Posts Tagged ‘storytelling’

My friend and fellow blogger whose tastes are way different than mine, Kat Impossible, tagged anyone who was interested in doing this tag. It sounded fun and informative, so I thought I would give it a try. It took me a while to get around to writing my own version and answering the questions–Kat’s post came out right after I got back from my trip, and I had a few posts to write before this one–but it’s finally out.

All credit goes to The Long Voyage for the original version of this tag. You can read it here.

NEVER HAVE I EVER…

…started a novel that I did not finish.

Before age 12 or 13? All the time. I wrote maybe five or six novels (which probably had word counts of short stories or novelettes at most) that didn’t get finished. There was a pirate story, a Frankenstein story, a caveman story, and a few zombie stories. Finally started getting some vampire stories to completion in middle school. I think it was a problem of focus and interest, rather than the story themselves. Then again, I was so young. Youngsters aren’t very good at staying focused on goals without seeing immediate gains from all their hard work.

More recently, I have some short stories and novelettes that I started in the past two years and stopped working on after awhile. Still figuring out why, but I think they may have leaned a little too far from horror and into dark fantasy to keep my interest. It’s sad, but what are you going to do?

…written a story completely by hand.

I did once! And it wasn’t one of those cute, two or three-page school assignments, either. One of my teenage attempts at novel-writing, a vampire novel called Mahiro, was written entirely by hand for its first draft. I had, like, seven notebooks filled with vampire fighting. And subconscious exploration of my sexuality through homage to Anne Rice and the movie Van Helsing, but that only occurred to me after I realized my sexuality.

…changed tenses in the middle of a story.

I think the first couple of attempts at Rose were in the past tense. But on advice from my thesis advisor, I changed to present tense. It worked out in the end.

…not researched anything before starting a story.

Most of my earliest stories started out that way. It wasn’t until maybe high school that I started to do research, and I only got good at it around college, when research became important for passing classes and getting my degree.

…changed a protagonist’s name halfway through a draft.

I don’t think I have, actually. Maybe the surname of a minor character, but never a protagonist’s name, personal or surname.

…written a story in less than a month.

Several times. Especially this past year or so.

…fallen asleep while writing.

Never. When I get tired, I’ll just go to bed.

…corrected someone’s grammar in real life or online.

Too many times to count. It’s a bad habit of mine.

…yelled in all caps at myself in the middle of a novel.

Um…I don’t think so. Is that something people do?

…used “I’m writing” as an excuse.

I think so. I didn’t want to go somewhere with my dad and sisters, even though a friend of mine would’ve been there to play. I just had to write that day. I hope the friend didn’t take it personally!

…killed a character based on someone I know in real life.

More than once. In fact, it’s something I warn people I’ll do if they get on my bad side. In fact, there are two people on there now. I just have to find the right stories to place them in…

Don’t ever mess with me.

…used pop culture references in a story.

Oh, all the time! Game of Thrones was mentioned once or twice in Rose, the 1960s Batman TV show gets a mention in River of Wrath, and I include so many references to some of my favorite anime in Toyland. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

…written between 1 AM and 6 AM.

Plenty of times. I’m actually thinking of changing my sleep schedule so I could do it more often (like Franz Kafka did), but I worry about the effects on my health should I need to get back on a normal schedule.

…drank an entire pot of coffee while writing.

I hate coffee, so that’s a no. I’ll usually have tea or, if it’s a weekend, beer or wine.

German wheat beers are my favorite kind of beer.

…written down dreams to use in potential plots.

Yes. One early story from college, Daisy, was inspired by a dream. And I think a couple more have been, but I can’t think of any off the top of my head.

…published an unedited story online/Wattpad/blog.

Oh hell no! I know the importance of editing. It can literally save a story from being thrown into the trash.

…procrastinated on homework because I wanted to write.

I don’t think so. I’m pretty good about getting that stuff done so I have time to write later. Besides, that stuff can creep up on you if you’re not careful.

…typed so long my wrists hurt.

Only if I’m wearing my watch. Which is why I normally type with it off.

…spilled a drink on my laptop while writing.

Not while writing, but once. I aim to never let it happen again.

…forgot to save my work/draft.

Never! How dare you insinuate I have!

…laughed like an evil villain while writing a scene.

Um, yeah! All the time! And sometimes when I’m not writing. It’s me, come on!

…cried while writing a scene.

