Posts Tagged ‘coronavirus’

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hi everyone. I know it’s been a while since I last posted something (eight days, actually), but I didn’t have anything lately I felt passionate posting about. Until now, that is. You see, just a little while ago, the Ohio chapter of the Horror Writers Association finished a chapter meeting. Not only that, but it was our first Zoom meeting, and we had a pretty decent turnout. We’d been discussing doing things virtually for a while now, but COVID-19 really pushed us to do things online.

And that probably had a big part in our discussion during the meeting. We got onto talking about how COVID-19 has been affecting the writing industry, from the stories we tell to the events we go to. And it has been changing. Or at the very least, it’s in a state of flux.

If you’re part of the writing community as well, you know how it is. A lot of events had to be canceled because of the virus. StokerCon, the biggest horror convention in the world, was canceled, as was ParaPsyCon in Mansfield, OH, which I was supposed to attend. More than a few authors I’ve spoken to have said that their summer travel plans have been canceled and they’ll be spending more time at home than expected. And there’s a good chance my summer plans will be canceled by the end of next month, if not sooner.

Some events have moved online. A writer friend of mine told us during the meeting that he was supposed to give a talk in London around April, but it was moved online. According to him, it had probably more attendees than if he’d been there in person. And there are more events moving online. Hell, some people prefer it that way. Sure, you miss the personal touch that comes from doing cons and panels and readings face-to-face, and maybe lose a little business. But it can be easier on our schedules and wallets and, at least these days, health.

Perhaps some of our events will move online permanently.

Then there are the stories we write. A lot of discussion has gone on about how coronavirus is affecting what we weave together with words. Many of you already know that I’ve written a story, What Errour Awoke, which includes the virus for most of the story as part of the setting. And since then, I’ve had a few more ideas that take place during this current crisis, after this crisis, or uses imagery from the crisis to enhance the terror.

This virus is changing so much of our industry.

For others though, this pandemic has put a crimp in their writing plans. More than a few people have said their planned pandemic or zombie stories have been put on hold or readjusted due to COVID-19. One of my fellow writers mentioned how her students turned in a story about zombies created from the COVID-19 vaccine, and how she told said student that it wouldn’t be published (sounds too much like I Am Legend, for one thing). Others have mentioned how a lot of their stories have become period pieces, because they’ve had to move their stories to pre-COVID days. Or how they don’t think they can use COVID-19 in their work right now because they’re going through the pandemic right now, and don’t have the right mindset right now for those sort of stories.

I mentioned how I expected a lot of people to write Gothic stories about evil homes, inspired by being cooped up in their homes and the stress caused by that. Others mentioned how themes of isolation, fear of touch, of each other, might show up more in our fiction.

And this is likely only a few changes that will occur in the industry. Probably, we will see more changes to stories, publishing, marketing and event planning. What they will be, I can’t say for certain. I can only guess. But I think, at some point, we can expect plenty of writing about them.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ll hopefully have a new post out very soon. Remember, you can still get a signed copy of Rose from yours truly. Send me an email for details. And until next time, stay safe and pleasant nightmares!

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

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

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

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

Drovers Inn, Loch Lomond, Scotland

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

One room, please!

The Shanley Hotel, Napanoch, New York

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

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

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

Wolf’s Creek Inn, Wolf Creek, Oregon

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

RMS Queen Mary, Long Beach, California

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

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

Hell’s Bridge, Algoma Township, Michigan

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

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

Wisner Bridge, Chardon Township, Ohio

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

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

Gold Brook Covered Bridge, Stowe, Vermont

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

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

Franklin Castle, Cleveland, Ohio

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

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

LaLurie Mansion, New Orleans, Louisiana

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

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

Cecil Hotel, Los Angeles, California

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

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

 

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Those of you who don’t follow me on my other social media platforms may not know this, but at least once a week, usually Saturday, I post links to my novel Rose. The hope is, with enough regular mentions, people will notice the book and be tempted to read the book. If they see it often, it will worm under their skin and the possibility of entertainment they’re missing out on will nag at them. Perhaps they’ll even check it out just to see if they really are missing out.

It’s a simple strategy, but it does work. Not to the point where I’m getting dozens of new readers or reviews every week, but it does get results. For example, just this past week or so, Rose received two new ratings on Goodreads. And not too long ago, Rose received a bunch of new ratings on Amazon Canada and Amazon UK. And I think these consistent ads may have played a role in all of these new ratings.

And as I write this, I wonder if these new ratings are just a fraction of the new people reading Rose. They just haven’t let me know what they think as of yet.

