Well, latest estimates suggest that I’ll be getting Wi-Fi at my apartment back up tomorrow or Thursday, which caused me to turn into an angry gorilla and go on a rampage in downtown Wiesbaden last night (please send all complaints and bills to Donald Trump’s Campaign Headquarters). So I’m writing this on a Word document so that I can copy and paste it onto a blog post during my lunch break, when I’m allowed on blogging websites. At the moment, it’s the best I can do.

Now what did I come here to write about? Oh yes, the wonderful news for all you fans of Reborn City. Last night I completed the second draft of Video Rage, RC’s sequel, thanks to a lack of Wi-Fi and plenty of time on my hands yesterday evening (remind me to write about the benefits and problems of not having Wi-Fi after I get it back). For those of you who might be unfamiliar with the RC series, Reborn City is about street gangs in a dystopian future, told mostly from the point-of-view of Zahara Bakur, a Muslim teenager who is forced to join one of the gangs when her parents are murdered. It’s probably my most popular work, and I hope people enjoy VR as much as they liked RC.

All told, VR is a bit shorter than RC (but then again, RC had several chapters devoted to flashbacks, so that might explain a few things). The second draft is about 297 pages (8.5” x 11”, double spaced, twelve-point Times New Roman), two pages shorter than the first draft, and 82,441 words (about fifteen-hundred shorter than the first draft). I think this might be shorter than the first Harry Potter book, but I wouldn’t vouch for it. I can say for sure though that it reads better than the first draft, and that it sets up for the third and final book very well.

Now what’ll happen now that the second draft is finished? Well, I have a friend who is looking at the manuscript (he looked at RC prior to its publication) and once I get some feedback from him, I’ll do some more editing. After that, depending on how I feel, I could do a fourth draft, or I could get ready for some publication (I can hear most of my family, especially my sister, already shouting that it should go straight to publication). We’ll see what happens.

In the meantime, there’s a short story I have to rewrite, another one I want to write a first draft of, and maybe I’ll do a third short story because I am finally getting good at writing these things. After that, I have to rewrite my thriller Laura Horn, and after that I have to do a third draft of Rose, and I’m also planning a trip to Munich for either this or next weekend, and also…you know, I think it’s safe just to say I’m going to be very busy on a bunch of other projects but as committed as ever to writing and publishing quality stories while at the same time exploring as much of Germany as possible while I’m here (speaking of which, if you have any suggestions for places to visit in Munich, particularly scenic or historic locations, please let me know).

All for now. I’ve still got a long and busy day ahead of me, so I’m going to get right on it. I’ll write again when I have the chance. Let’s hope the Wi-Fi returns at home sooner than later, right?

Bis spatter, mein Anhanger der Angst! (Translation: See you later, my Followers of Fear!)

I’ve been without Wi-Fi these past couple of days at home, so I’ve been only able to get online at work and at a cafe not too far from my apartment. If that wasn’t the case, I would’ve written about this soon after these latest cases happened. But I’m making up for it now, and I’m doing it with the same sense of bereavement that I would if I were writing this as soon as it happened.

First South Carolina. Then the attacks in Tennessee. A few days later, we’ve got shootings at a movie theater in Louisiana, three years after the shootings in Aurora, and one in Los Angeles on Ventura Boulevard. That’s four major shootings in two months. And once again, it seems unlikely that anything’s really going to get done about it. America isn’t suffering from a gun epidemic. It’s suffering from a chronic condition, and maybe only half the country is willing to admit that this condition needs to be treated (I think we can call that a political schizophrenia of sorts).

Despite what some have said, this condition needs to be treated. And the treatment is not more guns. According to the latest research, self-defensive gun use occurs very rarely, and that when it does it does very little to actually stop injuries or property loss. So there goes that whole “good guy with a gun” belief. Besides, if you were going to treat AIDS, you wouldn’t give more people the virus, would you? So why give more people guns if guns are the problems?

Now I know what the Second Amendment says: “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” And since the people in favor of the Second Amendment say we need to follow what the Constitution says, guns should be available…in case the government needs to form a militia in order to protect itself. But there should be more restrictions as to who gets guns, and what sort of guns. Why have an automatic rifle in your home? You’re not going to go hunting with it, and if you ever have the need to use it in your home, you’re likely going to end up making your living room look like it’s been visited by the Terminator or John McClain. What sort of use is there for that sort of weapon outside of a battlefield, then?

