Posts Tagged ‘holidays’

I actually don’t have anything worthy of devoting a blog post. But if I don’t regularly post, I start to feel like I’m not doing something I should, and that isn’t a pleasant feeling. Thus, I’m giving everyone a quick update on what I’m doing, how certain projects are coming along, and what dark magic I’ve been using lately.

So with that little preamble, let’s get started.

Writing Projects

So, for the past week or so, I’ve been working on a mermaid horror story. Yeah, you read that right. A mermaid horror story. I saw an anthology announcement with a theme of ocean horror, and I thought that it looked good. Especially since the word count actually allowed me to spread my wings and work without feeling like I’m sacrificing story for length. Anyway, I’m about halfway through and hope to be finished with the first draft soon. After that, a quick trip to a beta reader, a quicker edit, and then submission. Hopefully the editor or editors like the anthology.

As for the other writing projects, I’m going to be editing and submitting the Robert Johnson story I wrote, “Window Audience Blues,” in May. Then I’m editing River of Wrath for a submission call in June. And with the last beta reader for The Pure World Comes supposed to be getting back to me soon, I should be able to edit that and start shopping it around soon. And I wrote another article that I submitted to a horror website. After that article on the spider web scene in The Fly, I think I have a good chance of getting it published where I submitted it.

So yeah, lots of editing and submissions in the near future. Hopefully, along with the stories I’ve already submitted here and there, I’ll get at least a few acceptances.

Other Writing-Related Work

Besides my own projects, I’ve been handling a lot of stuff on my plate. Most of it is administrative stuff, like answering emails or planning on various projects. It takes up a good chunk of the time I devote to writing, but it’s necessary to get it all done. And if all these projects I’m working on in secret pan out, who knows? It may lead to more writing time or other benefits.

On a less secretive note, my plans to attend various events in the next couple of months appear to be moving forward. I hope to put out a blog post (and probably a YouTube video) later this week with the latest on those. Not the most exciting thing I could report, but considering how nice it is to have these events and whatnot, I’m excited for them.

Life in General

Between my day job and Passover, I’ve been even busier than usual. Heck, sometimes writing and the administrative stuff I referred to just a moment ago have to take a back seat! Add in that people my age in Ohio are almost eligible for the vaccine, and my dance card is just about full!

I’m not complaining. I know that things could be a whole lot worse and I’m glad they’re not. And if things go as planned, they should get better. I’m actually planning a vacation for the fall that I’m really looking forward to, that’s how optimistic I am about the future. Details, obviously, to be shared when I get a bit closer.

So That’s What I’m Up To Right Now

Life is busy, but it’s good and looking better. I hope this post didn’t bore or disappoint you. If things go as planned this week, I should be able to post something more interesting either Friday or Saturday at the latest. In the meantime, I hope you’ll stick around and continue to support me.

And if you don’t, you’ll find swarms of spiders appearing in your home. That’s the black magic I’m working with today. Check out my work using the links below, read it, and let me know what you think! Or your arachnophobia will go into overdrive this week!

Until next time, my Followers of Fear, pleasant nightmares!

Agoraphobia: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada

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

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

Snake: AmazonCreatespace, Barnes & Noble, iBooksSmashwords, and Kobo

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

I don’t know if this past week went on forever or went by so quickly. All I know is, Passover is just a few days away and it’s going to be busy preparing for the holiday.

Okay, enough complaining. As you know, I had a new story released last week. “Agoraphobia” follows a young man with severe anxiety who is forced to leave his home when a hurricane bears down on his area. Needless to say, things don’t go as planned. It’s a short, deliciously creepy horror story and I’m quite pleased with it.

And I’m happy to say, the short story has been well-received. Not only have I been getting a lot of people downloading copies, but since the release there’s been an average of a review a day for a total of seven. And even the lowest, a 3-star review, has been very positive. Here has been some of the responses to “Agoraphobia:”

Another great story by Rami Ungar, this one is more traditional horror. (not that there’s anything wrong with non-traditional horror!) As another reviewer said, you can’t say too much about a short without spoiling, so I’ll try to be brief.

Peyton lives alone in a well fortified house. Suffering from Agoraphobia, and secure in the knowledge that his house is safe from everything, he even ignores the coming hurricane. But, alas, it turns out his residence isn’t quite the castle he thought it was. A broken window leaves him with a water soaked carpet and – are those footprints?

