Posts Tagged ‘YouTube’

If you’ve been paying attention to the news lately, you may be aware that billionaire Elon Musk bought Twitter and has been turning it from a somewhat tolerable landscape to a freaking hellhole. I’m not going to go into details, because you can read all that elsewhere, but suffice to say, a lot of people have been wondering if now is a good time to get off Twitter and find a new platform to interact with that does the same thing as Twitter. For us writers, we’ve been looking for a new platform where we can talk about writing and maybe avoid the vitriol that seems to have been given free reign on Twitter these days.

One of those platforms is called Hive Social, which I’ve seen a lot of posts about on both Twitter and Facebook this past week. It seemed like a good platform, a lot of writers and horror types I’m connected with were trying it out, and I’m usually slow on new social media trends and wanted to not be the last again, so I decided to give it a try yesterday. Besides, the platform’s website says it doesn’t tolerate hate speech or any other sort of awful behavior, which honestly appeals to me in the wake of certain decisions by Twitter’s new leader.

So, now I have an account on Hive. I’ve gotten about forty-something followers, posted a couple of times, and have liked other people’s posts as well. How does it compare to Twitter?

Well, it does have some room to improve. The app is slow to load or register likes at times, and the search engine feature doesn’t always bring you to the person you’re looking for, even when you type their full name in. You can’t access the app from the laptop just yet, only your mobile devices, and occasionally the app just shuts itself off mid-use. And you can’t leave a link so people can directly go to your page on the platform.

However, this may be because of its sudden popularity. I doubt anyone running the app could have foreseen so many people migrating over to Hive as Twitter continues to implode, so they’re probably scrambling to make sure the app is at least somewhat able to handle all these people. In fact, I did see a post from the app’s company asking people to be patient as they try and deal with the new influx of users.

So, there is a chance this app could improve as time goes on. Of course, there’s also a chance that it won’t replace Twitter and that we’ll stay on there. Or maybe we’ll go off both apps and find something else. It’s hard to tell the future. All we know is that Twitter might not be a good place to stay for the foreseeable future and that we may not be able to stay on there for much longer.

In the meantime, I’ll keep trying both apps for a while before I make any final decisions, one way or another. And while I can’t leave a link to my page on Hive, I can leave links to my other social media (though you can also look to the left and see them listed there). If you want to check me out on any of these platforms, please do. And if you end up subscribing, I hope you and I will have plenty of wonderful interactions on these other apps.

Facebook

Twitter

Instagram

YouTube


One more thing before I sign off tonight, my Followers of Fear: I found out today that my short story “The Dedication of the High Priestess,” which combines ballet with the figure of the King in Yellow, will be read aloud on the Tales to Terrify podcast this Friday. I’m so excited for you all to experience this story! I’m quite proud of it and I really hope you enjoy it. I’ll be sure to post a link as soon as it’s out.

I don’t know how writers who write in silence do it. Unless I’m trying to sleep, I absolutely hate silence. I’m not saying I need noise all the time. That’s part of the reason I moved out of my old apartment complex: I couldn’t stand the noise my neighbors were always making and the lack of support from management to quiet the noise. But it’s rare when I’m comfortable with complete quiet and I’m not trying to sleep.

And there are writers who are able to write in silence. Hell, some even need it!

Me? I need something in the background. Especially when I write. It’s rare that I can write in silence. If I do, my brain automatically starts playing something on loop in my head just to make up for the silence. So, when I write, I need to listen to something when I work. And it has to be the right sort of thing for the project I’m working on. Otherwise, I find it hard to concentrate and get any words down on paper.

Sometimes, this is easy to do. Usually I can put on 80s music or the soundtracks of my favorite musicals and just write, no matter the story. No joke, I wrote The Pure World Comes entirely to my favorite hits of the 1980s. Or I listen to ASMR videos on YouTube, especially if I’m blogging. (And if you don’t know what ASMR is, I’m not going to explain it here. Just know, I find it very relaxing when done right.) And when I’m editing, I can put on music, or maybe have an anime on in the background, and just get it done.

