The original Blair Witch Project was a huge phenomenon, no matter what you thought of it. But after the disastrous and nonsensical sequel (the closest I’ll ever get to watching that piece of crap is the Nostalgia Critic review, that’s how bad it is), fans despaired of ever getting more Blair Witch. But last year, Lionsgate announced a new film, and fans wondered if that would be the follow-up they wanted. Now, I wasn’t a fan of the original when I saw it. I thought it was a silly found footage film with really stupid characters (follow the creek! It leads somewhere, you dumbasses!). But I was open to a sequel, and I wanted to see if they did better than the original.

I can say, they definitely did better than the original. The film follows James, the younger brother of the girl from the original movie, his girlfriend Lisa, his childhood friend Peter, and Peter’s girlfriend Ashley. James has been haunted since his sister disappeared when he was four, so when footage purporting to show his sister alive hits the Internet, James wants to find out more, and Lisa decides to make it the subject of her documentary project. They meet up with Lane and Talia, the people who found the footage, who accompany them into the woods. And that’s when things get creepy.

So what did Blair Witch do well? I liked that with this film they tried to actually answer the question of whether the Blair Witch is real or just mental stress gone wild (I won’t say what for those who want to be surprised). They also try to explain things from the first film that never got answered, like what the stick figures represent, or why that guy at the end of the first film was standing in a corner. And I like that they try to give some context to the Blair Witch. While I do maintain that mystery and unknown make a horror villain scarier, the first film overdid that so that we had no idea what to think. This film tries to balance that.

I also thought it was cool how the characters stocked up on everything to make sure that they don’t end up lost. They have walkie-talkies, GPS devices, earpieces that have GPS and cameras built in and are apparently damage-proof (though how do the girls with their long hair never obscure the cameras?). They even have a drone for aerial shots and location tracking! That’s so cool (though I realize that the use of a drone in my new short story The Red Burst isn’t as original as I thought it had been).

While the characters are as flat as can be (found footage films are worse on that subject than many  slasher films), the actors do a very good job with what they have. There’s this palpable tension when James and his crew meet Lane and Talia, and find out they have a Confederate flag hung up in their house (Peter and Ashley are black. Awkward!), and that tension carries on through the course of the film. And when these characters are afraid, you buy that they’re afraid. It’s not goofy or hammy, it does look scared.

And finally, there are some creepy moments, particularly in the final third. There is a creepy, at times claustrophobic atmosphere, and you do feel that while watching. The jump scares are also very good, and I always like a good jump scare when balanced with other elements in a film.

Oh, and that shaky camera movement! I hate that shaky camera movement! And it gets a lot more annoying when you add in electronic interference with the camera. We want to see a film, not unsteady hands and technical issues with the equipment!

That being said, Blair Witch does have its problems. For one thing, the film kind of does the same point-for-point story copy that The Force Awakens did with A New Hope, but while that was okay there, here it’s not. I understand that it was trying to tie back into the first film with all the appropriate nods to the audience, but I think the film might’ve been better by going a different route. With horror sequels, we like for new ground to be tread, or we get bored. And while they do explain some things, others aren’t explained very well or at all, and to top it all off, the film may have revealed a little too much near the end.

While there are plenty of grades I could give this film, I do think Blair Witch is a much more successful horror film than the original was, and for that, I’ll be giving it a 3.0 out of 5. It’s not the best horror film, but it’s a good Blair Witch film, and I think in the end that’s what the filmmakers were hoping for. Even if they’ve probably made it difficult to ever make another Blair Witch film ever again with that ending (though that might be a good thing).

Well, I’m writing this at a time I’m normally preparing for bed, but what can I say? When you’re on a roll and nearing the end, you just don’t stop writing.

Now, if you didn’t know, I’m taking a short break from working on Full Circle to work on some short stories. This particular short story, The Red Burst, is one I particularly had fun writing. The story is about a man and his husband who go to visit the former’s sister in a small town, only to find out that something that gives off bursts of red light (hence the title) is driving the residents insane. It’s definitely a dark story, and it’s special too for a number of reasons. One is that this story is very HP Lovecraft-influenced in many ways.

