Posts Tagged ‘Amazon’

On Sunday, I posted about finishing my first short story of 2020, a science-horror story called “Primordial Nuclear Soup” (what a title, right?). I mentioned in that post I wanted to find a beta reader to take a look at the story before I edited it and tried to send it anywhere. Thankfully, I found someone very quickly who turned out to be the right sort of reader for this story. They gave me some excellent feedback on ways the story could be improved, but there’s one point that I wanted to focus on.

With “Primordial Nuclear Soup,” I was going for an ambiguous ending to the story. You know, the kind where things are left kind of open, leading to readers wondering what happened after “The End”? Yeah, apparently I confused my beta reader with that. They actually asked me if I’d cut it off early.

Now, this may have been because I simply forgot to put the words “The End” at the end of the story. But it got me thinking: when is an ambiguous ending good for a story, and when does it actually get in the way of telling the story?

As usual, when faced with a writing quandary that I can’t reason out on my own, I go to Facebook groups for writers. I got a variety of opinions on the subject, some of which felt more on the mark than others, but one response in particular resonated with me. The writer in question said that ambiguous endings work best with ambiguous stories.

What do I mean by ambiguous stories? Well, these are stories where so much is up in the air, that an ending where things are up in the air makes sense. A story with an unreliable narrator fits this description, or a story like The Haunting of Hill House, where we’re not sure if the house is really haunted and we feel the psychological strain on the characters. By the end of the latter, we’re still not sure whether the house is haunted, so an ending that still leaves us questioning what the hell just happened fits nicely.

Of course, some more “definitive” stories may benefit from an ambiguous ending, especially if it ramps up the tension. “All That You Love Will Be Carried Away,” a Stephen King short story about a traveling salesman contemplating suicide, has an ambiguous ending dependent on whether the protagonist sees a light from a farmhouse through a snowstorm.* It’s a great way to top off a story revolving around a troubled man wondering whether or not he should kill himself or live to write a book about his encounters on his travels.

As for my own story…well, it’s science horror. And science/science fiction tends to deal with exactness. Even though the Xenomorph from the pinnacle of science horror, Alien, has an unclear origin,** everything else in that film is clear as crystal. So perhaps I need to give my own story a clearer ending.

Well, we’ll see. I’ll give the story an edit before I start that essay (yes, I’m going to write it) and see what I can do with it. Hopefully, I’ll make something a magazine won’t want to throw in the trash after the first page.

A dramatic shot of “Rose” I couldn’t help but take.

Oh, and while I have your attention still, did you know today is the two-year anniversary of when I announced Rose was accepted for publication? Yeah, it happened on this day in 2017, and a lot’s happened since then. A year of edits and rewrites, the release and all the marketing, the audio book, and so much more. More and more, people have been telling me they’ve enjoyed the story, and hearing that is the most gratifying feeling ever. Makes me want to keep writing.

If you haven’t read the Kafkaesque story of a young woman turning into a plant creature (and that’s just the start of her problems), and you’d like to check it out, I’ll include the links below. And if you do read it, please let me know what you think. I love feedback, and reviews help me out in the long run.

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

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

*It’s been 19 years since it first came out, so I’m not sorry I didn’t include a spoiler warning.

**I like to pretend Prometheus and Alien: Covenant never happened. They take all the mystery out of the franchise.

I heard about this film last year, but couldn’t see it for a couple of reasons.* I kept an eye out for news about it, but for the longest time, the only places you could watch it were on Amazon and YouTube, and for a price. And then this week it popped up on Netflix. Cue the need to watch it. Which I did this evening. And the wait was worth it.

Girl on the Third Floor stars wrestler-turned-actor CM Punk as Don Koch, an ex-lawyer with a checkered past, buys an old Victorian house in the suburbs with plans of renovating it for his pregnant wife. Problem is, not only is Don still living the party life to some degree, but his new home seems to have some interesting features. Nearly every wall has black goo pouring out of it, pipes and wall sockets leak a milky fluid that looks like a certain other well-known milky fluid, and a strange woman named Sarah keeps appearing around the property. Soon Don and his wife find out their house is way deadlier than they ever could’ve imagined.

I’m told this is director Travis Stevens’ first film, and I have to agree with critics that he’s done an excellent job. A Gothic horror story,** Stevens sets up a slow burn that’s entrancing. It’s as much a psychological horror as a supernatural horror story, following Don as he tries to make things up to his wife while still being a frat boy, and how those choices affect his stay in his new home. Combined with some bat-shit crazy supernatural occurrences, it’s pretty scary.