Other times, it has to be very specific, or I can’t work at all. For my novel Toyland, I needed to listen to the Moulin Rouge soundtrack (Broadway musical based on the movie, not the movie itself) for nearly the entire writing process. Until the final few chapters, I could not write without that soundtrack. It only occurred to me ages later that my mind probably chose that album subconsciously because, like Toyland, both plots involve a story within a story. I might need to listen to that soundtrack again when I do one more round of editing on it and then try to find a publisher.

I’m still trying to nail down what works best for Crawler. Some days I’m in the mood for 80s music, other days I’m in the mood for a musical soundtrack. Once I even listened to the Mad Max: Fury Road soundtrack just because it was so epic I couldn’t help but write to it!

Thankfully, for the two projects I’m working on while I’m break from Crawler and before getting back to editing Hannah, identifying the background sound I need was easy. For one project, which involves a very unique child actress, I’m listening to the Phantom of the Opera soundtrack. Makes sense: both involve people in the fine arts who are not what they seem. And the other, which involves my own unique take on a recent piece of internet folklore, will involve ambient noise videos on YouTube. I already got the first part of the story done while listening to a video of noises at an outdoor mall (guess where that scene took place?).

It’s lucky that I was able to figure those out so quickly. Otherwise, I might not be able to write a single word!

Still, I was able to identify what I will (likely) need, so I’m glad for that. I have good feelings about these stories and I look forward to writing them. And I’ll thankfully have the right sounds to listen to them while I do.

Do you listen to music while you write? Do you need it or can you do without it? What do you prefer to listen to?

And if you prefer silence, why? How are you able to write like that? Let’s discuss.

I wanted to post something before Halloween, but there wasn’t any one particular topic I was passionate enough to write an entire blog post about. So instead, I thought I’d do an update post, because there’s a lot going on right now and you should know about it. How much is going on? Well, let’s take a look and find out.

Crawler and Toyland

So, for my mummy novel with the tentative name of Crawler, I’m making steady progress in it. I’m currently writing Chapter Seven and think I could get to Chapter Eight by the end of the week. Hell, I might finish it by the end of the week, if life is kind! (It’s usually not, but one can hope, right?). After that, I’ll take another break to work on shorter works (more on that below), and then get straight to Chapters 9-12. It may take longer than usual, but I will get this novel done eventually.

As for Toyland, I hope to do another draft of it before sending it out to publishers. I feel that this Gothic novel of a boarding school under attack by a ghost obsessed with a children’s novel has a lot of potential and I want people to read it. However, I want to get Hannah and Other Stories out of the way before I tackle that novel again (there’s a good reason why Hannah needs to be done first, but I can’t tell you that just yet). So hope Hannah gets released soon.

Hannah and Other Stories

Speaking of Hannah, BSC Publishing and I are looking to get that out sometime in 2023. Currently, the publisher is starting its winter vacation a month early in November rather than December, so I’m getting a little break from Hannah to work on more of my other projects. However, once we hit January, it’ll be a furious pace to wrap up the edits on the book and get it ready for publication. I can’t wait to share with you this terrifying collection of short stories featuring ghosts, budding serial killers, and meat-eating horses, among other things, so keep an eye out for news after the new year.

Other Shorter Works

As many of you know, I have one more short story, “The Dedication of the High Priestess,” scheduled to come out before the end of the year. Literally: Tales to Terrify, the podcast that will be reading the story aloud on their show, said it will come out before the end of the year. And with 61 days left, there’s only so much year left, so I should be getting news on that any day now. When I get that news, I will let you know.

I will also, of course, let you know the moment I hear of any other stories of mine getting published.

In the meantime, I plan to do some writing and editing on some other stories over November and December, once I finish Chapter Eight of Crawler. For one thing, I plan to finally edit They Sleep Within the Rock, the novella I wrote last winter where I terrorize neo-Nazis. I have no idea why I put it off for so long, but I have and I want to give it some edits so I can maybe find it a home. I also want to write some more novelettes and novellas that I’ve been feeling passionate about working on for some time. A lot of these stories center around common themes, so I think I would not only enjoy writing them, but maybe putting them into a collection.

I may also write a short story involving bugs, but I’m not sure if I want to. Yeah, there’s an anthology I could submit it to, but I prefer to write stories that I feel I would enjoy writing rather than what I think would get accepted or make some money for me. We’ll see how I feel after I finish those chapters of Crawler.