Now, if you’re unfamiliar with HP Lovecraft, he’s a horror author who wrote during the first half of the twentieth century, and has become very influential since (see my posts on my forays into his work, Part 1 and Part 2). A lot of his themes include the idea that humanity are ants in the grand scheme of things, that there’s no real meaning to existence, and that there might be things in the universe that are bigger than us and might see us as a food source or playthings. This is called cosmic horror, and I tired to incorporate those themes into The Red Burst. I got so hooked on the Lovecraft aspect of the story, I actually started reading his work again, and I listened to Lovecraft-themed relaxation videos on YouTube while I wrote the story (yes, those are a thing. Look up Ephemeral Rift on YouTube if you’re interested).

Another thing I liked about this story was that I got to incorporate a gay couple into the story. Even better, a Jewish gay couple! I like having diverse characters in my stories, and I know a lot of LGBT Jewish couples, so it was interesting having that sort of couple in the story, portraying not just their relationship but also their faith and how the events of the story affect that faith. I have a feeling though some of those LGBT couples I know will be coming up to me asking if I based the characters on them. The answer to that, of course, is no, because they haven’t done anything horrible enough to warrant that treatment from me.

And a final thing that I enjoyed with writing the story was that I got to use a drone in it! I don’t know why, but including modern elements in horror stories is just a blast for me. It’s like, “look, there’s a powerful demon from Hell, and now there’s an augmented reality game!” Or, “there’s a ghost after me, but at the same time, superhero franchises!” It’s like they don’t go together, but at the same time you make them go together, and it’s an incredible result. Plus with some, like the drone, you feel like there aren’t that many stories with the same elements in them, so you’re kind of exploring new territory. It’s a real thrill.

So what’s next for this story? Well, I’ll give it some time and return to it at a later date to edit it. It’s around 7,500 words, but I’ve discovered quite a few Lovecraft-themed magazines that are open to longer stories, so I may find this one a home. And if it does get published, I think people will really enjoy it. Especially Lovecraft fans who like a story with his themes but without language that was prevalent in early 19th century.

In the meantime, I’ll return to Full Circle ASAP and get to work on finishing that. I still have quite a ways to go, but after working on some short stories involving werewolves, cars, and insanity-causing red lights, I think some gangster science fiction shouldn’t be too hard. I’ll let you guys know if there’s anything new going on when the time comes.

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

Well, here’s something I didn’t think I’d get to until it became apparent in the past couple of months that it was going to happen. Rami Ungar the Writer has reached the 50,000 views milestone! After five months, four months, and seven days, we’ve reached 50K! Followers of Fear, find a partner and do the dance of joy!

I’ve always wanted to do that.

I say this every time I reach a milestone, but I’m incredibly grateful that you guys continue to come back every time I publish a post. For the first two years or so of this blog, there were times where I wouldn’t get views on my blog for several days, and then get a bump of maybe one or two, and then that would be it for a while. Likes and comments were even rarer, and followers came in at a trickle. It made me wonder if I wasting time with a blog, trying to build an audience that way.

But somehow, I persevered. And you guys kept appearing, and a good chunk of you kept coming back. Slowly, views and likes and comments started increasing. There were even times when I’d get spikes into the hundreds or even the thousands! And then the followers started to rise, and I started calling you my Followers of Fear, and none of you seemed to care one way or another on that one, so I kept going with it. And then a couple of months ago I got to the five-thousand likes milestone, and I was like, “Holy crap, I might get another one soon!” And now it’s come to pass.

Thank you, Followers of Fear. I really appreciate the continued patronage and support. I hope you continue to support me for the next fifty-thousand years (hopefully it won’t take another five years to get there) as I work on becoming a great horror novelist.

And on that subject, there are a couple more announcements I’d like to make while I still have your attention.

