Posts Tagged ‘COVID-19’

As you are probably aware, I read Tarot. And in some of my recent readings, especially concerning the month of May, cards have been coming up relating to new cycles in life. Wheel of Fortune, Death, those kinds of cards. And after today’s reading, I had a bit of a revelation: tomorrow is May 1st. And it’s not just going to be a new month, but a month full of changes. And I don’t just mean the weather.*

First, there’s stuff at work. We’re getting ready to go back to the office soon now that the pandemic seems to be winding down (though cases of COVID are rising again in certain areas, including in Ohio, so who knows?). And though my particular section will be going in later and staggering days we’re in the office, and a lot still has to be finalized, it’s still a change after two years working from home.

Then there’s stuff in the writing career. As you all know, The Pure World Comes will release in paperback and ebook on the tenth, so I’m busy promoting the hell out of that. In fact, I think this time TPWC is going to appear on more blogs, websites, and podcasts than Rose did when it came out, so hopefully that, and the fact that I’ll be at ParaPsyCon selling copies at the end of the month, will lead to plenty of people reading and reviewing it.

Funnily enough, both Rose and TWPC involve transformation, so I guess it makes sense for the latter to come out in a month of change and transformation. Hopefully the transformations I deal with won’t be as dramatic or life-threatening. I wouldn’t mind if that transformation leads to the new book doing well.

There are a few other changes I know are happening, though they’re not big enough that I feel like talking about them here. But there might be other big changes on the horizon. I’m actually looking to move out of my current place, so for all I know, I might find where I’ll be living where my rent is up. Though with both the housing and the rental market in a crazy state, I may end up in this place for another year.** Whatever the case, this coming month could be a month where things change dramatically with that search.

Are other changes in my life around the corner? I don’t know. Nearly anything’s possible. I wouldn’t mind if I lost the weight I gained this past month (thanks Passover and home-searching stress!). Well, whatever the case, I’ll try to roll with whatever happens and adjust as necessary. Though if the Tarot cards are anything to go by, it’ll be a good month.

This is from my personal deck and from today’s reading. The center card, the Present card, is The Magician. It represents mastery and having all you need within you. The one on the left, the Past card, is the World. It represents triumph and success, happiness and achievement. Opposite is the Future card, which is The Emperor. It means authority and ambition, as well as achievement and even financial stability. Up top in the Cause position is The Knight of Swords, which represents swift and chaotic movement, or a serious-minded young man (I’m going with the latter this time around). And on bottom, in the Potential space, is The Knight of Pentacles, which represents eventual good news and/or a reliable young man.

The question I asked the cards was, “What do I need to know for the month of May?” Based on the answer, I think May will be a month of good transformations. I hope, anyway.

*Which, let’s face it, this is Ohio. Our weather is notorious for changing at a moment’s notice. In fact, it often does. We joke about it a lot.

**God, I could write a whole post about the state of the market and how mad I am at it. But I won’t, because it’s not that kind of blog.


BTW, Followers of Fear. The Pure World Comes is available for preorder on Amazon! Yeah, they basically lied to me when they said it wouldn’t be. So now, if you would prefer to purchase from there, you can use the link below. And if you decide to read it, let me know what you think. Positive or negative, I love reader feedback and it helps me as a writer, as well as help other readers decide to read the story.

Hope you enjoy the last couple of hours of April, my Followers of Fear. Until next time, good night and pleasant nightmares.

The Pure World Comes: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, Kobo

Alma Katsu. Photo by Evan Michio

Some of you may remember at the start of the pandemic I had the pleasure to interview Alma Katsu, author of the critically acclaimed novels The Hunger and The Deep (you can read that interview here). I loved both novels, which took on the historical events of the Donner Party and the Titanic, respectively, and turned them into supernatural horror stories. It won’t surprise you, then, that I’ve been looking forward to her next historical horror novel for a while now.

Two pieces of good news: first, Ms. Katsu has a new novel, The Fervor, coming out in late April! The novel takes place during World War II at a Japanese internment camp and involves a strange disease and a stranger monster from Japanese legend. Yeah, you can tell this is right up my alley!

Second pieces of good news: Ms. Katsu has agreed to let me interview her about the book! So without further ado, let’s talk to Alma Katsu and find out why you should be as excited as I am for her new novel.

Rami Ungar: Welcome back to the blog, Ms. Katsu. Please tell us about The Fervor and how it came about.

