Posts Tagged ‘review’

I was going to wait until I got an update from my publisher* or until Tuesday, one month from when Rose is released, but I got impatient.

So as you probably know by now, my upcoming fantasy-horror novel Rose is on target to be published June 21st, 2019 by Castrum Press. The story follows a young woman who turns into a plant creature (and that’s just the start of her problems). Yes, that trippy subject is what the novel’s about. Yes, I sold that to a publisher. And yes, it is coming out in a little over a month.

Obviously, I’m over the moon with excitement. I’m also dealing with a lot of nervousness and a touch of anxiety, but I’m working a multi-pronged approached to make sure the novel is a success. One of those prongs is through advanced readers, people who receive electronic copies prior to the book’s official release with the hopes they’ll read it, like it, and maybe help spread the word by telling friends or writing reviews online (encouraged, but not required).

And you know what? I’m still looking for more advanced readers.

I’ve managed to build up a pretty big list of advanced readers, but I could always use a few more. So from now until June 7th, if you or someone you know would like to get on the advanced reader list, all you have to do is send an email to ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com. Once I have that, I’ll add your name to the list and then we just have to wait. Once I know the advanced copies are being sent out, I’ll notify you via email to give you a heads-up.

Thanks, and I look forward to hearing from you all.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I should have more updates on Rose as we get closer and closer to the release date. You may even get a little annoyed with me talking about the book so much (but can you blame me?). But of course, it’s all in the name of making sure plenty of people get to read the book, so why not?

Until next time (which, for all I know, might be anytime between today and Tuesday), happy reading and pleasant nightmares!

*Speaking of which, Castrum Press has just released a new anthology, Alien Days, featuring a variety of authors writing about what our first contact with extraterrestrials might be like. A terrifying subject, even if it’s not horror. Please make sure to check it out on Amazon. I’ll be downloading a copy very soon, and I can’t wait.

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I’ve been meaning to write this post for over a week. But as you know from my last post, this past week has been predictably crazy for me.

I heard about Hallie Rubenhold’s The Five and was immediately interested. The book retraces the lives of the five victims of Jack the Ripper: Polly Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elisabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes, and Mary Jane Kelly and proposes to shed a new light on them. I’m no Ripperologist (someone who studies the Ripper murders), not even an amateur one, but I’ve done a fair amount of reading on the subject and am always interested if someone has discovered something new about the case. And the lives of the five women who made the Ripper famous finally being told? I’m in.

I dove in as soon as I got my copy from the library…and the resulting read blew my mind. You see, for over a hundred and thirty years, the consensus–the one thing that every Ripperologist agrees on–is that the victims were confirmed prostitutes. But is that really the case? Diving into historical records and her understanding of the nineteenth century’s social beliefs around women and barely mentioning the Ripper at all, Ms. Rubenhold provides a convincing case to support that we may have been looking at the “Canonical Five”–and thus the Ripper–all wrong.  In fact, only the final victim, Mary Jane Kelly, was confirmed to make a living through prostitution, and there’s evidence she may have been trafficked at some point.

In fact, Polly Nichols was a wife and mother whose family gained lodging in public housing reserved for families with high moral standing; Annie Chapman was upper-middle class with an upwardly-mobile husband; Elisabeth Stride was a Swedish immigrant from a religious background who ran a coffeehouse with her husband; and Catherine Eddowes was educated for most of her younger life and often made life choices on what would allow her the most freedom. Mary Jane Kelly, we don’t know, as many of the details she gave of her life were contradictory and possibly fabricated, but she could’ve come from a respectable background, as she started out as a high-end courtesan, and they don’t let just anyone into those circles.

How did these women end up as prostitutes in the popular mind?

Well, in the eyes of nineteenth-century society, any woman who wasn’t, by all appearances anyway, a successful wife and mother with the temperance of the saint, a clean and happy household, and only had a sexual side when her husband desired sex, she was a failure as a woman. She was “broken.” Which often was equated as a “fallen woman,” which was often equated with prostitution. Often, women in these positions had to take up with men who were either not their husbands or had common-law marriages, which was also considered a sort of prostitution.