Firstly, look at your search bar. You’ve probably noticed, but this site is no longer ramiungarthewriter.wordpress.com, but just ramiungarthewriter.com. Yep, I updated my blog into a full website. Why did I do this? Well, beyond the fact that web address is a bit of mouthful and shortening it makes it a bit less of a mouthful, I’m trying a bunch of new strategies and tactics to increase readership both on my blog and with my books. One of those tactics is to upgrade to a full website, which gives me a couple of distinct benefits. One is now I have an official author email address. That’s right, you can now email me! With a lot of successful authors, I’ve noticed that they have more than a few ways to be interactive with their fanbases, so now I have one more.

So if you want to email me about my books, or a blog post or something, you can write me at ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com. I don’t know how often I’ll check my mailbox or how quickly I’ll get back to you, but it’s something I’m devoting effort too.

On a related note, I’m also setting up an email newsletter. This, I hope, is where people who are interested will hear first about publications and contests and other things related to my writing career. I have a feeling that people are getting tired of seeing the latest short story being finished or the latest novel review, so I think I’ll put out something separate that focuses on that, and put stuff on the blog related to the intricacies of writing and of horror, as well as the occasional post about my life or my thoughts on certain subjects.

This is all part of my New Year’s Resolution, which is to be better at getting people interested in my stories and in my writing in general. Will it succeed? No idea, but at least I’m sticking with my New Year’s Resolution and keeping things simple by going for an achievable goal with achievable steps. And I’m open to other tactics that could help me accomplish this. Heck, I may even try Goodreads again, if I can get a better handle on how to work that site.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ve kind of rambled a bit in this post, but at least I’ve gotten a chance to talk about the good news and show some of the progress I’ve made since New Year’s. Until next time!

I’ve just published my first article of the year on the site Self-Published Authors Helping Other Authors. This time, it’s Backstory isn’t Character, and is in response to some things I’ve seen recently in various works of fiction. That problem, as you can tell from the title, is writers thinking a backstory is the same as having a character with a fully-rounded personality. Um, no it isn’t. And in this article, I discuss why that is and how to avoid it in fiction you write, so make sure to check it out if you’re interested.

In addition, I highly encourage you to check out Self-Published Authors Helping Other Authors in full. It is a great website to get advice on writing, editing, publishing and marketing effectively as an independent writer, and it is absolutely free. It’s from authors, by authors, and for authors. Check it out and see for yourself what an excellent resource it is.

Well, I’m doing that thing where authors look at the year before and be hopeful about the year to come. And I have to say, 2016 was not the easiest year to deal with. Even the people who called 2015 shitty say 2016 was worse. Many people we cared about, from celebrities to icons to just ordinary loved ones, died. The world was rocked by a number of incidents, big and small, that showed that hate and prejudice is still alive and well in many countries one would consider tolerant (let alone the openly-intolerant countries). Groups like ISIS, and events like Brexit and the American presidential election left people the world over confused and terrified about the future. Illnesses and conflicts and starvation raged, and people suffered.

And movies that were supposed to be great, like Batman v. Superman, Suicide Squad, and Ghostbusters, either were terrible or didn’t make the money they should’ve (stuff like that bums me out).

Yeah, this year has been tough. But there have been some amazing things, good things, that have happened this year. We have comedians like Trevor Noah and Jon Oliver and Samantha Bee, who are using their platforms to educate people about existing issues and even find ways to do some good. Thousands of refugees from war-torn Syria and other areas have found homes in more stable countries, and have started rebuilding their lives. Celebrities like Jennifer Lawrence and Emma Watson are using their fame to fight for issues like feminism and equal pay. Hollywood is putting out more movies and TV shows that reflect their viewers, including black-ish, Speechless, and the Fast & Furious movies, to name a few, and while there are still missteps here and there, this shows that the makers of our media care about our opinions. And we nearly had our first female president! It didn’t happen, and it would’ve been cool if it did, but it still shows how far this country has come in terms of women’s rights. And the world got Tape Face from America’s Got Talent. I swear, I could watch his video every day, he’s so clever with the visual gags!