When it comes down to it, America’s chronic condition needs to be treated. The loopholes that allow gun sales to go through without sufficient background checks need to be closed, and the system errors that allowed Dylan Roof and the man from the Louisiana shooting need to be fixed as well. Background checks should be expanded and made tghter, and what sort of guns are available to the public should be restricted (like I said, what use is there for military weaponry i a private home? Might as well keep a rocket launcher around), and there should be fewer people allowed to carry firearms on them in public unless they have a legitimate reason for having them (stalker or important public figure who is likely to be targeted? Sure. Generalized anxiety of being attacked? There’s medication for that). And of course there needs to be more resources for the mentally ill, a lot of these attacks are carried out by people with mental illnesses. But of course perfectly sane people can carry out acts of extreme violence as well.

And that’s enough to worry me.

Say what you will, but after so many acts of violence involving guns, what’s happening isn’t a few rogue individuals with problems or just random accidents. These aren’t hurricanes or earthquakes. What we’re dealing with here is a long-term illness, and it needs to be treated. Research has to be done, effective treatments have to be developed. Otherwise this will keep happening, and more people will be lost and nothing will be done until none of us are left.

And I may just be shouting on the Internet, that happens a lot. But to stand by and not say something when evil is occurring in my nation allows evil to proliferate. So I’m shouting for treatment, and i’m hoping something actually gets done before another attack occurs.

Because no one should have to lose someone to something that is completely preventable. And that includes a chronic condition like gun violence.

It’s Friday again! You know what that means! It’s #FirstLineFriday!

It also happens to be my 1000th blog post. Yes, you read that right. This is my one-thousandth blog post. Nearly four years after I started blogging, I’ve reached this momentous milestone. And I couldn’t have done it without all of you. In the early days, when I only got one or two views every couple of days, I thought a lot about giving up. But you guys kept coming. From the far reaches of the globe and the farther reaches of the Internet, you came, read, liked, commented, and even followed. So thanks everyone. Without your help, I would not be here today.

And now, it’s #FirstLineFriday, so let’s dive right into it. Here’s what you do: on Friday you post the first or first two lines of a potential work, a work-in-progress, or a published story. This week’s entry comes from a novel involving ghosts I might work on after I get through Video Rage, Laura Horn and Rose (yeah, I’m planning that far ahead, apparently). I’ve had an idea for what the opening lines would be for awhile now, so here’s a good way to test them out and see how people react to them. Enjoy:

I awoke, feeling very uneasy, though why I couldn’t say. Sitting up, I scanned my bedroom, sure I’d heard somebody scream just a moment before.

Thoughts? Errors? Critiques? Let me know.

Well, that’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. This weekend I’m spending time at home just relaxing (especially since Sunday is Tisha B’Av, a big holiday with a fast in the Jewish calendar. Don’t want to do anything crazy, do we?), maybe planning a trip to Munich, maybe cleaning and doing laundry and editing Video Rage. If I have something to post about, I’ll let you guys know.

Ein schonen tag, mein Anhanger der Angst! Let’s stick together for another thousand posts, shall we?

Two months ago, I published a post about problems only horror fans have and understand. Since then, I’ve thought of more problems that face the horror community, so I’ve decided to write a post about those problems and try being funny as well as educational. And I’ll probably fail miserably while I’m at it.

And now you’re thinking, “He’s going to try to be funny and educational and fail at it too? EEEK!” I wish you wouldn’t think that, I put a lot of work into this blog post!

1. Not enough Slender-Man media. If you live under a rock, Slender-Man is an Internet meme I’ve visited before on this blog, a faceless being with a tall body and long, lanky arms wearing a suit. The myth varies depending on who’s telling it, but usually he lives in the woods, occasionally has tentacles, and likes to kidnap/scare/sometimes even kill children. It started as a couple of photos made for a contest on an Internet site and has since grown and become a modern piece of Internet folklore.

Sadly, Slender-Man’s copyrighted, and not by the guy who originally created him (who is fine with any adaptations as long as they’re good), but by a third party whose identity is unknown to the public. So if you want to make a for-profit work based on good ol’ Slendy, you need to find this third party and ask them for permission. Which sucks because how can you negotiate a deal with someone you can’t find? Such is the quest to make Slender-Man merchandise.

2. We’re getting our IT adaptation…with a catch. Last time I wrote about this, I mentioned how Cary Fukunaga’s two-part adaptation of the Stephen King classic was cancelled because Fukunaga and New Line couldn’t see eye-to-eye over budget and creative directions. Well, good news, looks like New Line is still trying to make the adaptation. Just two problems: one is it’s probably going to be a single movie. Really? This is a thousand page book! Even a three hour movie will hardly get most of what made one of King’s scariest creations very good.