Alma Katsu: First came the decision to set the next book in WWII. That had to do with trends in publishing, frankly; I’d sat in on the editors’ panel at the Historical Novel Society conference a few years ago, when it was time to come up with a proposal, and their advice was that historical fiction was pretty much dead except for WWII. I’d always thought it would be interesting to write about the internment camps, but then the question was how to turn that into a horror story? Objectively, the horror should be pretty evident: here was a government locking up its own citizens, people who hadn’t committed a crime, because they didn’t trust them. Because the average citizen (with the help of propaganda) believed that Asians were inherently sneakier and untrustworthy.

RU: You’ve talked about your Japanese heritage and how it influenced the story. Can you go into that for us?

AK: This was the first time where the main character of the book has the same ethnicity as me, and it was pretty eye-opening. For one thing, as I was writing I realized that I had a lot of resentments about the way my mother had been treated coming to America after the war, and the way I’d been treated as a minority (to a lesser extent) bottled up inside. Add to that the preconceptions about Asians and Asian women, in particular. This was an opportunity to write the truth, to dispel myths. It was freeing.

RU: I can only imagine! And speaking of Japanese elements, there’s been a surge of stories inspired by Japanese culture, particularly yokai, in the West. Some examples include Nothing but Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw and my own novel Rose. What do you think of that surge, and where do you think it comes from?

The Fervor by Alma Katsu.

AK: I’m afraid I don’t have much to offer here. I know some folks are big into Japanese folktales and such, so I’m not aware of a surge per say. It always seems to be fairly popular thanks to anime! Japanese yokai and yurei are part of the fabric of life for Japanese, and so I’d heard and read stories when I was a kid, and it didn’t seem you could tell a horror story with Japanese characters without incorporating it in some way.

RU: Well, I can attest that anime was definitely an influence on me. Anyway, The Fervor also involves an epidemic in a Japanese internment camp. Did the COVID-19 pandemic influence your decision to include that?

AK: I drew on COVID, yes, the feelings of mass panic and confusion, but The Fervor is about racism. I decided to write it after watching what’s been happening to this country over the past four years or so. I’m not naïve but it’s been bewildering to see racism go mainstream in America. It’s comforting in a way to think it could be a disease, something you could catch, as that at least is understandable. The January 6th attack on the Capitol also influenced the book: The Fervor was an attempt to look at what this country has been going through and compare it to another horrible incident in America’s past, and show that we haven’t changed much.

RU: I’m looking forward to seeing how that plays out in the book. So, what research did you do for the book?

AK: This was different from The Hunger (the Donner Party) and The Deep (the sinking of the Titanic), events that I didn’t know a lot about. I already knew a lot about life in the internment camps, because I’d heard stories from my in-laws, seen documentaries and read articles. I knew what the issues were, I knew how the interned felt and what they had gone through. For the book, it was more a matter of filling in the gaps. I lucked out in that a neighbor’s family had been interned at Minidoka, which is featured in the book, and had a trove of documents from the camp: maps, rosters, newsletters, all kind of non-official documentation that typically gets lost to time. It was a real windfall.

RU: Yeah, primary sources like that are always a boon when writing about history or using it. And speaking of which, you’ve written about the Donner Party, the sinking of the Titanic, and now the Japanese internment camps. Are there any other ages or historical events you would want to write a story about?

AK: After doing three books and having them change a bit each time (going from being fairly close to the history to becoming reinterpretations of events, maybe just shy of alternate histories), I think it’s time to re-evaluate. I’m sure there are plenty of interesting historical events (I’d love to do another Western, for example) but I’m a little burned out on close reads of history right now.

RU: Fair enough. Switching gears a bit, what are you working on nowadays? And when can we expect to see the TV series based on your spy novel, Red Widow?

AK: I just handed in the second in the spy novel series, and though I’m sure it’ll need some work, I’m glad to have that behind me. I’m working on a new project that I can’t talk about at the moment, and hope to be pitching a few TV proposals soon.

Red Widow, the TV series, is chugging along. The pilot script is being polished right now, and we hope to know whether we’ll be shooting the pilot before too long.

RU: Final question: what are you reading these days? And are there any recent reads that you would recommend others check out?

AK: There are so many great books coming out this year that it’s hard to single out just a few. Let’s see… SA Barbes’ debut Dead Silence just came out. It’s space/horror: think Aliens meets Titanic.  It’s a lot of spooky fun. I had the opportunity to read Andy Davidson’s The Hollow Kind, a wonderfully suspenseful, creepy southern Gothic with a dual timeline. It doesn’t come out until October, however. I’m really excited for Catriona Ward’s next novel, Sundial, which I think I liked even better than Needless Street.

