Posts Tagged ‘social media’

If you’ve been paying attention to the news lately, you may be aware that billionaire Elon Musk bought Twitter and has been turning it from a somewhat tolerable landscape to a freaking hellhole. I’m not going to go into details, because you can read all that elsewhere, but suffice to say, a lot of people have been wondering if now is a good time to get off Twitter and find a new platform to interact with that does the same thing as Twitter. For us writers, we’ve been looking for a new platform where we can talk about writing and maybe avoid the vitriol that seems to have been given free reign on Twitter these days.

One of those platforms is called Hive Social, which I’ve seen a lot of posts about on both Twitter and Facebook this past week. It seemed like a good platform, a lot of writers and horror types I’m connected with were trying it out, and I’m usually slow on new social media trends and wanted to not be the last again, so I decided to give it a try yesterday. Besides, the platform’s website says it doesn’t tolerate hate speech or any other sort of awful behavior, which honestly appeals to me in the wake of certain decisions by Twitter’s new leader.

So, now I have an account on Hive. I’ve gotten about forty-something followers, posted a couple of times, and have liked other people’s posts as well. How does it compare to Twitter?

Well, it does have some room to improve. The app is slow to load or register likes at times, and the search engine feature doesn’t always bring you to the person you’re looking for, even when you type their full name in. You can’t access the app from the laptop just yet, only your mobile devices, and occasionally the app just shuts itself off mid-use. And you can’t leave a link so people can directly go to your page on the platform.

However, this may be because of its sudden popularity. I doubt anyone running the app could have foreseen so many people migrating over to Hive as Twitter continues to implode, so they’re probably scrambling to make sure the app is at least somewhat able to handle all these people. In fact, I did see a post from the app’s company asking people to be patient as they try and deal with the new influx of users.

So, there is a chance this app could improve as time goes on. Of course, there’s also a chance that it won’t replace Twitter and that we’ll stay on there. Or maybe we’ll go off both apps and find something else. It’s hard to tell the future. All we know is that Twitter might not be a good place to stay for the foreseeable future and that we may not be able to stay on there for much longer.

In the meantime, I’ll keep trying both apps for a while before I make any final decisions, one way or another. And while I can’t leave a link to my page on Hive, I can leave links to my other social media (though you can also look to the left and see them listed there). If you want to check me out on any of these platforms, please do. And if you end up subscribing, I hope you and I will have plenty of wonderful interactions on these other apps.

Facebook

Twitter

Instagram

YouTube


One more thing before I sign off tonight, my Followers of Fear: I found out today that my short story “The Dedication of the High Priestess,” which combines ballet with the figure of the King in Yellow, will be read aloud on the Tales to Terrify podcast this Friday. I’m so excited for you all to experience this story! I’m quite proud of it and I really hope you enjoy it. I’ll be sure to post a link as soon as it’s out.

You know the drill: I released something, so I have to do a post about it the day of, one week after, two weeks after, one month after, two months after, three months after, six months after, one year after, and then every year on the release anniversary. Hopefully you don’t find that too annoying.

So, as you know, last week the press I’m part of, Cracked Skull Press, released That Which Cannot Be Undone, an anthology of horror stories written by Ohio horror authors, set in Ohio, and revolving around the theme “that which cannot be undone.” This includes my spooky ghost story “Is Anyone There?,” which takes place at the Ohio State Reformatory and is inspired by something that happened to me at the prison a few years ago.

(I also had a short story, “Disillusionment and Trauma Sometimes Go Hand-in-Hand,” published in Volume 14 of the Ink Stains Anthology series on the same day, and you can get a copy for that here. However, since I had a bigger hand in the creation and release of TWCBU, this post focuses on that.)

As you know, getting this anthology created started over a year ago with just a dream and some talk among my fellow Ohio writers and friends. And a year, a Kickstarter campaign, and a whole lot of work later, the book is out, and we at Cracked Skull Press are focused on making sure that the book’s release isn’t the last you hear of it. Rather, we’re focusing on making sure that this dream goes on, and leads to all sorts of wonderful things. That TWCBU becomes an anthology all horror fans want on their bookshelves!

And from the looks of it, we’re making good progress on doing just that. It’s only been a week, but at the time I’m writing this, TWCBU has amassed four reviews on Amazon and five on Goodreads for an average score of 4.7 out of 5 and 4.40 out of 5, respectively. Here are what people are saying:

What a great idea for a horror anthology. These eighteen stories, all set in Ohio, weave different aspects of the state into their terrifying narratives. From the cities of Cleveland and Columbus, to an old prison, a drowned town, an abandoned winery, and many other natural and notable locations, these stories place Ohio front and centre on the map of horror landscapes.

