Posts Tagged ‘entertainment’

Writers deal with a lot of tenses, and I don’t mean the ones associated when we hunch over our computers so we can better bang out stories.* No, I mean tenses like past tense and present tense, the tenses authors use to tell a story. Like first and third person POV, the use of either can vary from story to story (future tense and second person POV are rare, for reasons I’m sure people reading this blog can understand). And although I feel like I know plenty on the subject of using tenses sometimes, occasionally I find I still have something to learn.

Earlier today, I received an email from a magazine I submitted a short story to a couple months back. They rejected it. Which, honestly, I wasn’t broken up about. I figured out there were changes to this particular story while it was in consideration at the publication, so I thought this was for the best. However, they did include some notes on what worked and didn’t work with the story. Among those was one that really struck me.

They said that narrating in past tense, while giving the narration strength, also made it clear that the story took place in the past, and therefore made the story overall weaker, as it kind of gave away the ending. Namely, that the protagonist survives.

Now sometimes in a horror story, that’s fine. Part of the thrill is seeing how things turn out when you already have some idea of the ending. Interview with the Vampire is framed just as its title suggests, a vampire getting interviewed about his life. Jack Ketchum’s The Girl Next Door is told by the narrator when he’s an adult remembering his childhood traumas (still the scariest novel I’ve ever read). And Salem’s Lot by Stephen King begins with two of the main cast in Mexico after escaping the town, then rewinds to the beginning of the events, and then afterwards shows those two characters burning the town down.

But apparently, with this story, that should not have been the case, as it took away some of the tension. And a horror story without tension is like a hamburger without a bun. It’s missing something essential.

Food metaphors aside, this shows an issue not only with the story, but a lesson I can learn from. With stories, it often seems instinctual, at least to me, about what tense to write in. Perhaps in future, I should weigh options and think about what the pros and cons of writing a story in past versus present tense. Perhaps then I’ll be able to write my stories and make them more effective in scaring the pants out of people.

And that goes especially with the story I got the rejection for today. I feel like this one could be one of my best if I can polish it a bit more and maybe get some more feedback on it. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens when I try changing the tense (and maybe the POV. I feel like that could also be an effective strategy for this story).

At least I know there’s still room for me to improve and become a better writer. I hear perfection gets boring pretty quickly.

Well, that’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m off to do battle with some exorcists who believe I’m an ancient entity here to usher in the end of the world (they’re right on one count, at least), and then do some writing. Thankfully with this story I’m working on now, I’m sure I have the right tense and POV for what I’m trying to do. That should make things easier further down the line.

Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

*In all seriousness though, take care of your backs, fellow writers. That will come back to haunt you if you don’t practice better posture. Believe me, I know. Brought to you by a writer giving a shit.

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As much as we make jokes about it, young adult fiction, or YA, is a massive and popular genre. Over ten-thousand YA books were released in 2012, read by both the targeted demographic, teens, and by an increasing number of adults. And among horror, there are writers who specialize in YA horror. But that leaves a question: when is a horror story a YA horror story? Does it have to star a teen or teens? Or is there something more to it?

I ask this because I have a project for National Novel Writing Month in November where nearly the whole cast are teenagers. And while I have nothing against YA or those who write/enjoy it (the amount of anime and manga I consume is primarily aimed at teens, which says something), it’s not a label I think this story should be given.

If you ask most authors and fans (and believe me, I have), YA fiction is usually defined as having teen protagonists and including themes prevalent around the teen years: first love, friendship, identity, and growing up. By that definition, many horror novels could be considered YA, even though they’ve traditionally been aimed at adults. A good example is Carrie by Stephen King. It fits both requirements–teens are prominent in the novel, and themes such as bullying and inclusion, first love, and becoming an adult are all present in the novel.

I even asked in one of my Facebook groups if other authors considered Carrie YA. I got over fifty responses in the course of a week, and it was divided almost evenly down the line. And while the opinion was split, many people admitted they or their children read it as teenagers. I myself read Carrie as a teen. So is it YA fiction then, like the Cirque du Freak books and last year’s bestseller The Sawkill Girls? And are other novels with teens in the lead role to be considered YA?

