Posts Tagged ‘horror’

As it’s the most wonderful time of the year (and remember, I have a good argument for that), I thought I would show off this year’s Halloween costume. Especially since I really like this one and think it’s going to be quite the hit.

So without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, let me present this year’s Halloween costume: undead Alexander Hamilton!

🎵 “Alexander Hamilton. My name is Alexander Hamilton. And there’s a million things I haven’t done.🎵… because Aaron Burr shot me in 1804. The asshole.”

What do you think? I got the idea for it after seeing Hamilton earlier this year and having my mind blown by it. Of course, I put in a special Rami Ungar twist.

I will be wearing it tonight at the reading at the Bexley Public Library (which, if you can stop by, please do), and at any other events I can. Hopefully people like it (and maybe help me film a short video while I’m wearing it).

And while we’re on the topic, what are you wearing this Halloween? Let’s discuss.

That’s all for now. I have a busy day ahead of me, so until next time, pleasant nightmares!

A poster from a play from the Grand Guignol.

*Trigger warning: this post goes into a lot of dark and uncomfortable topics. If talk of gore, murder, sexual assault and similar subjects upset you, stop reading now. You’ve been warned.

Have you ever seen any version of Sweeney Todd? Whether you saw a stage production or watched the movie, Sweeney Todd is somewhat of an outlier among famous Broadway musicals. It’s dark, bloody, and deals with subject matter other plays don’t, such as rape and cannibalism. It’s basically a slasher story with singing.

Now, if you’re like me (and I assume most of you are, if you’re reading this blog), you not only wish there were more plays like Sweeney Todd, but that some of these plays went further in terms of gore and terror. Well, recently I found out that there was a theater dedicated to plays just like that. And it ran for nearly seventy years.

The Grand Guignol Theater was a theater set up in an old Paris chapel in 1897. To summarize its history, the theater at first performed naturalistic plays centered around prostitutes, street thieves and alcoholics. A typical evening at the Grand Guignol would feature five or six short plays, alternating between cynical slice-of-life comedies, horror shows, and more traditional comedies. However, after a change of ownership, the theater began to focus more on horror.

And as time went on, the theater became famous for it. In fact, the Grand Guignol performed over twelve-hundred plays in the course of its existence, focusing on subjects such as insanity, strangulation, rape, leprosy, hypnosis, eye gouging, stabbing, rabies, and so much more. One actress, Paula Maxa, estimated she’d been “murdered” at least ten thousand times in sixty different ways, among other things. To enhance the terror, the theater staff developed a number of techniques to make the horror onstage seem as real as possible, and actors acted as if everything onstage was actually happening.

It wasn’t uncommon for audience members to puke or faint during performances.

This was all to the delight of Andre de Lorde, one of the Guignol’s writers, who judged his plays based on how many people fainted during a show. Along with psychologist and friend Alfred Binet, he wrote over a hundred plays, all particularly gruesome.

And audiences kept coming back. Like many modern horror fans, they were seeking a thrill. And the Grand Guignol provided. At its peak, celebrities and even royalty visited for shows.

So why did it close? Well, there are a number of theories. By the 1930s, the theater had shifted away from gory shockers to psychological dramas, and attendance began to dip. The rise of movies and TV shows, some of the former being quite gory or sensational themselves, may have also played a part. Theater management even believed revelations about the Holocaust may have played a role, saying “We could never equal Buchenwald.”

Whatever the case, the Grand Guignol closed in 1962. Today it’s a theater space for a deaf acting troupe.

But while the theater closed, its legacy still exists. Many small theaters and troupes around the world have been formed to preserve the Guignol’s legacy and produce their own Guignol-style plays. The Guignol’s also made its way into popular culture, and has been referenced in music, movies, books and more.

Still, wouldn’t it be amazing if the Grand Guignol was truly revjved? If one of the groups inspired by it managed to achieve the same popularity and staying power as the original theater?

