Posts Tagged ‘writing’

In my last post, I mentioned that I was prepping to move into a bigger apartment and was getting ready to do so. While going through some stuff, seeing what I wanted to keep and what I wanted to donate, I was surprised by what I found hidden at the bottom of a box: my three contributor copies of the Winter 2011 issue of TEA, A Magazine. This is significant because this was the first time I was paid for a published story!

While my memory can be very unreliable sometimes, I remember that story, and that magazine, so well. I was still in high school then, and I was just starting to try and get into the short story market. In those days, I was regularly borrowing these annual guides on the short story market, reading the articles for anything I could use to improve my own storytelling techniques and looking at the listings of magazines and small presses I could submit my work to. One of the listings was for TEA, A Magazine. You can guess what it was focused on. Articles, ads, recipes, and even fiction centering on tea.

I was a big tea drinker even then, so I was intrigued. And I thought, Why not try to write a short story about tea and send it their way? And I did, a short story called “Summers with Grandmother Fumika.” And as you can tell from that title, I was a huge nerd for anime, manga, and Japanese culture back then. In fact, I was crazier about it then than I am now! But back to the short story. “Summers with Grandmother Fumika” was about a young Japanese-American girl who stays with her grandmother during the summers, and one summer, they perform a tea ceremony for a kitsune, a multitailed fox spirit.

Definitely more fantasy-based than Rose was, though they both drew upon Japanese culture. And it had a happier ending.

I don’t think I really expected TEA to accept my work, but to my surprise, the editor actually enjoyed the story and wanted to work with me on it. A couple of months of edits, and they sent me a contract. Not too long after, they sent me a $100 check for the story, as well as my contributor copies.

My short story in the issue, “Summers with Grandmother Fumika.”

Edgar Rice Burroughs, the creator of Tarzan, once said that he could make a million dollars in his lifetime, but he would never feel richer than he did the moment he received a $400 check for his first story, A Princess of Mars. For me, I have the same feeling about that $100. Not because I grew older and $100 didn’t seem like such a big deal as it did in high school. But because that check came with more than just monetary meaning. It came with validation.

Imagine, only 17 and someone thought that something you had written was not only good, but they wanted to pay money for it! To include it in a magazine read by hundreds, maybe even thousands of people! “Intoxicating” doesn’t even begin to cover the feeling I had then. And I’ve been chasing that feeling ever since, trying to replicate it.

Of course, like any addiction, nothing ever compares to that first high. Thankfully, with this addiction, there are plenty of other perks when I manage to publish something people enjoy. You can probably guess what they are.

I’m glad I was able to rediscover that story and those contributor copies. It’s been so long, I’d forgotten that I even had them. And with it being around ten years since that issue of TEA was released, it feels almost timely. Makes me want to do something with “Summers with Grandmother Fumika.” Maybe a reading on a YouTube video? It’d be more fantasy than horror, but I’m sure there would be some people interested in hearing me read it. We’ll see after the move.

Anyway, thanks for strolling down memory lane with me, my Followers of Fear. It was a nice, warm, nostalgic moment in my day and I wanted to share it with you. And it reminds me that, even though it’s been awhile since I’ve had an acceptance, it doesn’t mean it won’t happen in the future. Hell, if I can do it at 17, then I can do it at 27. Just a matter of time, work and finding the right publication.

Until next time, my Followers of Fear, good night, Shabbat Shalom, have a good weekend, and pleasant nightmares.

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Pexels.com

I’ve been told that today is the 21st day of the 21st year of the 21st century. Putting aside the fact that time is an illusion, particularly to non-human entities such as myself, you’d think that today would be kind of extraordinary because it was the 21st day of the 21st year of the 21st century. But, beyond it being President Biden’s first full day as commander-in-chief, it’s not extraordinary. The day itself was ordinary, just another day in a strange time for me.

