Posts Tagged ‘writing’

I always look forward to a Junji Ito collection. Whether I like it or not, I know I’m in for an experience. One with great artwork and a weird but most likely intriguing story. And Lovesickness is no exception.

The bulk of this collection is the titular six-chapter saga, taking place in a town under a perpetual fog. In this town, there’s a popular fortune-telling tradition where you wait at an intersection and ask the first passerby to tell their fortune. However, this tradition has bad memories for a young middle schooler who is returning to town for the first time in nearly a decade. And his own trauma is exacerbated by events in the town. A mysterious young man in black is giving fortune-seeking girls prophecies of doom, driving them to suicide. This leads to a series of events that will affect everyone in the town, and destroy more than a few lives in the process.

Except for maybe the last chapter, this story is pretty solid. The backgrounds are often pretty dark, except when the fog is particularly thick, which lends it this creepy atmosphere al a Silent Hill. And the protagonist is pretty believable as a young man with serious PTSD. While the antagonist is always drawn with this sort of mist-like smudging, which lends him this otherworldly aura. Add in some creepy ghost imagery that would make most zombie graphic novels ashamed, plenty of downward spirals into madness, and it’s one hell of a horror story.

The other highlights of the collection are the short stories The Mansion of Phantom Pain and The Rib Woman. Both of them have very weird and interesting concepts, though the latter pulls its concept off a lot better.

On the other hand, two of the related stories in the collection, which follow a strange family of siblings, aren’t that good. I think it might have been Ito’s attempt at a new horror-comedy series, but I couldn’t get into it. Like The Addams Family without the charm.

And there’s a story in the back called “Memories of Real Poop,” which I think is a vignette from Ito’s childhood. Anyway, it’s a weird addition to the collection and kind of stupid. Don’t know why Ito spent his time drawing it unless he needed to pad out a collection or two.

And as I said, the last chapter of the titular story didn’t sit well with me. Honestly, it felt tacked on just to give a bit more resolution to the story.

Still, it’s a good collection. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving Lovesickness by Junji Ito a 3.8 out of 5. Most of the stories are rather scary and worth a read. Just be sure not to read the main story on a foggy night. You don’t know what you’ll see when you look up from the book and out the window.


Just a quick note, my Followers of Fear: Indie Author Book Expo Aurora, or IABE Aurora, has been moved from August 7th, 2021 to September 11th, 2021. As far as I know, this is the last date change. All other details, such as taking place at the Prisco Community Center in Aurora, Illinois. Hope that doesn’t impact anyone’s travel plans. Anyway, I hope to see you there. At the very least, you’ll get a much better fortune from my Tarot cards than you would from the fortune telling method in Lovesickness.

Anyway, you can find out more about the convention here.

Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

Good evening! Or is it morning? Whatever. So, as you are no doubt aware, IABE Chicago was canceled recently due to that stinking COVID-19 virus causing issues with the venue. The organizers, being a determined lot, scoured the area for a new location. And guess what? They found one!

Indie Author Book Expo Aurora will be taking place on August 7th, 2021 at the Prisco Community Center in Aurora, Illinois, about an hour west of Chicago. This will be an amazing gathering of authors of all sorts of backgrounds and stories, and from what the organizers tell me there will even be food vendors.

So, if there are any Followers of Fear in Chicago or the nearby area, or just general fans of books and supporting smaller-scale authors, then you won’t have to go too far out of your way to come out and see us. You can find out more information by checking out the Indie Author Book Expo website here.

And I’m happy to note that, while nothing is set in stone yet, there are some talks for events in the Halloween season. I’ll update you as soon as I have concrete news on that.

Anyway, I hope you’re having a good time wherever you are. And I hope I can see you in Aurora later this summer (if you can’t I’ll post links to my work below). If you need me, I’ll be posting about IABE on my social media and maybe filming a quick YouTube video. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

Agoraphobia: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada

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

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

Snake: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada, Barnes & Noble, iBooksSmashwords, and Kobo

The Quiet Game: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooksSmashwords, and Kobo.

