Before you read anything else, just check out this video below.

Now that you’re either laughing yourself silly or wondering what the hell that was,I want to say something important. Three years ago, in a library down the road from where my mom lived, I decided, after much thought, to go on WordPress on create a blog. I didn’t know what would happen. Heck, I didn’t even really know what I was doing! My whole first post, and the first few that came after it, had lower case titles! I had no idea what the difference was between a page or a post, and I did not have categories for the first few posts. It took me even longer to figure out what tags were and why they were so important.

But I learned. I kept blogging. At some point within the first few weeks, I started gaining followers. Just one or two, but they stuck around. I gained more followers. I blogged more and more regularly, finding excuses to publish posts. I tried not to get discouraged when days or weeks would go by and I’d have only one or two views in that entire period. I made more friends, got several new followers, published three books, started writing for Self-Published Authors Helping Other Authors, went abroad, wrote two more books that need to be edited as soon as possible, began work on a thesis, and survived three years of college. And these days, I average at least nine views a day, which makes me plenty happy (I love knowing people are checking out my work)!

You want to know something? I still have no f**king idea what makes a good blog post. I’m not kidding. Every time I think to myself “People are going to want to read this” , or “This could get Freshly Pressed with the right tags” or even “This probably won’t be one of my more popular posts”, more often than not I get surprised. Just the other day two of my posts got more views than I expected. I was like, “Say what?”

Anyway…

A lot has changed in three years. Not just me, though I’ve definitely grown a bit and maybe have gotten some nicer glasses. Basically I’ve grown a nice following. At the time I’m writing this, I’ve got 24.459 views, 1,922 comments, at least 1500-1800 likes (they stopped notifying me of likes after I passed 1337, but I guess-timate it’s around the range I quoted), and 645 followers. I also have 121 followers on my Facebook page and 66 followers on my Twitter feed. I’m very happy that all this has happened (especially the Facebook page and Twitter feed, I’m really surprised that anyone are into those).

So in honor of this great occasion, I’m announcing a week-long sale. From August 2nd to August 9th, all my e-books on Amazon and Smashwords are available for $0.99 to download. So if you’d like to read my books at a discount rate, now is the opportunity to do it. Just type my name into either website, and you’ll find my work. And if you do decide to read any of my books, please let me know what you think once you finish them. A comment or a review, positive or negative, I’d love to know what you think. Just as long as you’re not trolling me or anything. I’d hate that.

And if you see a different price than what I quoted online, check back later. The websites can act funny sometimes.

That’s all for now. I’ve got work to do, so I’m going to do it. Have a great day, my Followers of Fear!

Every now and then I look to do a post musing on the mechanics or subtleties of writing fiction, and today is one of those days. And as you can tell from the title of this post, I want to talk about unreliable narrators, those strange voices in the books we read (and occasionally in the films and TV shows we watch) whom we can’t always trust.

According to that awesome source of usually-factual info that is Wikipedia, an unreliable narrator is a narrator, usually in some medium of fiction or another, whose veracity has been called into question. Usually this happens very early in the story, where the narrator may make a plainly false or delusional claim, or it may happen elsewhere in the story, perhaps near the end where a twist in the story turns everything we thought we knew upside down or slowly through hints that are given to us in the narration. Stories with unreliable narrators can feature a single narrator, or multiple narrators giving their own versions of events, or even a supporting or side character who tells a story in such a way that we question whether or not they’]re being entirely truthful about what happened.

A great example of an unreliable narrator is Patrick Bateman from the novel American Psycho. As a man suffering from psychoses and the occasional hallucinations, Batman makes a great unreliable narrator. Other examples include Nell from Wuthering Heights, most of the characters from the Japanese movie Rashomon, and Ted Mosby from How I Met Your Mother (according to show creator Craig Thomas, anyway). Oh, and any story that has children narrating it could possibly have unreliable narrators, because kids sometimes remember things incorrectly.

(If you want to think about it though, every one is an unreliable narrator, because no matter how they see events, they are biased, they may mis-remember details, and they may cover things up in order to make themselves look good or to hide their own guilt. But let’s not get too philosophical about this. Otherwise we’ll be here all evening)

One of the characters in my thesis project, Akira Kagawa, is an unreliable narrator. Because of his mental problems and his infatuation with protagonist Rose, he sees things through a very certain light, so when he tells a story it is often through that lens, which probably won’t reflect reality too well. As I’ve never written a story from the point of view of an unreliable narrator, so exploring the device through Akira should be interesting. (Or have I used unreliable narrators before? Technically, any time I tell a story from the protagonist’s first-person point of view, it could be construed as unreliable, but i’m not sure if it counts. Oh darn it! Now I’m an unreliable narrator of my own writing career!)

