Posts Tagged ‘pandemic fiction’

Raise the banners of all the Dark Lords! Wail in terror and in jubilation! Dance like the flames and music of Hell are moving through you! Halloween is here! I’ll be posting about my Halloween activities later on, my Followers of Fear (believe me, there’s plenty to talk about while I’m in Vegas during this holiday). However, the reason you’re here is because there are new releases today. Two new anthologies and a new issue of a magazine, to be precise. So, without further ado, let’s get into it!

The Jewish Book of Horror

From the Denver Horror Collective comes an exciting new anthology! I recently spoke to the Columbus Jewish News about the release of TJBOH (you can read that here if you’re curious), and I mentioned that Judaism and the Jewish people are no strangers to horror. All of our history involves other nations trying to annihilate and subjugate us, so we haven’t had to make up monsters to menace us that much. We have enough of those without using our imaginations.

That’s partly why I’m so excited to be part of this anthology (that, and some good old Jewish pride). As far as I’m aware, nothing like this has ever been released before. We’re literally breaking new ground here! I’m so honored to be part of it. So with that stated, I hope you’ll check out TJBOH and let the readers and writers know what you think. And if you don’t, I’ll make your cholesterol test come back with terrifying results (now that’s a Jewish horror if ever there was one).

The Jewish Book of Horror: Amazon, B&N

Dark Nature: A Horror Anthology

You know, I didn’t think I would get into this anthology. Besides the huge amount of competition to get in, my story “Natural Predators” is a pandemic story, and we’re in the middle of a pandemic. However, it was accepted and I can’t wait for everyone to read it!

Not only that, but you should get ready to read the rest of the anthology. Thirteen hair-raising horror stories about Mother Nature getting her revenge against humanity for all the shit we’ve put her through in the name of our survival and greed. I’m looking forward to hearing what people think of it. As well as basking in the irony that they may be reading the book in a paperback format. Enjoy!

Dark Nature: Amazon

The Dark Sire issue 9

I was really excited to learn one of my stories was going to be serialized in The Dark Sire. Issue 8, which came out back in July, was full of amazing stories. And not only that, but I heard from people saying they were intrigued by my story “Blood and Paper Skin” and wanted to know how it would end after reading Part One. Well, Part Two is out today in Issue 9 (Amazon link coming soon, so I’ll post that later), and I’m looking forward to hearing what everyone says about it.

I’ll leave links to both issues below. If you haven’t checked out Issue 8, I suggest you check it out and enjoy the stories and poetry within. And for those who buy Issue 9, I’m looking forward to hearing what you think of Part Two of “Blood and Paper Skin.” Things are about to get violent.

TDS Issue 8: Amazon

TDS Issue 9: Website download

One More Surprise…

You guys remember Indie Author Book Expo? It’s the group that held that book expo in Iowa I attended last year, and was hosting the one in Aurora until COVID-19 canceled it. Anyway, the group put together a horror anthology and I contributed a story for it, “Afternoon Tea,” about a haunted silent film. I kind of forgot about it because I got busy, but then the anthology, “Nightmare Collective Part 2,” was released yesterday. The book’s sales will benefit future Indie Author Book Expo events, so if you would like to help indie, hybrid and/or smaller-name authors continue to have venues to sell their work directly to the people, buying a copy and leaving a review could help. I hope you’ll check out “The Nightmare Collective Part 2” and let people know what you think. And I hope you’ll let me know what you think of “Afternoon Tea.”

Nightmare Collective Part 2: Amazon


That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m off to enjoy myself on this fabulous Halloween day. I hope you will enjoy yourself as well, while also checking out these new additions to the world of horror literature. Until next time, pleasant nightmares and Happy Halloween!

Cover of Dark Nature. Pretty cool, isn’t it?

Wow, what a week it’s been! First I got that double acceptance on Sunday, and then I get this piece of news on Tuesday. Who knows what’s going to occur over the weekend? But I digress, because “Natural Predators” is being published in the anthology Dark Nature from Macabre Ladies Publishing!

