Posts Tagged ‘Stephen King’

A handy graphic for understanding the three act structure, courtesy of Wikipedia.

The other day, I was talking with some other writers about how to write a decent short story (an eternal question among writers, including the ones who’ve gotten them published). And I noticed that, with a lot of my recent short stories, most of them fall into a decent three act structure. And then I said, “I know the existence of the three act structure is dubious, but it’s the truth.”

And, like many odd things, that little exchange has stuck in my head.

So for those of you who don’t know, the theory of the three act structure states that all stories, especially longer ones, can be divided into three separate acts or sections: the setup, the confrontation, and the resolution. The acts may then be divided into smaller scenes or subsections, but they all fit into those categories. Some examples given of stories with the three act structure are Star Wars, Die Hard, and Avengers: Endgame (though I sometimes think everything before the five-year jump is its own separate act or prologue).

While many of us are taught this structure in school, most of our teachers will let us know that not everyone believes in the three act structure, let alone say they use it. Some prefer using a five act structure. Others say storytelling is too complicated and diverse to say a story can be divided into a formulaic structure. And nearly all playwrights will agree that if it can’t be told in one act, tell it in two.

Good example of a story in three acts (supposedly).

That last one might be a joke.

I’m usually of the camp that believes storytelling is too complicated and diverse to boil down into a structure. Look at Stephen King stories. Most of his shorts, like Graveyard Shift, Night Surf or The Boogeyman, are simple one-scene stories with maybe a twist at the end, and I dare you to try to fit books like IT or Salem’s Lot into three acts. Then there are stories like Kill Creek by Scott Thomas or Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice, which feel like they fit into four acts.

As for my own books, Snake is in multiple sections, much like the books I was reading up to and during the writing process, and I see Rose as in-the-apartment and after-leaving-the-apartment (if you read the book, you know what I mean). I can’t see the stories in The Quiet Game as anything but a progression of events. And I wouldn’t even know where to start with The Pure World Comes or the stories in Hannah.

So, is the three act structure a real thing? Well, yes and no. I feel like it’s more of a framework for people to examine fiction, both others and their own. You don’t have to use it if you feel it doesn’t work for you or if you feel a story has too much happening in it to divide the plot into three separate sections.

But if you do find it helpful, use it to your heart’s content. I’m sure many writers, especially plotters like myself, find the three act structure helpful for planning their stories. And as I said above, many of my recent short stories, including the ones that have been published, fall into three acts. Though I think of them less as acts and more like beats, scenes, settings, or occurrences. And if I’m trying to keep a story within a certain word count, I can see using this structure to my advantage.

So what is the three act structure? It’s a prism to understand some fiction stories through, as well as an actual tool for writing. It’s not perfect, and most stories don’t fit into it that well, but that doesn’t mean the idea isn’t useful. Hell, it might even help you hone your craft and get a few more short stories out there. And that is never a bad thing.

Unless you’re trying to write an award-winning musical. Then you might want to keep it to two or maybe just one act.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. March has just started and it’s already looking a lot better than January and February is (world events notwithstanding). I hope I can update you on exciting developments in the near future. And until next time, pleasant nightmares.

Fairy tales have been on my mind a lot lately. Granted, that’s nothing new. When writing Toyland, I knew fairy tales and children’s stories were going to play a part in the story, since it was about a school haunted by a ghost obsessed with a children’s fairy tale. And yes, I still hope to get that book published.

But recently, I took a class offered by the Horror Writers Association on fairy tales, which got my imagination working. And then I watched a couple of TED talks on YouTube on the subject. And last week, I wrote my own twisted, dark fantasy version of Cinderella in just one sitting while everyone else was watching the Super Bowl. This was at the same time I spent two weeks coming up with an idea for a novel involving fairy tale elements, the idea finally crystallizing on Saturday before going to see Giselle. A ballet, by the way, that could be considered a fairy tale. It certainly has enough fairy tale elements to qualify as one.

All this has made me hyper-aware of just how much fairy tales have permeated our society. Not just as stories or elements of our favorite stories, but in advertising, fashion, music, art, and even our expressions (“Cinderella story,” anyone?). They are freaking everywhere, and used/enjoyed not just by children, but by teens and adults too.

“But wait,” you’re probably asking, “aren’t fairy tales just kid stuff?”

