Posts Tagged ‘reflections’

(Note: All stories and publications have had their names removed. This way, my stories and my career won’t be negatively affected by mentioning anyone by name. I would flatter myself by adding that the circulation of the publications won’t be negatively affected, but we all know that’s never gonna happen.)

Before you ask, no, I was not happy to receive a rejection because the publication was actually run by bad people or ethically dangerous or whatever.

Also, no one likes getting a rejection, least of all me. It’s never nice to hear that your story isn’t going to appear in a publication or an anthology. That all those hours of hard work, of writing and editing, of making sure your story is as exciting and memorable and well-crafted as possible, weren’t enough to sway an editor to publish your story. It can dishearten anyone. There have even been times where I’ve gotten rejections and have not wanted to submit anything ever again (or perhaps just for several months).

But every now and then, you get a rejection where the editor takes their time to let you know what they thought of your story. And sometimes, even in a rejection, it elevates your mood like nothing else.

Take yesterday, for example. I received a rejection for one of my stories. However, the editor noted that the story wasn’t bad. Far from it, actually: he said that this submission period the magazine got a huge number of submissions, and some decisions had to be made. He also included one editing suggestion for the next time I submit the story, which I listened to after a bit of thought (it was something cosmetic that I didn’t really think would make a difference, but apparently to him it did).

So, that was very nice. Yeah, the story isn’t going to appear in the next issue of the publication. However, the editor did imply he liked it, he just had to make a tough decision. And he also gave me some advice for the next time I submit the story (which has already gone out again. Here’s hoping it finds a home at the next place). I love it when people enjoy my stories, so even if this editor didn’t take the one I sent him, I was still happy he thought so highly of it.

Turn your rejections into fuel for your creative bonfire. Trust me, it works.Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

And this isn’t the first time this has happened, either. A while back, I got a rejection from a well-known publication whose editor I happen to know personally. While it was a rejection, what the editor had to say made me really happy. They gave me some strong feedback and some ideas on how to further improve the story. I was so happy with the message, I sent them a private message on Twitter just saying how helpful I found their advice. If I remember right, they responded with a smiley face.

What’s the point of recounting all this? Well, I guess it’s just to remind writers who submit stories and get rejections that this happens to everyone. The rejections, anyway. We all get passed on or told our stories aren’t a good fit or that the editor found the story hard to believe. But then we get the ones that encourage us. That tell us the stories, or that we the authors, have the potential. That if we keep writing and editing and submitting, and with a bit of luck, we can get our stories published.

In the meantime, let those rejections be the fuel for your creative fire. They’ll keep you going strong until you reach the end.

At least, that’s what I think. And the Tarot cards seem to back me up, so that’s what I think. Hey, the Seven of Wands means overcoming obstacles to reach your goals. When that appears in the Future position, you know you gotta keep trying because you know those rejections are just more fuel. Better listen and get to work.

Well, that’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I hope you found this post inspiring for your own creative work. Let’s not get bogged down with rejections (even when it seems everyone else is getting acceptances) and get to work. Who knows? We may just end up finding the perfect home for our story with the next submission.

Until next time, stay safe and pleasant nightmares!

For the past week or so, I haven’t been really focused on any one project, and I’ve been confused by that. Usually, when I’m working on something, I go all in. And I almost have a project to work on. Yet beyond a couple of blog posts, I’ve had nothing to settle on working. Or I have, I just haven’t worked on them.

I’ve been thinking about why that might be, why I’m not going all gung-ho on any project, even ones that really call to me at times. And I’ve come to a simple conclusion: I’m looking into starting a new projects when there are older projects that need my attention. In other words, I need to focus on editing. Which honestly, I don’t know why I didn’t realize that sooner. I have several short or shorter stories that need editing right now, and I’m likely to hear from the last beta reader for The Pure World Comes very soon. Not to mention I’m probably going to want to do another draft of River of Wrath, and if I’m lucky enough to get one or more stories accepted, I’ll be editing those as well before they’re published.

With all that in mind, as well as the many projects and other obligations I’m juggling (kid you not, I’ve three Zoom meetings this weekend related to my writing life), and the needs of daily life, now’s not a good time to be working on anything new. Instead, I’m going to focus on trying to get some stories as polished as possible and then try submitting them to various places.

