Posts Tagged ‘living and life’

Audible company logo.

If you’re not familiar with Audible and Audiobook Creation Exchange (aka ACX), let me fill you in. Audible is Amazon’s audio book wing. They distribute thousands of audio books and have just as many subscribers (I’ve been one since 2015). ACX is part of Audible: it’s a places where authors and publishers can hook up with narrators, produce audio books, and then upload them to Audible.

With me so far?

Recently, Audible and ACX have been in a bit of hot water. It’s come to the attention of several authors that Audible has a rather questionable policy on the books. Audible Premium Plus subscribers have the option to exchange an audio book they’ve bought through their subscription within 365 days of purchase! And get this: if an audio book is exchanged within that time frame, the authors or publishers get their royalties deducted for it!

You read that right: somebody can exchange any audio book they buy within a year of purchasing, and the author gets punished for it.

Most people’s reactions to the exchange policy abuse. Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

And lately, this has become a huge problem. Many authors, mostly indie authors, have noticed an increase in exchanges and deducted royalties over the past several months, In fact, some have speculated that use of the exchange policy–or should I say abuse of the exchange policy?–has boomed because Audible’s been using the policy in some of their advertising to attract new members.

Spurred by reports of this, the Authors Guild, along with a whole bunch of other author organizations, have drafted a letter to Audible and ACX to get them to, among other things, change the policy and create a more reasonable exchange policy. At the time I’m writing this, the letter has over twelve thousand signatures, and it’s still growing. To quote the letter,

This policy is in clear breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing implied in the authors’ agreements with Audible and ACX as it allows books to be purchased and listened to without paying the authors and narrators their royalties.

Authors Guild Letter to Audible and ACX

Now, I have only have Rose‘s audio book on Audible, and so far as I know, it hasn’t suffered from this exchange policy much. However, I have heard from a couple of colleagues, including some I consider good friends, who are upset by the policy and are considering pulling their works from Audible and ACX because of the policy.

And even if I didn’t know anyone affected by this policy, once I learned about it, it was hard for me to sit still. This is a terrible policy that hurts authors and publishers alike! These are the people that Amazon needs to continue selling through Audible, and yet they treat them this way?

And why is the exchange window a year long to begin with? That’s a terrible business strategy. Can you imagine if a hardware store allowed you to exchange a tool within a year, even if it’s likely been used? Or a shoe store? Or a computer business? They’d be out of business within a year with a policy like that! What the hell, Amazon?

The letter I received from Audible about the change in the exchange policy. Feel free to enlarge and read it in full.

Thankfully, it seems that news of the abuse and the letter made Audible realize their mistake. While they’ve defended the policy, saying that they do monitor for abuse and that such abuse is rare, they are changing the policy effective January 1st. After that, the exchange window is limited to 7 days, and Audible will pay for any exchanges made after that timeframe. They later confirmed this in an email to ACX creators, which I got as well.

And that is good. That is a good change. It’s harder to abuse an exchange policy limited to only a week instead of a year. Still, some aren’t satisfied. In fact, the Authors Guild letter suggests shortening the window to 48 hours. And I like that idea: not only is it even harder to listen to multiple audio books over the course of two days than it is to do over a week, but it should be easier to spot abuse when an account is making multiple exchanges within a two day period.

So, what can you do? Well, you can sign the letter, which at the time of writing is only 440 signatures away from the Authors Guild’s goal. Even if Audible has changed the policy, every signature is a reminder to the company that this sort of malarkey won’t be tolerated by the very people the company needs for products if it continues.

You can also share with other authors and readers. The more people who are informed about the issue, the more people who will be weary and on the lookout for policies and abuse like this. People, and companies, are more likely to be better behaved if they know they’re being watched and kept under pressure.

And finally, if you have or plan on getting an Audible subscription, don’t be the kind of subscriber who does this sort of crap. I’ve only exchanged a book on Audible once, and that was because I thought it was one kind of story, and it turned out to be another. Otherwise, I would never rob another writer of royalties! Instead, keep the book once you buy it, and wait for your next credit. Don’t make someone else lose money just because you want more listening material!

And if Audible doesn’t address the problem, maybe consider giving up your membership. Yeah, it’ll suck to not get that credit for an audio book each month, but it’ll sure send a message to Audible.

