Archive for the ‘Scary Stuff’ Category

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

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

And I’m back to this again. But then again, consistency and visibility are the keys to marketing. I think.

So if you’re unaware, my novel Rose was published nearly a year ago, on June 21st, 2019. The story is a fantasy-horror novel that follows a young woman who wakes up in a greenhouse, only to turn into a plant creature. As those in her life react to the change, some of them are not who they seem to be, leading to a horrific fight for survival.

It’s weird, it’s scary, and it’s one-hundred percent me.

As I said, the one-year anniversary of Rose‘s publication is June 21st. As that’s a big milestone with any book, let alone with my first novel with a publisher, I’m doing something special to celebrate: a Q&A on YouTube, with the questions submitted by you readers! You can send up to two questions to my email address, ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com, with your name and where you’re from. And if you’re from the US or UK, you could be eligible for a download code for the Rose audio book!

Just get your questions in before June 17th, 2020 at 12:00 PM and your questions will be included in the Q&A.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I look forward to receiving your questions, especially since I’m still taking a break from writing after finishing The Pure World Comes, and could always use something else to capture my attention.

Also, if you’re interesting in reading Rose, I’ll include links down below. Or you can send me an email for a signed copy sent directly from me to you. And if you do read the book, leave me a review and let me know what you think. Positive or negative, I love getting feedback, and it helps me out as an author in the long run.

Until next time, stay safe, pleasant nightmares, and if you find a sword with a blade the color of the night sky, let me know. It’s probably cursed, and I could use a weapon like that.

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

Well, I didn’t think I could do it. But I did. At almost exactly 10:45 PM on May 31st, 2020, I finished the latest novel from my twisted imagination, The Pure World Comes.

If you aren’t aware, The Pure World Comes is a story I started writing back in April. It’s a culmination of all my love of and research into the Victorian era. The story takes place in 1894 and follows a maid who goes to work at the estate of a mad scientist. It’s part historical fiction, part Gothic horror, and part gaslamp fantasy (a subgenre I need to write an article about one of these days), with some slight elements of science fiction. All in one crazy story.

And with this story, I’ve actually broken a few personal records. First off, with Toyland back in March, this makes two novels finished in a single year. That has never happened before. Not to mention I wrote this novel in less than two months, another record. And today, I finished the novel by somehow getting forty-five hundred or so words down in one day. Yeah, forty-five hundred words. And none of these records I expected to beat until I beat them.

Am I bragging? Sorry about that. I just thought I’d mention them.

Anyway, onto the page and word counts. In terms of Microsoft Word pages, 8.5 inches by 11, with double-spaced, 12-point Times New Roman font, the novel is 214 pages. And, in terms of words, the novel is 59,333 words. Yeah, I know I used to say novels are sixty-thousand words or higher, but it’s recently come to my attention that most publishers and contests put the cutoff from novella to novel at around forty thousand words. Therefore, I’m caving into peer pressure just this once and will designate this a novel.

So, what’s next? Well, normally I would celebrate the completion of a novel with a huge party. Mead, pizza, heavy sugars, a movie or several episodes of TV. But it’s late, and tomorrow I have a busy morning, so I’ll delay the partying till tomorrow. After that, I might take some time to recharge creatively before I attempt so much as another short story.

In the meantime, I’ve already sent the first draft of The Pure World Comes to someone who has agreed to take a look at the first draft and give me feedback. With any luck, they’ll give me some advice which will allow me to eventually get this story published.

So glad to finally finish this story, a distillation of my love of Victorian England.

I sense there are great things on the horizon.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Remember, there’s still plenty of time to send in a question for my YouTube Q&A for the first publishing anniversary of my novel Rose. Just email a question with your name and where you’re from to ramiungar@ramiungarhtewriter.com by June 17th at noon, and your question will show up in the video. And if you’re from the US or UK, you may win a download code for the audio book for Rose.

And of course, if you want to read Rose but don’t want to go through Amazon or Audible, I’m selling signed copies directly to readers. Send an email to me, and we’ll discuss the details.

Until next time, my Followers of Fear, stay safe and have some pleasant nightmares.

I heard about The Wretched earlier in the week, and became interested. Apparently this film was released a few weeks ago through video-on-demand platforms and drive-in theaters. Normally this wouldn’t receive such an overwhelming response, but thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, the film has been topping the box office three weeks in a row. Still, was that all there is to it? Was it only successful due to almost no competition, or was it actually a good film? There was only one way for me to answer that, so this evening I rented The Wretched on demand and gave it a watch.

