A Note on Haunt Me to Sleep and MHz

If you’ve kept up with this blog, you know the troubles I’ve had with Haunt Me to Sleep. A lot of them are unexpected personal delays, as I’m the only one working on it, such as having to recover from getting sick and drastic schedule changes with work and family. So, it probably will come as no surprise that I’m resetting the publication date until next year. There’s no set date or month, it will just come out when it’s out. The good news is, you can request a review copy ahead of time by messaging me on Goodreads, if you want one. They’re free, as long as you give it a rating or review in return, and I’ll email it to you before it’s published.

It was largely wishful thinking believing it would come out this year, but I’d rather it come out late than bad, and I need time to clean up the writing, so that it can be at its absolute best quality. A late book is only late until it’s out, but a bad book is bad forever. (I’m pretty sure that’s a paraphrase of a real quote, but I forget who by.)

MHz was the last poetry book of this year, but it only has a Kindle version for the moment. I’m working on the paperback and ePub version now, so that it’ll be more widely available. I also intended for those to come out much sooner, but sometimes things happen that get in the way, and I honestly had forgotten about it for a time. You can get the Kindle version on Amazon if you want, it’s not expensive. Just wanted everyone to know about these things! 🙂

Rarest Japanese Books in English

Ultra-Gash Inferno

“Rare” is really a state of mind. You could say that the scribbled page I tore out of a notebook last night was “rare”, seeing as I’m the only one who owned it. You could say that a rock you found by a river that looks like Gumby’s head is “rare” because there are no other rocks shaped like it. Most people wouldn’t call those things rare, however, because there is no real demand for them. They’re one of a kind, sure, but have no particular value.

The ironic thing is that something NOT being in high demand and not selling in the first place is usually what CAUSES it to become rare, in the case of books and other media. Something niche and obscure may suddenly come into fashion, or be sought after by collectors years later. Personally, I hate when this happens with media. I just want to watch or play or read whatever, and not spend hundreds of dollars to do so. I can’t help but think:
“Well, why was nobody interested in it when it was new? Don’t treat it like gold now when you ignored it on purpose then!”
In my opinion, there are no books worth paying triple-digit or higher prices for. None. It would have to be pretty damned special, because anything less than that would be a massive disappointment and probably a bad investment.

That being said, I have a penchant for Japanese books in translation. I love the prose and themes of Japanese literature, but I’m not so fluent in the language, which presents a bigger obstacle than you’d think when looking for new books to read.
Japanese books have had significant trouble breaking into the mainstream in English-speaking countries. Why is this? For one, the most desired books tend to be in somewhat niche genres like psychological horror, and for two, written Japanese is incredibly difficult and tricky to translate into English. Translators will tell you that it’s often more art than science.

Translated Japanese novels and manga have seen a recent upswing in popularity, but in the 90s and early 00s, there were many unfortunate books to which the English rights were lost, floating in the copyright abyss to this day. These are the rarest ones that I know of. They’re not always expensive, but can be stupidly hard to find. Keep in mind that this is only the case with the English editions. Japanese copies are a lot more common, though that’s not very helpful if you’re not able to read them.

Rare translated books are difficult to research, as is why exactly they became rare and valuable in the first place. Could be that they didn’t sell well, are very sought-after, or that everyone who bought it is just determined to keep their copies. To make the list, the book must only be available in print – no eBooks – and must currently be out of print. They’re in loose order from the easiest to find and cheapest to the hardest and priciest. If you know of any that should’ve made the list, feel free to comment below! Continue reading “Rarest Japanese Books in English”

Thoughts on the Goodreads Choice Awards

I’ve been on Goodreads for almost four years now, and the design of their book awards ceremony has consistently been a disappointment. It’s not an issue with the books themselves. Granted, there seem to be a lot of the same authors, but what’s popular is popular. That’s beside the fact. My issue is with the lack of variety represented. Several major genres are completely missing, or melded into categories that they either have no chance of winning in or do not belong in.

Currently, there exists two young adult (YA) genre groups – fantasy-sci-fi and realistic fiction. YA horror gets squashed into fantasy, even though it does not belong there, and there is no mystery option unless one happens to make its way into realistic fiction. In other words, young adult horror has little chance of winning in its category, because it will be pushed out by the massive amount of fantasy books published each year, and mystery is virtually nonexistent.

There are no defined categories for LGBT fiction by itself, Christian fiction, indie books, or erotica. These are popular, well-read genres, and I believe it’s unacceptable to hold an all-genre awards ceremony and disregard these, especially given the fact that people have been petitioning for over two years to get LGBT fiction on the list.

What I do like about the Goodreads Choice Awards is their variety in nonfiction. They have pretty much all of the nonfiction genres covered, from biography to science to history and beyond, but this just enhances the fact that their fiction selection is so sparse. Where are these major genres, and what would it hurt to include them? Enough books are published a year in these missing categories to have plenty of contenders, so what is the issue here?