Well, here’s the thing: the above definition doesn’t include something very important that has to come into consideration. What is that? Marketing. Who is the book being marketed to? Marketing has always played a part in categorizing what is called YA and what isn’t. In fact, the demographic of YA fiction (it’s not a genre, no matter how much we think of it as one), was first defined by librarians in the early half of the 20th century who wanted to know which books were being read by the newly-defined teen demographic and why. It was later picked up by publishers when they realized how they could increase their sales by marketing certain stories to the 12-18 age group.*

So while Carrie has always been popular among teens, it was and has always been marketed at adults, as have all of King’s books. And that’s because King wrote it for adults, not for teens. Meanwhile, books like the Cirque du Freak series were always aimed at the teen demographic, from early writing stages to their eventual publication and marketing.

And that’s what we need to answer my earlier question: if my NaNoWriMo project has a teen cast and incorporates certain themes relevant to teens, is it YA? While I’m sure, if it gets published, some will categorize it as YA horror, I write for an adult audience. Everything from what I include in the story (including possible sex scenes) to just the word choices and the explorations of characters’ thoughts and feelings is through an adult lens.  YA, it is not.

So while a story may include teens prominently in the cast and feature themes and content relevant to teenagers, unless it’s written and later marketed for teens, it can’t necessarily be called YA fiction. Many may still slap the label “YA” on a story given its content, and they have every right to do so, if they feel that story fits their definition of YA fiction. But the intention of the story’s author will be the ultimate decisive requirement, whether in horror or any other genre.

Well, that’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Thanks for reading this little piece I wrote just to get my thoughts out on this subject before I started writing in November. But tell me, what are you thoughts on the subject? What makes a story, horror or otherwise, YA? Let’s discuss.

Until next time, pleasant nightmares.

And look, I went an entire post without once mentioning Rose. I consider that an accomplishment–oh dammit!

*Thank you Lindsay Ellis for helping me research this article with a great YouTube video.

All you measly humans, fall to your knees! Scream in awe and horror! Get out the beer and ice cream! In less than three weeks, Rose has attained ten reviews on Amazon!

Well actually, eleven reviews. Across Amazon’s American, Canadian, and British sites, the majority of which are on the American. But I’m making a big deal out of it anyway.

So if you have no idea what I’m going on about, well first off, you must be very new here. Welcome to the blog and to the Followers of Fear. I hope you have a scary good time with us. Second, Rose is my fantasy-horror novel which was released three weeks ago by Castrum Press. It’s my first book with a publisher (I’ve self-published previously), and is the result of about five years of work, starting in college as a senior thesis. For what it’s about, here’s the back cover blurb:

Rose Taggert awakens in a greenhouse with no clear memory of the past two years and, to her horror, finds her body transformed into an unrecognizable form.

Paris Kuyper has convinced Rose that they are lovers and as Paris could not bear for her to die, he has used an ancient and dark magic to save her from certain death.

But the dark magic Paris has used comes at a price. A price which a terrible demon is determined to extract from Rose.

As Rose struggles to understand what is happening to her, she must navigate Paris’s lies and secrets; secrets that Paris will do anything to protect.

I’m over the moon that so many people have read the book and left reviews. Not only are reviews great ways to give writers such as myself feedback on what worked and didn’t work, but it’s also a great way to let other readers know if a book is worth their time. And apparently a lot of people think this novel was worth their time.

And what reviews, too! Author of the Portia Adams mystery novels, colleague and friend Angela Misri posted this on Amazon Canada:

Rose is one of those characters (like Carrie in Stephen King’s book) who pulls you into the story, wrapping herself around you, making it impossible to stop reading.

Being compared to Carrie. I consider that an honor.

On the British version, this anonymous Amazon customer left this review (which has been shortened to avoid spoilers):

This is my first encounter with Rami Ungar, and, I must say, it was an enjoyable one. The story gets you hooked right from the beginning and it doesn’t loose much steam all the way through. I liked the rhythm of the story – it’s alert, spot on, with very few dead moments. If you like slow burning, atmospheric novels, then this is definitely not gonna be up your alley.

