I’ve got a new article from Self-Published Authors Helping Other Authors today, and it’s a good one. If you remember the last time I wrote one of these articles, it was about an author named Lani Sarem who had conned her way to the top of the New York Times bestseller list with her YA novel, “Handbook for Mortals,” and how the YA Twitter community found her out (click here for the article). Well, today’s article is a follow-up of that first article, based on the author’s own response to the controversy. I go over her response and give my two cents on the matter. Was she unfairly targeted by Twitter, or is she as bad as everyone says? Click here, and we can maybe make some educated guesses.

And if you haven’t had a chance, check out the entirety of Self-Published Authors Helping Other Authors. I and other indie authors bring you the very best in advice for writing, editing, publishing, and marketing independently. We’ve got just about everything, and we do an awesome job of it. Check it out, and see what you can learn.

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So back in the beginning of the year, I took a number of steps to improve visibility on my blog, maybe grow my audience, and ¬†become a better writer in general (jury’s still out on whether or not that’s working). One of those was to get a special email account through WordPress, one exclusively for this site and for use as an author. Studies show that professional looking email addresses are taken much more seriously than ones that look like awesomesoccerdude83 [at] website [dot] com. And while I love my personal email account, it’s not exactly the kind of email address that’s conducive for looking professional. And if I’m going to try and get an agent or publisher, might as well look a bit more professional. Even if my idea of high fashion involves a Sailor Moon-themed sweatshirt (don’t ask for photos. I just got that sweatshirt, and I’m waiting for the right weather to wear it).

For some reason though, I have to log out of my Google Mail account (which I only use to make sure I have access to a YouTube account. Priorities!) and then log into the other account. I can’t access both at the same time. And sometime after I got the account, I forgot the password. And then I didn’t pursue getting a new password for a while. Mainly because to get it back, Google wanted the last password I could remember. Which I couldn’t remember.

There’s a GIF for this situation. Which should I use?

That’s it. Thank you Hermione. I should’ve written the password down in the first place. You’re always and forever awesome.

But two months ago, I tried to get a new password. And that started the email equivalent of broken telephone. One person would answer my email to the WordPress help team asking for an explanation. I’d explain and send the email back. A second person would answer back and ask more questions. I’d answer those questions. A third person answered and gave me the exact wrong thing for my problem. Yeah, after a while of this, I just gave up and stopped.

And then two weeks ago, I decided to give it another try. No reason, I just thought if I got the email account, I might as well use it. I sent WordPress another message, this time wording it so that even a chipmunk would understand what I wanted. A week later, I got the link to change my password. And I wrote down the password, hiding the note in a secret location.

So finally, I have my author email account back! And I’ve set a reminder on my phone so I can check the account at least once a week. And I plan to be using it as much as possible for all author-y things. For submitting stories, querying agents and publishers, and even communicating with fans (I’m sure some of you exist) and friends.

So what’s this mysterious email address? Glad you asked. Here it is:

ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com

Simple and easy to remember, right? I’ll be posting it on my About Me page, so if you can’t find this particular post or your memory is as bad as mine, you’ll still be able to contact me.

So if you’re a friend or Follower of Fear, I look forward to emailing you from this new address.

If you’re an agent or publisher, I’m always willing to talk to you about business propositions.

If you’re a stalker and imagine showing up at my home, possibly with a knife, please seek professional help for that. You can live a happy life without being in close proximity to me and/or my corpse 24/7!

If you’re planning on sending me nude photos, please don’t. Those can ruin lives when uploaded to the Internet. And depending on your age, sending and/or receiving them can send us both to prison.

If you’re a troll or con artist looking to use me for your own sick purposes, please refrain from doing so. And if you still insist on sending me emails meant to make me angry or take my money, then…YOUR MOTHER IS A ***** ***** ****ING **** **** LORUM IPSUM ****** AGMINTUM VEVEUM ****** **** ***** ***** TRUGULA ***** **** ***** *** HIPPOPOTAMUS ***** ***** REPUBLICAN ***** ***** **** ***** AND DANIEL RADCLIFFE *** **** **** ***** WITH A BUCKET OF ***** **** **** **** AND A CASTLE FAR AWAY WHERE NO ONE CAN HEAR YOU *** **** **** **** SOUP ***** **** **** WITH A BUCKET OF **** *** ***** MICKEY MOUSE **** *** AND A STICK OF DYNAMITE *** ***** *** MAGICAL *** **** ***** *** ***** ALAKAZAM!!!!