Not my thing.

…created maps of my fictional worlds.

No, because more often than not, my stories take place in this world. All I need is a Google search and I’m good.

FOLLOWERS OF FEAR, I TAG YOU!!!

If you want to try this, go right ahead. Just make sure to link back to me and to The Long Voyage. And, as always, have fun with it!

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I hope you’re having a good weekend so far. If I got at least twelve hours of sleep, I know I did. If you need me, I’ll be doing what I do best on weekends…whatever that is. Until next time, stay safe and pleasant nightmares!

After the failure that was the Grudge reboot earlier this year (see my review here), I was hopeful after learning a television series based on the original Ju-On movies was going to be released in Japan. And it was being brought to America through Netflix. And as soon as I could, I sat down to watch all six episodes of JU-ON: Origins. After all, it was guaranteed to be better than the Grudge reboot, but would it be legitimately scary?

JU-ON: Origins begins with a paranormal researcher named Odajima appearing on a talk show with an idol who experienced supernatural happenings at her apartment after her boyfriend goes house-hunting for them. At the same time, a troubled high schooler named Kiyomi becomes involved with a mysterious house near her school. This and other events leads to many people’s lives becoming involved with the house, a house whose history is alive and kicking, and in the worst possible way.

While this series bears very little resemblance to the original story of the movies beyond a cursed house and several men questioning if they’re the father of the children they’re raising, it’s definitely a better horror story than the Grudge reboot. And even better, it’s freaking scary.

First off, the show does a great job of setting up a mystery. The characters spend their time running down multiple leads, each one leading to a new aspect of the haunting. And each new aspect seems to add more questions than it answers. But even better, there are a number of terrifying moments. There were quite a few moments, especially in the later episodes, where I was squirming in my seat. Anyone who gets to episode five will shiver every time they think of it.

I also liked how they incorporated famous tragedies from Japan’s recent history into the story. A lot of the major events of the story occur around the same time as the murder of Junko Furuta, the sarin gas attacks, and the Kobe child murders (which, by the way, are terrifying in their own rights). Almost as if to say the house’s evil has some sort of connection to those events.

And if you don’t like subtitles, there’s an English dub on Netflix, and it’s decent. The English dialogue matches very well with the Japanese lip movements, and there are some well-known anime voice actors in the series (I had a lot of fun making jokes about that in the calmer moments of the show). Though I am sad to say, that’s not Nicholas Cage voicing the main character Odajima, but a guy named Brock Powell doing a really good Nicholas Cage impression.

This scene! Oh God, I’m shivering again.

If there’s one thing I didn’t care for, it was that I would’ve liked to see more from the original films incorporated into the story. I’m not asking for a direct based-on-the-movie or Kayako and her son to fully appear on screen, but I would’ve enjoyed more references or incorporation of the original story that’s become so beloved by fans.

And just a trigger warning: this series delves into subjects such as domestic violence and sexual assault. So if that’s a turn-off, maybe don’t watch this one.

For everyone else, however, JU-ON: Origins is a terrifying TV show that will satisfy anyone else bored with more recent entries into the Ju-On and Grudge franchises. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving this show a 4.5. Head on home and settle in to watch it. Just make sure to watch with the lights on.

Also, if you go house hunting and the house has a history, make sure that it hasn’t harmed anyone in at least a decade before deciding it’s your dream home!

Before I start on the main subject of this post, I thought I’d ask a question of you, my Followers of Fear: how are you? You doing well?

Hey, it’s a pandemic and the world seems to get crazier every day. Might as well ask. Let’s talk in the comments below.

Anyway, you see that title? Inspiration, Motivation, Focus, Consistency. They’re more than just words. In fact, I think they’re why I’ve had such a crazy output of stories since November, including two novels.

Inspiration. This isn’t just limited to ideas for stories to write. Yeah, you want to have stories that excite you and that you think will excite others to read as much as it excites you to write them, but you also want inspiration for your drive. Let me explain: since Rose came out more than a year ago, I’ve heard from so many people who’ve enjoyed reading the book. I’ve had the pleasure of signing copies and talking to people about it, and even meeting the narrator of the audio book!

Being able to share my work with people, and knowing that they like it and even want to read more, is a huge inspiration for me. Imagining what someone might say for Rose or another story inspires me to sit in the chair at my desk and pound away at the keyboard on the laptop.

