Posts Tagged ‘college life’

 

There are people looking at the title of this post and thinking, “What the heck did that crazy author come up with now?”

To answer that question, I just finished writing a short story taking place during the London Blitz. I first had the idea for this story over four years ago, when I went on a study-abroad trip to Europe to follow the Allies’ path through Europe. While our teacher and tour guide (or was it one of the other students giving a report based on the research they did the last semester?) was discussing the London Blitz at Bletchley Park (the site where Alan Turing cracked the Nazi Enigma code), I had this idea for a story taking place during the Blitz, involving some kids encountering something awful while trying to run from the bombs. Over time, the antagonist came to be Adolf Hitler.

Or is it him? You know me, I never write anything simple. In any case, the story reflects something about me that shouldn’t surprise anyone: I’m scared of Hitler and the Nazis. As a Jew, I know how close my people came to annihilation nearly three-quarters of a century ago. If the war had gone differently, I probably wouldn’t be here, let alone talking about my stories and my love of horror with you. This is part of why I studied the Holocaust in college, and why I still study it today (though obviously not as frequently as I did in college). But even though I studied the Holocaust and have a pretty good understanding of what occurred, knowing doesn’t make me any less afraid of the Nazis or their monster of a leader. And with such a resurgence of people saying Hitler was right or worthy of admiration, I made sure to get that fear across in the story. Hopefully I succeeded.

You know, I actually wasn’t intending to write this story. I was planning on getting back to a novelette that I’d started working on in-between drafts of Rose. However, this story started calling to me to write it, and I couldn’t resist the call to listen to it. And yes, stories can demand to be written. At least while they’re in our heads. And I only just figured out why this story wanted me to write it so badly that it grabbed my attention. You see, I went to Washington DC recently for work. It was the first time since I was thirteen or so that I’d been to DC, so obviously I was going to do the tourist thing and check out some places (see my Instagram for photos). One of the places I decided to visit was the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, so I could see it after being so much more informed about it than I was as a teen.

The train car at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. There’s such a palpable energy of despair coming from it, you can’t help but be affected by it.

I guess my subconscious had me write this story because I was going to that museum. Maybe it was some form of mental preparation, or maybe I felt somewhere in my mind that it was the right thing to write. In either case, I went to the museum on Saturday, and let me tell you, their main exhibit has a palpable atmosphere. You can’t go in there without coming away affected. Seeing all these artifacts from the past–concentration camp and Nazi uniforms, newsreel footage, photographs, testimonials from survivors, even a train car that might have been used to transport Jews and other “inferior races” to concentration camps–along with the museum’s presentation of them, make you fully aware of the horror that occurred so long ago and how it still affects us today.

After I left the main exhibit, I was so glad I was writing this story. It was as if through the story, I was reminding people there’s still a reason to fear Hitler and his ideology. Especially since it’s showing a resurgence these days, long after its abominable creator committed suicide.

So what’s next for this particular story? Well obviously I’m going to have it looked over and then edited. Afterwards though…we’ll see. It’s a little over sixty-eight hundred words, so it’s not too long. I’ll see about getting it published somewhere. There’s a magazine I’ve been trying on and off to get published in, so maybe they’ll take it. Then again, the Ohio Chapter of the Horror Writers Association, of which I’m a member of, has been talking about putting together an anthology. Perhaps I’ll submit it there.

In any case, I’ll let it lie for a while before working on it again. In the meantime, let’s see if I can finish that novelette before I get the latest draft of Rose back from Castrum.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m going to get ready for bed. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

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I bet you’re getting tired of my posts these past few days. I promise, this is (likely) the last one for a few days. And this one is to talk about my first published book, The Quiet Game: Five Tales to Chill Your Bones. And holy crap, it’s the five-year anniversary of its publication. Well, technically that was Tuesday, but as we all know, I’ve had a busy week.

So if you weren’t around back on this blog in 2013, I was still very new to self-publishing and was eager to dip my toes in. One short story I self-published had had decent results, but I was really interested to try something a bit longer. And as at that time Reborn City was still being edited, I decided to try a collection of short story. Thus we got The Quiet Game, five short stories I wrote over the course of a couple of weeks, had friends look at for feedback, and then published on July 17th, 2013. To this day, it’s one of my most widely-read publications, and the one that has the most reviews on Amazon, with a rating of 4.1 out of 5 based on 15 reviews.

