RC cover

It’s been a long time in the making, and a lot of work since I announced that I was planning on turning Reborn City, my science-fiction novel, into an audio book back in August. I listened to a lot of audio samples, contacted a bunch of potential narrators, and even received a couple of auditions. But as of today, I am very pleased to announce that Reborn City has a narrator!

If you’re unfamiliar with Reborn City, it’s a dystopian science fiction novel that follows Zahara Bakur, a Muslim teenager who’s forced to join a street gang called the Hydras, and her involvement in a strange plot involving the gang’s superpowered leaders and the shadowy corporation that rules the city they live in. The novel contains themes of Islamaphobia, racism, gang violence, drug addiction and several others.

It also is a world that has much more resemblance to our own than Hunger Games or Divergent does (just look at the refugee situation these days and how some governments have responded to refugees these days) and I like to think it makes a little more sense than those books.

The audio book will be narrated by Barron Bass, an actor and voice artist based out of New York (check out his website here). I heard some of his samples on ACX, the website I’m using to produce the audio book (see my article on that site here). I liked what I heard, and I started corresponding with him. Once I heard his audition, I had a pretty good feeling I’d found my man. After some more weeks of correspondence, I sent him an offer and he accepted.

Our esteemed narrator, Barron Bass.

Now, I’m hoping we’ll have the whole thing done by early March, but I’m flexible. If Mr. Bass needs more time, I’m willing to give it to him. You can’t rush perfection, after all.

So I’m looking forward to seeing what comes next, which following the production process on ACX is that the first fifteen minutes of the book are recorded for my approval. After that, I give some feedback, and we work chapter by chapter on the book. Once it’s all done and it’s uploaded onto Amazon, Audible, and iTunes, I’m hoping a lot of people decide to check it out and take a listen. Maybe leave a few reviews while they’re at it.

And if RC does well, then maybe I’ll do Snake as well, and any other book I decide to publish from here on out. We’ll see what happens.

In the meantime, I’m going to go do my happy dance. Have a good rest of your day, my Followers of Fear. I know I am.

It’s Friday again, so you know what that means. It’s #FirstLineFriday! And since yesterday a good number of Americans stuffed themselves full of turkey, I’ve got a special Thanksgiving edition for you all! Woo-hoo! I would also make it a Black Friday edition, but that’s just a horrible practice that’s unfair to both customers (apparently the sales on Black Friday are no more special than sales at any other point in the year) and to employees (you can guess why).

As always, here are the rules of #FirstLineFriday: on Friday you write up a post titled #FirstLineFriday (hashtag and all), and then you write out the rules. Then you post the first one or two lines of a potential story, story-in-progress, or a completed or published short story. Finally you ask your readers for feedback. It’s a lot of fun, and I enjoy hearing what people have to say about it.

Here’s this week’s entry. It’s from an idea I had for a bloody and very strange story that I came up with the other day. I hope I get the chance to write it out someday soon. Enjoy:

Jake scooped out three slices of pie and some whip cream. The pie and cream were the only parts of Thanksgiving dinner that hadn’t gotten blood on them.

Thoughts? Problems? Let me know in the comments below.

That’s all for now. I’m house-sitting till Wednesday while my dad and his wife are on their fifth wedding anniversary trip (congrats, you two!). I think I might throw a wild party while they’re gone. Or maybe I’ll behave myself, edit and write, and watch Doctor Who. We’ll see what I’m in the mood for.

Happy Thanksgiving and have a great weekend, my Followers of Fear!

It’s Thanksgiving in America today, when you’re supposed to be thankful for what you have in your life. Well, you should be thankful for all that year round, but especially today, because…the government made this a national holiday with that sort of connotation.

Well, in the holiday spirit, I’m going to write about all the things I’m thankful for in my life. There are quite a few, but I think I can get keep the list down to the most important ones.

My friends and family.

Whether I met them online, through school or work, or if I’m just related to them by blood or marriage, I love my friends and family. They keep me strong and help my mood stay up. Yeah, sometimes we have our disagreements. My sisters and I can get very nasty towards each other if we spend way too much time together. But it’s the people in my life that keep me less insane and are why I get up each morning. Love you guys. I’m so thankful you’re in my life.