The Wretched follows Ben Shaw, a teenager sent to live with his dad in a beach town for the summer. While he’s hoping to deal with his personal problems and get by with his summer, Ben soon realizes something sinister is going on next door. A strange creature is spotted nearby, the neighbor’s mother starts to act sinister, and the next door neighbor’s kid goes missing a day after going to Ben’s house for help. Ben soon realizes there’s a witch next door, a bestial creature that feeds on children to survive. And now Ben has to prove it before the witch kills anyone else.

So, there are some things to like about this film. There are some really tense moments and some creepy imagery. The witch herself is rather freaky to behold in any of her scenes, especially when she’s hidden in shadow or when she’s finally revealed. The special effects are pretty cool, and aren’t reliant on CGI, so far as I can tell. And there’s a cat-and-mouse aspect to this film that works pretty well, as Ben tries to prove that there’s a witch next door to him. Not exactly easy when, in addition to trying to prove the impossible, Ben is already on rocky ground with his folks and the witch’s magic is interfering.

That being said, The Wretched has some issues. The first half hour or so is kind of slow. I think they’re going for slow-burn, but it’s a little too slow. John-Paul Howard, who plays Ben, at times feels like he’s not putting in a hundred percent. There’s a twist in the final third that feels like it was added in just to put twenty more minutes into the film, and was really unnecessary. And finally, the opening scene, which takes place 35 years before the main plot of the film, adds absolutely nothing to the story. You could take it out, and there would be no major change to the film.

All that being said, I am glad I saw this movie. Sure, it wasn’t as scary as it could be, but it satisfies an itch for horror fans. Especially when a lot of films we wanted to see have been taken off the release schedule and we don’t know when we’ll get to see them. And I got a couple of ideas for stories watching this, so that’s always a plus.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving The Wretched a 3.5. If you’re looking for something to scratch a horror itch, this might be just what you’re looking for. Check your local drive-in to see if it’s playing. And if it’s not, or you don’t have a drive-in theater, check Amazon, Google Play, and YouTube.

The Shanley Hotel in Napanoch, New York, one of the haunted locations I want to visit.

Well, it’s been a while since I’ve written one of these posts. And for those of you who don’t know, I keep a rather extensive list of places purported to be haunted that I want to visit someday, and I’ve been lucky enough to visit a few of them, such as the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast and the Paris catacombs. I’ve even been to the Ohio State Reformatory twice (and if it weren’t for this damned coronavirus, I’d have been there this past weekend for a convention).

And as of last month, I’ve finally come up with enough additions to that list to warrant another one of these posts. So if you’d like to know what places I could possibly visit in the future to look for ghosts, or you want to know some places to avoid in the future, please read below. And you can check out the first three in this series here, here and also here.

And don’t worry. The places on these lists may be haunted, but the posts themselves aren’t. I think.

Drovers Inn, Loch Lomond, Scotland

Head out to rural Scotland, and you’ll find an old, historic house on the north end of Loch Lomond. In addition to being a working hotel, the house also features good food, live music, and more than a few ghosts. Guests have reported flickering lights in midair, a ghost girl in a pink dress showing up in a photograph, the ghost of an angry cattle driver, and a family who died in a snowstorm looking for shelter, among others.

One room, please!

The Shanley Hotel, Napanoch, New York

Yeah, you’re going to be seeing a lot of hotels, motels, and inns on this list. Almost like these places attract spirits for some reason.

Anyway, the Shanley Hotel is a beautiful, three-floored bed and breakfast located in the northern area of New York. Built in 1845 as a hotel, it has gone under many names, but has always been known for an elite clientele and even has been an active bordello at times (scandalous!), and was a site active for bootlegging during Prohibition. To this day, there are many spirits who still haunt the house, including a few children of the previous owners who died young, one of the bootleggers, a cat that died, and perhaps even a few of the bordello women.

Supposedly this place is so haunted, you need to sign a waiver and pay a handsome fee to stay there. But like that is enough to scare me off. Nope, I’m in, and I’ll take anyone who’s brave enough with me.

Wolf’s Creek Inn, Wolf Creek, Oregon

The oldest still-running inn in the Pacific Northwest, this beautiful building features lovely rooms, a restaurant, and more than a few ghosts hiding within its walls. It’s been featured on paranormal shows like Ghost Adventures, and advertises ghost hunts and paranormal tours on its website. If you ask me, it sounds like a good excuse to go out west further west than I’ve ever gone before.

