Archive for the ‘short story’ Category

“The Headless Horseman Pursuing Ichabod Crane” by John Quidor, 1858

Recently, I rewatched a movie inspired by The Legend of Sleepy Hollow that I first saw a teen. The movie was better in my memory, but it did get me interested in the original Washington Irving short story. Which, I realized, I’d never actually read. The closest I ever came was a version that had been updated for the 21st century and dumbed down for kids. As it was America’s first ghost story and I’m a horror writer from America, I figured I should correct that.

So, I read the short story. And then I did some research into the story’s background and influences, as well as some of the other adaptations (I will maintain to my death that the best version is the TV series Sleepy Hollow, and not the Disney cartoon or the Tim Burton film). And once again, following my interests has led me both down a rabbit hole and to an idea for a new story.

Still my preferred adaptation.

But first, let me tell you some things about The Legend of Sleepy Hollow that may surprise you. Turns out, there’s a lot about this story than most realize.

For instance, there really were two historical figures named Ichabod Crane and Katrina Van Tassel. Yeah, they were real people. Washington Irving liked to name characters after people he met. For Katrina Van Tassel, she was the daughter of a family Irving stayed overnight with, and was charmed enough by her to immortalize her in fiction. I wonder how she felt about her character being a flirty MacGuffin whose father’s fortunes and lands were more relevant than her appearance or lack of a personality.

As for Ichabod Crane, he was a colonel in the US Army who served for nearly five decades (yes, I believe that’s where the TV show got the idea to make him a Revolutionary soldier as well). However, his character was likely based on an actual schoolteacher, Jesse Merwin, who taught in Kinderhook, New York and came from Connecticut, like the fictional Crane did. So…yay for namesakes?

Speaking of Washington Irving, he’s buried in the real town of Sleepy Hollow. Yeah, that’s true. They even worked that into the movie I mentioned at the top of the post (though they left a lot of questions in their wake).

But the biggest surprise I found out about America’s first ghost story? It’s not a ghost story.

Now I know what you’re thinking. But hear me out: while it’s regarded as a ghost story by many, this is mostly because the Headless Horseman and his midnight chase of Crane has entered the public consciousness more than any other aspect of the story. In reality, the Horseman plays only a minor role until the story’s climax.

Disney’s Headless Horseman. Traumatizing children and contributing to the confusion over the story since 1949.

So what is The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, if not a ghost story? Why, it’s a somewhat comedic tale of two self-centered men vying for the hand of the local squire’s daughter and the cunning trick one uses to get ahead of the other.

In one corner, you have Ichabod Crane, the educated but superstitious outsider who uses his learning and guile to ingratiate himself into the town, feed his gluttonous appetite and maybe marry into a wealthy lifestyle. In the other, you have Abraham “Brom Bones” Van Brunt, the local tough who is more brawny than intelligent but is stubborn and cunning, and may be just as interested in Katrina Van Tassel as he is in her inheritance. Neither one is exactly likable, but it’s fun to see these two go to extremes just to marry Katrina.

And while most adaptations paint the Horseman as a supernatural entity, the original story strongly hints that Brom was dressed up as the Horseman to scare the superstitious Ichabod out of town, which is why the latter disappeared from Sleepy Hollow. In fact, the first feature film adaptation of the story, the 1922 silent film The Headless Horseman, explicitly shows Brom taking off the costume after Ichabod runs for his life for New York City.

As I said though, the Horseman, which is likely based on the Irish myth of the dullahan and other European myths of headless horsemen (trust me, there are a few, though the dullahan’s the most famous), is what made it into pop culture more than anything else, and may play a key role in why the story is still famous today. That, and the Disney cartoon, but mostly the Horseman.

In any case, all this has given me my own ideas for a sequel story to The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. And while I’m working hard on that, I thought I’d mention this all now. Because let’s face it, it’s all so fascinating. Also, I probably won’t have time to mention it in the post announcing the completion of the first draft. Might as well do it here.

