NoSleep Live 2019 Halloween Tour

NoSleep Live Stage Set Up

At my day job, I occasionally need to compile reports that take a fair amount of time but not as much brainpower. When I got Spotify a few years back, I started using this time to listen to podcasts. I’d always liked the idea of podcasts, but I’d never had time or a good way to listen to them. After working my way through most of H.P. Lovecraft’s work in audio form, I was searching for more horror to fill my time. That’s when I discovered the NoSleep Podcast. Originally, this podcast told horror stories pulled from Reddit’s NoSleep Forum, but the podcast evolved into creating original horror stories over time. I listened to every episode available, about seven seasons worth at that point, and then started listening to new episodes every week.

In 2018, I drove two hours east to Philadelphia to see the NoSleep Podcast’s Escape the Black Farm live tour. The experience was fantastic, except for the random person who clipped my mirror and sped off as I was driving home, so much for the so-called “city of brotherly love.” Naturally, I had to see the 2019 NoSleep Live Halloween tour too. Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately considering my mirror fiasco, the show wasn’t stopping in Philadelphia, but, thanks to my central location, I was able to drive three hours south to the Miracle Theater, in Washington D.C.

The venue was a historic locale, a cozy one-screen theater that hosted vaudeville acts in the days before movies. I arrived early and got a great seat near the front. You can probably find me, my wife, and my aunt if you zoom in on the third row of the NoSleep Podcast’s Instagram picture from the event. We all had a great time, and the neat place only added to the event’s ambiance.

This show contained four “spine-tingling” stories that were all spooky in unique ways. The first was about a hilariously entertaining dinner party gone wrong. The voice actors, David Cummings, Jessica McEvoy, David Ault, and Nichole Goodnight, did a fabulous job throughout the night, but I was extremely impressed with how well they worked together and bounced off each other in the opening tale. The second story concerned a potentially paranormal fog. Finally, there was the classic tale of a daughter attempting to resurrect her dead dad. Each story was masterfully scored by music maestro Brandon Boone.

If you haven’t listened to the NoSleep Podcast yet, you need to give them a listen during this Halloween season. There are a countless number of great horror stories to enjoy that span all the different horror subgenres. I can’t recommend the podcast enough, and I especially encourage trying to see the show live, if the tour is coming to a town near you. They put on a great performance, and they are all extremely friendly. Due to my long drive home, I wasn’t able to do the meet and greet after in D.C., but I enjoyed meeting several NoSleep actors in Philadelphia last year. I thanked them for being a great source of horror and taking submissions. I’m hopeful that one day down the line, I will hear one of my stories brought to life by NoSleep. I just wrote an audio script about a lost John Carpenter film that I plan to submit for the NoSleep Podcast’s Halloween episode in 2020, and I am currently thinking about working on a horror story set in space for the Christmas episode this year. If any other horror writers are interested in sending them a story, be sure to check out their submissions page.

Until My Next Post,

Stay Froggy,

Jeremiah

P.S. Here’s me and my wife doing scared faces after the show.

Scared Faces

Great Tales of Horror by H.P. Lovecraft

Great Tales of HorrorGreat Tales of Horror by H.P. Lovecraft

This collection has all the best of Lovecraft’s horror tales, and each story is introduced with a blurb by famed Lovecraft scholar S.T. Joshi. This is a great collection to own for any fans of the weird yarns of H.P.L. My personal favorites are The Shadow Over Innsmouth, The Colour Out of Space, and The Whisperer in Darkness.

