38. 5 Years of Haunt
In February 2018, I published my first book. In more ways than I expected, it was a learning experience, but ultimately a rewarding one. Haunt is a collection of poems that I couldn't be more proud of. From ominous interludes to experimental formats, I threw as many bells and whistles into a box that I could, shook it around, and watched Haunt unfold. It's dark, it's campy, it's sad in places, looming and eerie in others. There may be things I would have done differently, in editing as well as publishing decisions, but this book helped me enter a world I never thought I would, and for that I'm forever humbled and grateful.
This month in 2023, Haunt celebrates 5 years of publication. First of all, I want to thank everyone who supported me from the start. This project began as an independent study at school (shout-out to the English department at Southern Connecticut State University! Additional shout-out to Vivian Shipley!), and bubbled over into something uniform, perplexing, and of course, haunting. But this isn't a review of my own work - that would be a bit self-indulgent. I wanted to take some time to dive into a few fun facts about Haunt, and explore some frequently asked questions, as well as some tidbits I think are interesting to share.
Playing with Ekphrasis
Where You Thought the Answers Were
No Cobwebs on These Bookshelves
Finally, and probably the most direct: Haunt is available now, wherever you buy books! Both of my books are available mostly everywhere online, and if you're hoping to see it in-person on store bookshelves, you can call your local bookstore to inquire about stock. If they don't currently carry physical copies, you can ask them to order one for you. Shopping local is helpful, not only to your community, but also to independent presses and authors, like myself. A little always goes a long way! And remember to leave a review wherever you purchased either book. Reviews help in so many ways, and are always appreciated!
So thank you all again for supporting me by checking out my work, following me on socials, and even just perusing my website. It does not go unnoticed, and keeps me inspired to continue writing. I am hard at work on my next project, and I don't have a clear timeline just yet, but am super excited to share it with the world.
Leave a comment: if you've read Haunt, what are your favorite poems, and why?
37. Aries & Auroras: A 2023 Update
At least I didn't go a whole year without blogging... One month short is something, right?
I planned on looking back at 2022, but I figured that the news I had for the beginning of 2023 was perfect to bring to the Nothing Peak blog! Let's dive in.
Ok, this is technically an end-of-2022 update, but I haven't taken the time to talk much about being featured by IngramSpark for their Author Spotlight series! It was nice to have the chance to advocate for independent publishing, talk a little bit about my books Haunt & Tempest, and answer some questions from the folks at IngramSpark. I'll always rave about how great their program is for indie authors wanting to get their work out there, albeit its learning curves. Its distribution services alone are enough to warrant the hard work that goes into self-publishing. You can watch my Author Spotlight video here!
As always, thanks for all the support and encouragement. It really does motivate me to keep writing, experimenting, and thinking of creative ways to market & promote my work. If you do read any of the anthologies or collections that feature my work, be sure to leave a review wherever you've purchased them! A quick, kind review can go a long way. And of course, sharing my blogs and any news I post about is always welcomed and appreciated. Until next time!
36. One Year of Tempest
It's me, yet again returning to the Nothing Peak blog after many months of total silence! One day I'll get better at blogging. One day.
But I wanted to dive back in to say hi and celebrate one year of Tempest! I can't believe it's been a year since I published this book. Since March of 2021, so much has happened, and I've received so much positive feedback from readers all over. I'm humbled every day that this book resonated with so many people. Of course, I'll give a shout-out to those who weren't fans of Tempest, and those who left less-than-satisfactory reviews. You can't win 'em all, and I never expect to. Nothing is ever perfect, so the fact that not every review is a full 5 stars just shows me that there's always room for growth. I appreciate you all!
Let's run through the last year of exciting news, special events, and other goings-on to commemorate this first anniversary.
