Posts Tagged ‘National Novel Writing Month’

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!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time, pleasant nightmares.

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

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

The NaNoWriMo logo/coat of arms.

Well, it’s December 1st. That means a couple of things: start of the holiday season and prep for the new year, the days get to their shortest point, I try to push a tag with the hope that it will become a trend (so far, it’s been hit and miss with those I’ve tagged). For writers around the world, however, it means National Novel Writing Month, and assessing how each person did and how their manuscripts turned out.

I’ve actually always found National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short, full of strange contradictions. For one thing, it takes place around the world, but it’s kept “national.” Heck, even the month’s official website puts you in touch with participants from all over the world! Why don”t we change the name?

For another thing, it’s amazing how many authors take this challenge seriously. For those of you who don’t know, during the month of November, many writers try to write a fifty-thousand word novel within 30 days (that’s about 1667 words per day if you want the math). And I’ve seen so many author friends on Facebook and in blogs lament how they only got so many words down. “I only got eight-thousand words.” “I was so close to 50K!” “This NaNoWriMo sucked! I hardly got any work done.” I don’t even want to know what they thought of the material they wrote.

Just for clarification, there’s no actual prize if you write a 50K novel in 30 days. You just get bragging rights. But plenty of authors see it as a reflection of themselves if they can’t get the words down. And I actually kind of understand this: on nights when I didn’t write anything down (and those nights occurred quite often, sadly), I felt like it was some sort of reflection on my skills or on myself as a writer. It didn’t matter if there just wasn’t enough time before bed, or if I had a book I really wanted to read, or if I just didn’t feel like writing that night. I felt bad. Maybe not as bad as I could have felt, I have a day job that takes up a good chunk of time, so I at least have an excuse for why I’m not writing more. But I bet for those who write full-time, it could be very frustrating when they didn’t reach their goals.

So how did I do, now that we’re on the subject? Well, I knew that with a job and that unfortunate habit of sleeping seven hours a night, plus eating and bill-paying and grocery shopping and everything else that goes on in my life, I had only so much time to do any work. Therefore, I decided that I would keep my expectations reasonable. I decided that I would aim to get ten-thousand words done, and if I got past that, I would aim for another five-thousand afterwards. If I somehow managed to get past that, I’d aim for five-thousand more, and so on and so forth. The result was I probably felt less stress than my colleagues, and I consequently met my first goal, and got more than halfway to my second goal.

To be exact, I got 13,821 words down by the end of the month, about four-and-a-half chapters worth of story. It wasn’t easy, but I managed to do it. How did it turn out? Well, I guess as well as a first draft can turn out. I mean, it’s only in the subsequent drafts that novels actually become the brilliant stories we all hold so dear. During the first drafts, they’re like pre-Fairy Godmother Cinderella: full of beauty and potential but in need of some serious clean up. My own NaNoWriMo project, Full Circle, has a lot of good stuff in it so far. It’s the third book in my Reborn City series, and considering that I started this series about eight years ago, this novel is already showing my growth over that time the most more than any recent story I’ve written.

Still, I think Chapter 1 could use a lot of clean-up. There’s a lot of exposition there, so making it work with the real storytelling moments is important. And possibly the prologue could use some polish as well. Yeah, I included a prologue with this book. New thing for this series, but I think it’s good for this book. Just needs some edits.

In the meantime though, I still have an entire novel to finish, and it’ll probably be a lot longer than 50K. I’m hoping that I can finish it by mid-spring 2017, and have it out early 2018 at the latest. We’ll see what happens.

Well, that’s all for now. Unless there’s something worth posting about, I’ll try to put out a Writing/Reflections-themed post out at some point during that month. In the meantime, it’s writing, writing, writing, and hopefully a lot of it.

Until next time, my Followers of Fear!

first-day-first-paragraph-tag

It’s that time again. Time for the “First Day, First Paragraph” Tag. This is a tag I created myself, and I’m still trying to see if I can make it take off. And who knows? Perhaps this month I’ll see this tag take off on other blogs.

So once again, let’s go over the rules. Once tagged for “First Day, First Paragraph,” you have to do the following:

  1. Publish your own post on the first day of the month.
  2. Use the graphic above
  3. Thank and link back to the person who tagged you.
  4. Explain the rules like I’m doing now.
  5. Post the first paragraph of a story you’ve written, are writing, or plan to write someday.
  6. Ask your readers for feedback.
  7. Finally, tag someone to do the post next month (for example, if you do the tag on the first of August, the person you tag has to do it on the first of September), and comment on one of their posts to let them know the good news.

As you can see, this came out on December 1st. I’ve used the graphic above, which is of my own design. I won’t thank myself, as I talk to myself too often, and I don’t need to start talking back. Explained the rules. And now to post a paragraph. Last month I did the first paragraph of Reborn City, in honor of the three-year anniversary of that novel coming out. I think this month I’ll do Video Rage, RC‘s sequel, which came out back in June. If you would like to check out either novel, make sure to head to the series page above this post for descriptions and links. Enjoy.