And for a number of these women, circumstances in their lives forced them to leave families and husbands and often take lives on the streets, without husbands or homes, which meant in society’s eyes they were fallen, and therefore likely prostitutes. The newspapers at the time, more concerned with selling than telling the truth, did little or nothing to dissuade that notion, even when friends and acquaintances for the victims came forward and swore in inquests the victims did not resort to prostitution. Thus a belief, and the theory shaped around it, was formed.

This is significant for a number of reasons. From the perspective of history and Ripperology, it totally changes everything we know. Ms. Rubenhold presents a good case that the Canonical Five were actually incapacitated or sleeping and not in any state of mind to fend off an attacker, rather than attacked while soliciting. This changes the entire MO of the Ripper, the field of study around the murders, and over a century’s worth of media on the subject (though some of the latter we can still find entertaining, as long as we remind ourselves how much of it is fiction).

But more importantly, this is a feminist triumph in history. For a hundred and thirty years, The Five have been dismissed and looked over except in the context of their deaths and whoever killed them. Even my copy of The Complete Jack the Ripper doesn’t go into much detail on their lives. But this book and its author, through hard work and looking over every scrap of documentation available out there, reminds us these women were just women, more often at mercy to forces beyond their control and the double-standard Victorian women faced than willful participants in the world’s oldest profession. At least three suffered from alcoholism. One got pregnant out of wedlock and developed syphilis, and was demonized for it. They did everything they could to stay out of the workhouses, which could forever ruin someone who was forced to enter them. They tried to find love and happiness. They tried to get by in an age and place where women on their own had it very hard.

Imagine if AA had been available to the Five and sobriety was understood to be not a choice but hard work. Imagine if, instead of being demonized for leaving their husbands or getting pregnant/diseases out of wedlock, the authorities looked at the men in their lives. Imagine if they were allowed to pursue lives they wanted, rather than what was expected of them, and not shamed for not fulfilling expectations.

This is especially relevant in today’s age. Despite a lot of progress, women still have their sexuality used against them socially and legally. Since I finished reading The Five, I’ve seen several articles and tweets about men getting little or no jail time for rape, simply because there was only one victim and they were unlikely to reoffend. Here in my home state of Ohio, a minor who was raped and impregnated can’t get an abortion because of a new restrictive abortion law. Clearly, on some level, society still feels women should be punished for being anything other than the ideal wife and mother, and it’s their own fault if they’re not.

This is why you should be reading Hallie Rubenhold’s The Five: not only does it present convincing new evidence on a century-old case and force us to reevaluate everything we knew, but it’s a call to remind us just how much has stayed the same since 1888, and what we can do to improve that in the future. And in the future, if I ever write my own Ripper-themed story, I’ll call back to The Five as I write the story, and keep in mind the lives of these women.

So please, check out The Five‘s page on Amazon, and consider reading it. You’ll find it a revelation as much as I did.

I listened to The Stranger Beside Me by true crime writer Ann Rule, who actually knew Ted Bundy, on audio book to prepare for this movie (and that’s the extent to my knowledge of Bundy). In the days leading up to this film’s release on Netflix, I was excited to see this adaptation. Nearly thirty years after the man’s death, would this film, along with the Netflix documentary (I know, I need to watch it, I just haven’t gotten around to it yet), introduce a new generation to the shocking murders of Ted Bundy?

Well, I went in expecting a different kind of movie, but I came out satisfied with what I got.

Based on the memoir The Phantom Prince: My Life with Ted Bundy by his real-life girlfriend Elizabeth Kloepfer (known as Liz Kendall in the film and Meg Anders in The Stranger Beside Me), Extremely Wicked follows the romance of Bundy and Kloepfer, how they got together, how Bundy’s arrest in Utah, his two escape attempts in Colorado, his final trial in Florida, during which he marries one of his groupies but (seemingly) still has feelings for Liz, and finally his execution in Florida.