So if you didn’t know, “Natural Predators” is a story I wrote back in June about a pandemic hitting a summer camp. Surprisingly, it’s not based on any of our current events. No seriously. It was actually inspired by my own summer camp days. Back when I was a teen, the sleepaway camp I was at, as well as the surrounding communities, was hit by a nasty stomach virus. Over the course of a weekend, the infirmary was filled with kids and adults throwing their guts up. And I was the first in my year to get it, as well as the one who probably got the rest of my year sick.

Years later, when watching an episode of Family Guy where the characters were trying to write their own horror movie, I imagined the character Joe, who is disabled, drawing on his own personal experience to write a body horror tale. Somehow that combined in my head with the camp epidemic, and a story was born: “Natural Predators.”

Of course, I didn’t write it until this summer, when I had the right stimulus. Dark Nature is an anthology around the idea of Mother Nature getting back at humanity for centuries of abuse. As long as nature was depicted being the revenge, anything went. The idea spoke to me, so I decided to write “Natural Predators” around the theme. And it worked pretty well, too.

That being said, I honestly didn’t think it would get in. It’s a pandemic story, after all, and there was such tough competition. And I thought the other submissions would be so much better than mine (humility is a good quality to have as a writer, I find). But somehow, out of a hundred submissions, mine was one of the ones chosen!

Apparently there’s still a market for pandemic fiction. Even in the middle of a pandemic.

Being serious now, I’m really grateful the editors at Macabre Ladies Publishing liked my story and I’m so excited to work with them. Thank you as well to my beta reader Monica, whose advice was probably instrumental in making the story as good as it is. And congratulations to the other people who got in with me. We all faced some tough competition, so I’m glad we were able to get in together.

I hope you’re as excited as I am about this story being published as I am, and are interested in reading Dark Nature once it comes out. Which, according to the publisher, should be some time this month if all goes as planned. I’ll post links as soon as I can, and I look forward to hearing what you all think of “Natural Predators.”

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. At the time this is publishing, I’m off using my dreams to plant dangerous, mutated arthropods in the homes of people who deserve it. So with that, I wish you all a good night, pleasant nightmares, and welcome to October! Truly the most wonderful time of the year.*

*Seriously, it is. I wrote an entire blog post on that and the points still stand.

Read the book by Max Booth III last month. Finally got to see the movie, the screenplay of which was penned by Booth as well and which was directed by Sean King O’Grady, this evening. Let’s get reviewing.

As I said, We Need to Do Something is based on the novel by Max Booth III and follows Melissa and her family as they pile into the master bathroom during a violent storm (no basement). However, they soon find themselves trapped in that bathroom with no way to get out, and it’s unlikely anyone’s coming for them. Hunger, fear and their own dysfunction soon lead to tension, terror and their own personal ride to Hell.

Okay, first off, the bathroom in the movie is both bigger and tackier than the one I had in my head. Seriously, there’s plenty of space, but has that bathroom not been remodeled since the 1970s?

Enough silliness. Onto the actual review.

The film was made during the height of the pandemic and O’Grady said that the movie and current events sort of mirrored and mimicked each other. And you can see it in the film: all four of the main cast are trapped inside a small space due to events in the outside world and can’t leave. They grate on each other rather quickly and events make things worse and worse. Add in some crazy, ambiguous happenings to heighten the atmosphere and the situation further deteriorating, and it makes for a great analogue to the pandemic.

Not only that, but the ambiguity in the novel is translated very well into the film. It’s more heavily implied that what’s happening outside the bathroom (which we never see) might actually be real rather than a side effect of cabin fever or anything. But it’s still quite mysterious and leaves you with just as many questions as the novel did.

Finally, the cast does a great job as their characters. As Melissa, Sierra McCormick is brimming with hurt and pathos, while Vinessa Shaw (Allison in Hocus Pocus, if you can believe it) does a great job as the mother tired of living a friction-filled marriage. And while Pat Healy’s take on dad Robert is written the tiniest bit more sympathetic than in the book, he still comes across as a mega asshole you love to hate.

