Posts Tagged ‘ideas’

For the past two weeks, I’ve been reading The Best Horror of the Year, Volume VIII, an anthology of horror short stories and novelettes compiled by one of horror’s premier editors, Ellen Datlow (I’ll be taking a break from it to read The Institute by Stephen King, though). As you’d expect from any anthology, some you like, some you don’t, and some you just don’t get. But of those that I like, I’ve been noticing a trend that I’m not sure I’ve noticed before.

These stories are not outright terrifying in a way that’ll leave you screaming or having nightmares for a week or so. But they do make you feel uneasy. Like a voice in the back of your mind is whispering, “Imagine if this scenario were real,” or “Imagine if this happened to you.” And then you shiver at the thought of what is occurring in the story occurring in real life. In your life.

That feeling upsets the zen in your soul, and can put you off your day. It can make you afraid to think of certain places or names because you associate them with something evil and horrible. It leaves you afraid to be in dark places, or alone, or with people, or even in well-lit areas. Because who knows what’s hidden in your blind spot? Who knows what evil is bubbling in your coworker’s heart?

What you are feeling is disquiet. And that feeling drives a lot of shorter horror stories. Understandable: short stories and novelettes don’t have the word-counts to build epic worlds or have intricate plots involving five or six mind-blowing revelations. They’re short for a reason, and meant to be digestible as a way to save time and money. Or to quote Stephen King, “A short story is like a quick kiss in the dark from a stranger.”

I actually know what that’s like (don’t ask), and I’m not really surprised that King does, either. So I kind of get it: what the story does to you should be unexpected, but leave a powerful impression. The kind of impression where you look back years later and you’re like, “Wait, did that actually happen?” And in short stories, with horror, you do it with fear. You do it with disquiet.

So how does one create disquiet in their story? Unfortunately, I’m not sure I can answer that. It’s like how do you put horror in a story? You already know a monster is necessary, but what more is there? Not an easy question to answer. In fact, I’ve been writing horror since I was a tween, or trying to, and I’m still trying to figure it out. It doesn’t help that I’m better at novels and short stories are still something I’m figuring out how to do well (ironic, considering how many short story ideas I have lying around).

junji Ito will shake you every time.

In the end, all I can recommend is the old writer adage: read a lot and write a lot. In this case, read a ton of shorter works by a variety of different horror authors. Note how they make the story memorable, punchy, disturbing. Is it a specific twist? Is it in the scenario they set up? How do they set it up? Is it in a particular sentence or a paragraph? An element they included? The ending? Then try writing your own works and incorporating what you learned.

It seems obvious, but I guess we reiterate it for a reason.

Anyway, if you’re looking for recommendations, any of the volumes in the Best Horror of the Year series should work, as well as collections by most horror writers. I also recommend story collections from manga artist Junji Ito, if you want a more visual medium. And while it’s not literary, The Twilight Zone is usually pretty good at telling disquieting stories (or so I’ve heard. I really have to get on watching that show).

But tell me, how do you make your short stories memorable and disquieting? What are your thoughts on the subject? Let’s discuss.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Happy Friday the 13th, and if you see  guy wearing an old-fashioned goalie mask, RUN THE OTHER FUCKING WAY!!!

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It’s been over a week since I last wrote a blog post, so I just wanted to let you know I haven’t died and either become a ghost or returned to my home dimension. Of course, every blog post needs a subject, so I thought I’d update you on the many projects I’ve got going on. And believe me, it’s a lot of projects.

Rose

Now, I’m sure you’re aware that Rose has been out for about two and a half months at this point. What more could be happening with that? Plenty, actually. Firstly, there’s an audio book on the way. Yep, Rose is going to be in audio format. Now, I can’t share many particulars on that just yet, but I can tell you the audio book will hopefully be out in the next month and will be available from Amazon and Audible.

Which of course means I need to do a lot of work to make sure that the paperback, ebook, and audio book do well and get into the hands/devices of plenty of readers and listeners. Hopefully it all pays off.

And in the meantime, if you haven’t checked Rose out yet but want to, you can find it on Amazon, as well as on Amazon UK and Amazon Canada. Take a look, and if you enjoy the book, let me know what you think.