I think what I like the most about this film is its star-studded cast. Everyone embodies their characters so well. Zac Efron as Bundy comes across as a sympathetic, lovestruck man who finds his life falling to pieces around him and the one good thing in it drifting away, while Lily Collins as Liz Kendall does a great job as a woman who put so much into her relationship with this seemingly-perfect man, only to grapple with his crimes. John Malkovich as Judge Edward Cowart did the man an honor, combining the judge’s Southern gentility with his own deadpan acting method (finally, a film from this year that doesn’t waste the guy’s talent). And Jim Parsons made me forget at certain moments that I was watching Sheldon Cooper. I actually had to watch the scene where he delivers his opening remarks as prosecutor Larry Simpson twice, it was so chilling. Parsons could lead a legal drama now that The Big Bang Theory is done.

I also like how the film balances a romantic storyline with what is mostly a courtroom drama. Unlike other films, Extremely Wicked doesn’t go to great lengths to show Bundy’s depravity or murders, but instead hints and flits around it until the final scene of the film. Its focus is showing how the ongoing legal saga affects Bundy and Kloepfer’s relationship and vice versa, as well as the psychological toll on Bundy. The director knew what they were going for with this film, and in that aspect it succeeded.

If I have one gripe with this film, it’s that romanticizes Bundy a little too much. Bundy’s always had a number of female fans who find him attractive despite what he’s done.* Even actors portraying him have awakened the wrong kind of fascination in teenage and young women (Ann Rule relates some of the phone calls she got after The Deliberate Stranger with Mark Harmon aired in 1986 in her book). Zac Efron is a very handsome actor, no doubt of that, and in the interest of focusing on his romance and courtroom battles, Extremely Wicked glosses over the evil in its title and makes Bundy out to be more of a sweet, hurt man than a calculating serial killer. And I’m not sure that was the best decision.

I also would’ve liked to see Ann Rule make an appearance in the film, but I think I can live without that.

On the whole, I give Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile a score of 4 out of 5. While its POV Is slightly skewed, its an entrancing thriller that draws you into the story and the bloodless battle occurring on screen. Take a look, and prepare yourself for a ride.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I hope to have one or two more posts out before the weekend is done.

In the meantime, I’m still looking for advanced readers for my upcoming fantasy-horror novel, Rose, about a young woman who starts turning into a plant creature (and that’s just the start of her problems). In exchange for an early electronic copy, all I ask is you read it and consider posting a review after the release. Anyone interested should send me an email at ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com.

Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

*The scientific name for attraction to dangerous partners, by the way, is called hybristophilia. Theories to how it arises range from evolutionary desires for strong and capable partners to romantic notions of wanting to change/help a damaged partner to wanting fame or even just knowing the partner is stuck in a jail cell and won’t go anywhere. The more you know.

My car, the Unholy Roller.

This past weekend was a busy one for me, all due to it being the Jewish holiday of Passover (which, if you’re unfamiliar, is us celebrating the events movies like Ten Commandments and Prince of Egypt are based on). Among other things, I somehow ended up tying the musical Hamilton to two different dinners, played a prank on my stepmom that I posted on YouTube (you can watch it here), ate more food lacking in yeast and drank more wine than is probably recommended, and watched a lot of anime and Lucifer.

However, what feels for me like the highlight of my weekend was something quite different. As some of you know, I only got my driver’s license this past July after nearly ten years of on-and-off instruction and practice, and my car, the Unholy Roller, this past October. Since then, I’ve had a number of firsts: driving to work, driving to the movie theater, driving on the highway without anyone else beside me, driving at night, driving in the rain, driving in the rain at night, driving at night in the rain on the highway (not something I’m ready to repeat anytime soon). And this past weekend, I racked up another first: my first road trip.

You see, I live in Columbus, Ohio and my dad lives in Cleveland, which meant I had to drive up to Cleveland to attend his Seder (Passover ritual meal), and then drive back the next day. And I was driving up by myself.

Honestly, I was more than a little nervous. I’ve never driven that long or that far on my own, and while I’ve gotten comfortable driving on highways, I’ll never like doing so. But I got some good advice before I embarked, and I made sure to have caffeine and snacks, as well as a full tank of gas, before setting out. And you know what? It went well. Very well. In fact, the ride back home was almost enjoyable. I listened to an audio book both ways, Red Rising by Pierce Brown,* which is one of my favorite science-fiction stories and which kept me calm in the absence of music. This allowed me to enjoy the passing scenery (Ohio has some lovely mountains and farmlands) and keep an eye on the road without getting antsy.