RMS Queen Mary, Long Beach, California

The Queen Mary is a former British ocean liner that first set sail in 1936. It briefly saw use as a troopship, ferrying soldiers to the war. Afterwards, it became a passenger ship and traveled across the Atlantic Ocean until the 1960s. It was retired in 1967, and has been moored in Long Beach, California ever since. It has since become a tourist attraction, and there have been rumors of hauntings ever since, including shadow figures and one room where the ghost of a murdered passenger still hangs around.

Normally I’m not one for cruise ships, but I’d make an exception for this lovely lady.

Hell’s Bridge, Algoma Township, Michigan

If you go into central Michigan, and then into the woods, you’ll find an old, metal bridge spanning a narrow river. It looks unassuming, at least in the day time, but at night it looks rather eerie. Especially when you learn about the legend surrounding the bridge. Supposedly during the 1800s, a serial killer named Elias Friske murdered several children and threw their bodies into the river off a stone bridge. When the bodies were finally found and Friske identified as the killer, he claimed the devil had told him to kill those kids before he was lynched by the locals.

While there are no records of Friske or these supposed crimes, at least none that I could find, the area where the stone bridge was and where the metal bridge now stands has gained a reputation. Supposedly, if you stand on the bridge at night, you’ll spot the spirits of Friske or the children he killed, and perhaps even the forces that he claimed influence him to kill. I’d check it out if I had the chance.

Wisner Bridge, Chardon Township, Ohio

Yeah, there’s a few bridges on this list as well. Another haunted location in Ohio I need to visit, the Wisner Bridge was a Crybaby Bridge, or a bridge where the spirits of dead children can supposedly be heard crying. In this case, the Wisner Bridge supposedly was haunted by spirits of melon heads, diminutive humanoids with bulbous heads in American folklore. While the legends vary from state to state, in Ohio it’s believed the melon heads were orphans who were experimented on by a sadistic doctor, either causing or worsening their appearance. They later killed the doctor, burned down the orphanage, and retreated to the woods near the bridge to live in the wild.

Today the bridge itself is gone, having been torn down in 2013. However, locals still report hearing crying babies at the site where the bridge stood. Whether or not you believe the urban legends, this might be a place for me to check out.

Gold Brook Covered Bridge, Stowe, Vermont

A wooden bridge that has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places, this bridge is also known as Emily’s Bridge, owing to the legend surrounding it. While stories vary, most of them agree that a young woman named Emily was supposed to get married or elope, and when her lover never showed, she died on or by the bridge. There’s no evidence Emily existed and the legend first popped up in 1968, after a student wrote a paper about how they used an Ouija board and made contact with a spirit named Emily.

Since then, many people using Ouija boards and other devices to contact the dead have supposedly come into contact with Emily and learned her story. Even stranger, many people passing over the bridge have been touched or scratched by her, whether on foot or in their cars. Is Emily the spirit of a real person? The result of overactive imaginations? Or did belief in her bring a spirit into existence, one that took on Emily’s identity to answer the demand to see her? I want to go and find out!

Franklin Castle, Cleveland, Ohio

Another Ohio location, the Franklin Castle is an old Victorian manor with a reputation. Its original owners, the Tiedermann family, suffered several deaths while they lived there, including four of their children, and there were rumors of horrific crimes within its walls. Since then, the house has changed hands several times, and several of its past owners and residents have reported hauntings. One family even performed exorcisms in the house before moving out. And in 1975, human bones were found on the property, though there is evidence to suggest they may have been planted.

The good news is, my dad lives up in Cleveland, so there’s a good chance I’ll visit this house the next time I visit my dad. The bad news is, the house is privately owned and there’s very little chance the current owners will let me in. Still, I can at least drive by and take photos. And who knows? Perhaps someone living there will allow me in. Whether that someone is living or not, however, is up for debate.

LaLurie Mansion, New Orleans, Louisiana

Fans of American Horror Story will know Delphine LaLurie as the sadistic southern slave-owner who took pleasure from torturing her slaves. What they may not know is that the house featured in the show was not her actual house. Or that her real house is still standing in New Orleans, and that it may have a few spirits living in it. Supposedly there have been moans heard from the room where the slaves were kept and the sounds of footsteps at night. When the building was an African-American girls’ school, many of the children there reported being attacked by a mysterious woman, and when the building was converted into apartments, one resident was found murdered after claiming a demon was after him.