On top of that, the principal actors, particularly CM Punk, are great in their roles. I totally believed in his role of Don, and loved watching him see the dominoes drop due to his choices and actions. Also, Sarah Brooks as Sarah Yates has an amazing emotional range and really works as the driving force of the movie. I applaud you, Ms. Brooks!

Oh, and let’s not forget the house. The house is itself is a character, and the film does a great job in bringing that character to the fore.

If there’s one thing I could’ve done more with, I wanted more of the history of the house. We got some explanations, but I wanted more on the spirits and where they came from. There’s more to that house than meets the eye, and I feel like we only saw one layer to it.

Overall though, I’m giving Girl on the Third Floor a 4.3 out of 5. It’s a creepy slow-burn that’ll pull you in from start to finish. Get on Netflix, move inside, and be prepared to never move out again.

*Chiefly because the one theater it was playing at is right next to Ohio State, there was a home game that weekend, and you don’t want to drive near campus during a home game. Trust me, it’s the wrong kind of nightmare.

**I’m running into those all over the place. It’s interesting to compare them to Toyland.

I know the moment I press “Publish” on this post, WordPress is going to notify me that I’ve published three posts in three days, and to “keep it up!” I won’t. I can’t blog that much! What would I blog about? My chiropractor’s appointment? The weather?

Okay, onto the subject of this post. If you didn’t know, I have a small YouTube channel. And I mean small: in the eight years I’ve been uploading videos, I’ve only uploaded twenty-seven videos, most of those in the past couple of years. Obviously, I don’t have a lot of traffic on my channel.

But I try to at least update the channel when I have something to update it with. And last night, I filmed a short video letting my YouTube channel followers know that I’d finished Toyland. I also let them know what I was planning to do with the novel in the near future and my immediate writing plans.

And I waxed eloquent about my love of Brothers Drake mead. Again, not sponsored, I just love their stuff and like to celebrate big milestones with mead.

Anyway, I thought I’d post the video here on my blog to further spread the word. If you have fifteen minutes to do so, please watch it below. And if you like it, maybe leave a like and a comment. Hell, subscribe if you’re feeling crazy. Like I said, I don’t upload that much, but when I do, I think it might be entertaining and informative for people. I’ll include the link for that below, as well as links for Rose and The Binge-Watching Cure II (if you watched the video, you know why).

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

My YouTube Channel

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

The Binge-Watching Cure II: Paperback, Ebook

February is Women in Horror Month. Since women writers are a big influence on my writing–JK Rowling got me into storytelling in the first place, and Anne Rice helped pave the way for me to write darker fiction–I thought I’d recommend some stories for those who want to help support the month. You’ll see some familiar names here, but also some you may not be familiar with. Either way, I hope you’ll consider giving them a read.

Tiny Teeth by Sarah Hans. This is actually a short story by a friend and colleague of mine, but it is a scary one. Imagine a world where a virus turns children into dangerous, gnawing animals, and one woman’s experience in that world. You can find it on Pseudopod.org, a website where scary short stories are read by narrators and released as a podcast. Give it a listen. Guarantee you, it’ll be 45 minutes not wasted. Here’s the link.

Garden of Eldritch Delights by Lucy A. Snyder. This is also by a friend and colleague of mine, but it’s also a great collection of scary stories. The majority of them feature cosmic horror themes and entities, which I love, as well as intriguing characters and plots. A couple of the stories also incorporate sci-fi and fantasy themes, and feature a diverse cast, which is something I love to see. If you pick up Garden of Eldritch Delights, you will find it worth your time. Here’s the Amazon link.

The Amaranthine Books by Joleene Naylor. You’ve probably seen Joleene’s name around this blog before, but did you know she’s written an entire book series? She has, a vampire series called the Amaranthine books, and they all come highly rated. Even better, some of the books are free or under a dollar under the Kindle edition, so why not take the opportunity to read them? You can find all the Amaranthine books, and then some, on Joleene’s Amazon page.

In a Dark, Dark Wood and The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware. Technically, these are mysteries, but they have horror themes about them, so I’ll count them here. In a Dark, Dark Wood follows a mystery writer invited out to a bachelorette party by a friend she hasn’t seen in years, unaware of the forces conspiring against her. The Death of Mrs. Westaway stars a Tarot reader on hard times who finds out she’s received an inheritance from a grandmother she didn’t know she had, and what that inheritance entails for her. Both are terrifying and keep you on the edge of your seat with suspense. You can check out both further on the author’s Amazon page (and I need to check out more of her work).

Kept me on the edge of my seat the whole audio book.

