Having read, reviewed and enjoyed the author’s previous works–A Head Full of Ghosts and The Cabin at the End of the World–I was interested to read a collection of short stories by Paul Tremblay. And after I got my latest Audible credit, I downloaded it and started listening. And whoo-boy was that a collection.

Now as I stated in a previous post, with every collection or anthology you’re going to get some stories you like, some stories you don’t, and a couple you just don’t get. Thankfully, the majority of these I liked, and wow, they were good. My favorite stories, “Notes for ‘Barn in the Wild'” and “It’s Against the Law to Feed the Ducks,” hint at much bigger and darker events than what you’re reading on the page (or hearing in your earbuds, in my case). It’s kind of like cosmic horror, where only a little bit is peeled away for the characters and audience, but that one peek is terrifying. And those stories could be cosmic horror, depending on the source of the trouble (I won’t give anything away).

Another great story is “Notes from the Dog Walkers,” which is out-and-out hysterical! I was really surprised to find that story in there, given that this is a horror collection, but once I got into it, I couldn’t stop listening. It’s hysterical, and has some interesting twists to it. And there’s one more story titled–get this–“Untitled.” Not sure why, it just is, and I found it wonderfully weird. Definitely recommend for a laugh, especially if you’re familiar with Tremblay’s work and/or you’re aware of just how weird people can be sometimes.

And after the last story, Tremblay has a bunch of notes about each individual story, which I love seeing in a collection and don’t see enough.*

There was only one story I didn’t like, but it was pretty unique. It was kind of like one of those pick-your-own-adventure books from when I was a kid, only it’s a short story or novelette in a horror collection for adults. Not in itself bad. I actually find taking that sort of story for a horror story not aimed at the Goosebumps crowd an intriguing concept. I just have never been into pick-your-own-adventure stories. Might have something to do with the fact that I, as an author, like to control everything that happens in a story when I’m given power over it. Not just a character’s choices.

And as far as stories I didn’t get, there was just the one, revolving around a teacher and an AP class. I think it was supposed to hint at the effect teachers can have on students, but I guess I missed something, because I left it more confused than anything else. Or was that the point?

But the rest of the stories were really good, and I’m glad I got to listen to them.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving Paul Tremblay’s Growing Things and Other Stories a 4.5 out of 5. Creepy and entertaining, you’ll enjoy it from cover flap to cover flap. Pick up a copy and see if it…grows on you too.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m off to summon dark spirits from the nether realms and work on a story for my own gestating collection. Let’s hope it comes out somewhat decent.

Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

*And Mr. Tremblay, if you’re bored and happen to be reading this review, let me just respond to the comment about authors who have more ideas than time to write: I’m one of those authors, I’m only nicely dressed when I have to be, and be careful what you ask for!

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From left to right: Anton Cancre, Tim McWhorter, myself, and Lucy Snyder.

So as many of you are aware, this past Thursday I attended an event with other members of the Ohio Chapter of the Ohio Writers Association. And let me tell you, it was a lot of fun.

First, the Bexley Public Library were great to have as hosts.* They were so enthusiastic and went out of their way to make sure everyone was comfortable and that the space looked great. And hoo boy, what a space! Their Quiet Reading Room looks like what you would expect a room in a historic library to look like. Bookcases lining the walls with big tombs, fancy light fixtures, a fancy carpet. I almost expected to see an elderly British man with a pipe sitting in an armchair reading a newspaper!

And the event itself was a lot of fun. Excluding the library staff, there were about ten or twelve people who showed up, which is good for a niche genre like horror fiction. Plus there were the other authors: Anton Cancre, who was at the reading in Cincinnati a couple weekends ago; Lucy Snyder, who has been Bram Stoker-nominated for her work; and Tim McWhorter, who recently went down to a haunted bridge tunnel in Ohio for an event. I’m not jealous at all.

Anyway, for those of you who weren’t able to attend, Anton was able to film the event via Facebook Live, and then uploaded it onto YouTube today. I’ve embedded the video below. And yes, that is me as undead Alexander Hamilton and Anton in a lovely Renaissance dress. What can we say? It was a Halloween reading. And yes, that was me blowing an Aztec death whistle once or twice. What can I say? It’s a great prop for opportunities like this.