Anything Else?

Quite a bit, actually. Let’s talk about it.

  • Events: This coming Saturday, I’ll be operating a booth at the Columbus Witches’ Ball. This is an awesome event featuring plenty of paranormal enthusiasts, psychics and mediums, authors, and so much more. Plus, plenty of dancing and ritual (or so I’m told). I’ll be selling books and doing Tarot readings there, so I hope you can stop by. The event is November 5th, 2022 from 6 PM – 11 PM at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. I’m not sure you can get tickets at the door, but I know you can buy them from Eventbrite by following this link.
    In addition, I’m already signed up for events in 2023! I’ll be making reappearances at Hidden Marietta Paranormal Expo (which will be in May this year and in a bigger venue) and at ParaPsyCon. I’ve also put down a deposit for another booth at Mystics & Marvels and am waiting for confirmation on a few other events, so I’ll keep you posted as those come up.
    And, of course, I’ll be at StokerCon in Pennsylvania in June, so if any of you are planning to be there, I really hope I get to see you and give you a great big hug (if you feel comfortable with it).
  • I saw Dracula the ballet yesterday. As you probably know by now, I’m a huge ballet fan, and I’ve long held that ballet can be a great venue to tell horror stories. I got to see that in action yesterday when my local company BalletMet performed Dracula, which was as amazing and as horrifying as I could have hoped. It was scary, really delved into the themes of Victorian terror regarding sexuality and anything considered aberrant through its choreography, and even managed to surprise me at times, especially with the conclusion. If I ever get a chance to see it again, I will.
    And, of course, if there are any other horror ballets, I would love to see those too. Hell, I have a few ideas for ballets that are both horror and otherwise, so if any companies would like to collaborate, email me. Let’s work together! I’m easy to get along with, and I don’t cost an arm and a leg, so why not?
  • New YouTube video. I’m going to try to post a new video to YouTube tomorrow before my Halloween festivities really get underway (having a friend over for pizza, drinks and scary movies. I can’t wait!). If I can’t, I’ll get it out as soon as possible. In the meantime, please check out and consider subscribing to my YouTube channel while you wait. You can also check out my other social media by clicking on the widgets on the right.
So looking forward to putting this bad boy out on the stoop tomorrow.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. As usual with these sorts of posts, I’ll post links to my published works down below in case you want to support me that way or if you’re just looking for something spooky to read. Until next time, good night, pleasant nightmares, and one day till Halloween! Get ready to hop around a bonfire in costume with terrifying creatures from the other side!

The Pure World Comes: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, Kobo, Goodreads, Audible, Chirp, BingeBooks, LIbro.Fm, Storytel

Rose: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada, Audible, B&N

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

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

Hello, Followers of Fear. There are sixty days till Halloween. What have you done to prepare?

Artwork produced by artificial intelligence, or AI art, has become kind of a thing as the technology has advanced. In fact, some months back, there was an app that became a fad for horror writers to generate images and even book covers. And earlier this week, John Oliver featured it on his TV show, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. Here’s the video, if you’re interested. It’s hysterical.

John Oliver’s wife and children must have such a blast telling people who don’t know who he is what he does for a living. “Oh, my husband/dad? He sexually harasses Adam Driver and marries cabbages on TV once a week.”

Anyway, it got me interested enough to want to play around with AI art, so I made an account with one of the recommended companies, Midjourney, and went to work. The results were not only fascinating, but gave me some thoughts on the nascent AI art industry.

First, here are some of my successes. As it turns out, Midjourney’s AI program does very well with Lovecraftian/cosmic horror entities. For example, here’s Cthulhu destroying Las Vegas because I’m not a big Vegas fan (though under the right circumstances I’d visit again).

Then, in order, we have Yog-Sothoth, Shub-niggurath, Nyarlathotep, Azathoth, two pictures of the Deep Ones, the Color from Outer Space, and the King in Yellow.

And portraits of famous people tended to go well with the program. Here are Stephen King, Anne Rice, and HP Lovecraft, three of my biggest influences as a writer, as well as one of Lizzie Borden with an axe. Because why not?

