I love these award memes. I should definitely try to revive the one I created a while back. But first, I have to thank Arran Bhansal for nominating me for this award. I really appreciate it. Now onto the rules:

1. Write 11 random facts about myself.

2. Answer 11 questions Arran came up for me.

3. Nominate 11 bloggers (if I can think of that many).

4. Come up with 11 questions for my nominees.

Okay, 11 random facts about myself. Let’s see:

1. I take precautions to keep spirits from getting into my room. Does that surprise anyone? Mainly salt, because it acts as a purifying presence against evil. Works incredibly well. I sleep much more easily these days.
2. I am terrible with names and faces. Sometimes I even forget my own.
3. I once heckled a comedian. I regretted it afterwards and have been occasionally beating myself up over it ever since. Still not sure why I did it. Bad case of judgment, I guess.
4. My most recent date was back in February or early March. It’s someone I’m friends with, but I think I’d like to just stay friends with them on reflection. Still, it was a lovely date and I think we became closer.
5. Today I remembered some animated movies I used to love but haven’t seen in years. Does anyone else remember The Black Cauldron or The Princess and the Goblin?
6. When my sister and I were little, people used to ask my parents which one of us was adopted because we both looked so different. My dad would joke that one of us was actually the mailman’s kid, and he was black. Nobody was sure if he was being funny or serious.
7. I’m a terrible singer. It’s never stopped me from trying though.
8. My favorite animal is a tiger. They’re so big, majestic and yet so dangerous and vicious. What’s not to love?
9. My study abroad group and I want to see a play at the Globe when we’re in England. I hope it ends up happening! It’d be so cool to go there and see an actual play in a recreation of the place where Shakespeare had his plays performed.
10. I once considered getting my hair dyed black. I’m glad I kept my hair naturally blonde, though. It looks better that way.
11. If I were to get a tattoo, it’d be of The Great Red Dragon as depicted in the William Blake painting on my back. Yes, that is a reference to one of the Hannibal Lecter books. Still really scary and awesome, though. Am I right?

And now for the 11 questions.

1. Who has been the greatest inspiration for your writing? Probably Stephen King and Anne Rice. They were the ones who made me realize my love of horror and spurred me on to write deep, powerful stories with ideas of love, fear, growth and reflections of what it means to be human. Of course, JK Rowling and the HP books got me into writing in the first place, so I guess you could say she has had the biggest influence of all.

2. Do you have a specific writing routine? I wish. My life doesn’t allow for it at the moment. It’s mostly when I can find the time to write. That’s when I do it.

3. How do you unwind when you’re not writing? I read, watch TV or surf the net. These days I tend to do less of that though. There’s just only so much you can find on the Internet before it just seems like the same old trash in new forms.

4. How much of you is in your main characters? Depends on the character. Some characters are based directly on me. Others have had my life experiences wrapped into their origin stories or their interests are similar to mine. And others are so far removed from me they’re separate people altogether. But I don’t mind that. After all, it’d be boring if they were all based on me, weren’t they?

5. What are your views on the traditional vs. self-publishing debate? Well, I’m a self-published author and I write for a website that tries to help other authors self-publish, so I guess that kind of tells you my views. If you look at the publishing industry, there’s never really been a point when the industry has been “stable”, because it’s always in flux. If you ask me though, I think it’s great that people still want to go with traditional publishing houses. Good for them. I just feel that those houses are pickier than ever about what books they publish, so they’re sending more people to self-publish and that leads to the publishers facilitating their own deaths. Weird, but it’s true.

6. What are you currently working on? I’m trying to get through Laura Horn, a thriller novel I’ve been trying to write since last year. Because of my life, it’s been an on-and-off project I hope to finish it this summer though, if I can.

7. Is there anyone you can talk to about your work, or do you find that you can’t relate to others? I’ve been fortunate to meet plenty of people online and off who help me every day with my writing, so it’s wonderful that I’ve got this great support network. I hope someday to repay all of them for the help. Just not sure how.

8. What was the last book that truly moved you? I guess that’d be Battle Royale by Koushun Takami. I can’t recommend it enough. It’s an awesome story. You can read my review of it here.

9. Do you listen to music when you write? Yes, usually classical music and opera. I find I write better with the pure, organic sounds of the greats in my ears. I’ve got a whole playlist on my iPod devoted to them. I call it my Writing Music.

10. If you could describe yourself in three words, what would they be? Your worst nightmare.

11. Finally, very random.  If you could be a farmyard animal, what would you be, and why? That is random. I guess a tomcat. So much freedom to just run around and catch mice and curl up in the sun. Of course, I wouldn’t mind being a nice big dog either. Plenty of room to run around and watch sheep and lick faces. Woof!