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The Narrative Appeal of Board Games

Mansions of Madness BoxesThe first time I got really “into” board games was in 2003. I received Risk: The Lord of the Rings Trilogy Edition on Christmas Eve, and I made my Dad play it with me that night on my Pap Pap’s dining room table. Over the next several years, I warred with my family while the One Ring marched its way across the board to Mount Doom and the game’s end. We kept track of our battles with little pieces of notebook paper that calculated points for the winners (18 of these survive to this day). These sometimes also collected little notes from the game, such as, “I wish to destroy Don because of his betrayal,” and “I only fought three battles in this war and won through intimidation.” This game was fun for many reasons, but the biggest one, for me, was the narrative. Yes, Risk games may not have a traditional narrative in the vein of some games today (which I’ll get to later), but in our Risk: Lord of the Rings games we built our narratives throughout our ongoing conquests.

Initially, the game served a different narrative purpose for me. It was a vehicle that allowed me to replay the epic battles of Middle-earth. After that, I created new conflicts across Tolkien’s maps by putting different spins on the existing tales. What if good’s last stand against evil took place in the Shire instead of Minas Tirith? What if Sauron’s forces overran the southern defenses? These were just some of the questions I tried to answer via Risk. My fascination with board games has always been in their ability to create and tell stories.

I was first introduced to the new wave of board games around 2013. I’d just graduated from college, and I found myself back in my hometown. Me and two of my friends went in on buying a game called Mansions of Madness. It sounded interesting because I’d read and enjoyed Lovecraft intermittently since high school, and the game put you in a Lovecraftian world. One person played the role of a keeper (storyteller/master of monsters) while the other players were investigators (who tried to survive long enough to figure out what was going on in the narrative). After playing through many of the scenarios that came in the box, I even created one of my own. Unfortunately, the game had an insanely long set up time, and I moved out of town for work in 2014.

Fast forward to 2016. I’m enrolled in my first semester at Seton Hill University, and I discover the Game Table Café in Mechanicsburg, PA. Through the Game Table, my fiancée and I meet up with two amazing friends for the first time due to our shared love of Game of Thrones: The Board Game. This game, much like Risk: Lord of the Rings Trilogy Edition, lets you recreate the war for the Iron Throne portrayed in the Song of Ice and Fire novels. Not long after that, I discovered Mansions of Madness Second Edition. In this updated version of the original game, the keeper is replaced by an app which allows everyone to play through a story together. This was a huge leap forward for me, and I went gonzo for this game. I’ve bought every expansion to date, and I’ve spent hours upon hours playing it.

Fantasy Flight, the publisher of Mansions, is a company that knows how to take advantage of narratives for its board games. It produces games based on Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings, as well as various others, but I’m most drawn to the Arkham Horror Files (of which Mansions of Madness is part) because I love horror, specifically Lovecraft’s brand of cosmic horror. While other board games use the Lovecraft theme to great effect, the Arkham Horror Files are special because Fantasy Flight has built its own connected universe using their characters and the Cthulhu Mythos. If you play any of their Arkham Horror File games, there is a crossover between the gameplay, characters, settings, and monsters. It creates an immersive narrative experience, and many of their games directly feature narrative as a gameplay component. Progression in the board (or card) game leads to revelations in the tale you and your fellow players are participating in. It’s a great formula.

As a writer, I am actively inspired by board games such as Mansions of Madness. I use the feelings and narrative surprises to fuel my own twisted tales. However, it’s not just horror writers who can gain some inspiration by playing a good board game. There are games that allow you to immerse yourself in practically any kind of world. Writers can colonize Mars, run breweries, build their careers as stage magicians. Take advantage of this fun way to jumpstart your imagination as an author. Just don’t start neglecting the writing for the board gaming.

Stay Froggy,
Jeremiah

The End Is Near

The End is NearThese little residency recaps are getting harder to do the farther I get into Seton Hill’s Writing in Popular Fiction Program. All I want to do is tinker with my novel or craft a new short story. Speaking of, I have one that’s been accepted for publication in a small-press magazine. When it’s released, I will be sure to share access to the tale everywhere I can.

My fifth residency in the program is now over. It tore through my life like a tornado. By the end, I was thanking Cthulhu for my survival. Each residency has gone by faster than the last one. If you enter the program, you should prepare for that eventuality with the appropriate time dampening technology. It’s too late for me to salvage this past residency, but it’s not too late for you to salvage your future one.