Points to whoever can correctly guess what the hell I’m referencing with that long profanity.

Well, that’s all, my Followers of Fear. I’ll check the email account next week, and maybe even see an email from you guys. Until then or the next blog post, pleasant nightmares!

I’ve literally been waiting seven years for this movie, since I first heard rumors of a remake. I got hopeful when Cary Fukunaga was brought on board to direct and when he started casting, felt my spirits plummet when he left, felt concern when Andy Muschetti replaced him (I did not care for his film Mama), felt a little hopeful again when I saw the first photos of Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise, and felt really hopeful and excited when the first trailer came out. I waited for months and months, possibly building the film up more in my head than I should. When the time came, I invited friends to come see It with me. And finally, the day came. I showed up early to make sure my friends and I got good seats. And then the show began.

I can say with zero hesitation that this is the It film we deserve.

So if you’ve been living under a rock since 1986, It is a Stephen King novel about a small town haunted by a monster that takes the form of a clown, and the seven brave souls who fight it, first as children and later as adults. There was a TV miniseries done back in the 1990’s that was absolutely terrible (how do you take a King novel and put it on ABC primetime? That’s like trying to take a rabid wolf and pretend it’s a puppy dog!), and now we have a feature film, focusing on the children’s portion of the story. And it tops the miniseries in every way possible.

Now, I’m not going to say this is the scariest film I’ve seen. I actually found Annabelle: Creation to be much scarier in terms of jump scares and atmosphere than It was. However, that doesn’t mean It‘s not a scary film. It did have some scares. The problem is, I’m so well-versed with the source material, I could guess where they would do jump scares or anything like that, and it’s difficult to get scared when you know what’s likely to happen next. However, there were a lot of other people who found the film terrifying, so one should consider my reaction an outsider.

And I did get scared at points. More on that below.

My ticket.

I also liked how this was a much more faithful adaptation. Besides taking place in the 1980’s rather than in the 1950’s, this movie sticks pretty closely to the novel. But more than that, it sticks to the spirit of the story, delving into the darkness the TV miniseries couldn’t because of the channel it was on. The film’s not afraid to go as dark as possible (without risking the R rating, of course), showing actual lost limbs and hinting at sexual abuse, among other things.

But while the film is more faithful to the book, that’s not to say there’s no deviation beyond a change in decade, and this is where the story gets scary for me. Especially during the final third of the film, they change a few things in order to make the story flow better, and I think that’s when I find the film not only the scariest, but the most effective. Not only that, but the film uses Dutch angles, lighting and music quite effectively to emphasize dark or creepy or weird scenes, highlighting the strangeness and horror of the story. Whoever had the bright idea for that knew what they were doing.

The film also had its funny moments, and they weren’t distracting at all. I like it when a horror film is able to do that.

I also loved the actors. Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise the Dancing Clown kicks Tim Curry to the curb! Whereas Curry played the character much more comically, here Pennywise is creepy as It should be. Not only is Pennywise’s whole look here freaky as hell, but paired with Bill Skarsgard mastery of a menacing manner, and a slight lisp, and you can’t helped but be freaked by Pennywise. Even when he’s dancing (and yes, Pennywise actually dances in this film, something we haven’t seen in the book or the miniseries), he’s scary. Best Pennywise ever, and I want to dress up as him for Halloween, if not this year then the next.

Me being silly after the film with friends.

 

The kids are also great. Every single one of them is masterful in making you believe they are these characters, who are given time to grow and develop throughout the film’s two-hour run time. My personal favorite was probably Beverly, played by Sophia Lillis. She was such a great character, one of the strongest of the Losers Club but also one of the most vulnerable due to her home situation, and I loved that about her (as well as how kick-ass she can get). I also liked Finn Wolfhard of Stranger Things fame, who captured Richie Tozier’s dirty mouth and stupid humor just perfectly. And Jack Dylan Glazer did a great job of capturing Eddie as a hypochondriac who grows into a much braver child. And oh God, Nicholas Hamilton as Henry Bowers was such a scary guy!