Not exactly. In fact, fairy tales were often for adults as much as children. Early written versions of Little Red Riding Hood were told as parables to warn young ladies about getting into bed with the wrong sort of man, or as metaphors about entering womanhood (especially if cannibalism is kept in the story). In fact, that is still the case in some places: in Ireland, many still believe in fairies and tell stories, or “tales,” about them and what places to avoid. And in parts of Scandinavia and Iceland, beliefs in trolls and elves are still popular. Many countries in Asia, especially in southeast Asia, still believe in many types of spirits (and according to the classical definition of fairies, just about any supernatural entity can be considered a fairy, so it counts), and use stories to warn new generations of the dangers of pissing them off.

This adaptation of “The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter” is a prime example of how fairy tales can be recontextualized for new eras.

But beyond warnings, fairy tales, like many other kind of stories, are reflections of how we look at our world. Hansel and Gretel, for example, was probably told in an age of famine, poverty and witch hunts, given its elements and the lessons imparted in it. Even better, fairy tales can be recontextualized for new ages. Cinderella tales are increasingly told to make the lead less passive and more in control of her own life, and the Studio Ghibli film The Tale of Princess Kaguya, based on the Japanese fairy tale The Story of the Bamboo Cutter, retells the story with the theme of how Kaguya wants none of the finery her foster parents gift her, only to be surrounded by people who love her. This feels relevant in an age with rising consumerism, online image-building, and social isolation.

And that’s the cool thing about fairy tales, too. You can retell them in so many different ways. Hell, you can even come up with new ones. Plenty of writers are creating their own fairy tales, such as Diana Wynne Jones did with Howl’s Moving Castle, Melissa Albert with The Hazel Wood and many more. And many stories today use elements of fairy tales. The inclusion of “The Three Billy Goats Gruff” in Stephen King’s IT isn’t just a fun choice by King, after all: King originally started plotting that story as a modern interpretation of “The Three Billy Goats Gruff.”

Makes you wonder what elements of fairy tales and legends you’re putting into your stories, doesn’t it?

And that’s the thing. Even you can make up your own original fairy tales or retellings. In fact, plenty of writers are, and will as the world changes. I wouldn’t be surprised if we get an updated version of Anansi and the introduction of stories to the world in the wake of so many states attempting to rewrite history or schools attempting to ban books. And I wouldn’t be surprised if this pandemic, or any of the major conflicts we’ve experienced in the past several years, make their way into a new or an old fairy tale. I’ve already come up with a few ideas for some, and might write one or two in the near future.

And I bet, no matter who’s telling the stories, they’ll continue to influence society for years to come. From the “Once upon a time” beginnings to the optional “they all lived happily ever after.”

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I spent most of President’s Day writing, so I’ll take the rest of the night off. I’ll be back soon, as I’m expecting to share some good news very soon. Until then, my Followers of Fear, good night, pleasant nightmares, and don’t try to wake me up with a kiss. I bite.

Also, here are some of the videos I watched while researching fairy tales. Give them a watch. They’re quite edifying:

Transforming our Understanding of Fairy Tales by Anne Dugan

Why We Absolutely Need Fairy Tales by Jason Link

Myths, Folklore & Legends: We Still Need Our Fairy Tales by Heidi Shamsuddin

I’m not so sure anymore.

Of course, it seems like gospel that the first sentence of a story is important. It’s your hook, isn’t it? It’s how you get the reader into the story. You should put as much thought into that first line as you would as asking your significant other to marry you!

But I’m not convinced anymore. That may be strange, considering how often I used to (and sometimes still do) the #FirstLineFriday meme on this blog. You know, that thing where I post the first line of a story and hope it gets you into the story? But then again, maybe that’s why I’m unconvinced. I’ve posted first lines so many times, I’ve recognized how little effect that they have on the total story.

And you know, if you look at some famous books, you kind of see that. Harry Potter‘s first line is “Mr. and Mrs. Dursley of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.” Most Muggle-ish opening you’ve ever read. It doesn’t really hint at what’s to come in the story, and I honestly would have cut it from the final product if I had edited the first book.

And Stephen King’s stories don’t usually have those sorts of openings. The first line of IT goes like this:

“The terror, which would not end for another twenty-eight years–if it ever did end–began, so far as I know or can tell, with a boat made from a sheet of newspaper floating down a gutter swollen with rain.”

It’s a nice opening, but it doesn’t exactly scream…well, going to make you scream. It’s actually kind of mellow. And the opening for Needful Things is even more unassuming: “You’ve been here before.” Kid you not, my first time listening to that book on audio, I had to repeat it a few times because it was totally unexpected and confused me a bit. Only as you keep reading does the opening make sense with this story.

