Archive for the ‘Living and Life’ Category

Happy Hanukkah and Happy Holidays, one and all.

(For those curious as to what Hanukkah is about, I gave an explanation in the comments)

I’m going to try to keep this post short, though there’s a great temptation to write a thousand words or more. And that’s because despite how crazy this past week has been, its also been kind of uplifting. Why? Because my organization really showed me how much it wanted to make sure all its associates felt included during the holidays. And that included the Jews.

Now as many of you know, I am Jewish (this will be important in a bit). And as many of you also know, I work for a supply organization in a role called an Equal Employment Opportunity Specialist. It’s kind of like HR, but we’re focused on promoting diversity, accommodating associates with disabilities, and combating discrimination and harassment in the workforce. It’s an important job, because a properly diverse and accepting workforce is one with a wide talent pool and a healthy mental state.

Okay, enough background. Let me get to the important part. On Tuesday, I was sitting having breakfast in my office when our Director of Operations (hereafter referred to as the DoO), a member of our regional executive staff, came to visit me. Which is pretty unusual. I see him on occasion around the building and we’ll chat, but I don’t interact much with the executives in my organization. You can imagine my surprise when the DoO came to talk to me, and understand my first thought upon seeing him: I’ve had this nightmare before, but I was naked in it.

Turns out, the DoO wanted to consult me. You see, I did a stand-up routine at a company talent show last year (yes, that happened), and it was centered around kosher cooking. Since then, I’ve gained a reputation as the resident expert on Judaism. With that in mind, the DoO wanted to know if it would be a good idea to have a menorah to represent Hanukkah at the Executive Open House, one of our organization’s annual holiday events when you can go through the executive suite and schmooze with the top brass. That event usually has a lot of tinsel and Christmas trees, but no menorah. And the DoO wanted to know if including one would be a good idea.

I said yes, that would be a wonderful idea, and I gave some other suggestions of things to include (dreidels, chocolate gelt, etc). I then gave him some ideas where he could find all those. Less than an hour later, I was asked to go shopping with him at the nearest place to see if we could find a menorah. I said sure, hoping to God I wouldn’t embarrass myself, and we went shopping. We found plenty of gelt, but they were fresh out of menorahs. One thing you need to know about my organization, though, we don’t do anything partway. So I got into contact with one of the local synagogues, which I knew had a gift shop with plenty of menorahs. After work that day, I went straight there and bought a menorah, along with a ton of dreidels. Mission accomplished.

The DoO and I with the menorah. So grateful for this kind gesture.

Fast forward to today (Thursday, if you’re reading this later on), I brought the menorah and dreidels in. We set it up first in the DoO’s office after he invited me up to the Executive Suite, and then later it ended up in a more public space when another associate brought in their menorah from home. And I have to say, it looked really good there too.

But through all this, I couldn’t help but thinking how wonderful it was for the DoO and the rest of the top brass to be thinking of my people. As many of you are aware, there has been a rise in anti-Semitic incidents and attacks lately, the worst being the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting in October. These attacks on my people have been tough on all of us. I’ve been feeling an upswing in anxiety since October myself. However, I’ve been trying to fight back by staying strong and filling the world with more good and kindness than they can fill it with evil. And this simple thoughtful gesture, while small, was huge in its impact, and I can’t help but thank the DoO for helping to put a bit of good back in this crazy world.

I hope it’s part of a greater trend to make the world a nicer place.

Happy Hanukkah, Followers of Fear. I hope this brought some light into your life during the Festival of Lights. I’m heading off to bed. Until next time (possibly this weekend), pleasant nightmares one and all.

Advertisements

The real Annabelle doll next to the movie version.

The other day I was driving home from grocery shopping, and this silly insurance commercial came on the radio about a creepy doll. According to the commercial’s announcer, the scary doll, which can’t help being creepy and claims horror movies as its natural habitat, knows paying less for car insurance is good sense. The announcer then says, “The only question is, how did the creepy doll get down the hallway? I would get out of the house if I were you.”

I responded to said commercial, “Well, you’re not me. And after I finished going ‘Oh holy shit, the doll moved!’ I’d take the opportunity to find out as much as I can about the doll and the spirit possessing it.”