RU: Well, thank you for joining us, Ms. Katsu. It was a pleasure to have you again. Please keep us posted on your progress.

If you are interested in The Fervor, you can preorder it now from most retailers. You can also check out Ms. Katsu’s other books, including The Hunger, The Deep and Red Widow. And, of course, you can find Ms. Katsu on her website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I look forward to reviewing The Fervor this coming spring. And in the meantime, I’m sure I’ll be back soon with plenty to share with you. Until next time, good night and pleasant nightmares!

Before I get into the meat of this post, I want to tell you a funny story from this weekend: so my youngest sister and I drove up to Cleveland to spend some quality time with my dad and stepmom. Since just about everything was closed due to COVID, we had a movie night and watched Freaky, which I mentioned in my review that my dad wanted to see. Unusual for him, seeing as he hates horror and only reads my work because it’s mine.

Anyway, we’re watching the movie, and in an early scene a girl is getting brutally murdered by the serial killer using a toilet seat. My dad is grossed out by the gore and turns to me, because I was singing the movie’s praises when it came up as a possible viewing choice, and says, “Rami, what the–?”

Just then, the shot changes from the girl getting murdered to two teens hooking up in the garage. We all burst out laughing at the perfect timing. Even my dad found it hilarious. And yes, he enjoyed the film, though he didn’t care for the gore.


Alright. So, as many of you are no doubt aware, I’m involved with a small publishing press, Cracked Skull Press, and we’re currently fundraising for our first anthology. That Which Cannot Be Undone: An Ohio Horror Anthology will be written entirely by authors based in or from Ohio, with their stories set in Ohio, and revolving around the theme “that which cannot be undone.” It looks to be an amazing anthology.

As I said, we’re fundraising for the anthology with a Kickstarter campaign, and we’re currently over 40% funded on this project. And as of today, we’re halfway through the campaign’s duration. It’ll come to an end on January 28th, 2022. And I’m asking you all to help us reach our goal by pledging your support. If you help us get to our goal, my friends and I will be able to put some amazing original short stories into the anthology. Doesn’t that sound like a ton of fun?

We’re working hard to make this anthology a success. I hope you’ll support us and even pledge to the campaign!

Plus, there are a number of perks to pledging to our campaign. Depending on the pledge you choose, you can get listed in the donor section of the book, as well as your very own e-book and paperback copy. Interested in a copy of a book from one of the authors? How about a special limited edition horror-themed candle? Or how about being included in a story by one of our authors? That’s right, you can be included as a character in a story by a great horror author! Doesn’t that sound like fun?

So, if you’re interested in supporting us in the creation of this anthology, you can check out the campaign, the various updates and the awesome pledge choices we have available using the link below. We’ve already announced some of the awesome authors we’ve brought on, and will be posting updates periodically as we get them. And whether or not you can pledge, we appreciate it if you can share news of the campaign on your own blogs or social media. The more people who know about the anthology, the more likely we are to make our goals, so every mention helps.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/crackedskullproject1/that-which-cannot-be-undone-an-ohio-horror-anthology

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I hope you’ll continue to support us as we work hard to make this anthology, and our dreams of writing terrifying stories, roaring successes. And if I don’t post anything new before the end of the week, I wish you all a very Happy New Year. May 2022 be leagues better than 2021 was.

Until next time, good night, pleasant nightmares, and please get vaccinated so society can stop shutting down for indefinite periods of time every four to six months.

I’ll give 2021 this, it went by fast. A lot faster than 2020 did, thank God! And, despite how the year started (*cough* treasonous rebellion against the US government *cough*), it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be when I posted back in late 2020.

Okay, real talk. While 2021 wasn’t as difficult as 2020 was, it still had its fair share of troubles. A lot of people still can’t or won’t get vaccinated against COVID-19, leading to the spread and emergence of new variants. Climate change is still an ongoing problem. There’s a big job and housing crisis happening in the country right now. And there’s still a ton of political and social unrest in the US and around the world, among other things.

That being said, 2021 did have some improvements. A lot of people are still alive because of masking and vaccination. In many places, we’re able to eat in restaurants, go to school and work, and even see movies and shows in theaters again (my mom, sister and I are going to the ballet for the first time in nearly two years! We’re so excited). The US didn’t collapse, despite how much we feared it would one way or another back in January. There are new treatments for other diseases alongside COVID-19 being discovered and developed, and new initiatives to protect the environment, combat homelessness, and so much more!

Oh, and we got one hell of a two-part movie adaptation of the Sailor Moon Dream arc back in June. Can’t forget that.