My stories and those reading them.

Understandably, my stories are very important to me. They’re almost like my children. I’ve put so much work into them over the many years, and I always feel so happy when I get to a new stage in their writing process or when they get published. I’m so thankful that I’m able to write these wonderful stories and to work on them. It’s my passion, and I wouldn’t give it up for anything.

I’m also thankful for my readers. Whether you’re on my blog or checking out my books, you people are important to me. Every writer is a bit of a narcissist (why do you think we’re so desperate to get our work read by others?), so you guys tuning in every time I publish a post or ordering a book off Amazon just bring the biggest smile to my face. Thanks for coming at all and coming back again and again. It means so much to me.

The experiences I’ve had.

I’ve been to Germany twice. I’ve also been to England, France, and Israel in my time. I graduated from a good school with a great sports program (Go Bucks!) and I got to study fields I love. I’ve had great work experiences, with Ohio State, the building I lived in for two years, and the US Army. There’s a good likelihood that I might get that with my next job, once I find it. I have a blog with hundreds of followers and it’s growing, slowly but steadily. And of course, I’ve published a few books and I’ll hopefully publish a few more in the coming year.

There are also a bunch of bad experiences that I’d rather not remember, but they helped me grow as a person, so I’ll acknowledge them too.

To say the least, I’ve had the pleasure to see and do a ton in my short life, and I probably will get to do much more in the future. I’m thankful for my experiences, good and bad (though I could always use less of the bad). They bring quite a bit of spice to my life.

How good I’ve had it.

There are a lot of people less fortunate than me. I’ve never been persecuted because of the color of my skin, what country or region I’m from, or my religion. No one tells me what I should do with my reproductive organs like they know better than me when they don’t. I’ve never lived in a violent neighborhood or feared for my life just by walking out the door. I went to college and I’ve been able to earn a living except for short periods here and there. And there’s a growing amount of people in the US who don’t think I’m sick in the head, unholy, or after their children just because of my sexuality. And I’ve had a bunch of people in my life supporting me and showing me right from wrong and offering me their advice when I need it. I’ve had it good.

And there are people out there who cannot say the same thing as me. Plenty of people the world over suffer because of their race, their religion, their gender, their sexual orientation, their ethnicity. They’ve been hungry, or lived in war-torn areas. They’ve experienced violence in their own homes. Some, through genetics or accident, live life without the full use of their bodies or minds.

I’m aware of how privileged my life has been, and how so many people struggle through life because of some form of unfairness or another. That puts me in the unique position to try and help them. Whether it’s raising money for charity, advocating for a certain change, attending meetings, writing blog posts, or simply weaving an issue into a story, I’m making a difference. Perhaps it’s pretty small, but it’s better than nothing, right? And just because it’s easier to let other people handle the problems of the world, doesn’t mean I should.

So I’m thankful that I’ve had a good life. And I’m thankful that I know it, and that I’m in the position to make a difference. Because if I don’t, then I’m basically contributing to the decline of the world and of humanity. And I don’t want that to happen.


I’m not exactly sure who I’m supposed to be thanking on this day (God? The Founding Fathers? Whichever President who made this holiday a thing? It’s never really discussed), but I’m thankful. I can’t take for granted anything in my life, because it could be taken away at a moment’s notice. You never know what will be thrown at you. And here today, I’m making sure people know what I’m thankful for and that I don’t forget it.

Well, that’s all for now. I’ll see you all tomorrow. It’ll be Friday, and you know what that means. Goodnight, my Followers of Fear.

What are you thankful for in your life?

I’ve been meaning to write this post all week, but for a number of reasons–including my desire to wait and see how this played out–I’m only just getting around to it. But now that I am, let me start by saying this is a most unusual blog post, even for me. It has only a little to do with anything writing or horror-related, which usually means this would be a political post or about my life in general, but politics is only incidental to this story, and it doesn’t really feel like something affecting my life. It’s just amusing, like watching a cat chase a laser dot around the living room without realizing it’ll never catch that dot.

Okay, back to the beginning. If you’re at all familiar with contemporary American politics, you’ll know that we’re less than a year away from the Presidential election, and already election season is in full-swing. I’ve come out as a Hillary Clinton supporter already, and I follow her on Facebook. On one of her most recent status updates, I left a comment and that was the start of the craziness.