Sadly, today the house is privately owned and the current owners show no interest in having investigations conducted in the home. So, like the details of LaLurie’s life and the full extent of her crimes, we may never have the full truth. However, ghost tours passing by the house occasionally have encounters of the weird kind. And I would be happy just to have that.

Cecil Hotel, Los Angeles, California

Speaking of American Horror Story, the Cecil Hotel was another inspiration for the fifth season, Hotel. Originally a luxury hotel for businessmen and travelers, after the 1940s the hotel became a home for transients as the neighborhood took a dive. Even before that, though, the hotel had been known for murders and suicides. Other violent and illicit activities occurred there over the years, and the hotel was a temporary home for serial killers Richard Ramirez and Jack Unterweger. In 2013, a Canadian student was found dead and naked in the water tank on the roof. Footage was found of the student acting erratically, poking in and out of and hiding in an elevator hours before her death. The footage is, to say the least, unsettling.

While the hotel has since been renamed the Stay on Main and is trying to gain back its reputation as a luxury destination, the building cannot escape its reputation of sinister and violent occurrences. And perhaps, if I were to check in, I would find some guests that had never checked out.

 

There you go. Ten more haunted or strange locations I’d like to visit after this pandemic has run its course. But tell me, have you been to any of these places? Do you want to go to any of them? Maybe with me? And what haunted places have you been to that I haven’t named? Let’s discuss.

That’s all for now, my  Followers of Fear. I’ll be busy writing this week, so hopefully I get plenty done. And in the meantime, you can still order signed copies of Rose by sending me an email at ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com. Until next time, stay safe, be healthy and pleasant nightmares.

I can’t believe it’s been over a month since my last review, and nearly two months since my last review of a movie. Well, it’s the first of the month and a Friday night. I recently found out about an American remake of a Thai horror film that’s one of the best known Thai horror films and Thai films in general known internationally. The Thai film is on Netflix. Let’s get into it.

Shutter follows Tun, a photographer, and his girlfriend, Jane. On the way back from a friend’s wedding, they accidentally run a girl over and flee the spot. However, nothing is reported to the police or the hospitals, and things get weirder from there. Spirit images show up in Tun’s photos, and the more Jane digs into things, the more she realizes that the girl they ran over wasn’t just a random accident. Something’s coming for Tun and his friends, something from their past. And whether in a photo or in reality, it’s not going away.

So Asian horror films can be hit-or-miss with me, but this one actually did okay with me. While the plot feels a lot like a basic Blumhouse formula film–you know, characters somehow catch the eye of something evil, it slowly comes after them with jumpscares and other weird moments to scare them before killing them, and then finally there’s some sort of climax after all the backstory is revealed–here, it’s done pretty well. The jumpscares aren’t overused and are actually pretty effective, partly because the ghost of the film is so damn creepy.

Along with that, the film does some great scenes full of tension. There’s one scene with a flashing camera in a dark room that I’m sure was terrifying on the big screen, and there was another scene involving a biology lab full of preserved specimens that actually had me curled up a bit in my seat.

And as I said, the ghost of the film is so damn creepy, thanks to some great makeup and not overusing her appearances.

However, there are some things Shutter could’ve done better at. As I said, the story is kind of formulaic, so there were plenty of things I saw coming and which I’m sure other people would see coming. Sure, there were some good twists and some excellent foreshadowing at times, but still predictable at times.

And if you’re photosensitive, I would recommend skipping over the camera-in-the-dark room scene. Also, this film contains some elements that might upset certain viewers, so trigger warning.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving Shutter a 3.5. If you’re looking for a popcorn horror film to last an hour and a half, this might do the trick for you. It’s on Netflix, so enjoy.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m still taking orders for signed copies of Rose, all you have to do is email me at ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com. In the meantime, there’s a book that’s literally screaming my name (surprisingly not a grimoire of dark magic), so I’m going to go read that. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

This story is set in the Cthulhu Mythos (and may or may not involve the big tentacled guy. I aim to keep you guessing).

Well, this has been a productive day. Today I finished a new story!

“What Errour Awoke” is a story set in the Cthulhu Mythos.* The story follows Taylor Molton-Reed, a graduate student at my alma mater, Ohio State. One day, while teaching a class on the famous British poem The Faerie Queene, the description of one of the monsters in the poem awakens repressed memories in one of his students of a certain Great Old One (I’ll let you guess which one until you actually read the story). The student later relates to Taylor what he remembered, beginning a chain of events involving this particular eldritch monster and its plans for the people of this world.