And if you do enjoy an audio book purchased through Audible, make sure to review or at least rate it afterwards. Trust me, ratings and reviews left by readers help both new readers and the writers who put their books on the site. I speak from personal experience on that!

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Thank you for reading this far and giving a damn about this problem. I hope you’ll consider helping out authors and stopping abuse of Audible’s exchange policy.

Until next time, Happy Thanksgiving and pleasant nightmares!

Photo by Dmitry Demidov on Pexels.com

I know it feels weird to interrupt the partying and celebration with discussion of writing. But after today’s news, and after a hell of a week, I feel so energized to write. With that in mind, I finished the outline of my next story today, and I’m looking forward to starting it. So, I shall take a moment of your time to talk about writing.

As I said, I just finished an outline for a new story. And, as you can guess from the title of this post, it’s going to have two protagonists. Or, to be more specific, it’s going to be told from the points-of-views of two protagonists. One is a US Army major who has had his fair share of combat experiences. The other is a thirteen-year-old runaway who just happens to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. I can’t say more than that.

Now, plenty of stories are told from multiple points-of-view. All you have to do is look at the typical bookshelf full of fiction tomes and you’ll find at least three or four books where we see events from the perspectives of two or more characters. But then there are stories where you take for granted that the story is told that way. And then there are stories where you remember how perspectives differed from character to character. Where the multiple POVs is a main feature of the story.

It’s that sort of story I’m aiming to create.

The Bartimaeus books by Jonathan Stroud. Great example of this kind of distinctive-voice storytelling.

Thankfully, I’ve had plenty of teachers over the years with this sort of storytelling. From the (sadly underrated) dark fantasy series The Bartimaeus Trilogy to the literary satirical comedy that is The Falls by George Saunders (read that short story for two separate classes at OSU, and it’s still good), the strong voices of each narrator has a profound impact on the reader. By the time the story ends, you feel like you didn’t just read a story. You read a story and got to know these characters intimately.

That’s what I hope to do. I’m going to be switching between POVs nearly every chapter, and I have to make each protagonist’s voice as distinct as possible. It’s going to be a challenge. I’ve written several stories told from the POVs of multiple characters before. Every author has at least once. But often, it reads like variations of the author’s normal writing voice.

Take IT, for example. There are multiple characters in that story, and many of them get to tell things from their POV. Plus, King narrates things for a few chapters, especially in the early parts of the book when Georgie and the young gay couple are attacked. And it’s a great book with great and memorable characters. But you wouldn’t call every narrator/POV character distinctive from the rest, would you?

Well, that’s my challenge with this story.* With any luck, I can take what I’ve learned from the stories I’ve read and apply it to this next story. Thankfully, there’s only two protagonists, so that should help. (Actually, that might be an important ingredient, having only two leads. Keeps things simpler).

But all that starts tomorrow. For now though, I’m off to shower, pour some wine, watch a scary movie, and dance to “The Touch” by Stan Bush (great song from the 1980s to listen to right now). Until next time, my Followers of Fear, party hard and pleasant nightmares.

What are your tips for creating multiple, distinct narrators? What stories do you think of that do this well? Let’s discuss.

*That, and keeping this story from becoming the length of a novel, but one problem at a time.

My friend Kat Impossible over on Life and Other Disasters did her rendition of this tag, and it looked fun. So, let’s pretend it’s Halloween year-round and answer some spooky questions about a WIP (as well as general questions on writing)! And since last time I did Toyland, I think this time around I’ll talk about The Pure World Comes, my Victorian Gothic novel that I wrote earlier this year.

But I’m going to need a blurb first. Hmm…how about this:

Shirley Dobbins has very few wants in life: to be able to become the head housekeeper of a great house someday; to not think on her life before she started working; and to earn a reputation as a reliable maid. So when she is hired by the enigmatic baronet and scientist Sir Joseph Hunting to work at his estate after the sudden death of her employers, she can’t believe her luck.
However, things at the “Hunting Lodge,” as Sir Joseph’s home is known, are far from the ideal position she hoped for. Not only is there barely any staff at the crumbling mansion, but terrifying visions oppress those within at random moments. Those Shirley sees bear resemblances to her past. As she becomes more wrapped in the secrets of Hunting Lodge and Sir Joseph’s scientific work, she unearths a terrible threat not only after her life, but the lives of all those around her.

How’s that? Intriguing enough? Anyway, onto the questions.

