Posts Tagged ‘review’

If you read my review of the first Ouija film, you’ll remember that I didn’t have a very high opinion of it. It was by the numbers, unimaginative, and most of the fun came from surprise cameos, which was sad given that most films from Blumhouse Productions are generally very good. I blamed the fact that Michael Bay’s production company was involved, and that guy tends to destroy anything related to toys and/or things people grew up with in the 1980’s (seriously, is that a thing?). I also mentioned in that review that I was not looking forward to the sequel they were already making, which I felt would probably be worse.

Surprise surprise, when the trailer for the sequel turned out to be a trailer for the prequel. And it looked good! Really good!

So good, that I wanted to see it in theaters (didn’t happen, unfortunately). When the library ordered it though, I immediately reserve the DVD. And over dinner I watched it. And I have to say, it was actually better than the original.

Note: I will be discussing the original film in this review, so if you haven’t seen the first movie and might still want to see it, you might want to stop reading this review.

So Origin of Evil takes place in the 1960s, and follows the little girl who we meet as a ghost in the first film, and her family. Her mother is a false psychic who genuinely believes she’s helping people, and has her daughters help her with her scam. One day, the mother buys a Ouija board in order to spice up her act, and proceed to test it out in her home. This leads to the younger daughter getting possessed, and from there things get strange.

As I said above, this was a much better film than the original. For one thing, it’s a period film, and Blumhouse is generally very good with those kinds of films (watch The Conjuring and Annabelle films if you don’t believe me). The sets look gorgeous, and the attention to detail is amazing. Even if at times the historical setting feels like window dressing, it’s a very good window dressing. I also thought the actors did an adequate job. These aren’t the same actors that played the ghosts in the first film, but since in the first film it was just important that they look scary when the CGI was used on them, it doesn’t really matter. And as I said, they did a very good job. Lulu Wilson, who plays the younger daughter, is exceptionally good at playing both an innocent child and a terrifying possessed creature (especially when they add CGI).

And of course, the prequel explains very well how the events of the past lead to the events of the first film. If they didn’t do that, I would have said they’d wasted money and film making a movie.

That being said, there are several things that could’ve been done better. Origin has the same issue as the first film where they have good jump scares but suffer when it comes to creating an atmosphere. The filmmakers also tried to evoke that old, 1960s feel by adding little touches to the film to make it seem like it was made in the 60s: little black circles and vertical lines appear at random during the film, and some of the cuts to new scenes have that jumpy quality reminiscent of old films. However, they do it so inconsistently that it’s more distracting than anything else. If maybe they had filmed it so that it looked from the 60s, and had that characteristic hiss in the background, then it probably would’ve worked better.

I also thought there were a couple of things that didn’t make sense. In one scene, the priest character gets possessed or influenced by the little girl, and then a minute later the possession or influence leaves him. Just like that. They don’t explain why that happens, and it sticks out like a sore thumb. And remember how in the first film, the surviving sister is in an insane asylum? And how the events of her childhood did drive her insane? Well in the prequel, they don’t really show how she gets that way. I think it’s supposed to hint that just everything she went through drove her mad, but she didn’t seem any different than any other heroine in these kinds of horror movies. Scared? Yes. Grief stricken? Yes. Insane? Not so much, but they plop her right into the mental asylum and show her as seriously messed up by the events of the film.

Filmmakers, I shouldn’t have to mention this, but this is a visual medium. And in a genre where there are a lot of people going through terrible things, you have to show them losing their grip on reality. Otherwise, it doesn’t work. If someone on the street sees me walking down the other side of the street and I pass behind a lamp pole and when I’m on the other side, I have horns, giant bat wings and a tail, even if they know who I am and I’m a freaking vehicle of terror, they’re going to have questions. It’s like that.

All in all, though, Ouija: Origin of Evil is a much better film than its predecessor. And while I don’t think we’ll be getting another film in the series (despite having a slightly higher budget, the prequel did not make as much at the box office as the original), it’s a good film to go out on. On a scale of 1 to 5, I give Origin of Evil a solid 3.0.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ll probably have another post out before the weekend is over, so keep an eye out for it if you want to know how I’m doing with Full Circle. Until then, have pleasant nightmares.