This is why I keep posting about Rose. I want people to find the book. Someone like Stephen King may only need to post a couple of times about their upcoming book, and they’ll have thousands of pre-orders within hours. Less well-known but very established horror authors will post regular ads just to remind people that their book is coming out or that it’s already out or that it’s been out for a while. My philosophy is that I have to do ten times the work in order to get half of what I want. What I want is to have as many people as possible read my stories. So obviously, I’ll do what I can to get people to notice Rose.

I just can’t post everyday, because it would cost way too much money or because people would get sick of seeing Rose mentioned on my timeline. Or both.

In any case, I have a feeling that all my efforts are going to pay off even more than usual. Because COVID-19 has a lot of people isolating in their homes, they’re looking for new sources of entertainment, including books. Perhaps they’ll see Rose mentioned somewhere and think, “Hmm, that might pass the time for me. I’ll give it a read.”

Not the ideal way for someone to notice my work, but there you go.

And no matter the situation, I’ll keep writing and posting about my stories, with the hope that more people will notice and maybe want to read it. With any luck, they’ll find their new favorite horror story, and I’ll have another reader interested in my next book or publication, whenever that comes out.

And if this post has got you at all interested in Rose, I’ll post the links below. Yeah, of course I would insert an ad into this post, what did you expect? Anyway, if you’re not familiar, Rose is the story of a young woman who wakes up with no memories of the past two years. Pretty quickly, her body undergoes a startling transformation, becoming a human/plant hybrid. As those around her react to her transformation, she soon realizes they’re not all they seem, leading to a desperate fight for survival.

It’s some dark, creepy shit and you can check it out by clicking on the links below. And if you do end up reading Rose, let me know what you think. Positive or negative, I love feedback from readers, and they help me out in the long run.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. If, like me, you’re celebrating Passover, then Happy Passover (and next year in person). If you’re celebrating Easter this weekend, Happy Easter. And no matter what you believe or don’t believe, stay safe, be healthy, and pleasant nightmares to you all.

Rose: Available from the links below.

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

For the past week, I’ve been working hard on a new story, the majority of which takes place during our current crisis. You know the one I’m talking about. And you know what? It’s been cathartic to write about.

I’ve said before that writing can be very good for your mental health. Recently, I posted my thoughts about the COVID-19 pandemic and it made me feel a hundred times better about the whole situation. In fact, lately I’ve felt like a million bucks. Still, I do feel the occasional twinge of worry or other negative emotions when I consider all we’re going through.

So these past two nights, when I’ve written my protagonist’s reactions to the pandemic and how it’s affecting him mentally and emotionally, as well as recounting how he and others treat the crisis, it was kind of freeing. Like I was channeling not just my own feelings, but the feelings of other people in this situation.

I’ve heard a lot of people, both in and outside of the horror genre, as well as people who don’t write, saying that there’s going to be a lot of new fiction based on this crisis. If I’m any indication, we’ll be seeing that fiction coming out sooner rather than later. Maybe within the next few months. And I think we’re going to see that, for the majority of these authors, setting a story during the COVID-19 crisis is their way of processing their feelings and what they or others were going through.

What sort of stories we’ll get from this crisis, I’m not sure. I feel like a lot of them will just use the crisis as a backdrop, similar to how The Deep by Alma Katsu uses the Titanic and its sister ship the Britannic as backdrops for a ghost story (see my review here of that book here). In my case, I’m writing a Lovecraftian horror story, which makes sense because I see the virus as almost a Lovecraftian antagonist a la Nyarlathotep, and the pandemic acts as a sort of base for the terror and paranoia that my characters will feel later in the story.

I have a few other predictions. In terms of romance stories, we’ll see stories about people falling in love from afar due to social distancing, or falling in love due to being stuck in the same area together. We may also get a lot of new Gothic horror stories. Why do I say that? Because since people started sequestering themselves in their home, my article on Gothic horror has been seeing huge spikes in views. Makes sense, I suppose: as much as people love their homes, even being cooped up 24/7 in the best homes can be taxing. And since Gothic horror stories tend to focus mainly on houses as the source of the horror, people are either reminding themselves that their home isn’t so bad as being stuck in The Overlook, or they’re planning on channeling their frustration into stories about homes as a source of horror.

Perhaps writing about this virus can help relieve stress over it as well.

Whatever stories result, I highly encourage authors to write their stories about the coronavirus. Especially if the story helps you process what you’re going through right now. Even if you’re not an author, writing your feelings down can be therapeutic, so go ahead and write whatever you feel. Doesn’t have to be deep or poetic, just as long as it gets your feelings out in a healthy way.

Doing so may not alleviate the crisis or all the problems the crisis is causing to pop up, but at least you’ll feel better for the activity.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I hope you’re staying safe and healthy and are doing well. And if you need a pick-me-up, here’s the link to a cute video of foxes laughing and getting cuddles to make you smile.

Until next time, Shabbat Shalom and pleasant nightmares!