GHOST: Have you ever originally put a character/scene/theme in the book and then later taken it out?

  • Character – Yes
  • Scene – kind of
  • Theme – No

I originally had this character, the eldest son of an up-and-coming merchant family, whom Shirley would have feelings for despite her practical, no-nonsense self. However, when I finally started plotting this story, I couldn’t find a place for him in the story, so I axed him out. His disappearance from the story led to some scenes that I’d originally had in mind being axed as well, but I wasn’t that fond of them to begin with, so it worked out.

BAT: Most misunderstood character in your WIP?

I had a bit of a debate on this, considering that we see things through Shirley’s eyes and once she sees someone a certain way, it can take a while for her to see them in a different light. But then I remembered that Sir Joseph Hunting is, without a doubt, the most misunderstood character. He’s not a fan of normal Victorian pastimes or conventions, and he’s squandered his family fortune in pursuit of his scientific research. And Victorians, particularly those of the noble and almost-noble classes, placed a lot of emphasis on appearances, so Sir Joseph’s anathema to them.
It doesn’t help that he’s a bit of a jerk.
That being said, once you get to know him a bit, he’s actually a very sympathetic character. You also see why he devotes himself to his research, and maybe even believe in what he’s doing. If that’s not misunderstood, I don’t know what is.

JACK-O-LANTERN: What is your most common source of inspiration to write?

Is it a law that writers get asked that question at least several times in their careers?
The obvious answer is everything. Stories I’ve read, places I’ve been, people I’ve met, conversations I’ve had, subjects I’ve researched. All these and more combine in my weird head to create stories for me. Some of them are even good and border on original. Those are the ones I try to write into something worth reading.

ZOMBIE: What is your preferred form of writerly fuel? Coffee, tea, etc.

Tea most of the time, though if it’s early in the day, I may have a diet soda. On weekends or certain occasions, I may have something alcoholic, but I’m not able to write as well as I would like when even a little buzzed, so I avoid it.

Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

VAMPIRE: Cheesiest trope that made it into your novel?

Okay, you know that trope where two people who don’t like each other spend more and more time together and then they fall in love? It was really popular in movies and a few TV shows back in the 1990s? I may have included that one in this story, though I tried to put an original spin on it.
I’ll leave it for the critics to tell me if I succeeded.

Yeah, the trope from 10 Things I Hate About You. I used a version of it. Hopefully I used it well.

SPIDER: What’s a character in your WIP that’s fine from afar, but you would NOT want to interact with if they ever got close?

I’ve mentioned before that I worked my theory of who Jack the Ripper really is into this story. Well, that’d be my answer. And I’m not saying any more on that until this book comes out!

Famous illustration of Jack the Ripper from Punch Magazine. He figures into my story, but not in a way you might expect.

FRANKENSTEIN’S MONSTER: Ever split one character into two/combine two characters into one?

Maybe? I can’t recall! I’ve written so many characters over the years, I’ve kind of lost track.

SKELETON: Best advice for adding character baggage without info-dumping?

Ooh, that’s a tough one, especially because it’s a tough subject. I try to spread my characters’ baggage and backstories throughout the story. Think of it like walking on a path, and you find puzzle pieces every now and then. Some are big, some are small, but they fit together perfectly. As you gather the pieces, a picture starts to form. And somewhere along the way, all the pieces come together to form a full picture. That’s how I try to spread character baggage and backstory.
That being said, sometimes I drop very big pieces sometimes if the story calls for it. Not ideal, but it’s necessary. And when that happens, if I’m able to, I at least try to just drop a big chunk here and there, rather than just a whole picture. That way, the information is palatable, rather than an info-dump.

CAT: What’s a polarizing writing/book-related opinion you have?

Why cats? Most of the writers I know are cat people! Often their cats are as sweet as their owners! I plan to get cats as soon as I have a bigger space. Preferably a three-bedroom house with a nice front and backyard and an attached garage.
Never mind. I don’t really have any opinions like that. At least, I don’t think I do. I could tell you about some books I didn’t care for, but they’re the kind of books either people like or they don’t. Sorry I don’t have a scandalous answer. You’d get a better answer with my controversial movie opinion, so I’ll tell you that: I enjoyed The Last Jedi, problems and all. There, I said it. What are you going to do about it?

DEMON: Most frequent writing distraction?