What, you may ask, makes my life so strange? It’s a number of things. For one thing, I’m moving next week. Surprise! A two-bedroom apartment in my complex opened up recently. My rental managers knew I was planning on moving out at the end of my current lease anyway so I could have more space and they didn’t want to lose a good tenant. So, they offered it to me and I accepted.

And I’m excited for the move. I’ll be able to have a home office in the second bedroom, and there will be enough space for me to get some cats without their food bowls or litter boxes becoming tripping hazards. But it means I’ll have to uproot myself from my current apartment, which I’ve lived in for nearly five years. I’ve slowly been ticking items off my to-do list, like notifying various companies I pay bills to or taking down all my wall art and decorations. And it’s odd to see this apartment prepare to become not my apartment, but empty. Like I’m erasing my presence from this space.

I went through so many changes and had so many experiences here: started my first full-time job, published a book, got my drivers license, etc. All those experiences will still stay with me, but the location will no longer be accessible. It will no longer be my home.

And then there’s the fact that I’m not motivated to write lately. I know, shocker! But I’ve got one short story being released as an e-book exclusive, several other stories being read over by alpha or beta readers, a couple of other projects that I can’t talk about now in the works, and a few other writing-related things going on. Is it any wonder I don’t feel like doing anything more than some basic outlining?

Add in the change of Presidents yesterday, in a transition of power that feels more significant than any in living memory. Not only that, but it comes hot on the heels of an insurrection in the Capitol building. And that I’ve taken the next couple of days off for the move. And it’s January, so the year is still new. And all this and other events in my life and the world are coming one after the other after the other.

In a way, I feel like this pup. Photo by Dominika Roseclay on Pexels.com

And that, despite it all, I’m feeling kind of Zen lately. Or as Zen as I can be. With my neuro-atypical brain, turning my mind off and being thoughtless has never been my strong suit. Believe me, I’ve tried. But I feel something. I feel happy and clear and relaxed. Even as I go about my goals and daily tasks, I feel very attuned. Like I’m where I’m supposed to be, doing what I’m supposed to be doing. I’m at peace with myself and the world. I’m moving through the world and part of it. There’s no reason for me to feel this way that I can see, but there it is.

Is it any wonder that my life feels weird right now?

And you know what? It’s not a bad way for life to be. I mean, yeah, as an eccentric, my life is always a little weird. But this is a different kind of weird. A beneficial, relaxing, pleasant sort of weird. And I’ll enjoy it while it lasts.

Which will likely either be till I go back to work, or when I need to get some serious writing work done. Not sure, ask me later.

Good night, my Followers of Fear. And until next time, stay safe, enjoy the 21st day of the 21st year of the 21st century, and pleasant nightmares!

You know, I still remember when it took me months to write a short story. Or it felt like months. It might have been less. But it took a lot longer. I didn’t always have that great discipline when it came to writing, so projects took a lot longer than they do now. I guess that’s growing up and getting experience.

Well, at least it doesn’t take that long to get stories written now. Because, guess what? I just finished my first short story of 2021!

Can I get a GIF of Kermit the Frog being totally excited right now?

Was that necessary? Not at all. Did I enjoy putting it in there? Quite.

So, I’m sure you’re curious about the short story I’ve written. The story is called, “The Divorce from God,” and is unusual for my work because it draws very strongly on my Jewish heritage. Yeah, I may be Jewish, but that doesn’t appear in my fiction very much. Probably a number of reasons for that, but I guess there’s just not many stories I feel like telling where my heritage could fit comfortably in.

However, this story was inspired by a recent scandal in the ultra-Orthodox community, so this time the Jewish heritage fit in quite well. In case you weren’t aware, back in 2013 an ultra-Orthodox rabbi was arrested for some serious crimes. You see, in Judaism, a woman can only get a divorce if her husband gives her a document called a get. Without that, she’s forever tied to him. And sometimes, husbands will hold that over their wives, leaving them with few options. Women stuck in this situation are known as agunot, or chained women.