Cover of Snake by Rami Ungar

I wasn’t planning on posting anything this weekend, but then this popped up on Amazon last night and, you know me, I have to post all the reviews. Either because of its length (576 pages in paperback) or because of its subject matter, Snake is one of my least reviewed books, which has always puzzled and surprised me, since I’ve always loved this book and enjoyed writing it immensely. The last review was from nearly two years ago! So I’m very glad I have a new review to feature today.

If you’re unfamiliar with Snake, this is a thriller/horror novel I wrote in college between Reborn City and Video Rage. Here’s the description from the back cover blurb:

How far will you go for love and revenge? When a young man’s girlfriend is kidnapped by the powerful Camerlengo Family, he becomes the Snake, a serial killer who takes his methods from the worst of the Russian mafia. Tracking down members of the Camerlengo Family one by one for clues, the Snake will go to any lengths to see the love of his life again…even if it means becoming a worse monster than any of the monsters he is hunting.

So yeah, this is one where you root for the serial killer. This novel was really influenced by slasher films and James Patterson novels (from before he sold out). I told you, some people look at the subject material and are like, “Nope.”

Anyway, let’s talk about the new review. It came sometime yesterday, and I noticed it this morning over breakfast. The reviewer’s username is Chasley T, and he gave Snake four stars out of five. His review is titled Most people ignore anything with 5 stars (hence the 4 star rating), but this book honestly does deserve 5 stars, and–wait, what? Is that true? I’ve never heard of that before. Do people actually ignore 5 star reviews or anything with a majority of 5-star reviews? I’ll have to look into that some time.

Anyway, here’s what Chasley T. had to say about Snake:

I’m someone who really enjoys horror stories/darker reads, and because of this I am very picky with my ratings of these types of books. I’ve seen most plots and plot twists, so I’m not taken by surprise very often and I am VERY stingy with positive reviews since the type of stories I like usually all have a similar plot.

That being said…I LOVED this book. I’ve seen this type of story before, but the way Rami Ungar crafts a cliché plot into a suspenseful, brutal, and rhythmic story puts Snake into a category all of its own. If you’re squeamish, you have been warned that there are some really graphic scenes in this novel.

If you’re a fan of dark plots, this book is a 100% must read.

I’m glad you liked it, Chasley. Part of my aim for this story was to give the typical slasher story and give it new life and a new perspective. I’m happy someone noticed that.

And this mirrors what a lot of other people have said about Snake as well:

I really enjoyed this book. When I selected “dark” for the mood, it was almost a toss up with suspenseful. You knew early on who the mafia killer was, but the question of how he was going to find his girlfriend and rescue her was suspenseful. I ended up choosing “dark” because of the level of violence our main character used in getting to the girlfriend. But he was a complex character. Even though he definitely had the dark side to him, there was a surprisingly good side to him, too. You don’t really see this until later on in the book. So early on, you might think this is an unredeemable character. But one of the most intriguing characters are those who aren’t what they initially seem, and for this reason, I enjoyed this character. The pacing was just right. It wasn’t rushed, and in no way did I ever feel it dragged, which is awesome for a book that was over 500 pages in paperback.

This book is violent, and it contains sexual situations. Some of it can be cringeworthy. So I wouldn’t suggest this for young readers. I’d recommend this only to adults. If it was a movie, it would be a strong R. There’s also swearing. These things don’t bother me as a reader, but I know it bothers some, which is why I mention it. But if you don’t mind these elements, I think you will enjoy this book. It’s a great thriller.

–Ruth Ann Nordin, author of Groom for Hire

This book is another awesome creation by Rami. This book is scary and brings the reader to the depths of how evil the human character can be and how anyone can be driven to commit acts of torture. The author does a wonderful job of developing the plot and characters and there are certainly twists and turns. I highly recommend reading this book if you love a good frightening thrill.

–ENJ

Rami Ungar makes a promise to (the reader) in all his writings: he WILL scare you, and if he does “his job is done.” Snake will scare you. I am a huge Stephen King fan, so this should give you some idea of my tolerance level for gore, death and mayhem – I was scared. Rami takes you into places you would never have believed possible, and manages to pull his hero (and eventually his heroine) out of them against all odds. If you like to be scared. If you LOVE to be scared. You should read this book.