And because I love ballet and try to put dancers in my stories when I can, I made a series of ballet posts, with their titles in the captions.

Dancer and Wolf on the lake
The Little Ballerina Ghost
Dancer in the Egyptian Temple
Dancers on a Moonlit Beach
Little Dancers Running from Lava
Little Dancer and Anubis

Pretty cool, right? Most of them look really good. However, those were success stories, like I said. Here’s what happened when I tried to create Jason Voorhees from the Friday the 13th films.

Yeah, I know. None of those come close to looking like Jason! He’s arguably more famous than Cthulhu, but these were the results. And then there was my attempt at Freddy Kreuger from A Nightmare on Elm Street. Oy freaking vey!

Yeah, who is that? Not Freddy Kreuger, who is definitely more famous than Cthulhu! Honestly, it looks more like my conception of Leland Gaunt, the antagonist from Needful Things by Stephen King. How could the AI get our favorite subconscious serial killer so wrong?

And those are just a few examples. I went through several failures trying to get anywhere close to a specific idea or image, only to give up when I realized the program just couldn’t create it. I couldn’t even create a decent Sailor Moon or an accurate tiger image, and both those prompts have enough references out there that they should have been easy to create something accurate.

Even some of the successes took a lot of work and experimentation, such as The King in Yellow or Little Dancer and Anubis. I won’t even go into detail about how hard it was to get a good Alice in Wonderland pic that wasn’t too trippy. I mean, I know the source material is plenty weird, but not all art based on it has to be super-surreal!

And while I call some of them successes, they aren’t perfect. You can especially see it in the ballerina series, where features like the head and limbs look odd or bent in ways you wouldn’t see on a normal dancer or a Degas painting. Only the tutus and bodices come out well. The rest of their bodies can be a mixed bag.

It kind of reminds me of that scene in 1986’s The Fly, where Jeff Goldblum puts steak through the teleporter and it comes out tasting weird. He figures out that the computer hasn’t learned how to move organic materials, and is instead creating an interpretation or bad imitation of what it thinks steak is. That’s what we have here: the AI has learned how to mimic and create, but it’s still leagues away from making certain things.

And honestly, I’m glad. Art is art because there’s someone behind it with a vision or a passion. You can program a computer to recreate famous art pieces or original pieces, including Batman comics and scripts or horror screenplays. And the computer might even do a good job at times. But there won’t be any passion or soul behind it. Art is art because we’re putting our love and soul into our creations.

And getting to work with a creator? That’s even more special. Believe me, I’ve done it before, and it’s amazing to see your vision come to life with their help. Especially when working on art pieces like book covers. That truly is something special.

That being said, I can see AI-generated art being used for cheap book covers as the technology improves, and the services of artists becoming more expensive. This could especially apply for small presses or independent publishers who need to lower costs while maximizing profits. The only time publishers may use a real artist is if the author is big enough to warrant it.

Hopefully that doesn’t happen, because it would mean we wouldn’t get to see some really amazing collaborations. So, for the meantime, I’ll stop with the AI art (I’ve scratched that itch and I don’t want to pay a subscription for Midjourney, anyway), and continue supporting the artists who create amazing art. Especially horror art.

And now, here are some more pieces I created. Except for a few I’m waiting to reveal till the time is right, here are my other successes. You can ask what was going through my mind when I created these in the comments below. Enjoy, and until next time, my Followers of Fear, pleasant nightmares!

Vampire Mothers and Child
Jump Rope with a Ghost
Jack the Ripper in an Alley
Flaming Giraffe #1
Flaming Giraffe #2
The Necronomicon
Bunny Girl and Hammer
Spooky Alice in Wonderland
Tour entrance of the West Virginia Penitentiary

As you know, I went to another haunted location recently. This one was the West Virginia Penitentiary, which was to be the host of the West Virginia Penitentiary Paracon. Now, you know me, I never pass up the opportunity to visit a haunted location, so the day before the Paracon I visited the prison for a tour.

