Since it was announced that King was releasing another collection of four novellas last year, I’ve been looking forward to reading it. The shutdowns due to COVID-19 delayed me getting my copy from the library by about two months (thanks, coronavirus!), but as soon as I had it, I settled down to read it and see how it stacked up against collections like Four Past Midnight and Different Seasons.

It took me maybe two weeks to read the book. What did I think?

Oh God, I was disappointed. I’m a huge King fan, but–oh God. This is definitely not one of Stephen King’s strongest collections of novellas. Out of the four stories in the collection, I disliked or was indifferent to three of them:

The first story, “Mr. Harrigan’s Phone,” follows a young boy whose relationship with a rich, elderly bachelor takes on a supernatural twist. And while it goes for a creepy coming-of-age story vibe with comments on technology addiction and how business takes place online, it feels like just your average coming-of-age story that tries to be creepy a few times. And not very well. If perhaps the story had dropped some of the literary focus and instead tried to focus on the protagonist through more supernatural terror, I might have enjoyed it a bit more.

The second story, “The Life of Chuck,” is actually three stories in one, all focusing on a man named Chuck Krantz at various stages of his life. And I didn’t see the point of all three stories being included together as one story. The three parts don’t really link up that well except for the titular character, and each has a different focus: the first is an interesting take on the verse from the Talmud “He who saves a life, saves a world entire;” the second is about an impromptu flash mob in Boston; and the third is a spooky ghost story set during Chuck’s childhood. I think if the three parts were released in separate collections, they honestly would have been stronger, especially the first and third. As they are though, I was just left annoyed and confused.

The final story, “The Rat,” is a semi-interesting story about an author trying to finish a novel in a remote cabin during a storm that takes a dark fantasy turn during the last third. And the way it takes that turn is so silly, I’m wondering if King meant for that to be a comedy/horror piece and I missed it. As it is, it’s not going to leave anyone with nightmares anytime soon.

The one story I actually liked is the third, “If It Bleeds,” starring Holly Gibney from the Bill Hodges trilogy (which I haven’t read) and The Outsider (read my review here). In this story, private eye and cinephile Holly Gibney realizes a monster like the one from The Outsider is causing death and misery after a school is bombed. It’s got a great mystery at the center, a thrilling climax, and some nice character development on the part of Holly (who, might I add, is on the spectrum with me. Positive representation!). It’s not exactly top-notch King, but it’s still very good, and I’d check out an adaptation if one were made and it was on a channel/streaming service I have access to (*hint hint wink wink*).

All in all though, If It Bleeds by Stephen King is not going to keep anyone up at night. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving the collection a 2.3, and that’s mostly for the titular story. Major King fans are going to read this one, but I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who’s either a casual fan, a new King reader, or just looking for a scary collection of stories.

For that, I recommend his collection Four Past Midnight.*

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m disappointed that this book didn’t resonate with me, but I already have my next read, Home Before Dark by Riley Sager, waiting for me to start. Hopefully that’ll scratch my horror literature itch, especially if I finish it before it has to go back to the library. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

*And would someone please make a movie based on the third story in that collection, The Library Policeman? PLEASE?!!! I would help make it and make it the best it can be if someone did.

Well, I didn’t think I would get it done, and especially not today. But get it done, I did, and now it’s time for a blog post.

As you well know, earlier this month I started working on the second draft of River of Wrath, a novel about a small town in 1960s Mississippi whose dark history is dredged up when one of the circles of Hell described in Dante’s Inferno appears in the town. I’ve been meaning to get to this draft for forever, but the deaths of George Floyd, Breona Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbury, among so many others, forced me to pull this one off the flash drive and get to work on it again. One of this story’s main themes is racism and racial violence, after all, so I can’t think of a better time to work on this story.

