Posts Tagged ‘reflections’

Happy Monday, everyone! How are you? Did you have a good weekend? I did…until Sunday evening, when an incident occurred in the vicinity of my apartment complex that required the police to be called. Yeah, that happened. Don’t worry, I’m fine, as is everyone who was involved, as far as I know. I won’t go into details, just saying that stuff happened and while I didn’t have a front-row seat, I heard quite a bit of it.

Which led to me staying up later than I meant to, getting a headache that lasted all night and through most of the morning, and feeling so off when I got up that I nearly called in sick to work. Yeah, I was not a happy lord of evil and master of nightmares.

Thankfully, the events outside gave me some wicked inspiration for a short story. And feeling that inspiration take hold, after work was done and after dinner was consumed, I sat down to write the story. And I finished it all, as the title suggested, in one sitting. I can only think of one other time that’s happened, it’s that rare. And a good thing too, because writing all that in one go is exhausting. All you other writers know what I’m talking about.

Anyway, details about the story. The House That Comes and Goes is about a white colonial house that suddenly appears in a vacant lot one night, and a nurse who goes to investigate after someone she knows go into the house and doesn’t emerge. How is it related to events in my neighborhood? Well, the opening loosely reflects what happened in my neighborhood. I won’t say much else lest I give away spoilers, but I have to say, this story was great revenge against the people who kept me awake and made me feel sick.

Now, what’s going to happen with this story? Well, it’s very short for one of my stories, 3,353 words, so I think I could find it a good home much more easily than some of my other stories.* First, however, I’m going to see if I can’t get it looked at and get some feedback so I can edit and improve it. I’ve already reached out to a couple of interested people, so now it’s just a matter of waiting for a response.

In the meantime, tomorrow I’ll return to my Victorian England story (which is coming along very well, by the way). At the rate I’m going, I think I’ll be finished around mid-May, which works great for me. After all, my goal is still to finish ten short(er) stories between March and December this year, and I’m well on-track for that.

In the meantime though, there’s a nice, warm bed calling my name. Goodnight, my Followers of Fear. Stay safe, be healthy, and pleasant nightmares to you all!

*Yeah, that’s a lot for one day. I’m not sure how I did that in one sitting, either. But on the bright side, at least I didn’t write something a whole lot longer in one sitting. Can you imagine what I’d be like after writing a story like that?

Sometimes, when working on a story, we find that it might be a bit longer than you had originally anticipated. And then you find out it’s going to be much longer. Perhaps even the length of a novel.

I may be on the verge of one such story. There’s a good chance after I begin writing this story set in Victorian England, it may not end as a novella, as I expected, but a full novel. And after finishing Toyland less than two months ago, plus River of Wrath to edit still (which I plan to do very soon, believe me), it feels too soon. And it’s hard to judge how big these stories can get just based on the outline I wrote up these past couple of days. Perhaps it just feels like a novel based on what I wrote up and will still be under sixty-thousand words, the threshold I establish for novels.

Then again, River of Wrath was originally supposed to be a novelette, but ended up being somewhere over sixty-thousand words. Not to mention there are two or three other stories I’ve written that I plan to someday expand into longer stories. This might be another sort of story like that.

Well, I always knew my plans for this year might change, depending on how things develop. And I am dying to get into this story, so one way or another, I’m going to write it and see where it goes. I just hope that when it’s done, no matter its length, it’ll be one hell of a story.

I also hope that when it’s finished, I’ve come up with a good title for it. I hear those are essential for telling a good story.

Well, that’s all I wanted to say. Just wanted to get all that off my chest before the writing process began. I’m off to board a carriage drawn by four demonic horses and driven by a skeletal figure in a top hat to take me to a fear-infested past. Wish me luck on my journey.

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

What’s up, Followers of Fear and other assorted humans? Recently, at the start of my self-isolation, I read a historical fiction novel with supernatural overtones called The Deep, which I thoroughly enjoyed (see my full review here). Having spoken with the author of The Deep, Alma Katsu, a few times over Twitter, I thought I’d ask if she’d like to be interviewed. She agreed, and the following interview resulted. Ladies, gentlemen, and non-binary gentility, allow me to introduce the author of The Deep and The Hunger (which is on my TBR list), Alma Katsu!