Angela Misri, author of No Matter How Improbable

If you think Snake sounds interesting enough to read and would like to find out more, it’s available in paperback and e-book with the links below. And if you do read it, I hope you’ll leave me a review with your thoughts on the book. Positive or negative, I love feedback from readers, and it helps me improve my game as a writer.

That’s all for now. I’ll probably post again when the first part of Gynoid comes out. Until then, have a great weekend, my Followers of Fear.

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

So I started up a binge on H.P. Lovecraft again right after the new year. I’m not sure why; maybe I was just in the mood for him, or maybe something I read made me think of good old Mr. Lovecraft and I wanted to pick him up again.Or maybe the YouTube video where I discovered Uzumaki mentioned him, and that did it. Whatever the case, I’ve noticed that the gaps between my binges are shortening with every binge. I first put him down in September 2015 after first buying my edition of his collected works, picked him up again in June 2016, put him down once more the next month and picked him up again in January 2017. I wonder when I’ll be in meeting Mr. Lovecraft again? Early summer, maybe?

Now if you don’t know who H.P. Lovecraft is (and there seems to be a lot of you who don’t), let me tell you about him. Lovecraft was a writer from New England who wrote in the early 20th century, and is considered the father of cosmic horror, a sub-genre of horror that deals with man’s inconsequential place in our universe, and that some revelations about that are so powerful, they cause you to go mad (it’s the kind of stuff that keeps you up at night if you think too much about it).

I started reading Lovecraft two years ago because I heard he was very influential on some of my favorite writers and filmmakers, and each time I delve into his work I like to write my thoughts on him (see Parts 1 and 2 here). So what did I think this time around?

Well, I have to say, the further I get into Lovecraft’s work, the easier it is to read. I’ve mentioned before that he writes like he’s living in the 1820s rather than in the 1920’s, but I think as time goes on, he learned to write in a more contemporary style while still sounding like he was a contemporary of Poe. I’m not sure that the collection I have of his work is chronological, but if it is, then I’m definitely seeing him develop into a better writer. I also think I’m getting a better grasp at what makes Lovecraft so memorable. Before, I probably would have used generalizations, such as “he’s creepy” or “vaguely disturbing.” Now, however, I’m able to point out what exactly about the story sticks in my mind and why it is successful or not successful, such as the mysterious nature of the monsters in one story or the twist at the end of the story in another.

I also think that the stories written in this period (assuming that the stories are ordered chronologically, of course) are much better than his previous works. I got to read one of his famous stories “The Call of Cthulhu,” and I found it very interesting. Not just because it contains one of Lovecraft’s most famous characters, but it has the essence of his cosmology and philosophy in that story. The idea of man as the insects of the universe, and greater beings just waiting to come back and take over is succinctly and powerfully presented through the narrator’s encounters with the titular demon-god’s cult.

Got to read the story with this guy.

 

I also really liked the short story “Pickman’s Model,” about an artist who draws very disturbing paintings in an old colonial home. It was well told, and I really enjoyed the twist at the end, which even I didn’t see coming.Same with “Cool Air,” a short story about a doctor living in an apartment building. I read the list at the end of that story, and I was like, “Damn! That’s actually very clever.”

If there was any story I did not like, then it was the last story I read by him this particular binge, and also the longest. “The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath,” a novella that felt like an acid trip ending  in a Lewis Carroll ripoff.* It was too long, silly trying to be serious, and like I said, the ending rips off Lewis Carroll in the most obvious way. I kind of wish I had skipped over this one.

All in all though, I’m really starting to gain a healthy respect for H.P. Lovecraft. He added a lot to the horror genre, even if he didn’t live to see his influence, and I can see why he’s still read today. I don’t know when I will pick up his work again, but I have a feeling I am in for a treat when I do.

In the meantime, I found out there’s a movie version of “Call of Cthulhu,” so I will try to get my hands on a copy of that. Hopefully I’ll get it soon, and when I do, you’ll hear my thoughts about it.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I hope to have a new author interview out Friday, so keep your eyes peeled for that. Until then, pleasant nightmares.

*Weirdly, it was an asset he was on. LSD wasn’t invented until year after Lovecraft died, so there’s no way he could have gotten his hands on it. Or Lewis Carroll, for that matter. Which begs the question: if those two were high when they came up with their respective stories, what were they high on?