The story itself isn’t something new, but it’s well written and very easy to follow. If you’re not a native English speaker, you will read this book with flying colours, as the author tends to use a simple and concise wording, avoiding obscure idioms or long poetic metaphors.
The story is not extremely gory like in a Serge Brussolo one, nor is it a contemplative one, like in a Michelle Paver one -I’d say it’s somewhere in the middle, with a few good twists and surprises. Characthers development is quite good, and by the end of your reading you’ll really root and feel for Rose.

And on the American website, the reviews have made my heart warm, my horns sharp, and my wings unfurl. Here’s what people are saying:

This book starts with a surreal quality (I mean, human-plant thing, hello!), but even in the midst of that bizarre stuff it’s easy to follow. The protagonist, Rose, is turning into a rose. I kept thinking, “Oh, the poor woman!” And then the story turns into something so scary that I kept holding my breath as I was reading.

PROS:
The tension between Rose and Paris (and between other characters, too) kept me turning pages.

There is a disembodied laugh in the second chapter that ignites a mystery, and the mystery isn’t solved until almost the end of the book. It’s sort of a B-story, but more like a layer of the main story. I loved this added complexity to the plot.

The fight scenes are excellent! They are well-written, easy to picture, and full of excitement.

And then there’s the twist that I should have seen coming but totally didn’t. Fabulous fun.

CONS:
The book has a fem-lit overtone having to do with how men are supposed to treat women in relationships. Rose’s thoughts got a little preachy on the matter, so I took off half a star for that.

There are a few typos, like calling Chrissy “Christy” later on, and Paris comes out “Pairs” once. But the typos are few and far between and didn’t affect my reading experience. I didn’t take off any stars for this.

OVERALL:
Rose is a fun, scary, and crazy-imaginative book. I super enjoyed reading it. 4.5 stars!

–Priscilla Bettis

Rami Ungar’s Rose is frightening from the first sentence. He creates a world of steadily deepening terror, built not just on power, but on deception and mind games. Ungar is a smart writer who isn’t afraid to leaven the darkness with wit, and the book’s plot gallops along beautifully. No wonder so many reviewers call it a page-turner. It’s irresistible to see what will come next, and always a surprise.

–June Star

This short novel starts off as if in a bad dream. Unfortunately for our main character, Rose, everything is all too real. The ancient spell that saved her life also changed her body from human to a trans-humanoid-rose. Getting back her memory and trying to remember her love and relationship with her savior, Paris, is the least of her worries. The real threat is yet to come and what will Rose do to overcome it?
The book was a page turner for me and one I didn’t want to stop reading. I liked the challenges that Rose faced. Rami was clear with his settings and situations. His characters had depth. The Japanese gods and demons concept was refreshing and deliciously twisted.
I like that this is a stand alone novel. (I am sick to death of series.) It’s a good read and I would read this author again.

–a girl is not no one

This is a solid novel. It’s always entertaining and surprising. The premise reminds me of Kafka and the book never fails to deliver the ups and downs of the protagonist while moving a solid plot forward. Enjoy!

–Hernan

I could go on, but I doubt you would keep reading if I kept tooting the proverbial horn.

Suffice to say, I am so thankful for so many people leaving their reviews on Amazon (and on Goodreads, but I’ll post about that another time). It means a lot to me that you’re enjoying Rose and are willing to spread the word about it. I can only hope that more people will check out the book soon and maybe give their own thoughts on the novel.

If you’d like to check out Rose on any of these sites, or just read a short excerpt, I’ll post the links below. And as always, thanks again for following and supporting me. I couldn’t do it without you. Until next time, my Followers of Fear, pleasant nightmares!

