Posts Tagged ‘Stephen King’

I’ve been asked this before numerous times in one way or another. “What advice do you have for new writers?” Well, there’s one thing that always comes to mind. And the past couple of years, the thing I’ve come back to, time and time again, is this: “You need to carve out the time to right.”

Yeah, that’s the advice. A lot of people want to write, but they say they don’t have the time to write, or that they can’t find the time, or there’s just not enough time in the day. I often reply, “Well, you’re going to have to carve out the time. If you’re serious about writing that story. There’s no time fairy who’s just going to grant you time to write.”

Sounds kind of caustic, and it is. But it’s also true. For one thing, I’ve never seen a single fairy, let alone one that grants time to would-be writers. For another, the time to write just doesn’t find you. It doesn’t drop out of the sky and into your lap. And yeah, there is only 24 hours in a day, with hopefully only 8 of them devoted to a day job and the other 16 sleeping and personal stuff.

Fact of the matter is, if you don’t make time, even just half an hour, to write, you won’t ever get the time to write.

I mean, if you want to cut out sleeping, you’ll find that time, but from a health standpoint you’ll really suffer.

But I understand why people say they don’t have the time. Finding that time can be hellishly difficult. Besides day jobs and sleep, people need to do chores around the home, take care of family obligations, and finding time to relax after a long day.

Still, you can find time. Plenty of others have done it before. Even when he was raising three kids under the sage of six and was living out of a trailer, Stephen King found time to write 2500 words a day. That’s how he wrote Carrie, which later launched him into the stratosphere. And my friend/colleague Angela Misri wrote every day on the bus to and from work in moleskine notebooks. That’s how she wrote her Portia Adams books, and they’ve been pretty successful.

As for me, I write in the evenings between dinner and bed (though on weekends or days off I try to write during that free time as well). I’ve been doing that for years, and it’s how I’ve written some of my best work. Yeah, it helps that I’m only responsible for myself, don’t have kids, and writing helps me destress. But I still carve out that time most nights to get work done, because I want to get those stories done and out there. I want to write for the rest of my life. So I carve out that time.

And if you really want to tell those stories and get them out into the world, you’ll find the time. It may take some changes to your schedules, or maybe some changes in your life, but if you’re serious, you’ll be able to find the time. Like I said, plenty of people have before and plenty of people in the future. That includes me, and that includes you.

How do you find time to write? Did you make changes to your life or schedule to do it? Has it helped? Let’s discuss in the comments below.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Just wanted to get something out to you sooner rather than later, and this seemed like a good subject to post about.

Until next time, good night, pleasant nightmares, and–oh look, a fairy! Oh, you want to join my Army of Nightmares and help me accomplish my goals? Okay, let’s go! To the dragon bats!

For those of you who don’t know, “squicky” refers to something that is very disturbing, disgusting, and/or unpleasant. In horror, it usually refers to something out of what Stephen King calls “the gross-out factor” of horror, with lots of blood and gore and bodily fluids. Occasionally squicky scenes (or at least most of the ones I’ve encountered) also have some sexual element, though not the kind that would indicate any form of healthy sex. Squicky scenes are the ones that make readers think, “Good Lord, what’s wrong with this author?” And they make the author’s parents go, “what kind of freak did we raise that they could come up with this?”

On a personal level, I can go either way with squickiness. Sometimes, like with the Evil Dead remake in 2013, I find that’s part of the charm of the movie. And I’m looking forward to watching Terrifier 2 because its squickiness reportedly caused people to vomit and faint in the theaters (though hopefully not at the same time). But when it comes to stories like Human Centipede and its sequels, where the very concept is squicky, I run the opposite way.*

That being said, I find myself writing squicky scenes more and more in my work. There’s a scene like that in my Backrooms story “It Changes You,” and one of the stories in my upcoming collection Hannah and Other Stories has plenty of squick in it. And there’s a particular story I hope to start writing soon that will have you shuddering from the squick! It’s going to be a blast.

Why am I writing these scenes? Well, part of it is because I’ve seen other authors in the books I read writing them and that has inspired/urged me to try writing them as well. Another is that, in my continual quest to improve as a writer, I’m trying to push myself to step more and more out of my comfort zone and try things that I wouldn’t normally write. And a third part is that, when done right, those scenes make the story scarier and make the story stand out to readers.