I bring this up because the rabbi I mentioned was being hired by these women to kidnap their husbands and torture them until they granted the divorce. And the guy charged thousands of dollars for his services, too! He got away with this for decades, protected by his victims’ unwillingness to testify or by the charges being dropped. However, after one of his victims came forward, the FBI pulled a sting and he and his cohorts were arrested. Most of them are still serving their sentences, last I checked.

Click here for a great article from GQ magazine on the scandal, which was essential for my research.

I first heard about this story last year when I heard that a movie was being made about it. The story immediately inspired me with ideas. And then, about a week ago, I heard about an anthology of Jewish horror being published later this year, so I thought, “Might as well write this story now. It’s a good fit.”

It was a good night of writing, all told.

And hopefully, once I’ve done some edits, it will be. I’ve already sent it to my dad, who’s a rabbi and who’s agreed to take a first look, to give his feedback on the Jewish aspects of the story and if I do a good job explaining those aspects for a non-Jewish audience. After that, I’ll probably let a beta reader or two take a look at it and do some edits before sending it in for consideration. Fingers crossed, the editors will like it.

For now though, I think I’ll celebrate with a cup of tea and a late viewing of Die Hard 2, which is probably the best of the Die Hard sequels. Tomorrow, I’ll probably talk about my next major project. Or watch and review a horror movie. Or both. We’ll see what I’m in the mood for.

Good night, my Followers of Fear. And until next time, stay safe and pleasant nightmares!

I looked for a cosmic horror GIF, and this was my favorite.

Cosmic horror is everywhere these days. Since HP Lovecraft first kicked off the subgenre in the early half of the 20th century, it’s spread from pulp magazines to all corners of horror literature, to table-top roleplaying games and video games. And while cosmic horror has been in the movies and on TV sporadically since the 1960s, in the past couple of years we’ve seen a glut of it on those mediums: Annihilation, Stranger Things, The Color Out of Space, Underwater, Lovecraft Country (which I’ll be watching soon now that I have HBO Max), The Endless, and most recently, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina‘s fourth season (though not very well).

And there are more on the way. Just today, I heard about a new film called Sacrifice coming out next month that has Lovecraftian themes (click here to check out the trailer). Sometime this year, the long-awaited anime adaptation of Uzumaki by Junji Ito is supposed to air. Richard Stanley, the director of Color Out of Space, hopes to do a trilogy of films based off Lovecraft’s work.

And there’s a lot more that I probably don’t know about. Plus new games, novels and short stories, comics, manga and anime, poems and art! Cosmic horror is kinda going mainstream right now. Or as mainstream as horror can get.

Color Out of Space was awesome. And we may have more like it in the future.

The question is, why now? Why is this particular subgenre only now just getting mainstream acceptance? Why the sudden enthusiasm?

I think there are a few reasons. One is time and a devoted fanbase. Cosmic horror, as I said, originally came from pulp magazines with very small circulation. However, the fans who enjoyed the stories of Lovecraft and those who played in his world–what would later be known as the Cthulhu Mythos–preserved and kept the stories going even after the deaths of the magazines and of Lovecraft. Through hard work and advocacy, more fans found cosmic horror and found themselves drawn to the stories. Then as now, fans would then tell other fans, or create their own work based on these stories, which has a looping effect of creating more fans through exposure. So, it may have taken time, but cosmic horror has been able to spread with patience and the love of many who follow it.

Almost sounds like cosmic horror is an eldritch deity in and of itself, doesn’t it? I find that hilariously appropriate.

Another factor at play, I believe, is that modern audiences are more receptive to that kind of horror than they have been in the past. Like I said, it’s taken time for cosmic horror to penetrate the public consciousness, and so for many people, cosmic horror may be a nice change of pace from the usual horror fare. We’ve seen plenty of haunted house stories, slashers, and sequels and ripoffs of possession or ghost stories. Those elements are not normally part of cosmic horror. In fact, it could be a breath of fresh air for audiences.