But why are unreliable narrators used so much? And why do they appeal to readers and writers alike? It’s a very difficult question, and I’m not sure I have an answer. Perhaps for writers, it’s the chance to tell a warped version of events. When we tell a story, especially through the lens of an omniscient or almost-omniscient third-person narrator, it’s almost expected that the story being told is what actually happens, one-hundred-and-ten percent factual. Even when the story is limited to the viewpoint of a single character, that third-person narrator’s portrayal of events is assumed to be accurate. Heck, even when we read a novel told in the first-person, we tend to see the depiction of what happens as true. Especially if we like the character.

An unreliable narrator allows the writer to break from that, to tell a story that might not be accurate, and that the reader and maybe even the writer will have to guess how true the story is or how much we can trust the narrator to tell the truth. In fact, maybe that’s what the reader gets from these sort of storytellers: they have to figure out how trustworthy the storyteller is, or where the line between truth and the storyteller’s own delusions or beliefs is laid down. It’s like solving a mystery or a puzzle, in a way, and the only way to really solve it is to read on until you finish the story. And even then, you might not be able to tell how reliable the narrator is (which is why there are e-forums to discuss these issues).

In any case, I’m going to enjoy exploring Akira’s own unreliable stories and seeing how much we can or should believe him. It’ll make for an interesting discussion point when talking about my thesis with my adviser during the next semester.

What do you think of unreliable narrators?

Have you ever used them in your own writing? How did it go?

This morning I woke up to a very interesting article, about a female volleyball player who was being criticized for “being too beautiful to play”. Sabina Altynbekova of the the women’s under-19 volleyball team of Khazakstan, has come under fire recently because her looks are too distracting. At a tournament in Taiwan, fans becae infatuated with her, and caused an Internet sensation that’s spread to the rest of the globe, with videos of her doing the simplest things gaining hundreds of thousands of views. As her coach, Nurlan Sadikov*, said to the press, “It is impossible to work like this. The crowd behaves like there is only one player in the championship.”

Sabina Altynbekova before a game.

*Just in case you can’t figure it out from the name, Sadikov is male.

If the photo I’ve attached to this post doesn’t make it obvious, Ms. Altynbekova is a very beautiful young lady. in fact, if I were standing right in front of her right now and I thought I had even a sliver of a chance, I’d ask her out. However, what irritates me isn’t that she’s pretty. It’s that she’s being criticized for it.

For years, female athletes have been held to a much different standard to their male counterparts. Males athletes have to be able to stay athletic and be good at the games they play. At the same time, the female players are expected to be athletic, good at their sport of choice, and feminine. In intervies, men are asked about what they do to stay good at the game, where they see themselves and their teams going this year, and what they hope to do if and when they retire. Heck they might even get a question about politics or religion. The women get asked about how they stay fit or what they look like in a bikini or if they have boyfriends or plans to marry and have kids.

And when a man has huge legions of screaming fans, regardless of sex, it’s considered a plus, that they’re the epitome of manhood and that’s just something that comes with the game. Apparently when women like Ms. Altynbekova have that problem, it’s considered a distraction and takes awa from the game and the players. To a female athlete, her status as woman means she must be held to a different standard. She must be pretty, but not too pretty, good at the game but not too good and let it not be suggested that how good she is should be the thing we focus on, lest we give women the idea they are just as good as their male compatriots. Otherwise, she is neither an athlete nor a woman.

Even a guy who is unable to care about sports outside of Buckeye football like me finds this treatment appalling. And you know what else? This attitude isn’t anything new. In fact, one could even say this attitude that the sports industry has towards women–that they are inferior, and only as good as their ovaries and what they must do to get men and children–has been going on since the ancient Greeks, when women were barred from the Olympics and all participating were required to play naked to make sure this was an all-boys club.

It’s no coincidence these figures are male.

And this is just the tip of the problem. There is all sorts of denigration of women in the sports industry, from constant jokes about women’s sports teams being wastes of times unless someone flashes a side boob or that they should waitress instead to the emphasis that women can never be as good as men at sports (considering my stepmom taught me how to play soccer and softball in our backyard, I’ll disagree on that one), and moreover, they shouldn’t.

Occasionally this spills over to the realms of domestic abuse. In May, Ravens’ running back plead not guilty to aggravated assault after being arrested for beating his fiancee and dragging her unconscious body out of an elevator by the armpits three months previously. What did the NFL do about this? They gave him a two game suspension from playing football. You read that right. He’s not allowed to play for the Ravens for two games.