Here’s what some readers have been saying about The Quiet Game:

A collection of five varied stories that get stronger as the collection builds, with the final being my favorite. Though I fancy myself able to “solve” the stories before the reveals, there were several surprises here, especially the reveal in the Quiet Game and I’m Going to be the Next James Bond. I also liked that Rami pulled no punches with his characters. In one instance, an anti-semite for instances uses words that would be hard for any author to write -though are necessary to his character. There are other examples sprinkled throughout the stories that show Rami’s commitment to telling the story in the way it needs to be told. A good collection for a stormy night!

–Joleene Naylor, author of Brothers of Darkness

This is a serviceable set of stories. The best one is not the titular title story. I only really have two issues with the collection. One of them is the notes after the story. I never really liked the self-indulgence of the writer explaining afterwards. To be fair, that could be just me.

The best story in my opinion is the Lady Orgres Den. That one had great tension.

–SavoirNoir

5 wonderfully crafted tales! I purchased this as an eBook originally and put off reading it for quite a while, I really wish I hadn’t waited. Sometimes when one purchases a collection of short stories you expect some of them to be less entertaining or of lower quality than the others, but none of these disappoint. Well worth the money, especially considering after you read each story the author gives you creative insight into what inspired him to write each tale, which is really wonderful.

–Jeff D.

I’m actually in a little bit of shock that it’s been five years since I published that story. So much has happened in those five years, and it doesn’t feel like five years have gone by either. But pass they have, and I’m glad to hear that these stories are still well-liked.

If this somehow interested you in reading The Quiet Game: Five Tales to Chill Your Bones, I’ll include the links below. And if you do end up reading the book, please let me know what you think. Positive or negative, I love feedback from my readers, and getting reviews helps me in the long run.

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

Available on Amazon, Createspace, Barnes & Noble, iBooksSmashwords, and Kobo.

Well, hasn’t this been a crazy week?! First I find out”Car Chasers” is getting published, and now I’ve managed to finish the fifth draft of Rose. Wednesday’s just wrapping up as I write this, but I’d say this makes for a productive week.

So if you’re unaware, Rose is a novel I wrote for my senior thesis in college. The novel is about a young woman who becomes a plant creature (and that’s just the start of her problems!). Yeah, I wrote that zany concept, and made a full novel out of it. And you know what else? I managed to get a publisher for it, Castrum Press in Belfast, North Ireland. And I’m so excited that this latest draft is done.

This draft has been especially crazy for me, as I had to rewrite about two-thirds of the novel. You see, one-third of the novel focused on flashbacks, and Castrum pointed out some issues with so many flashbacks. I decided to toss out the flashbacks, but that meant another third of the novel that relied on the flashbacks had to go as well. So I basically had to rewrite two-thirds of the novel. Believe me, it wasn’t easy to do! I spent quite a bit of time talking to myself to figure out where the story could go to make it better without relying on flashbacks. But somehow I managed to do it, and I like where I’ve sent this story. It’s a new version that I think will surprise, entertain, and maybe even scare a few people.

So this draft is about two-hundred pages (8.5″ x 11″, double-spaced, Times New Roman, 12-point font) and a little over sixty-thousand words. Shorter than my usual novel (the last three published were all eighty-thousand or more), but I think for a first novel with a publisher, this will do nicely. It’s shorter than the first Harry Potter book by about seventeen-thousand words, anyway, so you know it’s manageable.

So what’s next for Rose? Well, I’ve already sent the latest draft to the publisher. They’ll take a look at it, and hopefully the only changes they’ll have me make are cosmetic: add a comma here, change the phrasing there, fix that little hole, etc. After that, we can talk about cover art and a release date. And then I can ramp up the marketing plan I’ve been working on in the back of my head. And then…who knows? Maybe some decent sales and a few good reviews.

In the meantime, I’m heading to bed. I’ve got a big day tomorrow, and I don’t want to sleep through it (especially since I plan to start a new short story in the evening). Until next time my Followers of Fear, pleasant nightmares. I hope to have updates for you very soon.