And finally, while cosmic horror normally deals with ancient, otherworldly gods and terrible secrets, it’s a great place to talk about modern issues. Granted, horror has always been a place to explore our everyday fears and anxieties, but cosmic horror, through the perspectives and interactions of its human characters against these terrors, can do it in a unique way. Lovecraft Country uses cosmic horror to explore racism, which both was part of the genre’s start and which is a current problem today.

Is it too much too hope that one of those works might be a kickass, terrifying adaptation of Hellstar Remina by Junji Ito?

And I wrote a novella, What Errour Awoke, that combined elements of cosmic horror with the current pandemic to explore the fear with the latter. And yes, I still hope to get that published.

So, with all these factors, can we expect more cosmic horror in the near future? I think so. Maybe not in huge numbers from the movie industry, as cosmic horror tends to have a spotty track record there.* But certainly in other mediums. Horror-themed TV has been booming, so we’ll likely see plenty of shows exploring those themes in the future. Comics and manga have always loved cosmic horror. And, of course, we’ll likely see many, many new books or short stories in that vein.**

So long as they’re made with lots of love, both for the subgenre and for the projects themselves, rather than for the money, I look forward to it.

Are you a fan of cosmic horror? Are you enjoying the wave of new works in the subgenre? Let’s discuss in the comments below.

*While they were well-received by critics and moviegoers, Annihilation and Underwater underperformed at the box office, and Color Out of Space only had a limited theater release.

**Hopefully, I’ll be able to add to this. I’ve a few cosmic horror ideas waiting to be written. I’d love to share them with you all someday.

Fun fact: apparently Scott Carson is actually Michael Koryta, an award-winning author who does both crime and supernatural fiction. If what I’ve heard is true, his fanbase is pretty divided between his crime and supernatural books, so he created a pen name for the latter going forward. Everyone got that? Good. Onto the review!

The Chill takes place in the fictional Torrance County, upstate New York, home of the fictional Chillawuakee Reservoir, or “The Chill.” This reservoir was built at the loss of a small town called Galesburg, which was submerged after the dam went up. Prior to that, some of the Galesburg residents didn’t take kindly to being evicted so New York City could have another freshwater supply, and reacted violently. Even after the dam went up and many of the protesters died, some still swear revenge. Now, nearly eighty years later, the dam is old and in need of repairs, and the dead are aware of this. They’re active, they’re working behind the scenes, they do not forgive and they do not forget. And they want their revenge.

So, the concept of the story is pretty cool. It kind of reminds me of The Shining, though instead of ghosts at an old hotel, it’s ghosts by a dam and the afterlife is kind of busy and cult-like as well. You can tell the book was meticulously researched by how it goes about explaining the inner workings of dams and reservoirs, as well as (what I assume to be) the problems with maintaining them. And the prophecy in the story makes a clever twist on the trope that I like.

However, there were a lot of problems with the novel. For one thing, it seemed to take forever before it got interesting. Several times before the halfway point, I wanted to put the book down and not read anything else because of how slow it was going. We also don’t meet one of the focal characters, Gillian Mathers, until about a quarter in, and it takes even longer for us to identify with her and see her as more than just a trope in a story. I feel like Carson wanted to focus less on her until she was needed because she is a type of trope, and instead focus on another character, Aaron Ellsworth, because he’s got a much more interesting character arc.

Another issue was that, while the dams were well-researched, I had trouble visualizing certain things in my head. I’m not familiar with dams, and I don’t know many people who are beyond the fact that they hold water back. It would have been nice if a couple more paragraphs were shown to help readers like me visualize the structure, the discharge tunnel, etc.

However, past all that, it does get interesting. There are some spooky scenes, an epic disaster scene, and some excellent writing. I just wish we’d seen more of that in the first half.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I award The Chill by Scott Carson a 3 out of 5. It’s okay, but there were definite areas to improve in.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m still relaxing so that when I return to writing, I can be as refreshed as possible. Until next time, stay safe and pleasant nightmares!

I made a nice graphic for “The Pure World Comes.” It’ll work till I get a proper cover for the story.