Once all those stories are “done,” as my old high school English teacher used to say–in his opinion, you couldn’t get a story “perfect,” but you could get it “done,” meaning no more work can be done to polish or better it–and are being sent out and about to find homes, I’ll work on some new stuff. Maybe a new novel, maybe a bunch of shorter works, but something new.

Until then, however, I’m going to start work on a new draft of my novelette “Blood and Paper Skin.” Hopefully this is just the start of sprucing up some really scary, strange and ultimately read-worthy stories.

So, that’s the latest update on what I’m doing, my Followers of Fear. I’ll see you all very soon. Until next time, stay safe and warm, pleasant nightmares, and watch out for unusual creatures in the snow. Some have a taste for human flesh, after all.

So, I’ve been living in this new apartment for two and a half days. And I’ve been adjusting pretty well. Unlike my skeleton roommate Jonesy, who had a bit of a miniature freak out after arriving in the new home.

He then fainted.

Thankfully, he adjusted after a while. Now he’s just hanging around until I can find a permanent place to put him.

Jonesy’s hysterics aside, the move has been easy. As it was in the same complex as my old apartment, getting all my stuff from one to the other wasn’t too hard on me or the movers. Getting stuff out of the boxes was a simple task. Honestly, the hardest task so far has been putting up a shelf on the wall of my bedroom, but that was mostly because of issues with the tools.

Anyway, I imagine I’ll be done moving in and turning the apartment into my new realm of nightmares by Saturday. I’m still putting together a new bookcase (the one I bought secondhand in college fell apart during the move. Apparently it wasn’t meant to last more than seven years, which I didn’t know when I bought it), and I have yet to put up my wall art, masks or Jonesy. But after that, I plan to film a tour of my new home, particularly the home office (I love having my own office in my home). And after that?

Well, I hope I can get back to my routine. Kid you not, I have not been doing any serious fiction writing for several days and I miss it. Part of that is the move, but there’s also various projects I’m working on, including Agoraphobia, that are taking up my time. I’m also waiting on feedback from some alpha and beta readers so I can work on the next drafts. And today I went back for the work for the first time since last week, so that took up some time.

Oh, and I need to sleep. Seriously, I make Jason Voorhees look like a harmless little rabbit when I’m sleep deprived.

All that being said, I wouldn’t say that this time spent not writing has been wasted. I’m coming to like this bigger apartment, as well as decorating it to my unusual tastes. The work can be exhausting, but it’s satisfying, in its way. And those other projects are coming along well. Agoraphobia‘s ready from a text standpoint, and I’m talking with an illustrator for a cover. I heard back from one beta reader for The Pure World Comes, and she said she loved the story. And my dad read another story I wrote recently, as his perspective as a rabbi was required for this story. He said he enjoyed the story and we’re going to find time soon to talk over the phone (or maybe Zoom?) and discuss the story.

I look forward to getting back to this. And yes, this is an accurate representation of what my writing sessions look like.

And I’ve done a bit of work for a new story set in the world of “Mother of the King.” Still need to do some outlining, but I’ve laid the groundwork, so hopefully a first draft isn’t too far behind.

So yeah, time hasn’t been wasted. And once all the moving in is done, I’ll be able to get back to a routine and continue telling stories that terrify the crap out of people.

Well, that’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. It’s been another long day, so I’m looking forward to a nice, long nap. Until next time, stay safe, pleasant nightmares, and if you’re a stalker trying to find my new place, do so at your own risk. They still haven’t found the remains of the last stalker who broke in, after all.

Well, they did find a finger. But hey, I was sleep-deprived.

In my last post, I mentioned that I was prepping to move into a bigger apartment and was getting ready to do so. While going through some stuff, seeing what I wanted to keep and what I wanted to donate, I was surprised by what I found hidden at the bottom of a box: my three contributor copies of the Winter 2011 issue of TEA, A Magazine. This is significant because this was the first time I was paid for a published story!