It was fine. Even better, it was fine. And dare I say it…it was fun at times. Lots of fun.

I guess this makes sense for Passover. The ancient Israelites had never been outside Egypt prior to the Exodus, and had no idea of what to expect, though they had been prepared for the trip for a while now. But they left, crossed the Red Sea, and…found numerous instances to complain and want to go back to Egypt, which eventually led to no Israelites entering Israel until all the generation who had known Egypt died off forty years later. But if they hadn’t freaked out and tried to turn around anytime they faced a small inconvenience, they would’ve enjoyed life in the Holy Land instead of dying in the desert.

And I went on a trip, with only a vague idea of what to expect. But I didn’t freak out every time a driver cut in front of me without signaling and tried to turn off and go home. And in the end, I got to my hotel in one piece, enjoyed dinner with my family, and somehow ended up rapping a mini-medley of Hamilton songs with the lyrics changed to reflect Passover (yeah, that was a thing. And it is something only heavy demand will make me repeat). And the next day I got home, easy as pie, with enough time afterwards to relax before cooking dinner.

I would love to revisit the Reformatory and reconnect with the ghosts there someday soon.

And perhaps I’ll do the trip again. I’ve applied for some vacation time at work, and I’d like to spend a few days in Cleveland with my dad and see some of the city’s sites, including the cemetery where James Garfield is buried (yes, I’m bringing the dowsing rods), as well as go back to the Ohio State Reformatory and check out some other haunted locations in Ohio. Now that I know I can, it should be a breeze.

Oh, and before I forget, on the way up I made a pit stop in the village of Bellville, Ohio, which I found to be quintessential small-town Ohio at its best. The Waze app on my phone had me drive around the place a little bit in order to get back on the interstate, and I was charmed by what I saw. Bellville feels like the perfect place to set a novel, and I even have an idea for one cooking in my head. I’ll have to visit again at some point so I can write it and make it feel real. Maybe after visiting my dad and the Reformatory?

I just hope nobody in Bellville minds their town being the setting of a horror novel. Otherwise, I might never be able to return!

Well, that’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m off to have dinner and then do some writing. In the meantime, I’m still looking for advanced readers for my upcoming fantasy-horror novel Rose, being released by Castrum Press. The story follows a young woman who starts turning into a plant creature (and that’s just the start of her problems). In exchange for an early electronic copy, all I ask is you read it and consider posting a review after the book is released. If interested, please email me at ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com.

Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

*They’re slight, but there are some parallels between Moses and Darrow, the main character of Red Rising, which is why I listened to it. Totally recommend the book, by the way. If you want a science-fiction story about a revolution of the have-nots against the haves in a dystopian world but want it to be much more immersive and smarter than Hunger Games, the Red Rising series might just be for you.

I’ve known of the legend of La Llorona, aka The Woman in White or The Weeping Woman, for a while before I heard of this film. A woman drowned her children after her lover was unfaithful to her. Horrified by what she’d done, she either dies of grief or commits suicide, her spirit returning to search for errant children in the vain hope of trading them for her own lost darlings. So when I heard the upcoming film about her would be part of The Conjuring universe, I had to wonder, how would they treat the story? Would she be rewritten as a demon? Or would the filmmakers learn some new tricks and add a bit more to The Conjuring universe as more and more people started to find it formulaic and over-reliant on the jumpscares? I went in today to see it myself.

The Curse of La Llorona follows Anna Garcia, a single mom and social worker whose children become the target of the titular spirit after it takes the lives of two children whose mother she previously worked with. With the church’s process to approve exorcisms taking too long, Anna turns to a local faith healer and former priest. But will it be enough to stop a being driven by an unending grief and obsession?

And I’m sorry to say, this film didn’t really do anything for me. Oh yeah, it had some effective jumpscares and moments of atmosphere. There were quite a few moments where I jumped in my seat. There’s a reverence for the source material here, and you can tell they’re really trying to make this tragic ghostly figure intimidating.

