Posts Tagged ‘Stephen King’

I would like to thank my friend Kat Impossible for tagging me for this (especially since I was in the mood to blog something other than an “Agoraphobia” update, just didn’t know what). Go check out her answers on her blog.

Now, I don’t know how much I’ve talked about my alcohol preferences on this blog (though I’m sure it’s come up once or twice). But while I do like beer, I also enjoy wine every now and then (in fact, Brothers Drake honey wine, better known as mead, is what I use to celebrate finishing novels or getting them published). I’m especially fond of sweet wines, like Moscato, Japanese plum wine, or the abovementioned mead. That’s why I’m kind of excited to do this tag, even if it involves wines I don’t normally drink. So, without further ado, let’s begin.

BOX WINE–a book that people will judge you for liking but you like it anyway!

I can think of only one book that could possibly fit this category, and believe it or not, it’s a Stephen King novella! The Library Policeman, which you can find in his collection Four Past Midnight. The story involves a real estate agent who runs afoul of a creature masquerading as a librarian and which intends to use the agent for its own nefarious purposes. While it’s good and extremely unnerving, there’s a pretty graphic scene in the story that’s essential to the story, and it’s one of the first things people think of when they think of the novella.

It’s also why people might judge you if you say you like the story, or if you want to see an adaptation of The Library Policeman. Which, honestly, given the subject matter, would be a hard sell. Still, if you either approached the problematic scene in the right way or rewrote it in a way that preserves the impact…anyway, that’s my choice. Don’t judge me too harshly now!

ORGANIC WINE–a book that doesn’t have any added crap in it and is just written perfectly.

I was going to put one novel here, but I’m saving it for later, so I’ll put this one here. The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum. *shiver!* That book is famous for how traumatizing it is. And considering that the events it’s based on aren’t too different from what’s in the book, that somehow makes it even more terrifying. But that kind of lends itself to winning this category, as none of what’s depicted in the novel is technically gratuitous or unnecessary. It’s just a reflection of real events.

Not only that, but if Ketchum wasn’t such a talented writer, he couldn’t write the novel the way it is and make it so terrifying. In another person’s hands, they may have added all sorts of melodrama or other unnecessary elements. But in his hands, and with his willingness to push boundaries, it’s a masterpiece!

That being said, anyone going in for the first time should prepare for a ton of anxiety and maybe some nausea. You’ve been warned.

Accurate representation of many first-time readers of The Girl Next Door.

GLUEHWEIN–a spicy, wintry read.

Never heard of that wine. Also, what do you mean “spicy?” Like, sex scenes? Whatever, I’m going with The Shuddering by Ania Ahlborn. It takes place in winter, in ski country, and there are a lot of romantic subplots in the story, so I think that works. Plus, it’s scary. For those unfamiliar, it’s kind of a cross between a creature feature and a good, old-fashioned splatterpunk slasher story. I enjoyed it immensely. Why haven’t they made a movie out of it yet? Keep the monsters in the shadows but keep the focus on the survival instinct and it’ll be great!

SAUVIGNON BLANC–a really sharp and aggressive read that you couldn’t put down!

I actually had to look back through my reviews to find a book that works for this one. In the end, I found one that fits “sharp and aggressive,” and that’s The Five by Hallie Rubenhold. This book takes a look at the Canonical Five, the five confirmed victims of the serial killer known as Jack the Ripper, and uses historical records and an understanding of Victorian social mores and beliefs to reexamine their lives. Doing so, the author Ms. Rubenhold strips away every belief we’ve had on the victims, and therefore the Ripper, till we’re forced to look at the case in an entirely new light.

This book was an eye-opener for me, and I found the author’s argument highly convincing. In fact, I even referred back to The Five while writing The Pure World Comes, where the Ripper is an important aspect of the story. And if you read the book, you’ll understand why I place The Five in this category.

Click here for my full review of the book.

PINOT NOIR–a book you didn’t expect much from but ended up getting blown away.

It’s easier to pick a movie than to pick a book for this one. Still, if I go back far enough, there’s one book that I can think of. The Amulet of Samarkand, the first book in The Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud. I was a huge Potterhead when I was younger, so my mom suggested it to me while we were shopping in a Barnes & Noble one day. At first, I was dismissive, but eventually I was convinced to try it out. And then I read it.

Hoo-boy. The lead characters are awesome and easy to relate to, Bartimaeus himself is hysterical, and the world building was quite an eye opener after reading nothing but Harry Potter for ages. Add in some political intrigue, a plot with twists and turns, and excellent writing, and I was hooked. I was really sad when the series ended, because it was just so good (there was a prequel, but without certain characters, it just wasn’t the same).