Honestly, the whole cast was great, and I could go on with how much I loved them.

My Losers Club for the day. Thanks guys!

There were a couple of things I didn’t like, sadly. For one, the CGI was actually more distracting than scary, and a few more practical effects might’ve been better. I also thought that the filmmakers could’ve pushed the envelope in the third act at a part where the characters are trying to find Pennywise, though as it is that part is very good. And finally, I thought one scene would’ve been better with dramatic music than a song by The Cure (I know this takes place in the 1980’s, but do we really need a montage?).

All in all though, I’m very glad we got the version of It that we did. Faithful, well-told, heartfelt, with great characters and wonderful scares. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving Andy Muschetti’s 2017 adaptation a 4. Go check it out, start floating down here, and pray the sequel is just as good.

I know, I usually try to get these reviews out a day after the movie or show premieres, especially with American Horror Story, because I have to stream it the next day (I don’t need another bill). Unfortunately, the past couple of days I’ve been busy with personal stuff and I didn’t really have time to deal with watching and writing reviews. The only thing I’ve seen for it was a review on Twitter by someone I follow, stating that the season opening was intriguing, but not outright scary.

Well, I finally had some time to watch and review the episode, so let’s get into it. American Horror Story: Cult begins with news footage from Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton’s campaigns, starting from when the Donald started running and ending with his election as President. From there, the story follows two very different characters: Allie (played by Sarah Paulson), a woman with an anxiety disorder whose phobias, including clowns and even objects full of holes, come back in full force after Trump’s election. The other is Kai (played by Evan Peters), a purple-haired Trump supporter who has some bizarre beliefs, including that Trump’s election is the beginning of a revolution. From the look of things, their lives are going to be intertwined in strange ways.

As the Twitter reviewer said, Cult‘s first episode is less scary than intriguing. There’s a lot of focus on how the election affects everyone. Allie, being married to and having a child with another woman, is understandably scared that her family will be torn apart under the new administration, and that activates her other phobias, to the point that it’s affecting her marriage and her son negatively. Kai, on the opposite end of the spectrum, feels empowered to speak his views loud and proud, even if not everyone is interested in hearing them. The characters are exaggerated ¬†amalgamations of reactions from both sides of the aisle, but they do get to a lot of what many Americans felt post-election.

Speaking of which, there’s an interesting scene during the first half of the episode where Allie walks into a store, and starts up a conversation with someone, only to find out they’re a Trump supporter, even though at first glance, they didn’t seem like the stereotypical Trump supporter. I had an experience like that at a drug store during the primaries, where I made a comment about the Trump campaign, and a store clerk said he might vote for Trump. And like Allie, I felt a little perturbed afterwards, because I didn’t really care for some of Trump’s policies, and I thought someone working a minimum wage job wouldn’t either. But then you got to remind yourself that the Trump campaign drew people from a number of walks of life, which lead to his election. This scene portrays that well, to the point where I felt a little deja vu.

But as for scares, it’s pretty lacking. The design of the clowns is very freaky (especially when you’re not sure if they’re real or hallucinations), and Kai is freaky all on his own, but it’s not going to scare anyone used to horror scenery. If it were more like the opening of the fifth season, where every ten minutes there was a bloody, out-of-left-field scare or death. Here, it’s just not that impactful, they’re more concerned with setting up the story. And while that has worked in other seasons and in the first episode of The Defenders, here it just doesn’t work. After all, this is American Horror Story, and the setup needs to be balanced with that horror we were promised.

It makes me hope that in the next ten episodes it’ll really ramp up on the scares and make for a fun season. And it makes me hopeful that Colton Haynes’s character gets a lot of screentime (I love him whenever I see him in anything).

On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving the first episode of AHS: Cult a 3.2 out 5. Good setup with believable characters and excellent tapping into America’s fractured post-election psyche, but definitely a lot more horror is needed.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Join me Saturday at some point when I review another scary thing with clowns, IT. Prepare to float!