Great read, good pacing, with some twists at the end. Highly recommend!

Joleene Naylor, author of the Amaranthine series

An intriguing short story of a man who has problems, sadly those problems are about to get worse. The author does a great job making this short story feel longer with complete content in a short space.

PS Winn, author

I would include more reviews, but as Joleene says, you can’t say too much without spoiling the story. Anyway, thanks to everyone who has read the story so far and has taken the time to leave their thoughts online for others to check out. Your reviews help other readers decide if they want to read it, so it means a lot to me.

Anyway, I’m very pleased with the response to “Agoraphobia.” And now my goal is to get more people reading it. I’m not expecting thousands of readers and adaptation offers, but I would like to make a little splash and expand my audience. We’ll see what occurs (though, being me, I always hope for the best).

If you’re interested, I’ll post links to “Agoraphobia” down below. If you decide to read the story, please let me know what you think somehow. A review, a tweet, or an email works. Positive or negative, I love reader feedback. And as I said, when you leave your thoughts in a public place like Twitter or Amazon, it lets others know and helps them decide whether the story is right for them.

And if you’re interested, I have a lot more stories you can check out on my Amazon author profile. Novels, short stories, and short story collections, plus some of the anthologies I’ve been lucky enough to have stories included in. I got them all and then some. Click this link to check them out.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ve got a busy Tuesday ahead of me. Work, shopping for Passover, and a beta reading for a colleague. Hopefully afterwards I can work on my mermaid horror story. Until next time, stay safe, happy reading and pleasant nightmares!

Agoraphobia: Goodreads, Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada

As many of you know by now, I’m in the middle of editing The Pure World Comes, a Gothic horror novel I wrote earlier this year. The novel follows a maid living in Victorian England who goes to work at the estate of a mad scientist (yes, that’s my elevator pitch for the story). Since a mad scientist features prominently in the story, I thought I’d take a moment to discuss the trope, as it’s extremely common in fiction, especially sci-fi and horror.

With that being said, I decided to do some research before working on The Pure World Comes. I couldn’t find many articles on the trope (and those I did were pitifully short), so I asked one of my Facebook writing groups for help. I got way more responses than I’d expected. Some of them gave me some funny responses like including wild, white hair and a funny accent, or differentiating mad scientists, who do mad experiments, to mad engineers, who build mad things. Some were not helpful at all, like imagining them as autistic overachievers (excuse me? I’m on the spectrum and an overachiever! I take offense at that).

However, there was some good information given to go with the few articles I could find. To start with, the mad scientist trope is over two-hundred years old, with the prototypical mad scientist being Victor Frankenstein of the novel Frankenstein.* However, the stereotypical look of the mad scientist–wild hair, crazy eyes, and “quasi-fascist laboratory garb1“–as well as the outlook for the lab, was influenced by the character Rotwang and his lab in the German silent film Metropolis. Rotwang also had numerous traits we associate with mad scientists (more on that later). After the horrors of WWII, such as German experiments and the atom bomb, and the outbreak of the Cold War, mad scientists began to reflect the horrors and fears of that age, often working on projects that could destroy all or almost all of mankind.

Given the state of the world now, I’m expecting an influx of mad scientists interested in virology and/or social engineering.

Alongside their history, I found out mad scientists have some common subtypes:

Victor Frankenstein (here renamed Henry for some reason) is a great example of an unethical mad scientist.
  • Mythical scientists. These are the mad scientists who seem to be working with godlike powers, either through unexplained, futuristic science bordering on magic or actually studying/utilizing magic items. Science-colored wizardry, as one FB commenter put it.
  • Unethical scientists. These are the scientists who are actual scientists but have dropped their ethics/morals. These types are usually based on the Nazi scientists, the Tuskegee doctors who studied on unknowing black men, and so many more (sadly), though Frankenstein technically falls into this category.
  • Cutting edge obsessive scientists. These types aren’t always so bad. They are good at their work and love it deeply, but tend to get obsessive to the point it can cause trouble for them or other characters. Often, after causing a lot of trouble, they can get a redemption arc. A good example is Entrapta from the She-Ra reboot.
  • Scientists with mental illness. These are self-explanatory, and are becoming more and more common in media these days. This can be a bit of a double-edged sword, as it can be great representation for the disabled, but it can also give a bad name to the disabled by linking their evil behavior to their mental illness.