Unfortunately, the formula The Conjuring set up has gotten stale almost five years later. We’ve gotten used to someone experiencing a haunting in their home, calling in an expert, and then a final battle where there’s either triumph or someone loses their soul. And predictability, along with jumpscares that we know to look for, just doesn’t do it anymore. And while the film does flirt with the idea of adding something new–La Llorona herself is not a demon, as past antagonists in the series have been, but a ghost whose obsession has turned her into a dark spirit, and there’s a twist during the climax that I was surprised by–but not enough to add new life to the franchise.

As of the writing of this review, The Conjuring universe has the third (and probably final) Annabelle film, Annabelle Comes Home, coming out in June. After that, everything else is in various stages of development (The Conjuring 3 has a release date but so far hasn’t begun filming yet). If Warner Bros and New Line Cinema want this franchise to continue past Annabelle Comes Home, they’ll have to come up with some new tricks to keep audiences coming back (and no, I don’t mean going to space. Sorry Jason X, you’re a lot of fun, but there’s a silliness about you that can’t be denied. At least you’re not the Friday the 13th remake, though. Beyond Jared Padalecki and the guy playing Jason Voorhees, there’s nothing redeemable about that film. Yeah, I took another shot at that film, and I’m glad I did!).

On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving The Curse of La Llorona a dismal 2. Has ideas, but needed to buck the formula more in order to be anything other than below average.

But you know what (probably) won’t disappoint? My upcoming fantasy-horror novel Rose, being released later this year by Castrum Press. And at the moment, I’m looking for advanced readers for the book, which follows a young woman as she starts turning into a plant creature (and that’s just the start of her problems). In exchange for an early electronic copy, all I ask is that you read the book and consider posting a review on or after the release date. If you’re interested, please send me an email at ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com.

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

As I said in a recent post, I’ve had to scale back on how much writing I attempt to get done each evening because I try to go to bed earlier. To be more specific, I used to aim for at least a thousand words a night, or about four pages. However, I get tired more easily and need more sleep, so I go to bed earlier. Thus instead of a thousand, I aim for at least five-hundred or two pages.

Which to us wordsmiths can seem like quite the downgrade. One of the ways we measure our progress with our stories is by word count. So when you have to aim for lower word counts every day, it means you make slower progress and possibly make people wait longer for new stories.

However, that disappointment quickly evaporates when you realize something: while getting a thousand words out is nice, five hundred words is also momentous in and of itself. And that’s because you can say a lot in five-hundred words as well (and I don’t mean in the sense that even a small paragraph is composed of thirty to fifty words).

Let’s flash back to last night. I’m working on a story I’ve been writing on and off for about a year now and which I’m barely halfway through. I could’ve let the amount of writing left to do with this story get to me and keep me from getting a single word down on the page. Instead, I started writing. And lo and behold, I got seven hundred words in. Of those, the first five-hundred are about the narrator’s evolving mental state. And even though it’s still only a first draft, it was actually pretty good. I mean yeah, it could use plenty of cleaning up, but it was still a good passage of story, diving deep into what the narrator has been feeling at that point in her life, and how it’s affecting her relationships with her loved ones. Those two pages or so felt really emotional, almost as if a reader would feel the same emotions as her just by reading about it.

And somehow, I doubt that if I was aiming for a thousand words, I could write such a good section. I think when  was aiming for a thousand words, a part of my brain was urging me to rush on, to get that huge number out of the way so I could claim significant progress. The work I did while aiming for that big number was still good work, or at least I like to think so, but it might still be rushed. With five-hundred words, I recognize on some level that I can take my time, there’s no goal to rush to, and that allows me to write better.

And if I somehow make it to a thousand words? Great, I’m just glad I wasn’t panicking internally about getting there in the first place.

Of course, I would like to get to a point in my life where I aim for a minimum of a thousand words a day, but I want it to be under circumstances where I don’t feel so pressed for time and I can really explore the story and the character while working to reach that word count. That might not be for a long time, seeing as how much time in the day I would need to devote to such a goal conflicts with how much time I actually have to write sometimes. But who knows what the future holds?