Even worse, the guy being courted for director is Andy Muschietti, who directed 2013’s Mama. Now a lot of people found that movie scary, but I felt that it was overall not very good. Started out great, but got slow and cliched near the end. So you can see why I’m a little hesitant over this directing choice, especially with only one movie to work with.

Seriously, why not two parts? The Hobbit got three, and it’s one book! And when Peter Jackson adapted the LOTR trilogy, it was a big, risky move. Look at how that paid out!

*Sigh* I really hope I’m surprised by this movie if it comes to be.

3. “Why not a happy story?” This actually happened to me today. I was talking to my boss and we were discussing an ice cream truck that passes through the base every day. I was trying to think of a short story involving an ice cream truck with an original and scary twist. She just looked at me with this funny face and asked, “Why can’t you write a happy story?”

Who says horror stories can’t have happiness in them? Seriously, some of them do end with the monsters gone and the main characters still alive and actually stronger for their struggles against evil. Yeah, some of them end in tragedy. But there are happy endings.

And besides, would a happy story really be that interesting? Once upon a time a bunch of schoolchildren went to play in the flower fields. They picked flowers, and one of the ones they picked turned into a handsome prince. The prince said a witch had turned him into a flower after he refused to marry her, and he would’ve died with the first frost if the kids hadn’t plucked him among the flower fields. So the prince made them all honorary princes and princesses and they were forever allowed into his castle to eat ice cream and ride the horses and learn how to dance like they do at Viennese balls.

I think I might vomit if I don’t fall asleep from boredom.

4. “But don’t you get nightmares?” Another one from my boss (in her defense, I think she ordered a copy of Reborn City today, so at least we know she’s got good taste). Yes, I do get nightmares occasionally. It’s estimated that all adults get at least two nightmares a year. Rarely do I get them from the movies I watch and books I read, though. And I’m willing to risk the possibility that one day I’ll be scared in my dreams because of one of those books or movies. Just means someone’s doing their job in making something super-scary, right?

I’ll even dream about him if it means a good scary story!

5. Horror’s so cliched. Actually, no it’s not. True, a lot of horror stories do have their tropes and conventions that appear a lot: the virgin girl, the slutty girl, the campground, the sin factor, etc. But hey, have you seen people who get upset over Bible films if there’s even a single deviation from even the most obscure text? They want the same story every time! Now that’s a lot of cliches.

And horror doesn’t always rely on cliches. There’s a lot of originality in horror, if you care to look. It Follows, I Am a Ghost, Carrie, Dracula, Interview with a Vampire. All of those were very original, thank you very much.

6. Horror has no depth. Oh, so there’s no depth in a ghost or heads getting cut off? Really? Well, where’s the depth in comedies with fart jokes? Or stories where we all go in knowing the hero and heroine will eventually hook up and that’s the only reason why we paid money for this? Where’s the depth in that?

You’d be surprised how deep a horror story can go. Anne Rice’s early Vampire Chronicles are known for their poetic philosophy and imagery. Some, including the author, has described them as “the agnostic’s search for the truth” (this is a rough quote, I may have phrased it wrong). IT, which I discussed above, deals simultaneously with the loss of childhood innocence and the rediscovery of childhood belief. And don’t you dare tell me that The Shining doesn’t explore the struggle of personal needs and desires versus the good of the group! Think about it!

7. No, I’m not sex-starved and that’s why I enjoy horror. Yeah, horror sometimes is dirty. Doesn’t mean we’re making up for something. Unless you’re the filmmakers behind the Friday the 13th remake, in which case you packed in as many boobs as possible because you wanted people to see the movie AND it was a dry spell (Ooh, new slam on that shitty movie!).

And why are you wondering about our sex lives? It’s none of your business, you perverts!

Yeah, I like these guys. So what?

8. Ghost hunting. Okay, this might just be my problem, but just bear with me, because it’s related. Plenty of people believe in ghosts, interest in horror or not. Some of us believe that it is possible to find out about ghosts using modern-day technology, which is why we support ghost hunters and even watch some of the ghost-hunting teams that have their own TV shows.

So what’s the problem? Some people think ghost hunters are snake oil salesmen and make fun of them and their shows whenever the subject comes up. For those like me who believe in ghosts and maybe even base our ghost mythologies on what ghost hunters may uncover in investigations, it’s hurtful.