Rami Ungar: Welcome to the blog, Ms. Katsu. Please tell us a bit about yourself and your work.

Alma Katsu: My name is Alma Katsu and I’m the author of five novels, all historical with some element of horror or the supernatural. My most recent book is THE DEEP, a reimagining of the sinking of the Titanic and its sister ship the Britannic. My previous novel was THE HUNGER, a reimagining of the story of the Donner Party. I was very lucky with THE HUNGER, as the book made a number of best books of the year lists and was nominated for several awards, including from Locus magazine and the Bram Stoker Awards.

RU: Please tell us about The Hunger and The Deep, what inspired them and what the writing process for them was like.

AK: Both books are similar, in that they use a historical event as a springboard for a story, but different, too. THE HUNGER is a more of a dystopian—some people have compared it to Cormac McCarthy’s THE ROAD, and Dan Simmons’ THE TERROR. But both books are reflections of the eras in which they took place, which means THE DEEP is a more romantic story, very much of the Edwardian era, with its love of occultism and spiritualism. I tend to write character-driven stories, which might make for a slower pace than some fans of thrillers prefer, but I think it will hit the spot for people looking for a richer read.

 

My writing process for these books might seem a bit heretical, depending on what you’ve heard from other writers of historical fiction but I keep a very tight schedule doing the research. I was a professional researcher for over 30 years, so I have the benefit of a lot of trial and error and learning what works for me. I do a lot of on-the-spot research along the way, of course. Generally it takes 4-6 months to write the first draft, and then there are rounds of edits, some of which can end up changing the story quite a bit. Writing a novel is definitely a marathon, not a sprint!

RU: Or several marathons, sometimes. Continuing on the topic of historical fiction, obviously you have to take some creative liberties when it comes to famous events in history for the sake of the story. How do you decide what changes to make and how do you go about making them?

AK: Historical fiction is quite a big tent. Some books strive to be reproductions of historical fact with a thin veneer of fiction on top, but that’s not me. I use the historical event as the basis of another story, a different story, usually centered around a theme. The idea behind the THE DEEP has to do with women’s rights, which was a huge issue of the day. In the novel, you see a range of women, poor and very, very rich, struggling with the confines placed on their lives by society. On one end you have Annie Hebbley, the main character, a poor Irish girl who has come to work on the Titanic, and on the other, Madeline Astor, new second wife of JJ Astor, the richest man in America. In between you have a woman doctor (a rarity of the day), an aristocrat who earned her living running a high fashion house, and other poor women with few choices. There’s also the issue of class, and I can think of few settings better to explore this issue than the Titanic!

The changes I make to the historical record are in order to tell the story I’m trying to tell. As long as readers understand that, and are willing to give me a chance to tell them an entertaining and (hopefully) enlightening story, I don’t think there’s an issue.

RU: I have to ask, how hard was it to resist making a snarky reference to the movie Titanic in The Deep? Because the temptation would’ve killed me if I resisted.

AK: I hadn’t seen the movie until I went to write the book, because the movie is what most people today think of when they hear “Titanic,” and I wanted to know what their expectations would be. So, while it wasn’t my favorite movie of all time, I can see why it was popular, and what chords to strike with some people.

RU: You also host a podcast called “Damned History,” about the history behind the stories you write. Can you tell us a little more about that, and the writing process for each individual episode?

AK: The idea for the podcast came from the talks I gave on tour. Audiences told me they got a lot from the talks that enhanced their understanding of my books, but there are only so many people who are going to make it to a live event, so I thought podcasts were the perfect medium to make them available to anyone, anywhere. So, the material in the podcasts for THE HUNGER come from my book tour.

 

For the episodes for THE DEEP, they’re more on what I think people might find interesting, or what the questions so far have been about, so there’s one episode on Titanic conspiracy theories, and another on some of the real people on the Titanic.

RU: Are you working on anything new right now? And are there any historical events you would like to write about stories about someday?

AK: I’m working on the next historical novel right now, which will deal with World War II, and gearing up for the release of my first spy novel next year, RED WIDOW. This is a first for me, drawing on my career in intelligence, and I hope readers will give it a try.

RU: I’ll check them out, especially the WWII novel. That was the focus of my history major in college, after all. So, when you’re not writing, researching or podcasting, what do you do with your time?