Oh, and guess what? Ozzy Osbourne is apparently in the film. I’ll let you guess which character he is.

On the downside, the flashbacks with Melissa and her girlfriend Amy do feel kind of lacking without a lot of the context the novel gave them. While the score reminds me of the best of Colin Stetson’s work, it does have a few moments where it doesn’t work too well with what’s occurring in the movie. And in certain moments, the snake does look laughably fake.

But all in all, this is a great translation of the novel to the screen. On a scale of 1 to 5, I give We Need to Do Something a 4.5 out of 5. If you can’t make it to a theater playing it, you can find it on YouTube, Apple TV and Amazon, among other sites, so go give it a watch. You’ll be reminded that, as bad as your pandemic experience with your family has been these 19 months, at least you weren’t trapped like these guys!

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Tomorrow I get to work on new stories, but right now, I’m going to hit the proverbial hay. Until next time, good night and pleasant nightmares!

I’ve been cutting back on announcing finishing the first draft of every single story I finish a first draft of. Not all of them are good, after all, and not all of them will see publication. Even if they are good. But this one, I’m announcing. Why? Because, for one, it’s a pandemic story. So, you know, not related to anything we’re currently experiencing these days! But also because it has some personal significance to me (more on that in a bit).

Natural Predators takes place a few years after the current COVID-19 pandemic has ended. A new virus is spreading rapidly out of Canada and into the US, causing loss of control of patients’ bodies and voices. As campers at a camp in upstate New York grapple with what is becoming of their summer vacation, events occur that will put them at the forefront of a change greater than even COVID-19 had on the world.

So yeah, like I said. This is a pandemic story. But it was not one inspired by our current one, which I’m sure is going to make marketing this story so much harder than it would otherwise be. In fact, the basis for this story germinated (see what I did there?) back in my teens. You see, I went to a summer camp in New York, and during my last year there, we got hit by an epidemic. A twenty-four hour stomach bug that infiltrated the camp and the surrounding communities. I was actually the first in my year to get sick with it, and before I knew it (or the hell that was being unleashed on the community), I’d passed it onto everyone else.

Yeah, it wasn’t pleasant. And if we’d known what was starting that weekend, my counselors would have probably sent me straight to the infirmary, rather than having me stay in Shabbat services and try to get through the day. Oh well. Hindsight is 20/20, as they say. Just wished I hadn’t missed out on the afternoon party that my mom, who worked for the camp, was going to throw for me, my sister, and our respective cabins. I was a guest of honor and I couldn’t even be there!

But I’m digressing. Point is, I knew what an epidemic looked like well before COVID-19. And then, around 2015, I was watching a new episode of Family Guy because it was still funny back then. In that episode, Peter and his friends were discussing writing their own horror film. I was thinking of that episode and what the character Joe Swanson might write his horror film about. Given the character is disabled, I thought he would use personal experience and create a story based around losing control of his body.

From there, I thought a virus might be a good vehicle to show that fear of loss of control over the body. And then I remembered my past camp experiences, and from there the idea bloomed.

So, if that was too much information, let me sum it up: stomach virus at camp + Family Guy episode about horror films = Rami Ungar getting inspired to write a horror story about a pandemic.

Wrote a pandemic story in the middle of a pandemic, and yet it’s not inspired by the pandemic at all. How about that?

Anyway, I think the story has potential. There’s some body horror, a bit of a creature feature, and the familiar paranoia of learning a deadly disease is spreading around the world. There’s an anthology I hope to get it into, but first I’m going to get it critiqued by a beta reader. With any luck, the editors won’t let the pandemic part get in the way and find it an enjoyable read.

And in the meantime, I’m going to take a break to recharge this evening, then start work on a new story tomorrow (this one will be a ghost story). Until next time, my Followers of Fear, good night and pleasant nightmares!