Motivation. If inspiration comes from knowing that people liked Rose and want to read more, then motivation is making sure I can do it again. I’m motivated to prove to the world that I’m not a one-book author (or one book by a publisher and four books published independently). This is another reason why I sit down in front of the computer every evening.

It’s also a good motivator for me to spend more time reading and less time streaming TV or anime, even though that is fun. I’m reading authors who have gotten their stories published—sometimes a few, sometimes many—and I’m thinking to myself, “Why did this story get published? Why does this work? What can I learn from this to improve my own stories?” And I think it works. At the very least, even the rejections come with good feedback more often than not.

Getting to meet Sara Parlier and discuss the book we worked on together was a great inspiration.

Focus. I always set a goal in mind for when I’m working on a story. When it’s writing, I try to get around 500 words down on paper, and everything after that is icing on the cake. For editing, I aim for at least three pages, and again, everything afterwards is icing on the cake. They’re simple goals, but more often than not they work. And at some point, a switch usually flips and I end up getting way more done than just those goals above. So, it works.

Consistency. None of the above three work unless you’re doing them often, though, and I’ve noticed the productive authors are always the ones who are doing them often. I tell people that a time fairy isn’t going to come to grant you time to write or meditate or exercise. You have to carve out the time yourself. It may take away from watching Netflix, but those shows will always be there waiting for you. The goals you’re trying to achieve? They won’t be there unless you make them a priority.

And you don’t have to go crazy in being consistent. A gradual build is good as well. I didn’t start writing most nights out of nowhere, I had to build up that habit over time. And it may take a lot more time than you want to build up the habit. But that’s okay. Trying too much too soon may overwhelm you, so it’s better to take it slow and build up your stamina so you can eventually be as consistent as you want to be.

Inspiration, Motivation, Focus, Consistency. They’re not always easy to find or build, but when you gather them together and use them, you can accomplish amazing things (and not just writing, either). How you go about finding them is up to you. But once you have them, you’ll be amazed at how hard it is to let them go. And just how much they improve your life.

 

So that’s all for tonight, my Followers of Fear. I’m deep in researching and outlining, so I’ll get back to that. In the meantime, stay safe, ask your doctor if demonic possession is right for you, and until next time, pleasant nightmares!

Oh, and since I mentioned it, I’ll post the links for Rose down below. If you haven’t read it yet and would like to check it out, please do. And if you enjoy what you read, leave a review online and let me know. I love reader feedback, and it helps me out in the long run. Enjoy!

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

I’m a little ashamed to admit it, but it took me about two months to get through the audio book of this novel. Not because of how I was reacting to the book, but COVID-19 has changed my audio-book listening habits in a major way. Which is a pain in the ass when you decide to read more works by writers of color and this particular book and author comes highly recommended. But I finally got through it, so let me tell you about this book I just finished (the audio book of which, by the way, was narrated by the author himself, and he did a great job).

The Devil in Silver follows Pepper, a large man who gets thrown into Northwest at New Hyde Hospital, a mental institution in Queens, New York. Not because of any mental illness, but that doesn’t keep him from being there. And as Pepper gets a crash course in the mental health industry, he also has to contend with a terrifying resident with its own wing of the hospital. A demonic figure, a devil, who seems to enjoy the pain and suffering of other patients. And Pepper finds himself in the unwelcome position of having to face this monster and stop it, lest it hurt him and his new friends in New Hyde Hospital.

Despite the title and the monster mentioned in the second half of the preceding paragraph, the true horror of the story doesn’t come primarily from the devil. It actually comes from the setting: LaValle does a great job of writing about people trapped in an industry that doesn’t always have the well-being of its patients in mind (and quite a few of the characters note this in the story). As someone who has his own share of mental health issues, reading this book, whose author drew on his own experiences with mental illness and mental institutions, made me very much aware of my experience with mental health and the industry, and how much worse it could be things were a little different. I’ve since put a book on the industry on my TBR list, which I hope will further educate me and make me more aware of a segment of society that the rest sometimes wishes to forget exists.

That all being said, the titular devil is scary too. There’s something about a bison-headed monster popping out of the ceiling of a mental hospital, one that enjoys hurting the patients and can manipulate the staff for its own benefit. Just makes the hairs on the back of your neck rise and makes you wonder about what it might be like if a monster such as that existed.