That being said, writing those scenes isn’t easy. I’m usually thinking three things when working on a squick moment: is this too much? Is this not enough? And am I using the right words to bring out the full squicky nature of the scene? Since some of these stories haven’t released yet, I can’t be certain. You’re trying to balance several elements like word choice, time spent on a particular moment, translating that horrifying moment from your brain to the page, and how it fits into the story as a whole, among others. A single misstep and people might call you “shocking for shock’s sake” or “exploitative.”

That being said, people are going to call you that anyway. Besides Human Centipede, other films like the Saw movies or Texas Chainsaw Massacre are full of squicky moments and features. I know authors whose books are filled with squick. And you’ll find that each one has both detractors and fans. It just depends on the person, what they’re capable of stomaching, and what personally draws them to the story.

As for advice on writing squicky scenes, I don’t have much, unfortunately. Like I said, I don’t write them too often. But I do think that, unless your main thought when writing a story is, “I want readers to be shocked and grossed out and wincing with every paragraph,” only use squick when it works for the story. If it adds something to the story, great, keep it. If it doesn’t, then perhaps think about whether you should include such a scene.

This entire film is squicky and I want nothing to do with it.

Also, and while it may be stomach churning, read what others have done with squick and try to pick up what makes their takes effective. Once you do that, you can hopefully get some practice in and start creating scenes and stories that, over time, will produce the same effect those scenes produce in other readers and in you.

All that being said, if squick isn’t your thing, don’t push yourself to include it. The thing about horror, there’s a niche for everyone. You prefer things to be gory and gross and shocking, there’s something for you. You like ghosts and psychological stuff? There’s something there for you. You like cosmic beings whose very appearance causes insanity? Yep, there’s something for you.

Anyway, I just wanted to talk about these scenes I’m writing and my thoughts on them. I hope that when some of these stories with their squick-inducing moments release, they’ll be quite effective and add plenty to the story. Now, if you need me, I’m off to watch some scary movies.

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

Do you enjoy squicky scenes? Do you write them often? What advice do you have for writing and including them in your horror?

*Seriously, you could not pay me to watch those films. Anyone tries, I will smack them into next week and make my escape in the meantime. I’m already screwed up enough, thank you very much! Don’t need to be twisted any further.

Before we start, I would like to thank Lucy A. Snyder and the team at Tor Nightfire for providing me with an ARC copy to read (and a special thank you to Lucy for the awesome galley copy she gave me a few months back).

Set a few years after our current COVID-19 pandemic, Sister, Maiden, Monster follows three separate women as their lives are affected by a terrible new disease raging across the planet. Known as polymorphic viral gastroencephalitis, or PVG, the disease is like the stomach flu from hell. For those who are lucky, it kills them very quickly. For the rest, it changes them, making them unable to eat most sources of nutrients. They have to get their nutrition through rather macabre means. And that’s only the start of the apocalypse that’s going to come.

So, it looks like there’s still an appetite for pandemic fiction, even after a real pandemic. At least, if the release of Sister, Maiden, Monster, the airing of “The Last of Us,” and one or two of my own stories, among other works, areanything to go by. And everyone telling those stories are making sure the hypothetical future pandemics are even more terrible than COVID-19 was. Which, honestly, I gotta respect.

Alright, onto the story. Sister, Maiden, Monster was great. I really enjoyed it. For one thing, the three main characters are really well-developed, which is great in such a character-driven story. There’s Erin, who’s seeing her life implode and strange new desires growing inside her after becoming infected; Savannah, a prostitute and dominatrix who discovers she has a talent for causing death in the name of new masters; and Mareva, a sickly woman who has been chosen for a terrible purpose. I really got to know these characters and get inside their minds. Which, by the way, was not always the most pleasant ride, believe me.

Speaking of which, Lucy Snyder does not shy away from showing what Stephen King calls the “gross-out” factor of horror. There are bloods, brains, gore, and plenty more body horror to make more squeamish readers feel faint. Add in the isolation and paranoia of living through another pandemic, this one worse than the one preceding it, as well as some good and delicious cosmic horror, and it makes for a rather scary read.

I did think that the time spent with each narrator was unbalanced. Somewhere between a third and half the book is from Erin’s perspective, and while I get why, I would have liked to see more from the other two narrators. Especially Savannah. That lady is wild and a lot of fun to read, even if you would be horrified by her if she were real.