And I’m honestly amazed I got this story finished. For one thing, I didn’t think I’d get to keep to that goal of getting one story done a month, but I guess I did, after a fashion. And I didn’t think I’d finish it today. After all, I had about 75 pages left to edit when I got up this morning. However, a lot of work and I just kept going. Before I knew it, I only had 30 left, and I just couldn’t stop. Now it’s a bit after midnight and I’m done with the second draft. Imagine that.

On another note, this draft is now longer than the first draft! When I finished the story the first time around in October 2018, the novel was 192 pages (8.5 x 11 inches on MS Word, double-spaced, 12-point Times New Roman font) and 60,059 words. The second draft…is 204 pages and 63,843 words! I added twelve pages and nearly four-thousand words! I’m not sure if most of those words came from adding more in-depth explanations about Dante’s Inferno, as one of my beta readers advised, but it’s quite an addition. One, hopefully, that’s well worth the work.

So what’s next, both for River of Wrath and for myself? Well, before I start a third draft of River, I’d like to get it looked at by some sensitivity readers. As I said, this story deals with racism, and I want to make sure it’s not accidentally hurtful to African-Americans despite my best intentions. Hopefully, they’ll give me some insight to improve the novel and make it so that the only people who find it offensive are people whose offense I don’t care about, aka white supremacists.

As for me, I’m going to take a break for a short while. You know, watch some movies, read some books, prepare for my upcoming trip to Iowa and South Carolina. However, I’m sure I’ll get in front of the keyboard and start banging out a new story soon enough. I have an idea that’s been rattling in my head for awhile now that I think I can do a lot with, so I’m looking forward to working on it.

But for now, it’s late and I need to sleep. Good night, my Followers of Fear. And until next time, stay safe, be kind, and pleasant nightmares!

It’s hard to imagine, in the midst of this pandemic, that I have travel plans. In fact, I was SURE around March that these plans would be canceled. But, by accident and chance or by the grace of the Overarching Entity who runs this dimension, I’m doing some traveling very soon. And, as I have in years past, I’m telling you about it. Especially since there might be a chance to run into me.

Let me explain: next month, I will be traveling to Iowa and South Carolina. In Iowa, I will be visiting my good friend and fellow author Joleene Naylor, whom you’ve probably seen around the blog, as well as her husband Charles Naylor, whom you probably haven’t seen around the blog. While we’re together, we’re going to be doing some pretty cool stuff.

One of those things (and this is the part where you should pay attention), is to attend the 5th Annual Indie Author Book Expo in West Des Moines, Iowa. Specifically, we’re going to be selling books as authors. I’ll be hawking copies of Rose, of course, and Joleene will be likely selling copies of her Aramanthine vampire series. That, and there will be a whole bunch of other authors there selling wares, so you should totally come! It’s Saturday and Sunday, July 11th and 12th, from 10 AM – 6 PM on Saturday and 11 AM – 5 PM on Sunday at the Valley West Mall in West Des Moines (which is somehow both part of Des Moines and its own separate city). Come on by if you can, take some photos, get a signed copy of Rose, and maybe find some other reads to check out.

We will also be, along with two friends of Joleene and Charles, staying overnight at the Villisca Axe Murder House! That’s right, I’m staying overnight at another haunted location, and it’s another with a history of axe murder! And this time, I’m bringing friends and a GoPro along with my dowsing rods, and hopefully we’ll see some paranormal activity and catch it on video. Videos to be uploaded as soon as I can upload them.

After those adventures, I’ll be heading out to South Carolina to see my friend Ramsey Hardin, who you might remember from my New Year’s YouTube video (oh, such innocent days, when we thought 2019 couldn’t get any worse and 2020 would be full of happiness and joy! I miss those days). We’ll spend some time around his hometown, and then we’ll go to Charleston for a couple of days to explore some museums, enjoy the beach, and go on a ghost tour at night (because of course I would arrange for that! And yes, we will be taking video. Hopefully we’ll catch something cool). Should be a ton of fun.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to my trip and am gathering everything I’ll need. If you’re able to come to the expo, I hope you do. I would love to see you. And if you’re not able to be there but want to see me in Charleston or something…maybe. You may have to email well in advance and take precautions against COVID-19, though. Just saying.