But tell me, what’s your take on The Legend of Sleepy Hollow? Did you know any of this stuff? What’s your favorite adaptation? Let’s discuss.

That’s all for now. I’ll be at work on the story if you need me. Until next time, Followers of Fear, pleasant nightmares!

Folly Beach, the beach Ramsey and I visited, and which is the setting and inspiration for this latest story.

Two stories finished four days apart. Not sure if I’ve ever done that before.

So remember when I mentioned my buddy Ramsey and I visited a beach called Folly Beach in my Impressions of South Carolina post? Well, Ramsey is just barely able to tolerate horror. I know, odd considering he’s one of my best friends ever, but it’s true. Anyway, I decided to take advantage of this and mess with him before it was time to leave by making him think, even if just for a second, that something out of a horror situation was happening to us on that beach at that very moment. And you know what? He bought it, if only for a moment.

Obviously, it was funny, but it was also the basis for this story, Folly Beach. I basically  imagined what might happen if that situation I got Ramsey to believe in really happened, changed some names and added some events to make things more interesting. The result is Folly Beach, a new short story just under thirty-eight hundred words.

Yeah, that is pretty short for me, I know. Still, I didn’t think it would be long to begin with, and happy with the results.

So, what’s next with this story? Well, I’ve already sent it to Ramsey to read and laugh (or scream) over. And I’m looking for beta readers to take a look at it and give me some feedback. My hope is to have a second draft done by the end of September/early October, in time for a particular publication’s submission window to open. I don’t think I’ll get in, given that it’s a hard publication to get into, but when I have something that fits its word count limit and I think would be a good fit, I have to try.

And in the meantime, I’ve already figured out what I’m going to write next (though I’ll probably wait a couple of days before I start on it). Yeah, no matter what, I keep busy.

Well, that’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m sure I’ll have more to say in the coming days. Maybe even as soon as tomorrow (though if I do publish a post tomorrow, I’ll be going to bed soon after! I can’t do these late nights as much as I used to).

Until next time, stay safe and pleasant nightmares!

I didn’t think I’d complete a new story this month, what with all the traveling. But somehow, I pulled it off. And without sacrificing any lives or limbs in the process, might I add. Good for me.

“Agoraphobia” is a short story I started before I left on my trip to Iowa and South Carolina earlier this month. The story follows a man with severe agoraphobia and social anxiety, to the point he never leaves his home. Which is a problem, because he lives in hurricane country and one’s bearing down on his area, forcing him to have to consider evacuating with everyone else. And that gets a bit more complicated when it appears the storm lets something into his house. Something that aims to do him harm.

So, this was pretty different from my normal fiction. It ended up being more literary horror than what I originally intended. Even so, I think it came out pretty well. Whether or not it’s good enough to publish is anyone’s guess, but I think with some feedback from the right beta reader, it could improve considerably.

Also, fun fact: I actually finished this story late Tuesday night. But during the writing, I started writing the story with a particular idea for the second half, only to change that idea midway through writing the first draft. So during these past few days, I’ve been going through it to cut out the parts that were written when the goal was the original ending.

Anyway, I’m going to see if I can find a beta reader for “Agoraphobia.” After that, I’m going to likely start work on my next story. Yes, that’s right, I already know what I’m going to write next. Let’s hope that story will be worth something when it’s done as well.

Until next time, my Followers of Fear, stay safe, avoid summoning demons into your home, and pleasant nightmares!

Happy Monday, everyone! How are you? Did you have a good weekend? I did…until Sunday evening, when an incident occurred in the vicinity of my apartment complex that required the police to be called. Yeah, that happened. Don’t worry, I’m fine, as is everyone who was involved, as far as I know. I won’t go into details, just saying that stuff happened and while I didn’t have a front-row seat, I heard quite a bit of it.

Which led to me staying up later than I meant to, getting a headache that lasted all night and through most of the morning, and feeling so off when I got up that I nearly called in sick to work. Yeah, I was not a happy lord of evil and master of nightmares.