I also really grew to love the characters. Pepper comes off as honest and likable, if impulsive and a bit thick-headed at times. You really got to see him grow throughout the course of the story as he interacts with the other characters and deals with the trials and tribulations set before him. And speaking of the other characters, even the minor ones were given enough development to feel real. Some of my favorites include the Ugandan immigrant Coffee, who really does want someone to listen to what’s happening at the hospital, and the sassy Luchee, a young woman trying to have some semblance of normal given her situation.

If there was anything I didn’t care for, I found the climax to be a bit anticlimactic. I think I get what the author was going for with that ending, but I kind of wanted something more, and I didn’t get it. That, and there are a lot of digressions in the story. Some of these digressions are quite helpful: they help flesh out the world of the story and what the characters are going through. At the same time, there are some that made me scratch my head, like the one from the POV of the rat living on the second floor of the hospital.

But all in all, The Devil in Silver by Victor LaValle is both a scary story and a story that hits deep at what it means to be human. And after reading this, I’ll likely read another book by LaValle very soon. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving this one a 4.3. Grab a copy and get ready to see a side of life many would rather forget existed.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. As promised, more posts are on the way, including on my recent trip to South Carolina. Keep your eyes peeled. And until next time, stay safe and pleasant nightmares!

I didn’t think I’d complete a new story this month, what with all the traveling. But somehow, I pulled it off. And without sacrificing any lives or limbs in the process, might I add. Good for me.

“Agoraphobia” is a short story I started before I left on my trip to Iowa and South Carolina earlier this month. The story follows a man with severe agoraphobia and social anxiety, to the point he never leaves his home. Which is a problem, because he lives in hurricane country and one’s bearing down on his area, forcing him to have to consider evacuating with everyone else. And that gets a bit more complicated when it appears the storm lets something into his house. Something that aims to do him harm.

So, this was pretty different from my normal fiction. It ended up being more literary horror than what I originally intended. Even so, I think it came out pretty well. Whether or not it’s good enough to publish is anyone’s guess, but I think with some feedback from the right beta reader, it could improve considerably.

Also, fun fact: I actually finished this story late Tuesday night. But during the writing, I started writing the story with a particular idea for the second half, only to change that idea midway through writing the first draft. So during these past few days, I’ve been going through it to cut out the parts that were written when the goal was the original ending.

Anyway, I’m going to see if I can find a beta reader for “Agoraphobia.” After that, I’m going to likely start work on my next story. Yes, that’s right, I already know what I’m going to write next. Let’s hope that story will be worth something when it’s done as well.

Until next time, my Followers of Fear, stay safe, avoid summoning demons into your home, and pleasant nightmares!

Some of you may remember I reviewed the novel Perfect Blue: Complete Metamorphosis, the inspiration for the anime horror film I’m a huge fan of. Turns out the novel had something of a sequel, an anthology of tales by the same author, Yoshikazu Takeuchi, about idols being stalked by obsessive fans. I’ve been meaning to read it forever, but only just got my paws on a copy recently. Hoping it would compare well to the original novel, I read it in about a night.

Um…I’ve read better.

The anthology has three stories inside, a short story called “Wake Me From This Dream;” a novella called “Cry Your Tears;” and a novelette called “Even When I Embrace You.” Yeah, they all sound creepy just from the titles. However, the quality ranges from story to story.

“Wake Me From This Dream” follows one fan’s strange experience when he actually gets to be with his idol (after a fashion). It’s kind of creepy in how it approaches its premise, as well as hard to look away until the end. The story actually reminds me of Stephen King’s quote about short stories, about it being a kiss in the dark from a stranger. It’s especially true of this story, though the author seems to confuse social anxiety and laziness in a less-than-helpful way.

“Cry Your Tears,” the longest story, is a standard celebrity stalker story. Guy is obsessed, in love with his favorite singer; his idol is creeped out by his intrusion into her life; a bloody climax ensues. Meanwhile, our heroine whines about how hard her life is. Like I said, it’s standard and doesn’t really do anything to pull itself away from the other standard stalker stories.

“Even When I Embrace You” is probably the weirdest story: a new idol singer who isn’t even sure being an idol is what she wants to be as an entertainer is pursued by a guy in a bunny costume. The premise is interesting, I’ll give it that, and it’s nice to see a heroine who’s a bit more rounded and doesn’t mind fighting back when she has to. However, the supernatural element to the story isn’t well thought out, and the bunny costume just sounds like another impractical movie killer costume.