On a personal level, 2021 was mostly very good. I got vaccinated (and boosted as of two weeks). I moved into a bigger apartment. I got to visit some cities I’ve always wanted to visit for my vacation (and learned I’m not a Vegas person in the process). My efforts to save for a home are on track (for the most part; a lot of that savings account went into my vacation). And…what else? Oh yeah. I had my best year of writing and publishing ever!

Very excited about this (and whatever is created as the cover).

Seriously, The Pure World Comes was released and has been getting rave reviews; I published several short stories, novelettes and articles in anthologies and magazines; my collection, Hannah and Other Stories, was accepted for publication; I got to attend a couple of awesome conventions and meet some readers and writers; I wrote and edited so, so much; my friends and I created a small publishing press and are crowdfunding our first anthology (more on that below); and the number of Followers of Fear grew on this blog and my other social media platforms. This has been my most successful year of writing since I first started keeping track!

All that being said, I had my difficult moments this year. Things I didn’t talk about on my blog or other social media. I couldn’t keep my cats due to reasons outside my control and had to return them to the shelter soon after I got them; a driver ran a red light, causing us to get into a crash and forcing me to replace my car (at least the insurance company helped me get a new one); and there were plenty of times I felt frustrated, restless, or lonely because of the isolation we’ve all been going through these past two years. Yeah, all that happened. And it sucked. At least they helped me grow as a person (I think).

So yeah, 2021 was full of good and bad. At least the good outweighed the bad. And that’s making me somewhat hopeful for 2022.

Yeah, there’s still a lot of shit in the world that’s likely going to bring down my opinion of humanity and the world in general. But as I said above, things have gotten better in certain areas and may continue to go that way. And I have a lot of projects on the horizon, like Hannah and the paperback and ebook editions of The Pure World Comes (and maybe an audio book); I’m already signed up for a couple of conventions and expos; I have at least one short story being released next year, and hopefully more on the way; I might be working on an anthology next year (more on that below); and so many ideas I can’t wait to write!

I may even get to work on Crawler, like I planned to.

Speaking of the paperback/ebook for The Pure World Comes, how does this look for cover art.

And who knows what else might happen in 2022? I don’t think I’ll be able to buy a house or get a movie adaptation of my work (though I would love it if either happened), but a lot happened in 2021 that I didn’t expect. Sky’s the limit, and I plan to head there.

Yes, 2021 was difficult in some ways and on many levels, but it was also happy and rewarding, too. And while I know that a lot of problems will continue through to 2022, I’m hopeful for the new year as well. So much more than I was at this time last year.

And I hope that whatever happened in 2021, you’re feeling the same way too.

How did 2021 go for you? How are you feeling about 2022? Anything happen that made you smile or feel helpful? Let’s discuss in the comments below.


On the subject of the small press my friends and I created and our anthology, That Which Cannot Be Undone, the crowdfunding campaign is going quite well. In just six days, we’ve reached 17% of our goal and are working to get the rest. If we make our funding goal, we’ll be able to release a great anthology of horror set in Ohio and written by our fellow Ohio authors. You can learn more about the anthology and the campaign by clicking on the link below.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/crackedskullproject1/that-which-cannot-be-undone-an-ohio-horror-anthology

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m going to keep the hope alive for the week (and maybe the rest of the year). Until next time, good night, Happy Hanukkah and Krampusnacht (yes, that’s a thing), and pleasant nightmares!

Hi Followers of Fear! I’m writing from lovely, enchanting Las Vegas! Actually, it’s more elaborate, gaudily opulent and sensory overload-inducing Las Vegas. It’s both, really. And extremely expensive. Whatever, I’m going to enjoy myself here! But first, I have an exciting announcement. One worth getting on the blog and writing up a blog post early for!

As many of you are aware, I’ve been working on getting another collection of original short stories out. I even did a ton of editing over the summer to make it happen. Well, I’m happy to say, all that work paid off! Yesterday at 3:15 PM in St. Louis, I signed a contract with BSC Publishing Group to publish a new collection of short stories, “Hannah and Other Stories.” So, without further ado, here’s a temporary cover that I created until we get something a bit more professional.

Not bad, right? This is actually a hint as to the subject matter of the titular short story. No, not toilet humor or toilet horror, I put all that into The Pure World Comes. In fact, the short story Hannah was inspired by a famous legend from Japan. If you can guess what it is without Google, congratulations! We can be friends.

Also, the titular character in the titular short story is not named after any of the people named Hannah I know. And believe me, there are a few. It’s a popular name in the Jewish religion.