I also noticed that something that appeared later in the book and which I loved seeing was foreshadowed earlier in the story, but I felt it could have been foreshadowed a bit more. Hell, I nearly forgot about the foreshadowing until the reveal, so that says something.

All in all, Sister, Maiden, Monster is a great, body horror-filled ride and I’m glad I got to be among the first to read it. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving it a 4.3. The book releases this Tuesday, February 21st, so go preorder a copy, settle down when you get yours, and get ready to see the horror of the pandemic go through a terrifying metamorphosis.

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

I’ve been saying it all weekend, in person and on my other social media: one of the things I love about writing (among others) is getting to add my interests to the stories I write. And not just interests: I get to play with my favorite tropes, character types/archetypes, locations, and so much more.

And I’m not the only one: Stephen King likes to set his stories mostly in Maine or other parts of New England, have characters who are either writers or psychics (with the latter often being children), and just getting into weird ideas like aliens or extradimensional entities. Anne Rice enjoyed placing her stories throughout history, particularly places that are beautiful in some way or another, and telling stories that delve into our cruel but beautiful world (AKA the Savage Garden) via supernatural but very human creatures. Riley Sager enjoys deconstructing and turning classic horror movie tropes on their heads by making them the entire plots of his books, female leads who have some deep trauma in their pasts that affect their present, and a male romantic interest whom they should have no business getting with. HP Lovecraft–wait, let’s not get into him. We know what he liked, as well as what he hated.

As for me, I’ve got a few. For one thing, I like to include ballet and ballerinas in my stories. Part of that is that I love ballet like some people like football, but there’s also a symbolic reason. As I’ve said before, corruption of the innocent is one of my favorite elements of horror and ballerinas, particularly young ballerinas, are a symbol of innocence to me. With that reason, it’s no wonder I tend to add ballet and ballerinas to my stories when I get the chance. Though given that I write horror, I often put those poor dancers through hell. Just look at Maddy Taggert in Rose and Annie Hummel in “The Dedication of the Hight Priestess.”

Though whether or not that pattern holds with the dancer character in Crawler, I’ll let you guess.

I also enjoy putting my nerdy interests into my stories when I can. For example, in my WIP I’m working on now, I’ve included references to anime, fantasy tropes, and Doctor Who, among other things. In that same story, I also modeled two characters after the original detectives in Law & Order and named them after the actors who played them. And with half the story still left to write, I can probably find more room to add those in. It’s a blast when I do!

Some other things I like adding with my work when I can are:

  • setting my stories in Ohio
  • making some of my major characters Jewish like myself
  • noting the tropes I might be using while the character denies that their life is working like a story.
  • references to famous movies and books, especially those in the horror genre
  • my favorite periods in history (such as The Pure World Comes for Victorian England)
  • and powerful, sometimes godlike entities that often come from realms very much unlike our own
I love it when I get a chance to reference this show in a story.

And these are just the ones that I’m aware of. Some things are more noticeable to authors than others. I’m sure as I write and publish more, others will point out things about my writing that I never noticed before but will find very true.

But yeah, this sort of thing is a perk of writing fiction. They say “write what you know,” but what that actually entails is often quite different than what our writing professors often preach. Instead of basing our stories entirely on our own experiences and reality, we weave what we love into our stories and use it to spice up our stories. To make them the stories we would enjoy reading ourselves. And when you release those stories and find people enjoy them and the elements you add in…well, that makes it all the better, doesn’t it?

What are some elements you enjoy putting into your stories when you can, Followers of Fear? Let’s discuss in the comments below.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I mentioned this sort of thing to my folks after seeing Nutcracker last night and on social media after the Doctor Who reference was written into the story last night. After all that, it just felt natural to blog about it. Now, if anyone needs me, I’ll be making dinner and then getting back to my WIP. Until next time, good night, pleasant nightmares, and happy second night of Hanukkah!

On today’s interview, I have a very special guest with an amazing story. Some of you are probably already familiar with her story: earlier this month, fellow Ohio author Chelsea Banning took to Twitter to vent her feelings. She’d been at a book signing for her debut fantasy novel, Of Crowns and Legends, where forty people RSVP’ed that they would attend, but only two arrived. The response from the Writing Community was unexpected and massive, with many authors, including Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, and Joyce Carol Oates offering their own stories of poorly-attended events and offering their own help for Ms. Banning’s career. Stephen King even went out of his way to let his entire Twitter following know about her next event the moment she tweeted about it!