It’s hard to believe that a number of things are happening today (believe me, I’m still pinching myself). But among those things, one of them is something I’d like to bring up here, and that’s today is the fourth anniversary of the publication of my second novel, Snake, the cover of which is over there.

Now if you’re unfamiliar with Snake, let me tell you about it. I was between books in the Reborn City series, and I wanted to write something a bit closer to my native horror instead of some more sci-fi. I’d had an idea a while back, partially inspired by the movie Taken and slasher films of the 1980’s, and spent about six months writing it in 2013. The result was Snake, which was published June 10th, 2014.

Here is the blurb on the back cover of the novel:

How far will you go for love and revenge? When a young man’s girlfriend is kidnapped by the powerful Camerlengo Family, he becomes the Snake, a serial killer who takes his methods from the worst of the Russian mafia. Tracking down members of the Camerlengo Family one by one for clues, the Snake will go to any lengths to see the love of his life again…even if it means becoming a worse monster than any of the monsters he is hunting.

I was pretty nervous about this novel when it came out. While it was one of the easiest for me to write, it was also one of the most violent stories I’d ever written, and I had no idea what people would think when they read it. Also,– I was still a college student, fresh off my first trip to Europe, and had only just become legally able to drink in the United States, so I was wondering if people would notice how inexperienced a person I was with the story.

To my delight though, people who read the book tended to enjoy it. At the moment, it has seven reviews on Amazon, with the average rating a very nice 4.4 out of 5. Here’s what some of them had to say:

I really enjoyed this book. When I selected “dark” for the mood, it was almost a toss up with suspenseful. You knew early on who the mafia killer was, but the question of how he was going to find his girlfriend and rescue her was suspenseful. I ended up choosing “dark” because of the level of violence our main character used in getting to the girlfriend. But he was a complex character. Even though he definitely had the dark side to him, there was a surprisingly good side to him, too. You don’t really see this until later on in the book. So early on, you might think this is an unredeemable character. But one of the most intriguing characters are those who aren’t what they initially seem, and for this reason, I enjoyed this character. The pacing was just right. It wasn’t rushed, and in no way did I ever feel it dragged, which is awesome for a book that was over 500 pages in paperback.

This book is violent, and it contains sexual situations. Some of it can be cringeworthy. So I wouldn’t suggest this for young readers. I’d recommend this only to adults. If it was a movie, it would be a strong R. There’s also swearing. These things don’t bother me as a reader, but I know it bothers some, which is why I mention it. But if you don’t mind these elements, I think you will enjoy this book. It’s a great thriller.

–Ruth Ann Nordin, author of Marriage by Contract

A very good read. The mixture of horror and suspense were on point. I now want to read more of Ramis great books.

–Sherri

Rami Ungar makes a promise to (the reader) in all his writings: he WILL scare you, and if he does “his job is done.” Snake will scare you. I am a huge Stephen King fan, so this should give you some idea of my tolerance level for gore, death and mayhem – I was scared. Rami takes you into places you would never have believed possible, and manages to pull his hero (and eventually his heroine) out of them against all odds. If you like to be scared. If you LOVE to be scared. You should read this book.

–Angela Misri, author of Jewel of the Thames

Being compared to Stephen King always makes me giddy.

Anyway, this novel still has a special place in my heart. It was a real form of experimentation for me in terms of writing with violence, writing thriller fiction, and writing a sex scene (that didn’t get cut out of the final draft), among other things. And I’m still open to returning to that story and writing a sequel someday. Maybe two, depending on a number of factors.

And if you’d lie to check out Snake and maybe see if it’s up your alley, I’ll include the links to check it out below. And if you do decide to get a copy and read it, please let me know what you think. Positive or negative, I love receiving feedback from readers, and if you leave a review on Amazon or another site, it helps me in the long run by letting other people know what you think and helping them decide whether or not to check out the book.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I have a big day ahead of me, so I’ll talk to you all later. Until next time, pleasant nightmares.

Available from AmazonCreatespace, Barnes & Noble, iBooksSmashwords, and Kobo

I’m really not sure where to start with this one. I mean, how do you tell people about the realization of your childhood dream in one blog post, let alone be coherent? I feel like going in fifty different directions with this post, that’s how excited I am!