My latest article on Self-Published Authors Helping Other Authors came out today. The article is called Handbook for Mortals: How One Woman Scammed the NYT Bestseller List, and How a Twitter Community Exposed It. And that’s really it in a nutshell. A woman tried to con her way to the top of one of the New York Times’ bestseller lists, and how fiction fans on Twitter noticed something was fishy and decided to take a look at what was going on. But it’s such an interesting story, from how she and her publisher did it to how these Twitter users exposed it. It’s almost like Spotlight for fiction lovers, in a way. And it made me realize something about writing, and what serious writers do that this woman tried to avoid (and failed miserably).

If you get the chance, please check out the article. If you like it, let us know with a like or a comment. And if you like what you read, consider exploring some of our other articles. Self-Published Authors Helping Other Authors is a great website brought to you by indie authors, just like myself, who contribute articles for authors of all stripes on writing, editing, publishing, and marketing. Trust me, this is a great resource you do not want to miss out on.

Until next time, my Followers of Fear!

Wow, thought it would take at least a couple more nights for this happen. And again, it’s like an hour before I’m supposed to go to bed! Ooh boy. At least if I’m tired tomorrow morning getting into work, I’ll have a good excuse as to why it happened.

For those of you who don’t know, Rose is a novel I wrote as senior thesis in college, and which has had quite the crazy time just getting edited (click HERE to read my last post on Rose for more background on this crazy time). The story follows an amnesiac girl who wakes up one day and finds herself suddenly turning into a plant creature (and that’s just the start of her problems). It’s as bizarre as it sounds, but also very dark. Not as comical as it might sound if I were to tell you about it at a party.

As I’ve said before, the last time I tried editing this story, it took me months just to get through a couple of chapters. Now, it’s been just over three weeks since I last posted an update on Rose, and I’m two-thirds of the way through the story. The latest chapter, I managed to get done in one sitting, in only an hour and a half, with a cup of tea on my bedside table and a New Age spiritualism lecture on YouTube to keep me focused on the writing. Consider my normal writing/editing speed, I consider that a really big deal. May the last seven chapters be as easy to edit as this chapter.

Though to be honest, I’m really enjoying the editing process. The story feels new to me, like I’m discovering the characters and twists for the first time as a reader. And going over it, seeing where the descriptions can be expanded or the language brushed up and improved is a pretty satisfying experience. It’s going to be really interesting to see what happens in the last seven chapters, which contain some of the biggest revelations of the story, and most of the scenes I’m looking forward to expanding/making better.

If I’m lucky, I’ll even be able to make good on my thesis advisor’s suggestion to add about ten to twenty-thousand words to the novel (or did he say ¬†double the novel? I forget so much in my young age).

Speaking of which, time for me to annoy you with page and word counts. At this point in the second draft, the number of pages in the novel (8.5″ x 11″ paper, 12-point Times New Roman font, double-spaced) was a total of 103, with the word count measuring up to 32,765. In the third draft, I’ve expanded the story to this point to 137 pages, and 42,768 words. That’s an increase of 34 pages, and 10,003 words. I think I’m doing quite well. The second draft was only a couple thousand words longer than where the third draft is now, so once I expand it, I could get it beyond sixty-thousand or maybe even seventy-thousand words. That would be pretty incredible, wouldn’t it?

Well, I’ve probably taken up probably enough of your time and/or phone data. I’m going to head to bed and savor this milestone as I sleep. Goodnight Followers of Fear. Pleasant nightmares!

Death Note is a franchise I’ve been aware of since high school, and despite some issues I have with the source material (*cough* the second half of the manga *cough*), I’ve always looked at it fondly. It’s clever, has some really memorable characters and scenes, and the themes present in the story are always relevant. When I first heard of plans of an American version of the story, I thought it had some potential, which is why I was disappointed when it fell into development hell. But when director Adam Winguard and Netflix finally started to put the film into production, and despite the troubling news I heard leading up to the film’s release,* I still had hope.

Imagine how I feel now when I find the final result is not what I’d hoped for.

So for those of you who don’t know, Death Note is originally a manga about a Japanese high schooler named Light Yagami who discovers a notebook that kills anyone whose name is written in it. With the help of a death god named Ryuk, Light starts a killing spree of the world’s criminals to end all crime and to become a new god named Kira. He is opposed by L, a mysterious detective who has solved several high-profile crimes in the past, creating a cat-and-mouse game that could determine the fate of the world. The story has been adopted into anime, TV shows, novels, and even a couple of Japanese movies. Winguard’s version is the latest addition to the franchise, and unfortunately, it’s like that one relative whom you invite to family gatherings because he’s family, but you’re not happy about it because he’s an embarrassment to the whole family.