My first major achievement of 2021 occurred this morning at around 2 AM (yeah, I’m not sure how I’m functioning right now, either). After a crap ton of editing and a bit of Doctor Who, I finished the second draft of The Pure World Comes.

Now if you don’t know what The Pure World Comes is, it’s a Gothic horror novel I wrote back in Spring 2020 and started editing last month. The novel, which is set in Victorian England, follows a young maid who goes to work for a mad scientist. Beyond being a fun and exciting story to work on, it was my love letter to the Victorian era and a great opportunity to showcase my theory of who Jack the Ripper was.

Yeah, I worked Jack the Ripper into the story. And I think it worked as an addition.

Now, if you remember my post about prepping to return to Victorian England, I had some specific goals with this draft. Namely, I wanted to make the story feel more authentic by improving the dialogue, explaining all the odd ideas and customs of Victorian England (*cough* mourning rituals *cough*), and adding little details like steam engines, Covent Garden, and bath tubs heated with giant metal contraptions. While I’m still iffy on the dialogue, I think I did a great job with the other stuff. I tried to give readers some explanation or context for some of the things that were common then but would be considered odd now, and I think I added enough little details to make the story feel authentic.

Of course, I’ll leave that up to the beta readers (more on them in a bit).

Also, did I mention how much this story has grown since the first draft? The first was 214 pages (8.5 x 11 inches, double spaced, 12-point Times New Roman font) and 59,333 words. The second, however, was 228 pages and 64,269 words! That’s an increase of nearly 14 pages and nearly five-thousand words! Yes, a lot of that comes from explaining some things or expanding some sections so they’re less confusing. Believe it or not, it might’ve been more, but as I got further into the draft, I ended up cutting a ton of material as well.

So, what’s next? Well, I’m going to hand the novel off to a couple of beta readers to look over. I’ve already gotten confirmations from two colleagues who are well-versed in historical fiction (as well as my work) that they’ll take a look, and I’m reaching out to a few others who are big horror fans themselves. With any luck, I’ll find out not only if The Pure World Comes is any good, but what I can do to improve it in the third draft before trying to publish it.

And while they’re looking at the second draft, I’ll be taking a break from any serious writing for a short while. Beyond any administrative work on my various projects or the occasional blog post, it’ll just be easy street for the next week or two. After that…well, I have some ideas.

I look forward to receiving feedback for the third draft.

For now though, I’m just excited to be reaching this stage in the novel’s development and hope I get to share it with you very soon.

And if, in the meantime, you’re looking for something new to read for 2021, I have a few other projects out on the market that might fit the bill. I’ll leave the links below. All I ask is that you leave a review online somewhere if you do end up reading my stories, as they help both me and other readers.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m off to enjoy some dinner, some classic Doctor Who, and an early bed time. Until next time, stay safe, Happy New Year, and pleasant nightmares!

Mother of the King: Amazon US, Amazon CAN, Amazon UK

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

Snake: AmazonCreatespace, Barnes & Noble, iBooksSmashwords, and Kobo

The Quiet Game: Five Tales to Chill Your Bones: Amazon, Createspace, Barnes & Noble, iBooksSmashwords, and Kobo.

As many of you know by now, I’m in the middle of editing The Pure World Comes, a Gothic horror novel I wrote earlier this year. The novel follows a maid living in Victorian England who goes to work at the estate of a mad scientist (yes, that’s my elevator pitch for the story). Since a mad scientist features prominently in the story, I thought I’d take a moment to discuss the trope, as it’s extremely common in fiction, especially sci-fi and horror.

With that being said, I decided to do some research before working on The Pure World Comes. I couldn’t find many articles on the trope (and those I did were pitifully short), so I asked one of my Facebook writing groups for help. I got way more responses than I’d expected. Some of them gave me some funny responses like including wild, white hair and a funny accent, or differentiating mad scientists, who do mad experiments, to mad engineers, who build mad things. Some were not helpful at all, like imagining them as autistic overachievers (excuse me? I’m on the spectrum and an overachiever! I take offense at that).