Still mad that they haven’t made a movie franchise or TV series off of these books. Supposedly, a movie adaptation is in the works, but until I see some actual progress, I’m not getting too excited.

CHARDONNAY–a good summer read that was super zesty.

What does that even mean, super zesty? Does the story have to have melted cheese with a sharp taste on it or something?

Oh well, I’m going with Battle Royale by Koushun Takami. I mainly associate it with summer reading, and while not covered in cheese, it’s an exciting thrill ride that really engrosses you as you get into the story. So, I guess that makes it super zesty. In any case, this book was the first book in the battle royale genre (which is why it gets away with using the name) and does it better than anything since, especially Hunger Games.

Click here for my review of the book, old as it is.

ROSE–a book that has a little bit of everything in it.

Why, that’s easy. It’s my novel Rose! Just kidding. I’m not that kind of guy.

No, I’m going with the Kieli novels by Yukako Kabei. The series follows an orphan girl who can see ghosts and other spiritual beings. Who befriends/falls in love with an undead soldier with an attitude problem. They travel the world together, which has a dystopian, steampunk aesthetic. Most of the planet is also ruled by a tyrannical church. And the planet is an exoplanet that was colonized by spacefaring humans centuries prior to the book’s storyline. And on this planet, they deal with monsters, ghosts, dangerous church figures, criminals, and so much more. All the while trying to wrestle with their feelings for each other.

See, it has a little of everything in it! And I’m honestly sad not more people have read the books, even among fans of Japanese light novels (novels with the occasional illustration thrown in). If, however, the above description sounds interesting to you, I suggest reading it. I loved it in my teens and early college years, and I’m sure you would too.

Click here for my review of the series.

How I describe the Kieli books.

SHIRAZ–a full-bodied book that is dark and juicy.

By “full-bodied,” do you mean doorstopper thick? If so, I’m going with Needful Things by Stephen King. Not only does it have one of King’s best antagonists, but it makes fun of and delves deeply into human materialism and greed. How much will you go to keep something you desperately want? To own something, or to be right, or to get answers and/or revenge? While a lot of what occurs in the book seems silly, it also feels like some of this stuff could really happen.

I especially love the audio book, which King narrates himself. He has a much better speaking voice than I do, and he gives each of the characters a distinctive voice. You have to listen to it to believe it.

Also, it’s a damn shame that the only adaptation of this book was a movie, and a really bad one at that. I think a comic book adaptation would work very well. Not only could the artists actually depict some of the darker, weirder, or smuttier stuff without constraint like in a movie, it would just be fun to read and see how they depict some scenes or situations (*cough* two middle-aged ladies who think they’re having sexual affairs with Elvis Presley *cough*).

MERLOT–a smooth, easy read with a soft finish.

Ooh, tough choice. I guess I’ll go with Remina by Junji Ito. For those unaware, it’s a manga about a mysterious planet that appears in the night sky and is named after its discoverer’s daughter. As the planet starts approaching Earth, however, other planets start to disappear, leading to trouble for both its discoverer, and young Remina as well.

I love this book. It’s a great story that you can finish in just one sitting, but it has quite the impact that leaves you satisfied. The last few pages especially leave you with this strong feeling that there is no other way the author could have finished the manga without sacrificing the quality. Yeah, some elements are a little hard to believe, but who cares? It’s still an excellent science-horror story that shows how humans react in the face of annihilation, and how attributing blame to the wrong person can ruin lives.

Still waiting for a movie based on this. The fact that nobody has yet bewilders me. Get on that, Hollywood!

Click here for my full review.

CHAMPAGNE–Your favorite book!

That’s an easy one, it’s Kill Creek by Scott Thomas. Still my favorite novel these days. Four famous horror writers go to a reputedly haunted house for a publicity event, but end up awakening something powerful and dark. Something that takes control of their lives and twists them for its own use. And if they’re not careful, they will die because of it.

This novel was a revelation for me. It basically lists the qualities of Gothic novels in the early chapters and then uses those qualities to great effect. Plus, the characters all feel like real people and you really come to love them, especially the four writers (TC Moore, you are the bomb!).Hell, it’s so good I bought my own copy after listening to the audio book fifty thousand times, and I sent a copy to a friend who did me a big favor recently as a thank you.

If you’re a horror fan but haven’t read this one yet, at the very least put it on your TBR list. Trust me, you won’t regret it.

Click here for my full review.


Those are picks. What did you think? Have you read any of them? Are there any you want to read? What would you pick? Let’s discuss in the comments below.