AK: Working! I may retired from government but am still a consultant. There’s a lot of juggling going on in my life right now.

RU: I know what that’s like. What is some advice you would give other authors, regardless of background or experience?

AK: Write and read. Read a lot, read outside of your genre. And try to write every day, write through problems in your story, because writing is like a muscle.

RU: Finally, if you were stuck on a desert island for a while and could only bring three books with you until you were picked up, which would you bring with you?

AK: That’s tough. I’m not one of those writers who worships a particular book, and I like to use my reading to study how other writers have handled a particular issue in writing. I’d definitely have a Sandor Marai book among them, because I love the way he unfolds these terribly complex stories. Right now, I’m enjoying good mystery writing, particularly those of Laura Lippmann and Denise Mina. I like old Barbara Vine mysteries, too.

RU: All are excellent choices. Thanks for coming on the blog, Ms. Katsu. I hope you come by again with your next book.

 

Both The Deep and The Hunger are available from most book retailers. If you would like to check out Ms. Katsu’s podcast Damned History, you can find it on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify and Soundcloud. And you can find more about Ms. Katsu herself on her website Alma Katsu Books, as well as on Twitter.

If you would like to see more interviews I’ve done with authors, check out my Interviews page.

And if you’re an author who will be releasing a book soon or just released a new one and would like to be interviewed, send me an email at ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com. If I’m available, we’ll make some magic happen.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. If you’re celebrating a holiday this weekend, I hope you’re finding it spiritually satisfying. Until next time, stay safe, be healthy, and pleasant nightmares!

This story is set in the Cthulhu Mythos (and may or may not involve the big tentacled guy. I aim to keep you guessing).

Well, this has been a productive day. Today I finished a new story!

“What Errour Awoke” is a story set in the Cthulhu Mythos.* The story follows Taylor Molton-Reed, a graduate student at my alma mater, Ohio State. One day, while teaching a class on the famous British poem The Faerie Queene, the description of one of the monsters in the poem awakens repressed memories in one of his students of a certain Great Old One (I’ll let you guess which one until you actually read the story). The student later relates to Taylor what he remembered, beginning a chain of events involving this particular eldritch monster and its plans for the people of this world.

This story was actually inspired by my own studies in college. I read the Faerie Queene‘s first book in one of my British literature courses, and remembered one of the monsters in it quite particularly. Years later, after I’d gotten deep into Lovecraft’s canon and became familiar with many of the entities in the story, I found myself thinking back on that monster and thinking to myself, “Hey, wait a minute! That sounds a lot like such-and-such entity!” Thus the idea for this story was birthed.

I had a lot of fun writing this story. For one thing, it’s set right in the Cthulhu Mythos, and there’s a certain thrill for me when it comes to writing stories set in that world (possibly because I’m an entity right out of that world?). For another, the majority of it takes place during our current pandemic. so it was cathartic to write about. I’ve compared the coronavirus to a Lovecraftian entity in the past, so writing about it in a Cthulhu Mythos story felt especially apropos. And finally, I had a lot of fun applying something other than the writing courses from my English major to a story, and modeling certain parts of the story after the first book of Faerie Queene.

In fact, I liked this story so much, I decided to put this into that collection of short stories I’ve been working on and switch out one of the weaker stories in it. That’s how much I loved it, and how confident I am readers will enjoy it.

Now, for the stats on the story. “What Errour Awoke” totaled out to 63 pages and 17,880 words, the last 13 pages and 3,880 words written over the course of this afternoon and evening (yeah, I went on one hell of a writing binge). This puts it at a novelette, so I’m two for two on getting at least one short(er) story done per month for the rest of 2020. Hopefully I can keep that up with the next story, which I’ll likely finish in May.

Speaking of which, what’s next? Well, I’ll be reaching out to some writers I know who may be able to give me some valuable feedback on how to edit “What Errour Awoke.” And while they’re doing that, I’ll be starting work on the last story for that collection, a novelette or novella set in my beloved Victorian England. Believe me, it’s going to be a strange one. A wonderfully strange one.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. There’s a late Shabbat dinner and an Avengers movie calling my name. Until next time, Shabbat Shalom, stay safe, be healthy, and pleasant nightmares.