Across the plains of the imagination,
What terrifying creature
With head and neck and body of a thousand arms and eyes
Slithers forwards to the realms of reality,
Waiting to be spread?

Can you figure it out?

If not, you’ll have to wait to find out.

Pour the drinks! Start the party music! Feed the dragon bats a little extra blood and meat with their dinner tonight! I’ve had two acceptances! That’s right, you read that correctly. Two. And I am so excited that the editors loved them enough to include them in upcoming publications, let alone that you will get to read them.

So, the first acceptance actually came last week, but I only just got permission to start screaming from the high heavens. A short story I wrote is being accepted by “The Jewish Book of Horror,” an anthology from the Denver Horror Collective coming out this holiday season in time for Hanukkah. That’s right, a book emphasizing horror from a Jewish slant. When I first heard of that, I knew I had to write something for it, which I did: a short story called “The Divorce from God.”

I’m adding to Jewish literature! It’s not typical Jewish literature, but I’m not complaining!

“The Divorce from God” is a story that was inspired by the New York divorce coercion gang. For those of you who haven’t heard, the New York divorce coercion gang was a group of ultra-Orthodox Jews who forced men into divorces. Yeah, even the Jews have our fair share of fanatics, and they do bad things sometimes. In this case, they meddled in divorces. In traditional Judaism, divorce has to be granted by the husband, and occasionally that’s held over the wife’s head to hurt her. Normally, non-violent means are sought to encourage the husband to grant a divorce, but in this case, the gang members went to violent means. It’s pretty sick and twisted stuff and I encourage you to read up on it if you’re curious.

Anyway, I took the case and put my own fictional spin on the story. After letting some beta readers give me some feedback, I made some edits and submitted it. And I’m happy to say it’ll end up in the anthology! Woo-hoo! I get to be part of a big contribution to Jewish literature while still being scary! I’m sure my parents and teachers and rabbis are proud of me.

Also, apologies that I didn’t write a blog post for this story like I usually do. The subject matter and the targeted anthology was so specific, I didn’t want to post about it only for it to maybe get rejected. But I’m telling you now, so it’s all good, right?

And today, I got some more good news! I wrote an essay recently on a character trope I call “the broken child.” What is that? Well, you’ll have to wait till August to find out. It’s going to be published in the August edition of House of Stitched magazine (don’t you just love that name?). They were looking for articles on the craft and process of horror writing, and I’d been turning over some article/essay ideas in my head, including an examination of the broken child. I wrote it and sent it in, keeping my fingers crossed. And today they sent me a contract. I signed and now I’m on cloud nine!

I mean, wouldn’t you be? Last year, I was only able to release one story. But two months ago, I was able to get an article published on Ginger Nuts of Horror and release a new scary story. And in just one week, I was able to get a short story and an article accepted as well! It’s very encouraging and makes me hopeful for what’s to come.

I’ve been writing up a storm lately. Glad to see it’s been worth it.

A big thanks to the Denver Horror Collective, who will be putting out “The Jewish Book of Horror,” for accepting “The Divorce from God.” And an equally big thank you to the team of Stitched Smile Publications, the publisher of House of Stitched magazine, for accepting “The Horror of the Broken Child.” I’m so excited to be working with both of you and I hope your readers enjoy my contributions as much as I hope you did.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I hope you’ll pick up a copy of the August issue of House of Stitched magazine and “The Jewish Book of Horror” once they’re released. I’m off to enjoy a walk in the nice weather. I’ll probably also have a beer or two tonight in celebration as well. And I’ll be working on my next short story as well. Gotta keep up the writing and submitting so I can get a few more stories out there.

Until next time, my Followers of Fear, stay safe, pleasant nightmares, and don’t approach my dragon bats! They may be cute, but they’re alpha predators for a reason.