Wherever Books Are Sold
Tempest was my first time self-publishing through IngramSpark, a program that offers so many things to indie writers. Without them, my books (both of them, since I added Haunt to IS as well) might not have been as widely available across numerous channels. My books can be found online almost everywhere books are sold, and also in print at many select markets, both chain and independent.
Reminder! If you want to support local, but your favorite bookstore doesn't have physical copies of my books (or any book you are looking for, really), you can ask them to order them for you. Some great resources for shopping local are IndieBound and Bookshop.org. I list these and more options at my Books page.
Extra reminder! Don't forget to leave a review of either book online wherever you bought it. It helps my visibility, and it is helpful to those websites in terms of starred reviews, site features, and more.
In the Media
A huge part of my 2021 was seeing Tempest (and in turn, Haunt, too) all over, in the news and in some huge media outlets. The me from a year and a half ago, knee-deep in the publishing world, would have been floored. And honestly, I still am!
For Tempest, it started off with a surprise feature in a "Best LGBTQ+ Books to Add to Your Reading List in 2021" list from Cosmopolitan. Due to my own personal experience and the recurring themes of identity and self-discovery throughout Tempest, I felt it necessary and important to consider the LGBT category when setting up my book and sending out pitches for review. But hopefully, everyone can relate to the musings my book has to offer, to some degree.
Most recently, Tempest scored a great review from Foreword's Clarion Reviews, which offered thoughtful insights into the varied imagery and metaphors I steeped in this poetic venture. You can find that and more, including features in Forbes, Publisher's Weekly, and Pop-Culturalist, here. I've got some more fun stuff coming up down the pipeline, so keep an eye out!
Lastly, and probably the most challenging part, given the pandemic, I have been able to get as involved as possible when it comes to supporting local Connecticut organizations and hosting events. Throughout 2021, I placed ads in the Triangle Community Center's event guides to support them and to spread the word about my work. I've attended their Pride in the Park event in the past, and they sure know how to throw a party!
The most recent development has been my involvement with the Trumbull Library just a few towns over, where I've been hosting monthly poetry meet-ups. It's been so great to be able to sit with fellow creatives and those with an interest in writing to talk all things reading, writing, and publishing. And each month I try to challenge everyone to write a bit, too, using creative prompts. More is on the way, so keep an eye on this space here for event updates!
I'd like to end this with a huge thank you to everyone who has supported me and my work over the past year. Of course, an additional thanks to those who have been supporting me since the release of Haunt in 2018. Without you, I wouldn't have been able to accomplish all that I have, nor had the confidence to achieve what I've set out to do regarding promoting these books and my craft. I look forward to what is to come in 2022 and beyond! Here's to many more years of sharing art together!
35. Tempest FAQ
1. Where Can I Buy the Book?
Almost everywhere! If you want to shop local / support indie bookstores, IndieBound and Bookshop are for you. It's also available at major retailers like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, as well as places like Hudson Bookstore, and on international book buying websites! Links are on the book page, and you can also search by title (you might want to try the whole title verbatim, Tempest: Poems, because there is a writer named Kae Tempest, and they join this book in most Google searches.) And this book does have the potential for physical sales in local bookstores! If you don't see it at your local shop or B&N, etc., make sure to tell the shop owners they should carry it. I'll be doing the same! Pre-order now; available March 1, 2021.
2. What Inspired Your Choice of Cover Art? / Why Flamingos?
Okay, hear me out... I first saw this design on wallpaper in the bathroom of a restaurant I was having brunch at a few years back. Imagine those flamingos covering a whole room! I was taken aback, but also a bit inspired. Cut to months later, when I was playing around with cover design options, and I found the design again. I knew it was meant to be! I use PicMonkey for my book cover designs, digital assets, etc., and they work through Unsplash, where artists can donate their work to get their names out there, which is so cool. The artist, who has some great photos up on the site, is Stephane YAICH. Go check out the profile!