Iseult Murphy, author of All of Me, Goodreads

When I was in 5th grade I discovered horror fiction, and I’ve been a fan ever since (almost 40 years), and I’ve always had an affliction for short story horror fiction collections. Especially the kind that makes a 12 year old think its better to ‘hold it’ than make a break for the bathroom in the middle of the night – the risk of putting a foot on the floor at 3am is too great.

This is a (creepy) collection of short stories, all with ties to Ohio where I now reside, although many references will be well known outside the area.

Its any easy read, as most short story collections are, with a variety of writing styles, so each story feels fresh. Some creepier than others, but all entertaining by their own merit. As the days are getting shorter and the weather colder, this makes for a perfect bed time snack before turning out the light (be sure use the restroom first).

Wallflower9193, Amazon

So glad I had this creepy captivating horror anthology to read during the short breaks between bands at a huge metal/rock festival over the last four days.

This anthology written by multiple authors had stories ranging from ghosts to murder to horrific creatures. This dark and chilling collection was a joy to read.

Gillian Casso Speiche, Amazon

And these are just a few of the reviews we’ve received! Imagine, as the backers get their copies and more people buy copies, what they’re going to say about the anthology! I’m getting chills just thinking about it. Or is that the legion of undead that have escaped my washing machine freezing up my condo?

Anyway, this is a great anthology that will hopefully continue to receive notice and praise, and I’m doing all I can to ensure that that happens. So, if you would like to check out the anthology, I’ll include the links for both Amazon and Goodreads below. And if you do read the anthology, I ask that you leave a review somewhere. Amazon, Goodreads, BookTube, BookTok, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, whatever! Just let us know what you think!. Reviews not only help us know what you’re thinking, but give readers an idea of what they’re about to get into, so it doubly helps us out!

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ll be back soon, I’m sure. In the meantime, I’ll be at the Licking County Local Author Fair with Cracked Skull Press on Saturday, October 15th, 2022 from 10:30 AM – 2 PM. If you’re in Newark, Ohio this weekend, stop by the Downtown Library and say hi. You may even get a signed book from it all.

Until next time, good night, pleasant nightmares, and 20 days till Halloween. Have you ingested pumpkin spice flavor yet? If not, better get to it!

That Which Cannot Be Undone: Amazon, Goodreads

The post that got me thinking about this subject.

So, if you weren’t aware, Rosh Hashanah, or the Jewish New Year, starts tonight. This is the beginning of the High Holidays, or the most important holidays in the Jewish calendar, and there’s a couple of traditions around this time of year that religious Jews practice. A lot of those traditions have to do with forgiveness. Specifically, we go out of our way to forgive those who might have upset us in the past, ask for forgiveness ourselves, and maybe even gain God’s forgiveness for our weaknesses. Forgiving ourselves is also on the menu, but that’s something that’s up to us and can require more work than just what can be accomplished around a holiday.

I do these traditions myself, and about a week ago, I posted on my social media, asking for forgiveness and forgiving everyone else as well. However, I added as a sort of postscript that I might still add someone who’s seriously crossed a line with me to one of my stories, which would mean their portrayals would not be flattering, and that their deaths would probably be horrifying. As I said in the post, “Hey, every action has an equal and opposite reaction. That’s life. Get used to it.”

This and other events got me thinking, and I realized that horror is not a genre where forgiveness is front and center a lot. In fact, it’s a genre where anger and vengeance is often a major factor! Think about it: most of the killers in slasher movies are motivated by rage and revenge. In a lot of ghost stories, the spirits are stuck on this mortal plane because they have some sort of baggage keeping them trapped here and they’re lashing out because of that baggage (this is especially true in Japanese horror movies like Ringu and Ju-On: The Grudge). Carrie White in Carrie gets revenge on all her tormentors by setting the prom, the high school, and most of the town on fire, followed by killing her biggest bully and her mother, and Leland Gaunt in Needful Things takes advantage of people’s fears, grudges and relationships to cause all sorts of chaos.

In all of these stories and many others, forgiving anyone is almost nowhere to be seen. In fact, in many cases, even after the reason for the anger is gone, the anger and need for vengeance continues on. Perhaps Needful Things has some moments of self-forgiveness, where characters like Alan Pangborn, Polly Chalmers, and Norris Ridgewick realize they’ve been duped and/or done horrible things and are able to start on the path to forgiveness and redemption, but it’s not a large part of the story. In fact, those moments are overshadowed by the rest of the events of the story and the need to stop Gaunt.

Snake is not a novel I would associate with forgiveness.