Thankfully, the events outside gave me some wicked inspiration for a short story. And feeling that inspiration take hold, after work was done and after dinner was consumed, I sat down to write the story. And I finished it all, as the title suggested, in one sitting. I can only think of one other time that’s happened, it’s that rare. And a good thing too, because writing all that in one go is exhausting. All you other writers know what I’m talking about.

Anyway, details about the story. The House That Comes and Goes is about a white colonial house that suddenly appears in a vacant lot one night, and a nurse who goes to investigate after someone she knows go into the house and doesn’t emerge. How is it related to events in my neighborhood? Well, the opening loosely reflects what happened in my neighborhood. I won’t say much else lest I give away spoilers, but I have to say, this story was great revenge against the people who kept me awake and made me feel sick.

Now, what’s going to happen with this story? Well, it’s very short for one of my stories, 3,353 words, so I think I could find it a good home much more easily than some of my other stories.* First, however, I’m going to see if I can’t get it looked at and get some feedback so I can edit and improve it. I’ve already reached out to a couple of interested people, so now it’s just a matter of waiting for a response.

In the meantime, tomorrow I’ll return to my Victorian England story (which is coming along very well, by the way). At the rate I’m going, I think I’ll be finished around mid-May, which works great for me. After all, my goal is still to finish ten short(er) stories between March and December this year, and I’m well on-track for that.

In the meantime though, there’s a nice, warm bed calling my name. Goodnight, my Followers of Fear. Stay safe, be healthy, and pleasant nightmares to you all!

*Yeah, that’s a lot for one day. I’m not sure how I did that in one sitting, either. But on the bright side, at least I didn’t write something a whole lot longer in one sitting. Can you imagine what I’d be like after writing a story like that?

Hey everyone! So, a lot of my fellow writers, especially within the horror writing community, have been posting videos of themselves reading all or parts of stories they’ve written. This is actually something I wanted to do for a long time, so seeing my colleagues doing it gave me the push I needed to finally go ahead and do it. Plus, it gave me the opportunity to make a special announcement (more on that below).

Specifically, I read from “Car Chasers,” the short story that was published in the anthology The Binge-Watching Cure II back in December. It doesn’t have an audio version, and I wouldn’t want to try with Rose on a YouTube video when the audio book’s narrator, Sara Parlier, did such a great job, so this was the perfect choice.

However, this video almost didn’t make it to the Internet. Yeah, YouTube has this stupid policy where it won’t let you upload videos longer than fifteen minutes unless you go through this whole rigmarole with them. And they didn’t tell me this until I already spent nearly three hours uploading the video. So I had to go through that process, then wait another three hours to upload and release a video. Thanks, YouTube! Ruined my evening plans! I thought you were trying to be more creator-friendly! Hmph!

Anyway, here’s the video. Please give it a watch, and stick around till the end for a special announcement.

Well, what did you think? Hope my reading voice didn’t cause your ears to bleed.

Also, if you didn’t stick around to the end, here’s the announcement: you can get a signed copy of my novel Rose from me! All you have to do is send an email to ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com to get the full details.

Of course, you can still get Rose from Amazon and Audible, as well as any bookstores that happen to have copies in stock (there are a few), but this would be a bit more special. And you’d get a physical copy without forcing an Amazon employee to run around the fulfillment center while Amazon ignores social distancing rules.*

And if you haven’t already, please consider getting a copy of The Binge-Watching Cure II from Claren Books. You’d be supporting a great company and encouraging them to print more anthologies. And this book has a lot of great authors in it: Nick Younker, Amanda Crum, Bill Adler, Armand Rosamalia, and many more. And every story is chilling in each its own way. I’ll include links for that down below as well.

And remember, if you buy a copy of either and read it, please leave a review so that I and the other authors know what you thought of our stories. Thanks!

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Until next time, happy reading, stay safe, be healthy, and pleasant nightmares!