Now, if you’ve never been to the Penitentiary (and I bet many of you haven’t), it’s a big, Gothic building that reminds me of my beloved Ohio State Reformatory back in Mansfield. Granted, it’s older by about twenty years and was in operation for far longer, and its history is certainly bloodier. In fact, the prison used to be known nationwide as “Blood Alley,” and it was cited by the Justice Department in an investigation of America’s prisons as its worst examples. In the late 1980s, there was a riot there that killed four people, and at one point, an Aryan Brotherhood leader was murdered by his deputy during yard time!

And these are just drops in the bucket: apparently the prison saw about 998 deaths during its operation. And that’s just the ones that we know of that weren’t scheduled executions.

Obviously, the building is supposed to be haunted up to the gills, and I was hoping I might experience some creepy occurrences while there. Sadly, I didn’t, and I couldn’t attend the vendor ghost hunt after the paracon. However, I did feel something in one area:

The “skating rink,” where I got a really bad feeling

There’s this long corridor near where you enter the building for tours called the skating rink. It got that name because during the winter, event today, this corridor ices over and you can skate on it. When the prison was in operation, prisoners were supposed to line up along the walls before going back to their cells, and anyone who would step over a line on the floor would be shot dead. It was a great way to get rid of someone you disliked, and plenty of people did.

I did not know this, but I felt some negative energy in that area. When the tour guide told us about that, it made sense.

I then told our tour guide about my feeling, and he later said to another tour guide as they passed by that he was scared of me (I hadn’t even told him I was a writer yet). I was proud that he figured out to be afraid of me. Very few realize they should until it’s too late.

Some other places that caught my attention were:

This one wall. Can you see a signature? That’s from Zak Bagans, leader of the Ghost Adventures team from TV. Apparently he left his signature there while filming an episode there. However, someone destroyed part of the signature (I think the dude was drunk), and it’s now a funny part of the tours.

This hallway is infamous for a funny reason: apparently the pattern on the floor was imported from Spain, but when Netflix used part of the prison for filming an episode of Mindhunter, they placed their own tile on the floor, ruining the pattern. Netflix is now banned from ever using the prison. I find that hysterical.

This is the Wheel. It separated the main prison from either a residential or administrative section of the prison. Only one other like it exist in the world, in Manchester, England, and it’s the only one in existence still being used.

On the tour, we learned that the prison was used as the filming location for the TV show Castle Rock, and that this particular cell was where Bill Skarsgard stood for his scenes. Standing in that same cell was just plain awesome!

Finally, there was this moment: this section, in addition to having some creepy spirits, is probably the only area in the prison where the cell doors still work. The cells are about five feet by seven, and would usually house three inmates, and they would let us experience what it’s like to be in that cell as a prisoner for a minute.

Naturally, I got it on camera.

Yeah, that was a cool moment. Even if I didn’t get any sort of presence in there.

So, would I go back? Probably, if I could properly investigate the place. There are some shadow figures that supposedly hang around, and I would like to see about contacting some of the other spirits, including ones in areas that weren’t on the tour (some places were just off-limits for certain reasons).

And maybe I’ll get something really creepy on video. Creepier than me, anyway.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m off to work on Crawler. After this chapter, I may take a break to work on a short story or two. And I might have a post or two to write in the near future. So, until next time, good night, pleasant nightmares, and is that a chupacabra outside your window?

Stock image of a house. Definitely not my condo! Photo by Binyamin Mellish on Pexels.com

As many of you know from reading in this blog, I recently bought and moved into a condo after six years in an apartment complex. And while at first it was a lot of stress, I’ve been enjoying my new home while at the same time updating it, repairing certain things, and thinking of more changes to make (I’m thinking of painting my bedroom green, and my office will definitely be black and white).

Yeah, I’m lucky to have this place.

I know a lot of other people in my age bracket aren’t as lucky.

Let’s face it, housing in the United States is in a crisis right now. There are a whole lot of reasons why that is: fewer affordable apartment buildings available or being built; fewer single-family or “starter” homes available or being built; Baby Boomers and Gen Xers downsizing and taking all the homes that are available because they have more financial resources; wages having not increased for years while the cost of living having grown steadily at the same time; local ordinances making it more profitable to build multi-family homes and homes for higher-earning families; and so much more.

I won’t go more into it because I’m not a subject matter expert, but these videos do a great job explaining the problem:

This one is from The Daily Show showing how desperate things have become and the factors millennials face.