However, there was some good information given to go with the few articles I could find. To start with, the mad scientist trope is over two-hundred years old, with the prototypical mad scientist being Victor Frankenstein of the novel Frankenstein.* However, the stereotypical look of the mad scientist–wild hair, crazy eyes, and “quasi-fascist laboratory garb1“–as well as the outlook for the lab, was influenced by the character Rotwang and his lab in the German silent film Metropolis. Rotwang also had numerous traits we associate with mad scientists (more on that later). After the horrors of WWII, such as German experiments and the atom bomb, and the outbreak of the Cold War, mad scientists began to reflect the horrors and fears of that age, often working on projects that could destroy all or almost all of mankind.

Given the state of the world now, I’m expecting an influx of mad scientists interested in virology and/or social engineering.

Alongside their history, I found out mad scientists have some common subtypes:

Victor Frankenstein (here renamed Henry for some reason) is a great example of an unethical mad scientist.
  • Mythical scientists. These are the mad scientists who seem to be working with godlike powers, either through unexplained, futuristic science bordering on magic or actually studying/utilizing magic items. Science-colored wizardry, as one FB commenter put it.
  • Unethical scientists. These are the scientists who are actual scientists but have dropped their ethics/morals. These types are usually based on the Nazi scientists, the Tuskegee doctors who studied on unknowing black men, and so many more (sadly), though Frankenstein technically falls into this category.
  • Cutting edge obsessive scientists. These types aren’t always so bad. They are good at their work and love it deeply, but tend to get obsessive to the point it can cause trouble for them or other characters. Often, after causing a lot of trouble, they can get a redemption arc. A good example is Entrapta from the She-Ra reboot.
  • Scientists with mental illness. These are self-explanatory, and are becoming more and more common in media these days. This can be a bit of a double-edged sword, as it can be great representation for the disabled, but it can also give a bad name to the disabled by linking their evil behavior to their mental illness.

Obviously, these types can cross over with each other. And there’s probably more than what I’m listing here.

Whatever their type, type combination, or era of creation, all the types have some commonality. For one thing, they generally deeply believe in their goals or research. They also tend to think of themselves as a protagonist in their own personal story. Even the ones who acknowledge they’re evil still believe they’re a main character on the world stage. Pride, greed, or the belief that they know better is generally what drives them, and is often what leads to their downfall.

As for how to write mad scientists, it’s less having to do with the trope and with the character itself. Because of what the mad scientist can do, they’re often used to fulfill a number of needs in stories, but unless you’re making them a satire of the trope or just including them for comical effect, you need to really think about their character. What motivates them? What are their odd ticks or quirks? Think of them like you would any other character and apply the same amount of love and development. Hopefully then you can create a great mad scientist.

Entrapta in the She-Ra reboot is a great subversion of the mad scientist trope.

You can also try going against clichés. Most mad scientists are older white males with nefarious intentions, so going against one or more of these traits and then making the character your own might be a good idea. Looking at you again, Entrapta from She-Ra! You wonderful, robot-obsessed, magic-haired princess, you!

Mad scientists are common characters in fiction and for good reason. And while there’s no sign they’re going away any time soon, there’s plenty of room to innovate and make them your own. Especially if you do your science homework before you start writing.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. This will probably be the last post I make for 2020. If that’s true, I’ll catch you all next year. In the meantime, I’ll be bingeing TV, sleeping and editing The Pure World Comes (I’m currently in the chapter where I reveal who Jack the Ripper is).

Until next time, stay safe (and don’t travel), Happy New Year, and pleasant nightmares!

*Fun fact, Victor Frankenstein never actually finished college, so he’s not a doctor, though people think he is. But since the discipline of science hadn’t been formalized and all the other stuff by the early 19th century, we can still call him a mad scientist.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for a while, you’re likely aware that 2020 ends this week. And by God, are we all glad of that! COVID-19, forest fires, horrific murders leading to massive civil unrest, false claims of election fraud that nevertheless have weakened our democracy, and did I miss anything? Probably, it’s been such a horrible year.