While my memory can be very unreliable sometimes, I remember that story, and that magazine, so well. I was still in high school then, and I was just starting to try and get into the short story market. In those days, I was regularly borrowing these annual guides on the short story market, reading the articles for anything I could use to improve my own storytelling techniques and looking at the listings of magazines and small presses I could submit my work to. One of the listings was for TEA, A Magazine. You can guess what it was focused on. Articles, ads, recipes, and even fiction centering on tea.

I was a big tea drinker even then, so I was intrigued. And I thought, Why not try to write a short story about tea and send it their way? And I did, a short story called “Summers with Grandmother Fumika.” And as you can tell from that title, I was a huge nerd for anime, manga, and Japanese culture back then. In fact, I was crazier about it then than I am now! But back to the short story. “Summers with Grandmother Fumika” was about a young Japanese-American girl who stays with her grandmother during the summers, and one summer, they perform a tea ceremony for a kitsune, a multitailed fox spirit.

Definitely more fantasy-based than Rose was, though they both drew upon Japanese culture. And it had a happier ending.

I don’t think I really expected TEA to accept my work, but to my surprise, the editor actually enjoyed the story and wanted to work with me on it. A couple of months of edits, and they sent me a contract. Not too long after, they sent me a $100 check for the story, as well as my contributor copies.

My short story in the issue, “Summers with Grandmother Fumika.”

Edgar Rice Burroughs, the creator of Tarzan, once said that he could make a million dollars in his lifetime, but he would never feel richer than he did the moment he received a $400 check for his first story, A Princess of Mars. For me, I have the same feeling about that $100. Not because I grew older and $100 didn’t seem like such a big deal as it did in high school. But because that check came with more than just monetary meaning. It came with validation.

Imagine, only 17 and someone thought that something you had written was not only good, but they wanted to pay money for it! To include it in a magazine read by hundreds, maybe even thousands of people! “Intoxicating” doesn’t even begin to cover the feeling I had then. And I’ve been chasing that feeling ever since, trying to replicate it.

Of course, like any addiction, nothing ever compares to that first high. Thankfully, with this addiction, there are plenty of other perks when I manage to publish something people enjoy. You can probably guess what they are.

I’m glad I was able to rediscover that story and those contributor copies. It’s been so long, I’d forgotten that I even had them. And with it being around ten years since that issue of TEA was released, it feels almost timely. Makes me want to do something with “Summers with Grandmother Fumika.” Maybe a reading on a YouTube video? It’d be more fantasy than horror, but I’m sure there would be some people interested in hearing me read it. We’ll see after the move.

Anyway, thanks for strolling down memory lane with me, my Followers of Fear. It was a nice, warm, nostalgic moment in my day and I wanted to share it with you. And it reminds me that, even though it’s been awhile since I’ve had an acceptance, it doesn’t mean it won’t happen in the future. Hell, if I can do it at 17, then I can do it at 27. Just a matter of time, work and finding the right publication.

Until next time, my Followers of Fear, good night, Shabbat Shalom, have a good weekend, and pleasant nightmares.

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Pexels.com

I’ve been told that today is the 21st day of the 21st year of the 21st century. Putting aside the fact that time is an illusion, particularly to non-human entities such as myself, you’d think that today would be kind of extraordinary because it was the 21st day of the 21st year of the 21st century. But, beyond it being President Biden’s first full day as commander-in-chief, it’s not extraordinary. The day itself was ordinary, just another day in a strange time for me.

What, you may ask, makes my life so strange? It’s a number of things. For one thing, I’m moving next week. Surprise! A two-bedroom apartment in my complex opened up recently. My rental managers knew I was planning on moving out at the end of my current lease anyway so I could have more space and they didn’t want to lose a good tenant. So, they offered it to me and I accepted.

And I’m excited for the move. I’ll be able to have a home office in the second bedroom, and there will be enough space for me to get some cats without their food bowls or litter boxes becoming tripping hazards. But it means I’ll have to uproot myself from my current apartment, which I’ve lived in for nearly five years. I’ve slowly been ticking items off my to-do list, like notifying various companies I pay bills to or taking down all my wall art and decorations. And it’s odd to see this apartment prepare to become not my apartment, but empty. Like I’m erasing my presence from this space.