Book Review – The Unstrung Harp by Edward Gorey

The Unstrung Harp

★★★★ 4 Stars

Genre: Dark Comedy / Fiction
Publication Date: 1953 / 2000
Publisher: Bloomsbury

“Even more harrowing than the first chapters of a novel are the last, for Mr. Earbrass anyway. The characters have one and all become thoroughly tiresome, as though he had been trapped at the same party with them since the day before; neglected sections of the plot loom on every hand, waiting to be disposed of; his verbs seem to have withered away and his adjectives to be proliferating past control.”

As writers, our beloved craft is often the catalyst of our madness. Our novels drive us crazy. If only it were as simple as writing it down, but even that defies us sometimes. Our stories lurk around in our heads begging and nagging constantly to be written, but when we have the time and materials to do so, they latch their claws to the dark corners of our minds and refuse to come outside, no matter what we try to tempt them out with.

I’ve always gotten the feeling that people who don’t write have no way of understanding this difficulty, even if they read, and especially if they work in publishing. Publishers, ironically enough, seem to have a history of undervaluing and not understanding the very people who keep them in business. It’s cathartic to see the troubles of writing reflected in such a funny, charming book, with Gorey’s signature lovingly detailed, Victorian artwork. Though it can be a little bit depressing how close the trials of Mr. Earbrass and his weird novel that refuses to come out right are to reality.

The Unstrung Harp is a self-aware, very true-to-life portrait of the demon that is writer’s block, among other curses bestowed upon someone just because they were born with the urge to tell stories – pitiful publishers, peer envy, bad criticism, fake criticism, cruel deadlines, the whole gamut. One has to wonder if that’s what Gorey himself had gone through with his early books, and makes me thankful that the indie press has blossomed into what it is.

(Even if it comes with the downside of people trying to pass off shoddily copy-and-pasted Wikipedia articles as actual books.)

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Good Indie Horror Reads

As a side note, I apologize that the rest of the Harvest of Horror reviews didn’t show up in the last five or six days. I had to redo some and fell sick, so was a little too out of it to schedule them back into order. The video game reviews might leak a bit past Halloween, just if you happen to wonder why they pop up. I thought about “back-publishing” them, but eh. There’s no point in that.

Anyway, I love indie books. So much that I’ve written some, even! I appreciate that we are able to live in a world where writers don’t have to be constricted by publishers, and can truly let their whims and ideas free. To be fair to the book industry, mainstream publishing in literature is nowhere near as corrupt and manipulative as say, music or movies, but it can be quite dismissive towards original and off-the-wall ideas, so I like to delve into indie books when I get the chance. These are some indie horror books I’ve read recently that are worth mentioning.

The Bacon Room by Leonard Warren
Genre:
Splatterpunk / Short Stories

The Bacon Room isn’t perfect, but there’s a keen, dark sense of humor and potential from a new author. I got this book for free on a whim, and don’t regret it, though I normally end up disliking splatterpunk and “extreme” horror. Several of the stories have really creative premises, such as the title story, where a woman is kidnapped by a group of people who plan on feeding her piece-to-piece by a demon. The demon talks to her in her sleep and they start conspiring to get revenge on the others. I thought this was a really cool idea – you don’t often see the human sacrifice and the demon they’re being offered to work with each other. Continue reading “Good Indie Horror Reads”

Upcoming Books, Frustration and News

This year’s been a right beast, hasn’t it? Don’t you think so? In a way, I wish this span of time were a literal beast, that way I could just kill it. Put the horrible, mutated thing out of its misery. I’m more than ready for 2020, in other words.
This year has tortured me like clockwork, too. Say, if I promised you today that I’d begin, I don’t know, writing a novel tomorrow, and I was truly dead-set on writing it, something out of my control would be thrown in front of me to ensure I couldn’t possibly go through with what I promised to do. The whole year has been a constant torrent of that. After Halloween, I did want to start finishing my backlog of book reviews and ARC books, because it’s gotten quite hefty, but I can’t guarantee I will, at least not judging by the way it’s gone for the past several months.

I have an updated schedule for the books I’ll be publishing. You can find the ones I’ve got out on Amazon or Smashwords, but also several other eBook stores. Pick your favourite mainstream store, they’re likely there. Most of them are free, except for the two that are for the time being, exclusive to Amazon. I’m working on getting them international as well, but I might have to wait awhile because of the Kindle Unlimited policy. Anyway, here are the things that I can guarantee, for sure, are coming out in the next year or so.
Haunt Me to Sleep initially was supposed to come out on Halloween, but there were about five or six stories I ended up having to finish or rewrite, and I didn’t want to rush them out for the sake of a holiday I barely celebrate, so it’s back to it’s original planned date of December or possibly January.