River of Wrath

Dante Alighieri, author of “Inferno.”

Some of you may recall that last year in the days before Halloween, I finished a novel called River of Wrath that was partially inspired by Dante’s Inferno. Since then, I haven’t touched that story once, but that’ll change soon. I have a beta reader who’s working his way through the book and says he’s going to be done soon. Once I get it back from him, I’ll get to work on editing it, with the goal of having the second draft done by Halloween. After that, I’ll hopefully be able to find a publisher for the story. River‘s a little too straight horror for Castrum Press, so I’ll have to look elsewhere. But I think there are plenty of publishers who might be interested in this one. With any luck, I could have River out some tie in 2020. Fingers crossed!

 

 

 

National Novel Writing Month

I’ve got something for NaNoWriMo this year, just wait and see.

As many of you are aware, November is National Novel Writing Month (though at this point, a name change should be considered, as it’s pretty much international at this point). During NaNoWriMo, participating authors try to write an entire novel of fifty-thousand words before November 30th, or about seventeen-hundred words a day. This’ll be my first year since college that I’ll be participating, and I’m almost done doing research for the book. I don’t expect to make the daily word count or even the final goal for the challenge (and even if I did, I doubt the resulting story would be high-quality. That’s what editing is for!). Regardless, I’m going to try and see what I can accomplish. I even plan to take some time off at the beginning of the month to help me get it done. With any luck, I’ll get enough done that by the time I return to work, I’ll have made significant progress on the story.

And as for what I’m writing for NaNoWriMo, you’ll just have to wait. I’ll announce what I’m working on when we’re a bit closer to November. Though I can tell you this: it’s going to be a very strange and unexpected story. Which I think means it’s going to be a lot of fun, both to write and to read.

A new short story collection is on its way!

You read that right. I’m putting together another collection of original short stories. And I know I’ve made that promise before, but this time I’ve made significant progress towards that goal. I already have several stories, novelettes and novellas on stand-by for the collection, and am working on finishing up a few other stories for it.

Sadly, at this stage the collection’s still gestating, so to speak, so it would be premature to state its contents, what it’s called or when/how I’ll be releasing it. However, as soon as I have that information, I’ll be sure to let you know.

Other

Castrum Press will be putting out a call for alternative history short stories for an anthology soon, so I’ll be editing up my Arthurian short story Mother of the King soon. Since I’m already one of their client, I hope that’ll help get the story in, but as you would expect, this sort of thing depends greatly on quality, timing and luck.

And here on the blog, I’m getting ready to write the next part in my series of marketing posts, as well as another anime recommendations list (because when you’re me, you devour anime like Scooby-Doo devours everything edible). Hopefully I’ll find time for both of those before the month is out.

 

Well, that’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I think the next time I post, it’ll be after seeing IT: Chapter Two. I’m looking forward to it!

Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

It’s hard to believe we’re in the second half of August, and October (AKA the Halloween season, AKA the most wonderful time of the year), is right around the corner. Soon, we’re going to have to get ready for witches and goblins and more candy than is probably healthy. But before we go into all that (as well as some of what I have planned for that month), I have to mark a milestone. That’s right, my novel Rose has been out for two whole months!

So for those of you who know, Rose is a fantasy-horror novel I wrote as a college thesis project. The novel follows a young woman named Rose Taggert who awakens with the past two years missing from her memories. She quickly undergoes a terrifying transformation into a plant-like creature, which begins a saga to ensure her survival as she realizes people in her life are hiding dark secrets from her.

It took a lot of work, about seven drafts, and more than a few anxiety attacks, but after five years, Rose was released on June 21st, 2019. And I’m proud to say that it’s been doing well. Everyone I’ve talked to who’s read it seems to like it, or at the very least, not hate it. Just this past Sunday, for example, I received two new reviews of Rose, each from very different reviewers. For example, The first came from Angela Yuriko Smith, editor of S’pace and Time Magazine, who shared her thoughts on her personal website (which apparently she read the same week she put in a garden. Now that’s synergy!). The other came from Elle Turnpitt of Dead Head Reviews, who found it terrifying and gave the novel as a whole a 4 out of 5.  Nice stuff.