And if you like this tag and think you’d like to try it, THEN CONSIDER YOURSELF TAGGED!!! I hope you enjoy doing the tag and maybe you’ll link back to me so I can see your answers.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I hope to be back for another post very soon. Until next time, I’m off to enjoy a beer (I’m saving the wine for Passover, because that’s really the only alcohol you can drink during that holiday) and do a late-night writing session. Pleasant nightmares and watch out for “Agoraphobia” coming out in just over nine days (links below!).

Agoraphobia:Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada

Me and my roommate Jonesy in my old apartment.

Funny story: earlier this week, I found out I lost some weight, even though I hadn’t expected it (if anything, I thought I gained). I’m talking to my dad about it and say, “I’ve no idea what happened. I’ll have to watch my weight carefully for a while. Make sure I’m not going through something like out of Stephen King’s Thinner.”

My dad has never read a Stephen King novel in his life. His response was, “…okay.”

Me: “Trust me, it did not end well for the guy suddenly losing weight in that book.”

And if you count that as a spoiler, remember that book is nine years older than me. What were you doing these past thirty-seven years?

Okay, onto the meat of this post. The audience on this blog has been growing by leaps and bound lately. So first off, hi everyone. Thank you for joining the Followers of Fear. We don’t (normally) sacrifice members and there are hidden benefits to joining. Namely you’ll likely survive when I start the Apocalypse. Maybe.

Second, since there are so many of you, I thought you should know something about me and my works. First off, me: I’m a novelist from Ohio specializing in horror and dark fantasy. I like reading and writing, anime and horror movies, and being an unabashed eccentric. I also have three books and a short story on e-book available right now, so if you don’t mind (and if it doesn’t make you want to unfollow me), I’d like to tell you about those books. You know, in case you’re interested.

I won’t mention the e-book, though. I did that last post.

The Quiet Game: Five Tales to Chill Your Bones

In his publishing debut, Rami Ungar brings us five terrifying stories of darkness in magic. You can experience the strange visions of a man battling sex addiction in “Addict”. Or feel the wrath of an enraged dybbuk in “Samson Weiss’s Curse”. Face your fears in Gene Adkin’s Murder House in “I’m Going To Be The Next James Bond” and then journey with a young autistic “In The Lady Ogre’s Den”. But most of all, prepare to play the most insidious game of all: The Quiet Game.

My second foray into self-publishing. While a lot of these stories aren’t as scary or as well-polished as some of my later work, I think they’re still enjoyable to a degree. Plus, I had a lot of fun writing these stories. Give it a shot if you’re interested.

Available on Amazon, Createspace, Barnes & Noble, iBooksSmashwords, and Kobo.

Snake

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.

A homage to my burgeoning love to slashers, too many James Patterson novels, and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, this was another one I had fun with. It’s also, too date, my longest book, over 100,00 words! And yet, people still find it a quick read. Must be the fast pace. Anyway, check it out if you like unusual tales about serial killers in your diet.

Available on AmazonCreatespace, Barnes & Noble, iBooksSmashwords, and Kobo

Rose

Rose Taggert awakens in a greenhouse with no clear memory of the past two years and, to her horror, finds her body transformed into an unrecognizable form.
Paris Kuyper has convinced Rose that they are lovers, and as Paris could not bear for her to die, he has used an ancient and dark magic to save her from certain death.
But the dark magic Paris has used comes at a price. A price which a terrible demon is determined to extract from Rose.
As Rose struggles to understand what is happening to her, she must navigate Paris’s lies and secrets; secrets that Paris will do anything to protect.

I wrote this novel back in my last year of college as my thesis. It took five years, and more rewrites than I care to remember, but the novel was accepted by Castrum Press, my first novel with a publisher (and hopefully not the last). And you know what? Nearly two years later, it only just got its first one-star review! Yeah, that’s a record (and something I hold as a badge of pride). I think that makes it worth a try, don’t you?

Rose: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada, Audible


So, those are my published works. And I hope to follow them up with plenty more. And while I work on those, I hope you’ll consider not only checking out these stories, but letting me know what you think once you’ve read them. I love getting reader feedback, no matter what that feedback is, and it helps me out in the long run.

Well, that’s all for now. I’m off to get a lot of sleep. Followers of Fear, stay safe, have a great weekend, 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.

Photo by Dmitry Demidov on Pexels.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I first read the source material by authors Richard and Billy Chizmar in the Dark Tides Charity Anthology (which I highly recommend and not just because proceeds go to charity) back in April. I found it terrifying, psychologically thrilling. I even expressed on Twitter that I thought it might make a good movie, though I doubted one would be made right after the release of The Lighthouse. Then about a month or two ago, I found out a movie had not only been made, but would be coming out on September 1st. I had some free time, so I rented it off YouTube and sat down to check it out.