Obviously, these types can cross over with each other. And there’s probably more than what I’m listing here.

Whatever their type, type combination, or era of creation, all the types have some commonality. For one thing, they generally deeply believe in their goals or research. They also tend to think of themselves as a protagonist in their own personal story. Even the ones who acknowledge they’re evil still believe they’re a main character on the world stage. Pride, greed, or the belief that they know better is generally what drives them, and is often what leads to their downfall.

As for how to write mad scientists, it’s less having to do with the trope and with the character itself. Because of what the mad scientist can do, they’re often used to fulfill a number of needs in stories, but unless you’re making them a satire of the trope or just including them for comical effect, you need to really think about their character. What motivates them? What are their odd ticks or quirks? Think of them like you would any other character and apply the same amount of love and development. Hopefully then you can create a great mad scientist.

Entrapta in the She-Ra reboot is a great subversion of the mad scientist trope.

You can also try going against clichés. Most mad scientists are older white males with nefarious intentions, so going against one or more of these traits and then making the character your own might be a good idea. Looking at you again, Entrapta from She-Ra! You wonderful, robot-obsessed, magic-haired princess, you!

Mad scientists are common characters in fiction and for good reason. And while there’s no sign they’re going away any time soon, there’s plenty of room to innovate and make them your own. Especially if you do your science homework before you start writing.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. This will probably be the last post I make for 2020. If that’s true, I’ll catch you all next year. In the meantime, I’ll be bingeing TV, sleeping and editing The Pure World Comes (I’m currently in the chapter where I reveal who Jack the Ripper is).

Until next time, stay safe (and don’t travel), Happy New Year, and pleasant nightmares!

*Fun fact, Victor Frankenstein never actually finished college, so he’s not a doctor, though people think he is. But since the discipline of science hadn’t been formalized and all the other stuff by the early 19th century, we can still call him a mad scientist.

Audible’s audio edition of Dracula by Bram Stoker. Turns out, it was just what the Count ordered.

Everyone has heard of Dracula. Most likely, you’ve seen some version of him in a movie or a TV series .* But how many of you have ever read the original novel? Not many, surprisingly. Besides the fact that Dracula’s melted so thoroughly into pop culture, the source material is a Victorian novel written in the form of diary entries and letters. Even veteran bookworms have to steel themselves for those!

I tired once or twice in my younger years to read Dracula, but found it harder to get through than some Lovecraft stories and had to stop reading. Last month, however, Audible offered its own audio version for free as part of my subscription. I was like, “Maybe I’ll enjoy it more in audio form” and downloaded it.

Turns out, while Audible may have a dumbass exchange policy (and yes, fixing Audible and Amazon’s issues are still works in progress), the audio book was just what I needed. Great cast that brought the story to life and allowed me to get into it while driving or working out or cooking.

And let me tell you, Dracula the novel is good! It’s a slow burn Gothic story that takes its time building up an atmosphere as well as a conflict. By the time the action really gets rolling, the suspense and dread is so well-constructed that you actually feel a bit of worry with every encounter or setback the characters endure.

I also liked how a lot of my expectations were subverted while listening to the novel. Yes, his name’s on the cover, but Dracula himself doesn’t show up that much in the story past the first act. He’s mostly on the edge, only showing himself every now and then. While this may upset some readers who expect the Count to be front and center, it’s actually pretty effective. Whenever Dracula shows up, you know shit is likely to get real, and you’re waiting for that shit to happen.

Contrary to what the movies portray, Dracula is more on the edges and backgrounds than front and center.

Another surprise: while I expected Dr. Van Helsing to be an important character, Mina Harker (nee Murray) really stole the show. She’s easily smarter than most of the other characters, including the doctor, and could almost be seen as a proto-Buffy. The only reason she doesn’t do any slaying is because Victorian mores made it impossible for anyone, including Mina herself, to see her taking on a more active role against Dracula (much to their regret later). Kind of makes you wonder if Stoker was making some sort of feminist statement there. I’d love to see an adaptation where Mina’s the one kicking ass. You know, instead of falling for the Count and/or being totally helpless.

And there were some details in the story that I found fascinating, simply because they never make it into any adaptation. For example, Van Helsing hints that Dracula, for all his power and evil, has a very childlike brain when it comes to planning or deep thinking, and that hinders him when he comes to England. It’s amazing what never gets translated to the adaptations.