Okay, let’s see if I can nominate 11 bloggers:

1. Angela Misri.

2. Stories by Williams

3. Writing in a Dead World

4. Quoth the Wordsmith

5. Life and Other Disasters

6. Timothy Pike, freelance copy editor.

7. Therin Knite

8. Osharlequin

9. Lesley Carter

10. Jodie Llewellyn

11. 2bcreativeblog.

As for the questions, here we go:

1. What is your favorite genre of fiction?
2. What scares you the most?
3. When you were growing up, what did you want to be when you were an adult?
4. If you could hang out with one superhero for a day, who would you pick and why?
5. What is your pet peeve?
6. What is something you never thought you’d end up doing but you found yourself doing it?
7. What do you look for in a potential romantic partner?
8. What is something you wish you could change about yourself?
9. What is something you’d like to do before you’re 80?
10. What is your fondest childhood memory?
11. If you found a large brown spider crawling up your leg right now, how would you most likely react?

Okay, that’s all for now. I’ve got a bunch of people to tell that they’ve won an award. Good night everybody!

Vampires are scary…but also kind of sexy and occasionally needy or envious of humans. Werewolves are scary…but in some cases they are cute and sometimes even sexy. Zombies…just walk a little faster and you’ll avoid them. Frankenstein’s monster…take the guy to a therapist to talk over his daddy issues. Witches….just tell them you have no intention of burning them at the stake and that you’re more interested in working with them and maybe using their powers to better mankind. Or leave them alone if they have Satanic leanings. Demons…well, they’re basically an incarnation of ultimate evil. Not even religion or faith can protect you sometimes.

But after demons, ghosts are probably the scariest of monsters, and they’re certainly my favorite. And I have some pretty good reasons why they should be your favorite as well. Let’s run through them, shall we?

1. There are plenty of people trying to prove their existence. Just go on TV, you’ll find shows dedicated to paranormal investigators who go to reportedly haunted locations (I’m a huge fan of Ghost Adventures, personally). And while some of what they find can be explained through science and reason, and while their methods may not exactly follow the scientific method, some of what they’ve found is pretty compelling and hard to explain rationally, which is more than I can say for some people who go hunting for Bigfoot or aliens. And plenty of paranormal investigators will take the time to show people who are skeptical that while the methods they use aren’t perfect, they will attempt to show you that their methods are as free from interference as possible.

2. Ghosts are found in nearly everywhere on Earth. Nearly every religion on Earth, every ethnic group, every cultural group and every philosophy has some conception of what the afterlife is like, and a good number have stories of the dead coming back to intervene in the lives of the living. Heck, even the Judeo-Christian tradition does (the witch of Endor, for example). Is it Jung’s collective unconscious at work? A human need to calm ourselves with beliefs of life after death, that we still exist in some form after our bodies begin to rot? Or maybe it’s something more.

3. Everyone believes in ghosts at some point. Don’t try and deny it. At some point everyone’s a believer. I’ve seen people discount werewolves or vampires or the Loch Ness monster right off the bat, but when it comes to ghosts they’ll admit that, if they don’t believe in them now, they certainly believe in the possibility or that they did in one point in their lives. And why not? After all…

4. The former victims of death are just as scary as death itself. Think about it. Death seems like the worst thing that could happen, but then there’s the possibility that something worse than just dying. And nobody wants to see a reminder of death, of how it can twist the soul and turn the spirit inside out, coming our way to do us harm. At least not most people I know.

5. There’s no set rules about ghosts. Minus that they’re the souls of the dead, of course. Vampires drink blood and are usually afraid of sunlight. Werewolves react to the cycles of the moon and are allergic to silver. Zombies are the undead and need a good beheading to kill them off. But ghosts are much more flexible than other monsters. They can be confined to one singular place, or they can be mobile spirits that can travel to various places as they are allowed. Everything from appearance to how they haunt to how they can mess with the living. It’s all pretty open, much to the delight of every horror author ever.

Now, I’m not trying to convince you that ghosts exist (though I do think ghosts are one of those things that skeptics can come to believe in much more easily than with other subjects and if I did somehow make you a believer, then welcome t the club). But I certainly think that ghosts are out there, and that they are honestly some of the scariest things out there…that aren’t the result of humans, I mean. So the next time you hear about a movie or a book featuring ghosts, take a moment and think about what that movie or book is tapping into. It’s more than just a primal fear of death, it’s something that could actually conceivably exist and do us harm. And that is one of the most terrifying thoughts of all.