Anyway, that’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. There’s a horror movie calling my name, so I’m going to put that on. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

Earlier today, someone in a movie-themed Facebook group I belong to asked when the last time other members were carded before going to see an R-rated movie (if you don’t know, in the US anyone under 17 can’t see an R-rated movie without an accompanying adult). I laughed and commented that I didn’t start seeing R-rated films in theaters until I was in college, and my student ID came with the assumption that I was already over 17. So unless you count my Student ID as being carded, I never got carded at a theater.

This made me realize something: when I told people offline about my history with going to the movies, they always react with amazement. Sometimes, given how many people still turned out to see movies in the theaters before the pandemic, it amazes me, such as the carded story. And then I realized I never told that story to my blogging audience, who would probably appreciate it the most.

So since this weekend is upon us, let me tell you about my odd history of going to the movies, and why I will likely start going again once it’s safer to do so.

First thing you should know is, until I was off at college, the most I got to go to the movies was a few times a year. It was a treat for me. There are probably several reasons for this. My parents were raising four kids and holding down full-time jobs that didn’t always hold to the normal nine-to-five. We had plenty of free movies from the libraries we patronized, as well as from video stores when those were popular and later streaming services like Netflix. Any theater I would want to go to would require a ride, which wasn’t always on hand). And perhaps I just didn’t beg enough to go see movies I was interested in, though I’m not sure how effective asking repeatedly would’ve been.

Still, we did go to see every Harry Potter movie in theaters when they came out. I did on occasion get to see the new superhero film or book adaptation or whatever when I wanted, especially for birthday parties or if I was invited out by friends, or once or twice my folks had something to do nearby and knew I would be bored senseless if I was dragged along (one time I was even dropped off to watch an action film while my sisters went to see something that was more their speed. I was really happy about that arrangement). And of course, having two sisters who were five and seven years younger than me, I got to see a lot more kids films than I care to admit.

That being said, I did miss out on seeing a lot of films I really wanted to see in theaters. And occasionally, I did feel like I was missing out. When Paranormal Activity came out, and everyone was raving about it, how it was a revolution in horror movies (and for a while, it was), I was sad because I knew I wouldn’t see it in theaters. There was no way in hell I could get my folks to agree to take me to see it, and I would need them. After all, I was only sixteen at the time.

Then college came around, and the nearest theater was only a twenty minute walk from the dorms and later the apartment where I lived. I started going regularly, paying attention to releases. And at some point, I realized that not only was going opening weekend a rush, but it was something I’d been waiting to do my whole life. I was addicted.

Wish I could hop on the TARDIS right now. Then I could see all the movies on opening weekend I want to. Even the ones that have been delayed due to COVID-19.

Even after I moved away from campus, I would go out of my way to see new movies. And then when I moved into my current apartment and learned there was another theater even closer than the ones I went to previously, I went there, taking two buses and nearly two hours to get one way and the other, no matter the weather. And when I got my car? Hoo-boy, did life get good! Now, every movie was only a twenty-minute drive away, no matter the theater I had to go to. It was a blast.

It’s been four months since I’ve been able to sit in a theater, when I saw The Invisible Man (and found it to be average). I miss it. Yeah, occasionally you have to deal with high ticket and food prices, other patrons checking their phones or bringing their babies or otherwise being noisy. And occasionally, when you ask those people to not be so distracting, they threaten you with violence (happened to me once, I did not appreciate it).

But I also enjoy sitting with like-minded viewers right before a big horror or superhero film, that rush of emotions when something amazing or terrifying or heartwarming happens, and the thoughts going through my head as I write my review in my head. I miss the experience that goes with seeing a film opening weekend.

So when it’s safe to do so, I hope to go again, and experience all that again. In fact, I probably will. It’s hard to keep me from a good horror film or superhero film anyway (and I have the eyewitness accounts and court trials to prove it).

