Posts Tagged ‘holidays’

I don’t have work tomorrow, and I wanted a horror film to watch on Halloween while still saying I went out for the evening. I’ve seen everything else playing that’s considered “horror,” so I went into this with low expectations. I only knew of it because of some commercials showing audiences reacting like Paranormal Activity and a promotional app popular among teenagers and young adults.

Countdown follows a nurse named Quinn who downloads an app she hears about from a patient, which supposedly predicts the very date and time of your death. When people try to change their fates based on the app’s predictions, they end up stalked by a demon that taunts them before killing them at the appointed moment of their death. Now Quinn has to find a way to cheat death or she and those dear to her will die in the worst possible way.

So, we’ve all seen this sort of movie before. It’s like a simple recipe. People take part in something that seems harmless, it turns out to be real, supernatural in nature and very deadly. Someone becomes affected, finds an expert to help them identify where the evil comes from and possibly how to beat it. After a showdown with a CGI evil and a few deaths, the protagonist manages to beat the evil, which lives on one way or another. Throw in some jumpscares and some creepy imagery, and you have a cheap horror film trying to get in butts in seats because somebody knows how hungry horror fans are.

But Countdown didn’t even manage to meet my expectations for this kind of poor horror! Everything was predictable, and at times, it felt like the cast and crew weren’t even trying. They indulge in a lot of tropes, and not even do it very cleverly. The one trope they try to change is to have the supernatural expert be a priest who, rather than being old and well-experienced with demons, is a young man who literally calls the Bible “the world’s greatest graphic novel” and geeks out over the possibility of stopping a demon. It’s supposed to be funny, but is kind of cringey instead.

There is one thing that sets this movie apart, however. There’s a subplot where Quinn has to deal with a doctor who sexually harasses her and then tries to ruin her career when she spurns him. Now, I’m all for exploring these sorts of subjects in media, including horror. I often feel that horror is a good lens to view societal problems, and horror is a fertile ground to explore women’s issues. However, I don’t know this was the right film to have this sort of subplot. It feels more like a gimmick and a bad one too.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I give Countdown a 1.5. There are a lot better horror films out there to watch on Halloween. I suggest you go find them, especially if you want to feel scared and that you didn’t just waste eighty minutes of your life.

Well, that’s all for now. Halloween ends in forty-five minutes or so, and then something rather crazy will begin. I’ll let you know how that goes in due time. Until then, my Followers of Fear, pleasant nightmares and Happy Halloween. See you again soon.

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So it’s about three days till National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. For those of you who are unaware, NaNoWriMo (which at this point is an international event) is a yearly challenge held every November (though some writers do it when they actually have time for it), where writers will attempt to write a fifty-thousand word novel within thirty days, or just under seventeen hundred words per day. Anyone who actually manages to get that amount wins bragging rights and a sense of accomplishment.

Anyway, I’ll be participating this year, my first time since college. And with all that writing, there’s a good chance I’ll be blogging less during that time. I do plan to post regular updates on the progress of my NaNoWriMo project, as well as any reviews of movies/shows/books I feel I need to post. And if anything pertaining to my career pops up (like something getting published or released, God willing), I’ll post about that. But in case even that’s not happening much, I’d like to leave this post so people know what’s up with me and my work while I’m neck-deep in storytelling.

It’s possibly an exercise in narcissism, to think you all are interested in that, but hell, it’s my blog. I’ll do what I want here. Onward ho!

Toyland

The one-sentence pitch for my NaNoWriMo project is, “A boarding school is haunted by a ghost obsessed with a children’s book.” It’s a Gothic horror novel with hints of the weird, and I’m very excited to be working on it. The first chapter is already half-written in my head, as well as several other scenes. I’ve gone through the outline at least seven times, so I think it’ll be free of plot holes and other issues. Whether or not it’ll be any good, we’ll see. But I’m hopeful. After all, there were plenty of times I thought Rose was terrible. And it’s doing relatively well for my first book with a publisher.