The biggest problem I have with this film is the many changes from the source material. Now, I’m open to some changes, like what the Japanese films did. Those were changes that strengthened the story instead of taking away from it. However, the majority of the changes here were unhelpful. Light Yagami, a handsome, charismatic and intelligent young man motivated by a sense of justice and boredom becomes Light Turner, an outsider who’s only a few degrees away from shooting up a high school, whose intelligence is only hinted at, and who screams like he has no confidence. Misa Amane, a blonde and bubbly airhead whom you actually feel sympathy for, becomes Mia Sutton, a cheerleader with no personality or backstory and too much enthusiasm for killing criminals. Lakeith Stanfield is actually pretty good as L for a while, but then in the last third goes completely off the rails.

Something went very wrong with this transition.

There are a whole bunch of other changes that I didn’t care for. The purpose of the Death Note and the reason why Ryuk drops the Death Note is changed, the default method of death for the Death Note isn’t in this adaptation, Mia isn’t given a good reason to want to use the Death Note like Misa Amane has, so her enthusiasm for using it feels strange, and the way L and his assistant Watari interact feels a little creepy rather than the working relationship they had before, and the list goes on and on. In fact, some of these changes open up plot holes in the story. For example, the change in the way L identifies the first victim of Kira, rather than making some sense like it does in the manga, leaves open some questions in this adaptation. Also, why does L have a false name but Watari is actually his real name, with no last name?

I also did not care for Margaret Qualley’s acting in this film, which felt emotionless and uninvested. It seems like she was trying to channel Kristen Stewart’s Twilight performance, which given all I’ve heard of that performance, explains a lot, but it’s obvious it’s not what we’re looking for in this movie. Also, who’s idea was it to make her look like an Emma Roberts impersonator in every shot?

Ryuk, played by William Dafoe, is definitely one of the better parts of the movie.

There were a couple of things I did like about the film, however. Ryuk looks absolutely terrifying, as he should, and is kept sinister throughout the film, thanks in part to William Dafoe’s phenomenal performance as the voice of the character (that man can do villains like no other). Mia is treated more as a partner in this film rather than as a pawn, which I’m sure many Misa fans, including myself, have always wanted to see (what can I say? You feel for her, despite her flaws and the blood on her hands). And if it weren’t for how bad the rest of the film is, the climax and its twist would actually be pretty impressive.

However, the rest of the film outweighs everything else, forcing me to give Adam Winguard’s Death Note a 1.1 out of 5, possibly the lowest score I’ve ever given anything on this blog. This is just the latest example of how NOT to adapt a beloved manga and anime, with way too many changes from the source material and bad choices on the part the people behind it, and a horrible introduction for newcomers to the world of Death Note.

Trust me, this is a much better movie than what we got.

If this left a bad taste in your mouth and you’re still willing to give this franchise a change, I highly suggest you check out the original manga or anime (the latter also on Netflix), or check out the Japanese films based on those. Unlike the Netflix film, any of these will show you how exciting and clever the original source material, as well as how memorable and even likeable, the characters really are. Believe me, there’s a reason why this story is the phenomenon it is. It’s just the Netflix movie isn’t part of it.

Hopefully in the future, if we have any other American adaptations of anime or manga, they won’t be anything like this.

*To be clear, I will not be getting into the whole issue of the races of the cast. Yes, whitewashing is a problem, and the casting decisions made in regards to this film are extremely problematic, but it’s not one I want to explore here. Why? Because it’s an extremely complicated issue and not something I usually get into in a movie review. I’m judging this movie as a movie, and I’m judging the actors for their performances, not for their racial or ethnic heritage. If you don’t like that, I’m sorry, but that’s just how I do things here. And if you want to voice your anger about this, don’t voice it at me. Voice it at Hollywood, because that’s how you can possibly make some positive change, instead of sending it my way while some corporate VP thinks Zac Efron would make a great Kaneda in a live-action American Akira remake or something (that’s an example, not an actual thing as far as I know).