Yeah. That’s me in a nutshell.

My relationship with dolls have gone through a transformation over the years. At first I was freaked out by them, but over time I’ve become enamored of them, and even have a small collection of dolls and figurines. And the idea that some dolls and figurines might be inhabited by spirits fascinates me. I enjoy the Annabelle films and would love to own the collectible version of it (I hear the actual Annabelle doll is a little hard to come by, especially since it’s under lock and key. So that’s out). I enjoy watching videos about haunted dolls on YouTube, including this one from Buzzfeed.

I seriously thought this doll was haunted at one point. For better or worse, it’s not.

And it probably won’t shock you that I once suspected one or two from my own collection were haunted (I swear I thought I saw the arm of a figurine move, though that particular arm has no joints). I even checked one of my dolls, the one I thought most likely to be haunted, to see if it had any spirits. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately, depending on your opinion), my dowsing rods experiment didn’t yield any meaningful results, so I’m going to have to say that’s a no.

But a part of me would like to own a haunted doll. Why? Well, I guess for the same reason people collect salt and pepper shakers or go out of their way to get comic books. Something about the item in question appeals to them. Dolls already appeal to me, and I’ve been to haunted locations before.  Seems like just a great meeting of two loves, like scaring people and writing.

And as the Buzzfeed video above says, you can find those pretty easily on sites like eBay. I was actually on Etsy the other day and saw this one haunted doll that I felt almost drawn to. And it was reasonably priced. You know, for a doll that might actually have a self-aware spirit or intelligent entity attached to it.

Of course, the problem there is that, yes, the doll has someone or something attached to it. Some dolls, like the actual Annabelle doll, supposedly have one or more demons attached to it. Imagine taking something like that into your home and being negatively affected by it. The doll or its spirit could destroy property, threaten lives, etc. Robert the Doll supposedly curses anyone who takes pictures with him without permission, which can lead to financial ruin and physical harm.

And if it does have something nasty attached to it, what would I do to contain it? I’m acquainted with one of the former owners of the Dybbuk Box,* and he had to go to all sorts of lengths to keep that box from affecting him and his family. Imagine what I might have to go through to keep that doll from messing with my life.

But I guess that’s the risk bringing anything into your home that’s alive. Yeah, a haunted doll would be a lot more complicated than a pet, but it’s still something I would like to try.

Perhaps in the future I’ll be given the chance to bring a haunted doll into my house. And who knows? It might not lead to anything, but I’ll hopefully have fun and get a few story ideas from it.

But tell me, do you think haunted dolls exist? Do you have any stories you’d like to share? Would you own one if you could? Let me know in the comments.

Thanks for reading another post by me about just how strange I am. As always, appreciate the support. I’ll hopefully have another post out later this week. Until then, my Followers of Fear, good night and pleasant nightmares!

*For those of you who don’t know, a dybbuk is a ghost in Jewish folklore that’s turned away from Heaven and Hell and possesses living people to interact with the real world. The dybbuk box is a wine cabinet that supposedly has a malevolent dybbuk attached to it, and has been blamed for a number of misfortunes that befell past owners. Currently it’s housed in Zak Bagans’s Haunted Museum, where you have to be 18 or over and sign a waiver to see the box, as it curses anyone near it, including rapper Post Malone.

If you think you’ve heard of this before, that’s because the Dybbuk Box was the inspiration for the horror movie The Possession (which I highly recommend), and dybbuks in general have inspired countless pieces of literature and theater, including a famous play and ballet, and even a certain short story from my college days.

Some days it’s harder to know where you stand than others.

Last month, a white supremacist went on a shooting rampage in Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. All of the victims were senior citizens and a few were Holocaust survivors. That they should live so long and survive so much, just for one hateful man to snuff out their lives, hurts and horrifies me and several other members of the Jewish community on so many levels. In my own response to the shooting, I mentioned I felt connected to the attack in a very personal way. I almost ended up living in Pittsburgh when I was a kid instead of Columbus. Imagine what mght’ve happened if I’d stayed there, and if my synagogue had been Tree of Life?