Well, I guess I’ll start at the beginning. Or what I think makes a good beginning, anyway: back in March of last year, my friend and fellow novelist Matt Williams (check out his blog HERE) announced that his novel, The Cronian Incident (which I recommend if you’re into science fiction and detective stories, by the way)  had been accepted for publication by Castrum Press, a company based out of Belfast in North Ireland which, in the year since Matt’s been accepted, has gained a bit of a reputation for publishing great speculative fiction and treating its authors very well. Later that year I did an interview with Matt and then received an eARC copy of Incident from Castrum to read and review. After hearing how Matt liked the company and seeing how well his book was doing, I asked if he’d make an introduction for me to the company’s editor. He said yes.

I talked with Castrum’s owner, Paul, and he asked to see some of Rose. This was after the third draft had been finished, if I remember correctly. I sent him the first ten pages, letting him know I planned to do one more draft after the beta readers were done with the manuscript. He sent back some notes and asked to see more of the book when it was done. One draft later, I sent him the fourth draft of Rose, hoping against hope that they’d like it enough to publish it.

Cut to last Friday, and I receive an email when I get home from work. It was Castrum: they wanted to discuss publishing Rose. After jumping up and down like a kangaroo and screaming high enough to break glass, I replied saying I’d be happy to work with them. Paul sent a contract yesterday, and after having some of my questions answered, I signed the contract and sent it back to him this afternoon, with the realization that my dream has been accomplished. A novel of mine is getting published by a company.

To which there’s only one thing to say:

By the way, if you’re unfamiliar with Rose, this is a novel I first wrote as my college thesis during senior year. It follows a young, amnesiac woman who starts turning into a plant woman. And that’s just the events of Chapter One. And trust me, it’s a full-on horror novel from there, complete with psychological and supernatural terrors galore. I tried editing it again in 2016 and couldn’t make it work, tried again in 2017, and after that things kind of just snowballed from there. And now it’s getting published.

Obviously, I’m feeling a number of emotions right now. Excitement about the publication process and seeing Rose out in print, nervousness about how it will be received by the book-reading public, satisfaction that this dream has been achieved, hope for the future, and a feeling of goodwill about things to come. Especially that last one. Since at some point during the third draft of Rose, I had a feeling that things were about to change, that something big was about to start. And since the New Year, I’ve had this very strong feeling that not only was 2018 going to go slower than 2017 did, but that 2018 was going to be my year. And so far, it seems I was right on both counts. And I hope I can continue to be right on both counts.

Rose will appear in this medium very soon.

There’s so many people to thank for this wonderful event. Firstly, my friend Matt Williams for connecting me to the company, my beta readers Joleene Naylor and Dr. Black (my chiropractor, believe it or not), as well as Paul Camper, Maura Heaphy, and Manny Martinez for looking at the book back in college, and of course to Castrum for taking a chance on this indie author from Ohio. But most of all, I’d like to thank you, my Followers of Fear. For nearly seven years, you’ve stood by me and supported me through my various writing endeavors, my college experience, finding and getting a job, my ups and my downs, and so much more. You’ve all supported me and helped me get this far, and I can’t thank you enough for that. I hope you continue to support me (and maybe even read Rose when it comes out) as I continue down this road and try to make sure Rose is a huge success.

So what happens next? Well, I’ll work with Castrum to produce a fifth and hopefully final draft of the novel. We’ll get to talking about cover art and at some point we’ll set a release date (I’m hoping before Halloween, but we’ll see). And of course, I’ll make sure to let you know of any major developments.

Until next time, my Followers of Fear, I wish you pleasant nightmares (I’ll, of course, be having nothing but pleasant dreams)!

Well, I didn’t expect this to happen today. I figured it would happen at some point this week, but I never expected to get through the last three chapters so fast (especially since one of those three is thirty-three pages long). But yeah, I finished the fourth draft of Rose, the one edited with beta reader feedback! And all in a single month. Damn. I’m kind of proud of that rate of progress.