On the whole, Perfect Blue: Awaken From a Dream is probably best left to the die-hard fans of the original novel and/or the movie. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving it a 2.3. Outside of that first story, the rest feels run of the mill and uninspired, though they are well-written.

Yeah, not the best book. But I did get an idea for a novel from something the author said in the afterword, so that’s a plus.

Until next time, my Followers of Fear, stay safe, pleasant nightmares, and STOP TRYING TO FIND OUT WHERE I LIVE! I mean come on, do you know how dangerous that is? You might as well walk into the tiger enclosure at the zoo (and you’d probably have a better chance of survival while there).

I’ve never reviewed a true crime book on my blog before. As you well know, I tend to specialize in horror of the fictional variety. But for a while now, since first hearing of the Cecil Hotel (which made one of my lists of haunted places to visit) and the death of Elisa Lam there in 2013, I’ve wanted to learn more than what I could glean from a ten minute YouTube video or from reading the Wikipedia page. And earlier this year, someone finally released a book about the case. Despite mixed reviews, I decided to buy a copy, and read it over the course of my vacation.

Here are my thoughts.

Gone at Midnight focuses on the case of Elisa Lam, a Chinese-Canadian student who disappeared in early 2013 in Los Angeles. Several days after her disappearance is reported, she is found dead in one of the water tanks of the infamous Cecil Hotel, a location known as “The Suicide” for its history of violent deaths and even having serial killers as residents at certain points. The incident is only made weirder by the release of footage from a hotel elevator showing Elisa acting strangely on the night she disappeared. Author Jake Anderson traces Elisa’s path over the last two years of her life, as well as how the case took a viral life of its own with websleuths on the Internet and the many problems with the police conclusion on the case.

I have to say, Anderson does a very good job of writing a convincing narrative. The book could easily have gone into the deep end a la The Mothman Prophecies by John Keel, with talk of synchronicity, paranormal happenings at the hotel, and theoretical physics, among other subjects. However, he keeps the narrative on track, only bringing up the weirder aspects as they relate to the case of Lam’s death and his own investigation into the case as a journalist. Anderson also does a terrific job of laying out the various problems with the police’s conclusion, and offers several alternative possibilities about what may have happened.

His reconstructions of what Lam may have been thinking during her final years (something I’ve found in a lot of true crime I’ve read), based on her many blog posts, also has an eerie authenticity to it. And his examination of the websleuth community, the pros and cons of the movement and how it all relates to Lam, is quite interesting. I wouldn’t be surprised if this book is used later for a sociological study into websleuthing.

There is one major criticism I have, and it’s one I share with a lot of other critics of the book: Anderson spends a lot of time on his own mental health. And while in some places it’s relevant to what we’re reading about, at other times it’s distracting. I understand why he did it: like Lam, the author has his own mental disorders, and his struggles strengthened the kinship he felt with Lam, despite having never met her. I too feel a strange kinship with Lam: not only was she a little older than me when she died, I also have my share of mental struggles, and enjoy writing and blogging like she did, among other things.

However, as I said, it’s distracting at times, and I feel like Anderson’s struggle with his mental state, while relevant, should have been kept in a foreward or afterward to the book, or maybe even in an essay published separately from the book.

All told, Gone at MIdnight: The Mysterious Death of Elisa Lam by Jake Anderson is as of this moment the definitive book on the Lam case, and deserves to be so. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving the book a 4.3. After reading this, I’m going to be doing a bit more research into the case, but Anderson might have me convinced on his take on the Lam case.

Grab a copy, take a deep breath, and jump right in. You’ll find yourself on a roller coaster that may, as it did for me, hit close to home.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m finally back from my trip, so I’ll be posting quite a bit over the next two weeks (especially since I’m quarantining myself to make sure I didn’t catch anything). Keep an eye out for more reviews, breakdowns of the paranormal activity I encountered, the places I visited, updates on my writing, and so much more.

Until next time, stay safe and pleasant nightmares!

I may have stayed up late last night reading this one. What can I say? Riley Sager knows how to take a damaged young woman with a past, put her in a scenario reminiscent of famous horror films and novels, and then create a compelling mystery-thriller. Such is the case with Home Before Dark, where Sager takes on Gothic horror and The Amityville Horror.