Haunt Me to Sleep (Fantasy / Horror) – Winter 2019-2020
Atlantis Drowning (Poetry) – Summer 2020
The Gutterpunk Blues (Poetry) – Summer 2020
One of three short novellas – 2020-2021
Drift From Electric Green (Dark Poetry) – Spring 2020
Watercolour Hearts (Horror / Fantasy) – 2020-2021

Top 5 Best Original Goosebumps

The Ghost Next Door  (Goosebumps, #10)Welcome to Dead House (Goosebumps, #1)The Haunted Mask (Goosebumps, #11)

R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps is a series of children’s horror novellas that’s recently seen a revival in popularity, along with its more young adult counterpart, Fear Street. I kind of stopped keeping track of Goosebumps after the original 90s run and some of the early 2000s books, because well, I grew beyond the demographic. I still read Fear Street fairly often, and of course I have a huge appreciation for Goosebumps, and all the subtle phobias it instilled in young children.

The original Goosebumps series ran from 1992 to 1997 and consists of about 62 books, most of which I’ve read at some point, though there are several I’ve forgotten about or have never seen. It’s been reprinted a couple of times with new covers, but the classic covers will always be the iconic ones. These are, in my opinion, the five BEST books of the series up to 1997.

5. I Live in Your Basement (#61) – Published 1997
The original Goosebumps series ended on a pretty weak note with #62, arguably the worst in the series. However, the penultimate book before it is spine-chilling. I Live in Your Basement is about more of an adult fear – stalking, with some themes of hallucinations and mental illness, if you want to read into it that way. It pulls out all the stops on the grotesque factor, as well. I suppose this would be a pretty good precursor to surreal horror for kids who would later be into that sort of thing.

4. The Haunted Mask (#11) – Published 1993
Why the long face? It’s not like it’s going to get… melded to a demonic mask, threatening to rip your skin off, right? Well, that’s what this book is about! A girl goes in search of a Halloween mask, and ends up in a very dubious novelty shop, where she steals a disgusting, horrifying mask that grows rather attached to her face. Eventually, she isn’t able to take it off, once she’s left it on so long. The thought of something parasitic latching and welding itself to your face, suffocating you and taking control of your thoughts, I would say is still pretty disturbing.

3. One Day at Horrorland (#16) – Published 1994
Amusement parks have a sort of ominous vibe to them anyway, and it really doesn’t help if it’s run by cannibalistic, sadistic monsters who pit the human fair-goers against each other in an attempt to kill them all. Sheesh. Continue reading “Top 5 Best Original Goosebumps”

Book Review – Card of Fate by The Duke of Quails

Card Of Fate: Poems of a Gambling Addiction

★★★★ 4 Stars

Genre: Contemporary Poetry
Publication Date: December 7th, 2016
Publisher: Independent

“The card of fate was never to be wagered but intended for you to keep. Dear, to bet or gamble on such a card is to place your soul on the devil’s feet.”

Addiction is a rough path, full of setbacks and dotted with many camouflaged pitfalls and brambles. It’s a nagging, teasing sort of demon who stays hooked in you like a bumblebee’s stinger, poisoning you little by little from the background. Some are lucky enough in their lifetimes to only have to skirt around this path, but most will at some point have to face that personal mire head-on, or risk losing something precious.

Card of Fate is a series of free verse poems from the viewpoint of victims to gambling – an addiction that carries some of the highest risks, yet is tragically easy for anyone to fall prey to, whether they’re a parent, a child, rich or poor, young or old. Desperate or self-assured. True addiction is a devil’s game, debilitating and not the least bit picky in who it takes as its hostages. It’s rarely just the addict who suffers, as well.
Gambling addiction is a resilient and strange monster in that it feeds on so many high, sometimes conflicting emotions at once. The initial happiness and elation of winning quickly turns to greed, which in turn becomes pride if you succeed, and depression if you don’t. And then it convinces you to flip that cycle around again. It’s always “just one more chance”.

The prose in this collection flows easily, and the themes are beyond relatable. I’ve never personally had an issue with gambling, but I can definitely understand the mindset, as would anyone who’s harbored an addiction of their own. Some of the poems are a little repetitive when read in sequence, but I love the concept of different perspectives and drives behind gambling. It’s very personal and seems like a lot of consideration, reflection, pain and heartfelt effort was put into these poems – strife of the past rewritten into a cautionary tale for the future. It reminded me strongly of Requiem for a Dream, except to be honest, I enjoyed this writer’s more concise, straightforward style of prose over Selby’s ramblings in that novel. Card of Fate has a slam poetry feel, moving very fast and cutting deep, and I appreciate that.

Time and money pass like water flowing downstream to the addict, and before they know it, important things have become irretrievably lost. Card of Fate really captures and jibes with that feeling – and who has never felt that way, really? – and I would definitely recommend it if you want to understand more about these personal, emotion and sometimes dark depths of addiction.

“The regret in the word gambling comes from what you have lost: family, respect, and trust that you will never get back.”