The lack of forgiveness extends to my own work as well. And quite often, too. Snake is a novel about a serial killer motivated by both love and revenge against an organized crime family. “Disillusionment and Trauma Sometimes Go Hand-in-Hand,” AKA the dragon bat story (releasing next month in the 14th volume of the Ink Stains horror anthology series, if you didn’t know), is driven by several characters’ needs for revenge and being unable to let go of the past (whether they are right or wrong in doing so, I’ll let you decide). And one or two stories I’m working on now may be motivated by characters’ need to release their anger on others, whether deserved or not.

Given all that, you might be wondering if any horror stories might include forgiveness, or if all of them are unforgiving. Actually, quite a few stories with religious themes include forgiveness. Swan Song by Robert MacCammon and Imaginary Friend by Stephen Chbosky, both of which deal with Christian Apocalypse scenarios and the Devil, feature scenes where the protagonists forgive others, including the Devil himself, who usually can’t take being forgiven for their evil by a mere human and run off to hide in their own misery. And in the 2010 movie Devil, forgiveness plays a huge part in the resolution of the story and in one of the leads being able to avoid being dragged down to Hell.

This is a movie where forgiveness and sin are major themes for the horror.

All of these stories feature the Devil, but there are likely other stories with religious themes where forgiveness features but the Devil doesn’t. And perhaps there are stories where forgiveness is a big part of the story without religious themes as well. In fact, Cujo by Stephen King ends with the Trentons patching up their marriage and forgiving each other after the death of their son. But, at least in my experience, forgiveness tends to stay in horror stories with strong religious themes. The rest of the time, it seems to be “let out your wrath upon all those who have wronged you!”

But is that necessarily a bad thing? Even for the religiously inclined among us (including Jews around the High Holidays)?

I don’t think so. Whether we are misfits because we like horror, or we are already misfits and find a home in horror, both we and our genre of choice have often been maligned by the majority of society. Obviously, this can build some anger in us misfits, as we do nothing wrong but be ourselves. Where better to channel that anger than into our genre, where people often get what’s coming to them? It’s honestly rather therapeutic.

That’s why, even if I forgive someone, I’ll often find some way to write them into a story. It’s a healthy way to get rid of any lingering resentments and build something creative and meaningful while I’m at it. In fact, one could say I’m symbolically or metaphorically purging myself of hate and finding forgiveness for those who’ve wronged me, which I’m sure any rabbi would approve of, especially around the High Holidays.

As to whether I’ll ever write a story where forgiveness is a main topic…I’ll never say never. But it might be a while before we see me write something like that. Forgive me if you were hoping for one!


That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Sometimes I like getting my thoughts out like this, even if it leads to an essay-length blog post. In any case, I want to wish you all a Shana Tovah, or a Happy New Year. May we all be inscribed in the Book of Life and blessed with a sweet year.

Until next time, good night, pleasant nightmares, and 36 days till Halloween! Ask your doctor if sacrifices to the old gods is right for you!

Hide in your homes and pray for mercy! I got an acceptance this weekend! “Trauma and Disillusionment Sometimes Go Hand in Hand,” AKA the dragon bat story, is going to be published! It’ll appear in this year’s upcoming Ink Stains anthology from Dark Alley Press!

So, a little background for those of you who weren’t reading this blog last year. About a year ago, I posted on my social media about “releasing the dragon bats!” No reason, I just like to post weird stuff on my social media feeds to remind people that I love the scary and the macabre. But apparently this caught the eye of my friend, fellow author and Follower of Fear Iseult Murphy (you can check out her blog here), who ended up creating some fan art of these dragon bats. Here’s the art she drew.

Pretty neat, right? These were my first pieces of fan art ever, and I absolutely loved it! And I really wanted to make a story about these dragon bats now that they had art based on them. Which I did: “Disillusionment and Trauma Sometimes Go Hand in Hand,” a novelette about a teen girl who gets wrapped up in a revenge plot involving calling on some dangerous supernatural forces.

I had a blast writing the story, but was worried that I’d be able to find it a home. There are more publications accepting novelettes now, but it’s still hard to find homes for them. But I kept plugging away and submitting, and lo and behold, it’s found a home!

And what a home it is! Ink Stains: A Dark Fiction Literary Anthology used to be a twice-yearly anthology of horror and dark fiction that produced some great horror fiction, but stopped producing due to the pandemic. Now it’s back for the first time since the pandemic began, and I’m so excited and honored to be part of the new edition.

As for when you can expect to read “Disillusionment and Trauma,” as well as the rest of the stories in the latest edition of Ink Stains, it appears to be on track for an October release. As soon as I have news, you can expect me to post about it. Or, you can follow Dark Alley Press on their website and Facebook, as well as their parent company, Vagabondage Press, on Twitter.