Maybe this is why some books have poems, excerpts from other famous stories, Bible verses, or even song lyrics at the beginning, before the story even starts. You read those little epigraphs (that’s what they’re called, I check) and keep reading to see how it relates to the story you’re taking in.

in any case, I’m starting to think that maybe it’s not the first sentence, or even the first paragraph, that’s responsible for making a story’s opening catchy. It’s maybe the first couple of paragraphs or the first page. When the author sets up the story, the characters, the setting, that you really get pulled into the story.

The opening of the story should be like opening a door to guests. Yes, that’s important, but what’s inside is even more important. Photo by Ron Lach on Pexels.com

That’s certainly the case with my current story, where I set up a nice, rural setting, something kind of idyllic…and then one of my main characters reveals that he’s a neo-Nazi. It’s a stark contrast from the first paragraph that takes the reader off-guard, and hopefully will get them reading further along. I’ll have to finish the story first to see if that’s the case, however.

Anyway, the first sentence is important, but it’s not the most important thing about a story. Rather, it’s just the opening of the door and allowing people to take a quick look before stepping inside. What’s beyond that is what’s truly important. You just have to make sure to open the door and open it well.

But what’s your take, Followers of Fear? Let’s discuss openings and if the first lines of a story really are as important as we make them out to be. I’m curious to hear what you think on the subject. Maybe more of you will agree with me than I imagine.


Happy New Year, my Followers of Fear. I wanted to start this year off with a post that’s reflective on the craft of writing, as I enjoy writing those posts. Anyway, I hope you’re having a good 2022 so far. Mine’s been rough so far, but that tends to be the case with the first full week of January. And at least there’s a lot to look forward to right now: editing and releasing Hannah and Other Stories; putting out the paperback and ebook copies of The Pure World Comes; conventions and expos; maybe a bit of travel; and, of course, some good reading and writing.

Oh, speaking of conventions and expos, I’ll be at the Hidden Marietta Paranormal Expo on the 29th in Marietta, Ohio. If you can, stop by the Lafayette Hotel and maybe I’ll sign your book and read your Tarot.

Also, the crowdfunding campaign for That Which Cannot Be Undone is at 58.5 percent! We’re over halfway funded and we just keep going! And if you would like to help me and my fellow Ohio horror writers put out an amazing anthology of horror stories set in our state and revolving around the theme “that which cannot be undone,” click on the link here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/crackedskullproject1/that-which-cannot-be-undone-an-ohio-horror-anthology. There are also some amazing perks to pledging, like candles, Ohio-themed Tarot cards, copies of the book, and even end up in one of the stories! How cool would that be?

Anyway, that’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I hope to have more stuff to tell you soon. Until next time, good night and pleasant nightmares!

Anne Rice. She may be gone, but she is still definitely with us.

You know, I’ve actually had the opportunity to interact with Anne Rice a few times. Not in person, mind you, but over email and social media.

In high school, I sent her an email after reading her novel Angel Time (she had an email that was known to the public back then). I liked the novel for the most part, but I was upset as a Jew that one of her Jewish characters became a Catholic nun just to be closer to her father. She actually emailed me back, saying that I had a fair point and would try to be more sensitive to such matters. It was a crazy cool moment. A few years later, about a year into writing this blog, I wrote a review of The Wolf Gift (which you can read here), her first werewolf novel, where I compared her work to various kinds of food (I had just eaten lunch). Somehow she caught wind of my review and posted it on her social media. It’s still one of my most viewed posts, and it’s been nine years since then!

I had a few more interactions with her through email and social media up until 2016 or 2017, but I was happy with what I got. And as she kept writing, I hoped I would be able to actually meet her in person someday.

Yesterday, December 11th, 2021, Anne Rice passed away due to complications due to a stroke. She was 80.

Like many, I am heartbroken. I first discovered Anne Rice as a preteen with Interview with the Vampire. As I’m sure many of you can agree, it was a revelation. For me, I hadn’t read any story whose world felt as immersive as the world of Louis and Lestat since reading Harry Potter years earlier. I could almost smell New Orleans, here the sounds of 19th century Paris! The language was so beautiful too! Poetry without being poetry, filling my mind and painting extraordinary images. It made me realize just how powerful language could be, more than any other novel I had read up till then. And finally, I empathized with and grew to truly love the characters. While a lot of their emotional and philosophical turmoil went over my head at that age, I understood that they were going through a lot and felt for them.

This would only increase as I continued to read her works throughout my teens and twenties as I read her new work. Reading her works often felt like meeting old friends, and at the same time, Anne Rice, who put so much of herself in her books, began to feel like a friend and a mentor. Often, her writing would influence mine as much as Stephen King’s did, especially as I’ve gotten older. That impression deepened when I got on social media, where Rice was active with her fan community, whom she affectionately called the People of the Page.*

I may have to read this again very soon. I haven’t read it since I was 11 or 12. I wonder how it will affect me now.