You hear that, Hannah P. whom I went to high school with and sometimes saw at Ohio State? This has nothing to do with you! Though I may send you a copy when it’s out as a cheeky present.

Anyway, where was I? Oh right. Well, in addition to “Hannah,” there are six other stories in the collection: “Queen Alice,” about a mythical Internet boogeyman. Or boogeywoman, to be precise; “The Autopsy Kid and Doctor Sarah,” about a budding serial killer; “Fuselli’s Horses,” about a rather interesting breed of horse; “The Red Bursts,” about a town whose residents become reluctant witnesses to something terrifying; “What Errour Awoke,” about how one innocent reading during an English literature course leads to a terrifying situation during the COVID-19 pandemic (already putting it into my fiction, don’t you know); and “Poor, Unfortunate Souls,” about a party underneath the streets of Paris which takes a turn for the awful.

I look forward to hearing what you all think of the stories. There’s likely going to be a lot of editing over the next year or so, but I have confidence we could see this book out some time in 2022. What this means for the paperback/ebook release of The Pure World Comes, or writing my mummy story Crawler, I can’t say at this point. But all I can say is, I think the next 365 days will be quite eventful.

My view from my hotel in Las Vegas. I can’t wait to have fun in this city.

And in the meantime, if you’re looking for good stories to read, I have plenty available now while you wait. I hope you’ll check them out while I work on Hannah and releasing The Pure World Comes in paperback and ebook. Not only will find them entertaining and possibly terrifying, but it’ll help me out while I’m writing and editing. Also, if you do end up reading one of my stories, let me know what you think. Email me, or leave a review online somewhere. It’ll let me know what you think and help other readers decide whether or not to check out my work. I’ll leavve the links below.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ve got to film a YouTube video and then grab dinner before having a proper celebration in my hotel room tonight. Until next time, good night, pleasant nightmares, and prepare for Halloween in three days! If you don’t, I will obliterate you from the face of the Earth! Mwa ha ha ha!!!

The Pure World Comes: Readict app (free with ads)

The Quiet Game: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooksSmashwords, and Kobo.

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

Snake: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada, Barnes & Noble, iBooksSmashwords, and Kobo

Agoraphobia: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada

Mother of the King: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada

Richard Chizmar, author of Chasing the Boogeyman.

Back in late 2019, I had the opportunity to interview Richard Chizmar, owner and publisher of Cemetery Dance Publications, as well as the author of several stories (including one or two in collaboration with Stephen King). Well, a lot’s happened since then, and Mr. Chizmar has a new novel called Chasing the Boogeyman that’s just released, Chasing the Boogeyman. In this novel, Chizmar himself plays the protagonist as he returns home post-college to write, prepare for a wedding…and deal with a serial killer that is hunting in his hometown.

I got to sit down with Mr. Chizmar to discuss the new book, the COVID-19 pandemic, and what he’s been reading lately. Here’s what we talked about.

Rami Ungar: Mr. Chizmar, welcome back to the show. Tell us about Chasing the Boogeyman and how the novel came to be.

Richard Chizmar: I always wanted to write a novel set in my hometown of Edgewood, Maryland. I pretty much assumed it would be a big fat coming-of-age horror novel – in the vein of IT or SUMMER OF NIGHT – but that’s not how it worked out. Instead, I couldn’t shake the idea of a small town being held hostage by a monster of the human variety. A town on the verge of losing its innocence and never being able to gain it back. In the summer of 1988, after graduating from college, I got engaged and my fiancée and I decided it would be smart to save rent money until the wedding. So I moved back in with my parents for a period of eight or nine months to work on the first issue of Cemetery Dance and write short stories. It was a strangely wonderful time. There I was standing on the doorstep of full-fledged adulthood, yet I was living in the house I’d grown up in and eating dinner with my mother and father most nights. It was an interesting period in my life, very fertile creatively, and it felt like the perfect setting for a novel about innocence and terror.

RU: You made yourself a character in the novel. Can you tell me how you decided to do that and what writing your character was like? Was it difficult or did you find it easy?

RC: It happened very naturally. When I first started jotting down notes for CHASING THE BOOGEYMAN I quickly realized how much of my true self would be surfacing in the story. I was writing about my past, my family and friends, my hometown, and most importantly, my early life hopes and fears. It just made sense to me, in that moment, that I wouldn’t even pretend to be someone else. Once I got past those normal early feelings of self-doubt, the rest of it was a breeze. It almost felt self-indulgent at times because I was having so much fun.