Anyway, I want to thank N. Apythia Morges and the team at Dark Alley Press for accepting my story, and I can’t wait to be part of this amazing anthology. I also want to thank Iseult Murphy, who inspired this story and who helped me polish it up for publication. And I want to thank you, my Followers of Fear, for always supporting me and my stories. I hope you enjoy this one as much as you’ve enjoyed my stories.

Until next time, my Followers of Fear, good night, pleasant nightmares, and run! I’ve just released some actual dragon bats! And they’re vicious carnivores.

Sarah Hans, author of Entomophobia

It’s always fun to talk to authors about their books and about what they’re working on. And today, I’ve got another author on, a friend of mine whose novel, Entomophobia, is only going to be around for a short while. So, to help her spread the word, I figured I’d bring her on the blog and pick her brains on her book.

I also bought a copy because Entomophobia just sounds really fun, and I love the idea of having a book that will only be available for a little while. The fact that it’s written by a friend made it extra special.

So, without further ado, Followers of Fear, let’s give it up for author, fellow HWA Ohio member, and my friend, Sarah Hans!

Rami Ungar: Welcome to the show, Sarah. Tell us about yourself.

Sarah Hans: I’m a public school teacher in my day job and I write mostly horror, but I also write science fiction, fantasy, and whatever else I can get paid for.

RU: How did you get into writing? And what exactly attracts you to the horror genre?

SH: I’ve been telling stories since before I could write. I found writing really tedious until the computer was invented, because my brain moves so much faster than my hand could keep up with a pen. Typing is much better! For a long time I wanted to be a science fiction author, because I love sci-fi and enjoy it so much, but every time I wrote something it would turn into horror, so I just leaned into that. Sometimes the genre chooses you!

RU: Tell us about your novel, Entomophobia. What is it about and what will readers enjoy about it?

SH: Entomophobia is about a woman in the middle of a contentious divorce and child custody battle who is cursed to turn into a bunch of insects. I hope readers enjoy seeing a very smart, determined woman who is down on her luck find strength within herself to keep going even when things seem impossibly terrible.

RU: A lot happens to your main character, Meri. Can you tell us a bit about her, what she’s dealing with and why readers will like her or want to follow her?

SH: Meri is extremely resilient. Her abusive husband is now getting custody of her daughter, she’s living with her awful mother, and now she’s got bugs coming out of her skin, but she’s not going to give up.

RU: I understand Entomophobia is only available for a short time. Can you explain why that is? Also, are you doing anything to keep it around longer?

SH: My publisher has closed her doors and the book will only be available through her until the end of the year. After that, I may self-publish it, because few publishers will reprint a book. I’ve never self-published before so it could be a fun new challenge!

RU: As someone with plenty of experience in that department, I’d be happy to give you any advice I can if you want it. Anyway, can you tell us about some of the other stories you’ve written and published?

SH: I have a collection called Dead Girls Don’t Love full of my short stories. Most people call them “quiet horror” because I don’t (usually) do a ton of gore. The horror is often psychological. I love to write from the point of view of the monster, or about people who become monsters. I also like to write feminist stories about the horror of living in an oppressive patriarchy. One of my best stories, “Tiny Teeth,” is available on Pseudopod episode 660 in both text and podcast format. I’m really proud of that one. It’ll be appearing in my next collection.

The cover of Entomophobia.

RU: What are some projects that you’re working on now or that you have coming up?

SH: I’m currently revising and tweaking a novella I just finished writing that’s about meth addicts hiding out in an abandoned asylum. I’m also about halfway through a historical horror novel about an identity thief who finds herself getting in way too deep.

RU: What is some advice you would give another writer, regardless of background or experience?

SH: It can be hard to give advice because there’s so much advice out there, and sometimes it’s conflicting! Some things I would say: Ask for what you want. Keep writing, submitting, revising, submitting. When you go to cons or interact online, don’t look to “network” and make contacts, be a real person, be genuine and honest. Most folks I’ve encountered in the writing community have been really kind, generous, and lovely, so be that in return. The opportunities will come—but you may have to wait for the world to be ready for your writing and be prepared for the day you’re finally a hit!

RU: Finally, if you were stuck on a desert island for a little while and could only take three books with you, what books would you pick?

SH: I’d want three books I’d never read before! Probably one young adult, one horror, and one romance.

RU: Solid choices. Thank you for being on the blog, Sarah. And best of luck with Entomophobia. I hope it gets plenty of new readers.