Today I ordered an Uber ride from my apartment to the Drexel Theaters in the Bexley neighborhood for a special event. And there I saw something terrifying: the poster for Tommy Wiseau’s The Room. That film is horrible! I’ve seen clips of it, and it’s painful. And apparently the theater shows the film every now and then. And people apparently come to see it. That’s some dark, sadomasochistic stuff right there.

But I was really there because Gramercy Books Bexley was having a big weekend in honor of its opening, and the highlight of this opening weekend celebration was a viewing of the Goosebumps film, followed by a reading and a book signing with RL Stine himself!

Now if you don’t know who RL Stine is, what rock are you living under? Well, he’s the author of the popular Goosebumps children’s books, which are probably the most famous horror series for kids in literature. I’d read them as a kid, well before I knew I wanted to write horror, and was probably an early influence on me. So when I visited Gramercy a couple weeks ago (they’ve been open for a little while now, but they had their celebration this weekend. Kind of like a belated birthday party, I guess) and saw they were hosting RL Stine, I knew I had to buy a ticket to meet him. And I bought a couple of his books too, including some of his adult fiction (did not know the guy wrote adult fiction, but I was happy to purchase a couple books from him).

Sunday came. I enjoyed the movie (see my review of the movie from 2015), and was amazed by the mix of adults who grew up with the series and kids who were reading Goosebumps twenty-five years after the first book came out (yeah, twenty-five years. Time flies, huh?). I always thought Goosebumps was a phenomenon of the 90’s and early 2000’s, but it’s endured beyond when I stopped reading the books. Perhaps kids will be reading the Goosebumps books years and years from now, like how we read Alice in Wonderland and Anne of Green Gables over a hundred years after each book came out. I certainly wouldn’t mind reading them to any kids I might have in the future.

rl-stine-reading

Anyway, the film ended. We waited as the staff from Gramercy set up a podium and microphone at the front of the theater. And then Mr. Stine himself ambled down the aisle, a hunched-over over man in a dark red shirt and dark khakis with large glasses and an amiable smile. He told us about how he had used to visit the Drexel Theaters to watch cartoons and old monster movies, the titles of which he said influenced how he titled his own stories. He also told us a story about how he actually might’ve seen a ghost as a kid (and which he hinted very heavily he made up for us), and then read for us some stuff from his upcoming book, Slappy Birthday to You. Hearing him read it brought me back to my childhood, I tell you.

After that, we all got in line in the theater lobby to get our books signed. The line was very long, circling around the lobby, and I managed to get into it around the circle area. After about ten minutes in line or so, I finally got to the table. And the whole time I was thinking to myself, “Don’t embarrass yourself, Rami. Don’t embarrass yourself.” His wife took my copy of Stay Out of the Basement, the book I’d decided to have Mr. Stine sign and which might’ve been the first Goosebumps story I ever read (I can’t remember very well, I think I was six when I started reading them). He asked me my name, and I said it, though I think he heard “Robbie,” given the noise of the lobby. He signed it, and then I told him what I wanted to tell him:

“I just wanted to thank you, Mr. Stine. I read your books as a kid, and now I write horror and science fiction. And I think you were an early influence of mine. I just wanted to thank you for that.”

Me with RL Stine himself.

Me with RL Stine himself.

He gave me back my book with a smile. If he said anything, I can’t remember what it was. Maybe “That’s nice,” or “You’re welcome,” or perhaps just “Uh-huh.” I think he’s heard that maybe a few times at this point in his career and that he’s used to it, but I was happy to have told him.  And I was allowed to take a photo with him afterwards, which you can see here.

I left after that, got an Uber home. Overall, I was happy. I said I’d felt like a child earlier, and in a way, I was. My inner kid was there this whole afternoon, from watching the movie to hearing and finally meeting RL Stine himself, feeling wonder and exultation at getting to meet this early influence of mine. That kid is often with me, reminding me why I write scary stories and powering the imagination needed to tell these stories. And I’m glad he came out with me today.