Since that horrific day, there have been more anti-Semitic incidents. None on the scale as the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, but still horrific. In Baltimore, a man interrupted a performance of Fiddler on the Roof, a play revolving around Jewish characters dealing with change and anti-Semitism, by shouting “Heil Hitler! Heil Trump!”; in Wisconsin, nearly an entire class of graduating high school boys threw up the Hitler salute for a prom photo; in Cleveland, flyers with links to a neo-Nazi website around Case Western University; and in Argentina, soccer fans rioted and shouted “Kill the Jews to make soap!” after a team composed of mainly Jewish players defeated the team whose stadium they were visiting.*

And that’s just the ones I know about. There are probably other incidents that have yet to reach my ears.

I know that what I and the Jewish people is nothing new or out of nowhere. Many minorities are facing discrimination and harassment right now, and it seems to only be growing. Regardless, all these incidents happening within such a short span of time, and after the Pittsburgh shooting to boot, have me on edge. It makes me wonder if this wont become a much bigger trend, where anti-Semitism becomes an everyday occurrence.

It makes me wonder whether or not it’ll be safe to stay in this country much longer. And if it should become too dangerous, where would I go? Canada? Europe? Israel? Would it only be a matter of time before more violence broke out? Before I had to flee from those who would see me dead just for being born a certain faith and heritage?

Still, I have reason to hope and to stave off the fear.

We’ve all heard the poem by Lutheran pastor Martin Niemoller, but it bears repeating.

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and i did not speak out–
Because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me.

While there are still plenty of people who aren’t willing to speak out,** I’ve had the pleasure of knowing plenty of people in and outside the Jewish community and the United States who will speak out against injustice. Many of them I’ve met through blogging and online interaction as well as face-to-face communication. They’ve reached out to me when I needed it and have stood up for me too. I know that well before things get too harsh to live safely in this country, they will come to my side and stand by me.

So if you’re reading this, I urge you to speak out when you see hatred and injustice. Right now it may seem like a struggle not worth going through with insurmountable barriers to face, but it can be done. By showing up to events, by giving to causes, by voting in every election (especially voting in every election!), by sending your voice out through the world to be heard, you can make a difference. And I urge you to do so. If not for us, for you. So you can say you fought to keep the world a little less hateful and a little more kind.

Thanks for letting me talk about this, my Followers of Fear. I know it’s shocking that some things scare me, but it’s true. I’m trying to channel that fear into the story I’m working on now, make it an even better story. Until then, keep safe and pleasant nightmares.

*This incident feels eerily like deja vu to me, because something similar happened to my school’s soccer team in high school. As some of you know, my high school was a Jewish day school, so all the students and half the staff were Jews. One day in my junior year, the soccer team won against another school, and the latter started shouting anti-Semitic names and rants at my school’s team. I don’t remember much beyond that it nearly came to blows, but it goes to show this isn’t a new thing or coming out of nowhere.

**The superintendent of the school district where those students gave the Nazi salute, for example, said she couldn’t punish them for their acts because of First Amendment rights and she “couldn’t be sure” of the intentions of the students. Seems pretty obvious to me, and people get fired or punished for things they say all the time!

It’s Thanksgiving Day here in the States, a day to be thankful for what we’re given (as well as gloss over some of the darker aspects of our nation’s early history). And as cliche and cringe-inducing as it is, I thought I’d take a moment to post about what I’m thankful for this year. Why? Eh, it just felt like something I ought to write about.

And with that established, what do I have to be thankful for? Well, plenty. 2018 has been a fucking good year for me. Yes, you read that right. 2018 has been a fucking good year for me. On a number of levels and in several areas of my life, it’s been good for me:

Writing. Obviously, things have been great on the writing front. Back in March, my novel Rose was accepted by Castrum Press for publication, which is a pretty big deal. Not only that, they pointed out the issues with the novel that gave me insight in how to fix it in rewrites. Right now Castrum’s probably looking over the manuscript, figuring out what else needs to be improved before we publish the book.

Not only that, but my short story “Car Chasers” was accepted for publication in the anthology The Binge-Watching Cure II from Claren Books, which will likely be out sometime in early 2019; I ended up writing another novel, River of Wrath, and I still get a kick out of all the craziness that came with writing it;* I’ve managed to increase the input so that I get a minimum of thousand words out rather than just a minimum two hundred and fifty; and I passed a thousand followers on my blog.