All that said, the novel isn’t without flaws. The character of Renfield, Dracula’s faithful madman, is pretty extraneous to the plot. He’s really just a vampire radar, and other than that, he doesn’t do much beyond be crazy and help develop Dr. Seward’s character. Then there’s Quincy Morris, a character from Texas who feels more like a parody of Texans from Western novels than a real Texan. And yeah, I would have liked to see a bit more of Dracula, as well as him being a big bad. That might just be my pop-culture image not lining up with the novel, but can you blame me?

All in all, though, I think Dracula is deserving of a 4.8 out of 5. It’s moody, well-written and worth the read if you find a format that works for you. Hell, I think I might go on a binge of Dracula-related media: some essays on the story’s deeper meaning, some adaptations, that novel co-written by Stoker’s descendant (yes, that’s a real thing). I might also write a story involving Dracula and characters in the novel. Who knows?

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. If you need me, I’m celebrating the first night of Hanukkah with vampires and jelly donuts (weird combination, I know). Until next time, happy holidays and pleasant nightmares!

*Speaking of which, I’m still sad that the 2014 NBC TV show was cancelled after one season. All because they didn’t give it the advertising it deserved. The fact that this might be the first you’ve ever heard of it unfortunately proves my point.

How I’m feeling most days. Photo by Marcus Aurelius on Pexels.com

This won’t be a long post. Nor will this be a rant or a long list of complaints. It’s just to say one thing: Goddammit, I’m a busy non-human entity!

In addition to writing, editing and trying to find publishers for my stories, I’m also organizing events and meetings for the Ohio chapter of the Horror Writers Association. And I’m trying to put together an anthology with some other Ohio horror writers for writers in our state. And I’m tracking sales/reviews and making decision for “Mother of the King” (more on that in a later post). And I’m doing some research before I try to edit my Victorian Gothic novel The Pure World Comes.

Add in the work from my day job, the many tasks a responsible adult has to do to keep a roof over their heads, trying to stay healthy, finding time to relax so I don’t burn out, and a few things in my personal life that I can’t talk about yet. Oh, and let’s not forget about time to eat and sleep.

And I have to ask: when did my dance card get so full? I feel like I either need more time or another me to get all this work done!

Ooh, another Rami Ungar. There’s a scary thought. Imagine just what sort of terror we could get up to while we were out and about!

Well, with any luck, things will ease up a bit as I continue to cross things off my list. There have been hiccups along the way–kid you not, I may have double-booked myself for some stuff at work tomorrow–but I’m dealing with them. I realize that it might be easier if I took on less responsibilities, but some of them can’t be given up so easily and others I took on because this is all part of the path of the writer. You gotta take what opportunities you can sometimes.

Thank you for supporting me while i work on these stories.

Still, it’s a lot. Perhaps if I’m ever able to write full-time, it’ll get easier (especially if writing does become my day job). For now though, I just gotta keep on keeping on and hope I don’t get sick from exhaustion or something.

In the meantime, I want to thank you, my Followers of Fear. Whether I’m traveling at the speed of light or exhausted from work, you’re always there to support me. It means a lot to me that I have this growing community around me who like what I write and support me in my quest to make my dreams come true.

Also in the meantime, it’s the holiday season, so you’re probably wondering what to get your friends and family who like spooky stuff, why not consider some of my stories? Fans of horror are always looking for new scares to devour, so they would probably appreciate something they might not have found otherwise. I’ll include the links for them, as well as for “Mother of the King,” below.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I hope you’re having a good month so far. Until next time, stay safe, pleasant nightmares, and tell Santa to stay out of your chimney until he’s had his temperature checked!

The Quiet Game: Five Tales to Chill Your Bones: Amazon, Createspace, Barnes & Noble, iBooksSmashwords, and Kobo.

Snake: AmazonCreatespace, Barnes & Noble, iBooksSmashwords, and Kobo

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

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

I’ll admit, when I bought my ticket to see this movie in the theaters (yes, I went to a theater), I didn’t have high expectations. It had a good trailer, but plenty of bad films have good trailers. But I wanted to see some new horror, and who knows? It could surprise me.

Surprised, I was.