I sadly didn’t get Mr. Stine interested in reading my books, but that’s okay. I was just glad I didn’t embarrass myself by saying something stupid or offensive (I sometimes get a little starstruck in front of famous or powerful people, and that makes my logic circuit misfire sometimes). And it’s something to aim for, you know? I’m working on finding ways to make sure more people want to read my stories, and maybe someday one of those people will be RL Stine, along with all the other authors I look up to. I just have to keep writing and working hard and maybe someday all I dream will come true.

And I have four RL Stine books on my bookshelf in the meantime to keep me occupied. Definitely feel happy about that.

Thanks to the Drexel and Gramercy Books for making my weekend. I hope you can tell what this opportunity meant to me just by reading this post. I look forward to continuing to support you both in the years to come.

I love manga and anime, but I often have trouble getting my hands on horror manga and anime that is actually scary. I’ve found plenty with ghosts, zombies, homunculi, serial killers, and death games, to name a few, but often they’re mixed with other genres to make them more palatable for non-horror fans. Other times I have heard of a scary one, but I can’t get my hands on it (still trying to get my hands on Corpse Party), and other times I just don’t know of some series that I should. So when I actually hear and find some manga or anime that is actually scary, I rejoice. Case in point, Uzumaki by Junji Ito, who is considered one of the greatest horror manga artists from Japan, and it shows in this series.

Uzumaki literally translates into “spiral,” which is the essence of the manga. The story follows Kirie Goshima, a teenage girl living in the town of Kurozou-cho. One day, her boyfriend Shuichi tells her that his father has become obsessed with spiral shapes, to the point that he is losing his grip on reality. This leads to a gruesome series of events that reveal a curse upon the town and the surrounding area, a curse involving spirals, spirals that hypnotize and entrance, spirals that terrify and excite, spirals natural and unnatural. And once the curse sets in, it doesn’t let go.

From the very beginning, Uzumaki is quite extraordinary. Ito illustrates with  incredible attention to detail, which in a horror manga  is necessary if you really want to convey a sense of terror. I mean, look at the imagery below.

Holy crap, that is both well-drawn and scary! You can see every detail, how much  work is put into each stroke of ink to make the imagery look realistic despite being an illustration. And the best part is, Ito is not concerned with aesthetic beauty. You look at most animation, and it’s meant to be pleasing to the eye. To be cool, or pretty, or adorable. Ito doesn’t concern himself with that. He’s concerned with just making you squirm, and he does that so well with his illustrations.

And on top of that, his storytelling abilities are great. Unlike other horror stories, the horror is based on abstract concepts. A geometric shape, the spiral, is what we’re supposed to be afraid of. You’d never think a spiral shape like the one below would be scary, but Ito uses his illustrations, storytelling, and the turn of a page to weave this frightening tale where we’re forced along to find out what happens, fining stranger and stranger things on the succeeding pages. And best of all, Ito just takes things in the most unexpected directions, inserting the spiral into strange places we normally wouldn’t see it. I won’t say what happens, but things like snails or pregnant women get matched with the spiral, and it becomes terrifying. It’s made even better that you don’t actually get a lot of explanation. With ghosts or vampires, you get a mythology on how they work and how to deal with them. In Uzumaki, Ito leaves it up to the imagination as to what’s happening. It’s very unnerving in a Lovecraftian sense to see how this town becomes part of some strange curse around a geometric shape, and never get an explanation.

Doesn't look scary at first. Wait and see.

Doesn’t look scary at first. Wait and see.

If there is one criticism I have, it’s that the people of the town don’t really come to terms with what’s going on as fast as they should. At a certain point, it becomes impossible not to face what’s happening in the town, but up until then, there are plenty of signs that something’s up, and not one of the main characters realize they have to get up and get out before it’s too late. Even the guy who’s constantly saying they should leave doesn’t. At least make an attempt!

But other than that, Uzumaki is a terrifying story of cosmic horror that takes something harmless and give it a weird, disturbing form that will surely stay with you for a while after you finish reading it. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving Uzumaki a 4.8 out of 5. If you enjoy horror and don’t mind visual reading like comic books and manga, definitely check out Uzumaki. I’m glad I did, and I will try to track down the move version as soon as possible. Because after seeing these sorts of pictures, I’m curious as to how they’re translated into the cinematic world.