This is going very well for me lately.

Plus I’ve written a whole bunch of new stories and edited a few more over the course of the year. Hopefully some of them will get published someday. I’m really proud of them, an I would love for you to read some of them.

Work. My day job can be pretty demanding and stressful, but it’s very rewarding. In case you weren’t aware, I work for a supply organization in a sort-of HR position that involves helping employees with disabilities get accommodations so they can continue working, as well as helping to run programs that emphasize the different ethnic/specialty groups in the organization. A lot of people my age have trouble finding jobs, so I’m incredibly thankful that my work helps so many people and that I’m paid enough so I can keep afloat and put something away in savings. Hell, I got a really nice raise earlier this year, which has been really helpful for reasons I’ll get into.

And while I’m working there, I think I’ll continue to soar in the position. Last month, I led the effort to put on a program for National Disability Employment Awareness Month that was very well-received, and I’m being trained on a whole bunch of new tasks. Who knows? Perhaps I’ll soon earn the privilege to work from home once a week by this time next year, among other things.

Life. Ooh boy, life’s been good lately. My back issues have improved immensely this year, to the point that I don’t feel pain every day any more, and when I do it’s usually a dull ache. And of course, you may have heard that I recently got my driver’s license and my own car, which has been a Godsend in my life. Yeah, it’s another bill or two, but thankfully I can afford it. That, and a whole bunch of other things that I won’t get into (they’re a little too personal) have made my life frankly wonderful.

My car, the Unholy Roller. So glad to have a set of wheels of my own.

The people in my life. Including you. While I like living on my own and having my own space, I’m lucky to have a good group of people in my life. Friends to hang out with, family I can go to for advice and hugs, coworkers who help me out when I have a question and even make sure I get home okay when I get sick at work (that happened just the other day). And I’m thankful for all the people who follow me and my work and even read my stories when they’re published. Having so many people encouraging me every day and showing an interest in what I write is a big deal for me. So thank you, Followers of Fear. I’m thankful for you being part of my journey through life.

 

That’s all for now, My Followers of Fear. I’m sure I’ll have another post out before too long, but for now I’ve got to go get some cooking done for tonight. Whether or not you’re celebrating, Happy Thanksgiving my Followers of Fear, and pleasant nightmares.

*Not kidding, I never thought it’d be longer than twenty or thirty thousand words, but it ended up being sixty thousand! But the real crazy part is that I started that novel on October 29th, 2017 and finished it a year and a day later on October 30th, 2018. The novel takes place on October 30th and 31st, 1961. And I finished it at 3 AM, the Devil’s Hour, which is fitting as it’s a novel partially inspired by Dante’s Inferno. You can’t make this shit up!

If you weren’t aware, I recently got my own car.

This is a pretty big deal for me. You see, like many Ohio teens, I started learning at age fifteen and a half. However, for a number of reasons, including my own mental temperament (I’d actually freak out a little if I went over the speed limit by a single mile per hour), I stopped trying to learn by seventeen. When I was a student at Ohio State, my college ID got me free access to the buses, and I could walk or bum rides off friends and family for anywhere else I needed to go. Eventually though I started learning again in my senior year, as I knew with graduation approaching I would need a car to get many places.

Since then, I’ve been taking my time in learning, putting my priorities into making sure I had a mastery over driving rather than making sure I got my license and a car already. It may have made my life a bit more difficult than it could’ve been and even limited what jobs I could apply for, but in return I was sure that I was ready to handle a car on my own by the time I was ready to take the test. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but a lot of people seem to forget how to drive safely or obey traffic laws as soon as they get their cars. They change lanes without tun signals, use their phones while driving. etc. I treat any car I drive as a giant, lumbering beast that requires a lot of work to control, moving alongside hundreds of other beasts that may or may not be as well-controlled as mine. That’s why I wanted to make sure I was ready before I went for my license.

All that hard work paid off. This past July, I went and got my license. And on October 29th, I bought my first car, a Honda CR-V you can see in the photo above. It shouldn’t surprise any of you that I nicknamed my car the Unholy Roller (get it?).