It pains me, and so many others, that we won’t be able to read new stories by her or see her social media posts anymore. That next year’s Ramses the Damned novel, if it releases on time, will be her final novel. That she won’t be able to see the TV adaptations of The Vampire Chronicles or Mayfair Witches trilogy being developed at AMC when they premiere. That one of the greatest horror writers of the 20th century, as well as one of the greatest writers of the 20th century period, is now gone from this world.

Luckily, even though Ms. Rice has left the Savage Garden and is probably now getting all her spiritual, philosophical and cosmological questions answered, her works remain. She has, like many of her characters, achieved a form of immortality, but this one won’t cut her off from the world of humans. Instead, she’ll always be with us, a spiritual force beyond matter and body living in our minds and our souls. So, even though many of us will never have the chance to meet her in person, she will still be able to influence and touch us with her powerful Gothic epics.

Next year, there’s supposed to be a public memorial in New Orleans for her, one year after her family lays her to rest. I don’t know if I’ll be able to go, but if not, I’ll at least be able to raise a glass of wine to her tonight. A sweet red, which I’m sure she would have appreciated. And when those TV shows premiere, I, and probably many others, will raise a glass again and think of her. Anne Rice, the true Queen of the Vampires, and someone who will be with us long after she’s joined the spiritual plane.

What influence did Anne Rice have on you? What were your favorite books by her? Do you have any stories you want to tell about her? Let’s discuss.

*See where I got the idea to name you all the Followers of Fear?

Let’s face it, every creative out there (especially those who weave stories together) has put themselves into their work. Often, they do it more than once, and the resemblance to themselves, accurate or in their own heads, varies from self-insert to self-insert.* HP Lovecraft loved to put himself through cosmic horror and dreamlike ordeals as Randolph Carter (does that count as masochism?), and Stephen King’s The Dark Half is obviously him having fun with a fictional version of himself and his pen name Richard Bachman.

And don’t forget, Dante Alighieri made himself the star of The Divine Comedy, where the poet Virgil and later Beatrice, the dead girl he crept on when she was alive, led him through Hell, Purgatory and Heaven.

You know, now that I’m typing this, I realize that a lot of self-insert characters get to go on the biggest, most grandiose adventures. I mean, Dante traversed the afterlife and recorded it in detail! And remember Lani Sarem, the lady who conned her way to the top of the New York Times bestseller list? Her novel’s protagonist, who from the cover art is basically her under a different name, was a witch who basically became the delight of the Las Vegas entertainment scene using her abilities.

There’s an article to be found in this, I’m just not in the mood to research and write it right now.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes. Self-inserts. I’m no exception to the rule. Throughout my writing career, I’ve included different versions of myself in my stories. One or two have even been included in published stories (I’ll let you guess which ones those are). And once more, I’m inserting myself into the story I’m currently working on. Only this time, this might be the most obvious and blatant self-insert since Dante!

Okay, that’s an exaggeration. But it feels like it! My character is basically what I hope will be me in a few years: a full-time writer with his own home, hosting costume parties in his living room and able to focus on creepy tales as a living. His last name is an anagram of my own and his first name also begins with an “R.” So yeah, pretty obvious self-insert.

Still, I’m having fun with it. The story’s focus isn’t on my character, he’s just a good way to get this story going. And since I can focus on telling the story and not making my self-insert seem like the bee’s knees to readers, I can get a little ridiculous and have a ton of fun with it. Whether that will lead to a decent ghost story (because of course I would put myself into a ghost story!) remains to be seen. But perhaps with some edits…well, we’ll see.

Anyway, I’ll get back to this story soon. And I’ll likely have a post or two for you all very soon, so keep an eye out. And in the meantime, check out this book trailer for The Jewish Book of Horror that was uploaded to YouTube last night. It’s really cool, and you can even see my name listed beside my story, “The Divorce from God,” at one point. Give it a watch and consider getting a copy of the book when it releases.

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

*That’s the preferred term, as I understand it.

You know, I meant to get this out earlier, but a lot has happened today. My apologies on that.

So, as you can tell from the above title, I had two acceptances for publication! And get this, the confirmation emails came this morning after I woke up! How about that? Nice thing to wake up to, all told. And it gave me something to tell people when I was out seeing people I hadn’t seen in a while earlier today.