NaNoWriMo

As I’ve stated in a few previous posts, I’m taking time off from work for the first third of November to work on Toyland. The plan is to get up around seven or eight each morning, eat breakfast, write, eat lunch and read, write some more, and then knock off for the evening. Maybe see a movie if anything good is playing. Of course, I’ll adjust these plans as situations evolve. You never know when I might need a run an errand or something along those lines. Or write a blog post. Or get drawn into anime or a horror television series and binge several episodes in a row (ah, the fun of ADHD and procrastination).

After I return to work, I’ll be spending a lot of time doing catch-up and whatnot, so I may have to work late some days and not get to write some evenings while I recover my equilibrium. However, the point of participating in NaNoWriMo this year isn’t to finish the book in thirty days, but just to give me one hell of a head start. So even if during the last twenty days of November I don’t get as much as I want done, if I get plenty done during the first ten, I’ll be satisfied.

River of Wrath

Unfortunately, my beta reader has not had much of a chance lately to finish this book. And unfortunately, I need their feedback on certain subjects before I can edit this story. So it’s going to be a while till I get to edit this novel (which, coincidentally, I finished almost a year ago. October 30th, 2018 at about one in the morning. That was a fun night).

On the bright side, by the time I get to it, I’ll have plenty of energy and desire to get it done. And maybe another book or two out. I can hope, anyway.

The Short Story Collection

I’ve been busy on that, believe me. These past couple of months, I’ve spent writing and editing short stories for the collection. I just haven’t been posting every time I finish one because I wanted some of them to be a surprise! As it stands, this collection is about ten stories long. I’d like three more, two short stories and maybe a novelette or novella. With NaNoWriMo and Toyland only a few days away though, I’ll have to put it off till I’m either done with the latter or ready for a break (hopefully done with it). Fingers crossed when that time comes, I’ll be done faster than you can say, “It was a dark and stormy night.”

Rose

Yes, I have some news on Rose. As I said above, the Kafkaesque horror story of a young woman turning into a plant creature is doing very well. In fact, I got my first sales report a couple weeks ago, and it was very encouraging. With Rose getting so many new reviews in October, hopefully this’ll continue into the next quarter.

And in the meantime, the audio book is coming along swimmingly! As I said, I’ve heard the first fifteen minutes, and it sent chills up my spine! And last week, my publisher shared with me the cover art for the audio book. The way things are going, it could be out early or mid-November. And when it is, not only will I be the first to download a copy, but I’ll be making sure everyone else knows to check it out too.

In the meantime, if you’re interested in checking out Rose, I’ll leave the links for it down below. And if you do end up reading Rose, please let me know what you think. Positive or negative, I love reader feedback, and reviews help me out in the long run.

Rose: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada

 

Well, that’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. If I don’t catch you around Halloween, I’ll catch you at some point during the first week of November. Until next time, pleasant nightmares and Happy Halloween!

Something weird has been happening this week. Weirder than usual, anyway. On Monday, I came home and found my Alice du Maurin Pullip doll in the hallway of my building. As if it were waiting for me. As far as I could tell, no one had been in my apartment, so nobody could have moved her.

This is the photograph I took of the incident.

Then on Tuesday, I found her in the stairwell. Again, there was no sign my apartment had been entered without my knowledge.

And then today, she was waiting for me again! This time with her little arm up, as if welcoming me home.

By this time, I was getting a little annoyed and a little freaked, and resolved to hide a security camera in my room, where I keep my doll collection. I was going to catch whoever was moving my Alice du Maurin around.

But first I was going to take a nap. I replaced the doll in the cabinet and went to sleep.

When I woke up though, I found this staring at me from the foot of my bed, with the cabinet door wide open behind her.

And I swear, I heard a voice whisper, “Why aren’t you writing a new story?!”

Happy Halloween.

Around November, stores across the world start putting out tinsel and cute little bulbs and emphasize snow and sleighs and candy canes.* At the same time, Christmas music is played from most loudspeakers and many radio stations, one of those songs being “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” by Andy Williams (yeah, I didn’t know who sang that until today, either). And many people would agree. The two months leading up to Christmas, especially December, is the most wonderful time of the year.