[Thanks to the author for the book trade, and for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.]

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My Favourite Horror Collections

Teatro GrottescoNothing Is StrangeSmashed: Junji Ito Story Collection

I’ve always considered horror one of the best and worst genres for short stories. When short horror works, it can breed one of the most haunting, terrifying things you’ve ever experienced. However, making it work is no easy feat. For every disturbing, unsettling piece you’ll find, there will be ten out there that just won’t do it for you. There is nothing that will disturb every reader, though it’s possible to come close, and if you don’t succeed in scaring them, there are still ways to entertain them.

These are my top ten, for the time being, favourite collections of horror stories. I love variety, so there’s a bit of each kind of horror here – dark fantasy, visual horror, bizarro, classic horror – you name it, you’ll find it somewhere on this list. Some aren’t necessarily meant to be straight horror, but have a significant horror flavour to them that I felt qualified them enough to make the list. These are in no particular order. As there were quite a few books, I might include some honorable mentions in a later post.

Teatro Grottesco by Thomas Ligotti
Genre: Horror / Dark Fantasy
I would feel confident calling Teatro Grottesco the best compilation of horror shorts I’ve ever read. It remains, several years after I first read it, one of the few books of the genre to legitimately unnerve me. Ligotti’s prose is sinister and elaborate, like a spiderweb with the remains of cocoons dangling through it, yet this book reads very easily. I’d honestly recommend any Ligotti collection, but this one in particular is truly flawless.

Smashed by Junji Ito
Genre: Horror / Science Fiction
I covered this one in-depth not too long ago, so check out my review if you want. Smashed did not get as good reviews as his other recent collections, but I personally like the surreal, cosmic tone of these stories, especially the title story. Who knew a fruit tree could be so terrifying?

Pretty Monsters by Kelly Link
Genre: Dark Fantasy / Horror
Arguably, Pretty Monsters is the most somber book on this list. The overall tone of this book is depressive and gothic, as if it’s being told by a series of ghosts who find the whole thing darkly amusing. You really don’t see enough young adult horror anyway, but especially not of this caliber. This is a book that will bury itself in your skull.

Nothing is Strange by Mike Russell
Genre: Dark Fantasy
Nothing is Strange I don’t think was actually intended to be frightening, but well… strange. It’s in the title. I did a review on this and its sequel collection, Strange Secrets, but both reviews need an upgrade. Nothing is Strange can be breezed through in a day or two, but you won’t want it to end. Russell’s ideas are so original and inventive, and the imagery is so perfectly bizarre that it’s difficult to step away from the world he’s created.

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark Trilogy by Alvin Schwartz and Stephen Gammell
Genre: Horror
An old childhood favourite that I’m still fond of. The illustrations are what it’s known for, I mean, just look them up if you don’t know what I’m talking about. Gammell’s drawings still have power and are unsettling to look at as an adult. The stories are fun, too, especially for the folklore aspect. Schwartz was a collector of traditional stories, folklore, and American myths, so his notes on the writing of the trilogy are also pretty fascinating.

Fragments of Horror by Junji Ito
Genre: Horror / Dark Comedy
I’ll probably do a full review on this one later in the month. It would be fitting for the season, yeah? Something I love about Ito is that he can take anything, no matter how small and innocuous, and turn it into something to fear. A phobia. A paranoia. Continue reading “My Favourite Horror Collections”

How to Sabotage Your Own Writing

The most damaging punishments are the ones you place upon your own head. You know what you won’t be able to survive more than anyone. There are a lot of factors outside of our control that can hinder our writing. I’ve had to deal with those quite often this year – from mental health to just unlucky timing. Nonetheless, at least seven times out of ten, what stops us from succeeding, from finishing our work, it’s something we could have prevented ourselves.

I consider it something of a miracle that I’m able to write at all, and I thank the readers of my blog for having patience with me, and not posting as many book things as I used to. This year made the disaster that was 2016 look like a day at the park. What I have learned with the recent collection I’ve been working on is how to effectively destroy your own motivations, recognize that you’re doing it, and stop it before it can happen. This is, in a nutshell, how one sabotages their own writing.

1. Constantly compare yourself with other writers.
Do not do this. Comparison is poison for the creative, it really is. No, your book might not be like Stephen King’s books, or J.K. Rowling, or whoever you take your inspiration from. Be inspired by good authors and their successes, but understand that yours will be different than theirs. No less good, if you’ve worked hard on it and are passionate about it, but the voice will be unique to you, and that’s never a bad thing.

2. Get out of the habit, and purposely put it off when you have the urge and time to write.
This tends to happen with me whenever I get sick. I think, well I don’t feel like it, so I won’t write tonight. The problem is, this same mindset carries into the times when I feel fine, when I feel up to the task of writing. Take caution to be aware of when this happens with you, because procrastination will absolutely slaughter your book, or whatever you might be working on in general.