Anyway, the first acceptance is from House of Stitched magazine, the same magazine that published my article on the character trope of the broken child (links below). It’s another article with them, but this time it’s a review of Stephen King’s first Richard Bachman novel, Rage. Yeah, it’s an old novel, but it’s out of print nowadays and as far as I’m aware, no one from the millennial generation, my generation, has ever written a review of it. Thus I read the book and wrote one. I’m interested to hear what people think of my thoughts of the one book King let fall out of print.

The second acceptance is from the Dublin Creative Writers Cooperative. No, not Dublin, Ireland, though that would be cool. Dublin, Ohio (you may recognize it as having been mentioned in my novel Rose). Anyway, last year I co-wrote a short story with my fellow author and Member of the Tribe Richard Gerlach called “The Hanukkah Massacre.” The story follows a pair of feuding Jewish families whose rivalry suddenly escalates one Hanukkah. The anthology we wrote it for originally passed on it, but we kept looking, and now it’s being published in the anthology Dead of Winter from the Dublin Creative Writers Cooperative. We’re both very excited for everyone to read the story.

Man, what a year it’s been. I still can’t believe how many of my stories and articles have been accepted for publication. And there’s always a chance that more stories will get accepted.

It’s funny, but just the other day, I decided to make my writing goal for the rest of the year to ensure I get a few more acceptances before 2022. And now I have two. That was fast! I didn’t even have time to agonize how close the end of the year was coming and how little progress I’d made! I’m sure the brooding would have been epic.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m probably going to watch and review a horror movie soon, so keep an eye out for it. And, of course, I’ll be working on new stories and letting you know if there are any pieces of big news to share. Or random thoughts. Plenty of that, too.

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

House of Stitched magazine: Blurb.com , Amazon

So, for the past several days, I’ve been working on the outline for Crawler, the mummy novel I’ll write after my upcoming vacation. And it’s coming along very well. I think I could be done with the outline by the middle of the week. That being said, more fun than writing this outline (and believe me, it is fun), is the characters themselves.

Some of my favorite Stephen King novels are those that have, along with a kick-ass premise, a really memorable cast of characters. IT has the Losers Club, as well as bullies, a mother with Munchausen’s by proxy, a budding serial killer teen, plenty more nasty parents and a few horrible lovers, and so many more. Salem’s Lot has Ben Mears, his girlfriend Susan, the professor, the priest, the teen boy with a fondness for horror, the real estate agent, Susan’s controlling mother, Susan’s asshole ex-boyfriend that her mother loves for some reason, the teen mom who takes her rage out on her baby, her lousy husband, the woman having an affair, her husband and her lover, the hunchbacked man and so many more. Not to mention the vampire Barlow and his familiar Richard Straker.

And I could write a whole blog post about the characters of Needful Things, one of my favorite King novels ever. There’s Leland Gaunt himself, as well as Sheriff Pangborn, his girlfriend Polly Chalmers, the town drunk, the crazy first selectman, the preteen boy obsessed with baseball and his speech therapy teacher, his mom and her best friend who think they’re having affairs with Elvis, Ace Merrill, Polly’s housekeeper Nettie, local angry bitch Wilma Jerzyck (what else would you call her?), the various members of the Catholic and Baptist churches who hate each other’s guts, etc. They’re all part of the fun that make this and the previous two novels, which wouldn’t be as impactful without them.

And I’m willing to bet that for King, a lot of the fun he had writing those novels probably came from these characters. Maybe even moreso than the stories themselves, let alone the horrors within.

By the by, I’m pretty sure Salem’s Lot will be especially influential on Crawler. I’ll have to work hard not to let that influence make the novel read like a King ripoff or pastiche.

Anyway, as you can probably guess, I’m having a ball with this outline, and a lot of the fun comes from the characters. Remember my blog post about wanting to include Jewish characters? Well, I made my leads Jewish. And while I didn’t need to, it actually adds an interesting dimension to the struggle of the novel. After all, they’re facing an Egyptian-style mummy. Play the Prince of Egypt soundtrack! Plus, they each have aspects to them that people will like or identify with.

It’ll probably help that I modeled their appearances after Rei Hino/Sailor Mars from Sailor Moon and Dean Winchester from Supernatural (if there’s a movie version someday, can we get Jensen Ackles as the male lead?).

I would love to have a novel with a cast compared favorably to either of these novels.

I’ve also been able to add a bunch of characters that I think will be fun to write. For instance, there’s my antagonist, whom I think people are going to find terrifying and yet relatable. There’s also a troublesome mother who thinks she’s entitled to things when she’s not; a police dispatcher with a very big secret; a drug dealer; a preteen with a heart of gold who ends up caught up in the meshuggas around town; a true crime blogger who’s kind of awful; and more. They’re going to be great to write.