I went through so many changes and had so many experiences here: started my first full-time job, published a book, got my drivers license, etc. All those experiences will still stay with me, but the location will no longer be accessible. It will no longer be my home.

And then there’s the fact that I’m not motivated to write lately. I know, shocker! But I’ve got one short story being released as an e-book exclusive, several other stories being read over by alpha or beta readers, a couple of other projects that I can’t talk about now in the works, and a few other writing-related things going on. Is it any wonder I don’t feel like doing anything more than some basic outlining?

Add in the change of Presidents yesterday, in a transition of power that feels more significant than any in living memory. Not only that, but it comes hot on the heels of an insurrection in the Capitol building. And that I’ve taken the next couple of days off for the move. And it’s January, so the year is still new. And all this and other events in my life and the world are coming one after the other after the other.

In a way, I feel like this pup. Photo by Dominika Roseclay on Pexels.com

And that, despite it all, I’m feeling kind of Zen lately. Or as Zen as I can be. With my neuro-atypical brain, turning my mind off and being thoughtless has never been my strong suit. Believe me, I’ve tried. But I feel something. I feel happy and clear and relaxed. Even as I go about my goals and daily tasks, I feel very attuned. Like I’m where I’m supposed to be, doing what I’m supposed to be doing. I’m at peace with myself and the world. I’m moving through the world and part of it. There’s no reason for me to feel this way that I can see, but there it is.

Is it any wonder that my life feels weird right now?

And you know what? It’s not a bad way for life to be. I mean, yeah, as an eccentric, my life is always a little weird. But this is a different kind of weird. A beneficial, relaxing, pleasant sort of weird. And I’ll enjoy it while it lasts.

Which will likely either be till I go back to work, or when I need to get some serious writing work done. Not sure, ask me later.

Good night, my Followers of Fear. And until next time, stay safe, enjoy the 21st day of the 21st year of the 21st century, and pleasant nightmares!

You’d be surprised how many people would want to see a ballet with this guy.

Many of you already know that I’ve been a huge fan of ballet for the past several years. Those of you who didn’t, now you do (and can read this post for my full thoughts on the art form). Ballets and dancers sometimes appear in the stories I write, and I have even had a few ideas for ballets that I’m keeping in reserve.* And since this pandemic began, I’ve missed going to the ballet and seeing these amazing shows. I hope that when the pandemic ends, I can see them live again.

And I hope that some of those ballets might be based on or around horror stories.

Yeah, I know what some of you are thinking. Ballet based on horror stories? When it’s so beautiful and sophisticated? But hear me out, it’s not such a crazy idea. There actually have been ballets written around horror stories or dark subjects. Dracula has a famous ballet, after all, and Frankenstein, Sweeney Todd and The Tell-Tale Heart, among others, have been adapted for dance. Giselle‘s entire second act is a ghost story involving vengeful female spirits; La Syphide features a spirit called a sylph and a coven of witches; The Rite of Spring was literally designed to unnerve people with its music and choreography; Fall River Legend is a loose retelling of the Lizzie Borden murders; and The Cage is literally about insectile females who eat their male counterparts!

And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Black Swan, which melded psychological thrills with ballet, albeit being very inaccurate about life in a company.

So clearly, there is already a history of horror in ballet. And I think it would be cool and perhaps even groundbreaking to write some new, darker ballets after the pandemic ends and companies have had a chance to get back to putting on shows.

Were you aware ballet could be so scary?

And before you say, “But lots of families go to the ballet. Won’t these stories traumatize them?” I do admit that’s possible. However, I’m sure plenty of kids have come out fine from seeing Giselle or Rite of Spring. Besides, kids are often more resilient than we give them credit for. And nobody seemed bothered enough to ask that question when they were making family films in the 1980s (*cough* Secret of NIMH, Return to Oz, The Witches *cough*).