3. Put down your own ideas without getting any outside feedback.
This one’s self-explanatory. Don’t shoot yourself down too much. Some ideas are objectively bad ones, true, and thoroughly dissecting your own work with a fresh eye is helpful to improving it, but you should try to get somewhat unbiased feedback from a beta reader or friend as well, preferably several people if you can, if you’re not sure. You could end up destroying something wonderful. Continue reading “How to Sabotage Your Own Writing”

🎃Harvest of Horror 2019🎃

The month of Halloween, the only socially acceptable time to be creepy, in both demeanor and your cerebral interests. And yes, I said month. As if Halloween lasted only a day, are you kidding? Not in this household.
Since I felt that last Harvest of Horror was churned out rushed and somewhat lackluster, I’ve planned this one way ahead of time. I’m always busy in October for whatever reason, usually because I have something being submitted for publishing around this time, so I’m actually writing my Halloween posts from back in May and June and touching them up from the present in October. Confused? So am I, by this point.

Image result for we have to go back meme

Anyway, all this means is there is no particular schedule like there was last Halloween. There will be something horror-related every day. I thought I’d be a bit different this year and branch out into other things besides books and writing, so there’s to be a miniseries on the best and worst (in my opinion) horror video games, some artwork for Inktober on DeviantArt, some reviews and poems scattered throughout as usual, amongst other uncanny novelties.

The series on video games I think you’ll find especially interesting, since despite the cult following many of them have gotten, not many people discuss them in the same vein they would a book or film review. If you’re into games for the story aspect, or don’t know much about them and want to, you might like these. My recent trend of talking about video games probably won’t spill into the rest of the year, though, as I’ll likely be going back to a focus on writing and books when I can, but I feel like to be a writer-reader, it’s best to understand every medium.

I had considered doing a mini-series on the Fear Street saga by R.L. Stine, but I didn’t realize the later books were out of print, and quite expensive if you aren’t lucky enough to happen across them in a thrift shop. I certainly was not up to hunting them all down. I might talk about Fear Street and Goosebumps a bit, but no promises.
Anyway, enjoy the special, and have a horror-ific October!

The Books of the Series (SH Special)

I mis-scheduled the Haunt Me to Sleep preview for a bad time. If you missed it, because I’m pretty sure almost everyone missed it, and want to read it, it’s here in Issue #17. I’ll put the original post back up on Sunday.

So, I’ve been talking about the Silent Hill series for a few days, though I suppose it’s been more like rambling on. I’d planned all this for Halloween, originally, but I already had a slightly better mini-series written out for then. As you probably know, the popular psychological horror series is largely based on books. I actually found one of my all-time favourite authors through Silent Hill, believe that or not. Well, technically it was through one of the creators’ commentaries on the making-of, but still.
Here are the best books I’ve found through this series’ recommendation, intentional or unintentional. They are in no particular order.

Carrie by Stephen King
Genre: Horror / Paranormal
This is considered a horror classic, but truthfully it wasn’t even on my radar until I found out the villains of the first Silent Hill were based off of Carrie and her abusive mother. I didn’t, at the time, really want to read about some poor, socially inept girl getting relentlessly abused and having pig’s blood dumped on her, even if she does take revenge. The idea just kind of made me uncomfortable, but I didn’t regret reading it when I did. It’s King’s first novel, so it has some rough edges, but overall it’s a pretty good book. What makes Carrie so ground-breaking is its sense of sympathy, and a well-written, not conventionally pretty, relatable protagonist at a time when women in horror novels were largely supermodel murder victims. Still an issue that pervades the genre to this day, despite horror arguably being one of the more progressive genres. Continue reading “The Books of the Series (SH Special)”

The Silence of the Hills – Pre-Halloween Special

Happy Pre-Harvest of Horror! Not that that’s going to become a thing. We are rolling into Halloween, which I was going to save this for, but decided to post it a bit early, just because I wanted to. And also, my Halloween schedule is clogged, and I won’t have time to post it then.
Silent Hill is a psychological horror franchise that began in the medium of video games with Silent Hill for the PlayStation in 1999, which was rather unorthodox for its genre and methods of storytelling at the time. It has since branched out to two feature films, multiple albums worth of music and a smattering of novels, comics and artworks. Silent Hill is acknowledged as one of the forerunners of the survival horror genre, along with its different-yet-alike sister series, Resident Evil and Clock Tower.

Though it continues to have an active fanbase, and recently was cited as one of the inspirations behind the popular Netflix show, Stranger Things, sadly, as of writing this, Silent Hill itself is no longer being developed. After several… dubious decisions made by the publisher, Konami, the latest entry in the series was canceled and it was shelved indefinitely for future projects.