Since then, word about Of Crown and Legends has also spread and has become an Amazon bestseller with plenty of positive reviews (seventy-five at the time of posting). This is hopefully the beginning of a prosperous career, so I thought I’d pick the author’s brains sooner rather than later. So, please welcome Chelsea Banning, author of Of Crowns and Legends, to my blog.

Rami Ungar: Welcome to my blog, Chelsea. Tell us about yourself and your book, Of Crowns and Legends.

CB: My name is Chelsea and I am a Young Adult/Teen Librarian by day and author by night. I am also a self proclaimed geek. I love Marvel, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, cosplay, and Renaissance Faires. My book Of Crowns and Legends follows the twin children King Arthur was never supposed to have 20 years after his death. It is about their struggles to live in his shadow while also dealing with an upcoming war.

RU: I’m something of a big Arthurian legend fan myself, and have even written about it as well. What is it about the mythos that draws you to it?

CB: You know, it’s hard to say. I think it’s as mysterious as who exactly King Arthur is himself. There’s just some sort of magic that draws people into this story.

RU: Please describe your research and writing process for the book.

CB: I pretty much devoured any King Arthur book, movie, and TV show I could get my hands on. As I write, I did a bit of research along the way if I had questions. It’s a high fantasy, so it’s not historically accurate at all, but I did want to incorporate as much of myth as I could from all the different stories.

RU: Can you tell us about the book signing where only two people showed up and what happened later? What was your reaction to that?

CB: Yeah, I had reached out to Pretty Good Books after I saw them have another author signing. I had heard from quite a few of my friends saying they were planning on coming out, and then when the signing happened and only 2 people came, it was a little disheartening. I was still feeling a little bummed the next morning and just wanted to kind of get the feelings off my chest so they wouldn’t keep resonating in my head.

I did not expect it to take off the way it did and when I initially saw it, I was just in pure shock.

RU: Have any of the authors who encouraged and boosted you reached out to you personally? Have any of them read the book? What were their reactions to it?

CB: Brigid Kemmerer offered to help with advice about agents, and my old writing professor, Christopher Barzak, who is an award winning author himself, has been a huge help through all of this!

Joanne Harris offered some advice as well and it’s been so heartwarming. I love the writing community.

RU: So do I. Now, Of Crowns and Legends is currently an Amazon bestseller and averaging a 4.2 out of 5 there at the time of writing this. How does it feel to have found so many readers and getting so much positive feedback?

CB: It feels amazing. That’s every authors’ ultimate dream, isn’t it?

RU: Yes, it is. So, what’s next for you, both in terms of your writing and your career? Also, is there an audio version of your novel in the works? Asking for a friend who is actually me.

CB: I am currently working on book 2, as Of Crowns and Legends will be a trilogy. After completing this, I definitely plan to write more books. And I am working on an audio!

A very fantasy-esque photo of Of Crowns and Legends.

RU: Good to hear. Now, what are some books you’ve read recently and that you would recommend to other readers?

CB: Legendborn and Bloodmarked by Tracy Deonn, Queen and Conqueror by Isabelle Olmo, The Black Witch Chronicles by Laurie Forest, Among the Hunted by Caytlyn Brooke and Akithar’s Greatest Trick by Jason Dorough.

RU: What is some advice you would give to other writers, regardless of background or experience?

CB: Keep writing and don’t give up. Do some research on the writing process and pick out what works for you. Not every writer will be the same, and once you found your rhythm, writing will start to come easier.

RU: Final question. If you were stuck on a desert island for a little while and could only take three books with you for the duration of your stay, what books would you pick?

CB: A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas, Lord of the Rings, and The Other Merlin by Robyn Schneider.

RU: Well thank you for joining me here, Chelsea. I look forward to getting my hands on a copy of Of Crowns and Legends.

If you would like to check out Of Crowns and Legends, you can find it at most retailers where great books are sold. And if you would like to connect with Chelsea Banning, you can find her on her website and on Twitter.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I hope this piqued your interest in the novel (my interest certainly was). Until next time, good night and pleasant nightmares to all!