However, there is a segment of the population who disagrees with that sentiment. Among that segment are people, and whatever I am, who say Halloween is the most wonderful time of the year. And since I don’t have a singing voice to advocate our views, I’ll do what I do best and write out why the Halloween season, starting anywhere from late August to early September and ending when October becomes November, should be considered the most wonderful time of the year.**

1. Halloween isn’t as cold. Okay, that’s probably not true south of the equator, but at least October isn’t as freezing in most places as it is in November. In fact, in Central Ohio, it can range from the 40’s to the 60’s (we have weird-ass weather). Whereas in December, it’s usually between 30 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit. And that’s in a good year.

2. A stalker isn’t part of the central theme of Halloween. No, I’m not talking about Michael Myers. I’m talking about Santa Claus. I mean, think about it. You have an old guy in a red tracksuit watching you 24/7, but especially right before Christmas, and is judging your behavior. If you “behave,” you get gifts, but if you don’t, you get fossil fuels. Also, he can break into anyone’s home and we have no idea how well his workforce is treated. If this was any other person, they would be hit with investigations and possible criminal charges.

At least with Halloween, a little naughtiness is okay. It’s even encouraged. “Trick or treat,” after all.

3. There’s no need to be “perfect,” “well off,” or “good.” For a lot of people, Christmas is a time to show just how perfect your family is, or how pretty you can make your house look, or how deserving of gifts you are. A lot of people spend more money than they should just to show people they can have the “perfect” Christmas, or suck up their dislike of a disagreeable family member so as not to “ruin” Christmas, or give more to charity because “tis the season.” Shouldn’t the season to help the needy be all year? Not just when gifts are on the horizon?

Though if you are giving to charity during the Christmas season, good on you. Thanks for helping out the less fortunate.

At least with Halloween, you don’t have to go all out. A simple bedsheet with eye holes is a wonderful costume. A bag of penny candy is just fine. And if you gather donations to UNICEF, it’s not because “tis the season,” but just a nice thing to do.

Speaking of costumes…

4. Be whoever you want to be. Halloween is about changing who you are into who you want to be for a day. A princess, a vampire, a soldier, a superhero, it’s all up to you and what costume you buy or create. Or don’t. That’s valid as well. There’s no pressure, just as long as you’re having fun. Want to be a little macabre? Go right ahead. Want to just emphasize the pagan roots of the holiday? Perfectly fine. Just want to have a wild costume party to celebrate fun and monsters and changing your identity for one day? Go get ’em, cowboy! It’s your holiday, and as long as nobody’s getting hurt, you’re answerable to no one.

Again, during Christmas, a lot of people feel like they need to project a certain image of “perfection” or “being good.” Otherwise, your or others might believe you’ve done something wrong, or the season is ruined. I think of the mother from the movie Krampus a lot with this point. She’s dead-set on everything being “perfect” to the point she invites relatives over whom she and her own family don’t really like and comes up with all these complicated foods that nobody really asked for, just to maintain this image of a “perfect” Christmas in her mind.

Has that ever happened with Halloween? As long as you have fun, that’s all that matters.

Jack Skellington had one thing right: Santa Claus is scarier than at first glance.

5. So many reasons to get scared! Of course, for those like me, this is one of the biggest reasons. Horror movies, horror novels, haunted houses, music, costumes, parties and games. At Halloween, there’s so many reasons to get scared and have fun with it. The number of scary things to do at this time of year is endless. Whereas at Christmas, beyond either Black Christmas film, Gremlins and Krampus, there aren’t that many horror-related things associated with the holiday. Maybe a Christmas episode for a horror show, but beyond that, it’ not a holiday to indulge in anything scarier than fossil fuels from everyone’s tracksuit-wearing stalker. And to me, that’s a damn shame.

 

Now, this is just a small fraction of reasons why I prefer the Halloween season to the Christmas season. There’s probably a part two or three that could be written. But tell me, which season do you prefer? Why? Are there are any reasons I missed? Let’s discuss.