While the series itself is largely based on literature, it’s had its own unique, powerful effect on the psychological horror genre as a whole. Silent Hill was one of the first video game series to break into the mainstream that used the supposed “limitations” of the medium to tell realistically dark, atmospheric and emotionally complex horror stories, the likes of which had never really been seen that often in video games beforehand, outside of maybe certain RPGs, making Silent Hill more like a fully interactive novel or art piece.

If you’ve been following my little blog for awhile, you’ll know how much I love, love, love this series, even the parts that are flawed. It’s the perfect video game for a bibliophile, as well. This series has introduced me to not only one of my favourite authors, but a multitude of excellent stand-alone novels that I likely wouldn’t have had an interest in or even heard of otherwise. More importantly, it’s one of the key factors that inspired me to become a writer.
For this not quite Halloween special, I’ll be doing a rundown of almost every piece of the series – the original quartet, the Western video games, the books, the movies – pretty much the whole shebang. Mostly, I wanted to share what I love about it, but you might discover something awesome from this, too.

Obviously, I recommend the Silent Hill video games, even if you don’t care for video games. Like, I mean this. If you like this kind of horror at all, you’re doing yourself a grand disfavor by avoiding them because of them being games. If you don’t like the thought of hunting them down solely on my recommendation, there’s always the Wiki and YouTube to get some of the experience. None of the series is “rare”, per se, but some pieces can be difficult to track down physical copies of, namely Origins, the first one, and for some reason, the graphic novels, but we’ll get to that, and why those might be somewhat more rare. Here is the upcoming schedule for what I’ll be talking about or reviewing! It’s in no particular order, just like the plot!

It should be noted that I won’t be covering either Book of Memories, the Play Novel, that HD Collection that supposedly sucked, or the Japanese novels, because I have no experience with any of them, and therefore nothing to talk about.

Sept. 23 – Thoughts on the Silent Hill Quartet
Sept. 24 – Thoughts on the Western Silent Hills
Sept. 25 – The Books Behind the Series
Sept. 26 – Thoughts on the Films
(*Edit* – The comics reviews have been moved to a later date, due to time.)
Sept. 28 – The Silent Hill Comics, Pt. 1 (Reviews Revisited)
Sept. 29 – The Silent Hill Comics, Pt. 2 (Reviews Revisited)

What Makes a Novel Scary?

This question is almost impossible to answer, but I believe it boils down to atmosphere and the author’s personal goal. Horror is all-around a difficult genre to work with, because horror is just so subjective, but books, as I’ve found, are one of the harder mediums to make scary. Movies, I think, would actually be somewhat harder because they require a large, perfectly functioning team effort, but as far as something you would create by yourself, it’s books and stories. I love horror for its creative stories, but personally have only been not just unnerved, but genuinely scared by a very, very tiny handful of books. This makes me either an amazing or a terrible horror writer, because nothing I create scares me, either. Granted, once you’ve spent hours tweaking the details of a phantom, it kind of loses every ounce of its fear factor, but working on this latest book, I have learned a lot about what horror takes.

What kind of “scary” you’re going for can be changed instantly depending on how your concept and execution match up. If the concept is terrifying, but the execution is over-the-top and silly, a thrilling, serious horror could turn into an unintentional comedy. The overlap between humor and horror is really difficult to prevent, though I’ve found most good horror books have a bit of self-awareness about it when it happens.

When you are creating horror, consider what scares you, and what you want others to feel from your book. Dread? Panic? Fear? Sorrow, even? Or would you rather it be a dark comedy? Horror relies heavily on anticipation. The general feeling, and how this anticipation will be built up is the most important thing to know, before even deciding if it fits into any sub-genres. Genre labels are not actually that important, in the long run. Many of the greatest books I’ve ever read, or ones that are celebrated by the public, do not clearly fit into any singular genre. Some do, some don’t. It’s good to know, but it doesn’t matter nearly as much as succeeding at whatever atmosphere you want to convey. Continue reading “What Makes a Novel Scary?”

Halloween on the Horizon

Image result for creepy vintage halloween costumes

Halloween, limited to a single day? I don’t think so. Didn’t you know that the entirety of September and October exist solely as an excuse for horror to be socially acceptable for awhile? Who am I kidding, of course you did! They haven’t renamed it Septober on Mars for no reason…

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I already prepared most of this year’s Harvest of Horror special back in May and June, because I was anticipating publishing a book near Halloween, and wanted to give myself plenty of time. I ended up with a couple of excess horror-related shenanigans that I no longer have room for to publish during H.H., and I don’t really want to save them for next Halloween, so I’m going to go ahead and publish those this month. I only start to wake up around September, so this is a perfect way to get started.

Last year’s Harvest of Horror was somewhat unfocused, because it was the first Halloween special I’d done since starting this blog, but I ended up featuring mostly books. This year, the special will revolve around horror as an interactive medium, in video games and other alternative methods of storytelling. I’m doing a countdown of the, in my opinion, best and worst horror video games, as well as some unrelated horror reviews and posts, and of course, Haunt Me to Sleep should be published by the end of October. I’ll be posting previews of it sometime this month, too, as I think I’ve already mentioned.