Until next time, my Followers of Fear. Pleasant nightmares.

The original Blair Witch Project was a huge phenomenon, no matter what you thought of it. But after the disastrous and nonsensical sequel (the closest I’ll ever get to watching that piece of crap is the Nostalgia Critic review, that’s how bad it is), fans despaired of ever getting more Blair Witch. But last year, Lionsgate announced a new film, and fans wondered if that would be the follow-up they wanted. Now, I wasn’t a fan of the original when I saw it. I thought it was a silly found footage film with really stupid characters (follow the creek! It leads somewhere, you dumbasses!). But I was open to a sequel, and I wanted to see if they did better than the original.

I can say, they definitely did better than the original. The film follows James, the younger brother of the girl from the original movie, his girlfriend Lisa, his childhood friend Peter, and Peter’s girlfriend Ashley. James has been haunted since his sister disappeared when he was four, so when footage purporting to show his sister alive hits the Internet, James wants to find out more, and Lisa decides to make it the subject of her documentary project. They meet up with Lane and Talia, the people who found the footage, who accompany them into the woods. And that’s when things get creepy.

So what did Blair Witch do well? I liked that with this film they tried to actually answer the question of whether the Blair Witch is real or just mental stress gone wild (I won’t say what for those who want to be surprised). They also try to explain things from the first film that never got answered, like what the stick figures represent, or why that guy at the end of the first film was standing in a corner. And I like that they try to give some context to the Blair Witch. While I do maintain that mystery and unknown make a horror villain scarier, the first film overdid that so that we had no idea what to think. This film tries to balance that.

I also thought it was cool how the characters stocked up on everything to make sure that they don’t end up lost. They have walkie-talkies, GPS devices, earpieces that have GPS and cameras built in and are apparently damage-proof (though how do the girls with their long hair never obscure the cameras?). They even have a drone for aerial shots and location tracking! That’s so cool (though I realize that the use of a drone in my new short story The Red Burst isn’t as original as I thought it had been).

While the characters are as flat as can be (found footage films are worse on that subject than many  slasher films), the actors do a very good job with what they have. There’s this palpable tension when James and his crew meet Lane and Talia, and find out they have a Confederate flag hung up in their house (Peter and Ashley are black. Awkward!), and that tension carries on through the course of the film. And when these characters are afraid, you buy that they’re afraid. It’s not goofy or hammy, it does look scared.

And finally, there are some creepy moments, particularly in the final third. There is a creepy, at times claustrophobic atmosphere, and you do feel that while watching. The jump scares are also very good, and I always like a good jump scare when balanced with other elements in a film.

Oh, and that shaky camera movement! I hate that shaky camera movement! And it gets a lot more annoying when you add in electronic interference with the camera. We want to see a film, not unsteady hands and technical issues with the equipment!

That being said, Blair Witch does have its problems. For one thing, the film kind of does the same point-for-point story copy that The Force Awakens did with A New Hope, but while that was okay there, here it’s not. I understand that it was trying to tie back into the first film with all the appropriate nods to the audience, but I think the film might’ve been better by going a different route. With horror sequels, we like for new ground to be tread, or we get bored. And while they do explain some things, others aren’t explained very well or at all, and to top it all off, the film may have revealed a little too much near the end.

While there are plenty of grades I could give this film, I do think Blair Witch is a much more successful horror film than the original was, and for that, I’ll be giving it a 3.0 out of 5. It’s not the best horror film, but it’s a good Blair Witch film, and I think in the end that’s what the filmmakers were hoping for. Even if they’ve probably made it difficult to ever make another Blair Witch film ever again with that ending (though that might be a good thing).

Well, I’m doing that thing where authors look at the year before and be hopeful about the year to come. And I have to say, 2016 was not the easiest year to deal with. Even the people who called 2015 shitty say 2016 was worse. Many people we cared about, from celebrities to icons to just ordinary loved ones, died. The world was rocked by a number of incidents, big and small, that showed that hate and prejudice is still alive and well in many countries one would consider tolerant (let alone the openly-intolerant countries). Groups like ISIS, and events like Brexit and the American presidential election left people the world over confused and terrified about the future. Illnesses and conflicts and starvation raged, and people suffered.