The sunbaked concrete and metal in the hundred-plus degree heat, the many cars and trucks reflected light off their chrome bodies like blinding beasts zooming down the highway. As truckers listened to country and rock music and children played video games on the backs of their parents’ car seats, some occasionally looked out to see a marvel of the modern world on the road. Five black hoverbikes, each with two people straddling the seats, zoomed between vehicles as they floated a few feet above the ground. Those who saw them marveled, paying no attention to the riders, who would’ve warranted their own attention if the drivers knew who they were.

Thoughts? Comments? Let’s discuss.

Okay, now I have to tag someone. This month, I’m going with a good friend who enjoys reading my books when she has the time. Ruth Ann Nordin, you’ve been tagged. You’ve got to do this on January 1st. Better schedule this post to come out ahead of time!

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I plan to have another post out later today with a wrap-up of NaNoWriMo, so keep an eye out for that. Until next time!

An author’s career is never a linear progression. It will often twist and turn and even take detours on occasion. It’s like driving through the American Appalachian mountains from Ohio to New York that way.

Similarly, my own writing career has not been linear in its progression. Back in college, as some of you may remember, I had trouble breaking into the traditional publishing scene. I couldn’t find an agent, and I was getting frustrated. Some friends of mine online had found some success self-publishing, so I went that route. And that’s kind of been my route since 2012 or so.

The problem is, self-publishing hasn’t gone the way I expected. I did it in the first place so that I could reach readers faster. And four books later, while I have reached readers, I haven’t reached as many readers as I would like. And while writers write to get stories out of our heads and onto the pages, and as a labor of love, writers publish because they want to share their stories with as many people as possible.

Now, one could argue that I just have to give it time, and the cosmos will make things work out. But if I’ve learned one thing in this business (and I’ve learned many things over the many years of writing), it’s that you have to try new things. And if one thing doesn’t work out, then to keep going at it just isn’t an option. In fact, that’s one definition of insanity. So, I have to try doing something different.

And I think that now is a really great time for me to try the traditional route again. Over four years, several college courses, reading works by a variety of excellent authors (and a few bad ones), and tons and tons of practice, I’m a much better novelist than I was. I think it could go well for me.

At the moment I’ve sent a few query letters out for Reborn City, which is my strongest work, and which I think, in the wake of the American presidential election, might go over well with agents. It’s a story set in a world very similar to what ours seems to be coming to, but with a bit more hope mixed in. If that doesn’t go well, I’ve got a million ideas, plenty of time to write, and a paying job to tide me over until I hit something that works.

Hey, if I can survive a nearly year-long job search and land a great job with an excellent organization, I can surely do this, maybe even over several years.

And if I’m lucky enough to get a contract with an agent and a publishing company, I might still self-publish from time to time. There are plenty of authors who do that. They’re called hybrid authors, and they usually self-publish when a story they wrote and really liked isn’t really what the publisher tends to go for. Heck, I think His Royal Scariness, Stephen King does this from time to time. Or maybe just the once.

In the meantime, I hope you continue to support me as a person and as a writer. And if you want to read one of my books, I’d be so happy if you did. It would certainly make my day.

Wish me luck, my Followers of Fear, as I set out on this latest fork in the road that is my writing career.

NaNoWriMo update: As of this weekend, I’m over ten-thousand words on Full Circle. And my God, it’s coming along great. True, it’s the usual quality of first drafts,  but I think FC really shows how much I’ve progressed as a writer from Reborn City. I can’t wait to see what people think of it when they read it.

 

Well, I finally watched the season finale of American Horror Story: Roanoke (the horrors of having no TV, right?), and I’m keeping up my tradition of reviewing the season as a whole. And I have to say, this is probably AHS‘s best season yet (though it probably won’t replace Hotel as my favorite season).

So if you didn’t know, Roanoke is about a young couple who move into a colonial house that is actually haunted by the ghosts of the Lost Colony of Roanoke. It’s told in the form of reality TV shows, with the last episode being mostly a compilation of news reports, crime specials, and interviews. I said in my review of the first episode that I thought the season had an eerie beginning, and that it was an interesting hook for the season that’s supposed to begin tying up all the connections between seasons.

Well, interesting quickly evolved into awesome. There is not a moment in Roanoke where it gets boring or you want to look away. It keeps you guessing, with twists in the plot, a constantly creepy and strange atmosphere, and characters that keep revealing hidden depths. I also really enjoyed how the majority of the season was told in the form of reality shows. It’s often said that reality shows are more show than reality, and you really feel that in this season, with the truth being up for debate throughout most of the show (I think we can say it’s the main theme for this season). Not only that, but it’s taking genres that feel tired and done to death, like found footage and crime reality, and puts a new spin on them through the strange world of AHS. And there’s a lot more I loved about this season, but I don’t want to spoil it for people who are still catching up (hit me up in the comments for in-depth discussions).