You would think that in the midst of a pandemic, nobody would be interested in pandemic fiction. Paul Tremblay’s new novel Survivor Song, released just last month, is about a pandemic (still trying to figure out if that’s coincidence or if Tremblay knew COVID-19 was on its way and wrote the story in response). And yet I, and many others, picked it up as soon as we could, and devoured it. I got it done in about a week, reading through the last half today. So yes, even in the midst of a pandemic, there’s an appetite for pandemic fiction. And Survivor Song is a welcome addition to the fold.

Survivor Song follows Dr. Ramola Sherman, a pediatrician experiencing a pandemic of her own in her state of Massachusetts. This one is a fast-moving form of rabies, one that affects its host within hours instead of days or weeks. As fear, anger, and conspiracy swirls around the state, Ramola gets a call from her best friend, Natalie, who is eight months pregnant and ready to burst. An infected man killed her husband and bit her. Thus begins a saga to find someplace to get Natalie treated, to save her and her baby. But with rabid humans and animals everywhere and time running out, can Ramola help anyone, let alone her friend and her friend’s baby?

A pandemic story with a slash of zombie thriller (though Dr. Sherman will remind you, none of the infected are zombies), Tremblay’s novel offers a stark, believable story of a disease running rampant through the state and the problems that come up in such a situation. That said, there are plenty of twists and unexpected turns, and they add to the tension of a clock running out of the story. Quite a few times I read something and was like, “Oh no!” or “Well, that’s a complication.” I also loved how Tremblay managed to hit on a lot of what we’re seeing in our current situation, including but not limited to: hospitals fighting an uphill battle; people not obeying health guidelines or employing easy “solutions” that are actually problematic; and crazy, convoluted conspiracy theories.

Also, that ending! Guy knows how to write a tense climax.

At the same time, there’s a deep-running love story here. Not a romance story or romantic love, but love between friends and a mother and child. Through Ramola and Natalie’s interactions, and the messages Natalie leaves to her child, you really come to care for these characters and hope for the best despite the threat of the worst.

If there’s one thing I didn’t care for and would’ve liked to see changed, it’s the ending of the story for Josh and Luis, two teens whom Ramola and Natalie meet while trying to get to the hospital. They were in the story for only a short time, but I really grew to like those goofy nerds and would’ve liked to see more of them in the story, or maybe in a story of their own. And not just because they were Doctor Who fans (Whovians, unite!).

All in all, Survivor Song by Paul Tremblay is a thrilling and emotional read and perfect for these mad times. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving the book a 4.5. Stay inside, grab a bite, and get ready for one roller-coaster of a story. Just hope the bite you grab isn’t something biting your arm off while you’re at it.

And while I still have your attention, guess what happened last night? Stephen King tweeted about this book, and I replied mentioning my progress in it and when I hoped to have it finished. He retweeted it. King retweeted it! And I’ve been fangirling ever since (while at the same time daring to hope this isn’t the last time I end up on his radar). What a world, right?

Recently, I saw a couple of people on my social media mention that they’re writing stories taking place at the tail end of or during the COVID-19 pandemic. You know, the pandemic we’re dealing with now and which we’re still far from out of the woods of? This intrigued me, especially when I realized I could incorporate the pandemic into one of the stories I wanted to work on this year, if I set it after the pandemic was over!

Out of curiosity, I consulted my writer friends on if you can write such a story. And if so, how you go about doing it. Nearly everyone said that yes, you can write a story set after our current crisis. A few even had advice to give me, while at the same time warning me that there’s going to be “a glut of COVID-19 stories” and I should be careful what I put out. One person mentioned that I should market the story as science fiction, seeing as it will take place in the future. Another suggested that I keep the story for a while, at least until the pandemic is actually over. That way, I can edit it if I get my predictions on what will happen wrong.

The best advice, I think, was that a good author will take notes. Remember when certain things happen, look up those things if you can’t, and try to note details that might come in handy in building the world.

As to other practical advice, I guess you should just write a story that you would write.

Yeah, I got nothing else. Sorry, but I’ve only written one story that takes place during the early days of the pandemic, and I’ve never written a story that takes place after the pandemic. I’m going to try with my next story, which obviously means I’m not going to post advice before I do.