And there are plenty of properties and stories to adapt from. Obviously, I’ve got a few stories up my sleeve.** But if you’re still unsure, here are some stories I think would make great ballets if a company were to try:

I really think The Shining could make a great ballet if given the chance.
  • The Shining. I know this one has already been made into a movie, a TV miniseries, and an opera, but I think The Shining could make a stunning ballet. Compared to King’s other works, it’s not very complicated, and the story is quite personal as well as scary. The Overlook Hotel would make for a great set piece. And besides Carrie, The Shining is the only story I can think of suited for dance (and Carrie already has a so-so musical already, so perhaps not).
  • Friday the 13th. I know what you’re thinking, but hear me out. Friday the 13th has a passionate fanbase who will go mad for anything new in the franchise, including fan films. The films always feature a lot of action, which could easily translate to dance. And I’ve seen people bring up a Friday the 13th ballet on Twitter and get enthusiastic responses. Granted, when I did a poll on the subject, I only got two responses, but they both said they’d pay to see that kind of show, and the poll only went on for three hours. A longer poll might get more responses.
  • Something featuring a werewolf. As vicious beasts, as warriors against witches, and as tragic figures trying to understand their place in the world, werewolves are versatile creatures with an extensive mythology. It wouldn’t be too hard to come up with something involving them.
  • Something with cosmic horror. Again, I know what you’re thinking. But as I said in a previous post, cosmic horror is on the rise, and there are plenty of ways to tell an excellent story about great, indomitable entities without actually featuring them (or all of them). Like werewolves, it wouldn’t be too hard to come up with something. Just needs a little imagination.
  • The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Washington Irving’s tale lends itself well to adaptation, so I think having a ballet around it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch.
  • Carmilla. A vampire novel predating Dracula, it’s famous for its Gothic storyline and lesbian themes. I think with a few tweaks (not to the LGBT romance), it could make an enchanting story.

As ballet is a constantly evolving art form, I think there’s plenty of room to experiment with adding horror to a company’s repertoire. Sure, it might not be conventional, but it could be a lot of fun. And who knows? In addition to bringing in new fans, a ballet based around a horror story could become as big as Nutcracker or other famous ballets. You never know.

What do you think about having horror-themed ballets? Are there any stories or storytellers who would be well suited to the art form? Let’s discuss.

*BalletMet, or NYCB, or any company who might be interested. Give me a call or send me an email. I’m not only easy to work with, I don’t cost an arm and a leg.

**Seriously, just email and ask.

I looked for a cosmic horror GIF, and this was my favorite.

Cosmic horror is everywhere these days. Since HP Lovecraft first kicked off the subgenre in the early half of the 20th century, it’s spread from pulp magazines to all corners of horror literature, to table-top roleplaying games and video games. And while cosmic horror has been in the movies and on TV sporadically since the 1960s, in the past couple of years we’ve seen a glut of it on those mediums: Annihilation, Stranger Things, The Color Out of Space, Underwater, Lovecraft Country (which I’ll be watching soon now that I have HBO Max), The Endless, and most recently, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina‘s fourth season (though not very well).

And there are more on the way. Just today, I heard about a new film called Sacrifice coming out next month that has Lovecraftian themes (click here to check out the trailer). Sometime this year, the long-awaited anime adaptation of Uzumaki by Junji Ito is supposed to air. Richard Stanley, the director of Color Out of Space, hopes to do a trilogy of films based off Lovecraft’s work.

And there’s a lot more that I probably don’t know about. Plus new games, novels and short stories, comics, manga and anime, poems and art! Cosmic horror is kinda going mainstream right now. Or as mainstream as horror can get.

Color Out of Space was awesome. And we may have more like it in the future.

The question is, why now? Why is this particular subgenre only now just getting mainstream acceptance? Why the sudden enthusiasm?

I think there are a few reasons. One is time and a devoted fanbase. Cosmic horror, as I said, originally came from pulp magazines with very small circulation. However, the fans who enjoyed the stories of Lovecraft and those who played in his world–what would later be known as the Cthulhu Mythos–preserved and kept the stories going even after the deaths of the magazines and of Lovecraft. Through hard work and advocacy, more fans found cosmic horror and found themselves drawn to the stories. Then as now, fans would then tell other fans, or create their own work based on these stories, which has a looping effect of creating more fans through exposure. So, it may have taken time, but cosmic horror has been able to spread with patience and the love of many who follow it.

Almost sounds like cosmic horror is an eldritch deity in and of itself, doesn’t it? I find that hilariously appropriate.