Of course, there’s a good chance I could screw it up by not writing them well enough before they reach their final fates, whatever that might be. Still, I gotta try. And I’m sure if I focus on making these characters memorable and somewhat likable while also making sure they play the parts needed for the novel…maybe the cast will turn out as well as the casts of the above novels. Or close enough to it. Balancing acts in writing like this are often a matter of practice, trial and error.

Anyway, that’s where I’m at right now. I look forward to giving you further updates on this novel and the other projects I’ll be working on in the near future. Until next time, my Followers of Fear, good night, pleasant nightmares, and it’s 42 days till Halloween. Have you decided on your costume yet? I have. It’s going to be a killer.

Have you ever written part of or an entire novel, and then nothing has happened to it? Maybe you edited the hell out of it and tried to find a publisher. Maybe you got some feedback from a beta reader that made you hesitate to put it out in the world. Or maybe you realized that, as much as you loved it and as much work as you put into it, it’s not very good and you’re better off moving on. So this project you’ve worked months or even years on gets put away, stored in a box or on a shelf or in a file drive to gather dust and likely never see the light of day.

If you have one of these novels, you have a “trunk novel.”

What are trunk novels, you may be asking? Well, trunk novels are as I said above: novels that were put away because, for one reason or another, they weren’t suitable to be released or marketed. Prior to computer storage, you might literally put them in a trunk so nobody ever saw them but you. Hence the name.

At least, I think that’s how it got its name. Tracking down the origin of the term was kind of impossible.

In any case, it happens more than we like to admit. We write a story and no matter how hard we try, it doesn’t get past the first draft or never leaves our computers. We may have thought it was the next big thing, or something that could have been published and been a small success, or at least could have gotten a publisher or agent interested. But in the end, it just doesn’t cut the mustard in one way or another, so it gets stowed away somewhere. You may say you’ll work on it again someday, but rarely does that happen.

And it happens to all of us. Really. Even Stephen King has them. He wrote four novels before Carrie was published. Only one of the previous three, Rage, was ever published (and King kind of regrets that). I did a poll in one or two horror writing groups I belong to, and all of the people who answered have trunk novels somewhere in their pasts.

I have several from my younger years, finished and unfinished, that are trunk novels. And one of the novels I wrote in college, Laura Horn, which I am still really proud of, is pretty much a trunk novel now. Why? Several reasons, but the fact that some of the events in the book resemble events that occurred in recent years might have something to do with it. Putting the book out given what’s happened in the last five years just feels wrong.

And I guess you could consider the Reborn City books trunk novels, even though I previously self-published them before taking them out of circulation.

And you know what? That’s alright. Yeah, our feelings towards our trunk novels may sometimes be complex. And we may regret at times that the stories never saw the light of day. But they are still important milestones in our career. They are the results learning to become writers, to learn what works in writing fiction and in learning the discipline of writing. They are the foundation of becoming us. Of becoming the authors we were meant to be.

So, as much as it sucks when a novel goes into the trunk, don’t regret it or feel too bad. It’s just another foundation stone in what is becoming your career.

Do you think I should get one of these and put literal manuscripts inside?

All that being said, I hope none of my completed, as of yet unpublished novels go into the trunk. I’m still shopping around River of Wrath with the hopes of finding a publisher for it, and I plan to work on Toyland again someday soon in the hopes of shopping that around too. What will happen to them? I honestly don’t know. But if they do end up in the trunk? Well, at least I had a hell of a time working on them and honing my skills with them.

Do you have any trunk novels? Would you mind talking about them with me? How do you feel about them? Let’s discuss.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I still have time left in the evening and I have only one story left in the collection I’ve been editing, so I’m going to get to work on that. Afterwards, I have a couple more short stories to edit (including one with dragon bats in it), and then…well, I’m not sure. A couple of new short stories? Perhaps a new novel? I’ve certainly been itching to get into something longer. And now that The Pure World Comes is out (check it out on the Readict app), I think I can afford to put together another sixty thousand-plus word story of terror and woe. We’ll see what happens.

Until next time, my Followers of Fear, good night, pleasant nightmares and–OH NO! MY TRUNK NOVELS, AS WELL AS MY TRUNK NOVELLAS, TRUNK NOVELETTES, AND TRUNK SHORT STORIES, HAVE BEEN COMBINED TO FORM A GIANT MONSTER MADE OF PAPER! Excuse me while I get the boom stick and fight it off. Ta ta!