If you would like to get a copy of Entomophobia, you can purchase it in paperback and ebook from Amazon. And if you would like to connect with Sarah Hans, you can find her on her blog, SarahHans.com, as well as on Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I hope you enjoyed this interview and are interested in checking out the book. Until next time, good night and pleasant nightmares!

Just a quick update. As you know, I’m trying to post these less and less often. Trying not to spam you with news of these events, especially when it’s unlikely you’ll be able to visit. Still, in case you’re able to visit, I’m going to put these out when a new event is on the schedule and remind you leading up to the event.

So, as previously reported, I’m going to be at ParaPsyCon at the Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield, Ohio. This will be taking place on May 21st and 22nd, and all you have to do to gain access is to buy a self-guided tour of the prison. You get in, see where they filmed The Shawshank Redemption and where plenty of ghosts still hang out, and you get to meet over 90 authors, ghost hunters and paranormal investigators, psychics, and so much more! Plus some celebrity speakers too. You can find out more from the website here.

But my beloved Reformatory isn’t the only prison holding a convention this summer: the West Virginia Penitentiary in Moundsville, West Virginia will be having its annual Paracon on August 13th, 2022! Like ParaPsyCon, it’ll have plenty of authors, paranormal investigators and equipment vendors, psychics and so much more. More details, such as cost of admission and the full vendor list, will be posted as we get closer to August. In the meantime, you can check out their Facebook event page for more info.

And that’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Obviously, if I get signed up for any more events, I’ll be sure to let you know ASAP. Same goes for any changes, such as a date change or (God forbid) a cancellation. Anyway, I hope you’ll be able to stop by one of these events and say hi as I sell books and do Tarot readings.

And yes, that post on mental health while publishing a book will be published at some point this month. I promised, didn’t I?

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

Ladies and gentlemen, we have our first publication of 2022!

Some time ago, I met another Jewish horror writer by the name of Richard Gerlach. There was an anthology being created at the time of holiday horror stories, and we thought we’d team up to write one with a little Jewish flair. We wrote a story set around Hanukkah and submitted it. It didn’t get in, but it birthed a friendship and we both believed in the story, so we kept shopping it around.

Dead of Winter from Dublin Creative Writers Cooperative and Spark Street Media, which contains mine and Richard Gerlach’s story “Azazel Dances.” Looking forward to hearing what you think of it!

Some time last year, the story was accepted by the Dublin Creative Writers Cooperative,* who in partnership with Spark Street Media are releasing the anthology Dead of Winter. And our story, “Azazel Dances,” is featured in the anthology! Which is out today!

Honestly, Rich and I are so excited for you to read this story, which centers on a demon who interferes with two feuding Jewish families around Hanukkah. Not only do we get to add to the ever-growing subgenre of Jewish horror (something I’ve been trying to do anyway), but we worked really hard on this story. Like really hard. Like oh my God, the amount of work that went into this story to make sure it was ready for publication! And it was not easy for either of us to find time to edit it, either. Like, I tried to buy the guy a bottle of wine because we somehow made the deadline despite the amount of work and how crazy our lives got! Sadly, mailing alcohol without subscriptions or memberships to special clubs is troublesome.

The point is, we put in a lot of hard work, and I’m very proud of the work we put in to write and edit this story together. So I hope you read it and see what we managed to create together. And if you like what you read, please make sure to spread the word somehow. Goodreads, Amazon, Twitter, Instagram or TikTok, whatever. Leaving your thoughts online somewhere allows us writers to know what people think of our work, as well as helps other readers decide whether or not to check out the book.

Anyway, that’s all for now. I’ll leave a link to check out Dead of Winter below. Ebook is already available, and paperback shouldn’t be far behind. Either edition, there are a lot of great stories in there besides the one by Rich and me, so it’s worth your while. And while you’re at it, you should also check out Richard Gerlach. He’s a great writer with another story in another anthology and has more on the way. He also writes for Divination Hollow Reviews and is a co-host for the podcast Staring Into the Abyss. You can find him on his Twitter account here, his previous publication here, Divination Hollow Reviews here, and the Twitter account for the podcast here.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I don’t know how we got to the end of February so fast, but I’m looking forward to whatever March brings. So until next time, good night, happy reading and pleasant nightmares!

*Dublin Ohio, which was used for a short scene in Rose. Not Dublin, Ireland. Just clarifying.

DEAD OF WINTER Amazon Page

Alma Katsu. Photo by Evan Michio

Some of you may remember at the start of the pandemic I had the pleasure to interview Alma Katsu, author of the critically acclaimed novels The Hunger and The Deep (you can read that interview here). I loved both novels, which took on the historical events of the Donner Party and the Titanic, respectively, and turned them into supernatural horror stories. It won’t surprise you, then, that I’ve been looking forward to her next historical horror novel for a while now.