Anyway, my point is that you don’t need to go crazy trying to rack up a huge daily word count. What matters most is what is written down during that daily struggle to write. If it’s meaningful and tells the reader a lot and sticks in their heads and ignites all sorts of marvelous images, then wonderful. You’re making great progress on your WIP. If, however, you’re getting a lot down on the page but it’s just a lot of fluff…well, that’s what the editing process is for, after all. Get’s rid of that fluff and replaces it with words of substance.

Either way, it sounds like a win-win. And by the way, this blog post is 814 words. Did I manage to say anything of substance in that amount, do you think?

 

And while I still have your attention, I’m still looking for advanced readers for my upcoming fantasy-horror novel Rose, being released from Castrum Press. The story follows a young woman who starts turning into a plant creature (and that’s just the start of her problems). In exchange for an early electronic copy, all I ask is that you read the book and consider posting a review online once it’s released. If you’re interested, please send me an email at ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com. Thanks, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Remember when we were all skeptical of a new Hellboy film without Ron Perlman? And then we saw early shots of David Harbour of Stranger Things as the titular character and were like, “This could go somewhere”?

Well, I just got back from the theater, and this was a fun little romp. And from the sound of things, I may be the only person saying that, but whatever. This is my blog, so you’re getting my opinion today.

Hellboy follows…Hellboy, a demon creature who was raised by a monster hunter to fight all the creepy-crawlies that go bump in the night. On a mission to England though, he finds himself discovering rather uncomfortable truths about his past and lineage, as well as struggling with whether he is as good a creature as his father wants him to be. All while a powerful witch named Nimue is resurrected with plans to spread a plague across the world and bring on the Apocalypse. Possibly with Hellboy at her side.

I have to say, this feels like a comic book movie. By which I mean, the plot feels lifted right from a comic book. There are tangents and flashbacks galore for exposition. And for the most part that works. It’s fun, fast-paced, and has some great action scenes with lots of movement and kicking of ass. And unlike Us, the sprinkling of jokes throughout the film works here, possibly because it’s a comic book movie (though Us is still a phenomenal film).

I also liked the characters. David Harbour as Hellboy and Sasha Lane as Alice Monaghan, a girl Hellboy once helped and who now works as a medium/apprentice ass-kicker are among my favorites from the film for their chemistry and humor. And for those who were worried about David Harbour as Hellboy, don’t be. Yeah, Ron Perlman will always be great, but Harbour’s essentially playing a different version of the character, one who’s still getting to know himself and figure things out. Thus he’s a lot rougher and has more issues than previous film versions. He also drinks a lot and doesn’t have a million cats throughout his home, so there’s that.

I also enjoyed Milla Jovovich’s performance as Nimue. The character is kind of one-dimensional, but the actress brings angry and on a mission to the role very well. And my God, she does not look a day past 28, and I’m falling in love with her just writing this.

That said, the many flashbacks, some of which are pretty long, can be kind of distracting and are used mainly for lots of info-dumping. I would’ve liked it if maybe some of the flashbacks were shortened so we could get more on Ben Daimio, who I felt needed a more fleshed-out emotional arc. It would make sense to do that rather than have a lengthy flashback about Hellboy’s “birth” with a superhero character named Lobster Johnson who doesn’t really contribute that much to the story. Actually, more than a few characters were in this film with no purpose. There was a witch character who I could not see the point of. She interacts with Nimue, talks to Hellboy, and then leaves. I mean, what the hey?

I get a feeling a lot of creative decisions were made in order to jumpstart a film series or even a cinematic universe, and thankfully there was less groundwork-laying for future films than there was in Batman vs. Superman or 2017’s The Mummy, neither of which I care for, but it could’ve been handled a lot more delicately in my opinion.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I’ll give Hellboy a 3.2. It’s nothing that amazing, but it is a fun two hours of monsters, action and mayhem. If you’re just looking for a mindless comic book action film, you could do worse. As it is, this is good enough for me, and sometimes, that’s all I ask for.

 

And while I still have your attention, I’m still looking for advanced readers for Rose. The novel is a fantasy-horror story following a young woman who turns into a plant creature (and that’s just the start of her problems). In exchange for an early electronic copy, all I ask is that you read it and consider posting a review online somewhere on or after the release date. If interested, please send an email to ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com.