Richard Chizmar, author of Chasing the Boogeyman.

Back in late 2019, I had the opportunity to interview Richard Chizmar, owner and publisher of Cemetery Dance Publications, as well as the author of several stories (including one or two in collaboration with Stephen King). Well, a lot’s happened since then, and Mr. Chizmar has a new novel called Chasing the Boogeyman that’s just released, Chasing the Boogeyman. In this novel, Chizmar himself plays the protagonist as he returns home post-college to write, prepare for a wedding…and deal with a serial killer that is hunting in his hometown.

I got to sit down with Mr. Chizmar to discuss the new book, the COVID-19 pandemic, and what he’s been reading lately. Here’s what we talked about.

Rami Ungar: Mr. Chizmar, welcome back to the show. Tell us about Chasing the Boogeyman and how the novel came to be.

Richard Chizmar: I always wanted to write a novel set in my hometown of Edgewood, Maryland. I pretty much assumed it would be a big fat coming-of-age horror novel – in the vein of IT or SUMMER OF NIGHT – but that’s not how it worked out. Instead, I couldn’t shake the idea of a small town being held hostage by a monster of the human variety. A town on the verge of losing its innocence and never being able to gain it back. In the summer of 1988, after graduating from college, I got engaged and my fiancée and I decided it would be smart to save rent money until the wedding. So I moved back in with my parents for a period of eight or nine months to work on the first issue of Cemetery Dance and write short stories. It was a strangely wonderful time. There I was standing on the doorstep of full-fledged adulthood, yet I was living in the house I’d grown up in and eating dinner with my mother and father most nights. It was an interesting period in my life, very fertile creatively, and it felt like the perfect setting for a novel about innocence and terror.

RU: You made yourself a character in the novel. Can you tell me how you decided to do that and what writing your character was like? Was it difficult or did you find it easy?

RC: It happened very naturally. When I first started jotting down notes for CHASING THE BOOGEYMAN I quickly realized how much of my true self would be surfacing in the story. I was writing about my past, my family and friends, my hometown, and most importantly, my early life hopes and fears. It just made sense to me, in that moment, that I wouldn’t even pretend to be someone else. Once I got past those normal early feelings of self-doubt, the rest of it was a breeze. It almost felt self-indulgent at times because I was having so much fun.

RU: Speaking of your character, would you say your character is close to what you’re like in real life?

RC: My character in the book is as close to the real me at age twenty-two as I could make him. In real life instances that occurred within the novel, I drew on memory and described them exactly as I remembered. When it came to the make-believe, I asked myself: what do you think you would have done? How do you think you would have acted or reacted? And then I put pen to paper as honestly as I could. That was important to me, and a promise I made to myself when I first started writing the book.  

RU: Going back to the boogeyman in the title, what do you think it is about the boogeyman character that makes it and its equivalents in other cultures enduring figures in our collective imaginations?

RC: Two things: longevity and proximity. The Boogeyman – in its various forms – has been around forever. That dark shape lurking in the woods or the alleyways or the shadowed neighborhood streets has always existed and been feared. And every town has one. Just like every small town has a haunted house located somewhere within its borders, every town also has its Boogeyman.

RU: I’ve been hearing this novel hyped for about a year now. What’s it like having one of the most anticipated novels of 2021?

RC: On the one hand, it’s very exciting when readers are talking about your book so far in advance and there’s a lot of positive press and buzz. On the other hand, it’s also nerve-wracking and can feel like a lot of pressure. I just try to roll with the punches as they come and enjoy the moment. Even eleven months ago when the book was first announced, I knew that publication day would be here before I knew it. From Day One, I’ve been determined to enjoy the process as much as possible. I’ve been in the business now for close to 35 years and CHASING THE BOOGEYMAN is technically my debut novel (GWENDY’S MAGIC FEATHER was billed as a novel, but it’s really a short novella), so it’s natural that it would come with a decent amount of fanfare. I just hope it does well for Simon & Schuster who really believed in the book.

RU: Pivoting to a new subject, you’re still running Cemetery Dance Publications and Cemetery Dance magazine. Have you noticed a change in the fiction you’ve been getting since the COVID-19 pandemic began? If so, what?

RC: That’s an interesting question. Unfortunately, I don’t have an interesting answer. We haven’t been open to public submissions for a while, so I haven’t seen any sort of trends developing. My bet is that we’ll see those trends appearing in published fiction over the next couple years.

RU: I have no doubt about that! Speaking of which, what have you been doing while stuck inside during the pandemic? Has it had an effect on your writing and productivity?