Anime and TV shows. Once I get started on a binge, it’s hard to stop. Either that or my cell phone.


Well, what did you think of my answers? Do you want to read The Pure World Comes now? Let’s discuss.

Now for this tag, tagging isn’t necessary. So if you want to do it, all the power to you. I hope you have fun and make sure to link back to me so I can read it.

That’s all for now. If anyone needs me, I’ll be casting magic to save this country. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

I’ve mentioned it before on this blog, but I do Tarot. And last week, I did a reading to get an idea of what my November would look like. Things were looking bright, but then the Potential card came up as the Nine of Swords, which is one of the worst cards to come up during a reading. To put it simply, it represents oppression, or a sense of anxiety and despair.

The Nine of Swords from both my Tarot decks. As you can see, they both illustrate someone under a great strain or a dark attachment.

Since it came up as the Potential card, it refers what could “possibly” be, depending on circumstances, so I thought of different things that could cause what the Nine of Swords portends. At first, I thought it could be post-election anxiety (that’s a potential) or the anxiety that comes from having to get a story up to scratch after an acceptance (I’m feeling hopeful for my chances). But then something occurred to me. It’s November. It’s going to get even darker and colder.

And many people come down with Seasonal Affective Disorder in the winter.

And then there’s what I’ve been Pandemic Isolation Syndrome (copyright pending). You don’t need me to tell you what the symptoms have been. Likely, you’ve felt them or know someone who has over the past year. That’s been a problem since March, but with winter, the possibility of a second wave of COVID-19 cases, and SAD too, it’s possible it’ll be a really rough winter for many.

Whether or not you believe Tarot actually works (I maintain that I’m on the fence), it’s obvious this would be something that could be a potential problem.

But it doesn’t have to be. While this winter will surely be difficult, there are ways we can mitigate the mental/emotional damage it can cause. I even talked to the guy at my workplace whose job is to counsel people going through tough times on ways to keep my spirits up.

One is to focus on things you can control. We often focus on things we have little or no control over: the election, the pandemic, social isolation, etc. While it’s difficult, try and do the opposite. Cut back on the news and social media. Think about the things you can control, like diet and exercise, what you do around your house, and the evil entities you can raise through dark sorcery. Then do those things. Show how you can control them.

Hell, maybe do those home renovation projects you’re always putting off. That’ll get your mind off the blues.

Second is to make a list of what you enjoy. What movies and TV shows do you enjoy watching? Do you like to drive? To dance? Are there books you’ve always wanted to read but never had the time? Do you cavort with demons and have a grand old time of it? Write it all down, and then do them. It may seem difficult on harder days, but if you buckle down, it can lift your mood.

Personally, I plan on writing, exercising, cooking, reading, binging shows and movies, and raising an army of monsters to march down Main Street on Krampus Night this December. Should be fun.

A good full-spectrum bulb can be a blessing during the winter. Photo by LED Supermarket on Pexels.com

And finally, you can always grab a full-spectrum lamp. During the winter, we don’t get enough sunlight to produce Vitamin D, and even when we go outside on sunny days, we’re so bundled up, we barely benefit. A full-spectrum lamp can produce all those light rays we need, and you only need to sit under/near it for two hours a day. I plan on buying one for the winter, so it should be helpful.

While there’s no way to predict what will happen this winter or how it will affect us (I’m predicting a meteor shower causing multiple explosions al a Tunguska, Russia), we can find ways to keep our spirits up and smiles on our faces. If we put them into practice, we can arrive in summer that much stronger.

What are your tips for getting through winter and the pandemic? Do you think you’ll try any of the above? Let’s discuss.

You know me. I tend to be a little silly at times. Okay, I tend to be a lot silly at multiple points throughout the day. And occasionally, I channel that into short videos I shoot for YouTube. One of which, by the way, I set to release this morning at 12:15 AM. Ladies and gentlemen, Followers of Fear, here is my contribution to YouTube for Halloween: Happy Halloween from a Gas Mask Zombie.

Yes, I am aware I am ridiculous. I don’t care.

So, if you watched all forty-two seconds of that video, you’re probably thinking, “What the fresh hell?” Let me explain: you guys know I’m a Doctor Who fan (or if you didn’t, now you do). And in the first season of the show’s reboot in 2005, the Doctor and his companion Rose Tyler end up in London during the Blitz. There, they encounter a form of pandemic zombie, the kind that are spread by virus?