And I have to say, I love my car. It meets many of my needs and then some. And I like the independence and ease which driving brings to my life. I can get many places easier now, including to and from work or the movie theater (which during the winters can be a hell of a trip). And I’ve been taking a certain joy in every “first” I take with my car. First drive to work, first grocery run, first trip to and from the movies, first night drive. I’ll probably be doing a musical number when I do my first tank fill up.

Still, I never forget that a single bad decision, on my part or someone else’s, could cause irrevocable damage. To that end, I usually drive a little under the speed limit, sometimes more depending on the time of day and weather conditions. And I get more than a little anxious every time I have to get onto the highway. Okay, I get very anxious. I’m working on that and it gets a bit easier with every exposure, but it’s still a process. And I haven’t even attempted to drive downtown yet (that area is a zoo!).

Well, with any luck I’ll be able to grow as I continue to drive the Unholy Roller and get better used to driving in those areas. Perhaps by this time next year, I’ll be able to drive all over the Midwest for book tours and whatnot. Anything’s possible, so long as I pay the dealership and insurance, keep the tank full and don’t get into any accidents.

Wish me luck on the roads, Followers of Fear. And if you see the Unholy Roller by any chance, RUN! IT’S ACTUALLY DEMONICALLY POSSESSED AND DEVOURS THE SOULS OF PEDESTRIANS!!! And you don’t want to know what it does to bad drivers!

Reborn City, Book 1 of the Reborn City series.

I didn’t realize until the work day was almost over that it’s been exactly five years since Reborn City was published. And wow, does it feel like five years. So much time has passed in that time, and I’ve learned so much. Much of what I’ve learned has been thanks to writing and publishing RC, as well as its sequel Video Rage. I’m glad I remembered that today was that important day.

So in case you weren’t aware, Reborn City is a sci-fi novel I wrote in high school and which I published midway through college. It was my first self-published novel and my first published novel overall. It’s sequel, Video Rage, was released in 2016. Here’s what the series is about:

Zahara Bakur is a Muslim teenager recently moved into the gambling town of Reborn City. After her parents are killed by gang violence, Zahara is forced to join the Hydras, an interracial gang whose leaders have supernatural abilities. As the violence in Reborn City escalates and Zahara becomes closer to the Hydras, including the quiet but stern Rip, she finds herself drawn into a dark conspiracy involving the origins of the leaders and the shadowy corporation that rules over Reborn City.

When I wrote the first book, I wanted to write an action-filled series that explored both the idiocy of prejudice and the power of overcoming the negative thoughts people have of you and you have of yourself. And while it is told with the (arguably naive) viewpoint of an idealistic high schooler, I think I accomplished just that. People have told me they enjoy the story and couldn’t put the story down. Some even found it heartwarming.* To this day, it may be my most popular work (though I hope Rose might change that when it’s published).

But don’t take my word for it. Here’s what some of the people on Amazon have said:

It’s a neat exercise in trying to see through the eyes of someone different from oneself. It incorporated a lot of fly comic-book-esque tropes. A good beginning effort of an up an coming new author who has some cool ideas to explore.

–Amazon Customer

This is an extremely commendable effort by a new young writer, whom I believe we will see much more of in the years ahead. Rami Ungar’s vision of a frightening dystopian future is peppered with those elements that make us all human. There are quite a few surprises in the book, and I am anxious for the next volume in the series to be released.

–Marc M. Neiwirth

This is not a genre I typically delve into, but I took this book on vacation and couldn’t put it down. The plot had me turning pages at quite the clip. The characters were unique and interesting and the imagery had me creating my own visual of what Rami’s interpretation of the future looked like. For first time novelist, Rami Ungar, this was an outstanding showing of talent and commitment to his passion of writing. Looking forward to seeing what he comes up with next!

–Michele U

Video Rage, Book 2 of the Reborn City series.

While I do love tooting my own horn, I’ll stop here. If you would like to check out Reborn City and its sequel Video Rage, I’ll leave the links below for you. And if you do end up picking up either book and reading it, please leave me a review to let me know what you thought. Positive or negative, I love a review, and they help me out in the long run.