That said, I managed to retain a few awesome lessons despite the residency’s speed. Most painfully, I learned that you should apply sunscreen when driving from Greensburg to Camp Hill. I arrived home in a sun-soaked delirium with cooked skin. Less painfully, I learned that the New Pulp genre is as cool as Old Pulp, where H.P. Lovecraft rose from. Heidi Ruby Miller taught a great class on the subject. I also learned, from Jason Jack Miller, that Folk remains a pretty great source for the creation of new fiction. On my third day of the Residency, I got a fantastic crash course on sending out novel queries from a real-life publishing agent, Ms. Rachel Ekstrom Courage. Lastly, I received a spookily good lesson on the Five Senses of Dread from Dr. Michael Arnzen. On top of those modules, I got to take part in a variety of workshops with dozens of talented writers of multiple genres. Oh, and I haven’t even mentioned that I got to listen to two entertaining and enlightening talks from romance author Beverly Jenkins.

Now, with all that said, I didn’t just occupy my time learning while I attended classes. I also got to convey the lesson I spent the last part of my Teaching Popular Fiction class preparing. Thanks to fellow writer Dana Jackson, I even managed to do so with the inclusion of a YouTube clip I wanted to show (Seton Hill’s technology infrastructure is made for Macs, and I own a PC). My lesson on How to Write a Satisfying Ending came out fine, if a little fast due to my nerves. I still wish I could have delivered the lesson earlier in the residency, but the schedule disagreed with me. Either way, I made it through the class and the week. If I can finish editing one hundred and thirty-six pages and respond to my mentor’s feedback, I will be graduating during my next trip to Seton Hill in January. That’s something I wasn’t even sure would happen at the beginning of 2017. What a difference a year, combined with a huge amount of hard work, makes.

Until Next Time,
-J.D. Cook

The Road Goes Ever On

The Road Goes Ever On

Isn’t it unbelievable how fast time passes? In January of last year, I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to finish my second novel. Now I’ve got a three hundred and fifteen-page fantasy epic that consists of 95,831 words.

My thesis novel is tentatively titled, The Swords of Fellowship, and I am immensely proud to have finished the rough draft. My mentors and critique partners have offered encouragement, support, and help the entire way. In nineteen months enrolled in Seton Hill’s Writing in Popular Fiction Program I’ve learned more about writing than I had in my previous twenty-six years of life.

I’ve also been able to network with some incredibly talented, friendly, and interesting writers because of the Writing Residencies. This past January, I met young adult writer Gretchen McNeil. She wowed me with her insanely cool story concepts and life story. I’m looking forward to downloading a copy of Relic, a novel she wrote partially inspired by my favorite horror film, the Thing. It will be a perfect book to read since I just got a copy of the Thing board game for Christmas.

Back in the June Residency, I got to meet Hank Phillippi Ryan. She’s an Emmy Award Winning Investigative Reporter turned mystery novelist. I’m planning to reach out to her regarding a Lovecraftian story I’m writing with a female reporter as the protagonist. Every speaker we’ve gotten to hear at our residencies has been outstanding thus far.

In the coming semester, I’m going to be learning about how to teach creative writing. This is a subject I am almost as excited about as writing itself. I can’t wait to learn how to pass on the lessons I’ve learned. Although, I am a little sad that I won’t be reading genre books for my class this semester, as in past ones. Last semester, I read A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin, which quickly became one of my favorite fantasy stories. I also got to read terrific books like A Wrinkle in Time and Nine Princes in Amber.

Before joining this program, I’d never been able to submit my stories to magazines, ezines, or podcasts, aside from some stuff used in my college newspaper. Now I’ve sent my second short horror story out for possible publication. Keep your fingers crossed for me. Hopefully, I’ll be able to update this site with more exciting news over the next year.

Until Next Time,
-J.D. Cook