Perhaps someday it will come back. And then perhaps Mr. Sweeney Todd won’t be so lonely anymore.

Hello, my name is Rami Ungar, and I’m pretty much in the best mood ever. Not even that sacrifice getting loose and running to the police station can’t bring me down. Why? Well, the sacrifice’s warrants are going to prove problematic and I’m merciful with my cultists. But the real reason I’m so happy is because I’ve been receiving so many new reviews of Rose!

Now if you’re unfamiliar with Rose, first off, hi, welcome to the blog. Second, Rose is my first novel with a publisher, a fantasy-horror novel about a young woman turning into a plant creature (and that’s just the start of her problems). I wrote it as my college thesis originally, edited it on and off over five years, and then somehow got it published about four months ago with Castrum Press.

And as I said, a lot of new reviews have been popping up lately. Many of them have come from book bloggers, some of whom have left their reviews on Amazon and Goodreads as well. In fact, on Amazon Rose has over twenty reviews. Which, is a huge deal. Not only is that more reviews than any of my other works, but once you get past twenty, Amazon includes your books in that little space that says, “Customers Who Bought This Book Also Bought.” So thanks to everyone’s reviews, Rose will have slightly more visibility on Amazon in the future.

And what reviews they’ve been, too! Most of them have been extremely positive.* One blogger said, “Ungar has created a new horror monster that isn’t quite like the rest.” Another said, “Don’t let the beautiful, delicate cover fool you–this is out-and-out horror.” My job here is done.

Anyway, I’m just really thankful for all the reviews. I’m still trying to establish myself and carve out an audience. And with all these reviews, I’m hopeful Rose will be read by more people, and help me build my audience for the next book I put out there, whatever that is.

If you want to read any of these reviews, I’ll post the links below and update as more bloggers post reviews. After all, they deserve just as much exposure for giving Rose some much-needed exposure. I’ll also include links for those who want to read Rose themselves. And if you do end up checking it out, let me know what you think. Positive or negative, I love feedback, and it helps me out in the long run.

Also, thanks to Blackthorn Book Tours for putting Rose in the hands of so many reviewers. You’ve been such a big help for me lately. I hope we can do this again someday with whatever I publish next.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

Rose: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada

Review Sites: Goodreads, Isobel Blackthorn, Alison’s Catty Book Corner, Power Librarian, The Book Review Hub, Whispers and Wonder (great interview), The Bookwormery, #CupidIsWatchingMe, Alex J Book Reviews, Unwrapping Words, Book, Blog & Candle, Bookshine and Readbows, A Little Fool Reads, Book Reviews & More, Tattooed Bibliophile, Iseult Murphy, Literary Retreat, Megan’s Haunted House of Books (interview and review).

*Actually, I’ve been really lucky in the review department. I’ve only had one lower than three stars, and the person who left that on Goodreads said she wouldn’t leave a full review because she only gave it two stars. Which honestly only makes me curious. What did she dislike about the novel? It’s going to bug me for a while.

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.

Two days ago, I made the drive down to Cincinnati, Ohio–a city I have not been to in over ten years, I might add–to attend Evil at the Overlook Lodge, an event put on my by the Ohio Chapter of the Horror Writers Association, and one of two events open to the public in the month of October.

And can I just say, this event was a ton of fun? For one thing, the bar is simply beautiful. It looks exactly like the bar in the movie The Shining, and has a lot of memorabilia around the space meant to evoke the movie (which, for all I know, are actual props from the movie. I really should’ve asked). Even if I’m not a fan of Kubrick’s film, I can appreciate the love for the movie and the attention to detail like any fan can.

Not to mention the staff are so much nicer and less murderous than the staff of the Overlook Hotel.

And we had a decent sized crowd, made up of friends of the various authors (I had a cousin of mine who came to hear the readings), as well as some of the bar’s regular patrons. And of course, there were the authors. Now, originally we were going to have four authors, including myself, but one had to cancel due to circumstances outside her control. Still we three–H.R. Boldwood, Anton Cancre, and I–managed to make do. And we did have a lot of fun.