Yeah, on a personal level, things were good. I wrote so much, it kind of became an in-joke among my fellow writers; I got to do a lot of traveling and visit a few haunted places; I started saving for a home; and I was able to grow my audience and have my stories reach more people. Yeah, I was only able to publish one story and I didn’t get any acceptances like I’d hoped for, but I got good feedback on the stories I submitted and think I could get them into other publications or accepted by other presses.

And yeah, some things on the national and global stage were good. Even under the strains of COVID-19, we managed to get some great stuff in the entertainment realm.

But still, this was a hard year. So, unlike previous years, I won’t write a post about how 2021 will be better. And I certainly won’t post another video like I did at the beginning of 2020 speculating on what might happen this year. Yeah, remember that? I remember New Year’s 2020 clearly, which is crazy because usually time just blends together for me, but I remember December 31st, 2019 and January 1st, 2020 as clearly as if they’d just happened. And I remember the hope that I and so many others felt. 2020 was going to be so good! After 2019 was such a shit heap, we couldn’t imagine things being worse.

Boy, were we wrong!

So, I’m not going to say 2021 is going to be better. More than likely, it’s going to be a hard and continuous struggle for the first half to two-thirds of the year. We’ll need that time for the new COVID-19 vaccines to make it among the population and see how effective they are. We’ll also need that time for the new government to get to work and hopefully pass some legislation that helps the American people. And a million other things that need to occur across the world.

Making 2021 better than 2020 is going to feel like a Sisyphean task most of the time, believe me.

So, I won’t say 2021 will be better. I will say there’s room to improve the situation. And hopefully things will improve.

And hopefully some of the things I aim to accomplish this coming year will happen. I’ll hopefully continue to write and edit new stories that excite and scare people. Maybe some of them will get published (perhaps in a few publications or by a couple of presses?). I’ve a couple of other projects in the works that I hope to see pan out, and I hope to continue expanding this wonderful audience known as the Followers of Fear.

Oh, and I might go to a couple of conventions. That’s a thing.

And on a more personal level, I’ve got some things happening that I’m excited about. I’ll be moving into a bigger apartment this year and hopefully getting a cat soon after (I’ve been wanting a kitty of my own for sooo long!). I hope to get lots of reading done, and maybe even do some traveling later in the year. And maybe I’ll get to meet some of you amazing Followers of Fear in person! That certainly would be cool.

But for now, I’m approaching things cautiously. I’m living that old Arab proverb of “Trust in God, but tie your camel.” And while I would like for 2021 to be an improvement, I know it’s going to be hard to make that happen.

We can only struggle and work to make things happen, I guess. And hopefully that will have positive results.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ve stories to edit, chores to do and a few other things besides. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

Are you hopeful for 2021? What are your plans for New Years? What are you hoping to accomplish next year?

As many of you know, I have a YouTube channel that I post to every now and then. Today, I had a bit of time and decided to film a quick little video. What was it about? Well, it’s about reviews. Specifically, how you should help your favorite authors by leaving reviews online for their books, as well as why.

I’m not going to lie, I’m proud of this video. It’s not very long, but I managed to make a nice thumbnail, do some fun editing tricks, and even add music and a short title card at the beginning of the video. I don’t think I’ve ever done that before. I may still be an amateur when it comes to video production and editing, but I am getting better at it.

And yes, I did mention Rose‘s audio book in the video. Can you blame me?

Anyway, as the video said, if you like an author’s book, please leave a review with your thoughts online somewhere. Even a short tweet or post on Facebook or Goodreads can be a momentous help to authors. Especially those who aren’t very well-known. Every review helps an author improve, helps other readers find the book, and lets the authors know their work is being read and hopefully appreciated.

And if you would like to support me, I’ll leave the links for my works below. Please consider checking my stories out and letting me know in a review what you think. Because…well, you know why.