Within These Walls and The Shuddering by Ania Ahlborn. No joke, Ania Ahlborn is one of the scariest writers I’ve ever had the pleasure to read, and I really need to read more of her work, as should you. Within These Walls follows a true crime writer as he and his daughter stay in the home of a Manson-like cult leader, and what happens while they’re there (I actually reviewed it a few years ago). The Shuddering follows a group of young adults as they go skiing at a mountain resort, only to discover the area has come under siege from a rather hungry enemy. Either one will leave you shaking in your boots! Here’s the Amazon page if you want it.

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. Come on, you know I had to include this. Even if I’m not a fan of this book, it’s undeniable that Jackson’s most well-known novel, and one of the most influential horror stories of the 20th century. Following a group of paranormal researchers as they explore the titular house and the effect the house has on them, this book is still a well-known classic in the genre, and some consider it required reading for fans and authors. It’s so well known, I won’t include any links for it (surprise!).

Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice. Again, can you blame me? Whatever you think of the many sequels, it’s undeniable that Anne Rice’s debut novel has remained a classic for a reason. A journalist interviews a 200-year-old vampire named Louis, who recounts his creation in French New Orleans and his travels around the world looking for meaning and for more of his kind. It’s a haunting tale, the horror coming more from Louis’s psychological journey and despair rather than from the supernatural. As I said earlier, this novel also paved the way for my eventual turn to horror, so I can’t recommend it enough (and I’ll have to reread it someday). Again, no need for links. It’s that well-known.

 

What recommendations do you have for Women in Horror Month? Are you reading anything for it? Are you familiar with any of these books? What was your opinion of them?

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I hope you find something good to read based on this list. I’ll be listening to The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates this month on audio book, so maybe I’ll add it to a future list someday. I better get started soon!

Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

Today’s guest is an author who’s book, A Cosmology of Monsters, has been blowing up the horror scene since its release in September. I finished it last month, and found it to be an amazing read (see my review here). And I’m not the only one who liked it, because Cosmology ended up becoming a nominee for the Goodreads Choice Awards Best Horror (and yes, I am jealous). So, I’m very excited to have the author today. Hailing all the way from across the Internet, I bring you Shaun Hamill!

Rami Ungar: Welcome to the blog, Shaun. Tell everyone here a bit about yourself and about your novel, A Cosmology of Monsters.

Shaun Hamill: I grew up in the Dallas-Fort Worth Area, and got my bachelor’s in English from the University of Texas at Arlington. In my early 30s I attended the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and got my MFA. I wrote most of A Cosmology of Monsters there.

A Cosmology of Monsters is a literary horror novel about a family running a haunted house attraction in the suburbs of Fort Worth, Texas. Narrated by the youngest child, Noah, the novel tracks the family’s fortunes across 50 years, and explores the monsters—both metaphorical and literal—that haunt them. It’s a generational saga, an homage to Stephen King and H.P. Lovecraft, and most importantly, a story about the ways love can either save or damn us.

RU: How did the idea for Cosmology come into being?

SH: This novel was born out of the wreckage of a couple of projects. The first was a sprawling tragi-comic saga in the style of John Irving or Meg Wolitzer, about a family operating a youth hostel in Taos, New Mexico. The second was a short story about a married couple breaking up as they tour a haunted house attraction. Neither piece quite worked, but one day while I was walking my dog, the two ideas put themselves together and I realized that my epic family business novel should be about a haunted house, not a youth hostel. It would give me a chance to merge my taste for character-driven literary fiction with my love for the darker, more eerie tones of the horror genre. Noah’s voice came to me right away, as did Eunice’s suicide notes and the romance that opens the book. The rest of it came organically, as I followed the story where it led, exploring my characters and their ever-darkening world. I was perpetually surprised by what I found. I would never have been able to plan a book like this, and I hope some of that dark joy of discovery carries over for the reader.

RU: What was the research and writing process like for Cosmology? And what challenges did you face in writing the book?

SH: Research was a big part of the process of writing Cosmology. When I started the book I had only read a few Lovecraft stories, and I hadn’t ever worked behind the scenes of a haunted house. I read all of Lovecraft’s fiction, and also spent time reading scholarship about his life and writing. For the haunted house parts of the book I relied on my own knowledge as a patron of the attractions, and a tour of an out-of-season haunted house that I took in my late twenties. I also watched documentaries about haunted attractions, listened to podcasts, lurked on message boards, and so on.