So if you’re among the many new Followers of Fear who are hopping onto this blog recently (hi! How are you? Are you enjoying my ramblings and opinions?) and you have no idea what Rose is, it’s a novel I started writing in college as my thesis project. The story is about a woman wakes up with amnesia and starts turning into a plant creature (and that’s just Chapter One). I did two drafts of it during my senior year of college, left it alone for a year, tried to pick it up again after I got my job, found progress very slow and dropped it, picked it up again this past summer with a new plan of going about editing the story, got through the third draft in four months, had some great beta readers look at the book and give me their feedback, and then somehow edited the book in a month (still gotta toot my horn on that one).

And you know what? This has been the most challenging story I’ve ever had to work on. I know I’ve said that before, but it’s the truth. Throughout the writing and editing process, this story has mutated more than the titular character does (because how else are you going to describe what she’s going through?)! Even during the very first draft, the story went through major changes. I initially had a different direction entirely for the story, which involved a lot more elements of Japanese folklore than appears in the novel (already heavily influenced by Japanese folklore), and involved some apocalyptic elements too. Thankfully, my thesis advisor helped me see how unfocused that direction would’ve been, and how much more intimate and scarier it would be if I went in another direction. This ended up being the route the story took, and if my beta readers can be believed, it’s a good thing I did, because the novel works the way it is now.

But honestly, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. So much changed with each draft, sometimes during the editing of a draft. Elements were added, subtracted, moved about, propped up and knocked down every day as the writing and editing needed. I added an entirely new plot element to the third draft to both add some length to the story and to foreshadow something that would be revealed later about one of the character. In the fourth draft, I changed the location of one minor element just so it wouldn’t seem unnecessary. I even wrote a whole new chapter for the third draft because I I needed it to do some necessary revelations about the antagonist.

Hopefully this happens to Rose very soon.

I keep thinking of those weird metal amalgams where if you add the right sort of current to it, you can change its structure (I’m pretty sure that’s a thing). Rose is very much like that: ever-changing with each new iteration, and hopefully becoming better each and every time.

Now that I’ve made that deep metaphor, I think I’ll talk about page and word counts, because I like talking about that. And while the shift from second to third draft was pretty dramatic, owing to the fact that I added about forty-thousand words of material to the story, third to fourth wasn’t that dramatic. If anything, it’s a bit smaller: the third draft was 266 pages (8.5″ x 11″, 12-point font, Times New Roman, double-spaced) and 84,677 words. The fourth draft was 264 pages and 84,390 words. A total drop of two pages and 287 words. I honestly thought it’d be a bit more, but I guess I was wrong.

So what’s next for Rose? Well, after four drafts and great feedback from my beta readers, I’m going to try looking for a publisher. I’ve been doing my research and I’ve got a few leads that I think could pan out, so hopefully I’ll have news within the year to share. And in the meantime, there are a couple of short stories, one novelette, and a blog post for Self-Published Authors Helping Other Authors I’ve been waiting to work on till I was done with the fourth draft, so I’ll likely start on those tomorrow. Hopefully I can get them all done before any publisher takes an axe to my door in their eagerness to publish me (I wish!).

Well, Followers of Fear, that’s all for now. It’s getting late, I’m tired, and I’ve got a big day tomorrow. I’ll let you know how things are going as they happen. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

Those of you who’ve followed me for a while know that I am on the autism spectrum, and that I’ve had opportunities to speak about it a couple of times, including a widely-circulated video which I posted back in March. I was able to get my job partially because of my autism, and a lot of the work I do involves working with, accommodating, and advocating for people with disabilities in the workplace, including but certainly not limited to autism. I don’t go around everywhere broadcasting my diagnosis, but it does come up on occasion.

One of those recent occasions was for my organization’s newsletter. I was asked to write a short essay, about a page long, about having a disability, about the program that helped me get a job in my organization, and what that’s been like. That article was published recently, along with a couple of other testimonials, and it’s been getting around. A lot of people have been coming up to me and thanking me for being so open with my story.

Today, I got an email from someone in my organization who had read the article, and had contacted me asking for advice. His adult nephew had been diagnosed with autism a couple of years ago, well past the point where intervention can be at its most effective. And in the  years since his diagnosis, his life has not gotten easier. I won’t go into details, but it was heartbreaking to read the man’s email and to hear about his nephew’s suffering.