Yep, I’m doing this again. But I gotta make sure people know. Otherwise, how will people know to come?

So, if you’re unaware, I’m doing some events as an author this spring and summer. And, in the hopes that some of my Followers of Fear might join me at one or two of them, I’m updating you on the details of each.

First off, we have ParaPsyCon 2021, which I’m glad to say is happening! ParaPsyCon is a convention hosting plenty of ghost hunters, psychics and mediums, and authors (including yours truly), among other things. The convention takes place this May 22nd and 23rd at the Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield, OH. If you recognize this building, it’s the former prison where they filmed Shawshank Redemption, and is one of the most famous haunted prisons in America. Cost of admission is just one ticket for a self-guided tour of the prison, so you can see where they filmed famous scenes from the movie and then check out the convention.

I’ll be there selling copies of my books, including chapbooks of “Mother of the King” and “Agoraphobia,” as well as doing Tarot readings and selling a few other odds and ends. And who knows? Maybe I’ll catch a ghost on camera. You never know. Anyway, hope to see you there. And if you want more information, please click on the link here.

The other event I’m currently scheduled to be at (assuming I don’t sell out at ParaPsyCon), is the Indie Author Book Expo, or IABE, in Chicago on June 19th. And as you can see, I’ve included the posters above.

IABE Chicago is from the same group who hosted the expo I was at in Des Moines last year (you can read all about that here). It’s got a very eclectic mix of authors coming by the Quarry Chi in Chicago. So, if any of my Followers of Fear, or anyone who would be interested, happen to be in Chicago (or Illinois in general), please feel free to stop by. And for more information on IABE’s events, click this link here.

Anyway, that’s all I got going on right now, my Followers of Fear. I’m trying to set up more events for summer and fall, particularly around the Halloween season, so I’ll let you know if any of that turns out to be successful. In the meantime, I hope some of you are able to stop by the events. And if you’re not able to, then maybe consider alleviating your boredom and supporting me at the same time by checking out some of my stories.

Yes, I’m doing another plug for my books, but can you blame me? Gotta get them into readers’ hands somehow!

Anyway, I’ll leave the links to my work below. And if you like what you read, please consider leaving a review online. Reviews not only help me out, but they also help other readers decide whether or not a story is worth their time.

That’s all for now. Until next time, my Followers of Fear, stay safe and pleasant nightmares!

Agoraphobia: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada

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

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

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

The Quiet Game: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooksSmashwords, and Kobo.

Well, this was a great day. I got out of work early (long story, don’t ask), which allowed me to finish the third draft of The Pure World Comes around 5:30 PM. And that was great, because by coincidence I was going to meet some friends who had also had their vaccinations for dinner and drinks. So I had the opportunity to turn a good night out with friends into a celebration.

Of course, then I had to wait till I was good to drive before coming home. And then I had to take a shower and check my email and whatnot. Hence why I’m writing this so damn late. Sorry about that. But hey, sometimes that’s life.

So, if you’re not aware, The Pure World Comes is a Victorian Gothic novel I wrote last year revolving around a maid who goes to work for a man who could be charitably called a mad scientist. I did a second draft a few months ago and sent them off to some beta readers for feedback. After getting their feedback and finishing the latest draft of River of Wrath, I started on the third draft. And after only a week or so, the third draft is completed!

Now, this story has always been a lot of fun for me to work on. I’m a huge fan of the Victorian era of British history (see my reasons here), and this novel was a love letter to that era. But this draft was especially fun because I got to read my beta readers’ comments while I worked. They really enjoyed the story and had a lot of good suggestions to improve the story. It’s great hearing what people think of your story (which is why it’s so important to leave reviews after reading an author’s story, by the by). But getting such positive feedback while the story’s still being refined was especially nice and made me hopeful for the story’s future.