And movies that were supposed to be great, like Batman v. Superman, Suicide Squad, and Ghostbusters, either were terrible or didn’t make the money they should’ve (stuff like that bums me out).

Yeah, this year has been tough. But there have been some amazing things, good things, that have happened this year. We have comedians like Trevor Noah and Jon Oliver and Samantha Bee, who are using their platforms to educate people about existing issues and even find ways to do some good. Thousands of refugees from war-torn Syria and other areas have found homes in more stable countries, and have started rebuilding their lives. Celebrities like Jennifer Lawrence and Emma Watson are using their fame to fight for issues like feminism and equal pay. Hollywood is putting out more movies and TV shows that reflect their viewers, including black-ish, Speechless, and the Fast & Furious movies, to name a few, and while there are still missteps here and there, this shows that the makers of our media care about our opinions. And we nearly had our first female president! It didn’t happen, and it would’ve been cool if it did, but it still shows how far this country has come in terms of women’s rights. And the world got Tape Face from America’s Got Talent. I swear, I could watch his video every day, he’s so clever with the visual gags!

But wait, there’s more! This from YouTube and Vine star Thomas Saunders on reasons to smile:

God, that’s a lot of good, isn’t it? I wish he would’ve added Lucifer on that TV show listing though. That show makes my day!

On a more personal level, 2016 actually went pretty well for me. Yeah, all the nasty stuff I mentioned up above bummed me out, but there were many good things this past year. For one, my mother got married to her partner of several years, which was made possible by the 2015 Supreme Court ruling allowing gay marriage nationwide. That was a blast, and something I was glad to see finally pass. My mother and stepmother are so happy together, and I’m glad they get to be together in the eyes of the law as well.

Around that time, I got offered a couple of jobs/internships! One of them was here in Columbus, and it translated into a full position that I’m still working at right now. It’s a great job, where I’m promoting diversity in my organization with an office full of good people, and getting great pay and benefits while I do it.

In addition, my job has allowed me to move out of my dad’s house and into my own apartment, and even to buy new furniture and a new laptop. I’m paying all my bills on time and still have money to save, which is huge for me! And if things continue to go as they are, who knows? I could even get a cat or save up for a dream vacation to the UK and Ireland! I would love for those to happen.

My sciatica has improved! Yes, for those of you who don’t know, I have sciatica, a condition in which a nerve in the back is squished by spinal discs, causing severe pain in one leg and the lower back. I’ve had this since some time around graduation, but over the summer and through fall and beginning of winter, I started doing some new exercises and other stuff to improve my condition. At the time I’m writing this, I feel only mild discomfort, and sometimes not even that. By next summer, I could be completely cured of it!

This got published!

This got published!

But that’s not all. I released a new book, Video Rage, back in June, and it’s finally started to get some reviews! In addition, nearly all of my books have received new reviews this yer, and more people are discovering them every day. Heck, even my coworkers are reading my books! And on the social media side of things, my blog has grown, accruing nearly 900 subscribers, and passing the five-thousand like milestone. And pretty soon, I’ll be passing the fifty-thousand views milestones. One of my posts actually went kind of viral, garnering over nine-hundred views in the first five weeks of being published, and receiving more views since then.

But there’s more! I started the final book in the Reborn City series, and as of the most recent chapter, I’m a sixth of the way through the book! I could have it released sometime next year! I’ve also written several short stories, and I’ve had some great ideas, both for stories and for strategies to make sure more people discover and read my books. I can’t wait to put some of these to work.

Look folks, this has been a tough year. But for everything I’ve said above, and stuff I haven’t said, it’s been a pretty good one too. And while a lot about 2017 looks scary, we can do a lot to make it a great year. It’ll take some work, but we can make 2017 suck less than 2016 did (I can even post about some of my ideas on how to do just that in another post if you guys want), and to achieve all that we ream.

So will I make a thousand followers? Will I publish another novel and some short stories? Will I get an agent or a contract with a publishing company? Will I get a cat or that vacation? Will we cure AIDS, or improve education, or save the environment? Will the new American president be good at his job? I can’t say with any certainty. But it’s what I hope for. And if not, I’ll do all I can to improve that situation.

Happy New Year, my Followers of Fear. May 2017 bless you and leave you with plenty of reason to smile.