This one from Vox shows how making affordable homes in the US faces more obstacles than just profits.

And Last Week Tonight with John Oliver shows the many problems that folks in many of America’s cities are facing just trying to keep a roof over their head. It’s as funny as it is troubling.

Like I said, I’m lucky. I have a good job and my paycheck has grown with every passing year. Rent in my city has, until recently anyway, been quite affordable and never got too expensive at my place. My student loans were paid off years ahead of schedule thanks to my paternal grandfather of blessed memory, and what was left of what he left me allowed me to really build my savings account. They were further built by putting away the stimulus payments the government gave out in 2020 and 2021. I didn’t have to put those payments towards necessities because my workplace had been doing work-from-home for years, so the switch wasn’t too hard on me and my employer. And I got my mortgage before the interest rate was hiked, so I don’t have to pay extra like a bunch of other people who will be borrowing money in the near future.

Again, I’m lucky.

But even with all that luck, I still had a lot of trouble finding a new home. In the six months I searched for a new home, I heard about high wait lists for apartments in the complexes I applied to. Especially the nice ones that were affordable, and those were few and far between. Most of the ones that didn’t look like they were dens of iniquity or poorly maintained charged well over a thousand dollars per month for one-bedroom apartments. And that was just looking for a place to rent! (I tried to keep my options open.) Of the seven houses and condos for sale I visited, I bid on five. And I was outbid on the first four, sometimes by several thousand dollars.

Getting this place, especially right as I was getting close to my move-out date, was a Godsend.

And I know plenty of my generation are struggling, and will continue to struggle, just to stay in a home. And for many, even a crappy apartment might be too expensive. As in the Daily Show video, plenty of millennials are buying fixer-uppers together, but for many even that is too hard.

And I just hope that, by talking about it, maybe something will change. Not on its own, obviously. What do I look like, the Pope? But maybe, if I join my voice to the chorus advocating for change, then maybe change will come. It’ll be slow, but I hope it happens. And if nothing else, maybe it’ll remind us how lucky we are to be in homes at all. And that nothing in life is guaranteed.

Well, that was a dark note to finish on. How about some photos of my new place?

My bedroom. I’m thinking of painting it green.
Jonesy hanging out on the wall near the kitchen window.
No surprise, my masks make this place so much creepier.
My first Shabbos celebration in the new place. Took a lot of unpacking before I could do this.
You like my new rug? Bought it with a gift card a friend gave me as a housewarming gift.
My new writing space. What do you think?
Finally, my new lamp. I like the meeting of vintage and industrial here.

Well, that’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. If there are any more updates on my home life that I feel like sharing, I will. Until next time, good night and pleasant nightmares.

As I mentioned in my last post, an audio version of The Pure World Comes is in the works and was being put through the quality assurance process. I can now let you know that TPWC has passed the quality check and is being exported to multiple audio book platforms! Even better, it should be out on most of them on August 10th, the three month anniversary of the paperback and ebook’s initial release.

For those of you who don’t know, The Pure World Comes is a Gothic horror novel about a maid going to work at the estate of a mad scientist and what happens there. Think Frankenstein had a baby with Crimson Peak. Here’s the summary from the back cover:

Shirley Dobbins wants nothing more than to live a quiet life and become a head housekeeper at a prestigious house. So when she is invited to come work for the mysterious baronet Sir Joseph Hunting at his estate, she thinks it is the chance of a lifetime. However, from the moment she arrives things are not what they seem. As she becomes wrapped up in more of the baronet’s radical science, she realizes something dark and otherworldly is loose within the estate. And if left unchecked, it’ll claim the lives of all she holds dear.

Not bad, right? And the audio book is amazing! It’s narrated by Nikki Delgado and is about six and a half hours long. And what a great six and a half hours it is! Ms. Delgado did an excellent job and I can’t wait to hear what everyone thinks of her reading. In fact, I made a video using the retail sample and posted it to YouTube late last night. You can watch/listen to it in the video below.

Not bad, huh? She does an amazing job reading what is probably the scariest section of the book.