Do you miss going to the movies, Followers of Fear? Will you go when the theaters reopen again? 

I’ve mentioned on this blog more than a few times that I make sure to write down my ideas on Word documents. This way I don’t forget them. I have a few separate lists to store these ideas, depending on the kind of idea it is. One list is just for ideas that will likely be short stories or novelettes (assuming they don’t end up evolving into something longer). And today, I had three new ideas for stories, which I made sure to put on that list. This brings that list up to a thousand ideas.

You read that right. A thousand ideas. Some good, some bad. Some are very short, and others will end up longer than most novelettes. Some are horror or dark fantasy, others are science fiction or regular fantasy, or some other form of speculative fiction. A few are erotica, because as I said in that video yesterday, I think there’s an art to writing a story where the story is told through sex. It’s something I might want to try someday.

I’m not stating this to brag. I’m just stating a fact. And you know what? I’ll never write most of them. There’s just never enough time.

It’s the sad truth of writing. We creatives have many ideas over the course of our lives. But rarely, especially in the world of writing fiction, do we get to tell all of them. Hell, I doubt even big names authors like King get to work on all the ideas he has. But it’s especially hard for those of us smaller names. We work day jobs, pay bills, run errands, eat, socialize, try to stay healthy, and try to sleep enough to function the next day. And in-between all that, we carve out time to write.

I said a lot of this when I had my five-hundredth idea, almost exactly five years ago today (what a coincidence). In fact, I’ll say again what I said in that post (which you can click here to read): Time’s a quick bastard. And it’s all we can do to keep it with us so we can get the best of your work down on paper. And maybe then edited and perhaps even published.

There’s enough time in the day for this.

And how can you tell from the trove of your ideas which ones are worth spending time on? Hard to say. Usually I can tell from the idea phase, but occasionally I write a first draft and I realize this story is crap, why did I ever try to write it? I guess the best thing to do is just to go with your gut. If you’re really passionate about a story, it’ll show in the writing and in the story, and you’ll be able to work on it over and over again, until you’re able to share it with others (hopefully, anyway).

Well, I’m going to get back to an idea I think might be worth working on. I just wanted to talk about some of the things that went through my mind as I started nearing a thousand ideas. And I wanted to talk about something other than Rose for once.

Speaking of which, tomorrow is the last day to buy the ebook version of Rose at a discount price (I couldn’t help myself). So if you want to check out the Kafkaesque fantasy-horror story of a young woman turning into a plant creature (and that’s just the start of her problems), now’s a good time to do so. I’ll include the links below, including for the paperback and audio book. And if you end up checking out the book, leave a review and let me know what you thought of it. Helps me out in the long run, and it’s nice to hear what you think.

Until next time, my Followers of Fear, pleasant nightmares!

Rose: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada, Audible

Today is a very special occasion. Yes, it’s Father’s Day, and I’ve already put something out on Facebook about that. But on a personal level, it’s important to me because one year ago today, on June 21st, 2019, my novel Rose was released. It was my first novel with a publisher, and a story I spent more time on than I had any other story, so it was a huge deal seeing it come out.

And since then, quite a lot has happened. Reviews, the audio version, readings and book events, COVID-19, and so much more. And today, June 21st, 2020, I’m celebrating the first anniversary of the book.

For those of you who don’t know, Rose follows Rose Taggert, a young woman who undergoes a stunning transformation into a human/plant hybrid. As those around her react to her transformation, some aren’t all they seem to be, leading to a desperate fight for survival. It’s a dark, Kafkaesque fantasy-horror story, and it’s been well-received by readers, averaging a 4.5 stars out of 5 on Amazon (and that’s just the US site).