This story was actually inspired by my own studies in college. I read the Faerie Queene‘s first book in one of my British literature courses, and remembered one of the monsters in it quite particularly. Years later, after I’d gotten deep into Lovecraft’s canon and became familiar with many of the entities in the story, I found myself thinking back on that monster and thinking to myself, “Hey, wait a minute! That sounds a lot like such-and-such entity!” Thus the idea for this story was birthed.

I had a lot of fun writing this story. For one thing, it’s set right in the Cthulhu Mythos, and there’s a certain thrill for me when it comes to writing stories set in that world (possibly because I’m an entity right out of that world?). For another, the majority of it takes place during our current pandemic. so it was cathartic to write about. I’ve compared the coronavirus to a Lovecraftian entity in the past, so writing about it in a Cthulhu Mythos story felt especially apropos. And finally, I had a lot of fun applying something other than the writing courses from my English major to a story, and modeling certain parts of the story after the first book of Faerie Queene.

In fact, I liked this story so much, I decided to put this into that collection of short stories I’ve been working on and switch out one of the weaker stories in it. That’s how much I loved it, and how confident I am readers will enjoy it.

Now, for the stats on the story. “What Errour Awoke” totaled out to 63 pages and 17,880 words, the last 13 pages and 3,880 words written over the course of this afternoon and evening (yeah, I went on one hell of a writing binge). This puts it at a novelette, so I’m two for two on getting at least one short(er) story done per month for the rest of 2020. Hopefully I can keep that up with the next story, which I’ll likely finish in May.

Speaking of which, what’s next? Well, I’ll be reaching out to some writers I know who may be able to give me some valuable feedback on how to edit “What Errour Awoke.” And while they’re doing that, I’ll be starting work on the last story for that collection, a novelette or novella set in my beloved Victorian England. Believe me, it’s going to be a strange one. A wonderfully strange one.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. There’s a late Shabbat dinner and an Avengers movie calling my name. Until next time, Shabbat Shalom, stay safe, be healthy, and pleasant nightmares.

*Which means, if my parents ever read this story, they’re not going to get any of the references and think I made up more than I did for this story.

I heard about this book sometime last year and immediately requested my library buy copies (they did, and I was #1 on the list). I mean, a horror story set on the Titanic and having to do with some sort of creature living in the sea? Where do I sign up? And it came in for me at the library right before my library ceased operations due to the virus, so I was happy to get it when I did.

The Deep follows Annie Hebbley, a maid who works on the Titanic, and gets involved with the Fletcher family, a troubled married couple with a baby girl. Strange things occur on the ship leading up to that fateful (or fatal?) meeting. Years later, Annie meets Mark Fletcher, the very same man she waited on during that voyage, though now she’s a nurse on the Titanic’s sister ship the Britannic and he’s a wounded soldier returning from the battlefield of WWI. Coincidence? Or is something else at play? Something that has unfinished business with these ships and their passengers?

Let me tell you, this book has a lot going for it. For one thing, it’s set partially on the Titanic, which is always a fascinating topic and setting for any story. And turning it into a ghost story? Even cooler.* That, and the Titanic sailed during the Edwardian era, which is close enough to my beloved Victorian era that I felt right at home.

But beyond that, this is one damn good horror novel. Author Alma Katsu takes a psychological approach to this story, using hints to keep us guessing as to what’s going on. Are people going crazy onboard? Is there something supernatural afoot? Whether it be a seance or someone acting strange, you’re kept very up in the air about it up until the last fifth or so of the book, and even then, you may still have questions.

At the same time, you get to know a lot of these characters intimately. It’s a big cast, told from the points of views of Annie, Mark Fletcher and his wife Caroline, you have the POVs of several historical figures, including boxers Dai Bowen and Leslie Williams, whom I absolutely fell in love with; Madeleine Astor, worried about an alleged curse on her unborn child; and William Stead, an aged journalist with an interest in the occult.** But Katsu does a great job of developing each and every character and giving them a unique voice and issues to explore.

A lot of attention is paid to detail as well, the same sort of attention that went visually into James Cameron’s movie. It really brings alive the setting for both ships, and makes you feel like you’re there. And there are plenty of moments filled with tension, such as the aforementioned seance, a scene at the saltwater pool, or close to the very end, when things are finally revealed.