Oh, and as for Full Circle, the final book in the series, I do plan to get back to work on it at some point. However, I need to make sure the story is worthy of an ending chapter to the trilogy. The current version I was creating didn’t feel worthy after RC and VR of ending the story of Zahara and the Hydras. So until I can come up with a better story to finish the trilogy, I’ll be working on other stuff (they say distraction is one of the best cures to tackling a difficult problem).

Sorry if that upsets you. But hey, would you rather me bust something out and be terrible, or wait as long as a George RR Martin fan and get something worthy of your time? I know what I would answer.

Well, that’s all till this weekend, my Followers of Fear. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

Reborn City: Available on Amazon, Createspace, Barnes & NobleiBooksSmashwords, and Kobo

Video Rage: Available from Amazon, Kindle, CreatespaceBarnes & Noble, iBooks, Smashwords, and Kobo

*I know, right? Something I wrote described as heartwarming. Who’d have thunk?

It’s here! It’s today! It’s the day I celebrate every damn day of the year, even during the High Holidays, but which I celebrate twice as hard in October, because everybody is celebrating it too. It’s Halloween!

I’ve always loved Halloween and the month of October.* In fact, I consider it the most wonderful time of the year. And before you say December and Christmas is the most wonderful time of year, think about this: during this month, you start worrying about a fat old man who watches and stalks you for three-hundred sixty-four days out of the year, and then one night breaks into your home via the chimney. And depending on whatever his judgment of your behavior is, he’s either going to leave behind awful fossil fuels or consumer goods that violate so many patent, copyright and trademark laws, you could be pulled into a class action lawsuit just by association. Prove me wrong!

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg of problems I have with calling December the most wonderful time of the year.

But back to Halloween. You know what makes it really special? It’s a holiday both for the mainstream of society and outcast. For one day, you’re allowed to be someone else and revel in that. No one’s allowed to break that spell, and those who do are cursed to be jerks.

No one’s ever accused me of being mainstream. There were times where I didn’t have many friends, and when I did, I was always a little bit different from them. Call it being neuroatypical, call it being half-human and half-entity from another universe, call it just being different. There was always this barrier between me and other people.

But on Halloween, all that changed. Kids and adults changed into costumes, became other beings and we were all equals. We all had a simple goal of showing off our costumes, getting candy, and having a spooky delightful time. It was magic for me. And as I got older, that magic has still been part of my love for the holiday. That, and more people actually get my obsession with things dark and creepy and horrifying and get into it, too.

But also this strange equalizing. For one night, we’re as different as can be from ourselves and from others, but we’re all equal and having a fun time. In a world where the wrong kind of scary is all too common, that’s something special.

I’m pretty sure if there’s a Heaven that I’ll be allowed into, and if that Heaven individualizes itself for each person in it, it’s going to be a forever Halloween. Lots of people in costumes, and my costume changes at my whim. Plus real monsters to fly around and terrify with. Lots of candy that never tastes bad and never upsets your stomach. There are endless horror themed rides and mazes, as well as libraries and theaters with an endless supply of horror movies, TV shows, books, manga and anime, music and art. All to digest at your leisure. The sun is never a problem (which is good, because even outside of sunscreen season, I have to worry about sun damage to my skin and even to my eyes!), and it’s just cool enough for sweatshirts. And everyone’s as friendly and chummy as the Addams Family, even after you scare them silly. And no one ever feels left out.

Like Hell Fest, but much better.

Seems like a nice dream, doesn’t it? And if it’s one I can someday achieve (though hopefully not too soon), I’ll be happy.

Wishing you a Happy Halloween this year!

In the meantime, I’ll work on making a Heaven on Earth. By that I mean, becoming a successful horror author who can afford to host an awesome Halloween party every October and get a bunch of people into a room to celebrate being scary together.

Wow, I really went on a ramble, didn’t I? Anyway, I think you get what Halloween means to me, don’t you? And I hope it means something special to you too.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ll have another post out by the end of the day, a review of a new scary movie. Until then, Happy Halloween and pleasant nightmares!

*Even if, in Central Ohio, this is the month when summer heat and humidity changes to winter chill. Yeah, there’s no autumn here. It just switches from one extreme to the other. I’m pretty sure God’s punishing us for something, but I can’t figure out what.