In truth, I should have posted this update last night. That’s when I finished the latest chapter of the novel. But it was nearly eleven at night, and I had to go into the office this morning, so I put it off till now. Would have been written earlier in the day, but I had to de-stress from work and relieve my election related anxiety.

So, as many of you know, I’ve been working on-and-off on a new novel, a mummy novel tentatively called Crawler. The story was inspired by that god-awful movie with Tom Cruise that came out in 2017. Or maybe I should say it’s my attempt to show the world (and maybe Universal) how to write a decent mummy story. We’ll hopefully see someday whether or not I’m successful in that department.

Anyway, I’ve been writing four chapters at a time, then working on other, shorter projects that I can submit to other publishers. And if you’ve guessed that I’m going to post an update every four chapters, you’re completely right. In fact, the chapter I finished last night was Chapter 8. And if I’m being honest, these past four chapters have been among my favorites to work on so far.

Yeah, I know. How can I have favorites this early in the process? The novel is barely a quarter written! And you’d be right. But these chapters have some (what I think is) great content. Chapters 5 and 8 have some nice, slow character development and bonding that I really enjoyed writing. I really got to showcase the forming and established bonds between these characters, which is something I feel like I haven’t done enough of in my previous novels.

And Chapters 6 and 7 did plenty to establish the mystery and terror of the story. Chapter 7 in particular, I feel, was quite creepy and is a nice little opener for the horror that the readers will eventually get to experience. I’m trying to approach the idea of the mummy as a threat in a way that hasn’t been done before, so seeing the initial results with these initial chapters is encouraging to me and makes me think I’m onto something here.

And when I get back to this novel, I’ll be diving right back into the horror and seeing if my idea goes anywhere (no spoiler, but Chapter 9 is going to be something else). At the moment, the novel is currently 133 pages (regular MS Word pages, double-spaced, 12-point Times New Roman font) and 37,575 words. It’s going to be one hell of a Stephen King doorstopper when it’s done. And hopefully just as terrifying. Or if not terrifying, hopefully just as interesting.

In the meantime, however, I’ll be working on a couple of (hopefully) shorter works, and finally editing that story where I put some neo-Nazis through the hell they deserve. All these stories have a common theme to them, so I think they might work well together if I wanted to create a new collection or something. Of course, we’ll have to wait and see what I end up writing, if it’s any good and if I think a collection is the best way to go with these stories.

But first, I’ll need to write and edit them, of course! And I look forward to every moment of it.

Well, that’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I need to head to bed. So, until next time, good night, pleasant nightmares, and may God have mercy on all our souls! Trust me, there’s a good chance we’re going to need it.

Where did the month go? How are we already in November? And why were stores putting up Christmas decorations before Halloween had even passed? I know it’s a big holiday, but come on! At least wait till November before you put that stuff up!

Anyway, onto why you’re all here. As many of you know, I co-founded a small publishing company called Cracked Skull Press with some of my fellow Ohio horror writers, and we released our first anthology, That Which Cannot Be Undone, on October 4th. The anthology is written entirely by Ohio authors, and each story is set in Ohio, as well as revolving around the theme “that which cannot be undone.”

Obviously, I have a story in the anthology, “Is Anyone There?” which takes place in the Ohio State Reformatory, one of the most haunted locations in America and one of my favorite places in the world. So far, I’m getting some good feedback on it.

I’ve said it before, but it’s very exciting for all of us writers to have this anthology out. And we’ve been doing our best to make sure as many people as possible check it out. We just had a release party at a restaurant in Columbus the other day (one of the waiters actually bought a book off us), and this past weekend, some of Cracked Skull Press and the other writers showed up at a local writing-related establishment for an event (I was at the ballet). Thanks to all this work, more people than ever are reading the anthology, and we’re so glad they are.

Not only that, but we’ve had some amazing reviews. The Akron Beacon-Journal from Akron, Ohio gave the book a very positive review, as did Kirkus Reviews! And from what I hear, more publications are going to release reviews of TWCBU soon! Imagine, so many publications are going to have reviews of this book in it! The mind boggles.

Not to mention all the love we’ve gotten from readers on Amazon and Goodreads. Here are what people are saying:

A gem. I’m an avid reader and writer and new to the horror genre. This was a great opportunity to explore a bunch of creative and very different authors. I snickered, I laughed, I almost cried from the beauty of several scenes. I lost my breath at several twists. I grinned at several regional legends brought to life. I’ve found a new genre.