Only this one’s a little different. It’s the result of a child being resurrected by alien nanotechnology. The child went out during the bombs looking for the woman he believes to be his mother. While wearing the gas mask. The nanomachines, not knowing what a human is, thinks that the being they resurrected is what a human is supposed to look like. And then they start spreading, turning everyone they come into contact with into things like the boy.

Imagine, a swarm of zombies wearing gas masks, all going about asking one question: “Are you my mummy?”

The gas mask zombie, AKA “The Empty Child,” from Doctor Who.

Ooh, I just felt chills up my spine!

Anyway, this story is pretty famous and well-regarded in the Who community. I even dressed up as a gas mask zombie for Purim one year (think Halloween for Jews). And since I recently started rewatching some of the earlier seasons because they relieve my pandemic stress, I thought it might be fun to dress up as the gas mask zombie for a YouTube video. It was.

Anyway, just wanted to post that for you. If you liked that and want to see more videos from me, check out my YouTube channel and subscribe. There are plenty of other videos there that don’t get featured on the blog (such as my recent celebration video for getting a hundred subscribers on that platform), so why not check them out?

Listen to me, I sound like a real YouTuber. Subscribe! Subscribe!

Anyway, that’s all for now. I’m sure you’ll hear from me again before this wonderful month of October is out. Until next time, my Followers of Fear, pleasant nightmares!

The Bellaire House in Bellaire, Ohio. Looks like it was made for a haunting, doesn’t it?

You’ve been patient, you’ve been supportive and kind. I apologize for the delay, but it’s finally here. Let me tell you about the Bellaire House, where I did an investigation with friends this past weekend (October 10th, if you’re reading this in the future).

So, how did this come about? Well, I made some friends at the public ghost hunt at the Ohio State Reformatory last year. Among them were Dave and Danette, a couple who weren’t afraid to visit some haunted locations while on their road trips. They let me know they were going to be going through Ohio, and might be visiting a haunted house for an overnight. They wanted to know if I would be interested in joining them, as well as members of Tri-C Ghost Hunters, a group of paranormal investigators whose members included friends we’d made last year at the ghost hunt.

Obviously, even with a pandemic, I wanted in, and after some back and forth, we settled on the Bellaire House, a location I’d never heard of before but which, after a little research, I found quite entrancing. Located in Bellaire, Ohio, the house was built and owned in the mid-19th century (I originally thought it was the 20th) by the Heatherington family. One member, Edwin Heatherington (I thought he was called Edmund), did some seances after his sister Lyde died in the house. That may have opened up a portal in the house, leading to the hauntings.

Years later, the house would be bought by the Lee family, who would discover its many spirits and try to flee Amityville style. Only instead of never returning, they ended up turning it into a paranormal research hotspot. (I go into more history in the videos).

I arrived in Bellaire on October 10th and met Dave and Danette at a diner for a late lunch. After eating and catching up, we went to the house. And after I got my stuff inside, I started filming, starting with the exterior.

After shooting the exterior, we went back inside and I did a tour of the house. This time, I got out the GoPro again to do the tour.

Spoiler alert, that skull was real! Yeah, the Lees confirmed it. I just don’t have it on video.

Now, before I go any further with this story, there’s something you should know. Normally when I enter haunted places, I feel pretty peaceful. Even the Lizzie Borden House, where the titular ghost threatened me while I was sleeping in her room, didn’t put me on edge. However, the Bellaire House was different. It had an energy to it. From the moment I walked in, it felt weird. As cool as it was, it was not a house I would not want to spend too much time in.

Later on, it would feel peaceful. Especially in the light of morning. But I knew it was a calm before a storm. Like I said, that house had a feel to it. And it was even stronger in the attic. I felt tingles in my fingers when I first went there.

Whatever that house used to be, it’s no longer a happy home. It’s not meant to be.

Anyway, around five-thirty or six, the rest of our party for the evening arrived: Greg and Kathy, whom Danette, Dave and I had met at the Reformatory last year, and Nikkie and Dan, who are apparently from my county (small world). We got to talking and getting to know each other. And after that, the owners of the House, Daniel and Kristen Lee, arrived to tell us about the house, it’s history and their experiences there.