At the end of the email, he asked what could be done for his nephew, and if maybe the program that helped me get my job could help his nephew.

What do you say to something like that? What sort of comfort can you give when there’s already so much pain?

I don’t know if I ever meant to be an advocate for people with disabilities. But over time, that role has kind of been molded around me. A good part of this has been because of my job. As I said, I have to advocate for people with disabilities in the workplace. To that end, I’ve learned how to market to people who are able-bodied why they should hire more people with disabilities. I can tell them that people with disabilities have a much lower turnover rate than the general population, 8% compared to 45%, that getting them accommodations rarely gets anywhere near the $500 mark, and then back all that up by talking about my own satisfaction with my position, and how the only accommodation I’ve needed for my ASD was permission to listen to my iPod or audiobooks while doing certain tasks. I’ve also been asked to do essays, like I did for the newsletter, and the video I recorded back in March. And sometimes it just comes up, like when explaining how I got my internship in Germany (yeah, my ASD played a part in that), or using it to illustrate a point in conversation, or a hundred different scenarios.

One way or another, it seems like I was meant to be an advocate, especially at this point in my life, when I’m doing so well at work, living on my own, and even as a writer.

But as a giver of advice? I’m not sure I expected that. And I get why it’s happening. Autism is a scary diagnosis for anyone to get, as well as for the loved ones of those diagnosed. It’s a disorder that varies widely from person to person, it can never be cured, the cause is still unknown,* the number of people being diagnosed with it has grown exponentially with improved diagnostic tools. Depending on what traits are present or what other disorders are present with autism can also affect everything from therapy to school choices to possibilities in adulthood. And when the diagnosis is made in adulthood, as happened with the young man whose uncle emailed me, it can be a sort of terrifying that no horror story can tap into. With all that in mind, hearing from someone who not only has the same diagnosis, but is successful in the real world, can be a soothing balm for the mind and soul.

I just wish I had all the answers. Or that I was more confident in the answers I have to give.

But if I’m going to give any sort of advice, it’s that we shouldn’t deny or try to hide our diagnoses. We shouldn’t try to be “normal,” because normal doesn’t exist, especially not for us. We process the world so differently than everyone else, but that doesn’t mean we have to be ashamed or afraid. I’m able to succeed and do the things I do every day because I process differently. So embrace your different. It may be called a disability, but it can be an asset too. Some of the greatest innovators and creators the world has ever known have been on the spectrum. And once we learn to work with the issues we have, we can learn to become those great innovators and creators.

And don’t be afraid to look for or ask for help. Even if you’re diagnosed later in life, there’s still plenty of resources for you. Many states, including my beloved Ohio, have programs that offer help and direction for people with disabilities and families, whether they be children or well into adulthood. Many schools have or are adding programs to ensure the disabled can take full advantage of their educations. More and more employers are recognizing the importance of hiring people with disabilities, and what they can contribute. We’re not being left alone like a ship in a storm. There is help.

Living my life strong, no matter what my diagnosis is.

And it’s important to be open about your diagnosis, especially with your friends, family, coworkers and teachers. Keeping it a secret has never helped anyone get by. It’s better to be open, so that those around us are better equipped to work with us, and join us on our journey as we work our way through life. I know it’s scary, and you don’t want to be any different than anyone else. But remember, there’s no normal. We’re all different, and many of us wear it on our sleeves. Might as well display this different too, if only to make life a little easier.

I hope you find this helpful. I hope the man who emailed me today found my advice helpful. And if you or someone you know has autism, I hope that no matter what, you or your loved one is able to hold their head up high and know this: you are great the way you are.

*And if you’re about to comment saying some bull about vaccines, let me tell you a story, since anti-vaxxers seem to value testimony more rather than scientific consensus: my mother has told me a few times that I was different from the day I was born, well before I received my first vaccine. I was nothing like the baby books predicted I’d be, and it wasn’t until my younger sister was born that she saw any of that stuff. I trust her word, so that means vaccines had nothing to do with the way I am. And if you still insist that vaccines had something to do with the way I am, you may be calling my mother a liar, and them’s fighting words.