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

The Binge-Watching Cure II: Paperback, Kindle

*Hey, I make money through them, but that doesn’t mean the company is above criticism.

Well, this has been a busy day today. Met with the Ohio chapter of the HWA for a very productive meeting, ran some important errands for stuff happening at work and in the Jewish calendar, watched a movie with dinner, and…oh yeah, got the first short story of 2020 out of my way. It looks like I’m making good progress on those writing goals.

“Primordial Nuclear Soup” is a science-horror story about a team of scientists and their military escort who go into a nuclear power facility two years after a meltdown, and what they encounter there. It was inspired by a YouTube video I watched going into some of the science about the Chernobyl disaster, and was further influenced by a certain Stephen King story and a certain Godzilla movie (neither of which I can reveal without giving too many hints about the story). It’s about sixty-five hundred words long, so it’s not super long. And as it’s partially science-fiction, there will hopefully be plenty of magazines or anthologies that would consider publishing it.

I had a lot of fun writing this short story, but it was also challenging. I thought I knew which way it was going to go, but the story ended up going in different directions than I expected. I was actually pantsing for the last half or so, but it ended up working out in the end. Maybe that’ll give it a bit more surprise for any readers.

For now though, I’m going to see if I can’t get someone take a look at this story before I edit and submit it anywhere. I want it to be in top shape, after all.

As for what’s next, I’m going to do some research into essay writing for that essay I mentioned wanting to write. If I feel up to the task, I’ll write that essay. If not, I’ll move onto my next story. After all, I have nine short(er) stories I mean to work on, and I’ve already figured out which one I’ll be tackling next. Should be good to get it out, considering how long it’s been knocking around this twisted head of mine.

Well, it’s late, and I’ve got work in the morning. Goodnight, my Followers of Fear, and pleasant nightmares!

I’m glad I made the decision to only do these posts every now and then. They’re more special when I do, especially after I actually manage to publish something.

Anyway, welcome back to #FirstLineFriday, where I post the first one or two lines of a story I either might write, am writing, or have finished writing (and in some cases have published). As always, let me list the rules of this meme. On Fridays, you,

  1. Create a post on your blog titled #FirstLineFriday, hashtag and all.
  2. Explain the rules like I’m doing now.
  3. Post the first one or two lines of a potential story, a story-in-progress, or a completed/published story.
  4. Ask your readers for feedback and try to get them to try #FirstLineFriday on their own blogs (tagging is encouraged but not necessary).

If it’s not obvious, I’ll be posting the first two lines of “Car Chasers,” the story that was featured in the recently-released anthology The Binge-Watching Cure II. I’m really proud of this story, so I’m going to do everything in my power to get people to read it. Enjoy:

There are many tales that come out of Shan Woods. Nearly all of them have to do with Chasers’ Run.

Thoughts? Did that opening grab you? Did you find it creepy? Let’s discuss in the comments below.

And if you’d like to read the full story, check out The Binge-Watching Cure II. It’s a great anthology containing horror stories from a variety of authors, each one longer than the last (mine occupies the eight-thousand word spot). I’ll include the links below in case you want to check it out.

And in the meantime, I think I’ll tag thee, Priscilla Bettis! That’s right, YOU have to do this post next Friday for something you’re planning to write/are writing/have written. And there’s no getting out of it. Mwa ha ha ha!

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ll try to have something out again soon. Until then, have a good weekend and pleasant nightmares!

The Binge-Watching Cure II: Paperback, Kindle

Cover for The Binge-Watching Cure II, from Claren Books

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, the paperback edition of the new anthology The Binge-Watching Cure II, featuring my short story “Car Chasers,” had not yet been uploaded to Amazon. I’m pleased to say as of now, the paperback edition of The Binge-Watching Cure II is now available.