Home Before Dark follows Maggie Holt, an interior designer who also happens to be one member of a family that experienced an Amityville Horror-esque situation that forced them to flee their newly bought home, the infamous Victorian mansion Baneberry Hall, after only twenty days. Her father Ewan later wrote a book about their “experiences” in the haunted house, which became a bestseller and has forever followed Maggie. Twenty-five years later, Maggie returns to Baneberry Hall, a place she doesn’t even remember, to renovate the house and find the truth hidden in her dad’s book. But as figures from the book emerge as real people and Maggie digs deeper, she finds an even deeper mystery within the manor. One with possibly deadly consequences.

From the start, the novel draws you in and makes it hard to put down. The story switches between Maggie’s present and passages from Ewan Holt’s “tell-all,” House of Horrors, and it’s fun to see how things that “happened” in the past line up with or contrast with what Maggie experiences. I also liked Maggie as a character. You could really feel how much her life has been affected by her family’s deceptions and the popularity of the Book (as she calls it). I almost felt angry at her parents just reading about how much they twisted her life.

And of course, there were numerous twists and turns along the way. I saw none of them coming and they really really kept the tension high and my mind boggled at the possibilities. They’re part of the reason why I was up past midnight last night.

If there’s one thing I didn’t like about the novel, it’s that during the sections quoting the Book, the plot seemed lifted from today’s B-horror films. You know, the kind that have paint-by-the-numbers plots, rely heavily on CGI and jumpscares, and you forget about them a year or so after they release? I get that it’s supposed to be a pastiche or satire of Amityville Horror-style haunted house stories, but at times it felt like I was reading a bad ripoff of The Haunting in Connecticut or one of the poorer Conjuring films. Not really my thing, as you well know.

All in all though, Home Before Dark is a twisty, satisfying read. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving Riley Sager’s fourth book a 4.7. Grab a copy, settle into a comfy chair, and prepare to be thrilled. You’ll be “haunted” even after the very last page.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I might get another post out this week, but given that I’m leaving for my trip soon, that’s going to take up my attention this week. And it’ll be really hard to blog until after I get back. Nevertheless, once I do come back, I promise to have quality content for you. Or something you can use to fill five minutes of your life, depends on how you view it.

And in the meantime, if you’re able to come to the fifth annual Indie Author Book Expo in Des Moines, Iowa this coming weekend, please do. I’ll be selling copies of Rose, doing Tarot readings, and interacting with people, and I’d be happy to see you.

Until next time, stay safe and pleasant nightmares!

Some time ago, a friend/colleague on Facebook invited friends who enjoy writing to join him for a virtual write-in. Curious, I asked him to include me, and the following Sunday, I logged in with several other writers. And you know what? It proved to be very helpful, at least for me.

So what is a virtual write-in? Well, if you’re unfamiliar with write-ins, they’re when a bunch of writers get together and use the presence of one another to motivate you to write and get words down on paper. It’s also helpful if you need advice from your fellow creatives. A virtual one is one that’s not held in-person, but online.

In this case, we’ve been meeting over Zoom. We log in at a set time by a link provided by the host (my colleague), talk about what we’re going to be working on, and then mute our microphones before trying to write for two hours. At the end, everyone who can jumps back in and talks about how much progress they made.

I’m usually pretty good about getting words on paper (to the point that people joke I’m writing a novel a week or something), but I’ve found these write-ins to be helpful for me. For one thing, having all these other writers writing alongside me, even if they’re not physically nearby, has a psychological effect. I start to think that these other writers are making progress, and that makes me want to make progress. My mind then gets into a frame where it can make progress, and then I do make progress.

And an added benefit to these virtual write-ins is that it allows for safe communication during the pandemic. COVID-19 has made it dangerous to so much as stop by a Starbucks, let alone meet with a bunch of other authors. But these write-ins take out that risk, as well as giving writers who may live far away from the host a chance to participate without a long car or plane ride. And in an age where going grocery shopping is dangerous because the store may let people in who aren’t wearing masks (how irresponsible), that’s a good thing to have.

Finally, these virtual write-ins allow us to make connections in a comfortable environment. Since starting these write-ins, I’ve met a few writers whom I’ve been able to connect and talk work with. Just recently, I had a chat with one of the participants about various aspects of publication after we connected through the write-in. Another gave me some feedback on an essay I wrote that proved helpful during the second draft. And a few are now Facebook friends!