And why flamingos? I wanted to provide a sense of nature and light, given the connotations of the title, Tempest. It's a balance I hoped to achieve in this book, opposing dark and light, carrying themes of human nature as well as the natural world. Plus, that pink color is so bold and vastly different from my first book, that it just felt right. And I think it looks great. So thanks to all of you who have agreed!
3. What Were Some of Your Inspirations for Writing Tempest?
I do talk a little bit about this in the Foreword that I wrote for the book, so I won't go into too much detail. But Tempest was named after the Deftones song of the same name. And I think subconsciously, the cover draws from the similar album cover of their 2016 record Gore. Their music contains a lot of the tones and dichotomies that I wanted to bring forth in my book. And this book draws a lot more from my own personal experiences, my own journey of self-identity, feelings of hope and fear... And this does have an LGBTQ+ subject category, but I don't want to define the entirety of the book as queer. It is human, it is honest, and it isn't completely non-fiction. Anyone who knows me knows I mostly lean towards writing fictional stories. But there is always a little bit of the writer in all of their works. And I am who I am, so Tempest has absorbed a lot of me, more so than Haunt did.
4. How Long Have You Been Working on This?
Some of these poems have definitely been sitting around for a while. I would say much of this book was written over the last few years or so, but if I want to get technical, some of the pieces in Tempest I first wrote as early as 2012/2013, when I really started diving into poetry in college. And some of these poems have been workshopped in the courses I took in school, so if any of my classmates from my creative writing courses are reading this, you might recognize a few of the poems!
5. What Poem Changed the Most from First to Final Draft?
Hmm, good question! Probably a piece in the book called "Long, Long After." It started as something much more ambiguous and abstract, and after a few rounds of editing, it became more of a story, and the central character was a bit more fleshed out and unique, yet relatable.
7. How Did You Publish This Book?
I am self-publishing Tempest through IngramSpark. They are the self-publishing branch of Ingram, one of the top book distributors. I wanted the book to be as widely available as possible, so I decided to go with IS, and so far, I'm happy with the result. And many bookstores have accounts with Ingram, so if you do bring up the book to your local shops, you can throw in there that they can order through Ingram!
6. What's the Vibe?
Sad, hopeful, anxious, queer, confident, unsure, hesitant, ambitious, strong, still sometimes spooky, and unapologetic. And pink!
Thanks again for all the support so far, and I hope you liked these answers to your questions. I'm happy to answer any more questions that you have! Leave some in the comments below, send me an email, message me on social media. And when you get your copies of Tempest, be sure to leave reviews everywhere you can! Amazon, B&N, Goodreads, anywhere would be a great help to make this book as accessible to everyone as it can be. Thanks all!
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34. Ryan's Top Albums of 2020
I said this in my last blog post, I know it's been a while. Between everything going on in the world right now and working hard on my follow-up to Haunt, I've neglected this blog page. But I have recently appeared on a podcast to talk about Haunt, so that was fun! You should definitely check that out if you haven't already. I might have revealed some fun tidbits about my next book. More news about that to come soon, promise!
It's safe to say that because I've been writing a lot, I've been listening to music a lot this year, and there has certainly been a plethora of great records to come out in this *blessed* year of 2020. I thought I'd share what I've been listening to and what's inspired me, and I hope to hear your thoughts, and what music has kept you sane this year as well. Here are my top albums of 2020 (edited 2/15/2021):
Honorable Mentions (in no particular order)
In This Moment – The In-Between
The Used – Heartwork
JoJo – Good to Know
10 Years – Violent Allies
Nothing But Thieves – Moral Panic
What were your favorite albums of the year? Do you agree with any of the choices on my list? Let me know in the comments! Hope everyone has a safe and happy New Year, and I'm looking forward to some exciting announcements in 2021. Keep an eye out!
Buy Haunt here. Preview my books here. Find me on social here.