Two pieces of good news: first, Ms. Katsu has a new novel, The Fervor, coming out in late April! The novel takes place during World War II at a Japanese internment camp and involves a strange disease and a stranger monster from Japanese legend. Yeah, you can tell this is right up my alley!

Second pieces of good news: Ms. Katsu has agreed to let me interview her about the book! So without further ado, let’s talk to Alma Katsu and find out why you should be as excited as I am for her new novel.

Rami Ungar: Welcome back to the blog, Ms. Katsu. Please tell us about The Fervor and how it came about.

Alma Katsu: First came the decision to set the next book in WWII. That had to do with trends in publishing, frankly; I’d sat in on the editors’ panel at the Historical Novel Society conference a few years ago, when it was time to come up with a proposal, and their advice was that historical fiction was pretty much dead except for WWII. I’d always thought it would be interesting to write about the internment camps, but then the question was how to turn that into a horror story? Objectively, the horror should be pretty evident: here was a government locking up its own citizens, people who hadn’t committed a crime, because they didn’t trust them. Because the average citizen (with the help of propaganda) believed that Asians were inherently sneakier and untrustworthy.

RU: You’ve talked about your Japanese heritage and how it influenced the story. Can you go into that for us?

AK: This was the first time where the main character of the book has the same ethnicity as me, and it was pretty eye-opening. For one thing, as I was writing I realized that I had a lot of resentments about the way my mother had been treated coming to America after the war, and the way I’d been treated as a minority (to a lesser extent) bottled up inside. Add to that the preconceptions about Asians and Asian women, in particular. This was an opportunity to write the truth, to dispel myths. It was freeing.

RU: I can only imagine! And speaking of Japanese elements, there’s been a surge of stories inspired by Japanese culture, particularly yokai, in the West. Some examples include Nothing but Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw and my own novel Rose. What do you think of that surge, and where do you think it comes from?

The Fervor by Alma Katsu.

AK: I’m afraid I don’t have much to offer here. I know some folks are big into Japanese folktales and such, so I’m not aware of a surge per say. It always seems to be fairly popular thanks to anime! Japanese yokai and yurei are part of the fabric of life for Japanese, and so I’d heard and read stories when I was a kid, and it didn’t seem you could tell a horror story with Japanese characters without incorporating it in some way.

RU: Well, I can attest that anime was definitely an influence on me. Anyway, The Fervor also involves an epidemic in a Japanese internment camp. Did the COVID-19 pandemic influence your decision to include that?

AK: I drew on COVID, yes, the feelings of mass panic and confusion, but The Fervor is about racism. I decided to write it after watching what’s been happening to this country over the past four years or so. I’m not naïve but it’s been bewildering to see racism go mainstream in America. It’s comforting in a way to think it could be a disease, something you could catch, as that at least is understandable. The January 6th attack on the Capitol also influenced the book: The Fervor was an attempt to look at what this country has been going through and compare it to another horrible incident in America’s past, and show that we haven’t changed much.

RU: I’m looking forward to seeing how that plays out in the book. So, what research did you do for the book?

AK: This was different from The Hunger (the Donner Party) and The Deep (the sinking of the Titanic), events that I didn’t know a lot about. I already knew a lot about life in the internment camps, because I’d heard stories from my in-laws, seen documentaries and read articles. I knew what the issues were, I knew how the interned felt and what they had gone through. For the book, it was more a matter of filling in the gaps. I lucked out in that a neighbor’s family had been interned at Minidoka, which is featured in the book, and had a trove of documents from the camp: maps, rosters, newsletters, all kind of non-official documentation that typically gets lost to time. It was a real windfall.

RU: Yeah, primary sources like that are always a boon when writing about history or using it. And speaking of which, you’ve written about the Donner Party, the sinking of the Titanic, and now the Japanese internment camps. Are there any other ages or historical events you would want to write a story about?

AK: After doing three books and having them change a bit each time (going from being fairly close to the history to becoming reinterpretations of events, maybe just shy of alternate histories), I think it’s time to re-evaluate. I’m sure there are plenty of interesting historical events (I’d love to do another Western, for example) but I’m a little burned out on close reads of history right now.

RU: Fair enough. Switching gears a bit, what are you working on nowadays? And when can we expect to see the TV series based on your spy novel, Red Widow?

AK: I just handed in the second in the spy novel series, and though I’m sure it’ll need some work, I’m glad to have that behind me. I’m working on a new project that I can’t talk about at the moment, and hope to be pitching a few TV proposals soon.