Just keep it civil in the comments, folks. Or I will delete your comment and then write you into a story.

*I think. I have no idea what Christmas looks like below the equator beyond the fact that it’s summer down there in December.

**That being said, I’m not trying to put down anyone who thinks Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year. I’m not trying to wage war on Christmas or anything like that. I’m just representing an opposing opinion. That’s not the sign of moral decay or an anti-American or anti-Christian persecution. Having a spirited but civil disagreement where both parties respect each other’s views is the sign of a healthy and thriving society. If you feel Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, that’s okay with me. Just let me continue feeling that the Halloween season is the most wonderful time of the year in the meantime.

Anyone else notice 2018 was…kind of rough on a global scale? Like, oh my God why was this year so full of nastiness and pain?

Yeah, this year has been hard. Horrific shootings, assassinations of journalists, global warming, the Tide Pod challenge, racist incidents like at that Starbucks, data hacks and leaks, denial of truths and facts in favor of beliefs, hurricanes, bomb threats, the election of far-right demagogues, the Campfire in California, the deaths of beloved and influential people like John McCain and Stan Lee. I could go on and on.

But despite all the bad things, there has been some good things this year. Black Panther became a billion-dollar franchise and caused all sorts of social waves; more women and minorities were elected to political office than ever before; more youths in America became involved in the electoral process than ever before; Ireland repealed restrictions on abortion; Australia legalized gay marriage and India decriminalized homosexuality; Jodie Whitaker proved that a woman could be the Doctor and kicked ass doing it; authors of all stripes came together to stop people like Faleena Hopkins after Cockygate to stop creative freedoms from being restricted by trademarking common words; several popular TV shows, including Brooklyn Nine-Nine and my own Lucifer were saved from early cancellation by the efforts of fans; Michael Myers was revitalized with Halloween; and so much else.

Remember, positive things did happen in 2018.

2018 had its bad moments, but it also has some good moments.

I wanted to remind you of that before we go any further. These past couple of years, I’ve seen so many people say that each year was worse than the last. And while at times I agree, I think it’s important to remember the good too. Otherwise, our worldviews start to grow dim and sad. and we lose the ability to be happy. So let’s do our best not to be jaded, shall we? Remember the good.

On a more personal level, 2018 was a pretty good year for me. Actually, that’s not true. It was an excellent year for me! Let me tell you why:

  • My novel Rose was accepted for publication by Castrum Press, the beginning of the fulfillment of a dream I’ve had for years. Since then, it’s been in deep editing stages, and I’ll hopefully have some news to share by the end of January. In addition, my short story Car Chasers was accepted for publication by The Binge-Watching Cure II from Claren Books, hopefully out sometime in early 2019. Another short story has been accepted by another anthology, but I’m waiting for a bit more news before I elaborate.
    I also wrote several new works, and finished a new novel, River of Wrath, which I hope to also get accepted for publication. It’s been a good year in terms of writing.
  • My blog grew past a thousand followers this year! At the beginning of January, Rami Ungar the Writer was close to hitting that number, like under fifty followers away. In June, it surpassed that hallowed milestone, and at the time I’m writing this it continues to grow. I’m so happy that so many of you became Followers of Fear over the past year, and I hope you’ll continue to support me as I work on my dreams.
    This was also my best year on the blog. This year I had over sixteen-thousand reads on the blog, or an average of thirteen-hundred and sixty-seven a month. Holy crap! I still have vivid memories of when I was lucky to get twenty people to read my posts a month, so thank you all for reading my work here and making it worth all the effort.
  • Work’s been going very well. I got a big pay raise, and coordinated several successful projects, including an observance for National Disability Employment Awareness Month in October.
  • I got my driver’s license in July after nine and a half years of on-and-off practicing, and I bought my first car, which I call the Unholy Roller, in October. Let me tell you, I LOVE the independence of finally having my own car, and accomplishing so many firsts with it. I’m looking forward to doing book tours and visiting haunted locations now that I have a set of wheels to do so.
  • Despite developing anxiety in December 2017, I managed to get help for myself and have managed to keep it from ruling/ruining my life.