Stephen A. Smith, whose comments have caused a huge storm among viewers.

The suspension, as expected, has caused a flurry of controversy. Unfortunately, some of that controversy has been less than helpful. Stephen Smith, a commentator from ESPN’s “First Take”, said last Friday on the show that women should be aware of “the elements of provocation”, basically saying that women are partly to cause for the abuse they suffer, which is what their abusers would want them to believe. He apologized for it on Monday, saying that it was the most “egregious error of his career”, but the fact is, when he said that women were partly to blame for their abuse, he said it to millions of men across the nation. Some of whom may see it as justification for their own abusive ways and would have shrugged off the apology as something Smith’s bosses or the liberal media or whatever wanted him to say.

At least Keith Olbermann over on ESPN2 had the right idea of it. As he said on a recent segment of his show:

“By some tiny amount each one of those things lowers the level of basic human respect for women in sports. And sooner or later, there are so many tiny amounts that the level of basic human respect is gone altogether…Eventually after all the b-words and ho comments and penis remarks and nudity demands and waitress jokes, the most powerful national sports league in the world can then get away with suspending a wife-beater for just two games.”

Olbermann speaks the truth. And luckily there are ways to fight against this sexist attitude in the sports industry, and in other places as well where sexism pervades. First, we can stop with the comments that put women down, saying that they’re inferior or bad athletes or that they focus on being pretty. At the same time, we should focus on not giving power to the myth that men, in order to be men, have to be strong, dominant, and sometimes even violent. This idea turns men into monsters, not men, and we should work to stop it.

And the best way to do that is to walk the walk and not just talk the talk. One of the ways we can show that is to be an example to other men and women. Show that you are not that kind of guy by being respectful to women, by outright saying that these harmful jokes and stereotypes aren’t funny or okay and also teach those who can be changed and taught the right way to go about things. It’s not much, but it’s a start.

What do you think of these problems in the sports industries and other places? What do you recommend to fix them?

This morning I started work on my next book, which will double as my thesis for my senior year. Well, that’s not quite accurate. Truth be told, I came up with the idea for my thesis back in autumn last year, and then while searching for a thesis adviser, I fleshed it out a bit more, deciding what would happen in this or that scene or whether I wanted this or that event to happen at the beginning or ending of the story. And after I found my adviser, I had to make some decisions so I could know what books I would order for research and therefore why I was applying for a small grant to afford said books. And after I got said grant and returned from Europe, I worked hard on Laura Horn so I could get that done before I began work on my thesis.

Well, this morning I began in earnest to start researching and outlining my thesis. I stopped by the English Department to make sure everything was in order for the following year, stopped by another department so I could possibly do some more research for my main character, and then started on the first draft of the outline, of which I’ve made a little bit of progress on.

Now, some of you might be asking yourselves, “Is he going to tell us what his thesis is about?” Actually, I’ve decided to be cruel and not tell you at all. You’ll have to wait until the book comes out.

Just kidding! No, my book is called Rose, and follows the story of a grad student named Rose Taggert. On the night of Rose’s engagement party, she gets killed in a hit-and-run. This leads one of her students, who has an obsessive infatuation with Rose, to kidnap her body from the morgue and resurrect her using nature-based magic. The way he resurrects her though leaves Rose dependent on him for her survival, which causes the young man to believe they are in a relationship. With Rose trying to find a way out of her situation, she is set against impossible odds, and may not be able to overcome them.

How’s that for a setup?

Rose is the first full supernatural horror novel I’ve written in a while. Reborn City and Video Rage were sci-fi stories, while Snake and Laura Horn were thrillers, the former having some obvious horror undertones. I’m looking forward to diving into some full on horror. I know how the novel begins and I know where it’s going to end, and I know some of the things that’ll happen in this story, I just have to flesh out the rest. The thing about some horror stories, this one among them, the main character or characters have to face seemingly insurmountable obstacles in order to escape the evil plaguing them. Sometimes they do it successfully, other times they don’t. The thing is, you’ve got to make it about the protagonist dealing with the great evil at each and every turn and looking for ways to fight back against it. And sometimes fighting back will do more harm than good, leading the reader to wonder how they will continue on with the odds against them and read on.

So believe me when I say, I will be looking for some great ways to make Rose’s life difficult. Or second life, I guess. Either way, it’ll be very exciting for the reader (I hope).