Speaking of which, what is the future of this story? Well, it’s late, so I’m not going to do anything further with it tonight. However, tomorrow I’m going to try to submit it. As I said when I finished River of Wrath, I usually start shopping novels after the third draft. And based on the feedback I got on the second draft and the improvements I’ve made, I think this draft has a good chance of finding a home pretty quickly.

As for my next writing project…tough to say. I’ve been mulling a few ideas for short stories, especially ones I could write for specific anthologies. On the other hand, I recently had an idea for another story set in Victorian England, and I at least want to develop it a bit more. Problem is, that story has a good chance of becoming a longer project, maybe another novel if I’m not careful (and I’m not always too careful about word length). So, I might have to mull it a few days.

Whatever I choose, so long as I’m having fun with it, it’ll be okay.

Well, that’s all for now. I’m heading to bed so I’m not a wreck at work tomorrow. Until next time, good night, pleasant nightmares, and please consider getting vaccinated if you’re able to. It’ll protect your health, the health of others, and maybe allow us to move out of this insanity of a pandemic sooner.

I only like one kind of cocktail, but I haven’t mixed it in years. Recently, I found all the ingredients at the grocery store and decided to pick them up. You mix vodka, sweet n’ sour mix, and blue curacao. I call it an Electrified Lemonade (though it may have another name I am unaware of). Why do I mention it? Because I mixed it this evening in celebration of finishing the third draft of River of Wrath. Woo-hoo!

So, if you’re unfamiliar with this novel, River of Wrath is a novel I wrote on-and-off between October 2017 and October 2018 (which is hilarious, because the main events of the novel take place during Halloween 1961). The novel follows a young couple who find themselves trapped in a small town in Mississippi when a river full of living, violent corpses floods the town. Turns out the river is actually the River Styx as described in Dante’s Inferno, the fifth circle of Hell and the punishment for the wrathful. Trapped in a church in the town, internal tensions rise as the town’s racial differences are brought to light. And believe me when I say, the danger within has an effect on the trouble within and vice versa.

So yeah, you can guess what sort of themes the novel encompasses. I started coming up with the story back in 2017 after reading the book The Blood of Emmett Till by Timothy Tyson, about the infamous murder of a young African-American boy from Chicago in the Mississippi Delta, and the trial of his murderers (spoiler alert, they got off and then admitted they murdered him). I had just learned about Dante’s Inferno and was thinking of where various people and groups in the book might have ended up in Hell according to Dante. That was the impetus for the novel, which originally I didn’t think would be more than twenty-thousand words. A year later, and it was over sixty-thousand words, and I was like, “I gotta stop turning short stories and novelettes into novels.”

Yeah, I have not kept that promise to myself at all.

The Fifth Circle of Hell, as illustrated by Stradanus.

Anywho, I usually try to shop my novels around after three drafts (the third draft of Rose was the one that was accepted for publication, after all). And since this is the third draft, I’ve already sent it off to a publisher. I’ll hopefully get an acceptance somewhere, but we’ll see what happens. It’s not perfect, but I’ve gotten a lot of kinks out of the book and I think it’s a good story. Should be enough to interest someone.

If it does get accepted, however, I’m going to ask for a sensitivity reader. Let’s face it, I’m white, and given the subject matter, I don’t want to accidentally cause offense.

Well, River of Wrath is off. What’s next for me? Well, tomorrow I’ll be getting my second COVID-19 shot, so I might not do anything, creative or otherwise, depending on whether or not I suffer any side effects. That being said, my next project will be the third draft of The Pure World Comes, my Victorian horror novel. After that, I’ll try submitting that for publication. And then…well, who knows? Maybe I’ll work on a new story, or I’ll be editing older stories. We’ll see what happens.

Well, that’s all for now. I’m off to bed, because I have a big day tomorrow. Until next time, goodnight and pleasant nightmares.

I can’t remember who first said that to me, or whether it was said to me in a tweet or a Zoom chat. I also can’t remember if I’ve been saying it to others who have been dealing with rejections (my memory can be like a sieve some days). Nevertheless, it’s been on my mind a lot lately, as I’ve had a few rejections lately, and I thought I would share it.