RU: Speaking of your character, would you say your character is close to what you’re like in real life?

RC: My character in the book is as close to the real me at age twenty-two as I could make him. In real life instances that occurred within the novel, I drew on memory and described them exactly as I remembered. When it came to the make-believe, I asked myself: what do you think you would have done? How do you think you would have acted or reacted? And then I put pen to paper as honestly as I could. That was important to me, and a promise I made to myself when I first started writing the book.  

RU: Going back to the boogeyman in the title, what do you think it is about the boogeyman character that makes it and its equivalents in other cultures enduring figures in our collective imaginations?

RC: Two things: longevity and proximity. The Boogeyman – in its various forms – has been around forever. That dark shape lurking in the woods or the alleyways or the shadowed neighborhood streets has always existed and been feared. And every town has one. Just like every small town has a haunted house located somewhere within its borders, every town also has its Boogeyman.

RU: I’ve been hearing this novel hyped for about a year now. What’s it like having one of the most anticipated novels of 2021?

RC: On the one hand, it’s very exciting when readers are talking about your book so far in advance and there’s a lot of positive press and buzz. On the other hand, it’s also nerve-wracking and can feel like a lot of pressure. I just try to roll with the punches as they come and enjoy the moment. Even eleven months ago when the book was first announced, I knew that publication day would be here before I knew it. From Day One, I’ve been determined to enjoy the process as much as possible. I’ve been in the business now for close to 35 years and CHASING THE BOOGEYMAN is technically my debut novel (GWENDY’S MAGIC FEATHER was billed as a novel, but it’s really a short novella), so it’s natural that it would come with a decent amount of fanfare. I just hope it does well for Simon & Schuster who really believed in the book.

RU: Pivoting to a new subject, you’re still running Cemetery Dance Publications and Cemetery Dance magazine. Have you noticed a change in the fiction you’ve been getting since the COVID-19 pandemic began? If so, what?

RC: That’s an interesting question. Unfortunately, I don’t have an interesting answer. We haven’t been open to public submissions for a while, so I haven’t seen any sort of trends developing. My bet is that we’ll see those trends appearing in published fiction over the next couple years.

RU: I have no doubt about that! Speaking of which, what have you been doing while stuck inside during the pandemic? Has it had an effect on your writing and productivity?

Chasing the Boogeyman. Available now.

RC: I’m pretty much a recluse in even the best of times, so the pandemic didn’t really affect my day-to-day comings and goings as much as it did most folks. In between insanely long bouts of cable news viewing, I managed to write a couple novels and a handful of short stories and essays. I was pretty pleased with that output.

RU: I guess we had a similar pandemic writing experience, then. Now, can you tell us about your upcoming projects?

RC: I’m about to start working on a new novel, which I’m too superstitious to say much about. In February of next year, GWENDY’S FINAL TASK, the third book in the Gwendy Trilogy, will be published. As with the first book, I co-wrote this one with Stephen King and had an absolute blast. Hopefully, after that, there will be a new novel release, as well as a collection of novellas. 

RU: Good luck! And finally, what are some books you’ve read recently that you would recommend to others?

RC: I’ve been on a good run of reading lately. One gem after the other. GOBLIN by Josh Malerman. THE BURNING GIRLS by C.J. Tudor. MY HEART IS A CHAINSAW by Stephen Graham Jones. ROAD OF BONES by Chris Golden. THE FINAL GIRL SUPPORT GROUP by Grady Hendrix. I’ve been spoiled!

RU: Oh, one of those is on my TBR list. Glad to know you recommend it.

If you would like to check out Chasing the Boogeyman, it’s currently out and available wherever fine books are sold (or lent if, like me, you went to your local library). And if you would like to keep up with Richard Chizmar, you can find him on his website, on his Twitter, and on Cemetery Dance’s website and Twitter.

If you would like to check out other author interviews, including my first with Mr. Chizmar, you can find it on my Interviews page.

And if you’re an author with something coming out soon and want to have an interview with me, email me at ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com. If I’m available, we can make some magic happen.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ll be back with a couple of new reviews this week, as well as some other stuff so this blog doesn’t become a review and interview blog (nothing wrong with that, but it’s not what this blog is). Until next time, good night and pleasant nightmares.

Where is the year going? We’re nearly midway through August! I swear, God was feeling bad that 2020 played on 0.5x speed, so He put this year on 1.5x speed!

Oh well. As you are no doubt aware, I was supposed to be at an event in Chicago back in June, but COVID-19 messed with things and we had to relocate to September.* I’m happy to announce that, in one month, Indie Author Book Expo Aurora, or IABE Aurora, will be happening!