Another factor at play, I believe, is that modern audiences are more receptive to that kind of horror than they have been in the past. Like I said, it’s taken time for cosmic horror to penetrate the public consciousness, and so for many people, cosmic horror may be a nice change of pace from the usual horror fare. We’ve seen plenty of haunted house stories, slashers, and sequels and ripoffs of possession or ghost stories. Those elements are not normally part of cosmic horror. In fact, it could be a breath of fresh air for audiences.

And finally, while cosmic horror normally deals with ancient, otherworldly gods and terrible secrets, it’s a great place to talk about modern issues. Granted, horror has always been a place to explore our everyday fears and anxieties, but cosmic horror, through the perspectives and interactions of its human characters against these terrors, can do it in a unique way. Lovecraft Country uses cosmic horror to explore racism, which both was part of the genre’s start and which is a current problem today.

Is it too much too hope that one of those works might be a kickass, terrifying adaptation of Hellstar Remina by Junji Ito?

And I wrote a novella, What Errour Awoke, that combined elements of cosmic horror with the current pandemic to explore the fear with the latter. And yes, I still hope to get that published.

So, with all these factors, can we expect more cosmic horror in the near future? I think so. Maybe not in huge numbers from the movie industry, as cosmic horror tends to have a spotty track record there.* But certainly in other mediums. Horror-themed TV has been booming, so we’ll likely see plenty of shows exploring those themes in the future. Comics and manga have always loved cosmic horror. And, of course, we’ll likely see many, many new books or short stories in that vein.**

So long as they’re made with lots of love, both for the subgenre and for the projects themselves, rather than for the money, I look forward to it.

Are you a fan of cosmic horror? Are you enjoying the wave of new works in the subgenre? Let’s discuss in the comments below.

*While they were well-received by critics and moviegoers, Annihilation and Underwater underperformed at the box office, and Color Out of Space only had a limited theater release.

**Hopefully, I’ll be able to add to this. I’ve a few cosmic horror ideas waiting to be written. I’d love to share them with you all someday.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for a while, you’re likely aware that 2020 ends this week. And by God, are we all glad of that! COVID-19, forest fires, horrific murders leading to massive civil unrest, false claims of election fraud that nevertheless have weakened our democracy, and did I miss anything? Probably, it’s been such a horrible year.

Yeah, on a personal level, things were good. I wrote so much, it kind of became an in-joke among my fellow writers; I got to do a lot of traveling and visit a few haunted places; I started saving for a home; and I was able to grow my audience and have my stories reach more people. Yeah, I was only able to publish one story and I didn’t get any acceptances like I’d hoped for, but I got good feedback on the stories I submitted and think I could get them into other publications or accepted by other presses.

And yeah, some things on the national and global stage were good. Even under the strains of COVID-19, we managed to get some great stuff in the entertainment realm.

But still, this was a hard year. So, unlike previous years, I won’t write a post about how 2021 will be better. And I certainly won’t post another video like I did at the beginning of 2020 speculating on what might happen this year. Yeah, remember that? I remember New Year’s 2020 clearly, which is crazy because usually time just blends together for me, but I remember December 31st, 2019 and January 1st, 2020 as clearly as if they’d just happened. And I remember the hope that I and so many others felt. 2020 was going to be so good! After 2019 was such a shit heap, we couldn’t imagine things being worse.

Boy, were we wrong!

So, I’m not going to say 2021 is going to be better. More than likely, it’s going to be a hard and continuous struggle for the first half to two-thirds of the year. We’ll need that time for the new COVID-19 vaccines to make it among the population and see how effective they are. We’ll also need that time for the new government to get to work and hopefully pass some legislation that helps the American people. And a million other things that need to occur across the world.

Making 2021 better than 2020 is going to feel like a Sisyphean task most of the time, believe me.

So, I won’t say 2021 will be better. I will say there’s room to improve the situation. And hopefully things will improve.

And hopefully some of the things I aim to accomplish this coming year will happen. I’ll hopefully continue to write and edit new stories that excite and scare people. Maybe some of them will get published (perhaps in a few publications or by a couple of presses?). I’ve a couple of other projects in the works that I hope to see pan out, and I hope to continue expanding this wonderful audience known as the Followers of Fear.