Now I know some people have some really intense opinions on the former Secretary of State. I get that, but I’m going to ask that you hold off on your opinions until this post is finished. Anyway, this was on Tuesday, in the wake of the Paris attacks, and already people in power were talking about limiting refugees based on religion or entirely. Secretary Clinton posted this on Facebook in response:

We’ve seen a lot of hateful rhetoric from the GOP. But the idea that we’d turn away refugees because of religion is a new low. -H

Well, that resonated with me. I’m a supporter of the refugees, and I don’t like the idea of turning them away. So here’s what I wrote as a comment:

America was built by religious refugees, as the GOP loves to point out. Turning away refugees becauseon their religion is hypocritical and goes against what America is supposed to be about.

This was one of the earliest comments on that particular post, which might explain what happened next.

Who knew supporting one candidate could lead to so much craziness?

Within half an hour, that post had over 300 likes and a growing number of comments. Some of them were supportive or in agreement. Others were…angry. Disagreeable. A few were throwing insults at my face. Others were attacking other people. Pretty quickly it degenerated into a debate between various commenters over this or that fact.

Did I say debate? I meant a mess of cobras fighting each other for superiority because they don’t like one another or their political beliefs. I’m pretty sure blood was spilled several times in the course of three or four days.

I won’t quote directly what people said, because some of what was said was just really awful and I like to keep this blog a mostly positive place despite this being the blog of a horror novelist. I will say that a few people called me names, said I knew nothing about the law or what America was about. One guy actually tried to direct message me to tell me I didn’t know anything and call me a dumbass. Thankfully, Facebook allows you to decline messages from people you don’t know, so I deleted that conversation quick as a rabbit.

My favorite insult hurled at me was some guy who had a similar name to a famous American writer’s real name told me I should go and study history. Joke’s on that guy, because one of my majors in college was History!

About an hour into this madness, I decided to comment back, the only comment I left in this crazy den of verbal Hunger Games contestants:

So I posted this comment about an hour ago. It’s got 550+ likes, 50+ comments, and a few people getting angry with one another over differences of opinion. And I’m just sitting here wondering, “Why can’t my sci-fi novel get this sort of attention? Islamaphobia and dealing with it is one of its major themes!”

If I see an opportunity to plug my books, I will. What do you want from me? It’s a hard world for indie authors, and we gotta do what we gotta do to make it in this hard, terrible world. And anyway, I was wondering why Reborn City didn’t get that much attention, especially considering the themes it explores.

In any case, this plug didn’t do me any good. That comment only got three likes, and only one person actually replied to it. They told me it must be because, like me and my original comment, my novel must be stupid because I don’t know anything.

That’s probably the only comment that actually hurt me. I put a lot of work into what I write, to make sure they leave impressions on people. Calling them stupid? I take offense at that.

At least nobody used that comment to seek me out and leave me false reviews just to hurt me. That would’ve been really dickish.

So at final tally, we’ve got 1,383 likes, 243 comments, and a whole rather nasty list of web vitriol. The activity was strong through Tuesday and Wednesday, but dropped off on Thursday, which thankfully I’m glad for. It was just nuts.

And how do I feel about being attacked? Well, I think knowing this was only temporary made it easier for me to just detach from it and not let it get to me. In fact, I felt a little bit good that I managed to stay out of the fire that I somehow managed to cause. I kind of felt like an evil villain with a set of human dominoes, just watching things play out and waiting to see what remains. Yeah, that’s callous, but it’s not as bad as what some of the people were saying in that comment thread. It was enough to make sailors blush.

Still, it was pretty amazing that I could get so many people riled up just with one comment. People really are sensitive when it comes to politics, and that sensitivity can get amplified through the anonymity of the Internet. The worst were the Donald Trump supporters (and they made themselves obvious, believe me). Those guys were the craziest of all.

They probably won’t like me posting this picture I made, then:

donald trump

Yes, I made it. And I don’t regret spreading it. It’s my personal blog, so I can do what I like on it (other people do worse on theirs). And I give you permission to spread this if you like. Honestly, I think it’ll give a few people a laugh.