Oh, and you know which culture has the scariest ghost legends of all? Japan! The yurei is a spirit that exists on the physical plane because of some lingering grudge or regret that keeps it from moving on. Yurei tend to wear white robes, have pale skin, long black hair and no legs. There are also subcategories of yurei, depending on how they died, what keeps them there, and who exactly has died. The most famous yurei is probably the onryo, a spirit that stays on this Earth out of a desire for revenge. And if you’ve ever seen The Ring or the Grudge (Japanese or English versions) you know what I’m talking about. Those things are Terrifying with a capital T!

Look at this thing! Can you blame me for being terrified?

Remember this famous scene?

Or close to that amount, anyway. And by the way, if you enjoy found footage horror movies and don’t want me to spoil them, you might want to just leave this post. Trust me, you’ll thank me in the long run.

The other day I had an idea for a found footage horror movie. There’s been a lot of them in theatres lately, including Paranormal Activity, The Blair Witch Project, Chronicle, and Entity, just to name a few. I remember when Paranormal Activity came out, how it was such a big deal and how even people who weren’t fans of horror were holding huge conversations and spirited debates on it. I saw the commercials of people lined up around theaters to see it, and I remember some friends of mine telling me how they went to see it, and near the end one of them got up and started shouting, “I’m a bitch! I’m a bitch! Get me out of here!” I was so mad that I had to wait till it came out on DVD to see it (those were the days when I had to rely on my parents if I wanted to go see a movie in theaters, and they only took us if it was a film the whole family could watch. Guess how many of those were horror films? That would be none).

Anyway, I realized then that there are a lot of similarities between found footage films, at least the popular ones that make it into the theatres. The most glaringly obvious (besides the method of filming, of course) is in terms of plot:

  1. Characters become aware that there is something supernatural going on and resolve to investigate. We may also be informed that the footage we are about to watch was found after a certain amount of time, usually after the deaths or disappearances of the characters.
  2. Characters investigate, and start to realize that there is something strange going on.
  3. The strange events escalate, becoming more and more sinister in nature.
  4. The characters start to get anxious or angry and start fighting among themselves.
  5. The strange events reach a zenith, during which time the terror is (hopefully) very high and most, if not all of the characters die off.
  6. The film ends, and we now know why the characters have disappeared and only the cameras and film were found.

In addition, most found footage films are made very cheaply (Paranormal Activity was made on $15K and Blair Witch Project was made on $20K to $25K, while major horror films like The Conjuring and Sinister were made for 20 million and 3 million, respectively). And for some reason, the characters always have their cameras on and holding them up to get the footage, even in awkward situations. We as the audience either forget that most people, even filmmakers, wouldn’t place such emphasis on getting everything while our lives are in danger or we just overlook it. Also, there tends to not be title cards or opening or end credits. None at all. Helps to make it seem like these events actually happened, I guess. Oh, and also the characters tend to be isolated somehow. Whether they’re trapped in their house or lost in the woods or in an abandoned factory in the middle of nowhere, they’re cut off and there’s no knight in shining armor to come to their rescue. They are alone, and it’ll be their undoing.

Look out behind you!

But yeah, that’s basically most found footage films out there.

So if these films are so similar, especially in terms of plot, why do horror filmmakers keep making them and why do horror fans keep going to see them? Well, I guess it has to do with the execution. These sort of films may be as predictable as your run-of-the-mill romance novel, but there’s so much room to experiment and try to new things. And even if you have a basic idea of how the plot is going to go, you don’t know what will be behind the corner or what will jump out and terrify you. You can’t know, so if the movie’s any good, you’ll sit on the edge of your seat wondering what the heck will happen next, and screaming when it does.

So with all that in mind, could I possibly make this found footage film I came up with myself? quite possibly. I plan on buying a video camera after I get back from my study abroad trip, so it wouldn’t be inconceivable to make a film. I’d just need a little funding, a cast and crew, and a location. Plus the time to do it and some marketing. It could possibly happen. I even have a title in mind: The Red Monk. Good title, right?

Well, if the opportunity comes along, I’d love to do it. And you never know what could happen. It could be a very big thing.

What do you think of found footage films? Love them or hate them? Do you think they’re a bit predictable?

If I did make a film, would you see it? Would you even want to be part of it?

Reborn City

I’ve been meaning to write this post since Monday (along with 2 or 3 other posts) but life hasn’t been kind enough to allow me to do so. In addition to classes and work and homework, there was Passover, the Jewish holiday celebrating the Exodus from Egypt. I’ve been to two seders in the past two days, and both of them consumed my evenings, so there was definitely no time to write a blog post.