Me at the reading on Sunday. Yes, I am wearing a black cloak. Does that surprise you at all?

Also on Sunday, I had my very first solo author reading* at Brothers Drake Meadery in Columbus. I’ve loved that place since my college years, and I was super excited to have my reading there (plus, the mead!). A small but very enthusiastic crowd showed up for the reading, only three of whom were related to me, and they liked what they heard. After the reading, they asked me a lot of questions (my favorite was if I’m a LARPer–I wish I had the time for that!) and a few people even bought signed copies. It was an amazing experience, one I hope to do again with them someday.

Did I mention the owners of Brothers Drake messaged me on Instagram today to let me know they’re reading it? I’m really excited to hear what they think.

Anyway, if any of this has made you curious about Rose, I’ll leave the links below so you can check it out, read some of the other reviews people have left, and then decide to get a copy. And if you do get one, please let me know what you think. Positive or negative, email or online review, I love feedback and it helps me out in the long run.

The table featuring the copies of “Rose,” which I enjoyed signing books and talking to people at.

Oh, and before I forget, I’ll be at the Bexley Local Author Festival at the Bexley Public Library on Sunday, August 25th, in Bexley, Ohio. I’ll be selling and signing copies of Rose, taking photographs, and probably not sacrificing the lives of the innocent in order to start a terrifying plague. Hope to see you there if you can make it. And if you can’t, I’ll likely be blogging about it, so you can read that. Should be a good time.

Well, that’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I have to torture the souls of famous personages from history who were secretly serial killers (you’ll never guess which American Founding Father is among that group) and then work on a possession story before heading to bed. Until next time, happy reading and pleasant nightmares!

Rose: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada

*Sort of. I had one in college in my dorm, but given that I bribed or blackmailed most of the five people who showed up and it didn’t really result in any sales of The Quiet Game, I’m not sure it counts anymore.

Quite recently, Rose received its sixteenth review on Amazon’s US site. This is a big deal for me, because the only other book I’ve published with that many reviews is the first book I ever published, The Quiet Game: Five Tales to Chill Your Bones. Guess how long it took for that one to get that many reviews?

Six years.

Why did it take so long for The Quiet Game to get that many reviews, when Rose was able to do it in less than two months? There are a number of factors at play, in my opinion. My writing has vastly improved since 2013, and my audience across different platforms has grown as well. But the big difference, if I’m being honest, is my marketing plan. Unlike my previous works, I had an actual marketing plan in place when I published Rose. And it seems to have worked pretty well so far.

Given that, I thought I’d share what I’ve learned from having an actual plan in place. And given all the lessons to impart, it’ll probably take a few posts (hence the “Part 1” in the post’s title). Hell, sponsoring a YouTube video will probably take up its own post. But if it helps a promising author with a new book coming out from making the same mistakes as I did, then it’ll be worth it.

So without further ado, let’s go over some essentials for having a marketing plan.

Rose wouldn’t be doing as well as it is without a marketing plan.

First, don’t expect your book to just take off without putting in any work. I know it’s tempting, after all the writing and editing and either finding a publisher to work with or putting in the time, effort and even cash, to just sit back and hope that word of mouth will be enough. You may do a couple of blog posts, some boosted Facebook ads, and a friend’s podcast, but in your mind, the reviews and good word of your friends, family and some blog followers will be enough. Eventually, more and more people will discover your story and things will snowball from there and your book is doing a steady business with a few new reviews on your month and you suddenly have a little extra spending money.

In my experience, that doesn’t work. I used that approach for the first four of my books, and three of those still have less than ten reviews on Amazon. Books rarely, if ever, snowball like we dream. These days, you need a detailed plan to get people interested in your book, and that requires work. It requires research, identifying places to send your book for reviews or promotion, talking to people and places (e.g. bookstores) that might be interested in what you’re published, maybe even making new business cards or bookmarks. Anything that can get your book noticed and get reades interested.

In other words, expect the work to keep on going long after your book is released to the public. If you want the public to give a damn about your book, that is.