Oh, and people who want to comment some nastiness on this post, be careful. The more you comment, the more my profile is raised. That is all.

It’s Friday again, so you know what that means. It’s #FirstLineFriday! And it’s the 25th #FirstLineFriday done here on this blog. That’s right, 25 straight, continuous weeks of #FirstLineFriday since June. Which begs the question, how many of you are just sick and tired of this thing that I’m trying to turn into a blogging craze with mixed success?

Alright, here are the rules for #FirstLineFriday: you write a post titled “#FirstLineFriday” (hashtag included), you introduce the rules, and then you post the first one or two lines of a potential story, a story-in-progress, or a completed or published story. Then you ask your readers for their feedback.

This week’s entry is from the short story I finished earlier this week, “The Playroom.” As I said, this is a strange and creepy story, but I’m not sure you get that immediately from the way it starts. Anyway, enjoy:

Gloria Breck’s lower lip trembled as Todd Bruno regarded her pleasantly from the other side of his desk. On either side of Mr. Bruno’s office, his two imposing bodyguards—though Mr. Bruno called them his “assistants”—glowered at her, their giant hands looking like they would love nothing more than to wrap themselves around her throat.

Tell me, what do you think? Strong opening? Should I get rid of anything? Let’s discuss.

Well, that’s all for now. I may have some good news soon, and if I do I plan to post about it as soon as I can get on my computer. Until then, have a great weekend, my Followers of Fear. I know I plan to.

About a week or two ago my friend Angela Misri posted on my Facebook timeline about a short story contest that Stephen King would be part of. Apparently people could submit short stories under four-thousand words and His Royal Scariness would pick the winner. Unfortunately the contest was only open to UK residents, which upset Angela and me a great deal (I knew I should’ve been born a British lord, but for some reason I decided that being the son of two rabbis was a better deal). However, if I could enter the contest, and it allowed short stories under six-thousand words, this probably would’ve been the short story I submitted.

After extensive editing, of course.

“The Playroom” is a very weird short story about a woman who steals from a mob boss whose casino she works in, and the terrifying results of that little action. I’d go into further detail on what those results are, but then I’d be giving away too much of the story. I will say how it came to be though: I woke up one night, a few days before I decided to take a break from Laura Horn, I think, and this little mini-movie started playing in my head. I don’t know what caused it–I’m pretty sure it didn’t have anything to do with anything I might have been dreaming prior to waking up–but there it was, fully formed in my head, and oh-so strange. I immediately wrote it down and decided to write it as soon as possible.

Which, as I said a moment ago, was when I decided to take a break from Laura Horn. How convenient that all turned out to be.

Anyway,this is definitely one of the weirder short stories I’ve written. And when I say something is weird by my standards, that’s saying something. And you definitely get that weird sense just by reading it, I think. As you go on and you feel yourself falling deeper into a rabbit hole, you definitely wonder where this is going to go. And when you actually find out where it goes…well, I wouldn’t want to give too much away. The first title of this short story gave away so much that I dare not speak it here. The second title was so cliched I couldn’t help but change it (“The Secret Room”–what horror writer doesn’t have a story titled that?). So now I’ve got “The Playroom”. Intriguing, doesn’t give away much, and somehow conveys this isn’t your average horror story.

At least, that’s what I hope is what it says. I’m biased, so what do I know?

Anyway, I think with a bit of editing, this story could actually go from just under fifty-six hundred words to under five-thousand or maybe even under four-thousand without sacrificing quality. As you know, I’ve had trouble keeping my short stories brief without sacrificing quality in the past, so I’d be very excited if I could get this one that short without any problems. There are probably a few sections that could be cut from this story. Or I might keep it as long as it is. With a bit of work, there may be a magazine or two who would like to publish this even if it is longer than what some magazines like to publish.

Before I do that though, I have a novel to finish editing. I think I’ll get right on that in the morning.

So good night, my Followers of Fear, and pleasant nightmares. I know I plan to have a few.

pray for paris

This past weekend in Paris, a city I’ve visited and which I’ve often thought about returning to, was attacked by terrorists affiliated with ISIS. They attacked six different locations throughout the City of Light, including a concert hall, the Stade de France, and two restaurants. At last count, nearly a hundred and thirty people are dead, including seven of the terrorists, and over three-hundred and fifty wounded. The terror threat is apparently still high, and the search for the remaining perpetrators are still ongoing.