Anyway, that’s all for now. I’ll post about the audio book again as soon as it is out. In the meantime, it should show up on most audio book retailers’ websites (and likely available for preorder) by August 10th (though Amazon and Audible might be annoying for annoyingness sake). For now, you can still get the paperback and ebook editions using the links below. If you like what you read, please let me knwo what you thought so I can improve as a writer and continue to provide quality stories.

So until next time (which could be very soon), good night, pleasant nightmares, and happy reading. Or listening, whichever you prefer.

The Pure World Comes: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, Kobo, Goodreads

Photo by Pedro Figueras on Pexels.com

I’ve heard this term thrown about a few times since January, first in the new Scream movie and most recently in an analysis of a horror film on YouTube. “Elevated horror.” And the speakers, whether in in the Scream movie or in the YouTube video, made it sound like it’s a recognized subgenre of horror with its own staple of tropes and trappings. Like slasher and its killers and gore, or Gothic with its ancient, diseased settings and corrupting influence.

The thing is, it isn’t. Elevated horror isn’t an actual subgenre of horror. I’ve consulted with dozens of writers on this (thank you, Twitter and the Horror Writers Association Facebook group) and it’s not a subgenre. It seems like a subgenre of horror at first glance when you look at works referred to elevated horror. In movies, films referred to as elevated horror include The Witch, Babadook, It Follows and Get Out, among others: they’re horror stories that focus more on probing psychological drama, characters and metaphor than blood and gore or supernatural horrors. Often, there’s a powerful social commentary being presented through the narrative, such as Get Out‘s commentary on race.

In terms of literature, “elevated horror” might have all of these as well as flowery language. It might be almost called “literary horror,” because there’s an emphasis on wording the story nicely and making it just too dark to be called “literary fiction.” Examples include The King in Yellow by Robert Chambers, Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice, The Deep by Alma Katsu, and A Cosmology of Monsters by Shaun Hamill.

And, most importantly, “elevated horror” can sometimes cross over into other genres, such as thriller, literary, or even comedy.

Can you really say The Witch and Get Out belong in the same subgenre?

Sounds like a subgenre, doesn’t it? But it’s not. The works called elevated horror are all as different from each other as roses are to tulips are to primulas. All flowers, but all different kinds of flowers. Let me explain: The King in Yellow and The Deep are cosmic horror mixed with deep psychological themes, The Witch is some cross between folk, religious and historical horror, and Get Out‘s searing satire makes it borderline horror-comedy. In fact, it was nominated at the Golden Globes under categories for comedies or musicals!

Yet all of them are given the designation of elevated horror. So, if it isn’t a subgenre, what is it?

The conclusion I’ve come to after speaking to numerous other writers is that elevated horror is actually horror films taking place in elevators.

Just kidding, that’s elevator horror, and the only example of that I can think of is 2010’s Devil.

No, “elevated horror” is a marketing term. And like all marketing terms, it’s directed towards a specific audience. Who is this target audience? It’s people who normally wouldn’t check out horror because they fear it’s low class, dangerous, or degenerate. They may want to check out horror or be curious, but the stigma still attached to the genre keeps them from doing so. Either that, or they won’t check it out unless a work is given a specific designation.

Calling something “elevated horror” is basically saying, “This isn’t like other horror stories, where half-naked teens are voyeuristically killed with tons of blood and gore, or where supernatural entities menace children in sewers. No, it has nuance and social commentary! There’s psychology and drama and fleshed out characters! You can be respectable while enjoying this!”

In other words, it’s another way of something is high-brow. “There are no explosions and superheroes here. No aliens or elves. No star-crossed lovers up against the odds. Only real people having real life situations, or real people in situations that are absurd but it’s okay, because it says something important about society.”

I almost wish it was a subgenre. I might have found a home for my ballerina-meets-the-King-in-Yellow story already (still working on that, give it time).

Pinhead may not be from an elevated franchise, but that doesn’t make him or Hellraiser any less awesome.

And the problem with this marketing term is it’s misleading. By calling certain movies or books “elevated horror,” it’s labeling all other horror as “trash,” or at the very least “common.” Either way, the designation puts other horror stories down. And that’s a shame, because there’s such good horror out there. Dark Harvest, Kill Creek and Salem’s Lot aren’t high brow, but they’re great stories that thrill and can leave their readers up late into the night. Same with The Thing or the Hellraiser franchise: they may never win Oscars, but goddamn are they scary, and the latter has led to one of the most memorable characters in the slasher genre.