Second, know your niche. Companies like Coca-Cola, no matter how they market, can afford to market it to thousands of random people. They’re Coca-Cola, they can afford it. You, however, can’t afford it. After all, your book is a particular type of story. So what do you do? You figure what audience you’re aiming to get reading your books, and you try to stick to that. Know what language in an ad or in a description would entice for them. What kind of mood are you trying to convey? Are they more likely to be pulled in by mentions of the grotesque and macabre, or by descriptions of beautiful men and women and scenic locales?

This seems like common sense, but you’d be surprised how easy it is to forget. More than once I’ve tried to interest people in my stories who are more fans of Parks & Rec or Ten Things I Hate About You than serial killers or the demonic. Sure, occasionally you find people who step out of their comfort zones and will read your story, but they’re a minority.

So, identify your niche and what’s likely to get them interested. You’ll save yourself a lot of trouble (and a few business cards) if you do.

And third, talk to your network. I’m not saying ask every Facebook friend to read your book. That doesn’t work, believe me. But most likely you know other authors whom you can ask for tips. They probably know quite a bit about finding your audience and getting them interested, or where to send your book for a possible review, or a hundred other ways to market your story.

And even if you don’t know other authors, there’s likely someone in your circle who knows a bit about business or marketing. After Rose was accepted for publication, I actually called up and met with a friend who’s been involved with a number of successful start-ups. He gave me some solid advice for reaching readers which I tried to keep in mind when I started the marketing machine for Rose.

No matter who you work with though, make sure to take down notes so you can refer back to them later. After all, it may take a long time between when you ask and when the book gets out there. Believe me, I know (fifteen months between acceptance and release).

Write advice down, or there’s a chance what you’ll learn will be forgotten later on.

So now this post is getting a bit long, I think I’ll cut it off here. Suffice to say, before you even start the marketing, there’s a lot of things to keep in mind and to work on. However, they’re part of a successful start to getting your book noticed by more people than your mother and a few friends. And once you have those down, you’ll have the start to your marketing plan.

That’s all for Part 1 of this series. Next time I’ll talk about more concrete tactics. In the meantime, you have until October 16th to submit questions to ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com for an AMA in honor of this blog’s eighth anniversary. Ask me (almost) anything about writing, horror, Rose, or myself and if I get enough responses, I’ll be happy to answer them in a special blog post.

And if any of this gets you interested in reading Rose, I’ll include the links below. And if you do read the book, let me know what you think. Positive or negative, I love reviews and it helps me in the long run.

Until next time, Followers of Fear, pleasant nightmares!

Rose: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada

Happy Birthday to the blog.
Happy Birthday to the blog.

Happy Birthday to Rami Ungar the Writer.
Happy Birthday to the blog.

So as you can probably tell by now, today’s a special day. About eight years ago, in a library near my mother’s house, an eighteen-year-old me eager to build an audience before his first book came out created a WordPress blog on a public computer. Since then, a lot has happened. Hell, in the past year alone, a lot has happened. I got my first car; Rose went through several more drafts; I wrote a bunch of new stories, some of which may see the light of day; Rose got a release date; I went on my first vacation where I drove everywhere and had more independence and freedom to explore than ever before; I did an overnight ghost hunt at the Ohio State Reformatory; Rose got published, and started getting reviews; and so much more. It’s been an interesting time.

Oh, and stuff happened at the office that were cool, but at times also stressful. I won’t go into that stuff.

I’m grateful for this blog. So many people have followed this blog. Many have become regular readers of my work, including my published work, and have even become good friends. I’ve learned from other writers and bloggers, and their stories have inspired me as well. Plus, it’s nice to get my thoughts out to such a great audience sometimes. A lot of you have told me over the years that my reviews have been helpful or spot-on and you trust my opinion. And on the occasion where I need to write an essay on storytelling or the rare rant about problems in the world, you all listen respectfully, and even help add to the conversation.

And when I’ve suffered from anxiety, or when I expressed my fears regarding the rise in anti-Semitic incidents in the US and abroad, you’ve all been there to comfort me. I can’t thank you enough for that. It’s a great kindness, what you’ve done for me.

So what’s up for me and for this blog in the next year? I honestly don’t know. I think the blog will continue to grow and find people who want to have conversations with me about horror and writing. I can promise that since I’m doing NaNoWriMo this year, I’ll be posting about that pretty regularly once we get to November. And I’ll of course let you know what I think about the latest horror releases or if I have any thoughts or good news worth sharing.