The biggest challenge of writing this book was the revision process. My first draft weighed in at 220,000 words, and the published version is just over 100,000 (my agent insisted that the book would be tough to sell at its initial length). Figuring out which threads of story could be condensed or severed altogether took a long time, as did rewriting the entire ending to make it smaller and more meaningful to the characters. It forced me to carefully consider my characters and themes, and brought them into sharp focus by the end of the editorial process. I’m very pleased with the result, and humbled by how much better my agent and editors made my book.

RU: Haunted houses, both literal attractions and metaphorical haunted homes, are a big part of the book. Are you a fan of haunted houses yourself?

SH: I’m a big coward when it comes to haunted houses. I used to have a group of friends that I went with when I still lived in Texas, in my mid-to-late 20s, but I would never go to one by myself, and haven’t been to one since 2012 or 2013. I’ve always been fascinated by them from a distance, though. I’ve wondered about the people who work there, what it’s like to have the scenes of your life play out against such a fantastical backdrop.

RU: If you could design a haunted house attraction, what would it be like?

SH: The attraction in the book, The Wandering Dark, is exactly my idea of the sort of haunted house I would like to run. If money and practicality were no object, I would love to do a haunted hotel—something more immersive and stranger than the typical spook-a-blast attractions in the genre.

RU: Do you see yourself revisiting the world and characters of Cosmology someday in a future story?

SH: I go back and forth on this question. Some days I think it would be fun to continue the story of the Turner family, and I have done some brainstorming for a sequel. Other days I think that a sequel would lessen the impact of the book’s final pages and cheapen it. I guess I’ll wait and see if there’s a market for a sequel and then decide. Even if I never write a direct sequel, I will probably find ways to weave elements of that world into future stories.

RU: What is it about horror in general that attracts you to it?

SH: I have a melancholy outlook on life, so horror fits my disposition. I’m not attracted to the gore or violence, but rather the atmosphere of dread and dark wonder that I find in my favorite horror stories. I don’t like being terrorized. I like being creeped out. I love the idea that there is something beyond the known world, dark secrets to discover. It’s the sort of thing that Lovecraft does in his best work, as does Thomas Ligotti. I also love character-based horror, like Stephen King writes. I love stories about good people struggling against supernatural threats. It’s an effective way to illuminate the strength of the human spirit, what’s most noble and wonderful about people.

RU: Are you working on anything now? Do you have any future writing plans?

SH: I recently finished a rough (and I mean very rough) first draft of a new novel. I have an outline for another, different novel with my agent. We’re trying to decide which project to pursue first. My hope long-term is to keep doing what I’m doing now—writing books and publishing them and (hopefully) getting paid to do so. Fingers crossed COSMOLOGY won’t be the only thing I get to publish!

RU: What advice would you give to other writers, regardless of background or experience?

SH: Write a lot and read a lot. Read deeply in your own genre, but also outside of it. Join a writing group or take a writing class if you can afford it. If you’re able, get on the reading committee for a journal or prize—I learned more from reading the slush pile for Carve magazine and the Katherine Anne Porter Prize than I ever learned in a classroom or working alone at my own desk.

RU: And finally, if you were stuck on a desert island for a while and could only bring three books with you, what would you bring?

SH: Songs of a Dead Dreamer and Grimscribe by Thomas Ligotti, The Collected Stories by Lorrie Moore, and Three Novels by Stephen King (an omnibus of Carrie, ‘Salem’s Lot, and The Shining).

RU: Good choices. Thank you for joining us, Shaun. I hope we can do it again someday.

If you’d like to find out more about Shaun Hamill, you can find him on his website and on Twitter. You can also find A Cosmology of Monsters on Amazon if you’d like to read the book (which I highly recommend). And if you are an author with a book coming out soon and are possibly interested in having an interview, hit me up on ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com, and we’ll see what magic we can conjure.

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

You can thank this book for this latest post.

Back in August, fresh off the heels of Rose‘s release, I wrote a post about marketing a freshly released book in this crowded market. And now that my short story “Car Chasers” has been released in The Binge-Watching Cure II, as well as the audio book for Rose coming out recently, it’s high-time I got around to doing Part 2. As I said in the last post, it’s important to have a marketing plan in place and not expect your book will snowball into popularity. Books rarely just snowball into bestsellers, so a detailed marketing plan, one you actually act on, is essential.

And this time, I will be getting into practical tips, rather than just some food for thought to get you in the marketing mindset.

Of course, I will be plugging Rose and The Binge-Watching Cure II in this post, and including links at the end. Gotta get those stories in people’s hands, am I right?