Rose Excerpt

Amazon US

Amazon Canada

Amazon UK

Goodreads

Last night, I did some writing. And while that statement on its own might not be the most groundbreaking thing I’ve ever written on this blog, it was important for me. As you know, since early June, I’ve been consumed with the editing, publishing and marketing of Rose, as well as editing some other stories (but I won’t go into that right now). In fact, I’m still working on that last bit! I’ve been doing a lot every day to make sure people are reading the book. Just today, I’ve probably sent about ten emails related to the novel!*

Add in my day job, taking care of myself, sleeping and making sure I’m relaxed enough in the evenings not to go on a killing spree the next day, and I’ve had very little time to devote to new projects. I tried a week or two ago to do some work on a new short story, but it didn’t go as well as I would have hoped. I blame that on the story being existential horror, and I’m in too bright a state of mind these days to write that sort of horror well.

But last night, I was able to get back into the swing of things and get a significant number of words down on paper on a novelette I’ve been wanting to rewrite since 2015 but haven’t done since then (yeah, I can go for years without working on a story if I think I need more time before I work on it again). And I think part of the reason I was able to get so much of the story written in a single sitting, other than a glass of beer, was that I was able to put myself back in the mood to write after such a long hiatus.

The first thing I did while writing last night was make sure my writing space–aka my desk and where I take most of my meals–had everything I normally used to write. I had my laptop in front of me, with the story and the outline for it in front of me. I had something to drink–usually tea with honey but last night beer–and some mints nearby, as well as whatever music I’m in the mood for playing on iTunes (these days, it’s classical). And I had some incense burning by the Cthulhu statue. That helped me really get me in the mood for writing, because those are all things I associate with and use while writing. Just having them all there, especially after such a long break from doing any real writing, made a huge difference.

There’s a perverse pleasure in lighting incense in front of a Cthulhu statue that makes you want to write horror, don’t you think?

Another thing that really helped was that I had the right story to work on. I think this story, which I expect to end up being a novelette between ten and twenty-thousand words, was perfect because it was simple and easy to work on. I won’t go into details at this point about it’s plot (though I will tell you this YouTube video I’ve linked to is a hint as to the subject matter), but it’s not a complicated story. It’s not dealing with any deep themes like the fragility of the human mind, or requires extensive research. It’s just a simple story about a supernatural force affecting the lives of a bunch of teenagers.

But that’s the beauty of it. By not giving myself a really challenging story, I’m easing myself back into writing. I’m getting back the motivation to write after so long away. And it works. Because the last thing you need after getting one of the most challenging stories you’ve ever written published and then doing everything to market it is something just as hard or maybe even more so, right? No, you need an easy story to get back into it.

With both of these factors working for me, I was able to get a ton of writing done, and maybe even get some more done this week. And after that? I don’t know. I have a few ideas. But at least I know I’ll have an easier time writing now that I’ve eased myself back into it.

Anyway, that’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ll probably have a new post about effective horror writing out in the next week or so, so keep an eye out for it. Until then, pleasant nightmares!

*And speaking of Rose, I think all that marketing work is…well, working. Amazon finally got both pages for the ebook and paperback linked, and the page lists the novel as a 4.5 out of 5 based on six reviews. In addition, Amazon Canada has the book rated as a 5-star and Amazon UK has it rated as a 4-star (both based on only one review each, but it’s a start. They also list the American reviews, but don’t list them for whatever reason). And on Goodreads, Rose is rocking a rating of 4.2 out of 5 based on 5 ratings and 4 reviews, and has nearly thirty people listed as having the book on their TBR list.

Not trying to brag, I’m just stating this is really good news and possibly bodes at more good things to come. Fingers crossed!

 

 

Hereditary was one of the scariest films of 2018. It’s considered so unnerving and terrifying, watching it a second time is considered by some to be a masochistic act (believe me, I was called that when I watched it again a month or two ago). So when we all heard director Ari Aster was following it up barely a year later with Midsommar, horror fans everywhere get excited. We were even willing to forgive him diving back into the evil cult trope just because he did so well with it in Hereditary. With the bar set high, I went to the theater today to see if this follow up could measure up to its predecessor.

Midsommar follows Dani, a young woman who, after suffering a family tragedy, joins her boyfriend and his friends on a trip to Sweden for a summer solstice festival held in the childhood home of one of the friends. While at first things seem innocent enough–minus a bit of drug use, of course–it soon becomes clear that these rituals and celebrations have a dark side to them. And not everyone will survive the nine-day festival.