Now if you missed yesterday’s announcement, this is a really cool horror anthology. The Binge-Watching Cure II is written with stories becoming longer as you get further along in the book. The first story is the length of your average tweet, while the longest stories are upwards of ten-thousand words. This way, you can easily go for a shorter story, if you’re in the mood for a quick jolt of horror, or something a bit longer if you’d like something to kill time with.

My own story, “Car Chasers,” fills the eight thousand words spot, and is what happens when you turn Fast & Furious-style car races into a ghost story. I’m very excited to see it in the anthology, and I hope plenty of people get a chance to read it.

I also hope James Wan will direct a movie adaptation, but I won’t hold my breath.

Anyway, I’ll post the links for both the paperback and ebook versions below. For some reason, Amazon’s hosting both versions separately, like they did when Rose came out. Why they do that, I don’t know, but whatever. If you get a copy of The Binge-Watching Cure II and you like it, please leave a review. Doing so allows more readers to find the book, and encourages Claren Books to publish more anthologies like this one.

That’s all for now. I’m going to be working on the next chapter of Toyland this evening while watching the OSU-Clemson game (Go Bucks!). Until next time, my Followers of Fear, pleasant nightmares!

The Binge-Watching Cure II: Paperback link, Ebook link

Look at this cover! It’s freaking beautiful!

If any of you checked my Facebook page or my Twitter feed after my last post, I hinted that I might have some good news I would be sharing today or tomorrow. Three years ago, I wrote a story called Car Chasers, which I describe as a mash up of Fast & Furious-style races with a ghost story. About a year and a half ago, I announced that the story had been accepted into an anthology. And last night, that anthology, The Binge-Watching Cure II, was released by Claren Books on Amazon!

I’m very excited to let you know this horror anthology has been released. It’s a rather unique anthology, as every successive story is longer than the one preceding it. In fact, during the submission process, we had to submit our stories based on a certain word length and how close we were to fifteen percent of that word count. I was lucky enough to be considered for the eight thousand word spot, and after some deliberation, Car Chasers was selected as the story!

And after having Rose accepted by Castrum Press a few months previously, seeing this story accepted by Claren Books was a really big deal for me. I was still having some anxiety over the amount of editing I needed to do for Rose, so this was a boost to my confidence.

Where was I? Oh right. The Binge-Watching Cure II‘s stories range from 140 characters (just over the original size of a tweet), to twenty-five thousand words. So if you’re looking for something quick to digest, or something long to chew on, you’ll find it here. And there are some great authors here: Amanda Crum, Nick Youncker, Lana Cooper, Robert E. Stahl, and Armand Rosamilia, among many others.

Also this guy named Rami Ungar. Have you heard of him? Neither have I, but I hear he’s a bit of a weirdo. Hopefully the good kind of weirdo, right?

The only version available right now is the ebook, but the paperback will be out soon enough, so keep checking back to the Amazon page if paperback is more your jam. I’ll include the links below. And if you do get the book and read it, please consider leaving a review online where you can. Not just because we love to hear your feedback, but because reviews help more people find the anthology and get them to read it, which keeps the cycle going, as well as encourages Claren Books to put together and release more anthologies like this one.

Also, I’m hoping director James Wan, known for both Furious 7 and the Conjuring movies, will somehow come across the anthology, read Car Chasers, and want to adapt it. I doubt it will happen, but I can dream and encourage, right?

Anyway, thank you to Bill Adler Jr. and Sarah Doebereiner, as well as the rest of the team at Claren Books, for letting me be part of this anthology. And thank you to the other authors whose company I find myself with in The Binge-Watching Cure II. It’s an honor to join you.

And thank you, Followers of Fear. I hope you check out the book, and let me know what you think. And thank you for your continued support. One of the reasons I keep writing is because you keep supporting me, and I’m so grateful for that.

That’s all for now. I’m off to start a new chapter of Toyland, make dinner, bring in Shabbat and the latest night of Hanukkah, and chill out with some TV. Not necessarily in that order. Until next time, Shabbat Shalom and pleasant nightmares.

Link for The Binge-Watching Cure II.

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!