I’ll be doing periodic updates on the progress of Rose, with the ultimate goal being finishing the first draft before the school year is up and I graduate (oh my God, I can’t believe how close it is! It’s sneaking up on me). Tonight, I hope to resume my work on the outline and get that done by the end of the week. First though, I’ve got some other things to take care of, including another blog post to write up. As usual, my life won’t slow down any time soon.

Wish me luck, my Followers of Fear!

When I was a kid, I read the Goosebumps books, as did a good number of other kids in my generation. Some of us even watched the TV series based on the books. Back then, they were, although not traumatic, pretty scary. When you look back at them now though, you realize that not only do they seem somewhat tame, but the stories have plot holes that only a kid would miss (like why haven’t the authorities figured out there’s a theme park that is being run by homicidal goblins and called in the National Guard?). Still, one tends to have fond memories of those books.

Which is why when I heard recently that there is a movie being made based on those books with Jack Black set to play author R.L. Stine (who happens to be from Columbus, by the way), I got a little excited. In fact, here’s an interview with Jack Black from San Diego Comic-Con on the movie, about a week or so after filming ended.


I’m certainly going to look forward to this movie. I’ll probably laugh at most of it rather than being scared, but I wouldn’t be surprised if something in the movie made me jump out of my seat. And when you add in the news that CBS Films had bought the rights to the Tales You Tell in the Dark books with the hope of producing a movie based on them and that MGM is developing an animated Addams Family movie, it gets me excited.

But these are kids stories. Why should any of us care? Most of my readers (I assume) are past Goosebumps age, and if any of them do like a good horror novel or movie or TV series, they’re more likely to read a Stephen King novel or see As Above, So Below when it hits theaters or try and guess what’ll happen in the new season of American Horror Story (I have a feeling most of that speculation will be wrong).

Expect this freaky mask, plus Slappy the dummy and a few others to make it into the new movie.

Remember in the video above, how Jack Black was talking about how his kids like being scared but they don’t like blood or any of that other stuff? We were all like that once. We wanted to be scared, but we didn’t want to have our heads messed up too badly (though mine was plenty messed up to begin with). Goosebumps, Tales You Tell in the Dark, or even Are You Afraid of the Dark?* were all like gateways into the world of horror for youngsters, allowing them to be scared while also allowing them to have fun. And getting a love of horror through kids horror is way better than a first exposure through a King novel or through watching Scream. Even when you’re an adult, those stories can turn you off from the genre if they’re too intense.

Heck, those books even helped me out a little. I remember once in third grade our teacher reading to us a story from Tales You Tell in the Dark that had me terrified and excited all at the same time. And later on when I got really into Goosebumps, they may have been getting me ready for when I would sit down and read Interview with the Vampire and later It, which were key to me deciding to become a horror writer.

So when Goosebumps (and Tales You Tell in the Dark and Addams Family, if they ever get past the development stage) reaches theaters, adults with or without kids will go to see their old favorite stories come to life on the silver screen. And if any of them have kids, they’l come along to, maybe leading to another generation of horror lovers. And maybe even the next generation of horror writers and filmmakers.

Well, that’s all for now. Join me tomorrow though, because then I plan to reveal what my next big project–which also doubles as my thesis for my senior year–will be. Should be exciting. Have a good night, my Followers of Fear.

*That last one I’ve watched a few episodes of recently. It’s actually got some pretty solid stories in that show. A few even resemble Stephen King short stories in the way they’re told.

There’s been a lot of talk on the right end of the political spectrum in the United States about suing or impeaching President Obama. Indeed, thanks to the efforts of House Speaker John Boehner (who I’m sad to say is from my state), the former is looking like it could be a definite possibility. And although I’m nowhere near powerful enough to have influence the workings of Congress, I would like to point out some of the flaws with either approach to dealing with the President.

Is it just me, or does he look like he wants to cry?

First, considering the option to sue the President, I’ve been skeptical of this whole lawsuit thing since Boehner announced his intentions to sue the President over his alleged abuse of executive orders and working around Congress. First off, Congress isn’t working at all Most of the time you guys are either flinging accusations at one another or sitting on your asses. And that’s when you’re actually working (which isn’t often enough, in my opinion): the rest of the time you’re courting super PACs or making sure the next election keeps you in office. Are you surprised the President is taking executive actions? Someone in Washington has to be doing their job. Second, President Obama has been actually rather conservative with his executive orders, with less of them than most Presidents who have been in office as long as he has. Only 183, compared to George W. Bush’s 291 and Ronald Reagan’s 381 executive orders. If you’re going to accuse a President of being abusive with executive orders, try Franklin Roosevelt, with a whopping 3,522.