But today miraculously I finished my homework in the early afternoon, so now that classes are over, the laundry is running, and I’ve nothing else to draw my attention right now, I’m going to knock out some blog posts, starting with this one. And if you’ve seen the title, you can tell it’s about Reborn City.

First, I’m happy to say that RC got its fifth review on Amazon last week (I would’ve posted about it sooner but I wanted to see how things went with the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. More on that below). It’s taken a while to get to five reviews, but I’m happy to say it finally happened. And this one comes from my dad, who despite being my dad is not one to pull his punches and say everything I want to hear about my novel. I’m not kidding, he’s panned some of my early work before.

Anyway, my dad gave me a five-star review, which he entitled A real page turner. This is what he had to say:

As a first published novel, this is a great effort. There are some technical/editing issues, but the story is quite good.
Characters are well-developed and the world that the author creates is quite believable–even with the superpowers of the Hydra members. I am looking forward to the sequel as there is definitely some unfinished business.

Well Abba, I hope to have the next book in the trilogy, Video Rage, edited by the end of this summer, so hopefully we can resolve that unfinished business sooner rather than later. And I’m glad you enjoyed the book and found it believable. I’ve always been the kind of guy who’s believed that a story isn’t good unless the reader can believe it, so it’s good to know that at least one reader does.

Now for some sad news. On Monday afternoon, I found out that Reborn City did not make it to the quarter-finals of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. Yeah, I know. I was hoping it would get to the quarter-finals as well. But you know what? This was my first novel, so I wasn’t expecting an underdog coming to the forefront and winning the whole darn thing. And my aunt made a good point on Facebook, that it was amazing that I made it to the second round to begin with. So I’m not too bummed out, though I’m a little jealous of the other authors who made it to the quarter-finals. And there’s always next year. Snake will be out by then, so maybe I’ll have a bit more luck next year than I did this year. You never know.

And finally, I’ve got a big announcement. May 1st is the six-month anniversary of Reborn City being published. In honor of that–and partly because I’ll be out of the country for most of the month–I’m putting RC‘s ebook on sale for the entire month. Instead of costing $2.99 as it usually does, the ebook will only cost $0.99 from May 1st to May 31st. And from June 1st to June 14th, the ebook will cost $1.99, after which it will go back to regular prices. Sounds great, right?

As for the print book…well, Amazon kind of sets the prices for that, so that’s kind of out of my power. But hey, if you want to read the print version, it’s a little less than nine dollars right now, so it’s definitely more affordable than a month of Netflix.

If you would like to check out Reborn City, you can find it on Amazon and on Smashwords. And if you’d like to read an excerpt before you check out the reviews, you can click here. And if you do decide to read RC, please let me know what you think of it when you’re done. I love hearing feedback from readers, positive or negative (just as long as it’s not a review left by a troll. Those are never fun).

That’s all about RC for now. I’ve got 3 more blog posts to write, so I’m going to get on them. Wish me luck and Happy Passover!

There have been a spate of articles, petitions, and organizations and groups popping up lately, all with one purpose in mind: to expose the evil of people who bully authors and others online, leaving hurtful reviews and comments all for the sake of their own cruel pleasure. I thought I’d add my two cents in and write an article about what one should do if exposed to this sort of harassment from “Internet trolls”, as they’ve come to be called.

If you head over to Self-Published Authors Helping Other Authors, you’ll be able to read my article When Trolls Attack! which has some very good tips on what to do if, God forbid, you are exposed to that sort of bullying. And if you have been exposed to any trolling on the Internet, I hope things are better now. And if they aren’t, I hope that maybe some foo these tips might be of service.

And if you’re a self-published author, I highly recommend taking the time to look through this site. Self-Published Authors Helping Other Authors is full of many helpful articles that are designed to make self-publishing not only cheap, but easy and fun. I’m proud to be one of the writers on the blog, and the others are very amazing writers whom I admire for their work and dedication.

And speaking of Self-Published Authors Helping Other Authors, I thin I mentioned the other day that I wrote five articles coming out in the next couple of weeks on that site before I leave for my study-abroad trip. The first article, Doing An Excerpt, came out last Tuesday if I remember correctly. Today’s article is the second one. On the 22nd we have Creating Character Names. On the 27th we have Creating an Acknowledgements Section. And finally on May 1st we have What Makes A Strong Character? All good stuff, and I can’t wait to share it with you all.

That’s all for now. I’ve homework to do, so I’m going to go and do it. If I get a chance, I’ll write another post later. Until then, have a good day, my Followers of Fear!

Good News: Somehow I managed to get several articles written for Self-Published Authors Helping Other Authors, all of which will come out in the coming weeks leading up to my study abroad trip. The next one comes out tomorrow, if I remember correctly.