“If you’re getting rejections, then you’re probably doing something right.”

It’s true, you know. Yeah, nobody likes getting rejections. We would rather just have things come to us, including story acceptances. We don’t like to hear that these stories we’ve thrown our sweat, blood and tears into aren’t wanted or acceptable or good enough for the publication or publisher in question. Enough that you want to stop submitting.

Which, I guarantee, every author has gone through at least once.

However, you know what you could be doing? Not submitting at all, which would mean no chance to get accepted OR rejected. You’d be cutting yourself off from any chance to get that story out there. Sure, you’d be free from rejections, but what’s the chance someone would discover your stories another way and ensure that it reached a wide audience who might love it? Probably not very high.

So, keep submitting, because that ensures you’re getting your work out there. Even if you get rejections, consider it discovering just one place that isn’t right for your story. You just have to try the next place, and keep writing, polishing, submitting and hopefully someday you’ll get that publication.

That’s what I tell myself. And it works.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I just wanted to get this off my chest and share it with you. If you need me, I’m about sixty pages away from finishing the latest draft of River of Wrath and submitting it. Hopefully it won’t be rejected (though if it is, at least I know that publisher wasn’t the right place for the book).

And while I still have your attention, this is a reminder that ParaPsyCon 2021 is just over a month away. This is a convention of ghost hunters, purported mediums, and authors taking place at the historic Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield, Ohio (filming location of The Shawshank Redemption). This year, it’ll be May 22nd-23rd, 2021 and the cost of admission is the same as entry to the prison, about $25. I’ll be among the vendors there, so I hope you’ll stop by if you’re able. You can find more information about the convention HERE.

Until next time, my Followers of Fear, pleasant nightmares!

I think this fits the theme of the post very well, don’t you? Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

In my last post, I mentioned that I would soon be tackling editing River of Wrath and The Pure World Comes, two novels that each have gone through some edits and which I would like to try submitting this year. As promised, I have started editing River of Wrath, which is about one of the nine circles of Hell appearing in a small town in 1960s Mississippi (you can guess what sort of themes are included with that description).

And so far, the biggest obstacle I’m dealing with is my narrator’s voice.

For a bit of background, my narrator, Audrey Falley, is writing down her experiences as she remembers them. She’s a character I thoroughly enjoy. She’s an Army wife in the 1960s, but she’s not demure like you would expect from that sort of character in that time period. She’s brash, street smart, she admits she drinks, swears, and has sex with her husband. In other words, she’s unladylike, and proud of it, and I tried to make that show in how she tells her story.

Which is challenging. In addition to all that above, Audrey is also not your typical narrator. By which I mean, this is her first time really telling a story, as her life hasn’t had many opportunities for her to practice creative writing. She also breaks the fourth wall a lot in a way Deadpool might approve, pointing out things about her word choice and how at certain times she sounds like she’s writing a romance novel.

And yet she’s very much aware what sort of story she’s telling.

And here I am, on the computer, trying to tell this story through this character’s unique perspective, while also balancing that perspective with the needs and tone of the story. Not only that, but I have to make the language used sound both like they were written by Audrey and by me, a writer who has a few published books and stories under his belt. And I have to ensure it reads like a horror story.

All told, it’s a bit of a juggling act. And I’m feeling the struggle. There are plenty of points where I’ve wondered to myself, “Does this sound good? Or does it sound totally amateur-ish?” It can affect how I look at the project at times.

That being said, there are moments where I look at the changes I’ve made and I’m like, “Yeah, I got this.” I had one of those moments when I was editing the scene the novel goes from period piece with strong romantic overtones to full-on horror story. Here’s the passage in the previous draft:

Before either of us could answer, there was a scream from the edge of the park. It was followed by several other screams, not just women, but men and children. Dogs barked, and birds flew into the air and away from the park entrance. Around the park, and in Little Angola as well, people stopped what they were doing, stood up if they were sitting down, and looked in the direction of the screams.