Yeah, this isn’t strictly a horror problem. But it’s a problem nonetheless.

~~~

Did you identify with any of these problems? Did I miss any? Was I funny? If not, did you at least learn something?

Well, hope you enjoyed this whatever your reaction. Just thought I’d get out another list. Hopefully I won’t find any more reasons we horror fans have it tough. Have a goodnight, Followers of Fear!

The wait till DVD…oh dammit!

I don’t have a lot of time because it’s late for me and I have an early morning tomorrow, but I just finished a short story I’ve been working on since before I left the states. Cult of the Raven God, coming just within the lengths of a short story at 9,908 words, is about a girl whose family is attacked by a sacrificial cult while on vacation and how she learns that the cult members are more than just a bunch of crazy murderers. It’s pretty creepy and dark stuff.

I have to say, I really enjoyed working on this one. It’s a more recent idea for a story, and I’ve noticed that the stories I’ve come up with lately…I’m not sure how to explain it. Maybe I feel like the ideas I’ve been having lately, particularly in terms of short stories, are more likely to make for successful stories once they’re written. I especially think this one has the chance for that. It’s length aside, it’s got atmosphere, a freaky main villain and creepy secondary villains, and I manage to keep the action going throughout. Not bad for a first draft.

Of course, it is a first draft, so it’ll have to be worked on before I do anything about it. I’ll let it lie for a while, and then in a couple months I’ll give it some edits. After that, I may try getting it published in a magazine, or if that doesn’t work out, I may put it in a short story collection. We’ll see what the future holds.

Well, that’s all for now, my Followers of Fear (whom I’m so glad are not a sacrificial cult). Tomorrow I’m heading back to work on Video Rage, so let’s hope I get through the next two thirds of that pretty quickly. In the meantime, I’m wishing you all wonderful nightmares. Guten nacht!

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You know, Frankfurt is very close to Wiesbaden. So close, in fact, that along with Mainz it’s considered almost like a tri-city sort of thing.Still, it feels very far away despite the map, so I was very glad to go on a USO sponsored tour of one of Germany’s most well known cities today*. and make a few friends along the way, one of whom I made sure to get an email from (will be sending you something soon, Jose).

Unlike last week, I got to the meeting point early, and I had actually a very good idea where it was thanks to the help of my supervisor at work (honestly, he’s such a helpful guy). The meeting place was the Wiesbaden main train station, which looked like something out of an old movie with a side of American commercialism (every fast food franchise imaginable was there, including KFC!). I bought a ticket and the group assembled for the tour. We boarded the train and were there within half an hour.

Well, let me say this. Wiesbaden’s nice, but Frankfurt has that feel of an old German town. The houses have that look and feel to them that you associate with old German towns, the white walls and wood beams and red tiled roofs. Some of them have been around for hundreds of years! Add in the narrow, winding cobbled roads, and you definitely feel like you’re not in Kansas anymore.

A view of Frankfurt and its vineyards.

A view of Frankfurt and its vineyards.

We spent the first part of the tour, finding out about the local history, how Frankfurt has plenty of vineyards and micro-breweries, and several different places to check out local beers and wines. Heck, there’s even a university there that’s sole purpose is to teach people how to professionally make beer and wine! I almost wanted to sign up for classes. We then visited a park where the artwork is all made out of concrete (it was actually quite nice), saw a very lovely mansion that looked like it was right out of a movie set, and then we visited the local cathedral, which was quite interesting. I’m always awed by all the effort put into cathedrals, and how the overall effect is quite beautiful and spiritual.

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After the cathedral we passed by a house where a charnel house, a place where skeletal remains are stored, used to be (sounds like my kind of digs) and broke for lunch. After waiting an hour for food (which I’ll get into in a moment), we were invited to join in the Linden festival, in honor of the Linden tree in the center of the neighborhood (yeah, apparently it’s pretty important). Before I did that though, I went to see the Rhine River. And while I was there, I reflected on the river.

Certain natural features can really help define a place. London has the Thames, Paris has the Seine, and Germany, including Frankfurt, has the Rhine, and it really helps define the country. Yet strangely, the river is never the same one second from the next. It’s constantly changing, the water molecules moving constantly, the tide going in and out, every passing boat or barge changing the river along with time and momentum. This and many other thoughts went through my head as I sat alongside the river, admiring all the history it had witnessed over the millennia and just enjoying the view. When I dipped my hand into the river, I felt like I was dipping into the history of the river itself.

The Rhine River and me.

The Rhine River and me.