Overall, the event was a lot of fun. We had a great time reading, the attendees asked some great questions, and we may have a few new fans. And the library staff enjoyed having us as well. It made both parties want to do it again some day. Which might happen. I’m not saying it will, but there has been discussions of possible dates. So who knows what might happen?

Anyway, I just wanted to post about this and let everyone know what a blast it was. And thanks to everyone who was able to show. It means a lot that you came.

Anyway, that’s all for now. My sleep schedule is a little off, owing to the fact that I slept fifteen hours straight and didn’t wake up till three in the afternoon. So I’m going to do a little late night writing. Wish me luck on a new short story. And until next time, my Followers of Fear, pleasant nightmares!

*For those of you unaware, Bexley is a small neighborhood in the middle of my home city of Columbus. Just thought I’d mention it.

As it’s the most wonderful time of the year (and remember, I have a good argument for that), I thought I would show off this year’s Halloween costume. Especially since I really like this one and think it’s going to be quite the hit.

So without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, let me present this year’s Halloween costume: undead Alexander Hamilton!

🎵 “Alexander Hamilton. My name is Alexander Hamilton. And there’s a million things I haven’t done.🎵… because Aaron Burr shot me in 1804. The asshole.”

What do you think? I got the idea for it after seeing Hamilton earlier this year and having my mind blown by it. Of course, I put in a special Rami Ungar twist.

I will be wearing it tonight at the reading at the Bexley Public Library (which, if you can stop by, please do), and at any other events I can. Hopefully people like it (and maybe help me film a short video while I’m wearing it).

And while we’re on the topic, what are you wearing this Halloween? Let’s discuss.

That’s all for now. I have a busy day ahead of me, so until next time, pleasant nightmares!

A poster from a play from the Grand Guignol.

*Trigger warning: this post goes into a lot of dark and uncomfortable topics. If talk of gore, murder, sexual assault and similar subjects upset you, stop reading now. You’ve been warned.

Have you ever seen any version of Sweeney Todd? Whether you saw a stage production or watched the movie, Sweeney Todd is somewhat of an outlier among famous Broadway musicals. It’s dark, bloody, and deals with subject matter other plays don’t, such as rape and cannibalism. It’s basically a slasher story with singing.

Now, if you’re like me (and I assume most of you are, if you’re reading this blog), you not only wish there were more plays like Sweeney Todd, but that some of these plays went further in terms of gore and terror. Well, recently I found out that there was a theater dedicated to plays just like that. And it ran for nearly seventy years.

The Grand Guignol Theater was a theater set up in an old Paris chapel in 1897. To summarize its history, the theater at first performed naturalistic plays centered around prostitutes, street thieves and alcoholics. A typical evening at the Grand Guignol would feature five or six short plays, alternating between cynical slice-of-life comedies, horror shows, and more traditional comedies. However, after a change of ownership, the theater began to focus more on horror.

And as time went on, the theater became famous for it. In fact, the Grand Guignol performed over twelve-hundred plays in the course of its existence, focusing on subjects such as insanity, strangulation, rape, leprosy, hypnosis, eye gouging, stabbing, rabies, and so much more. One actress, Paula Maxa, estimated she’d been “murdered” at least ten thousand times in sixty different ways, among other things. To enhance the terror, the theater staff developed a number of techniques to make the horror onstage seem as real as possible, and actors acted as if everything onstage was actually happening.

It wasn’t uncommon for audience members to puke or faint during performances.

This was all to the delight of Andre de Lorde, one of the Guignol’s writers, who judged his plays based on how many people fainted during a show. Along with psychologist and friend Alfred Binet, he wrote over a hundred plays, all particularly gruesome.

And audiences kept coming back. Like many modern horror fans, they were seeking a thrill. And the Grand Guignol provided. At its peak, celebrities and even royalty visited for shows.