If you didn’t watch the full video, then let me tell you something. I could tell the Lees were really uncomfortable in the house. They laughed it off, but you could tell. And I kind of understand. While I would like to live in a haunted house, I don’t want one that has a malevolent or toxic presence in it. And I’m a horror and paranormal nut! The Lees are what I would call normies. And they were so disturbed by what they went through, they tried fleeing to Massachusetts! Yet they still had to come back. Now this house is part of their livelihood, and it must be a mental and psychological toll on them.

Like having to work in a jailhouse, I’d imagine. Only, who exactly are the prisoners and who are the jailers?

I’ll end this post with that thought. I’ll go into the investigation in Part 2. However, if you go to my YouTube channel, you’ll find all the videos I took already there.

And as for Haunted, the audio collection of paranormal stories I’m apart of, it’s been delayed due to technical issues. But it should be out before too long. And it’ll be worth the wait, believe me. I listened to part of it, especially my section. Believe me, it’s quite spooky. And I’ll be posting the links as soon as I have them.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I hope to have Part 2 out soon (among other posts). Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

Robert Johnson’s studio portrait, one of the few verified photos of him.

I come across the most fascinating subjects sometimes, and when I do, I just have to learn as much as I can about them. Especially if I think I can write a story around them. Robert Johnson is one of those subjects. And if you haven’t heard of him before, that’s a damn shame. Because guess what? Robert Johnson may be the most enigmatic figure in American music history, as well as blues history.

So if you haven’t heard of Robert Johnson, let me give you the quick summary: Robert Johnson was a blues singer who traveled around the American South during the Great Depression. He recorded several songs and two albums in the two years before he died in 1938 in obscurity. However, he made a comeback in the 1960s, influencing musicians like Eric Clapton and the Rolling Stones.

There is very little knowledge about him as a person. Very few photos of Johnson exist, and everything we do know is from scant records and recollections. No one’s sure how he died, they just know that he did at the young age of 27 (my age at the moment, BTW). All this has led to a huge amount of speculation and mythology around the man. The most famous myth is that Johnson sold his soul to the Devil at a crossroads for talent.

If you’re paying attention this far down and you know me well, you can guess this was why I showed interest in Johnson in the first place.

But let me tell you, the Crossroads myth, as it’s known, only scratches the surface of this mysterious man. I’ve listened to all his music several times (which, by the way, is excellent), watched one biographical video on him, listened to one audio book biography about him and am in the middle of another (also on audio), and watched the movie Crossroads which heavily references Johnson and his legend (it was a lot better than I thought it would be). I’ve been down the rabbit hole on Johnson, and there’s so much more to him than just a myth about the Devil.

If you’ve ever wondered where the crossroads myth in Supernatural is from, Robert Johnson’s legend is an influence.

Robert Johnson was a man whose life was defined by music and impermanence. He was playing from a young age, and traveled all over the United States, and maybe even to Canada. He invented new guitar practices, some of which are still used by artists today. His relationships were often short and fleeting, and even the people closest to him, except maybe his family, weren’t entirely sure who he was. He was such an enigma, his death wasn’t officially confirmed until thirty years after the fact, when his death certificate was found by a researcher. His cause of death is listed as “Unknown Causes.” Even his gravesite is in dispute.

All this and more, from the legends around Johnson, to how he became the influence he is today, and of course his music, make him someone I want to learn more about.

And did I mention his music is wonderful? Because it is. I can put it on in the background and just zone out while I cook or work or write. Yeah, it has an older sound, but there’s something about Johnson’s playing and voice that stick with you, gets into your soul.

And I’ll keep listening to him and researching him for a while yet. I’m still learning what I can about him, and I haven’t figured out what sort of story I want to write around Johnson. I don’t want to write about the Crossroads myth, because that’s been done to death. I was going to do something set in the Cthulhu Mythos, but as much fun as playing in that sandbox is, I want to do more than play with someone else’s toys.

Well, I’m sure I’ll come up with something. May be today, may be next year, but I’ll come up with something. And in the meantime, I’ll keep writing and listening to Robert Johnson’s small but beautiful discography.

