the end of the month. If that changes, or the timeline is split into thousands of branches creating a multiverse, I’ll let you know. I hope you’ll give the story a read, and I hope you’ll support The Dark Sire as well. They’re a small, independent horror magazine influenced by the darker works of writers like Edgar Allen Poe, Mary Shelley, JRR Tolkien, and Fyodor Dostoyevsky. They’re still pretty new, but they love what they do and are committed to publishing qualities stories, art, poetry and screenplays.

And they gave Rose one hell of a nice review. Just saying.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Tomorrow I have work, so I’m going to do some reading before bed and then hit the hay. Until next time, my Followers of Fear, good night, pleasant nightmares, and RELEASE THE DRAGON BATS…AGAIN!!!


I can’t say it enough: Followers of Fear, you have just over nine days to submit a question for my ten-year blogging anniversary Ask Me Anything, or AMA. One lucky participant will win a prize, so send your question to ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com by 11:59 PM, July 28th, 2021. I look forward to reading your questions and writing up answers. See you again soon!

I read the book back in 2018 and loved it (would have done a review, but I think by that point it had been out a while). I was excited when I heard that it was getting a show…and then sad when I heard it would be on HBO. However, now I have HBO Max, so I was able to watch the show. Which I finished watching today. As I’m obligated to do, I’m writing a review.

Based on the novel by Matt Ruff, Lovecraft Country follows Atticus Freeman, a black soldier living in 1950s America who returns home to Chicago after receiving a mysterious letter from his estranged father Montrose, stating he is in Arkham, Massachusetts, a location from the works of HP Lovecraft. Turns out, it’s actually a secret community called Ardham, but that doesn’t change how fantastical life gets for Atticus. Pretty soon, his life starts to resemble a Lovecraft story, involving secret societies of sorcerers and magic, ancient history, and entities that defy reality and biology. And it may end up putting Atticus and his whole family in danger.

So, it would be more fair to say this is a variation on the novel’s story than a direct adaptation. The first season acknowledges the concept of a multiverse and uses that to explain the changes from the novel. Some of these changes are minor–some names or genders are changed, roles are reduced or expanded, etc. Others are good, such as the expansion of Montrose’s character to be a meaningful exploration of a man with a troubled past still effecting his present. And others just made me scratch my head.

An example of this would be the creation of the character Ji-ah, a character from Atticus’s past who knows more than she lets on. On the one hand, I get why they added her and they tried to make her inclusion into the story important to the plot. At the same time, I feel like this whole character’s reason was diversity for diversity’s sake, which is an odd choice considering the show.

As for the rest of Lovecraft Country, it was great for the most part. The writing in even the dullest episodes was superb, and the actors were awesome. There were several scary moments, such as the events of the first two episodes and episode eight. The exploration of racism in America was powerfully done as well, drawing many parallels between events then and now (and making me want to know more about the Tulsa race riots. I do not remember learning about that in school).

If you haven’t checked out the novel, that’s also worth the read.

However, there were some downsides. The actress playing the villainess, Abbey Lee, played her role so emotionlessly I wondered if she couldn’t get into her character’s head, let alone play her convincingly. A lot of the music choices were modern rap or music from well past the 1950s, which honestly felt out of place in a historical fantasy-horror piece. And there were a few episodes where things kind of dragged for me.

Like the novel, Lovecraft Country the TV series isn’t perfect, but there’s plenty there to enjoy and make the watch worth it. You’re going to get different things from each iteration of the story, so it’s up to you which one you prefer.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I’ll give the first season of Lovecraft Country a 3.7. Combining horror, magic, heavy themes and great characterization, it’s worth the hype I heard. A second season may be in the works, but until we get confirmation one way or another, there’s still plenty of time to check it out. Get on HBO Max if you can and prepare for a powerful experience.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m off to work on stories I doubt will ever get their own adaptations (though it can’t hurt to try). Until next time, good night and pleasant nightmares.