Some more of what’s happening in September includes a week dedicated to the Silent Hill franchise and its legacy – the main series, the books, the movies, everything – and some miscellaneous horror reviews and poems. Also coming up is some art! Yes, I’m actually posting some drawings again. I talk about it often, but go through with it rarely. The ePub and paperback editions of MHz should also be out soon. There was some complications with the cover design and formatting that prevented them coming out when the Kindle version did, and I didn’t figure anybody was in a huge rush for it to be out, so I’ve put off fixing it. ‘Tis the way of procrastination. Anyway, hope everyone’s looking forward to Halloween as much as I am!

Book Review – IC in a Sunflower by Mitsukazu Mihara

★★★ 3.5 Stars

Genre: Science Fiction / Short Stories
Publication Date: January 9th, 2007
Publisher: TokyoPop

Integrated Circuit in a Sunflower is an interesting title, in more than a linguistic sense. Mihara’s art is lovely, and the delicate sense of innocence it has purposefully works at odds with the cynical, morbid themes the stories explore – the ethics of cloning, dehumanization and abuse, quirks that develop into diseases. There’s not quite enough time given to any of the questions this manga tries to propose for it to brand itself in my mind, though. The stories operate like haiku, poetic yet sinister hints of a larger picture.

I liked most of the stories, particularly the title story and “Alive”, which is about human children being cloned to use as organ donors. Still, I had a similar issue as I did with Mihara’s Doll series, in that I appreciate the importance of what it’s trying to say, in regards to man’s relationship with technology, and how some aspects of scientific progress could easily benefit or corrupt human relationships, depending on the route taken to test them out, but it felt inexplicably dark-hearted and unclear.

This is not as bad for that as Doll was, but that disjointedness is still there and kind of mars my enjoyment of some honestly clever concepts. It’s difficult to explain and probably kind of petty, but it’s like the feeling of a sinking gut – uncomfortable, but in a sense that can’t be pinpointed. I suppose that means it succeeds at horror as well as it does sci-fi, but I’m not sure.

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A Commentary on Cosmic Love

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+Cosmic Love is free to download on Amazon, B&N, Kobo, and Smashwords. Get a copy worldwide in any format here. Add Cosmic Love on Goodreads here. A paperback is also available.+

Genre: Poetry / Dark Fantasy / Romance

Commentary: Cosmic Love was unceremoniously plopped out as a miniature chapbook of haiku in early 2018. Its second half, Parasite of the Sun, was also supposed to be its own separate book, but the two were so thematically similar and short that I conjoined them to save time.
The project began namely as an experiment to test myself, to see if I could handle the rigors of publishing a piece of writing. Spoiler: I couldn’t! The initial “beta” version was not that good, and it still brings shame to me just how many people read it! I suppose it shouldn’t. I mean, there must have been something salvageable about it that I didn’t see, or there wouldn’t have been nearly over a hundred downloads by the time I took it out of print that fall.
I feel like, no matter what I write later on, Cosmic Love will always be my most popular poetry book. At least now, I can be somewhat proud of it! In both cases, I was determined for the cover to be pink. And it is certainly pink.

The new version was developed from February to April 2019, off and on and in snippets. The haiku are still present in the final, or what I like to call the “real” version, but cleaned-up and strung with the freestyle poems in a more coherent way, to form working themes of tragic love, cosmic horror and cosmic beauty. The oldest poems are “In the Land of Rust”, “System Time” and “Patchwork Tower”, which are all out of a notebook I kept in high school. They have been cleaned up heavily from the source poem, don’t worry! They aren’t that old, but it’s amazing to see how your writing changes and, hopefully, improves in just a few years.

Some of the inspirations for this collection were the science fiction novels Double Star by Robert Heinlein and Dune by Frank Herbert, and various sci-fi horror films like Sunshine and Fantastic Planet. Retro sci-fi in general, with a blend of Eastern philosophies served as kind of the building point that Cosmic Love grew from. One poem that might be intriguing is “Wandering Melon”. The title, and obviously the poem itself, were inspired by the nara melon, a mysterious fruit that somehow survives and thrives in the hottest, most arid parts of the world, in Namibia.

What ended up being probably my personal favourite poem, “Hidden in a False Sun”, was written on a day, on a whim to enter into a contest. It didn’t win but it did appear in an issue of Radium Piano Band, along with my second-favourite, “In the Land of Rust”.

The passion of sound flares my final dream
I evaporate in the corals of Neptune
Into the parhelia of a hidden sun –
No one else will know what I found there

-from “Hidden in a False Sun”

Personal Fave Poems: “In the Land of Rust”, “Hidden in a False Sun”, “Promenade of the Palm”

Never Finding the Book You Want

“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” – Toni Morrison

Does this sound familiar to anyone? Something that has always plagued me when seeking out new things to read is that there never seems to be enough of what I crave from specific types of books, whether we’re talking about the psycho-visual aspect of the writing or the story itself. This is even true with just a single author’s catalogue. One of their books may have that exact “vibe” I’m looking for, and the rest may lack it. It’s hard to pinpoint anything about the feelings I seek through books, save for a jumble of loosely coordinated images.