*Which means, if my parents ever read this story, they’re not going to get any of the references and think I made up more than I did for this story.

Those of you who don’t follow me on my other social media platforms may not know this, but at least once a week, usually Saturday, I post links to my novel Rose. The hope is, with enough regular mentions, people will notice the book and be tempted to read the book. If they see it often, it will worm under their skin and the possibility of entertainment they’re missing out on will nag at them. Perhaps they’ll even check it out just to see if they really are missing out.

It’s a simple strategy, but it does work. Not to the point where I’m getting dozens of new readers or reviews every week, but it does get results. For example, just this past week or so, Rose received two new ratings on Goodreads. And not too long ago, Rose received a bunch of new ratings on Amazon Canada and Amazon UK. And I think these consistent ads may have played a role in all of these new ratings.

And as I write this, I wonder if these new ratings are just a fraction of the new people reading Rose. They just haven’t let me know what they think as of yet.

This is why I keep posting about Rose. I want people to find the book. Someone like Stephen King may only need to post a couple of times about their upcoming book, and they’ll have thousands of pre-orders within hours. Less well-known but very established horror authors will post regular ads just to remind people that their book is coming out or that it’s already out or that it’s been out for a while. My philosophy is that I have to do ten times the work in order to get half of what I want. What I want is to have as many people as possible read my stories. So obviously, I’ll do what I can to get people to notice Rose.

I just can’t post everyday, because it would cost way too much money or because people would get sick of seeing Rose mentioned on my timeline. Or both.

In any case, I have a feeling that all my efforts are going to pay off even more than usual. Because COVID-19 has a lot of people isolating in their homes, they’re looking for new sources of entertainment, including books. Perhaps they’ll see Rose mentioned somewhere and think, “Hmm, that might pass the time for me. I’ll give it a read.”

Not the ideal way for someone to notice my work, but there you go.

And no matter the situation, I’ll keep writing and posting about my stories, with the hope that more people will notice and maybe want to read it. With any luck, they’ll find their new favorite horror story, and I’ll have another reader interested in my next book or publication, whenever that comes out.

And if this post has got you at all interested in Rose, I’ll post the links below. Yeah, of course I would insert an ad into this post, what did you expect? Anyway, if you’re not familiar, Rose is the story of a young woman who wakes up with no memories of the past two years. Pretty quickly, her body undergoes a startling transformation, becoming a human/plant hybrid. As those around her react to her transformation, she soon realizes they’re not all they seem, leading to a desperate fight for survival.

It’s some dark, creepy shit and you can check it out by clicking on the links below. And if you do end up reading Rose, let me know what you think. Positive or negative, I love feedback from readers, and they help me out in the long run.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. If, like me, you’re celebrating Passover, then Happy Passover (and next year in person). If you’re celebrating Easter this weekend, Happy Easter. And no matter what you believe or don’t believe, stay safe, be healthy, and pleasant nightmares to you all.

Rose: Available from the links below.

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

For the past week, I’ve been working hard on a new story, the majority of which takes place during our current crisis. You know the one I’m talking about. And you know what? It’s been cathartic to write about.

I’ve said before that writing can be very good for your mental health. Recently, I posted my thoughts about the COVID-19 pandemic and it made me feel a hundred times better about the whole situation. In fact, lately I’ve felt like a million bucks. Still, I do feel the occasional twinge of worry or other negative emotions when I consider all we’re going through.

So these past two nights, when I’ve written my protagonist’s reactions to the pandemic and how it’s affecting him mentally and emotionally, as well as recounting how he and others treat the crisis, it was kind of freeing. Like I was channeling not just my own feelings, but the feelings of other people in this situation.

I’ve heard a lot of people, both in and outside of the horror genre, as well as people who don’t write, saying that there’s going to be a lot of new fiction based on this crisis. If I’m any indication, we’ll be seeing that fiction coming out sooner rather than later. Maybe within the next few months. And I think we’re going to see that, for the majority of these authors, setting a story during the COVID-19 crisis is their way of processing their feelings and what they or others were going through.