And then there’s the section from the current draft (asterisks are to prevent spoilers):

From the edge of the park came a woman’s scream.

Everyone, including Gordon and me, froze before turning in the direction of the scream, which was the same direction we’d come from. We could hear more people screaming, not just women, but men and children too. And that wasn’t all: dogs were barking, birds were flying in every direction, and everyone in the park, from the folks in ********, to the families at their picnic benches, to the children on the playsets, and to the couples in the flower garden, stiffened.

Later on, it occurred to me that we were all feeling the same thing. We weren’t just afraid. We were dreading whatever was causing those people to scream and making the animals go crazy. We dreaded it in our very bones.

Busy editing. Hopefully by the time I’m done, this novel will look a whole lot better and I’ll have a better idea if it’s ready to be submitted anywhere.

How was that? It’s not perfect, but it is better written than the previous version. Feels more like something you might read in a professionally-published horror novel. And that difference really made me feel like I could balance all those things I mentioned above. I don’t know if by the end of the draft, the novel will be ready to submit to publishers as I’d hoped, but if the new passage is anything to go by, I’ll at least get a bit closer.

Anyway, that’s where I’m at right now. I think, as the draft continues, I’ll hopefully not only get a better idea of where the story is in its development, but maybe even be able to go back to the beginning and do a better job of polishing up the story. We’ll see what the rest of the draft holds.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ll check in again soon, though I’m not sure when or what I’ll be talking about. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

Be careful. Not every mermaid sings about being part of our world.

I’ve been teasing for a couple of posts now that I’m working on a mermaid horror story. Yes, a horror story involving mermaids. You read that right. And I’m happy to say that as of this afternoon this story, which I’m calling “Cressida,” is finished!

“Cressida” follows a young man who goes out to his uncle’s beach house after a very strange phone call makes him worry about his uncle’s mental state. What transpires, however, is that the uncle has a mermaid in his basement! And that’s not the strangest thing of all, because the mermaid’s presence brings up uncomfortable memories for both men. And it’s going to have an irreversible effect on them as well.

I’ve had the base idea for this story–a guy keeping a mermaid in his basement–for quite a while. But then I saw a submissions call for an anthology dealing with deep water horror with an unusually high word count. Since I’m such an expansive writer,* I was excited. Rarely do submission calls give me such an opportunity to breathe and really go all out. I checked my story ideas, saw something that fit the theme, and got to work.

A few weeks later, and the story is finished at about 10,200 words, or about 33 pages. And I’m quite proud of the story. I don’t think it’s some of my best work, as I stated in some posts on my Facebook and Twitter pages. But I was able to really work in some themes of trauma, regret, and the power of desire and I think it makes for a good read.

Of course, I’m not the best judge and will look into having a beta reader go over the story before sending it off to the anthology. As long as I get the notes of “Cressida” back by the end of the month, I should be able to edit and submit it before the deadline. And if not…well, there’s likely another market to send it to. I’m always keeping my eyes open for this sort of thing.

Going to be a lot of writing and editing in the near future. I’m looking forward to it.

In the meantime, however, I’ll be doing the second draft of “Window Audience Blues,” the story about Robert Johnson I wrote. After that, I’ll likely be editing my novels River of Wrath and The Pure World Comes before submitting them anywhere. Depending on how things transpire in the coming weeks and months, I’ll hopefully get those all edited by June and submitted by July. Should be exciting.

Well, that’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m going to read a bit and then hit the hay. Until next time, good night, pleasant nightmares, and how do I have a basement in my home to store the trophies I take from my victims? I live in an apartment on the third floor!

*Seriously, I once had a teacher in a creative writing class comment that my work tends to involve a lot of character development and world building, even though I tried to keep the stories I turned in under ten thousand words. I summed it up as “yeah, I’m an expansive writer.” She wholeheartedly agreed.