Bad News: As the end of the semester comes closer, I’ve got a number of exams and papers to prepare for, including a 25-30 page paper for a research seminar! Oy vey! So as much as I’d like to focus on making progress in Laura Horn before I go abroad, I doubt that with my workload I’ll make it to Chapter 35, which would be a nice stopping-point before I go on my trip.

Good News: A short story I wrote for a class assignment got an A+ from the teacher, who “cried at the end of the story” and wanted me to publish it, along with some suggestions on ways to edit it. I plan to submit it somewhere this weekend, as well as submit a couple other short stories to other magazines.

Bad News: Another short story I wrote got rejected from a magazine this morning. I’ll try submitting it somewhere else, but I worry. Some of the criticism the editor gave me made me wonder if this short story is as good as I thought it was.

Good News: Reborn City got another five star review. This, along with a sale I plan to hold next month and the possibility of making it to the next round of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award make me hopeful.

Bad News: I won’t know about the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award until Monday most likely, and I don’t want to go into more detail about the review or the sale until I have that info. Plus, RC‘s my first novel and I’m up against 399 other books in my category, all vying for 100 spots at most. I hope the excerpt I gave them is good enough!

Good News: I’ve found a camcorder that is within my budget that I can get after I get back from my trip. Creating book trailers and maybe starting a YouTube show or improving my YouTube channel might get easier with one of those camcorders.

Bad News: My local theater isn’t playing a movie I really want to see, a horror film with Karen Gillan of Doctor Who fame. Well, that’s not as bad as it could be. I might know a certain woman (my mother) who’ll want to go see it with me, even if we have to drag her fiancee with us to do it. Forget I mentioned it.

When you get right down to it, a self-published novelist’s life is never easy, especially when you also happen to be a student with a part-time job and a lot of homework. Sometimes, like when I get criticism from magazine editors, I feel a little down. But there’s always opportunity for improvement. There are people who enjoy what I write and let me know when they get the chance to do so.

When I first started writing this blog nearly three years ago, I was just some freshman with one publishing credit to my name, a novel in need of some serious editing, and no idea how I was going to build a following or get my novel onto the printed page. Nearly three years later, I have a few more publishing credits, I’ve got two books out, a third on its way, and two more in various stages of writing/editing. I write articles occasionally for another website to help other self-published authors out, and I’ve made some friends who’ve been invaluable assets in helping me get this far.

So is my life as a writer ideal? I don’t know a single writer who can say that their lives are ideal. Even the biggest names in the industry are wracked by the usual anxieties, wondering if their work is up to scratch or if people will think their manuscript is sh*t or if they’ll ever live up to their childhood idols or if they’ll sell any copies.

I think for where I am at this point in my career, I’m at a pretty good stage. Would I like things to be better? I don’t know a single writer who wouldn’t want that. But I’m a lot better off than I could be, and I have plenty of space to improve, and the resources and friends to allow me to do that.

So as the weekend creeps nearer, I’m going to work to improve, to write and to publish and be the best I can be.

Good News: The future is open, and my Tarot tells me fortune is headed my way. I’m heading to meet it.

Two months away.

Two months away.

It’s hard to believe. So much time has passed by, but you lose track of it and then these things just sneak up on you. I’m a little in shock. My youngest sister Liat is fourteen as of today. I remember when she was an itty-bitty baby, and now she’s a teenager with a really dark sense of humor. What happened in fourteen years?

But in all seriousness, two months from today my second novel Snake will hit the digital bookstores, where people can download it to their e-readers or order a print copy should they choose to do so. It’s been a very exciting process getting Snake ready for publication, and I’m looking forward to putting it out and hearing what people think of it.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Snake, here’s the blurb I’m using to advertise it:

How far will you go for love and revenge? When a young man’s girlfriend is kidnapped by the powerful Camerlengo Family, he becomes the Snake, a serial killer who takes his methods from the worst of the Russian mafia. Tracking down members of the Camerlengo Family one by one for clues, the Snake will go to any lengths to see the love of his life again…even if it means becoming a worse monster than any of the monsters he is hunting.

Sounds interesting, right? Either that or kind of twisted and creepy. I’ve gotten both reactions before. Anyway, I hope you’re looking forward to reading Snake as much as I am looking forward to you reading it. And if you want to read an excerpt from Snake, you can click here and do so. Or you can scroll down a little and watch the book trailer for Snake. I promise you, it’s veeery creepy.

Have a good day, my Followers of Fear! I know I am, and so is probably my sister. Happy Birthday, Liat. Don’t go too wild on your birthday, okay?