As the above graphic states (and yes, I’m aware Illinois has three L’s. What about it?), IABE Aurora will be held at the Prisco Community Center in Aurora, Illinois on September 11th from 10 AM – 3 PM. In addition to myself, there will be a bunch of other authors there as well, telling all sorts of other stories and selling all sorts of cool wares! And I think there may be food stalls, though I wouldn’t swear to that.

Anyway, if you can make it, please do so. It’s a great opportunity to support lesser-known and indie authors. And events like this have all sorts of hidden surprises, so it’s definitely worth checking out. You can find out more at IABE’s website here.

Well, that’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ll be in touch again soon, if things progress as planned. Until next time, good night, pleasant nightmares, and what’s that crawling up your leg?

*And please, so that nobody else gets sick and no more dates get changed, GET VACCINATED IF YOU’RE ABLE TO, AND WEAR A DAMN MASK!

I’ve been cutting back on announcing finishing the first draft of every single story I finish a first draft of. Not all of them are good, after all, and not all of them will see publication. Even if they are good. But this one, I’m announcing. Why? Because, for one, it’s a pandemic story. So, you know, not related to anything we’re currently experiencing these days! But also because it has some personal significance to me (more on that in a bit).

Natural Predators takes place a few years after the current COVID-19 pandemic has ended. A new virus is spreading rapidly out of Canada and into the US, causing loss of control of patients’ bodies and voices. As campers at a camp in upstate New York grapple with what is becoming of their summer vacation, events occur that will put them at the forefront of a change greater than even COVID-19 had on the world.

So yeah, like I said. This is a pandemic story. But it was not one inspired by our current one, which I’m sure is going to make marketing this story so much harder than it would otherwise be. In fact, the basis for this story germinated (see what I did there?) back in my teens. You see, I went to a summer camp in New York, and during my last year there, we got hit by an epidemic. A twenty-four hour stomach bug that infiltrated the camp and the surrounding communities. I was actually the first in my year to get sick with it, and before I knew it (or the hell that was being unleashed on the community), I’d passed it onto everyone else.

Yeah, it wasn’t pleasant. And if we’d known what was starting that weekend, my counselors would have probably sent me straight to the infirmary, rather than having me stay in Shabbat services and try to get through the day. Oh well. Hindsight is 20/20, as they say. Just wished I hadn’t missed out on the afternoon party that my mom, who worked for the camp, was going to throw for me, my sister, and our respective cabins. I was a guest of honor and I couldn’t even be there!

But I’m digressing. Point is, I knew what an epidemic looked like well before COVID-19. And then, around 2015, I was watching a new episode of Family Guy because it was still funny back then. In that episode, Peter and his friends were discussing writing their own horror film. I was thinking of that episode and what the character Joe Swanson might write his horror film about. Given the character is disabled, I thought he would use personal experience and create a story based around losing control of his body.

From there, I thought a virus might be a good vehicle to show that fear of loss of control over the body. And then I remembered my past camp experiences, and from there the idea bloomed.

So, if that was too much information, let me sum it up: stomach virus at camp + Family Guy episode about horror films = Rami Ungar getting inspired to write a horror story about a pandemic.

Wrote a pandemic story in the middle of a pandemic, and yet it’s not inspired by the pandemic at all. How about that?

Anyway, I think the story has potential. There’s some body horror, a bit of a creature feature, and the familiar paranoia of learning a deadly disease is spreading around the world. There’s an anthology I hope to get it into, but first I’m going to get it critiqued by a beta reader. With any luck, the editors won’t let the pandemic part get in the way and find it an enjoyable read.

And in the meantime, I’m going to take a break to recharge this evening, then start work on a new story tomorrow (this one will be a ghost story). Until next time, my Followers of Fear, good night and pleasant nightmares!

When A Quiet Place came out in 2018 (oh, such innocent days), it caused quite a sensation. Hell, even I loved it, giving it a 4.3 out of 5 (you can read my review here). When horror fans heard a sequel was in the works, we were interested. We weren’t sure how they could continue the story, but we were interested. Then the trailer came out, and we were excited. And then the pandemic happened.

Well, it finally came out. And after work, I got in the car and headed to the theater to see if A Quiet Place Part II was both worth the wait and on par with the original.

I can say that it succeeds on both counts.