And while we’re on the subject of faorite things, I think my favorite episode was the last episode, which focuses on Lee Harris, my favorite character. The episode was just so much more than wrapping up loose ends, and it had such a twist in the last ten minutes that I truly loved. And Lee was such a complex character. She was trying so desperately to hang onto the only good thing left in her life, and

There were a couple of things that could’ve been improved upon, of course. This was the season that was supposed to tie things up, but it only offered a few explanations on the origins of a few characters and ideas. We didn’t get that full explanation of how the interconnected world of AHS we’d been hoping for, though maybe that’s for later seasons. Then again, it’s the speculating that’s the most fun, so maybe there’s wisdom in keeping things hidden for a while longer. I also thought that the character played by Taissa Farmiga, everybody’s favorite character from seasons one and three, and the two characters with her during the ninth episode, was shoehorned in. They were almost unnecessary. You could’ve told the rest of that episode without those characters, I’m sure.

But all in all, I truly enjoyed this season, which earns a solid 4.4 out of 5. It’s creepy, inventive, and you’ll want to see it from start to finish all in one go. I’m looking forward to Season 7.

And speaking of Season 7, we’ve already been given a teaser from Twitter about what we can expect next year:

What could it mean? I’ve heard some discussion that it might be cruise themed, as there was a model ship in the season finale that the camera spent quite a bit of time on. It’s possible that they may do a season inspired by that nightmare cruise ship fiasco from a few years ago, which would be cool. Still, I wouldn’t take this teaser too seriously. Roanoke was given a ton of false teasers before the first episode, so it could be a red herring. Which means I can still hope for an Orphanage or Academy season. Maybe with Adina Porter, Lee Harris’s actress, and Lady Gaga as teachers with tons of secrets? PLEEEEEEASE!!!!

What did you think of AHS: Roanoke? What was your favorite part of the season?

What are you hoping for Season 7? Who would you like to see come back?

NaNoWriMo update: At the moment, I’m just under eight-thousand words. Yeah, not good for sixteen days in, but what can I say? I only have so much time to write! Still, I like how Full Circle is coming along so far. It’s the normal quality of a first draft, but it’s a good basis for a great final novel in a trilogy. So even if I’m going very slowly through the draft, I think it’ll be a great story when I finally do finish it. Wish me luck!

Last night, I went to a dinner for young Jewish professionals in Columbus, the kind where one can socialize with other members of the tribe in the same age group while enjoying a kosher meal and an open bar. I love these dinners when they’re held: you can see people you know or have never met before, have conversations with similar threads about a thousand times over, forget most of what’s said, and still have a good time, all while enjoying a kosher meal. And, on occasion, I meet people who are interested in reading my books, so I make sure to have the latest business card with me when I do go to these things.

At last night’s dinner though, I had an interesting encounter that I feel like blogging about, if only to get it out of my system. While walking around between conversations, I ran into a guy I was acquainted with, who we’ll call “Eric,” a friend of a friend I knew in high school. The first time I’d met Eric had been at one of these dinners, and he’d seemed pretty impressed when I’d mentioned I was a published author I ‘d given him my card then, and had hoped that he would maybe check out one of my books and let me know what he thought.

To my surprise, pretty quickly Eric told me he read my books, and enjoyed them, had said I was talented and had an amazing style. I was flattered…for a second. But there was just something that felt…a little off. The amount of enthusiasm, the look in his eyes, the body language. I asked if he would consider writing a review for one of my books online, and he said he would, he totally would. Again, the way Eric said “totally” and the way he moved his body while he said it, like he was trying to distract me with the movement of his arms, just seemed off. Finally I asked him to name one of the books he’d read and enjoyed. As I half-expected, he couldn’t name a single one. At that point, I just gave him a card and moved on.

There are a lot of reasons why people don’t read my books. I’m not still very well-known, my books cost money and aren’t available at a lot of libraries, some people don”t like to read, some people don’t care for the genres I tend to write in, busy lives, they lose my card, or a number of other reasons. If Eric had said any of those from the beginning, I would’ve been cool with it. I’ve dealt with close family and friends who haven’t read Video Rage yet. I’m not happy about it, but I accept it because I know that I can’t control other people’s lives or what they do in their lives. But outright lying? I’m just not cool with that.

I put a lot of work into the stories I write. Yes, they’re mostly a labor of love (or a reason to get them out of my head and onto the page so it’s a bit less cluttered up there), but I want others to enjoy them as well. And Eric may have felt guilty that he said he’d check them out the last time we’d spoke and that he hadn’t, but lying about it, especially when it’s so obvious, doesn’t help. For one thing, it gets my hopes up needlessly that I’ve touched another person with my work before causing those hopes to plummet into my shoes. For another, lying about reading a book (let alone four) is one of the easiest to debunk. I debunked it in a single sentence! And that just make things awkward.

I guess what I’m trying to say here is, if you haven’t read a book, just say so. Don’t try to lie about it. We authors are used to it, and most of us aren’t sensitive enough that we throw hissy fits when we find out you didn’t read our books. And if you do read our books, thank you. We hope you enjoy them, and let us know if you did.

NaNoWriMo update: Five days in, and I’m a bit over twenty-four hundred words into Full Circle. I haven’t had that much time to write since Thursday, so this is the most I’ve been able to get. Still, the fact that I made it this far in the first week is still pretty nice. Hopefully I’ll get a bit farther along tonight. Wish me luck!