I can say this movie is weird and fucked up. But not in a good way.

Obviously, this movie’s going to be compared a lot with Hereditary. But you know why that film worked? Because everything in it, from the painful breakdown of the family to the supernatural occurrences–felt like one big domino effect or Rube Goldberg machine. And in the end, it turned out to be that way. And it was done by looking into every situation where horror could be derived and then exploiting it to its most effective length. There’s none of that here. It felt like Aster just took one of the most prominent factors in Hereditary–the cult aspect–and extended it with psychedelic imagery and as much weird stuff as possible, though with barely any rhyme or reason, let alone with a Rube Goldberg-like exactness.

Even worse, it wasn’t scary. Actually, at times it feels kind of comical. One guy in the theater laughed at out at one point, and I couldn’t blame him. What happened was ridiculous.

And the majority of the characters are flat as rocks. You can sum most of them up with a single sentence, and it’ll encompass all of them completely and succinctly. You have the horndog who’s pissed he’ not having sex every other minute; you have the scholar who only cares about the research; you have the boyfriend who clearly isn’t happy but is guilted into the relationship; and you have the friend who invited everyone and is obviously hiding a lot.

Oh, and there’s something involving disabled villagers which just…didn’t sit right with me. I won’t go into spoilers, but I’m troubled by it, and let’s leave it at that (if you know what I’m talking about, let me know if you were troubled as well in the comments below).

Was there anything good in this film? Well, there’s some beautiful cinematography, shots that take weird angles or go on for minutes at a time. The psychedelic imagery, at times, is pretty cool. There are moments where flowers seem to breathe, which is visually stunning. And Dani is not only a fully realized character, but one whose battle with anxiety and depression come across as very genuine. You really see this woman who has been beaten down by life, and is just trying to find some joy and happiness while on this trip. It’s really heartbreaking.

But on the whole, Midsommar feels like a promise broken after the gem that is Hereditary. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving the film a 2. If you really want to watch this one, I’d wait until it’s on DVD or streaming. Either that, or watch either Wicker Man movie, because they deal with similar concepts. Or The Apostle or The Ritual on Netflix, because they have similar concepts as well and are done soooo much better.

Either way, Ari Aster will have to do a lot better with his next film to regain our trust.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Hopefully the next review I do is for something that really hits it out of the park. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

It’s been three years since I’ve done this. Almost to the month! But with a new book out, I think it’s time to take it up again, at least for one week. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s #FirstLineFriday!

Now for those of you who don’t know, #FirstLineFriday was (and perhaps in certain corners of the Internet, still is), a popular meme for writers where on Friday they post the first one or two lines of a potential story, a story-in-progress, or something already published. In 2015 and 2016, I did this every week, without fail. I only stopped after #64 because I’d started my new job at that point and couldn’t keep it up between work and writing and all that. But three years later, not only do I have a book out, but I think doing this once won’t kill me.

So for those of you who’ve never seen #FirstLineFriday before, here are the rules. On Fridays, you:

  1. Create a post on your blog titled #FirstLineFriday, hashtag and all.
  2. Explain the rules like I’m doing now.
  3. Post the first one or two lines of a potential story, a story-in-progress, or a completed/published story.
  4. Ask your readers for feedback and try to get them to try #FirstLineFriday on their own blogs (tagging is encouraged but not necessary).

Everybody got that? Good, moving on!

You can probably guess what story I’m going to be quoting this time around. After all, what else am I talking about lately? It’s as if I haven’t written anything else in my whole life. My quote comes from A Tale of Two Cities, ghost-written under the name Charles Dickens.

Kidding. It’s from River of Wrath, my supernatural horror novel partially inspired by Dante’s Inferno.

Kidding again (though eventually I’d like to feature River of Wrath on its own #FirstLineFriday). It’s Rose. Of course it’s Rose. What else would it be?

Anyway, here are those first two lines:

Okay, this is weird. Where the fuck am I?

Thoughts? Impressions? Funny responses? Let’s discuss in the comments below.