Widow’s Point follows Thomas Livingston, an author and paranormal investigator who is doing an investigation of the infamous Widow’s Point lighthouse in Harper’s Cove, Maine. The lighthouse has witnessed numerous murders and suicides over the years, making many speculate it’s haunted. Livingston and his crew arrive to stay the weekend and hopefully make some quick cash. Too bad he’s going to get so much more.

I feel like I was watching a Stephen King miniseries or TV movie from the 1990s, with a bit of classic Doctor Who serials. Yeah, on the surface it does seem a bit hokey and amateurish, and the one or two special effects are laughable. But it’s a lot of fun to watch, and I keep smiling when I think of the film and my experience watching it. Also, since all of the actors were unknown to me and looked like people I might see on the street, it gave the film a weird sort of plausibility. Like, this could happen to average joes. Add in a little suspension of disbelief, and you can believe in the story.

On top of that, there were some scary moments. Particularly when Livingston, played by Craig Sheffer,* is undergoing psychological stress and his mind is really beginning to snap. Those moments gave me some chills, I’ll tell you. And a lot of attention is paid to historical detail with flashback scenes detailing the lighthouse’s history, which I loved as a fan of history.

But there are things I didn’t care for. Like I said, the special effects were laughable, and I disliked how the filmmakers tried to give an explanation to the lighthouse’s evil, rather than leaving it mysterious like in the original short story. Sometimes less is more, and it certainly would have been more here.

All in all though, Widow’s Point is a nice guilty pleasure horror movie to start the Halloween season with. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving it a 3.5. It probably won’t make you shit your pants in terror, but it’s entertaining and will scratch that horror itch. It’s on DVD and streaming sites, so give it a go if you’re interested.

 

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m off to work on one of my own stories. Until next time, stay safe and pleasant nightmares!

*By the way, I want this guy to narrate an audio book of one of my stories someday.

The other day, I was scrolling through my Twitter feed and I saw a tweet from a fellow writer in the writing community (or #WritingCommunity). This was the tweet.

Now, if the tweet hasn’t loaded properly into this blog post at the time you’re reading this, it’s from writer Rey Roland using the hashtag @rrowlandwrites and goes like this:

#WritingCommunity do you think that characters have to make mistakes in a story?

I found the question stimulating, so after some back and forth between us, I decided to do a full post on the question (hope you don’t mind, Rey).

So, can and should characters make mistakes? First, let me start with can: yes, characters can make mistakes. In fact, there are plenty of stories where characters make mistakes which become integral to the plot. And yes, characters should on occasion make mistakes, though it depends heavily on the story. A character shouldn’t make a mistake just for the sake of making one when it serves no purpose to the story. Otherwise, the readers will think it’s weird.

Of course, this leads to an even bigger question: is there a benefit to having characters make mistakes? Actually, there are multiple benefits to having a character who makes mistakes.

For one thing, characters who make mistakes are easier to empathize with. Not to say characters incapable of making mistakes can’t be empathized with, but it does make a character more human and easier to identify with for the audience. The possibility of a reader continuing with a story can depend greatly on their connection to the protagonist, so showing them as being like the reader–more human–can be an advantage.

Edmund Pevensie’s mistake was a major driver of the story.

Another reason to have characters make mistakes is that it can help the story along or add to its complexity. Sometimes, it’s even the catalyst of the story. In The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, Edmund makes the mistake of falling under the White Witch’s spell, and betraying his siblings adding both an extra dilemma to an already difficult situation and giving the character a redemption arc during the story. And in the manga Death Note, Light Yagami tries to eliminate suspicion of himself as the murderer Kira by killing the FBI agent following him, as well as the other FBI agents following other suspects. However, this eventually just leads to him becoming a prime suspect again, a problem which lasts the rest of the series.

Of course, it isn’t just protagonists who make major mistakes. Minor characters make mistakes all the time, and they often benefit the plot significantly. In Ania Ahlborn’s novel The Devil Crept In, the protagonist’s mother makes the mistake of not treating her son’s obvious mental issues, which has major consequences before, during and after the story. And in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Cho Chang’s best friend Marietta Edgecombe tells Umbridge about Dumbledore’s Army, leading to the organization’s dissolution, Dumbledore’s exile and Umbridge’s assent at Hogwarts, and boils to appear on her face in the shape of the word “SNEAK.”