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That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m off to dispose of Santa’s body before the authorities find me. Until next time, Happy Holidays and pleasant nightmares!

Mother of the King: Amazon US, Amazon CAN, Amazon UK

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

Snake: AmazonCreatespace, Barnes & Noble, iBooksSmashwords, and Kobo

The Quiet Game: Five Tales to Chill Your Bones: Amazon, Createspace, Barnes & Noble, iBooksSmashwords, and Kobo.

My copy of Remina from the library.

I’ve been looking forward to this book getting an official translation and release here in the US for quite some time. And I was so excited when it arrived at the library, I stopped by yesterday afternoon to pick it up rather than wait till Friday. As you can guess, I stayed up late reading it, hoping the story within would give me some pleasant nightmares.

Known as Hellstar Remina in Japan, Remina kicks off with the discovery of a new planet that seemingly appeared from a wormhole several lightyears away. The discovery is hailed as the greatest development in astrophysics ever, and its discoverer, Dr. Oguro, names the new planet after his beloved, beautiful but shy daughter Remina, causing her own star to rise alongside the planet bearing her name. However, planet Remina is moving through space in ways that defy physics and sense. Planets and stars disappear in its wake. And it soon becomes clear that not only is this planet headed to our solar system, but it spells doom for all on the Earth. Especially the young woman who shares a name with it.

Oh man, I don’t think I’ve loved something from Ito this much since Uzumaki!

First off, the concept is well-executed. Ito takes this idea of a planet flying through space towards us, threatening everything we found our worldviews on as well as our lives and our planet, and turns it into this strange, dread-inducing story that somehow manages to ramp up more and more with every page. The planet itself is rather terrifying. There’s so many unknowns about it, and the more you learn and see of Remina, the more questions you have and the more you learn to fear it. It really puts the “cosmic” into cosmic horror.

I was also impressed with the human characters. Remina Oguro, the planet’s namesake, is easy to like. She’s shy and humble, and really only becomes an entertainer because she’s suddenly famous, so she might as well use it to get through life more easily. Which makes the hardship she goes through later so heart wrenching. As the planet bears down on the Earth and no solution seems to work, people begin to wonder if the Oguros, particularly Remina herself, have some hand in bringing the planet to them. In their terror, many abandon reason and decide the only way to save humanity is to kill Remina Oguro herself.

It’s not only an excellent example of cosmic horror–of humans dealing/reacting to their insignificance in the universe in the only ways they know how–as well as making you feel for Remina, but it feels really relevant to our current predicaments. Whether it be COVID-19 or the national election, you see people embracing the most insane conspiracy theories rather than accept an obvious reality. That is illustrated so well in Remina, and I felt a chill reading that.

This shot encapsulates so much of what makes Remina great.

Other aspects of the story worked as well. Ito’s art is amazing, as always. Earth in this manga is portrayed as being a few decades ahead of us a la The Jetsons, flying cars included, and it’s cool to see Ito give Earth this futuristic look. The characters are well-drawn, with our protagonists given a more realistic look while those driven mad by fear or anger are hyper-exaggerated to best portray their emotions. But the best illustrations are the spreads taking two full pages. They portray that cosmic dread so well, I spent quite a bit of time looking at them.

And as for the science aspect of the story, while more pseudoscientific than based in reality, it seems plausible enough to believe in for the moment.

The one aspect I disliked was just how quickly things escalated in the first chapter. Within about thirty or forty pages, things go from excitement and new promises to gloom-and-doom and psychotic, murderous behavior. I would’ve preferred things to move a bit more gradually before getting to that level.

All in all, Remina by Junji Ito earns itself a splendid 4.5 out of 5. It’s terrifying in both its cosmic and human aspects and will be hard to put down for any reader. Pick it up, settle in for a terrifying ride, and never name anything Remina.

Also, someone please adapt this story into a movie or miniseries! Live action or animated, this would be a great spectacle to see on screens. Just lay off the CGI except when absolutely necessary and it could be awesome.