Justin Reynolds, Goodreads

This book contains 18 stories of the deranged, mysterious, spooky, and disturbed. These stories all take place somewhere in Ohio and include a little bit for everyone. There’s a possible vampire baby, a dead girl in the snow, gender-shifting, an underwater town, death by lawnmower, a reanimated body, a FrankenDaddy, and some insurance revenge.

The stories are so creative and well-written that I found myself just sinking into the book until I found myself at the last page. This speaks to the excellent editing, as well, because I am easily distracted by grammar errors, misspellings, duplicated words, etc. This book was so well edited, I remember thinking about it while I read, amazed I hadn’t encountered an error. A perfect addition to your spooky season reads! Just released and ready for you to grab now on Amazon!

The Bookish Abyss, Amazon

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…A frightening anthology that has ensured if I ever visit Ohio, I will be very afraid.

Iseult Murphy, Author of “All of Me,” Goodreads

Not only are people loving it, but some are discovering the horror genre for the first time and loving it because of TWCBU! Can you imagine? A lot of people say Stephen King or Anne Rice or Shirley Jackson or other major authors were their introduction to horror. Hell, King is why I’m writing horror today! And now something I’m part of is bringing new fans to the genre. It’s an honor to be part of this project.

If you’re interested in this book, I’ll leave links below. You’ll find stories about serial killers, underwater towns, ghosts, people haunted by more than ghosts, and so much more, so why not dive in and see what sort of stories you’ll come across? Perhaps something will be your new favorite.

And if you do read it, be sure to leave a review. Reviews help bring visibility to the book and allow other readers to figure out whether or not a book might be up their alley. So please be sure to share your thoughts when you’re done.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ll be back with more to post soon. Until then, happy reading, pleasant nightmares, and 364 days till the next Halloween. I wonder what horrors will occur in the meantime?

That Which Cannot Be Undone: Amazon, Goodreads

What are some of the first things you think of when it comes to Stephen King’s IT? Is it Georgie being dragged down the drain by Pennywise the clown? The fortune cookies filled with eyeballs and mutated bugs? The final battle with Pennywise in his lair? That one scene that dare not be spoken?

I’m sure all these and more occur to you, because they’re significant plot points and they carry a whole lot of scares.* What you might not think about are the quieter moments in the story: the building of the dam in the Barrens, or Ben, Beverly and Richie going to see a movie together, or Bill going for a ride on his old bike Silver after not having seen it for over a quarter of a century. They’re the quieter moments of the story, the moments that allow you to get to know the characters better and see them about their daily lives. And they’re just as important as the scarier parts of the story.

I’ve been thinking of these moments more and more lately, because I just wrote an entire chapter for Crawler, my mummy novel-in-progress, that was a quiet moment. In it, two of the characters, one of whom is in mourning over a sudden loss, bond with each other over the course of a lazy afternoon. Nothing scary happens, no mentions of the horrors driving the plot take place, and there’s no ground laying or foreshadowing for future scares. It’s just a sweet, quiet scene where two characters form a relationship.

Honestly, I’m not used to writing those sorts of scenes. In shorter works, every word has to be necessary so the story can fit within a word count. There’s no room for quiet scenes showing the creation or deepening of bonds, getting to know a character better, or seeing them grow. You need that room to create a short story that packs a punch, especially for horror stories. And with my novels, every chapter and scene was necessary to the plot in some way, furthering the story, foreshadowing future plot points, or scaring the shit out of the reader in some way. Writing a scene over the course of two or three days that was just exploring the budding relationship between two characters, was new for me. And I feel like I learned a lot while doing it.

Which is good, because other writers, not just King, include those quieter moments throughout the books. Ever wonder why Harry Potter includes Quidditch matches in the books? Because they’re fun, normal things a wizard would learn in school and serve as breaks from the intrigue of whatever was happening any year at Hogwarts.

Now, having these scenes aren’t always necessary for every story. But it can be a good idea to include them if you need an organic way to flesh out your characters, deepen their relationships, or show them growing. Especially you can’t think of any way to insert such moments into the more essential scenes, like Georgie getting dragged into the sewers or whatever.

In any case, I’ll probably write a few more of these scenes in Crawler, as it’s a very character-focused story, so I’ll get plenty of opportunities to practice. Perhaps afterwards, I’ll be able to write a post about writing quiet scenes and writing them well. And maybe when I do, I’ll write it with a quiet satisfaction.