So, I’ll be doing what every writer should do: writing the stories only they can write. I think I have a unique view on a certain aspect of our current pandemic and how it can translate into a short horror story. I’m working on an outline, and afterwards, I’ll work on that story. I’m not sure if it’ll be any good, but at least I’ll have tried. And given how stressful our current day and age is, it might prove therapeutic.

Write the story you’re going to write. Even if it takes place after the pandemic.

In summary, if you have an idea of a story that takes place after the COVID-19 pandemic, feel free to write and explore it. It’ll take some work, and you may have to change some things depending on how events play out, but only you can write this story. Might as well try it for that reason alone.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Remember, the one-year publishing anniversary of Rose is coming up, and you have the opportunity to submit questions for a YouTube Q&A. Just send an email to ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com with your name, where you’re from, and up to two questions before noon on June 17th, and they may appear in the video. Not only that, but anyone who submits from the US and UK may be eligible for a download code for the Rose audio book.

In the meantime, I’ve got dinner to make and evening plans to get to. Until next time, stay safe and pleasant nightmares!

Hi everyone. I know it’s been a while since I last posted something (eight days, actually), but I didn’t have anything lately I felt passionate posting about. Until now, that is. You see, just a little while ago, the Ohio chapter of the Horror Writers Association finished a chapter meeting. Not only that, but it was our first Zoom meeting, and we had a pretty decent turnout. We’d been discussing doing things virtually for a while now, but COVID-19 really pushed us to do things online.

And that probably had a big part in our discussion during the meeting. We got onto talking about how COVID-19 has been affecting the writing industry, from the stories we tell to the events we go to. And it has been changing. Or at the very least, it’s in a state of flux.

If you’re part of the writing community as well, you know how it is. A lot of events had to be canceled because of the virus. StokerCon, the biggest horror convention in the world, was canceled, as was ParaPsyCon in Mansfield, OH, which I was supposed to attend. More than a few authors I’ve spoken to have said that their summer travel plans have been canceled and they’ll be spending more time at home than expected. And there’s a good chance my summer plans will be canceled by the end of next month, if not sooner.

Some events have moved online. A writer friend of mine told us during the meeting that he was supposed to give a talk in London around April, but it was moved online. According to him, it had probably more attendees than if he’d been there in person. And there are more events moving online. Hell, some people prefer it that way. Sure, you miss the personal touch that comes from doing cons and panels and readings face-to-face, and maybe lose a little business. But it can be easier on our schedules and wallets and, at least these days, health.

Perhaps some of our events will move online permanently.

Then there are the stories we write. A lot of discussion has gone on about how coronavirus is affecting what we weave together with words. Many of you already know that I’ve written a story, What Errour Awoke, which includes the virus for most of the story as part of the setting. And since then, I’ve had a few more ideas that take place during this current crisis, after this crisis, or uses imagery from the crisis to enhance the terror.

This virus is changing so much of our industry.

For others though, this pandemic has put a crimp in their writing plans. More than a few people have said their planned pandemic or zombie stories have been put on hold or readjusted due to COVID-19. One of my fellow writers mentioned how her students turned in a story about zombies created from the COVID-19 vaccine, and how she told said student that it wouldn’t be published (sounds too much like I Am Legend, for one thing). Others have mentioned how a lot of their stories have become period pieces, because they’ve had to move their stories to pre-COVID days. Or how they don’t think they can use COVID-19 in their work right now because they’re going through the pandemic right now, and don’t have the right mindset right now for those sort of stories.

I mentioned how I expected a lot of people to write Gothic stories about evil homes, inspired by being cooped up in their homes and the stress caused by that. Others mentioned how themes of isolation, fear of touch, of each other, might show up more in our fiction.

And this is likely only a few changes that will occur in the industry. Probably, we will see more changes to stories, publishing, marketing and event planning. What they will be, I can’t say for certain. I can only guess. But I think, at some point, we can expect plenty of writing about them.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ll hopefully have a new post out very soon. Remember, you can still get a signed copy of Rose from yours truly. Send me an email for details. And until next time, stay safe and pleasant nightmares!