And let me just say a few things about my colleagues there: they are both talented writers. H.R. Boldwood read to us a couple of short pieces, including one where she had a volunteer do sound effects to accompany her story. With or without sound effects though, both stories were great. And Anton Cancre, I have found, knows how to put on a performance. He read to us a couple of poems, and even performed a piece with a friend of his where two wendigoes discussed their particular dietary needs, all to the tune of a guitarist. To say the least, it was an experience.

HR Boldwood

Anton Cancre

And as for me, I read from Rose, specifically the opening. And yes, I was wearing my cloak. I find the dramatic effect helps with the storytelling. Or it makes me look pretentious, but I like to think positive.

And the winner for most affable vampire is…me!

Afterwards there was some talk, some drinking (though since I was driving home right afterwards, I couldn’t drink), and even a few sales here and there. Overall, a good evening. And if we were to do it again, I would gladly come by again.

In the meantime, we have another reading coming up, this time in my own backyard. HWA Ohio will be teaming up with the Bexley Public Library for A Night of Horror with the Horror Writers Association (click here for the event page on Facebook). There will be readings from some of Ohio’s best writers of the macabre (plus me), as well as discussion of horror and possibly a few Halloween decorations. And I’ll be coming by in a new costume, so you’ll want to show up for that.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m diving back into my stories, so it might be a while until you see me again. Or it might be tomorrow. Who knows what the future holds? Whenever I next post, I wish you all pleasant nightmares in the meantime. See ya!

 

I made a little design for this year. It’s how you can tell I’m serious.

Recently I announced the subject of my next novel/my NaNoWriMo project, Toyland. And with November 1st fast approaching, I thought I’d go into the novel a bit more before I start posting once a week about my progress. Plus, I’ve had two reviews in the past week and possibly two tomorrow, depending on how close to my territory Joker lands. Gotta break things up with some variety or I just don’t feel right.

First, let’s go a bit more into what Toyland is actually about. As I said before, Toyland is a Gothic horror novel taking place in a boarding school in southern Ohio. The protagonist’s name is Mason Prather, a teenager who enjoys anime, wants to be a lawyer someday, and is the stepson of the boarding school’s headmistress. However, the autumn semester of his sophomore year proves challenging in many ways, and not just academically. Odd occurrences keep popping up at school, and people are either getting hurt or in danger of getting hurt. All this seems to emanate from a strange girl with dark hair seen around campus by Mason and his friends, as well as from a children’s book Mason finds in the school library.

I’ll give you three guesses what the name of that book is, and the first two don’t count.

Next, let’s talk about researching this novel, because that was a lot of fun. Looking back, I’m not sue when I first settled on doing this book, let alone for NaNoWriMo (curse you, slippery memory!), but I’ve definitely been becoming more familiar with Gothic fiction and its trappings for at least a year. Some of you may remember my post from last summer on what Gothic fiction is, and I’ve continued reading Gothic stories since then, including The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, Hell House by Richard Matheson, and rereading The Shining by Stephen King this past winter.

Yeah, lots of fun research that felt more like play at times. But once I decided to work on Toyland next, I started taking in a different kind of media: anime. To be specific, I watched the anime Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Princess Tutu, and Ringing Bell (I also tried to get Made in Abyss, but it’s not streaming anywhere, and I didn’t want to shell out for the Blu-Ray). There are two reasons why I chose to watch these anime as research, but I can only go into one without giving away spoilers. Now these anime, especially the first two, are known for their dark and surreal imagery (especially Madoka). Imagery that’s supposed to be pleasant to the eye but instead comes off as dark, strange and surreal are going to be big parts of Toyland, so I felt watching these shows would be good research.

That, and you can’t go wrong with watching these anime. They’re popular and have even won awards.