33. Ryan's Top 10 Albums of 2019
We're nearing the end of 2019, and I haven't posted to the blog in a little while, but I wanted to write about some of my favorite music that released over the last 12 months, and wish you all a happy holiday season and a happy New Year. Music is a huge inspiration for my writing, and plays a big part when it comes to my stories and poetry. It's important for me, so I thought it'd be appropriate for the Nothing Peak blog. So let's jump right in! Here are my Top 10 Albums of 2019!
Palace - Life After
Saint Mesa - Nocturne
Lorn - Drown the Traitor Within
Better Off - Reap What You Sow
Within Temptation - Resist
It's been quite the last few weeks, but I'm going to try to be more consistent with blogging, or at least better about it. I've been meaning to write about this year's Connecticut HorrorFest, an event I've attended for many of the last several years. This is a small convention, but the CT HorrorFest crew attracts great crowds and scores some awesome special guests every year. This past September, they hosted a Hellraiser reunion; Pinhead himself, Doug Bradley, returned to the con, this time joined by other cenobites! And to my excitement, some cast members of the Saw franchise attended, giving me another chance to meet Tobin Bell, the man behind Jigsaw. I met Bell, as well as Shawnee Smith, who played Amanda. I also got the chance to meet Don Shanks, who played The Shape in Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers, and David Naughton from An American Werewolf in London. On top of all of that, we got some sweet merch from the show from so many amazing vendors! The official HorrorFest coverage from Horror News Network (linked below), and CTNow Coverage (linked on the CT HorrorFest site) provides a better look at these vendors and the other fun products they sell. Click through the gallery below for photos from the event. Thanks to the CT HorrorFest team for another great show; here's to many more!
Check out additional coverage of the 2019 HorrorFest, and to learn more about this event, go to Horror News Network, here.
31. Movie Review: IT Chapter 2
Catching up with the Nothing Peak blog schedule in the best way possible: reviewing the latest horror release. IT Chapter 2 hits theaters this weekend, and we all know I got my ticket almost right when they went on sale. I was a fan of the first chapter, and have been impatiently waiting for this follow-up. This is a spoiler-free review, so if you'd like, you can read this before you check out the film. But make your own opinions and see it regardless! Then we can discuss.
Overall, IT Chapter 2 is a wild ride, full of fun and intense moments. but it's not without flaws. (More below)
Bill Skarsgård shines in the role of Pennywise. He loses a bit of his mystery (maybe I shouldn't be gendering this cosmic entity, but I digress), but that comes with the price of a sequel: we're going to see more of the monster. Any less won't be satisfying. So the increase in violence, in certain memorable scenes, makes up for it. The opening scene as well as a few of the kills, and some of Pennywise's mind games, get intense. But it's clear that Pennywise has to adapt his game for the new era, 27 years after his last appearance. Kids today are not the same as they were then, and this movie illustrates that effectively. But it's still clear that the actor enjoys playing the part, which is magnified by his casting (still can't believe that Pennywise's "lazy" eyes are not computer-generated. That's all Skarsgård!).
Where the film stumbles is in some of its themes, the overuse of CGI effects and humor, and a few of the creature designs. The idea of facing your fears is timeless and relatable, but coupled with the tired "we're bound by friendship, and we believe" tropes, it runs dry, more so in the final act. That's not to say the final act isn't a huge improvement over the original miniseries, where the Losers fling rocks at an ugly claymation spider. Pennywise has different tricks up his sleeve in this round, but again, the CGI took me out of it, a bit.
Same went with the film's comedic aspects. Sure, comedic relief is a much needed asset in films like this, but when the movie is more funny than it is scary, the stakes are lowered, and we don't fear for the characters as much as we should. In a film with such a harrowing and gut-wrenching opening sequence (to arguably stand against that of Chapter 1), the humor should have been peppered in. Lastly, and this might be coupled with the CGI note, some of the creatures that Pennywise takes shape of are not gripping. While some of them are rather intense and interesting, some fall flat, or give us a "WTF?" reaction, rather than a scared one.