Come Play follows Oliver, a young, non-verbal autistic boy who is stalked by someone named Larry, who wants to be his friend. However, Larry isn’t human. He’s an entity, one that lives in the world of the digital and the Wi-Fi and interacts with our world through electronics. And he wants Oliver to be his friend, whether Oliver wants it or not.

First off, I thought Oliver ‘s actor did a great job playing an autistic character. As you know, I’m on the spectrum, and I recognized myself as a child and as an adult in Oliver. Stimming to stay calm, going to therapy, dealing with people who don’t understand what you’re going well. And I’ve been through the experience of kids pretending to be nice to me only to show a nastier side. Believe me, the struggle was (and in some ways, still is) real.

As for the film itself, it wasn’t half-bad. Jacob Chase, the writer and director, did a very good job of putting together a unique monster story. There were several moments where the atmosphere was tense and I was kind of afraid. And the jumpscares, while in another film would have been over the top, fit very well here. And I definitely didn’t see the final twist coming until it showed up.

The use of the villain Larry was also done very well. He’s not based on any sort of ancient mythology or anything, so points for originality. And yeah, the monster using a children’s book has been done by better films (*cough* The Babadook *cough*), but it’s given a different spin here, and the fact that Larry can only manifest through our ever-present devices and electronics added a certain element of danger you don’t normally see in these sorts of horror films. We also don’t see Larry that much, and when we do, he’s usually in shadow so we can’t make out all the details. Makes the fact that he’s basic CGI easier to handle.

Of course, the film does have its issues. While Larry was used well in the movie, I never felt entirely afraid of him. Also, the film relies on a lot of tropes we could get from a below-average Blumhouse movie, so it gets a little tropey and predictable at times. Especially the second half.

On the whole though, Come Play is good. It’s not great, but it’s not terrible either. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving it a 3.8. All in all, I’m glad I went out to see it. And if you need a bit of new horror as well, maybe you will be too.

That’s probably it for October, my Followers of Fear. I hope you had as great a Halloween season as I did, despite the pandemic and all that went with it. Let’s hope November is good as well.

Until next time, pleasant nightmares and WATCH OUT FOR THAT TENTACLE!!!

You know me. I tend to be a little silly at times. Okay, I tend to be a lot silly at multiple points throughout the day. And occasionally, I channel that into short videos I shoot for YouTube. One of which, by the way, I set to release this morning at 12:15 AM. Ladies and gentlemen, Followers of Fear, here is my contribution to YouTube for Halloween: Happy Halloween from a Gas Mask Zombie.

Yes, I am aware I am ridiculous. I don’t care.

So, if you watched all forty-two seconds of that video, you’re probably thinking, “What the fresh hell?” Let me explain: you guys know I’m a Doctor Who fan (or if you didn’t, now you do). And in the first season of the show’s reboot in 2005, the Doctor and his companion Rose Tyler end up in London during the Blitz. There, they encounter a form of pandemic zombie, the kind that are spread by virus?

Only this one’s a little different. It’s the result of a child being resurrected by alien nanotechnology. The child went out during the bombs looking for the woman he believes to be his mother. While wearing the gas mask. The nanomachines, not knowing what a human is, thinks that the being they resurrected is what a human is supposed to look like. And then they start spreading, turning everyone they come into contact with into things like the boy.

Imagine, a swarm of zombies wearing gas masks, all going about asking one question: “Are you my mummy?”

The gas mask zombie, AKA “The Empty Child,” from Doctor Who.

Ooh, I just felt chills up my spine!

Anyway, this story is pretty famous and well-regarded in the Who community. I even dressed up as a gas mask zombie for Purim one year (think Halloween for Jews). And since I recently started rewatching some of the earlier seasons because they relieve my pandemic stress, I thought it might be fun to dress up as the gas mask zombie for a YouTube video. It was.

Anyway, just wanted to post that for you. If you liked that and want to see more videos from me, check out my YouTube channel and subscribe. There are plenty of other videos there that don’t get featured on the blog (such as my recent celebration video for getting a hundred subscribers on that platform), so why not check them out?

Listen to me, I sound like a real YouTuber. Subscribe! Subscribe!

Anyway, that’s all for now. I’m sure you’ll hear from me again before this wonderful month of October is out. Until next time, my Followers of Fear, pleasant nightmares!

At the time I’m writing this, I’m in the middle of Chapter Ten of the second draft of Toyland, the Gothic horror/dark fantasy novel I finished earlier this year. And let me tell you, as I work through each chapter and make my edits, I find myself in awe.