I’m not trying to put down the term. I’m just saying we should understand what it means, both for works designated as such and those that aren’t. And if it lets you enjoy horror, great. Just make sure to check out works that aren’t “elevated” and whose creators don’t really think or care if their work is called that.

Personally, I can see some of my work being called elevated, but I’ll just say that I was trying to write a fun story and wanted others to enjoy it as well.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. After getting my thoughts on this topic out, I’m off to dream of beasties and ghosts. Until next time, good night and pleasant nightmares.

Jeffrey Mansion in Bexley, Ohio.

Been meaning to write this post for about a week now, but life got busy and there was never a good time. Don’t you just hate it when that happens.

Anyway, as I’ve mentioned before, I’m working on short stories in-between edits on Hannah. Or shorter stories, seeing as some of them are novelette or novella length stories. Might work on a novel if the itch gets really strong, though I’m not sure if I’ll edit Toyland again or finally start on Crawler. But for this particular story, which I’m guessing will be a novella, I had a particular location in Columbus that I wanted to check out as a basis for the setting.

I’ve been to the Jeffrey Mansion many times when younger. I used to live a few minutes away from it and sometimes would play on the playground or walk the woods on the property. But I had never been inside before and had never heard of it being potentially haunted.

Then I discovered this video:

I thought since it was so close and easily accessible, and since I had a story in mind taking place in a similar location, I thought I would go and see it. Sadly, I didn’t find any evidence of hauntings. Just a weird moment when, in the library, the camera app on my phone started acting weird and wouldn’t work again until I left the room again. That being said, I could only access the first floor and basement, as the upper floors were reserved and off-limits to visitors. Also, it was daytime, so I couldn’t do a proper investigation. Perhaps the mansion is haunted and there are spooky things just waiting to be found.

Probably not the woman in white or the hanging man spirit from the video, however. The former is likely kids being afraid of the then-living janitor of the premises, and the original owner died in a hospital in the 1960s, so it’s unlikely he’s the hanging ghost if there is one.

But that’s not the point. The point is, I don’t get to stop by actual locations for research for stories that often. Sure, I’ve been to locations and used them as the basis for stories later on, but never to a location with a story already in mind. Going there, walking the grounds and taking photos of the lower two floors, my mind was moving at a thousand miles an hour and thinking up all sorts of great details for the story.

In the garden room: “This would probably double as a ballroom for parties. Oh, and this room will be an important location for the story. That will be in here.”

The tiny staircase hidden in the garden wall: “Ooh, I wonder if I could make use of this somehow. Maybe as a location to meet?”

The dance studio: “Didn’t know this was down here. But it works for me. Some of my characters are dancers, after all.”

It’s just insane how much of a boon my imagination got from coming here. It really helped me develop plot points and the location my story would take place in, right down to the location’s history and what would happen in which rooms. If I ever get a chance, I would like to go to another location for a specific story in mind, just to see what would happen to my brain and to the story. Who knows? Doing so might help me create my best work yet.

Anyway, that’s all for now, My Followers of Fear. Next up for me is to do some edits for the short story I’m using for That Which Cannot Be Undone (that’s still coming along wonderfully) and then, if there are no new edits for Hannah, I’ll get started on this new story. And, of course, I’ll let you guys know if anything exciting comes up.

In the meantime, enjoy more photos of Jeffrey Mansion. Until next time, good night and pleasant nightmares!

First photo of the mansion. Beautiful Jacobethan structure. I would love to do a full paranormal investigation there or see it used in a movie based off my work.
Side view of the mansion. Kids at the preschool get picked up there, though I imagine it was used to drop off important guests once upon a time.
Close up of the mansion’s entrance. It’s pretty striking.
Back of the mansion. It looks like it could be a movie set someday. I know plenty of kids like to use them while playing on the playground nearby.
Back of the carriage court. Back in the day, it was where the owners stored their carriages and cars. Now, it’s used as event space.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Transforming our Understanding of Fairy Tales by Anne Dugan

Why We Absolutely Need Fairy Tales by Jason Link

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