And if this makes you want to listen to and/or learn more about Johnson, I recommend the Centennial Collection, which contains the clearest sound of Johnson’s music. I also recommend Crossroads by Tom Graves and Up Jumped the Devil by Bruce Conforth and Gayle Dean Wardlow if you want in-depth biography on him. But first, you should listen to probably Johnson’s most famous song, as well as one of the songs that feeds the Crossroads myth, “Cross Road Blues:”

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I hope this made you interested in learning more on Johnson. Now, if you need me, I’ll be working on Toyland while watching a debate (Evil Dead original vs. remake. It’s going to get bloody).

Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

October is usually associated with Halloween, and obviously I’m doing everything I can to make sure you don’t forget that. But it is also National Disability Employment Awareness Month, when the United States recognizes how peoples with disabilities have contributed to the country and to our various industries over the years. This year especially, we are marking both the 75th anniversary of NDEAM, as it’s often abbreviated, and the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) becoming a law.

And it’s good we have this month, because there are so many people with disabilities throughout the world and history who have contributed to our society. Harriet Tubman led dozens of slaves to freedom and acted as an armed scout and nurse for the Union Army, suffered from neurological issues due to a childhood traumatic brain injury; Franklin Roosevelt became President of the United States and led the US through some of its toughest crises, all while dealing with the aftereffects of polio from a childhood condition; Albert Einstein had a learning disability; and author Flannery O’Connor wrote enduring fiction while suffering from lupus.

Not to mention there’s a growing list of entertainers and athletes with disabilities inspiring us everyday. Magic Johnson, the basketball player, has dyslexia; Gaten Matarazzo and Millie Bobby Brown from Stranger Things have cleidocranial dysplasia and deafness in one ear, respectively; and Elton John has fought bulimia and epilepsy for years. And more amazing people with disabilities are emerging every day. Check out this video of a dance company, half of whose members have disabilities.

I point out all these people because, as Ms. Hamamoto points out in the video above, one in five people have a disability of some sort. Yet, despite the passage of the ADA and the many opportunities this law opened up for Americans with disabilities, this country isn’t always very inclusive. In fact, opportunities and services available for people with disabilities can vary greatly from place to place.

This astonishes me, because becoming disabled is something that can happen to anyone regardless of sex, race, nationality, class, religion, political leanings, ethnicity or age. In fact, the likelihood of getting a disability grows as you get older. It can happen because of genetics, because of an accident, a side effect of an illness, or other causes. Lately, I’ve heard of people who get over COVID-19, but have side effects such as still being unable to taste or suffering from multiple headaches a week. These can, and likely will, be considered disabilities in the years to come.

And many members of the American military come back or discharge with disabilities. These can range from physical, such as war injuries, to mental or psychological, such as PTSD.

You might not even realize that someone near you has a disability. The majority of them are invisible. You may only see their struggles, if anything.

And yet, so many people don’t want to think about the disabled. Services for the disabled can be underfunded. Many homes aren’t always built with the disabled in mind. Education in general is often not given the funding it needs, and when it comes to budget cuts, special education is often on the chopping block. And there’s so little education on disability in general, that people may hold a stigma regarding disability for years: that disability is contagious; that they’re useless; that they brought it upon themselves; that the best thing to do with disability is to ignore it or hide it away or treat it as an annoyance.

As a person with several disabilities–some congenital, others acquired in adulthood–I’m aware of how lucky I’ve been. I’m gainfully employed at an organization where close to twenty percent of the workforce has some form of disability (as well as accommodations for them). And throughout my life, I’ve been able to receive services that help me with my disabilities. So I feel it is important to not only make disability more visible, but also to advocate and help out when I can.

Which is why I’d like to close out this post with some links to help my fellow peoples with disabilities. The Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) has numerous resources for the disabled, and many states have programs or offices for the disabled, such as Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities in my state. If you are or know a college student or recent graduate with disabilities, then might I recommend the Workforce Recruitment Program, or WRP, a great program that pairs students and graduates with disabilities with internships in the federal government, and which sometimes turn into jobs (please use Firefox when operating on the site). And the Job Accommodation Network, or JAN, has numerous listings of individual disabilities and what accommodations exist out there. My office uses this site all the time, and we find it quite helpful.

And these are just a small sample of resources for the disabled, a group that should never be discounted or forgotten. Because not only can you become disabled at any time in your life, but because no matter the disability, you matter. You contribute. You make the world a better place. And if people forget that, then it’s up to you and to the rest of us to remind them.

What resources for people with disabilities are you aware of? What has your disability experience been like?