And now that Boehner has specified which order he’s upset about, which delays certain provisions of Obamacare. Okay, this is a law he hates. Why does he want to sue to force the President to enforce those mandates? And even if the House agrees to sue the President, I doubt the Supreme Court will hear it. First off, Boehner would have to prove he’s been hurt by the delay in the mandates. Last I checked, he hasn’t. And the whole strange logic of this lawsuit would be enough to make Justice Scalia go “Say what??” It’s probably going to be thrown out of court.

And even if it does go through, I can’t see this case going in favor of Boehner. In any case, he’s likely to be humiliated even more over this case. And even if he does win the case, what’s the worst that could happen? The President’s reputation could be bruised, but he’d still be in office. And would it really make a difference? Obamacare’s delayed provisions would be put into action, and isn’t that the exact opposite of what you’d want?

My reaction as well.

And now for the whole impeachment issue. For years people have been calling for President Obama’s impeachment, most of them political pundits and citizens from red states or conservative neighborhoods. But the number of folks on the federal level calling for it, including Michele Bachmann, Sarah Palin, and Representative Randy Weber, whom Jon Stewart made some very good jokes about the other day. However, some of these same people calling for the President’s impeachment are also saying that they shouldn’t do it now. Why? As senior Republicans have actually admitted, pursuing impeachment might actually turn off independents leaning towards the GOP and excite the Democratic base. All before November’s midterm elections.

Look, we can quibble all we want about the definiton of a tyrant, but I don’t see the President as a tyrant, and clearly he’s not as big a tyrant as some in the GOP claim he is if you don’t want to depose him because you’re worried it might do more harm than good with GOP electoral prospects. And assuming that the House does actually get around to impeaching the President, the Senate has to try it, and in a Democrat-controlled Senate, that is far from likely to go the House’s way. And that’s assuming the House can actually find something that can be construed as “Treason, Bribery, or other High Crimes and Misdemeanors”, as the Constitution is written. And I’m pretty sure that would mean actual evidence, not just accusations or feelings of being persecuted. After all, an impeachment is basically the politician’s indictment, and indictments get thrown out when the judge determines there’s no evidence to support a case. Can the GOP support a case?

I’m not sure, but the last two impeachment hearings for a President (Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton) went absolutely nowhere. I don’t see this one being any different.

You guys sure you want to unleash him on your party?

Besides, assuming the President could be impeached, that would make Joe Biden the President. You think Biden’s going to be more cooperative to a GOP that ousted his predecessor, with whom he’s worked with for almost six years in the White House? No, he and the Democrats are going to be just as obstinate about working with the Republicans as the Republicans are about working with the Democrats! So there will be more gridlock, which may actually do both parties a disservice. In fact, I can imagine that sort of situation leading to many third party groups rising in power and upsetting the current two-party system leading to a multi-party system at all levels of government. I’m pretty sure at this point there are plenty of people who would prefer that, especially if it got something done.

So is suing or impeaching the President a good idea? I don’t think so. In fact, it’ll be just another headache for the American people. We would much rather the Democrats and GOP go and pass bills together for the President to sign. In fact, we’d foot the bill for the various parties to see a therapist if we thought that might help end this gridlock. So please, do the smart thing, Mr. Boehner. End this crusade and go back to work. The American people would be so happy if you did.

Oh, and while I’m on the subject of politics, I’d like to throw out an endorsement for Ed Fitzgerald in the Ohio gubernatorial race this year. I feel he’s the best person to represent me and the rest of Ohio in the governor’s office, and I hope the rest of Ohio agrees with me in the coming months leading up to November. With 100 days to go, I’m hopeful.

I’ve just released my most recent article on Self-Published Authors Helping Other Authors. This one is about ACX, a service from Audible and Amazon that allows you to meet producers for audiobooks and turn your book into one. I thought it’d make for an interesting article, so I did some research, trolled their website several times, and made a few phone calls to the company itself to get some questions answered. What I ended up getting is one of my lengthiest articles, but hopefully also one of my best.

If you would like to find out more, click here to read the article. And if you want to, please check out the rest of the website. Self-Published Authors Helping Other Authors is a website by self published authors to make indie publishing easy and cost efficient. Check it out if you are or are interested in becoming a self-published author. You never know what sort of helpful article you might come across.

And before I forget, I’ve got a question: how many of you would be interested in buying an audiobook version of one of my books? And how much would you be willing to pay to purchase an audiobook version if one were available? Just chucking that question out there for anyone interested.

That’s all for now. Have a great day, my Followers of Fear! I hope to have one or two more articles out soon, so keep your eyes peeled for them.