My car, the Unholy Roller.

This is only a fraction of all the good things that happened to me this year, but they’re the highlights. 2018 was a good year for me, despite all the horrible things that occurred, and I hope I’ll be able to have a similar experience in 2019. Though hopefully 2019 will be filled with more good events than 2018, am I right?

Speaking of which, let’s talk 2019. Like everyone, I’ve got goals for the coming year, and most of them won’t surprise you. This year, I’d like to:

  • Make sure Rose gets published and does well in sales. I also want to see Car Chasers and that other short story I mentioned published, and I want to get more stories written and accepted for publication. And of course, I want to see this audience I’ve managed to grow to continue growing and fill with people interested in what I have to say and what I write.
  • To continue doing well in work and in my personal life, including being a good driver, taking care of my health, paying bills and building up a savings account, among other things.
  • Have plenty of awesome experiences to make memories with.
  • Hopefully make a positive difference in the world however I can.

We’ll see what the next 364 or so days bring, shall we?

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m heading to bed, so I’ll see you in the morning, where I’ll spend most of it lounging in bed and hopefully getting plenty of writing done (either that or just reading and watching Netflix). Until next time, Happy New Year and pleasant nightmares.

What were the highlights of your 2018? What do you hope to accomplish for 2019?

If you’ve been with me a while, you remember a few years ago I read this awesome horror manga called Uzumaki by Junji Ito (and if you don’t or weren’t around then, here’s the link) Since then I managed to get my hands on the movie adaptation of Uzumaki (you can read that review here), read plenty more of his works (his stories can be hit or miss, but generally I like them), and watched a couple episodes of an anime adaptation of his various short stories (which, by the way, sucked. I didn’t even bother to review it, it was sooo bad). And most recently, Ito’s adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was released in the United States, along with eight previously untranslated short stories, six of which are interconnected. All in one big volume.

How could I not read and review that?

Obviously Frankenstein is based on Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel, the tale of one scientist’s journey to create a living being through science and the disastrous series of events that follows, along with elements from some of the movie adaptations out there.* And honestly, Ito’s art is perfect for this story. I’ve heard he spends upwards of ten hours on illustrating a single page or frame, using ink and shadow, as well as his disinterest in making his art pretty or visually appealing in the normal sense of the phrase. I mean, look at the reveal of the Monster.

Um, yikes!

Seriously, this guy has to do more Gothic horror. His style is a natural for it. And it’s a natural fit here, really allowing you to feel the horror that early audiences felt of the original novel, especially in bringing the monster to life. There’s also some decent changes from the original text in order to make the story more compelling for the style of manga, such as when it comes to the creation of the Monster’s Bride.

Still, there are some things that could’ve been improved. A couple of Ito’s changes do make the story a bit slower near the end, and the translated text might be a little too close to the actual novel for a modern audience (if I wanted old-timey speak like that, I’d read Lovecraft). And honestly, I would’ve liked to see Ito take more liberties with the story, make it his own. His stories can be really unnerving, and I’d love to see him bring more of his style to the Frankenstein story.

The short stories added to bulk up the book (because of course they are) are decent, for the most part. Six of them follow Toru Oshikiri, a teenager living in a giant mansion by himself who starts to have a strange series of experiences, gradually leading to him making a shocking discovery about his home. Some of these stories work really well, but sometimes the build-up in them seems to lead to a letdown.

The real problems though are the unconnected stories. They don’t really add anything, and one of them is definitely from the bottom of Ito’s portfolio.

By itself, I give Ito’s adaptation of Frankenstein a 4 out of 5. If you want a really creepy visual adaptation of the original Frankenstein story, this is definitely worth a read. With the addition of the other stories, I’d give it a 3.5. Not what I’d recommend for anyone coming to Ito’s work for the first time (for that, I’d point to Uzumaki or his collection Shiver, which came out in December 2017), but for anyone familiar with his work already, this collection is probably worth checking out.