And now for the tag. I tag Priscilla Bettis, who’s become a regular presence on this blog. Looking forward to what you put out next week! And feel free to use the graphic. I created it just for it to be used.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. If you’re at all interested in checking out Rose, the links for the paperback and the e-book (still not linked for some reason. Get your act together, Amazon!) are below. Until next time, which will probably be tomorrow, pleasant nightmares!

Rose: Paperback, Ebook

So it’s been about a week since Rose was released, and a few days since the paperback was uploaded onto Amazon (though those pages still aren’t linked for some strange reason. Jeez Amazon, what are you waiting for? A kindergartener to play a matching game?). And while I can’t be certain of how well it’s been doing, I can say the responses I’ve gotten so far have been overwhelmingly positive.

A lot of people have, of course, praised the cover. Not surprising, given the work of The Gilded Quill, the cover’s designer. It’s actually been quite the lure, if some of the comments I’ve gotten are anything to go by, as has been the excerpt I’ve been leaving on various sites. And according to Goodreads (a site I don’t use, but which I may have to start using), a lot of people are either reading it now or are going to read it. I’ve also heard from some friends and family and a few of my advanced readers, and those who have started the book say they’re enjoying and find it intriguing.

But biggest indicator of all is that Rose already has a few reviews! Yep, that’s right, we have reviews. Two on Amazon (one of which is also on Goodreads) and one on the website of a colleague of mine.

The first review came from one of my advanced readers, and someone who you may have seen in the comments sections of these posts. Priscilla Bettis gave Rose 4.5 stars (though Amazon doesn’t allow half-stars, so she gave it a 4) and had this to say:

This book starts with a surreal quality (I mean, human-plant thing, hello!), but even in the midst of that bizarre stuff it’s easy to follow. The protagonist, Rose, is turning into a rose. I kept thinking, “Oh, the poor woman!” And then the story turns into something so scary that I kept holding my breath as I was reading.

PROS:
The tension between Rose and Paris (and between other characters, too) kept me turning pages.

There is a disembodied laugh in the second chapter that ignites a mystery, and the mystery isn’t solved until almost the end of the book. It’s sort of a B-story, but more like a layer of the main story. I loved this added complexity to the plot.

The fight scenes are excellent! They are well-written, easy to picture, and full of excitement.

And then there’s the twist that I should have seen coming but totally didn’t. Fabulous fun.

CONS:
The book has a fem-lit overtone having to do with how men are supposed to treat women in relationships. Rose’s thoughts got a little preachy on the matter, so I took off half a star for that.

There are a few typos, like calling Chrissy “Christy” later on, and Paris comes out “Pairs” once. But the typos are few and far between and didn’t affect my reading experience. I didn’t take off any stars for this.

OVERALL:
Rose is a fun, scary, and crazy-imaginative book. I super enjoyed reading it. 4.5 stars!

Tension and twisty. High praise. As for the feminist tone, yeah, guilty as charged, but given some of the news stories out there, I felt like adding that overtone was necessary.

The other review came from Kimberly Napolitano, aka kimnappi, who said this in her 4-star review:

Rose is a wholly original story that has about everything horror and fantasy involved that it will satisfy every reader.

Rose wakes up in an unfamiliar home with her memory erased all of the past two years.. she’s in a panic because something is happening to her…

No spoilers, actually anything beyond that point would ruin the story for you. The action was fast, scare jumps perfect and plot twist? Absolutely! So if you love supernatural to creature feature. You got it all here! Enjoy!

Apparently that plot twist is popular. Good to know. I promise to not be M. Night Shyamalan and overdo plot twists in future books or insert stupid ones for no good reason.

As for KG Finfrock’s review, I won’t post it here but instead give you the link to check it out so you can check it out yourself. Just know, it’s very positive and I’m glad she enjoyed the book so much.

If any of this has convinced you to check out Rose, the links below lead to its Amazon pages. And if you do read it, I hope you’ll let me know what you think. Positive or negative, I love feedback, and reviews help me out in the long run.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ve a previous engagement to get to. Until next time, happy reading and pleasant nightmares!

Paperback Link

E-book Link