Taking place right after the end of the first movie, A Quiet Place Part II follows the original film’s family, now with the father dead and the mother just recently giving birth, they try to leave the family farm now that it isn’t safe. They run into an old friend, as well as coming across possible signs of a safe haven not far from their location. But with so many predators around and other dangers aside, it’s a race against time to save not just the family, but perhaps all of humanity.

So, despite noise from the auditorium next door spilling into our theater,* Part II does as great a job as the first film in using sound to do the work of dialogue in storytelling. Every silent space and every noise, from a branch breaking or a breath, helps to get us to emphasize with the characters and put us in their world. Not to mention that the use of sound, as well as a few well-placed jump scares, it really builds an atmosphere.

The story is also well-written. After the opening scenes, which recap the destruction of society and the end of the first film, the writers manage to not only find a new story that feels natural, it also brings up twice the necessary tension to drive the story. And the new character of Emmett, played by Cillian Murphy, is given plenty of development during the film. Usually, you don’t expect that with new characters in a horror sequel, so it’s a nice surprise.

If there are a few things that could have been improved, I would have liked to see more of how humans in this world have adjusted–good or bad–in this new world. There were hints midway in the film, but I would have liked to see more. And Djimon Hounsou (Korath the Pursuer from Guardians of the Galaxy) is in this film, and the guy has way more chops than are shown. I would’ve liked to see more of him.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m going to give A Quiet Place Part II a 4.4 out of 5, one point over the first film. With a plot that manages to keep the tension and sense of urgency up, as well as the strong characterization, it’s a great sequel. If you enjoyed the first film, then you should totally see the second. Sit down, be quiet, and get ready for a great ride.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I have a three-day weekend, so I plan to get plenty done, including a new blog post or two. I hope you have a good weekend as well. And until next time, good night and pleasant nightmares.

*Don’t worry, I let the staff know. They’ll hopefully figure out a way to avoid having showings of the film next to noisier films.

I only like one kind of cocktail, but I haven’t mixed it in years. Recently, I found all the ingredients at the grocery store and decided to pick them up. You mix vodka, sweet n’ sour mix, and blue curacao. I call it an Electrified Lemonade (though it may have another name I am unaware of). Why do I mention it? Because I mixed it this evening in celebration of finishing the third draft of River of Wrath. Woo-hoo!

So, if you’re unfamiliar with this novel, River of Wrath is a novel I wrote on-and-off between October 2017 and October 2018 (which is hilarious, because the main events of the novel take place during Halloween 1961). The novel follows a young couple who find themselves trapped in a small town in Mississippi when a river full of living, violent corpses floods the town. Turns out the river is actually the River Styx as described in Dante’s Inferno, the fifth circle of Hell and the punishment for the wrathful. Trapped in a church in the town, internal tensions rise as the town’s racial differences are brought to light. And believe me when I say, the danger within has an effect on the trouble within and vice versa.

So yeah, you can guess what sort of themes the novel encompasses. I started coming up with the story back in 2017 after reading the book The Blood of Emmett Till by Timothy Tyson, about the infamous murder of a young African-American boy from Chicago in the Mississippi Delta, and the trial of his murderers (spoiler alert, they got off and then admitted they murdered him). I had just learned about Dante’s Inferno and was thinking of where various people and groups in the book might have ended up in Hell according to Dante. That was the impetus for the novel, which originally I didn’t think would be more than twenty-thousand words. A year later, and it was over sixty-thousand words, and I was like, “I gotta stop turning short stories and novelettes into novels.”

Yeah, I have not kept that promise to myself at all.

The Fifth Circle of Hell, as illustrated by Stradanus.

Anywho, I usually try to shop my novels around after three drafts (the third draft of Rose was the one that was accepted for publication, after all). And since this is the third draft, I’ve already sent it off to a publisher. I’ll hopefully get an acceptance somewhere, but we’ll see what happens. It’s not perfect, but I’ve gotten a lot of kinks out of the book and I think it’s a good story. Should be enough to interest someone.

If it does get accepted, however, I’m going to ask for a sensitivity reader. Let’s face it, I’m white, and given the subject matter, I don’t want to accidentally cause offense.

Well, River of Wrath is off. What’s next for me? Well, tomorrow I’ll be getting my second COVID-19 shot, so I might not do anything, creative or otherwise, depending on whether or not I suffer any side effects. That being said, my next project will be the third draft of The Pure World Comes, my Victorian horror novel. After that, I’ll try submitting that for publication. And then…well, who knows? Maybe I’ll work on a new story, or I’ll be editing older stories. We’ll see what happens.

Well, that’s all for now. I’m off to bed, because I have a big day tomorrow. Until next time, goodnight and pleasant nightmares.