Obviously, I’m doing quite a bit to celebrate the one-year anniversary (besides breaking out the beer, I mean). First off, there’s a sale for Rose going on right now, and I’ll get into that more in a bit. But also, as many of you know, I invited readers to submit questions for a Q&A I would be filming and posting to YouTube. I filmed that video a few days ago, and it premiered this morning (which I slept through despite my best efforts. God, I was tired). If you would like to check out the video, I’ve embedded it down below.

 

What did you think? I did a few new things with this video, including adding background music at certain parts and filming the video in small sections so as to make filming and editing a bit easier.

Anyway, I hope you’ll join me in celebrating the one-year publishing anniversary of Rose. As I said, and as this nifty little banner from Castrum Press, Rose‘s publisher, makes clear, the book is on sale. Specifically, the e-book is on sale through Tuesday. So if you would like to download the e-book, now’s a really good time to do it. Of course you can always check out the paperback and audio formats, those are still available as well.

And if you do end up reading Rose, please leave a review and let me know what you think. Positive or negative, I love reader feedback, and reviews help me out in the long run by encouraging new readers to maybe check out the book.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ll leave links down below for those who want to check out Rose. In the meantime, I’ll hopefully have a few posts out later this week not related to Rose but still just as interesting. Until then, happy reading, stay safe, and pleasant nightmares!

Rose: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada, Audible

Yes, it’s another Rose post. And guess what? You haven’t seen the last one of these this month!

Anyway, as you can tell by the lovely banner up above that Castrum Press has provided, the ebook version of Rose is on sale right now. Specifically, it’s on sale between today, June 19th, and Tuesday, June 23rd. Only 99 cents here in the US, and 99 pence over in the United Kingdom. And yes, this is in honor of Rose‘s one-year publishing anniversary on Sunday. How did you guess?

Anyway, this is a great opportunity to check out Rose if you haven’t already, and you enjoy reading ebooks. And even if you don’t, I’ll include links below so you can check out other formats and maybe read some reviews. And if you do end up reading Rose, please leave a review and let me know what you think. Positive or negative, I love feedback, and it helps me out in the long run. Not to mention, your reviews tell other people whether or not they should read the book. Now that’s power!

As for the YouTube Q&A, that’s all set to go this Sunday morning at 11 AM Eastern Standard Time (unless I screwed up setting the premiere time, which is always a possibility). I’ll be sure to post it here so you all can see it when it comes out. In the meantime though, there’s a good chance of a blog post between now and then from me, so keep an eye out for it.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Hope you enjoy reading Rose. And until next time, stay safe and pleasant nightmares!

Rose: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada, Audible

I promise, this is the last reminder post. Please get your finger away from the unsubscribe button and tell your partners to please put away the torches and pitchforks. It’ll take a lot more than that to get rid of me, anyway.

As I’ve been telling people for about a month now, the one-year publishing anniversary of my novel Rose is only five days away, on June 21st. The novel, for those of you who haven’t read it, is a Kafkaesque fantasy-horror about a young woman who finds herself transformed into a plant/human hybrid. As people in her life react to the changes, she finds out one or two of them aren’t who they seem to be, leading to a desperate fight for survival.

And you thought your life was tough!

Anyway, since the anniversary is just a few days away, I thought it would be fun to do a Q&A on my YouTube channel. And guess what? You, the Followers of Fear, get to submit the questions!

Just send an email to my email address, ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com, with your name, where you’re from, and up to two questions, and your questions may end up in the video. HOWEVER, you have to send them in by noon tomorrow, June 17th. Otherwise, your questions won’t make it into the video. Sorry, just the way it is.

But guess what else? If you submit questions and you’re from the US or UK, you may be eligible for a download code for the Rose audio book! I’d submit just for that, if I wasn’t running the damn thing.

I look forward to receiving those emails. And I look forward to hearing what you have to say when the actual video comes out. Look forward to it!

And in the meantime, if you haven’t read Rose yet and that summary and cover up above got you interested, I’ll include links down below. Or you can buy a signed copy from me by sending me an email. And if you do read the book, leave me a review and let me know. Positive or negative, I love reader feedback and it helps me out in the long run.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Until next time (whenever that is), pleasant nightmares!