After that I went back to the festival, which was amazing! Every local shop was selling its wares, tables were everywhere for people to eat and drink and talk. Even the most well-staffed restaurant was having trouble keeping up with the demand (which is why our lunches were so late). I met back up with the group and we talked over beers and wines about a variety of subjects. It was a good time.

After that I decided to head back early. Not that I wasn’t enjoying myself or that there wasn’t anything to do, but it was getting late and I wanted to be getting home. I got on the train and headed home. All in all, it was a great experience. I made a couple of new friends, saw a lovely new neighborhood and city, and had a great experience. I hope I get to visit again some time soon!

Enjoying the local drinks and my time in Frankfurt.

Enjoying the local drinks and my time in Frankfurt.

For now though, I’ve got a short story to finish and an evening to relax. Have a good night, my Followers of Fear. I know I am!

*Interesting thing I learned. In Europe, a city is not necessarily based on size or skyscrapers like in the States. Rather, a city is called as such because someone important–an emperor or a high-ranking clergyman or someone along those lines–gave a town that special designation, which came with certain privileges, including the right to mint their own money. This is why Frankfurt, which looks more like a provincial town out in the country, is called a city. Someone high-ranking gave it that title once upon a time. Pretty cool, right?

So I’m sure many of you are wondering what it’s like to work for the US Army in Europe. Well, I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.

Okay, how many of you laughed at that, and how many of you took that seriously?

In reality, I can go into a bit of what I’ve been doing here, as long as I don’t give away anything that could even remotely threaten national security (and that doesn’t give any information to stalkers. Yeah, you know who you are. I know you’re out there. Especially you!). So without further ado, here’s what I’ve been doing in the office lately.

So, if you haven’t heard lately, I’ve been working in the Equal Employment Opportunity office at the base in Wiesbaden, which is actually central command for US Army Europe. And guess what else? My office is the top EEO office for all of Europe. I’m not kidding, if the general needs advice on EEO stuff, he goes to the head of the office, Ms. Moya, to discuss policy (apparently she’s written the book on EEO in the Army, and is a major reason why I can even work in the Army when technically I have a disability). Besides Ms. Moya, there’s Mr. Vitiello, who is my direct supervisor and is considered one of the top EEO specialists on the continent, and there’s me. The new guy learning the ropes and contributing any way I can. It’s a small but extremely important office, and we’re busy each and every day.

And speaking of offices, I have one of my own. Yeah, I do. At the moment we’re moving some things around the larger EEO office, so mine’s become the designated storage space for all our supplies till we’re done with the moving. But yeah, for the next two-and-a-half months (perhaps longer, we’ll see) it’s my office. And I’m pretty psyched about it. I got my own key and a computer with two monitors and a nice view out one of the windows. It’s not too bad.

As for what I’ve been doing…well, I’ve been doing a lot of reading on diversity. There’s not a lot of coursework that can be taken in that subject. Well, maybe there is. It’s kind of an HR job in a way, so maybe go to business school with a focus on HR and…I’m getting off track. Anyway, it’s a big topic to talk about, especially in regards to the Army, so I’ve got a lot of reading to do. I’m happy to do it, of course. It’s not horror novels, but it’s interesting and informative, so there’s a plus.

I’ve also been writing, specifically I’ve been writing an article on the benefits of diversity in the Army that will appear in a newsletter that will be read all over Europe. I did a lot of research for the article, and now it’s going through editing phases. I’ve also been filling paperwork out and taking online courses for work (when the Internet is actually working for me. We’ve had problems with that. “If it’s not one thing, it’s another” has become a common refrain for me lately).  And in off moments, when there’s nothing to do, I find time to write, which can be scarce during these busy days.

As for the rest of the base…that’s classified. I can say that the buildings and layout are not what I expected. At times it reminds me of a camp I once visited as a teenager, where nothing seemed to be near anything else, and at other times it seems like a small community in a desert town in Arizona or the Mojave (and there’s the writer in me). When I head outside, it’s often warm and sunny, which means I sometimes sweat off my sunscreen (and that’s why I put it on three times a day). But it’s a nice place to work, and I’m figuring out where everything is slowly but surely.

Me at the office.

Me at the office.

Well, that’s all to mention right now. I’m sure as I get through the paperwork and as the Internet gets fixed and all that other stuff, I’ll get into some sort of routine and learn quite a bit more on the subject. And if I stay longer…who knows? Maybe I’ll even get my driver’s license! We’ll see what happens.

In the meantime, tomorrow I go on a trip to Frankfurt through the USO (and this time I know exactly where we’re meeting), and if I get the chance after I get back, I upload a ton of photos and write a blog post about it. Sunday I’m planning on chilling at home and finishing up this short story I’ve been working on before diving back into editing Video Rage. So wish me luck, everyone. I feel I might need it.

Guten nacht, mein Anhanger der Angst!