They’ll probably show up in an anime recommendation post at some point.

And now that I’ve watched all those series, as well as researched different styles of architecture for the school (I’m going with Queen Anne revival) and have watched a film I will never watch again or let my kids watch, I think I’m ready for November.

Well, almost ready. The other night after reviewing the outline and posting on Facebook and Twitter that I hadn’t “found any plot holes,” I may have found a plot hole. And I’m not sure how to fix it. I hate plot holes in my stories. I spend hours making sure my stories don’t have any (or many). So I’m at the drawing board, looking for fixes or work-arounds. Hopefully before November, something pops up.

Well, if you need me, I’ll be sleeping off my exhaustion from the past few days. Until next time, Followers of Fear, pleasant nightmares.

At seventy-two, King has told people he only intends to retire “when God tells me to.” Given his latest book, a 557-page science-thriller, I doubt God will be giving him that message anytime soon. And if he keeps writing stories like The Institute, I’m completely fine with that. Especially if I can eventually get on his radar someday.

The Institute centers on Luke Ellis, a twelve-year-old prodigy who is planning on going to Boston for college in the fall. He also has some telekinetic abilities, though he can’t do more than move an empty pizza pan when he’s excited. Still, that’s enough to put him on the radar of The Institute, a shadowy facility in the backwoods of Maine. His parents are murdered, and he is spirited away, used in experiments that are supposed to enhance the psychic abilities he and other kids and teens have. And as time goes on, Luke not only gets a better idea of what sort of things they’re doing at the Institute, but realizes with growing anxiety that he has to get away. Before he is changed permanently. At least, changed more than he already has been.

What makes this story so scary, even though it’s more science-thriller than science-horror, is its plausibility. You can totally imagine a shadowy government or shadow government organization kidnapping kids and using them for their own ends.* There are a lot of comments on or callbacks to the Nazi experiments on concentration camp victims, and as a WWII/Holocaust scholar, those comments are extremely warranted.

Aside from that, this book is good. The characters feel real, and the Institute is well thought out, adding to the feeling you could see some of this stuff happening. Luke is a likable protagonist, smart but not arrogant about it (in fact, he worries a lot about being too arrogant with his intellect), polite, and eager to help his friends. Likewise, the staff of the Institute feel real as well, particularly how they can do what they do and think of the kids as less-than-human.

As for the Institute, it’s big and is usually good at keeping the kids within the boundaries of the facility, but it also has its issues such as faulty equipment and staff rivalries, which makes it feel real. It could almost feel like your own workplace. Just evil and incredibly cruel.

Of course, the story isn’t totally perfect. I’m not going to fault it due to the fact that it’s not one of King’s terror-inducing stories like IT, we all know he’s great at writing more than horror. Nor am I going to fault the book due to the return of psychic powers. After all, stories where psychic abilities feature prominently, like Carrie and The Shining, are why King is a household name today. But I will admit the ending does feel a little expository and may not give everyone the sense of satisfaction people are looking for. That is a criticism I’m comfortable making.

However, on the whole The Institute is a strong entry into the Stephen King bibliography, a slow-burn that will leave you uncomfortable and yet unable to put the book down. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving it a 4.2. Whether you’re using your mind or your hands, I recommend lifting up a copy and giving it a read this Halloween season.

And that reminds me, welcome to October! As a horror writer, I’ll have plenty to share with you during the most wonderful time of the year (and yes, it is the most wonderful time of the year. Read this post if you don’t believe me). We’ll have reviews, writing updates, discussions of horror, and possibly a demonic summoning. Look forward to it, my Followers of Fear. And until next time, pleasant nightmares!

*Just so you know, I’m not going to directly comment on any parallels between this novel and current events, though plenty of people, including King himself, have done that already. My current job makes doing so difficult. If I ever get the opportunity to write full-time, that’ll change. In the meantime though, I’ll just keep my mouth shut and stick to reviewing stories on their own merits.