The ship may have sunk, but the stories about it, like my heart, will go on. And in some cases, get very creepy.

All these factors kind of make it feel like you’re watching a really dark and spooky stageplay about the Titanic, only you’re reading it out of a book. In fact, I can imagine The Deep being made into a stageplay someday, or perhaps even a Broadway musical, one that’s scarier and has less humor than Sweeney Todd. I’d even help adapt it if someone deemed me experienced enough and wanted me to.

I can’t find anything to put as a downside to this novel. Some might find it a bit too slow, or maybe too much time is spent on the characters’ problems and backstories. I didn’t, but I can see other people feeling that way.

Overall, I’m giving The Deep by Alma Katsu a 4.5 out of 5. It’s an unnerving, intimate historical horror novel that’ll have you enthralled. Pick up a copy, put on that one Celine Dion song you’re probably thinking of, and get ready to dive in to what may be a contender for next year’s Bram Stoker awards.

*Of course, when I try to turn a luxury cruise liner into a ghost story, Disney’s lawyers come after me. How was I supposed to know ritualistic murder wasn’t allowed in international waters? It’s always okay in wartime!

**I recognized him from my own research into Victorian England. When I came across him and the reference to the occult, I literally shouted “Wait, I know this guy!” to my empty apartment.

I had a revelation recently. No, not the kind that inspires texts that are the basis for entire religions. I had that already, and you do not want to know what information was imparted to me. No, it’s about Lovecraftian fiction.

Now, the common image among people, readers and writers, of Lovecraftian fiction is Cthulhu or any other Great Old One/Elder God/giant terrifying monster from the deep sea/outer space/alternate dimension. And that’s not wrong. From stories like The Dunwich Horror to the recent science-horror film Underwater, big monsters are a major part of the story and, along with the mind-bending insanity and dark truths they represent, are the main source of horror.

But it’s recently come to my attention that Lovecraftian horror stories are about more than just the monsters. Sometimes, it’s about psychological horror. Sometimes, you can have an effective scary story by not showing the monster, but by instead relegating the monsters to mere glimpses or suggestions and focusing on the characters’ reactions. And if done right, it can lead to some compelling horror.

There are actually plenty of stories like this. And if you’re reading this blog, you’ve probably run into plenty of them. The Call of Cthulhu, for example. Being by Howard Phillips himself, it’s obviously Lovecraftian, but have you ever noticed that we never really see Cthulhu? Think about it. The closest we ever get to seeing the High Priest of the Great Old Ones himself is through the eyes of a Scandinavian sailor’s diary. The narrator only sees drawings and statues of him.

And yet we’re scared, because the very idea of what we glean from these diary recordings is of a worldwide cult, one devoted to a very real god. One that will use humans as its pawns so that, when it finally arises, it’s in prime condition to take over our world. And the cult will do away with anyone who gets in their master’s way.

And while that’s a great example, there’s plenty more where that came from. Last year’s film The Lighthouse (see my review here) was Lovecraftian with a capital L, but we barely saw any of the marine monstrosities supposedly behind the horrors occurring on the island. And what we did see, we weren’t sure if they were real (within the film, anyway). Are they monsters, or are they just the manifestations of two men on an isolated island having a breakdown? Or maybe it’s a bit of both. It’s hard to tell.

A great example of this Lovecraftian psychological horror, 2019’s The Lighthouse.

And not just The Lighthouse. Stephen King’s novella N is told from the POV of people who all claim to be guardians of a circle of stones. If they don’t perform certain rituals, the stones will become a portal for terrible monsters. We never see these monsters though, and it’s possible that all the characters are suffering from a shared delusion. Or is it something more?

And in the novel I’m reading now (I hope to finish it and have the review up tomorrow or Thursday), there’s a Lovecraftian undertone, but the focus is on the characters and how they’re dealing with all the lies and hidden secrets swirling around them.

Or maybe that’s not a Lovecraftian undertone, but some other supernatural undertone. I’ll let you know when I finish the novel.

Anyway, it’s a good thing I’ve noticed that. The story I’m trying to write next is going to be heading into that psychological/Lovecraftian territory, so hopefully I can do a good job of it. And even if I don’t, it’ll at least be good practice.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m off to bed. I hope you’re not going stir-crazy while social distancing yourselves. If you want, we can talk in the comments for a bit.

Anyway, until next time, pleasant nightmares!