Happy October 1st, everyone! Yeah, who cares what 2020 has thrown at us so far? It’s now October, which means we’re in the best month of the year. The month where everything gets a bit darker, a bit cooler, and a whole lot spookier.

In fact, I have actual footage of myself waking up this morning and realizing it’s October 1st. Check it out:

Where did that light come from? How did my glasses get on my face when I don’t normally sleep with them off my face? Doesn’t matter. I am what I am, and what that is likely isn’t human, so why question it?

Also, if you haven’t checked out my YouTube channel, consider checking it out and subscribing. I don’t post there often, but what I do feels genuinely like something I’d post. So why not check it out?

Anyway, now that it’s October, you can expect plenty more horror content (more than usual, anyway) as Halloween approaches. Plenty of reviews, discussions of what makes good horror or horror-related topics, and who knows? Maybe some spooky good news on the writing front.

Plus a few posts that don’t fit that mold, because what’s life without variety?

Anyway, I expect even with COVID-19 and an election and a million other things making 2020 a shit show out there, this month will surely be fun. Even if we can’t go trick or treating or see most horror films in a movie theater. For instance, I’m going to be visiting the Bellaire House, a haunted house on the Ohio-West Virginia border, some time this month with friends for an overnight investigation.

Yeah, that’s right! I’m going to another haunted location! And this one supposedly has a demon in the attic. Sounds like I’m having a family reunion soon.

And who knows what else I’ll be getting up to this month?

Well, that’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ll surely have a couple of blog posts out soon. Until next time, Happy October, stay safe and pleasant nightmares.

At the time I’m writing this, I’m in the middle of Chapter Ten of the second draft of Toyland, the Gothic horror/dark fantasy novel I finished earlier this year. And let me tell you, as I work through each chapter and make my edits, I find myself in awe.

What the hell was I thinking when I wrote some of these chapters?

Anyway, for those of you who aren’t familiar with Toyland, it takes place in an Ohio boarding school and follows students who become aware of a ghost haunting their school, one obsessed with a children’s book and that may be harming some of the students. Yeah, bonkers premise, but I make it work. At least, I’m hoping to make it work. Hence why I’m editing it rather than publishing it right here and now.

And I’m glad I am editing it. Because I cannot believe some of the shit I wrote. I mean, yeah, I was writing the early chapters during NaNoWriMo last year, so there’s a good chance I was up late and either sleep-deprived or hopped up on caffeine (or, if it was a weekend, buzzed). But still, some of these lines! What was I thinking? 

For example, in Chapter One, my protagonist Mason heads to the men’s rooms in the dorms. Here’s how I describe it:

Gabe and Mason entered, the door hinges squealing behind them. To the left were the stalls and sinks for the normal bodily functions.

“Normal bodily functions.” As opposed to what, Rami? Are there other kinds of stalls and sinks in bathrooms? Just what the fuck were you talking about?

And there are other passages like that, sprinkled here and there. Every time I come across them, I wonder what my state of mind was when I wrote them. Either that, or if I was just that desperate to make a fifty thousand word count by the end of November.

And in Chapter Ten, the one I’m working on now, I did something incredibly stupid the first time around. Mason the protagonist is about to reveal to a classmate of his about some of the strange events in the school. The story then fast-forwards to hours later, where Mason recalls the conversation in flashback. 

When I read that, I was taken out of the story for a second. I imagine potential readers will have that same experience as well. So now I’m busy rewriting Chapter Ten so that it flows better and doesn’t take the reader out of the story. It’s a pain in the ass, and I’m annoyed at myself for writing the story that way. What the hell was I thinking?

Well, that’s where the story is right now. The good news is, as I get further along, I find fewer of these problems. Hopefully that stays true for the rest of the second draft. But man, until I get to that point, I’m going to be looking back and shaking my head at those sections. 

So, that’s where I stand with Toyland, my Followers of Fear. I’ll keep working on it until probably October 1st, when I have to edit a couple of short stories for some publications that will be opening for submissions soon. But after that, barring anything else coming up, I’ll be back at work on Toyland and hopefully have it done by Halloween. Wish me luck.

Also, to my fellow Jews, tonight starts Yom Kippur, where we atone for our past transgressions and pray and fast for forgiveness. To you, I wish an easy fast and Gmar Chatimah Tovah, or “a good sealing” in the Book of Life. As well as a pizza party after the fast ends (wink).

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