And in the midst of the death and horrors, people have come together from around the world for Paris. Through the power of globalization and connection, human beings have shouted out, in tweets and status updates, in blog posts and videos, through television broadcasts and press conferences, through offers of help and condemnations of the terrorists, to stand by France as she works to bring the rest of the terrorists to justice, to take on the sickness that is ISIS, and to heal her wounds after such a horrific series of events.

Still, there’s a dark underbelly to this show of solidarity. My mother and I were discussing this underbelly in the car after dinner last night. Barely two days after the attacks, some people have been condemning Muslims and the refugees from Syria and other parts of the Middle East for the attack (despite the fact that most of the terrorists appear to be European and only one is confirmed to be from Syria). People of all sorts, from members of France’s far-right political party the National Front, including its leader Marine La Pen and US representatives, to bloggers and common people from all over the world. In the need to blame someone for this attack, some are turning to two very large, and lately very popular, scapegoats: those who follow the teachings of Muhammad, and those who left their homes with very little, if anything, just to escape violence and fear.

RC cover

My mom then turned to me and said, “Kind of reminds me of Reborn City. There are people who see a woman with a hijab and feel afraid. Zahara gave that up and even dyed her hair blond to avoid that fear.” That surprised me, but then I realized she had a point. In a small way, the world is beginning to resemble the world of Reborn City.

If you’re not familiar with RC, Islamaphobia is a big theme in the novel. The war on terror devolved into a huge, worldwide conflict, so that by the time of the story most of the world is suspicious of Muslims. Zahara Bakur and her family take measures so that they will be at the very least tolerated by a population that is suspicious of them. Still, it doesn’t always work, and there is still a lot of discrimination in that world that goes unchecked.

While the real world is not at the level that the world of RC is, there are places that have made it difficult to be a Muslim. Angola and Tajikistan actively shut down mosques all the time, and certain European countries have banned burqas and hijabs. France’s Interior Minister has discussed the possibility of shutting down mosques perceived to be preaching dangerous interpretations of Islam. Here in the States,  Donald Trump has said that if elected President he may pursue that course of action.

And because many of the Syrian refugees are Muslim and one of the terrorists was from Syria, some are reacting against refugees. Poland has already said they will not be accepting new refugees, and several US states are now refusing to take in any. Some in the US now wish to screen refugees based on a religious test.

The refugees are not the people we should be lashing out against.

You can’t judge an entire group based on the actions of a few. I don’t judge all Christians based on the actions of Westboro Baptist Church, nor do I judge all football players because a few have been charged and sometimes convicted for violent crimes. But so many people insist on judging Muslims and the Syrian refugees that way. And based on my own experience with Muslims, that isn’t right. That’s nonsensical.

Zahara’s experiences in the book reflect that. Early on she becomes aware that people don’t like her because she’s a Muslim, that they’re afraid of her for things that occurred in her parents’ and grandparents’ generations. She takes steps to be accepted by society by changing her appearance and taking part in “normal” interests and hobbies, but no matter what she tires, people see her as different. They see her as dangerous without even getting to know her. And it’s how people see her that spurs Zahara throughout RC (and its sequel, Video Rage, and probably the final book too) to show people that she is not what people think of her. To show them that she can be kind, and brave. And even good.

In the wake of Paris, we all want to fight back against the evil that caused the attacks. But the evil isn’t the refugees, nor is it Islam and its adherents. No, the evil is ISIS, al-Qaida, Boko Haram and the other terrorist organizations, wearing Islam like a Halloween costume, scary but not the real thing. The real Muslims are standing up to these fakers, standing in solidarity with Paris and showing their disdain towards these inhuman monsters hijacking a respected religion. The last thing we want to do is turn our backs on them, punish them for being who they are.

Instead, we should be thanking them for being allies we can count on for support in hard times, like Zahara is for her friends in the Hydras. Because after all, if we show them the love they deserve, they may return the favor and, like Zahara does, surprise us in all the best ways.