Oh, and I might go to a couple of conventions. That’s a thing.

And on a more personal level, I’ve got some things happening that I’m excited about. I’ll be moving into a bigger apartment this year and hopefully getting a cat soon after (I’ve been wanting a kitty of my own for sooo long!). I hope to get lots of reading done, and maybe even do some traveling later in the year. And maybe I’ll get to meet some of you amazing Followers of Fear in person! That certainly would be cool.

But for now, I’m approaching things cautiously. I’m living that old Arab proverb of “Trust in God, but tie your camel.” And while I would like for 2021 to be an improvement, I know it’s going to be hard to make that happen.

We can only struggle and work to make things happen, I guess. And hopefully that will have positive results.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ve stories to edit, chores to do and a few other things besides. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

Are you hopeful for 2021? What are your plans for New Years? What are you hoping to accomplish next year?

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I think I’ve mentioned how busy I am lately. But things have kind of calmed down a bit, so unless I hear back from a beta reader, figure out how best to edit this story I’m working on, or am lucky enough to get a story accepted somewhere, I know what I’m working on next.

You may recall back in the spring, I started writing what I thought would be a novella, but ended up being a full blown novel. This novel, The Pure World Comes, follows a maid in the Victorian era who goes to work at the manor of a mysterious nobleman, only to find mysterious and terrifying events occurring there. I haven’t touched it since then, but I haven’t stopped thinking about it and how to improve it. And now feels like a good time to get to work on a second draft.

As such, I’ve been prepping to journey back to Queen Victoria’s reign. I’ve been listening to audio books and watching movies and TV shows in that era to get that flowery, polite way of speaking down. I’ve been learning new bits of information, such as etiquette and dating advice (yes, the Victorians had dating advice). And I’ve been reviewing what I already know. After all, this isn’t just Gothic horror (or is it Gothic horror/gaslamp fantasy?) I’m working on. This is historical fiction! And historical fiction requires a lot of work to make the reader feel they’re in that bygone era.

All that being said, I have a few goals with this draft. Obviously, I’ll be looking to clean it up, fix any plot holes I notice, and cut out anything extraneous. However, I have a few other goals. This includes:

Victorian fashion. It was a special kind of extravagant.
  • Improve the dialogue. I feel like when I wrote the first draft, I made my characters speak like modern-day Americans. This draft, I’m going to go through the whole book and make sure they sound like Victorians! Eloquence and flowery language, fewer contractions, a focus on politeness and how to address different classes. Not sure I’m going to mad on the expressiveness like characters in Dracula did (oh my God, even when people were dying, they had to be so wordy and full of praise for people they admire!), though. That might be too silly and melodramatic.
  • Explain the era better. One of the problems I have as a writer is that I forget that not every reader knows the same things as me. So, while I know a lot about Victorian England and can put an odd detail peculiar to the era in, knowing exactly what that means, the average reader won’t. It’s my job as the author to explain the minutiae to the reader, be it the ritual of mourning (click here for more on that), how much a pain in the ass cleaning was, or how ice cream was made back in the day (they used to use cucumbers!).
  • The little details need to be inserted. By this, I want to include more things special to the Victorian era. You write about the 1980s, you include Walkmans and big hair and the latest pop songs. You write about the 1950s, you include Cold War concerns, soda shops in pharmacies, televisions and record players, and early rockers. You write about the Victorian era, you mention steam engines, Mudie’s Lending Library, penny dreadfuls, and so much more. I want to include more of those details in the story, so that others familiar with the era can say, “Aha! That makes it feel authentic.” And trust me, there are a lot of details like that to include.

So, that’s what I’m up to lately. Or what I’m about to get up to, most likely starting this week. With any luck, I can make a damn good draft and get this story one step closer to publication. And believe me, I aim to get this story published, one way or the other. After all, this story includes both my love of the Victorian era and my theory of who Jack the Ripper is! You know I gotta get that out there!

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m off to dream dark dreams. Possibly taking place at balls with huge dresses and polite conversation. Still dark dreams, though. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

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.