So why did it close? Well, there are a number of theories. By the 1930s, the theater had shifted away from gory shockers to psychological dramas, and attendance began to dip. The rise of movies and TV shows, some of the former being quite gory or sensational themselves, may have also played a part. Theater management even believed revelations about the Holocaust may have played a role, saying “We could never equal Buchenwald.”

Whatever the case, the Grand Guignol closed in 1962. Today it’s a theater space for a deaf acting troupe.

But while the theater closed, its legacy still exists. Many small theaters and troupes around the world have been formed to preserve the Guignol’s legacy and produce their own Guignol-style plays. The Guignol’s also made its way into popular culture, and has been referenced in music, movies, books and more.

Still, wouldn’t it be amazing if the Grand Guignol was truly revjved? If one of the groups inspired by it managed to achieve the same popularity and staying power as the original theater?

Perhaps someday it will come back. And then perhaps Mr. Sweeney Todd won’t be so lonely anymore.

Hello, my name is Rami Ungar, and I’m pretty much in the best mood ever. Not even that sacrifice getting loose and running to the police station can’t bring me down. Why? Well, the sacrifice’s warrants are going to prove problematic and I’m merciful with my cultists. But the real reason I’m so happy is because I’ve been receiving so many new reviews of Rose!

Now if you’re unfamiliar with Rose, first off, hi, welcome to the blog. Second, Rose is my first novel with a publisher, a fantasy-horror novel about a young woman turning into a plant creature (and that’s just the start of her problems). I wrote it as my college thesis originally, edited it on and off over five years, and then somehow got it published about four months ago with Castrum Press.

And as I said, a lot of new reviews have been popping up lately. Many of them have come from book bloggers, some of whom have left their reviews on Amazon and Goodreads as well. In fact, on Amazon Rose has over twenty reviews. Which, is a huge deal. Not only is that more reviews than any of my other works, but once you get past twenty, Amazon includes your books in that little space that says, “Customers Who Bought This Book Also Bought.” So thanks to everyone’s reviews, Rose will have slightly more visibility on Amazon in the future.

And what reviews they’ve been, too! Most of them have been extremely positive.* One blogger said, “Ungar has created a new horror monster that isn’t quite like the rest.” Another said, “Don’t let the beautiful, delicate cover fool you–this is out-and-out horror.” My job here is done.

Anyway, I’m just really thankful for all the reviews. I’m still trying to establish myself and carve out an audience. And with all these reviews, I’m hopeful Rose will be read by more people, and help me build my audience for the next book I put out there, whatever that is.

If you want to read any of these reviews, I’ll post the links below and update as more bloggers post reviews. After all, they deserve just as much exposure for giving Rose some much-needed exposure. I’ll also include links for those who want to read Rose themselves. And if you do end up checking it out, let me know what you think. Positive or negative, I love feedback, and it helps me out in the long run.

Also, thanks to Blackthorn Book Tours for putting Rose in the hands of so many reviewers. You’ve been such a big help for me lately. I hope we can do this again someday with whatever I publish next.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

Rose: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada

Review Sites: Goodreads, Isobel Blackthorn, Alison’s Catty Book Corner, Power Librarian, The Book Review Hub, Whispers and Wonder (great interview), The Bookwormery, #CupidIsWatchingMe, Alex J Book Reviews, Unwrapping Words, Book, Blog & Candle, Bookshine and Readbows, A Little Fool Reads, Book Reviews & More, Tattooed Bibliophile, Iseult Murphy, Literary Retreat, Megan’s Haunted House of Books (interview and review).

*Actually, I’ve been really lucky in the review department. I’ve only had one lower than three stars, and the person who left that on Goodreads said she wouldn’t leave a full review because she only gave it two stars. Which honestly only makes me curious. What did she dislike about the novel? It’s going to bug me for a while.

We all know I love the Addams Family, especially the 1960’s sitcom iteration. So of course, I’ve been keeping my eyes out for anything new from the franchise. And when the first trailer for this movie dropped…well, let’s just say I may have been mistaken for a banshee or a werewolf in the Columbus community.