Red Widow, the TV series, is chugging along. The pilot script is being polished right now, and we hope to know whether we’ll be shooting the pilot before too long.

RU: Final question: what are you reading these days? And are there any recent reads that you would recommend others check out?

AK: There are so many great books coming out this year that it’s hard to single out just a few. Let’s see… SA Barbes’ debut Dead Silence just came out. It’s space/horror: think Aliens meets Titanic.  It’s a lot of spooky fun. I had the opportunity to read Andy Davidson’s The Hollow Kind, a wonderfully suspenseful, creepy southern Gothic with a dual timeline. It doesn’t come out until October, however. I’m really excited for Catriona Ward’s next novel, Sundial, which I think I liked even better than Needless Street.

RU: Well, thank you for joining us, Ms. Katsu. It was a pleasure to have you again. Please keep us posted on your progress.

If you are interested in The Fervor, you can preorder it now from most retailers. You can also check out Ms. Katsu’s other books, including The Hunger, The Deep and Red Widow. And, of course, you can find Ms. Katsu on her website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I look forward to reviewing The Fervor this coming spring. And in the meantime, I’m sure I’ll be back soon with plenty to share with you. Until next time, good night and pleasant nightmares!

Occasionally in fiction writing, you create characters you find utterly repulsive. Maybe it’s their personality, maybe it’s what they do or believe in, but these characters are VILE.

And surprisingly, writing them well is kind of challenging. I should know. I’m working on a story now where I hate most of the characters. Why? I’ll get into that a little later.

(Though if you’ve been paying attention to my Facebook posts or Twitter feed, you might already know why.)

The thing is, while you may hate the character you’ve created, you can’t let that hate show too much in your writing. You have to treat them like you would any other character. Showing your contempt may be easy, but the reader may notice. And while they may agree with you, they will be turned off by the clear aversion and disdain coming off the page, especially if it’s a protagonist. “Why even bother writing this character if you’re going to make it so obvious you don’t like them?” That might be what goes through their minds. Instead, write them like you would a character you like.

A good example of this is how Vladimir Nabokov treats Humbert Humbert in the novel Lolita. In an interview, Nabokov stated he found Humbert a hateful person for obvious reasons. But he didn’t show his dislike for the character and his predilections in the story. Instead, he writes the novel normally and let’s the readers come to hate him by his actions.

That’s something to keep in mind. Instead of showing your disdain for a vile character, let their actions do the work for you. You can do a lot just by showing a cruel teacher depriving a kid of ice cream or a prison warden manipulating his prisoners to attack each other, rather than by describing them as nasty pieces of shit.

Dolores Umbridge. A great example of a vile character.

You can then supplement that by showing other characters’ reactions to the hated characters for being assholes. JK Rowling, despite her faults, did this quite well when Harry and his friends described characters like Umbridge or Pansy Parkinson and focused on their negative traits. Rowling famously hates those characters, by the way, and made sure they suffered or didn’t get happily-ever-afters in the end.

What if you have to show things through the perspective of the hated character, however? Well, that’s where it can get queasy to write them. Because, as much as you might hate them, you’ll often have to write them as any other character. For instance, l’m writing characters who are neo-Nazis.

Yeah, you read that right. The story I’m working on now is full of neo-Nazis, people who would gladly see me dead for being Jewish (among other things). And I am writing them as I would most other characters. I could write them and focus on their hatred and nasty ideology, and in another story I could get away with that. But for this story, I can’t let them just be stock characters or stereotypes, much as I want to. Instead, I’m trying to show the reader how the characters might see the world. And let’s face it, neo-Nazis are people, and they’re as complicated as any other character. So I should try to write them that way.

That being said, I am going to show just how horrible these people and their toxic ideology can be. And then I’ll take great pleasure in showing what horrors occur to them later in the story. Hey, I’m a Jewish horror author who loves visiting terrors upon his enemies. What do you expect?

So, writing characters you consider vile is more than just making them hateful or showing how much you hate them. It’s a combination of actions, character description, and even writing them in a complex manner. And, of course, making sure they get what’s coming to them if it fits the story. It may make you feel sick to write them that way, but it can also lead to a good story becoming that much better.


On an unrelated note, the anthology I’m helping to produce, That Which Cannot Be Undone, is closing in on forty percent funded on Kickstarter! Not only that, but we’ve added a whole bunch of new perks and have announced some new authors joining the project as well. Some of those authors have even volunteered to name characters after backers and kill them off in style should they back certain limited pledges. Isn’t that cool? You could be a character in another author’s story!

If that, and helping our group produce a kickass horror anthology featuring new stories from me and my friends, you can check out the campaign by clicking the link below.