As for me, I would like to continue writing and finishing stories. I might even figure out how to finish them in a timely manner without getting distracted or bored. And of course I would like to publish more stories. Hopefully, with Rose out and a couple of short stories coming out soon, that will happen. I want to have more amazing ideas for stories, and I want to see and read amazing stories by other creators. And I’d like to have some amazing experiences in the future, like traveling to a place I’ve never been, or meeting/impressing someone whom I’ve admired for a long time, or doing more ghost hunts.

I don’t know how much of that will happen, but I’ll try to make it happen.

In the meantime, in honor of the eighth anniversary of Rami Ungar the Writer, I thought it would be nice to have a Q&A. From today, August 2nd to Friday, August 16th, you can send any questions you have for me to ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com. Depending on how many questions I get, I’ll post them and the answers. Of course, any questions I deem out of bounds won’t be answered, so no asking me what my address is or for dirty stuff. But other stuff–daily life, writing, Rose, horror, etc–are free for the picking.

Anyway, that’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I look forward to receiving your questions in the near future, and hopefully having enough to post an answer. I’ll write again soon.

Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

In the past couple of years, Riley Sager has made a bit of a name for himself among horror-thriller writers. Final Girls was a great debut novel with a new twist on an old trope, and his second book The Last Time I Lied gave new life to the sleep away camp horror story by making a twisty thriller out of it. So I had high hopes for his third book, Lock Every Door, which just came out.

And you know what? It has all the hallmarks I’ve come to expect from a Riley Sager novel. A young woman with a past negatively affecting her present as the lead? Check. A situation out of an old horror movie just ripe for a new spin? Check. Lots of flashbacks? Check. A whole ton of twists to keep you guessing? Check.

You know what else? Dude still knows how to write a good horror-thriller.

Lock Every Door follows Jules Larsen, a young woman recently laid off from her job and out of a bad relationship. Life’s been hard for her: her sister went missing, her parents are dead and she’s got nowhere to go. So when she’s offered a job as an apartment sitter at the Bartholomew, an upscale Manhattan apartment building for the rich and famous that also happens to be the setting for Jules’s favorite novel, she jumps on it. But once she moves in, she finds a disturbing side to the Bartholomew. Another apartment sitter goes missing in the middle of the night, and Jules suspects someone at the building is responsible. As she investigates, she uncovers a web of intrigue and murder that may claim another life very soon. Her own.

Mood-wise, Lock Every Door is semi-Gothic: it takes place in a fancy apartment building with gargoyles and a dark and sordid history. There’s not enough emphasis on the building itself as a character to really make it a Gothic novel, but there’s enough there to give it a feel of that genre, and that works in the book’s favor. It gives horror fans some expectations, but at the same time leaves room to defy them in a spectacular manner.

I also liked Jules as a character: she’s damaged and somewhat pragmatic, but she’s fiercely loyal to those she cares about and that’s what drives her throughout the story. She’s the kind of person you’d want as a friend through thick and thin, as well as the sort of character I like to write into my own stories.

On top of that, the story is quick-paced and full of the usual twists. I spent a good chunk of my reading wondering, “Where’s this going to go? Where are you taking us?” And just when you think you have it figured out, the carpet is pulled out from right under your feet. I had to struggle to put the book down sometimes, which could be an issue as I mainly read it on my lunch break.

If there’s one issue I had with Lock Every Door, I felt like characters other than Jules felt underdeveloped to me. You could feel them wanting to be more, but they weren’t really allowed to be, and this made them a bit easier to predict as to what their final fates would be (usually I’m not good at guessing these sorts of things in these types of books. Not so with Lock Every Door. I was making early predictions that turned out to be right each and every time).

But on the whole, Lock Every Door is a fast, engrossing, and chilling read that will have you thinking one thing and then totally throw you for a loop. On a scale of 1 to 5, I give the book a 4.7. Check in and hope you’ll come out unscathed.

Makes me wonder what Mr. Sager will be doing for his next book. What horror trope will he flip on its head for a new thriller novel? I hope it’s not a school. I’ve got plans for November, after all…

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.