*Except that one scene, I know, but we’re not going to talk about it, are we?


One more thing, my Followers of Fear: this Wednesday at 4-6 PM EST, I’ll be joining fellow horror writers Heather Miller and Daemon Manx on the podcast “What’s Write For Me” with Dellani Oakes. We’ll be recording live, so you’re encouraged to join us live by following this link, and we’ll be discussing and even reading from our scariest works, so I hope you’ll join us. See you there!

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. It’ll be a busy week leading up to Halloween, but I hope it’ll be a fun and memorable one. Until next time, good night, pleasant nightmares, and eight days till Halloween! Have you carved a Jack-o-Lantern yet? I have, and for the first one in my own home, I don’t think it turned out half-bad. What say you?

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!

With books like A Head Full of Ghosts, The Cabin at the End of the World and Survivor Song (which I still say would make a great stage musical), The Pallbearers Club by Paul Tremblay has been one of the most anticipated novels of 2022. I got my copy almost as soon as it came out, but because my life has been busy lately, I only just finished the book today. So now, as I feel obligated to do, I’m writing my review.

The Pallbearers Club follows a man who calls himself (or the version of himself in the novel/memoir he is narrating) Art Barbara. Seeking to pad out his college applications, Art starts the Pallbearers Club, a volunteer club where members show up to funerals for the homeless and lonely, and then carry them out to the hearse (because who wants no one to show up to their funeral?). At one of these funerals, Art meets Mercy Brown, a strange college girl who both opens up Art’s world and sets him on a path that will affect him through his adulthood. And maybe even beyond.

For starters, the novel is creative in its presentation. It’s written primarily by Art on a computer, while Mercy’s red-inked, handwritten notes speckle the margins and bookend each chapter. It allows you to learn a lot about each character, who are both somewhat unreliable narrators for each their own reasons, and there’s a lot of reflections on topics like memory and identity. It also makes me wonder what the audio book is like, because Mercy’s notes are a big part of each chapter. Does her narrator interrupt the text every now and again?

I also like how Art uses unusual adjectives while he writes, and the best parts of the novels are probably the sections set in Art’s teenage years during the late 80s. You really get to know and like the characters the best at that point, and it’s among the best examples of 80s nostalgia I’ve come across.

That being said, there’s a lot about this novel that rubbed me the wrong way. My biggest issue is the story, or almost lack of one. Art spends a lot of time going through the major points of his life, especially where Mercy is part of his life, but it becomes a slog because he hits you over the head at times with how little self-esteem and how much self-loathing he has. It’s okay early in the book, because he’s a teenager and those are always difficult times and Mercy is at least opening up his world. But after graduation, Art seems intent on just making you hate him as much as possible.

Which might be okay if Mercy or the plot helped balance the story out, but they don’t. Even with her notes, Mercy’s so intent on being edgy and mysterious that we really don’t get to know the real her, and it makes it hard to see her as a character and more as a mystery. Again, fine early in the book, but after a while, we get tired of it.

There’s also not a lot happening in the book. At least, not as far as horror novels go. The New England vampire lore is part of the story, but not in a significant way like I’d expected. It becomes more like a background theme, kind of a parallel about aging, health problems, and our own anxieties and delusions are like vampires on us and we wonder where in the hell they come from. Which is fine, if the story is interesting or the the lore is utilized in the right way.

The Pallbearers Club didn’t do it in the right way. I feel like it was trying to go for what Revival by Stephen King did, which was show how a single man affected the life of an aging rocker throughout his life while mixing in the supernatural. But while it tries, it doesn’t succeed.

And this isn’t something I’ll deduct points for, but why pick on Def Leppard in the early parts of the story? That band is a big part of why I love 80s music, how dare you!

I normally like Paul Tremblay’s work, but on a scale of 1 to 5, I’m going to give The Pallbearers Club a 2. The way it’s written is creative and the initial chapters are great, but annoying characters and an unimpressive plot just stakes it through the heart.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. My next read will be The Devil Takes You Home by Gabino Iglesias, while my next review will likely be Tales My Grandmother Told Me by Heather Miller (read an advanced copy). You’ll know my thoughts on both in time.

Until next time, good night, pleasant nightmares, and 49 days till Halloween.