The Addams Family shows the Addams living in New Jersey. Due to past experiences with less-than-tolerant townspeople, they’ve lived in isolation to protect themselves. However, when a new suburb crops up by the Addams’ estate, they have to deal with not only the suburb’s creator/leader, a TV interior decorator, but the temptations and dangers of having to live near people again. All as the Addams prepare for an upcoming celebration in which the whole family will be gathered under one roof.

Before I start, let me just clarify one thing: in this adaptation, Fester is Gomez’s brother again (though whether older or younger is unknown), Grandmama is Gomez and Fester’s mother, and Wednesday is the older sibling again. These relationships can vary from adaptation to adaptation.

Now that that’s out of the way, let me state this: this might be my new favorite adaptation of The Addams Family.

For one thing, the animation really resembles the original Charles Addams cartoons, as well as allows for more crazy happenings during the course of the movie. (Not saying it’s better than any of the live-action versions, which I know a lot of people love, Just saying it looks nice and allows for more creative freedom)

And the story is decent. While it’s the sort of story we’ve seen before–people of different backgrounds learning to find common ground despite a powerful person trying to keep power–it’s done with a lot of heart and creativity here. Not only that, but it allows for a lot of character exploration, particularly with Morticia and Wednesday. The former is dealing with the fact that she can’t protect her child from the world anymore (something a lot of parents are dealing with more and more in a world where social media makes us grow up faster), while Wednesday is confronted with a world she’s unfamiliar with, and is ready to explore it despite her mother’s worries.

What took me by surprise, though, was how much this film’s themes could be applied to today’s world. I know there’s a lot of talk about refugees seeking safety in other countries,* and the Addams could stand in for refugees. In fact, the very first scene depicts them as refugees, fleeing the old country after Gomez and Morticia’s wedding is interrupted by townspeople with pitchforks and torches. The villain of the film could be seen as a stand-in for a lot of politicians or media types who use social media to comment on their issues, and sometimes inflame and direct people to action.

There’s actually a lot to unpack with these films, and it might surprise a few viewers. Granted, sometimes the way the film handles its themes hits us on the head–the new suburb is called “Assimilation,” for one–but for the most part, it’s done pretty well.

And yes, it is extremely funny. And there is an opportunity to snap your fingers and sing the theme song during the film. Trust me, everyone in the audience was doing it.

All that being said, I did have a few issues with the film. There’s a subplot revolving around Pugsley preparing for his Saber Mazurka (basically the Addams’ version of a bar mitzvah), and it feels kind of rushed compared to the other characters’ arcs. You can kind of tell that his arc is an excuse to get all the Addams in one place, and I would’ve liked to see his arc given more attention.

Also, Grandmama is barely in the film, which is a shame because she’s fun to play off other characters, especially Morticia. The villain’s fate…well, without spoilers, it leaves a bit to be desired. And was Snoop Dogg really okay playing Cousin Itt? He’s on screen for two minutes and has maybe three lines, all of which is gibberish. I’d have thought he’d want a bigger role.

But all in all, 2019’s The Addams Family is a fun family film perfect for the Halloween season. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving this one an even 4. Pack up the hellspawn, get in your favorite hearse, and check it out. You should have a blast (though not because of the grenades).

*Due to my day job, I can’t openly comment on issues like that, but anyone who knows me should have some idea of what my views are.

Something weird has been happening this week. Weirder than usual, anyway. On Monday, I came home and found my Alice du Maurin Pullip doll in the hallway of my building. As if it were waiting for me. As far as I could tell, no one had been in my apartment, so nobody could have moved her.

This is the photograph I took of the incident.

Then on Tuesday, I found her in the stairwell. Again, there was no sign my apartment had been entered without my knowledge.

And then today, she was waiting for me again! This time with her little arm up, as if welcoming me home.

By this time, I was getting a little annoyed and a little freaked, and resolved to hide a security camera in my room, where I keep my doll collection. I was going to catch whoever was moving my Alice du Maurin around.

But first I was going to take a nap. I replaced the doll in the cabinet and went to sleep.

When I woke up though, I found this staring at me from the foot of my bed, with the cabinet door wide open behind her.

And I swear, I heard a voice whisper, “Why aren’t you writing a new story?!”

Happy Halloween.