First off, put together an ARC list. ARC stands for “advanced reader copies,” and ARC lists are lists of readers, usually volunteers, who are interested in reading an advanced copy of your book (usually digital, though sometimes physical or audio). Why would you want to give people an ARC? Because ARC readers will read your book, sometimes well ahead of the release, and drum up interest via word of mouth. Sometimes they’ll leave reviews on review sites or on their blogs, other times they’ll say something on social media. Either way, they tell people about your book, and that means more potential readers.

That being said, when you have ARC readers, there are a couple things you’ll want to do when compiling your list, besides getting their contact info, of course (gotta get them that ARC somehow, right?):

  • This is an act of volunteering and you want honest opinions. Don’t ask people to give you good reviews, don’t pay for good reviews, and don’t pay for reviews (this does not apply to blog tours though, which we will talk about later). ARC readers are doing you a favor, so don’t expect them to say nice things just for you. And if someone wants to be paid for a review, run the hell away!
  • Don’t ask family or close friends to be ARC readers. Sites like Amazon, from which most authors get their sales, can get suspicious if someone who might be a relative or a close friend leaves a review. This is because some authors have used their friend groups to boost their books, even if the friends haven’t read the book. Amazon is aware of this, and has developed countermeasures to combat this practice, which sometimes go overboard.
    So even if your mother is going to leave an honest review of your book, perhaps ask her to leave reviews only on Facebook. Sites like Amazon will strike down reviews and mess with your royalties if they suspect a fake or paid review.
  • Not everyone who volunteers to be an ARC reader will follow through reading and/or reviewing. This could be for a variety of reasons, but in the end, sometimes life happens, and they can’t follow through on the commitment. What to do about this? Well first, don’t get abusive towards people who can’t follow through on being an ARC reader. Believe me, sending them an email calling them lazy shits won’t get you anywhere, and can actually ruin careers before they start.
    Second, gather as many interested ARC readers as you can. I gathered over fifty interested people for Rose, and about nineteen left reviews on various sites in the first two months, close to twice the average number. So a large ARC list of people genuinely interested in your book is a good thing to have.
  • Finally, save your ARC readers when they follow through. If you have an ARC reader who read your book and talked about it, chances are they’ll do it again, so remember them and ask if they’ll be interested when the next one is nearing publication. Hopefully after a few books, you’ll have a decent list of ARC readers you can message when you’re ready to publish something.

Also put together a list of places to send your book to/advertise your book with. You’d be surprised how many sites exist to promote certain genres, and which give reviews of books in those genres. Start compiling a list of these sites and publications, as well as what sort of stories they look for and how to contact them. When the book is published, keep an eye out and see which are accepting books at the moment. If you’re lucky, they may fit you into their reviewing schedule.

Look into the possibility of a blog tour. A blog tour is exactly what it sounds like: you go around different blogs to give interviews, write guest articles, or let them review your book. These are a great way to highlight your work among a huge audience, and if the blogs featuring you are in the same genre as you, it means the readers of that blog are more likely to want to check out your book.

I did a couple blog tours for Rose, and found them very helpful.

There are two ways to do a blog tour. One way is to organize one yourself by asking for bloggers to participate. The other is to work with a blog tour company, who act as a middleman to help you find blogs that’ll work with you for a small fee. This doesn’t count as paying for reviews, but instead is more like having an advertising department who help you get people to notice your book. Only these folks are contractors.

If you decide to go with the former option, put out an open call on your blog and social media for a blog tour, and see who responds. Also contact bloggers who may not be following you but may be interested in hosting you. For the latter, check with other authors to see if they have any recommendations, or see if there any that come highly rated on a website like Yelp or equivalent. If there’s a recommended one, see if they have any availability for you and start talking rates.

 

Well, that’s all for Part 2. I hope you found these methods to marketing your book helpful and may even share some methods you find helpful in the comments below. I’m not sure when I’ll do Part 3 or what I’ll focus on when I do, but I hope you’ll keep an eye out for it and give your two cents when you do.

In the meantime, if you would like to check out Rose or The Binge-Watching Cure II, I’ll leave the links below. Rose is my first novel with a publisher, and is a fantasy-horror story following a young woman who turns into a plant creature (and that’s just the start of her problems). The Binge-Watching Cure II is an anthology from Claren Books containing several short stories and novelettes from a variety of authors, each one longer than the last. My own short story, “Car Chasers,” which is like Fast & Furious-style car races with ghosts in the mix, occupies the eight-thousand word spot. Either one would be a great addition to your bookshelf, if I may be so bold.

Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

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

The Binge-Watching Cure II: Paperback, Kindle