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

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. For those who celebrate, I want to wish you a Merry Christmas. If you need me, I’ll be joining my friend John McClane at Nakatomi Tower for Nakatomi Corp’s annual Christmas party. I hear they tend to go out with a bang every year.

Until next time, Happy Holidays and pleasant nightmares!

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Lately, I’ve been deep into two very different books of horror. The first, which I finished last night, is What One Wouldn’t Do, an anthology of horror stories around the idea of “what wouldn’t you do for…what? Power? Revenge? Love? Etc?” The other is Ghoul by Brian Keene, a coming-of-age horror novel about three boys who discover a ghoul living in the graveyard near their homes. They’re both very good, very different from one another, and both deal in emotional horror.

Emotional horror is horror that relies more on the feelings the story provokes in the reader than a supernatural/paranormal entity or a serial killer or anything like that. And yes, I’m aware that all horror tries to provoke an emotional response in readers. Namely terror and fear. But this is a much more subtle kind of horror. Emotional horror scares you with the situation the characters are in and their responses, particularly their emotional responses, to the situation.

A good example of this is the 2015 movie The Witch. You may have noticed, but the titular witch is actually pretty peripheral to the story. She doesn’t show up except to maybe push events in the story. In total, I think she’s maybe only in the film for three whole minutes, if even that. Rather, the horror of the story is how each character reacts to the witch’s interference in their lives. It starts with the baby being kidnaped, then with the older son disappearing into the woods and then coming back horrifically changed. The kid has an ecstatic vision before dying, which leads to the family to believe they’re being victimized by a witch, who could possibly be one of them. And you’re terrified not by the witch or what could be her supernatural influence on the characters. You’re scared by their paranoia, their heartbreak and distrust, and how quickly things devolve from here, leading to an awful, irreversible decision on the part of the protagonist.

The true horror of this story may not be from the titular monster

This is the kind of horror both What One Wouldn’t Do and Ghoul deal in. Many of the stories in the former deal with supernatural elements, but the horror itself is what drives the characters to commit heinous acts or to make deals with the devil or go through insane challenges, and then seeing the fallout from those decisions. And for the latter, while the titular monster is scary in its way, it’s no Pennywise. Rather, a lot of the horror we experience is through the main characters, twelve-year-old boys who are becoming disillusioned by the world around them through the adults in their lives. It’s honestly heartbreaking to see the adults around them fail them so spectacularly, and one scene in particular was so upsetting, I had to post about it on Facebook and Twitter just to get my emotions out.

So, how do you write these scenes? Honestly, it’s not easy. I’m not sure you can set out to write a story that deliberately tugs at your heartstrings and fills you with the emotions the characters are feeling. It’s kind of like how you can’t write a story around a theme. Instead, you take a story and the theme evolves naturally from your working on it. Only when that theme has revealed itself can you play with it and the story together to bring out the best in both.

That was certainly the case with Cressida, the story I wrote that was published in Into the Deep (click here to check it out if you haven’t yet). While it’s a horror story and a mermaid story, it’s not a horror story about mermaids, though they aren’t the pretty fishtailed supermodels Disney animated, either. Rather, the mermaid is in herself a catalyst for the true horror, which is what the characters do upon encountering a mermaid who shares an uncanny resemblance to a deceased family member of theirs.

But when I set out to write that story, I never intended that the horror would come from the characters’ emotional and psychological reactions. I wrote the story because it sounded like a lot of fun to work on and I made changes to the storyline along the way to better bring out the horror I was discovering. The result is Cressida, which I feel is some of the best work I’ve written yet.

You know, that makes me realize something: in emotional horror, whatever is happening in the plot, be it mermaids, ghouls, necromancy, witches, etc., is often not the main focus of the story (even if it’s in the story’s title). Rather, they’re plot devices, tools to draw out the horror hidden within the characters’ emotional responses.

My story in this anthology didn’t start out as an emotionally-driven horror story. It just ended up that way.

I guess that makes emotional horror a kind of psychological horror.

Anyway, that’s what’s going through my mind at this time. The fact that I was getting into all these stories with similar kinds of horror at the same time got my brain working, so I decided to write it out. I’d love to hear what your thoughts on this subject are. Let’s talk in the comments below.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I leave for my trip tomorrow, so I likely won’t be around as much as I would otherwise be. However, I’ll be around on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, so check there for updates if you start to miss me.

Until next time, my Followers of Fear, good night, pleasant nightmares, and there’s only a week till Halloween. Prepare to give yourselves to the dance of terror and to raise the old gods so we can all enjoy their infernal gifts. If you do not, I suggest you run.

Bye!