And villains make mistakes all the time. Often, that’s how their downfall begins. Often, these mistakes are due to the villains’ pride, ignorance, or some other character flaw. Voldemort doesn’t believe anyone will find his Horcruxes; Bane talks too much and doesn’t watch his six; Annie Wilkes is so obsessed with her Misery Chastain novels, she falls for Paul Sheldon’s trick; the White Witch doesn’t read the instructions carefully and misses the deeper magic in the Stone Table; Kaecilius also doesn’t read the instructions and misses what actually happens when you join Dormammu’s dimension; and the Wicked Witch allows water in her castle for some reason, even though she has a serious water allergy (I guess the book version thought Dorothy would never think to use water against her?).

As you can see from the above, not only can and should characters be able to make mistakes, but there are numerous benefits to doing so. Whether to include one or not depends on the author, character(s), and story in question. However, if an opportunity comes up and you think it’ll ultimately benefit the plot, I say do it. Who knows? It could be a major turning point in the story, and the moment readers talk about for years to come.

I hope you found this post edifying, my Followers of Fear. I had fun writing it. And I hope Rey Rowland (whose Twitter page you can find here) enjoys reading this. Thanks for the mental stimulation.

That’s all for now. I’ll check in with you all very soon, I’m sure. So, until next time, stay safe, pleasant nightmares, and DON’T TAKE THAT ACTION! IT’S THE KIND OF MISTAKE THAT’LL LAND YOU IN A HORROR STORY! AND NOT ONE WRITTEN BY ME.

NOS4A2‘s TV series has been a highlight to my week during the pandemic. And given how well season one adapted the first half of the source material (see my review here), I was eager to see how well they adapted the second half, when protagonist Vic McQueen is a mom trying to protect her son Wayne from Charlie Manx.

I’m happy to report that season two is better than season one. Not only that, it’s great stuff.

Eight years after her first clash with the vampiric wraith Charlie Manx, Vic is struggling to be a good mom to her son while also battling her own demons. She hopes that life will improve when it’s reported that Manx is dead, but things are never that simple. Not only is Manx still alive, but he’s out for revenge against Vic. And he’ll use her own son Wayne to achieve that revenge if Vic isn’t fast enough.

What I liked about this season was that, while adapting events from the book, they added in things that contributed to the story. This was a welcome change from the first season, where they added crap like a halfhearted love triangle and Vic partying with rich kids right before a showdown with Manx. Highlights include the episode around the original character the Hourglass, the deteriorating relationship between Manx and his assistant Bing Partridge, and scenes involving Manx’s previously-unrevealed backstory.

I also liked how they fleshed out some of the side characters. Vic’s partner Lou Carmody gets plenty of time to shine and show what sort of person he is, rather than the love interests from the first season, who can be summed up as “rich kid who likes a girl from the other side of the tracks” and “stoner with a heart of gold and a crush on his childhood friend.” Another character who gets fleshed out is Millie, Manx’s daughter and his first victim. In this season, she takes on a central role as she starts to question her world and her father. It’s fascinating to see her discover so much about her father and herself throughout the show.

Add in some scares and tension, as well as some great acting and storytelling, and you get an awesome second season.

I do have some criticisms though. For one thing, while it’s cool to see how Charlie Manx came to be the monster he is, there’s too much emphasis on making him somewhat sympathetic. And you know what? I don’t want to sympathize with Charlie Manx. He’s a monstrous character who uses the kids he “rescues” while at the same time believing his own propaganda. I really don’t want to sympathize with that.

Another issue is that Craig, Wayne’s biological father, makes a few appearances in the latter half of the season, but it feels unfulfilled. We see him a few times, and then he’s kind of forgotten. I would have liked to see him utilized a bit more at the end of the season.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving NOS4A2 season two a 4.8 out of 5. It’s a freaky, thrilling ride that improves on the first season and makes revisiting this world a pleasure. There’s a possibility that a third season might happen (whatever that might look like), so you might want to grab your seat belt and catch up on the series while there’s still time.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ll be posting another review soon, as I bought advanced tickets to see The New Mutants in theaters. That’s right, I’m going to a movie theater. And should I survive the experience, I’ll hopefully have a new review for you all.

Until then, stay safe and pleasant nightmares!

You would think that in the midst of a pandemic, nobody would be interested in pandemic fiction. Paul Tremblay’s new novel Survivor Song, released just last month, is about a pandemic (still trying to figure out if that’s coincidence or if Tremblay knew COVID-19 was on its way and wrote the story in response). And yet I, and many others, picked it up as soon as we could, and devoured it. I got it done in about a week, reading through the last half today. So yes, even in the midst of a pandemic, there’s an appetite for pandemic fiction. And Survivor Song is a welcome addition to the fold.