What the hell was I thinking when I wrote some of these chapters?

Anyway, for those of you who aren’t familiar with Toyland, it takes place in an Ohio boarding school and follows students who become aware of a ghost haunting their school, one obsessed with a children’s book and that may be harming some of the students. Yeah, bonkers premise, but I make it work. At least, I’m hoping to make it work. Hence why I’m editing it rather than publishing it right here and now.

And I’m glad I am editing it. Because I cannot believe some of the shit I wrote. I mean, yeah, I was writing the early chapters during NaNoWriMo last year, so there’s a good chance I was up late and either sleep-deprived or hopped up on caffeine (or, if it was a weekend, buzzed). But still, some of these lines! What was I thinking? 

For example, in Chapter One, my protagonist Mason heads to the men’s rooms in the dorms. Here’s how I describe it:

Gabe and Mason entered, the door hinges squealing behind them. To the left were the stalls and sinks for the normal bodily functions.

“Normal bodily functions.” As opposed to what, Rami? Are there other kinds of stalls and sinks in bathrooms? Just what the fuck were you talking about?

And there are other passages like that, sprinkled here and there. Every time I come across them, I wonder what my state of mind was when I wrote them. Either that, or if I was just that desperate to make a fifty thousand word count by the end of November.

And in Chapter Ten, the one I’m working on now, I did something incredibly stupid the first time around. Mason the protagonist is about to reveal to a classmate of his about some of the strange events in the school. The story then fast-forwards to hours later, where Mason recalls the conversation in flashback. 

When I read that, I was taken out of the story for a second. I imagine potential readers will have that same experience as well. So now I’m busy rewriting Chapter Ten so that it flows better and doesn’t take the reader out of the story. It’s a pain in the ass, and I’m annoyed at myself for writing the story that way. What the hell was I thinking?

Well, that’s where the story is right now. The good news is, as I get further along, I find fewer of these problems. Hopefully that stays true for the rest of the second draft. But man, until I get to that point, I’m going to be looking back and shaking my head at those sections. 

So, that’s where I stand with Toyland, my Followers of Fear. I’ll keep working on it until probably October 1st, when I have to edit a couple of short stories for some publications that will be opening for submissions soon. But after that, barring anything else coming up, I’ll be back at work on Toyland and hopefully have it done by Halloween. Wish me luck.

Also, to my fellow Jews, tonight starts Yom Kippur, where we atone for our past transgressions and pray and fast for forgiveness. To you, I wish an easy fast and Gmar Chatimah Tovah, or “a good sealing” in the Book of Life. As well as a pizza party after the fast ends (wink).

Until next time, Followers of Fear, stay safe and pleasant nightmares.

It’s been a rough week, so I was looking forward to ending it with a horror movie that’s been on quite a few people’s radars since the first trailer dropped. I mean, it has the producers of Get Out and Us on board! Even if Jordan Peele wasn’t part of the project (yeah, I know, I thought that meant he was too, but he’s not), it looked like it was going to be uber-scary and tackle difficult issues that have been plaguing America for centuries. How could I not watch?

Antebellum begins in what appears to be a Civil War-era plantation, and follows a slave called Eden. Suffering from the worst brutalities from her captors, she must find some way out of the nightmare she’s in. But not all is as it seems. What does what’s happening have to do with a woman in the modern era and an almost identical face named Veronica Henley? In the answer lies an evil dating back to America’s bygone days, one built on power, race and cruelty.

I think the film’s biggest issue is that, because of the creative decisions of the filmmakers, its plot is confusing. We start out on the plantation, then it changes to the modern day without any warning, then back again. It’s like two different movies have been edited together, one a historical horror film, the other a slightly supernatural horror film involving contemporary racism. It’s confusing.

And when the big twist of the story is revealed, it took me two or three minutes to wrap my head around it. And I’m the kind of guy who can usually guess a major plot point in a horror movie or at the very least wrap my head around a difficult concept rather quickly. If I’m having trouble, imagine what the casual viewer is going to have.