Chasing the Boogeyman. Available now.

RC: I’m pretty much a recluse in even the best of times, so the pandemic didn’t really affect my day-to-day comings and goings as much as it did most folks. In between insanely long bouts of cable news viewing, I managed to write a couple novels and a handful of short stories and essays. I was pretty pleased with that output.

RU: I guess we had a similar pandemic writing experience, then. Now, can you tell us about your upcoming projects?

RC: I’m about to start working on a new novel, which I’m too superstitious to say much about. In February of next year, GWENDY’S FINAL TASK, the third book in the Gwendy Trilogy, will be published. As with the first book, I co-wrote this one with Stephen King and had an absolute blast. Hopefully, after that, there will be a new novel release, as well as a collection of novellas. 

RU: Good luck! And finally, what are some books you’ve read recently that you would recommend to others?

RC: I’ve been on a good run of reading lately. One gem after the other. GOBLIN by Josh Malerman. THE BURNING GIRLS by C.J. Tudor. MY HEART IS A CHAINSAW by Stephen Graham Jones. ROAD OF BONES by Chris Golden. THE FINAL GIRL SUPPORT GROUP by Grady Hendrix. I’ve been spoiled!

RU: Oh, one of those is on my TBR list. Glad to know you recommend it.

If you would like to check out Chasing the Boogeyman, it’s currently out and available wherever fine books are sold (or lent if, like me, you went to your local library). And if you would like to keep up with Richard Chizmar, you can find him on his website, on his Twitter, and on Cemetery Dance’s website and Twitter.

If you would like to check out other author interviews, including my first with Mr. Chizmar, you can find it on my Interviews page.

And if you’re an author with something coming out soon and want to have an interview with me, email me at ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com. If I’m available, we can make some magic happen.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ll be back with a couple of new reviews this week, as well as some other stuff so this blog doesn’t become a review and interview blog (nothing wrong with that, but it’s not what this blog is). Until next time, good night and pleasant nightmares.

Visual image for Blood and Paper Skin.

Well, isn’t this the most exciting and post-filled weekend ever! I think this is my fifth post since Friday!

So, as you can see, I’ve gotten another story acceptance, and I am over the moon about it! In fact, I went outside, jumped straight into the sky, and appeared to my neighbors to jump over the moon. Some are now sure I’m evil and are preparing to move out of the complex.

The story in question is my novelette “Blood and Paper Skin,” and it’s going to be published over three issues in the magazine The Dark Sire (you can check out their website here). The story follows a bunch of young twenty-somethings who go out to buy drugs, only for some of them to end up in a prison-like room. They soon find out they’re being held there by a middle-aged man, and he has a sinister but mysterious purpose for them being there.

I’m telling you, I’m very happy that this story has found a home. As it’s close to fifteen thousand words, I was really worried “Blood and Paper Skin” would have trouble finding a home. Who would have thought, after a lot of editing, it would get accepted by the first place I sent it! And because it’s a novelette, the story will be divided into three issues–Issues, 8, 9 and 10.

You know, that’s really old school. Plenty of famous short stories and novels were published in multiple issues as both a way to save room in the magazine and to keep suspense going. Examples include most of the works by Charles Dickens; Herbert West: Reanimator and The Lurking Fear by HP Lovecraft; and Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Even Stephen King had a story, Dolan’s Cadillac, published this way (though that was published through his newsletter, so some might say that isn’t the same).

Anyway, the first installment of “Blood and Paper Skin” will be published in Issue 8 of The Dark Sire, which should release at the end of the month. If that changes, or the timeline is split into thousands of branches creating a multiverse, I’ll let you know. I hope you’ll give the story a read, and I hope you’ll support The Dark Sire as well. They’re a small, independent horror magazine influenced by the darker works of writers like Edgar Allen Poe, Mary Shelley, JRR Tolkien, and Fyodor Dostoyevsky. They’re still pretty new, but they love what they do and are committed to publishing qualities stories, art, poetry and screenplays.

And they gave Rose one hell of a nice review. Just saying.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Tomorrow I have work, so I’m going to do some reading before bed and then hit the hay. Until next time, my Followers of Fear, good night, pleasant nightmares, and RELEASE THE DRAGON BATS…AGAIN!!!


I can’t say it enough: Followers of Fear, you have just over nine days to submit a question for my ten-year blogging anniversary Ask Me Anything, or AMA. One lucky participant will win a prize, so send your question to ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com by 11:59 PM, July 28th, 2021. I look forward to reading your questions and writing up answers. See you again soon!