Survivor Song follows Dr. Ramola Sherman, a pediatrician experiencing a pandemic of her own in her state of Massachusetts. This one is a fast-moving form of rabies, one that affects its host within hours instead of days or weeks. As fear, anger, and conspiracy swirls around the state, Ramola gets a call from her best friend, Natalie, who is eight months pregnant and ready to burst. An infected man killed her husband and bit her. Thus begins a saga to find someplace to get Natalie treated, to save her and her baby. But with rabid humans and animals everywhere and time running out, can Ramola help anyone, let alone her friend and her friend’s baby?

A pandemic story with a slash of zombie thriller (though Dr. Sherman will remind you, none of the infected are zombies), Tremblay’s novel offers a stark, believable story of a disease running rampant through the state and the problems that come up in such a situation. That said, there are plenty of twists and unexpected turns, and they add to the tension of a clock running out of the story. Quite a few times I read something and was like, “Oh no!” or “Well, that’s a complication.” I also loved how Tremblay managed to hit on a lot of what we’re seeing in our current situation, including but not limited to: hospitals fighting an uphill battle; people not obeying health guidelines or employing easy “solutions” that are actually problematic; and crazy, convoluted conspiracy theories.

Also, that ending! Guy knows how to write a tense climax.

At the same time, there’s a deep-running love story here. Not a romance story or romantic love, but love between friends and a mother and child. Through Ramola and Natalie’s interactions, and the messages Natalie leaves to her child, you really come to care for these characters and hope for the best despite the threat of the worst.

If there’s one thing I didn’t care for and would’ve liked to see changed, it’s the ending of the story for Josh and Luis, two teens whom Ramola and Natalie meet while trying to get to the hospital. They were in the story for only a short time, but I really grew to like those goofy nerds and would’ve liked to see more of them in the story, or maybe in a story of their own. And not just because they were Doctor Who fans (Whovians, unite!).

All in all, Survivor Song by Paul Tremblay is a thrilling and emotional read and perfect for these mad times. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving the book a 4.5. Stay inside, grab a bite, and get ready for one roller-coaster of a story. Just hope the bite you grab isn’t something biting your arm off while you’re at it.

And while I still have your attention, guess what happened last night? Stephen King tweeted about this book, and I replied mentioning my progress in it and when I hoped to have it finished. He retweeted it. King retweeted it! And I’ve been fangirling ever since (while at the same time daring to hope this isn’t the last time I end up on his radar). What a world, right?

Ramsey and I doing a selfie in Greenville. And we were in Ramsey’s car, which was why we didn’t wear masks.

I would like to mention that this post is not paid for by the South Carolina Board of Tourism. However, if they would like to pay me, they can figure out how to contact me.

As many of you know, after I left Iowa, I flew to South Carolina to visit my buddy Ramsey, whom you may remember from the New Year’s video I filmed back in January (such innocent times those were). Ramsey lives in Greenville, so we spent the first day there just exploring the city, and I have to say, Greenville was really nice to be in. And not just because it had Borderlands, a comic book store where I finally obtained a Stephen King FunkoPop (though that was cool). What I saw was a small city that’s growing and has a lot to offer. They even have something of a scenic nature park and waterfall in the downtown area. Made for some really great photos, like the one below.

A view of downtown Greenville, SC.

The buildings were also nice to look at, all with this regal nature in their construction and design. It was fun just to look at them, let alone walk around and see them. And of course, there were plenty of houses that looked like they’d been around since the antebellum period, and I enjoyed seeing them as well. They’re not Queen Anne Revival style, which was the preferred style of the Victorian era and my preferred kind of house, but they made me want to live there.

We also almost visited the Confederate History Museum, but it was closed when we arrived. Probably a good thing, because it might’ve been hard for me to hold my tongue in such a place.

Oh, and guess who else lives in Greenville? Sara Parlier, the narrator for Rose‘s audio book (which I highly encourage you to download and check out)! We met up for breakfast outside a nearby Starbucks and managed to have a nice talk (though we made sure to social distance and wear masks as well). That was a cool experience, especially since with everything going on, I didn’t think we would be able to meet. Glad I was able to see her, and I hope we can do it again someday.

Sara Parlier and I meeting for breakfast. We only sat this close because of the photo, believe me.

Ramsey and I also drove down to Charleston for a couple days, and–wow! Charleston is a beautiful city. Some of those buildings have been around since the 17th and 18th centuries or have been built/renovated to match that style, so it kind of feels like you’re stepping back in time. We stayed at the Meeting Street Inn in the historic district, which is just beautiful and enhanced the feeling of stepping back in time, and then spent a good part of the day exploring the Historic District and checking out the waterfront. And despite the Confederate monuments here and there, Charleston is a beautiful place to walk around and take photos of. There’s the Four Corners of Law, at the intersection of Broad and Meeting, which have building that are or were used for various kinds of law at one point or another; Rainbow Row, a series of houses and buildings where the houses are in a rainbow of colors; and the Circular Church, a church dating back to 1681 that looks like it could be the setting of a Gothic novel or movie.