Like the first installment, the glue that holds this film together is its stellar cast. Everyone brings something different to the table, and I think the film's team did a great job casting the adult Losers. But I do wish we'd focused a bit more on them as adults than as kids, however. As much as I loved the kids, some fewer scenes with them could have lent more time for us to bond with these new ideations of the Losers Club. But Bill Hader excels as Richie Tozier, the passionate loudmouth. The character shows his true colors in this installment, and Hader portrays them exceptionally. And like I said, everyone else did a great job in their respective roles, but I would have liked to have gotten some more time with the adult Losers. I will say the restaurant scene where they all come together for the first time after 27 years apart is fantastic and showcases the cast's chemistry well.
I'd be lying if I said these films were both perfect. It's small things that keep them from reaching a perfect store, and so much has been improved upon from the miniseries, and in some ways admittedly, the book. But it is still full of Easter eggs and a few fun cameos, one of which can't be missed. I'm seriously happy with these standout Stephen King adaptations. And I'm excited to see where the young Losers Club actors go from here.
If you've seen IT Chapter 2, let me know what you think! Give spoiler alerts when appropriate. Don't ruin it for anyone who hasn't seen it yet! Were you satisfied with this installment? What were some of your favorite parts? Let's discuss!
Buy Haunt here. Preview my books here. Find me on social here.
30. Stephen King Favorites
It's only been a week since my last post, but I know I missed a week in the last month or so, and I can't hold back my excitement for next week's release of IT: Chapter 2, so I wanted to discuss some of my favorite Stephen King stories. I'll talk about the books and novellas in this countdown. So here are 5 of my favorite Stephen King stories, to get us prepared to head back to Derry, Maine in less than a week!
What are some of your favorite King stories? Are you excited for IT: Chapter 2 and the other Stephen King movie adaptations on the horizon? Let me know what you think in the comments, and tell me what you hope to see in the future, whether it's a novel or a film/TV adaptation!
Buy Haunt here. Preview my books here. Find me on social here.
I was both excited and anxious to learn about the film adaptation of Alvin Schwartz and Stephen Gammell's Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, a series of books that made chills run down the spines of the kids who got their hands on these creepy tales and the horrifying illustrations that accompanied them. Book-to-film adaptations, as we all know, are pretty hit-or-miss. But once I heard that Guillermo del Toro was behind this film, I was all ears. And the trailers alone, giving us glimpses at André Øvredal's direction, kept me eager to see more.
Overall, I did enjoy this film. While I did wish that we knew more about the stories themselves, given that these monsters show up and make certain characters disappear, their designs were great, and the tone of the film was perfect. It reminds me of a del Toro film meets Disney Channel originals like Don't Look Under the Bed and Phantom of the Megaplex. For kids, they're certainly scary. And for adults, they're fun. But Scary Stories takes that extra step further, especially with the disturbing creatures that haunt the screen.
The acting is strong for a film like this, delivering strong performances from Zoe Margaret Colletti, Michael Garza, Gabriel Rush, and Austin Zajur, our four central characters. Colletti can certainly carry a film, and was impressive for what seems to be her first starring role. I'm interested to see what other projects she takes on. As for the film itself, like I said, I did wish we knew more about the specific stories that "write themselves" in Sarah Bellows' book. We get snippets, as the characters study them to look for who that story will be about, and whether or not they have a chance at saving them. But the movie does leave room for sequels, as there are three books in the series, and definitely room to explore more of the scary stories.
This isn't a movie I'd necessarily recommend for theater viewing, to be honest. It is fun for those familiar with the books, to see the monsters you recognize on the big screen, but in terms of ultimate payoff, a night at home with the lights off should suffice. It's a fun Halloween-night type of film, close to but not quite reaching the ranks of, say, Trick 'r' Treat.
Did you see Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark? What did you think? Did you read the books? Let me know in the comments. Let's discuss!