My writing workstation. Which, by the way, is also a comfortable place to meet people during a virtual write-in.

Of course, virtual write-ins aren’t without their drawbacks. Not everyone is able to make every single meeting, sometimes people have to come late or leave early because life is crazy, and sometimes these write-ins aren’t that helpful for some writers. However, if you’re in a good group, you’ll find the other members understanding of your life or your writing style. I know the folks in mine are.

Anyway, these write-ins have been helpful. Hell, I’ve benefited so much, I’m planning one for the Ohio chapter of the Horror Writers Association, possibly one that lasts a good chunk of the day.

And since they’re so helpful, I’m spreading the word about them. Who knows? Maybe if you’ve had trouble lately with writing, getting a couple of your friends together for a virtual write-in might be just what you needed. And if it’s not, at least you’ve discovered another thing that doesn’t help with your writing. Always a plus.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m going to bed now. Hopefully in the morning, I’ll be able to finish the outline of a new story. Hope you all have a happy Fourth of July, even if you don’t live in America.

And until next time, stay safe, pleasant nightmares, and HAMILTON IS AWESOME!!! I hope you have the chance to watch it on Disney+. That movie had me in tears by the end.

Since it was announced that King was releasing another collection of four novellas last year, I’ve been looking forward to reading it. The shutdowns due to COVID-19 delayed me getting my copy from the library by about two months (thanks, coronavirus!), but as soon as I had it, I settled down to read it and see how it stacked up against collections like Four Past Midnight and Different Seasons.

It took me maybe two weeks to read the book. What did I think?

Oh God, I was disappointed. I’m a huge King fan, but–oh God. This is definitely not one of Stephen King’s strongest collections of novellas. Out of the four stories in the collection, I disliked or was indifferent to three of them:

The first story, “Mr. Harrigan’s Phone,” follows a young boy whose relationship with a rich, elderly bachelor takes on a supernatural twist. And while it goes for a creepy coming-of-age story vibe with comments on technology addiction and how business takes place online, it feels like just your average coming-of-age story that tries to be creepy a few times. And not very well. If perhaps the story had dropped some of the literary focus and instead tried to focus on the protagonist through more supernatural terror, I might have enjoyed it a bit more.

The second story, “The Life of Chuck,” is actually three stories in one, all focusing on a man named Chuck Krantz at various stages of his life. And I didn’t see the point of all three stories being included together as one story. The three parts don’t really link up that well except for the titular character, and each has a different focus: the first is an interesting take on the verse from the Talmud “He who saves a life, saves a world entire;” the second is about an impromptu flash mob in Boston; and the third is a spooky ghost story set during Chuck’s childhood. I think if the three parts were released in separate collections, they honestly would have been stronger, especially the first and third. As they are though, I was just left annoyed and confused.

The final story, “The Rat,” is a semi-interesting story about an author trying to finish a novel in a remote cabin during a storm that takes a dark fantasy turn during the last third. And the way it takes that turn is so silly, I’m wondering if King meant for that to be a comedy/horror piece and I missed it. As it is, it’s not going to leave anyone with nightmares anytime soon.

The one story I actually liked is the third, “If It Bleeds,” starring Holly Gibney from the Bill Hodges trilogy (which I haven’t read) and The Outsider (read my review here). In this story, private eye and cinephile Holly Gibney realizes a monster like the one from The Outsider is causing death and misery after a school is bombed. It’s got a great mystery at the center, a thrilling climax, and some nice character development on the part of Holly (who, might I add, is on the spectrum with me. Positive representation!). It’s not exactly top-notch King, but it’s still very good, and I’d check out an adaptation if one were made and it was on a channel/streaming service I have access to (*hint hint wink wink*).

All in all though, If It Bleeds by Stephen King is not going to keep anyone up at night. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving the collection a 2.3, and that’s mostly for the titular story. Major King fans are going to read this one, but I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who’s either a casual fan, a new King reader, or just looking for a scary collection of stories.

For that, I recommend his collection Four Past Midnight.*

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m disappointed that this book didn’t resonate with me, but I already have my next read, Home Before Dark by Riley Sager, waiting for me to start. Hopefully that’ll scratch my horror literature itch, especially if I finish it before it has to go back to the library. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

*And would someone please make a movie based on the third story in that collection, The Library Policeman? PLEASE?!!! I would help make it and make it the best it can be if someone did.