But wait, there’s more! This from YouTube and Vine star Thomas Saunders on reasons to smile:

God, that’s a lot of good, isn’t it? I wish he would’ve added Lucifer on that TV show listing though. That show makes my day!

On a more personal level, 2016 actually went pretty well for me. Yeah, all the nasty stuff I mentioned up above bummed me out, but there were many good things this past year. For one, my mother got married to her partner of several years, which was made possible by the 2015 Supreme Court ruling allowing gay marriage nationwide. That was a blast, and something I was glad to see finally pass. My mother and stepmother are so happy together, and I’m glad they get to be together in the eyes of the law as well.

Around that time, I got offered a couple of jobs/internships! One of them was here in Columbus, and it translated into a full position that I’m still working at right now. It’s a great job, where I’m promoting diversity in my organization with an office full of good people, and getting great pay and benefits while I do it.

In addition, my job has allowed me to move out of my dad’s house and into my own apartment, and even to buy new furniture and a new laptop. I’m paying all my bills on time and still have money to save, which is huge for me! And if things continue to go as they are, who knows? I could even get a cat or save up for a dream vacation to the UK and Ireland! I would love for those to happen.

My sciatica has improved! Yes, for those of you who don’t know, I have sciatica, a condition in which a nerve in the back is squished by spinal discs, causing severe pain in one leg and the lower back. I’ve had this since some time around graduation, but over the summer and through fall and beginning of winter, I started doing some new exercises and other stuff to improve my condition. At the time I’m writing this, I feel only mild discomfort, and sometimes not even that. By next summer, I could be completely cured of it!

This got published!

This got published!

But that’s not all. I released a new book, Video Rage, back in June, and it’s finally started to get some reviews! In addition, nearly all of my books have received new reviews this yer, and more people are discovering them every day. Heck, even my coworkers are reading my books! And on the social media side of things, my blog has grown, accruing nearly 900 subscribers, and passing the five-thousand like milestone. And pretty soon, I’ll be passing the fifty-thousand views milestones. One of my posts actually went kind of viral, garnering over nine-hundred views in the first five weeks of being published, and receiving more views since then.

But there’s more! I started the final book in the Reborn City series, and as of the most recent chapter, I’m a sixth of the way through the book! I could have it released sometime next year! I’ve also written several short stories, and I’ve had some great ideas, both for stories and for strategies to make sure more people discover and read my books. I can’t wait to put some of these to work.

Look folks, this has been a tough year. But for everything I’ve said above, and stuff I haven’t said, it’s been a pretty good one too. And while a lot about 2017 looks scary, we can do a lot to make it a great year. It’ll take some work, but we can make 2017 suck less than 2016 did (I can even post about some of my ideas on how to do just that in another post if you guys want), and to achieve all that we ream.

So will I make a thousand followers? Will I publish another novel and some short stories? Will I get an agent or a contract with a publishing company? Will I get a cat or that vacation? Will we cure AIDS, or improve education, or save the environment? Will the new American president be good at his job? I can’t say with any certainty. But it’s what I hope for. And if not, I’ll do all I can to improve that situation.

Happy New Year, my Followers of Fear. May 2017 bless you and leave you with plenty of reason to smile.

first-day-first-paragraph-tag

Happy New Year, Followers of Fear! It’s January 1, 2017, and I’ll be talking about the past year in another post, but right now, it’s time to see if I can make this tag I created catch on. It’s time for the “First Day, First Paragraph” tag. And if you don’t know the rules, here they are:

  1. Publish your own post on the first day of the month.
  2. Use the graphic above
  3. Thank and link back to the person who tagged you.
  4. Explain the rules like I’m doing now.
  5. Post the first paragraph of a story you’ve written, are writing, or plan to write someday.
  6. Ask your readers for feedback.
  7. Finally, tag someone to do the post next month (for example, if you do the tag on the first of August, the person you tag has to do it on the first of September), and comment on one of their posts to let them know the good news.