Speaking of which, Ito’s got another collection, Smashed, coming out in April. I might have to check that one out and give that a review as well. Hopefully his stories Hellstar Remina and The Bully are included. I hear those are reeeeally freaky.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. If I don’t post anything within the next couple of days, then I’d like to wish you a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year. May Cthulhu bless us, every one (because of course I would go there). Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

*Highly recommend the 1994 adaptation with Kenneth Branagh. It’s not just the most faithful adaptation of the original novel, it’s got the best “bringing-the-monster-to-life” scene I’ve ever seen.

Happy Hanukkah and Happy Holidays, one and all.

(For those curious as to what Hanukkah is about, I gave an explanation in the comments)

I’m going to try to keep this post short, though there’s a great temptation to write a thousand words or more. And that’s because despite how crazy this past week has been, its also been kind of uplifting. Why? Because my organization really showed me how much it wanted to make sure all its associates felt included during the holidays. And that included the Jews.

Now as many of you know, I am Jewish (this will be important in a bit). And as many of you also know, I work for a supply organization in a role called an Equal Employment Opportunity Specialist. It’s kind of like HR, but we’re focused on promoting diversity, accommodating associates with disabilities, and combating discrimination and harassment in the workforce. It’s an important job, because a properly diverse and accepting workforce is one with a wide talent pool and a healthy mental state.

Okay, enough background. Let me get to the important part. On Tuesday, I was sitting having breakfast in my office when our Director of Operations (hereafter referred to as the DoO), a member of our regional executive staff, came to visit me. Which is pretty unusual. I see him on occasion around the building and we’ll chat, but I don’t interact much with the executives in my organization. You can imagine my surprise when the DoO came to talk to me, and understand my first thought upon seeing him: I’ve had this nightmare before, but I was naked in it.

Turns out, the DoO wanted to consult me. You see, I did a stand-up routine at a company talent show last year (yes, that happened), and it was centered around kosher cooking. Since then, I’ve gained a reputation as the resident expert on Judaism. With that in mind, the DoO wanted to know if it would be a good idea to have a menorah to represent Hanukkah at the Executive Open House, one of our organization’s annual holiday events when you can go through the executive suite and schmooze with the top brass. That event usually has a lot of tinsel and Christmas trees, but no menorah. And the DoO wanted to know if including one would be a good idea.

I said yes, that would be a wonderful idea, and I gave some other suggestions of things to include (dreidels, chocolate gelt, etc). I then gave him some ideas where he could find all those. Less than an hour later, I was asked to go shopping with him at the nearest place to see if we could find a menorah. I said sure, hoping to God I wouldn’t embarrass myself, and we went shopping. We found plenty of gelt, but they were fresh out of menorahs. One thing you need to know about my organization, though, we don’t do anything partway. So I got into contact with one of the local synagogues, which I knew had a gift shop with plenty of menorahs. After work that day, I went straight there and bought a menorah, along with a ton of dreidels. Mission accomplished.

The DoO and I with the menorah. So grateful for this kind gesture.

Fast forward to today (Thursday, if you’re reading this later on), I brought the menorah and dreidels in. We set it up first in the DoO’s office after he invited me up to the Executive Suite, and then later it ended up in a more public space when another associate brought in their menorah from home. And I have to say, it looked really good there too.

But through all this, I couldn’t help but thinking how wonderful it was for the DoO and the rest of the top brass to be thinking of my people. As many of you are aware, there has been a rise in anti-Semitic incidents and attacks lately, the worst being the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting in October. These attacks on my people have been tough on all of us. I’ve been feeling an upswing in anxiety since October myself. However, I’ve been trying to fight back by staying strong and filling the world with more good and kindness than they can fill it with evil. And this simple thoughtful gesture, while small, was huge in its impact, and I can’t help but thank the DoO for helping to put a bit of good back in this crazy world.

I hope it’s part of a greater trend to make the world a nicer place.

Happy Hanukkah, Followers of Fear. I hope this brought some light into your life during the Festival of Lights. I’m heading off to bed. Until next time (possibly this weekend), pleasant nightmares one and all.