That being said, the rest of the film is decent. The sections on the plantation during the first third were especially horrifying for their brutality, and the second third had an uncanny, creepy feeling that balanced psychological and supernatural horror. The climax is exciting enough, and the actors are great at portraying pain, terror, hatred, sadistic joy and grief when called upon. Props especially to star Janelle Monae as the lead. The costumes and sets are also amazing, with everything looking like it might on an actual plantation in the mid-19th century. Except for the outdoor furnace, which gave me Holocaust vibes and scared me down to the core of my Jewish soul.

And like Get Out, Antebellum explores its main theme of racism and slavery in an angle that wasn’t expected and made me think. Especially after seeing the documentary 13th and learning how the modern prison system is very much a form of slavery.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving Antebellum a 3.5. How it tells its story does bring down the score, but there’s plenty there to keep you invested in the film. And if you need some new horror right now, this will scratch the itch for you. Just don’t expect Get Out or Us levels of terror or deep-thinking.

 

One more thing before I sign off, my Followers of Fear. Tonight begins Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. On Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish community prays for our past sins to be forgiven, seek to forgive and be forgiven by our peers, and hopefully have a sweet new year. I have no idea what made this past year such a horror, but I’m hoping the next one will be better, and that the news of Justice Ginsburg’s death is the last in a year’s worth of horrors.

Shabbat Shalom and L’Shana Tovah (that basically means Happy New Year) to you, my Followers of Fear. May we all be inscribed in the Book of Life, and may the horrors of last year not follow us into the new one.

Some time ago, a friend/colleague on Facebook invited friends who enjoy writing to join him for a virtual write-in. Curious, I asked him to include me, and the following Sunday, I logged in with several other writers. And you know what? It proved to be very helpful, at least for me.

So what is a virtual write-in? Well, if you’re unfamiliar with write-ins, they’re when a bunch of writers get together and use the presence of one another to motivate you to write and get words down on paper. It’s also helpful if you need advice from your fellow creatives. A virtual one is one that’s not held in-person, but online.

In this case, we’ve been meeting over Zoom. We log in at a set time by a link provided by the host (my colleague), talk about what we’re going to be working on, and then mute our microphones before trying to write for two hours. At the end, everyone who can jumps back in and talks about how much progress they made.

I’m usually pretty good about getting words on paper (to the point that people joke I’m writing a novel a week or something), but I’ve found these write-ins to be helpful for me. For one thing, having all these other writers writing alongside me, even if they’re not physically nearby, has a psychological effect. I start to think that these other writers are making progress, and that makes me want to make progress. My mind then gets into a frame where it can make progress, and then I do make progress.

And an added benefit to these virtual write-ins is that it allows for safe communication during the pandemic. COVID-19 has made it dangerous to so much as stop by a Starbucks, let alone meet with a bunch of other authors. But these write-ins take out that risk, as well as giving writers who may live far away from the host a chance to participate without a long car or plane ride. And in an age where going grocery shopping is dangerous because the store may let people in who aren’t wearing masks (how irresponsible), that’s a good thing to have.

Finally, these virtual write-ins allow us to make connections in a comfortable environment. Since starting these write-ins, I’ve met a few writers whom I’ve been able to connect and talk work with. Just recently, I had a chat with one of the participants about various aspects of publication after we connected through the write-in. Another gave me some feedback on an essay I wrote that proved helpful during the second draft. And a few are now Facebook friends!

My writing workstation. Which, by the way, is also a comfortable place to meet people during a virtual write-in.

Of course, virtual write-ins aren’t without their drawbacks. Not everyone is able to make every single meeting, sometimes people have to come late or leave early because life is crazy, and sometimes these write-ins aren’t that helpful for some writers. However, if you’re in a good group, you’ll find the other members understanding of your life or your writing style. I know the folks in mine are.

Anyway, these write-ins have been helpful. Hell, I’ve benefited so much, I’m planning one for the Ohio chapter of the Horror Writers Association, possibly one that lasts a good chunk of the day.

And since they’re so helpful, I’m spreading the word about them. Who knows? Maybe if you’ve had trouble lately with writing, getting a couple of your friends together for a virtual write-in might be just what you needed. And if it’s not, at least you’ve discovered another thing that doesn’t help with your writing. Always a plus.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m going to bed now. Hopefully in the morning, I’ll be able to finish the outline of a new story. Hope you all have a happy Fourth of July, even if you don’t live in America.

And until next time, stay safe, pleasant nightmares, and HAMILTON IS AWESOME!!! I hope you have the chance to watch it on Disney+. That movie had me in tears by the end.