And quite a few of these places ended up on the ghost tour Ramsey and I took (more on that in another post).

St. Michael’s Anglican Church, which you can see from almost anywhere in the Historic District, and one of my favorite buildings from the area.

Also, if you’re able to get a reservation, I recommend Hyman’s Seafood. It’s pretty famous in the area, has been around for decades, has had numerous celebrities eat there over the years, and it has a kosher menu! Yeah, apparently the owners are Jewish and took a few measures so that fellow members of the Tribe can have meat there as well. Second best brisket I’ve ever had (after my mom’s, of course).

The next day, we took a trip out to Patriot’s Point, where you could see both Fort Sumter, where the Civil War started, and the USS Yorktown, which saw combat in WWII. As we’d both majored in History at Ohio State, it was a treat for the both of us. Not to mention taking a ferry to and from Fort Sumter was pretty cool.

Fort Sumter from the ferry.

The USS Yorktown, an aircraft carrier from WWII.

It would take too many words to talk about my impressions of both places, but to say the least, seeing these preserved testaments to past wars was humbling and a little haunting, too. You really get to see and even feel how people living in those places and fighting those wars might’ve felt. I especially liked the USS Yorktown, as WWII is of interest to me (and I have an idea for a story aboard an aircraft carrier). You get to see planes used in WWII and Korea, as well as the flight deck, the areas the soldiers and sailors lived, and even a Medal of Honor museum, among other things. When it comes time to do research for that story, I’ll definitely be coming back to see the Yorktown.

And speaking of which, I may have encountered some paranormal stuff aboard the Yorktown. Wasn’t expecting it, though I did buy a book about hauntings aboard the ship earlier in the day in the gift shop. While buying a snack from the vending machine, I turned around to see where Ramsey had gotten off to, and in turning my head, I swear I saw a woman who was gone the second I looked back. I was like, “Did I just see that?” And in the Engine Room, which was empty but for Ramsey and me, we had this strange feeling of being watched. Which isn’t so strange, when you read in the book that people have had experiences in that room as well. At the time though, we had no idea about that, and we were just freaked out about feeling watched. We were almost glad to be out of the Engine Room, with its oppressive air!

Not saying it’s ghosts, but I am saying it’s unexplained.

Our last stop was Folly Beach, a small beach town where, surprisingly, people were social distancing while still enjoying themselves. Ramsey and I took turns watching our stuff and swimming in the ocean, which I hadn’t done in years. And there’s something wonderfully childlike about swimming in the ocean. You get such a kick by bending down so you’re up to the shoulders in the sea, of jumping so the waves carry you along with them.

I’m honestly sad we had to leave the next morning. South Carolina was a beautiful place to visit and I would love to come by again and see it again. And given my friendship with Ramsey and the stories I could write inspired by my trip, I think I will.

Thanks to Ramsey and his mother for being such wonderful hosts while I was with you, and showing me your lovely state. I hope we can see each other again very soon. Until then, hope you’re all doing well, and stay safe.

And I’ll have more posts out this week, my Followers of Fear. So until then, stay safe and pleasant nightmares!

From left to right: Monica Ware; Harlie “Harlie Quinn” Jones; me; Charles Naylor; and Joleene Naylor. Photo taken by Joleene’s brother Chris Harris, offscreen.

You’ve been waiting patiently for this post. Now here it comes. My recap of our amateur investigation of the Villisca Axe Murder House! Or at least part one of it (what can I say, a lot happened in two days!).

Now, a little refresher for those of you not up on your macabre American history. In June 1912, the Moore family–Josiah Moore, Sara Moore, their three sons and daughter–plus two friends of their daughter were murdered overnight at the Moore residence with an axe. The crime is currently unsolved and is Iowa’s oldest cold case. The house where the murders happened still stands, and is available for tours and for overnights, and is reputed to be haunted.

The Villisca Axe Murder House has been on my list of haunted places to visit since 2015, and my friend/colleague Joleene Naylor lives right by the house, so it was inevitable that I would someday visit. And when an opportunity afforded itself earlier this year, we reserved the house for a night with the hopes of experiencing paranormal activity.

Before we visited the house itself though, Joleene and Charles showed me around their hometown of Villisca. And I have to say, it’s a beautiful little town. There’s a central square where most of the town business and activity takes place. Some buildings are closed down, but others are in the process of being remade into new businesses, even in the midst of a pandemic. What really surprised me, though, was the business on one of the main streets.