Rose: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada, Audible

I only realized after I wrote the title of this post that there’s a rhyme in there. Wrath and Draft. Didn’t intend for that.

If you read my post from last Saturday, you’ll remember that I was trying to write a story taking place after the end of the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, I was going to write a story wit a certain theme derived from one of my own challenges with self-isolation. And I couldn’t find a plot or a story line to fit with what I was going for. So, I moved onto the next story on my list: editing the first draft of River of Wrath after nearly two years since finishing it.

For those of you who don’t know, River of Wrath was one of those stories I began that I thought was going to be very short but ended up being very long. The story follows a small town in 1960’s Mississippi with a dark history to it that suddenly has its history dredged up when one of the circles of Hell appears in the town one day.

I’ve been meaning to edit this story for forever. I originally wrote it on and off over the course of a year, finishing it in October 2018. Since then, it’s been lying dormant on my flash drive, but recent events, such as the deaths of George Floyd, Breona Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many others, have compelled me to look at it again. After all, one of the novel’s main themes are the consequences of racism and racial violence, and given how much those subjects have been brought to the forefront of society’s consciousness, I can’t think of a better time to work on the story.

Of course, I’ll at some point have to have sensitivity readers look at this story to ensure that I’ve handled the themes in a way that’s helpful rather than upsetting. But right now, the focus is to take a look at the first draft and maybe pull something worth reading out of it.

Anyway, the goal is to get the second draft done by the end of the month, keeping with my goal to get at least one story done a month. So far, I’ve been able to do that since I finished Toyland in February, but given that we’re nearly halfway through the month already and I’m still pretty early in the story, it’ll be a challenge.

Oh well. Sometimes these things happen. You just have to roll with it and hope for the best.

Anyway, I’ll keep you updated on River and other projects as time goes on. I hope to have positive news soon on some stories, but as you know, it depends on finding the right people who think my stories are worth a risk.

In the meantime, as you know, you have until Wednesday, June 17th at noon to submit questions for the YouTube Q&A I’ll be doing for the one-year publishing anniversary of Rose. Just send your name, where you’re from, and up to two questions to ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com by the deadline, and your questions could appear in the video. And even better, if you’re from the US or UK, you could win a download code for the Rose audio book.

You can also order signed copies of Rose by sending an email to that same address, by the way. Or you can find the book on Amazon and Audible.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Until next time, Shabbat Shalom, stay safe and pleasant nightmares!

Don’t worry, this is only the second-to-last post to remind you this is on the way. I promise.

Many of you already know this, but the one year anniversary of my fantasy-horror novel Rose being published is on June 21st. If you’re unfamiliar with Rose, it’s the terrifying, Kafkaesque horror story of a young woman turning into a plant creature (and that’s just the start of her problems). And with the one year anniversary just around the corner, I wanted to do something special to mark the occasion. That’s why I’m hosting a Q&A on my YouTube channel. And guess what? You, the Followers of Fear, get to submit the questions! That’s right, you!

All you have to do is send an email to my email address, ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com, with your name, where you’re from, and up to two questions. Send it in before noon on Wednesday, June 17th, and your questions will end up in the video.

Not only that, but if you’re from the US or the UK, you may be eligible to win a download code for the Rose audio book! Doesn’t that sound like reason enough to enter?

Anyway, you guys have a week, so better start thinking about what you want to ask. I have a busy day ahead of me, so I’ll check in with you all later.

And in the meantime, if you haven’t read Rose yet but the above description and that beautiful cover makes you want to, I’ll post the links below. Or you can buy a signed copy from yours truly by sending me an email. And if you do read the book, please let me know what you think in a review. Positive or negative, I love reader feedback, and it helps me out in the long run.

Until next time, my Followers of Fear, pleasant nightmares!

Rose: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada, Audible