Published on January 1st? Check. Used the graphic? Check. Thank and link back to the person who tagged me? Not necessary, I created this tag. Explain the rules? Done.

Now to post the first paragraph of one of my works. As last month I did Video Rage, and the month before I did Reborn City, I think this month I’ll do Snake. For those of you who don’t know, Snake is a novel I published back in 2014 about a serial killer hunting down members of a powerful mafia family. It’s like Taken with a much more violent and horror-themed twist to it. It’s definitely one of my darker stories, and it’s also one of my favorites. Enjoy:

Paul Sanonia had been touched by a nightmare, an unbelievable disaster that had manifested in reality where it shouldn’t belong. Tonight, he was dwelling on the nightmare in St. Mark’s Cathedral—it didn’t matter that it wasn’t a Catholic cathedral, at this point a mosque would do—and no matter how many times he turned it over in his mind, he couldn’t see what the reason was behind it all, why his life had to have been touched, and why his cousin’s life had to have been touched more.

How did that opening paragraph sound? Let me know in the comments below.

And in the meantime, I’m going to tag someone to do this on February 1st. And it only seems fitting that I tag the author who helped me get this book to publication. I choose Angela Misri, author of Jewel of the Thames. Hope you decide to do this Angela, and have fun with it!

Alright, I’ve got one more post to release today, so I’m going to get to work on that. Until next time, my Follower of Fear.

tqg cover

Hello again, Followers of Fear. Enjoying your Christmas/Hanukkah/preparations for Kwanzaa/whatever else is going on right now?

Earlier I mentioned that I got two new reviews on separate books, each from the same person (see my last post for the one on Video Rage). And yesterday, when I wasn’t looking, the same shopper, going by the title…Shopper, also left a review of The Quiet Game: Five Tales to Chill Your Bones, a collection of original short stories I wrote, and my first published book. It’s my most juvenile of works, but it’s also my most reviewed and definitely one of my most beloved stories, with a rating of 4.1 out of 5.

I think part of the draw is that it’s short, only five stories.

Shopper gave their review the title Samson Weiss was my favorite, in reference to the title of one of my short stories, and rated the book a 4 out of 5. Here’s what they had to say:

This collection had great reviews, I don’t disagree. I kept reading about Addict. I found that story disconcerting. The author chose the very unorthodox second person point of view, which was unsettling, and therefore pretty effective. The story that grabbed my attention was the tormented senator Samson Weiss.

Samson Weiss and the senator were two different characters, but I’m glad they enjoyed the collection, and that they agree with the other reviews:

5 wonderfully crafted tales! I purchased this as an eBook originally and put off reading it for quite a while, I really wish I hadn’t waited. Sometimes when one purchases a collection of short stories you expect some of them to be less entertaining or of lower quality than the others, but none of these disappoint. Well worth the money, especially considering after you read each story the author gives you creative insight into what inspired him to write each tale, which is really wonderful.

Jeff D.

This is the first time I’ve read any of Rami’s stories. I was very impressed with the wide variety of stories and the way he wove the paranormal into each piece. Paranormal is not something I usually read and I enjoyed this collection very much. The collection reminded me of the Twlight Zone. The descriptions were especially well developed. Keep on writing Rami!

Arthur Siegal

All of the stories were really diverse and fun to read. I also enjoyed the authors blurbs about each stories origination and development. Keep up the good work!

Kim B.

And if I’m lucky, The Quiet Game will continue to get good reviews in the years to come. I know one of my coworkers bought a copy (I left her a very nice message when I signed it for her), so hopefully she’ll leave me a good review after she reads it.

Speaking of which, if you’d like to check out The Quiet Game, I’ll post the links below. And if you do decide to check out the collection, please let me know what you think. Positive or negative, I love feedback (though if the past two weeks are any indication, I especially love positive feedback), and it makes me strive harder to be a better writer. And I would love to hear yours.

That’s all for now. Happy Holidays, my Followers of Fear.

The Quiet Game: Amazon, Createspace, Barnes & Noble, iBooksSmashwords, and Kobo