Yeah, you’re seeing that right. That’s Needful Things, as in the shop from the Stephen King novel of the same name. Trust Leland Gaunt to find a town with dark history to set up shop in! Joleene, if you and Charles are reading this, your family better be prepared to save Villisca from itself!

After that, we headed out to the town cemetery to see the actual graves of the Moores and the Stillingers, the two girls who were murdered alongside the Moores.

Front entrance to the Villisca Cemetery.

The Moore family tombstone.

The Moore children’s tombstone. Many people leave toys and, for some reason, coins on the graves.

Me at the Stillinger girls’ graves.

Yeah, sobering reminder that the only reason this house is known is because of a grizzly murder. One involving six children. Doesn’t stop me from wanting to find ghosts and interact with them, let alone the ones in that house, but it’s something to think about before you go into that house.

We also passed by the Senator’s House, pictured below. Named after its famous former owner, Senator Frank Jones, who was rumored to be involved somehow in the murders. It’s a beautiful old house, though one with a history. Which might explain why it’s currently unoccupied, if I remember what Joleene and Charles told me.

The Senator’s House

After seeing those sights, we went through the suburbs of Villisca, allowing me to see my first view of the Axe Murder House, and Joleene’s beautiful home, featured below. I loved seeing the many homes in Villisca. Most of them are beautiful Victorians, the kind of home that I would love to live in (no surprise there). And apparently it’s very affordable to live in Iowa, which tempted me to buy a house or at least put down a down payment. I had to really think about that before I did, though.

Hilariously enough, Joleene said many people prefer the ranch houses, which I saw fewer of but were present in the neighborhood. I don’t know why. Yeah, Victorians are a lot of work to maintain, but they have such beauty and history!

Now, onto the investigation of the Axe Murder House! Joleene, Charles and I arrived a little before four o’clock, and our guide came by a little while later. And after I signed the papers and set up my new GoPro, we got started on the tour, which you can find in this video.

Yeah, I figured out how to turn the video off. And I don’t know if you noticed, but there are a ton of coins around the home. I know the parents’ room was rather dark, owing to my GoPro not having night vision, but they were there too. We think that might be from people hoping the ghosts will knock the coins off surfaces or move them. Nothing like that happened while we were there, but other stuff did.

More on that in a bit. First, let me make a few observations about the house. As I said, it’s a lot smaller than I expected. But it differs in other ways from expected. I think part of me expected it to be like the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast, recreated to look very close to what it looked like back in the day, though with a few modern amenities. In actuality, it’s been mostly preserved in the same state it was in when the house was turned into a museum. In addition, the house is also full of toys, dolls and other knickknacks. It feels more like it was decorated to be more pleasing to the spirits living there, especially the children. And you know what? I kind of like that.

Also, it’s not a bed and breakfast, and the only amenities are the air conditioning units on both floors.

After the tour guide had left and we got settled into the house, we decided to pass the time waiting for our two other companions for the night, Joleene’s friend Monica Ware and her stepdaughter Harlie Jones–the little girl mentioned by Joleene at the end of the video–by doing a dowsing rods session in the girls’ room. You know, the room where those two girls were killed and where a dude stabbed himself a few years ago?

Here’s that video for your viewing terror.

We cut the session short because Monica and Harlie arrived and we wanted to get them up to speed. After another quick tour through the house, during which Harley refused to check under the bed where, as a toddler, she saw those “weird kids,” we had a little fun locking Joleene in the upstairs closet.

Yeah, we’re still laughing about that one a week later. Especially now it’s on the Internet forever.

After the fun and games were over though, I somehow managed to convince Harlie to do a dowsing rods session in the girls room downstairs. I figured that since she was around the same age as the older girl, Lena Stillinger, and had seen the kids’ spirits when she was younger, she might have better luck than me in communicating with the spirits. And although she was a little too freaked to actually ask the spirits to manifest (understandable, I guess), she did a very good job drawing them out and asking questions.

Forgive how dark the video was. We were working with what daylight we had, and it appeared brighter when we were filming. Also, if you’re wondering why we didn’t explore the basement of the house, it’s because while we could access it, the door needed repairs, and we didn’t want to worsen that.

After that session, Joleene’s brother Chris, who took the photo at the top of this post, arrived. We then locked up the house and left for dinner in town, unaware of what would occur while we were gone.

But that will have to wait until Part 2 of my recap.

That’s Part 1, my Followers of Fear. I’ll hopefully have Part 2 up very soon. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!