All of my current books are poetry, but I’m a fiction writer at heart. To soothe this dilemma was one of my key motivations in transitioning more and more into fiction, beginning this fall. Poetry can capture some of those, I don’t know what exactly to call them, I suppose “ambiences” or “atmospheres” would be appropriate, but not nearly as efficiently as a story, which has more time to build it, until it becomes a tangible thing that you remember, though of course none of it actually happened.

There are two “ambiences” that I have the most trouble finding in published books – one I could describe best as “urban psychological”, like that feeling you get wandering an empty, fluorescent-lit street or listening to smooth, ambient lo-fi music. Japanese novels and urban thrillers are probably my best bet for reliving this feeling in a book, as I’ve had the most luck with them, but unfortunately, there is only so much to choose from. The second is the “ambience” of occult mystery. I have yet to find more than a rare handful of books that truly capture that sinister feeling, and it would be difficult to describe. A transcendental, conspiratorial sort of horror, maybe. One that got that “ambience” right – even though the book itself isobjectively not that great, I loved it nonetheless for this reason – is the obscure paranormal novel The Sisterhood by Florence Stevenson.

Anyway, just some curious musings on my never-ending scour of the shelves. Have you had a similar problem? Feel free to leave a comment.

News on Haunt Me to Sleep

Haunt Me to Sleep is my debut fiction project. I’ve talked about it a little bit, but before I was positive about what the project was going to be like. It hasn’t quite strayed entirely away from poetry, as there are multiple prose pieces, but I thought a mix of styles would be perfect for what I was trying to convey. There are 52 pieces total, most of which are stories or prose. I think about 10-12 of them count strictly as poems.

Haunt Me to Sleep is an unorthodox book of “ghost stories”. Some are ghosts in the traditional sense, and some are more like mythological monsters. On the other hand, some are more metaphorical “ghosts” – something that haunts a character that isn’t really a tangible person or thing. I drew heavily from Japanese and Cherokee mythology for the design and nature of some of the ghosts, as well as themes of existential horror and common phobias.

This book, this insane book, which began as a pet project, has absolutely consumed the majority of my spare time. (Have patience with me! This book might have actually become some kind of evil entity by this point.) What was initially a poetry book of roughly ninety pages is now a fully fleshed-out book of short stories that I estimate will top out at 43k words. I’ll probably be able to post some illustrations from it soon, as I’ve set it to be published between late September and mid-October.

As of today, I still have about eight stories to clean up. Seems like a lot, but none of them are over eighteen pages. Everything else is finished, save for the cover and some touch-up on the interior artwork, which hopefully, you’ll love. The ghost portraits turned out very creepy and quirky. I am not as practiced a horror artist as say, Junji Ito or Stephen Gammell, but for a twenty-something novice, the illustrations at least look professional and smooth. Anyway, it’s something to look forward to, and I really can’t wait to start sharing some excerpts from it! 🙂

Books I’ve Read But Will Never Review

 

I have no strict review guidelines, at least not as far as my casual reviews. I used to think it was better to try to make them poetic… which, looking back at some of my older reviews, maybe it wasn’t… But there are some books, while I might have liked them, I don’t feel adequate in reviewing them. I love nonfiction and memoirs, but I slightly dread getting requests to review them, because I’m not often as knowledgeable about the subject as I feel I would have to be to do the book justice. These are some that I probably won’t ever review, at least not in-depth, though some hold a lot of interest for me and I like to discuss them.

The Bible
Genre: Religion
I’ve read the majority of the Bible, and even took a class on theology. It’s a fascinating subject to me, but understandably, I would never feel right “reviewing” a religious text, period, even though it would be more of a general overview than a typical review. How could I possibly? The Bible means so much to some people, and to others bringing it up infuriates them. It’s not fair to either party, and I would need to gather loads of historical information and context to even begin. Not to mention that the only version I’ve read likely is missing crucial pieces. You can also count other religious texts as literature I will never review.

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
Genre: Magic Realism / Science Fiction
Infinite Jest tested my patience. I don’t believe I finished it. I admire Wallace as a journalist, his nonfiction is amongst my favourite, but I don’t personally enjoy his fiction. If you’ve never heard of this book, it’s a strange science fiction novel about the size of an orca, with about ten squillion characters, each with their own unique narrative styles. I don’t not recommend it, but to me, it wasn’t pleasant at all to attempt. It would be ideal for a specific type of reader, that is not me, but I would definitely download a preview before you buy a copy. Continue reading “Books I’ve Read But Will Never Review”