What sort of stories we’ll get from this crisis, I’m not sure. I feel like a lot of them will just use the crisis as a backdrop, similar to how The Deep by Alma Katsu uses the Titanic and its sister ship the Britannic as backdrops for a ghost story (see my review here of that book here). In my case, I’m writing a Lovecraftian horror story, which makes sense because I see the virus as almost a Lovecraftian antagonist a la Nyarlathotep, and the pandemic acts as a sort of base for the terror and paranoia that my characters will feel later in the story.

I have a few other predictions. In terms of romance stories, we’ll see stories about people falling in love from afar due to social distancing, or falling in love due to being stuck in the same area together. We may also get a lot of new Gothic horror stories. Why do I say that? Because since people started sequestering themselves in their home, my article on Gothic horror has been seeing huge spikes in views. Makes sense, I suppose: as much as people love their homes, even being cooped up 24/7 in the best homes can be taxing. And since Gothic horror stories tend to focus mainly on houses as the source of the horror, people are either reminding themselves that their home isn’t so bad as being stuck in The Overlook, or they’re planning on channeling their frustration into stories about homes as a source of horror.

Perhaps writing about this virus can help relieve stress over it as well.

Whatever stories result, I highly encourage authors to write their stories about the coronavirus. Especially if the story helps you process what you’re going through right now. Even if you’re not an author, writing your feelings down can be therapeutic, so go ahead and write whatever you feel. Doesn’t have to be deep or poetic, just as long as it gets your feelings out in a healthy way.

Doing so may not alleviate the crisis or all the problems the crisis is causing to pop up, but at least you’ll feel better for the activity.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I hope you’re staying safe and healthy and are doing well. And if you need a pick-me-up, here’s the link to a cute video of foxes laughing and getting cuddles to make you smile.

Until next time, Shabbat Shalom and pleasant nightmares!

The other day, I posted my thoughts on the COVID-19 virus. Among those thoughts was my desire for writers and readers alike to support authors who will be struggling during the ongoing crisis. For a lot of authors, this crisis will cut into conventions, teaching seminars, readings, and so much more that they rely on to sell their books and use their craft. The best thing we can do for those authors is to support them. This could be by buying their work, writing their reviews, anything else you can do to help them out while we’re all stuck inside and trying to protect our health.

That said, there’s an opportunity to do just that.

I’ve known Jason Stokes, owner of Gestalt Media, for about a year. He’s a writer whose work I’ve read and reviewed, but he’s also the owner of a publishing company that tries to give authors the best experience with a publisher as possible. This includes better royalty rates and more control over the creative process than you might find at another publisher. And the model’s worked so far; in the year or so they’ve been in business, Gestalt Media has acquired a number of authors, many of them horror authors, and are sending their stories into the marketplace.

Not only that, but Gestalt Media put together a charity anthology last year for victims of the Virginia Beach shooting which included the likes of Stephen King and Neil Gaiman. Yeah, not kidding, those authors let their short stories be used in the anthology, Dark Tides, to benefit victims and families of victims of that charity. You can check out the anthology’s Amazon page by clicking on this link.

Anyway, just like authors everywhere else, Gestalt Media is working hard to support its authors during this difficult time. They’re raising money on GoFundMe to ensure their authors are able to whether the storm, and they’ve already made almost ten percent of their goal. And for every dollar they make, companies like GoFundMe, Intuit and Yelp will match them. Yeah, every dollar does count here!*

Now, I know a lot of you might be struggling yourselves during this difficult time. Many of us are out of work and unable to make an income during this crisis. I understand. But if you are able to help somehow, please consider doing so.  I’m lucky enough to still be working and making enough money to meet my needs, so I was able to donate. And if I can, I want to help further, so I’m spreading the word where I can.

And if you can’t help out monetarily, maybe consider sharing the campaign on your social media. The more people who know about this,  the more people will be likely to donate. And if you can help out monetarily, great! You’ll be helping out plenty of authors.

Whatever way you can help, please do. We’re all in this together. In fact, the whole point of all these measures is to make sure we all get through the crisis together. This would only be a continuation of the communal preservation we’re engaging in.

And if you can’t help out, that’s fine too. We all have things we can and can’t do, even now.

Well, that’s all for now, Followers of Fear. I’ll include the link for the fundraiser down below. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

Gestalt Media Creators Relief Fund

*How they were able to work that deal, I don’t know, but I’m not going to complain when they’re able to get results.