Posts Tagged ‘scary stuff’

At the beginning of the year, I said I was going to try publishing more of my shorter works in as many places as possible. This included Wattpad, which for those of you who don’t know is kind of like the YouTube for writers: anyone can upload and share stories. I fulfilled this promise somewhat earlier this year by publishing Gynoid, a science-fiction novelette I’d been trying to publish on and off for quite some time. I published that story’s first part on February 14th, Valentine’s Day, and if you are good at math, you can tell that it’s been six months since the story was first published. With that in mind, I thought it would be a good idea to go over how Gynoid was doing and what plans I have for the site in the future.

Update on Gynoid

When Toby Crimson orders a gynoid, a robot designed to look and act like a human girl, he knows he shouldn’t be doing it in the first place. Gynoids are for perverts and losers, after all. But Toby has told a lie, and he needs the gynoid, named Ariel, to keep that lie up. What he never expects is to actually like Ariel being around. Or that Ariel is going to change his life. Whether he likes it or not.

I published the first part of Gynoid on February 14th, Valentine’s Day, for a very good reason. The story is a romance in a science-fiction setting, but it’s also a kind of anti-romance story. There are dark sides to stories about forbidden love that I don’t always see portrayed in fiction, so I used Gynoid to explore those dark sides a little, in particular to the idea of male fantasies.

And so far, people have responded. In those six months since publication, the number of people reading Gynoid have gradually increased to 132 reads. It’s still not a huge number, but it’s a good-sized number for someone who’s still building an audience and who publishes sporadically on Wattpad to begin with. And there has also been a few votes, which is the equivalent of likes on YouTube for this platform.

What really interests me though is the comments. I’ve received some comments on this work, and not only is just one of them from my mother (a whole new record!), but the other comments have been very telling. One commenter was very happy that the ending was, in their view at least, a good one. Another recent reader finished the third part of the story on or around August 3rd, username LadieFace, published that she hoped there would be more to the story (I assume based on the name it’s a she). A week later on August 10th, she comes back and comments that she hopes there’ll be a sequel.

Now, I do have ideas for a sequel, and I did tell her as much when I saw the comment, but that’s not the point. This story stayed on this person’s mind so much that she felt the need to come back a week after her first comment and ask if I had more. When a story makes someone do that, you know it really resonated with that reader.

This gives me hope that, in time, Gynoid will continue to be read and people will come to enjoy it. Maybe they’ll even come to like it to the point that it’ll push me to write a sequel story. Anything’s possible.

If you’re curious to read Gynoid, I’ll include the links below. And if you do check it out, please tell me, here on the blog or on Wattpad, what you think. As I always say, I love reader feedback.

Gynoid: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

What Happened Saturday Night is getting published!

What Happened Saturday Night is another story I’ve been trying to get published for quite some time, and now I’m happy to say I’ll be publishing it on Wattpad next week. Like Gynoid, this story has a heavy romantic element, but this time it’s more of a paranormal romance rather than a science-romance. Here’s the blurb I’m using on Wattpad:

High school is hard enough. But Louise is different from other teens her age. For one thing, she has feelings for her best friend Nicola. Feelings she knows she shouldn’t be having.

Another thing: she’s going through changes, but these aren’t the sort of changes teen girls normally go through. Louise is a werewolf. And her biggest fear is what might happen if an episode like what happened on Saturday night happens in front of Nicola.

So as you can tell, the story has a big LGBT element along with the paranormal one. These two genres actually work pretty well together, actually: they both deal with things that are outside the norm, at least to some people, so putting them together is kind of a natural fit.

I’ll probably be publishing this story either on Monday or on Tuesday next week, so keep an eye out for the announcement post. In the meantime, I’d like to thank friend and fellow novelist Joleene Naylor, who also did the cover art for Gynoid, ffor this beautiful artwork for the tory. It is so powerful and expresses everything I want in a cover. I can’t wait for people to see it and want to read the story inside!

Will I publish anything else on Wattpad?

Good question. It depends on a number of factors. I’m still trying to get stories published in magazines and anthologies, as well as trying to put some in a collection of short stories I’m keeping on the back burner for the moment. Depending on the story, as well as whether I feel it ought to be in a collection, a publication, or on Wattpad, anything could happen. If I do publish anything, it’ll probably have less of a romance element than Gynoid or What Happened Saturday Night has.

So if you’ve been reading my stories on Wattpad simply for the elements of love and romance, I’m sorry to disappoint you on that front.

 

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I might have another post out later this week, but it’ll depend on time and motivation, among other things. Until then, happy reading, and pleasant nightmares.

A lot of people hated Annabelle when it came out in 2014 as a spin-off of The Conjuring. I didn’t review it on this blog back then because I saw it about three or four weeks after it came out, but I thought it was a decent scary movie. Not as good as The Conjuring, but still very good. So when I heard that the sequel to Annabelle being made was actually going to be a prequel, I was intrigued, hopeful, and confused (wasn’t Annabelle the origin story?). Today, I went to the theater to see for myself if the fourth entry in The Conjuring film series was going to be good, or the start of the inevitable horror film series decline (you know it’s inevitable).

This might actually be the most solid entry since the original Conjuring film, and it’s a lot better than the first Annabelle.

Annabelle: Creation introduces us to the Mullins, a dollmaker and his wife who lose their little girl in an accident. Years later, the Mullins open their home to a girls’ orphanage, only for an ancient and malevolent evil with connections to the Mullins’ little girl to target one of the young girls, and through her, the whole household.

This film scared me pretty badly, using atmosphere, jumpscares, practical effects, and minimal CGI to create a powerful scare factor. There were a number of moments where I was just holding myself, thinking to myself, “NOPE!” or “GTFO,”* which just shows how frightened I was. If you can make me think “NOPE!” and make me want to run (or the characters), you’ve done a good job with your scary movie.

The direction of the film was strong and skillful, the writing for the most part was effective and didn’t have that many issues. This was an almost entirely female cast, and they were all very convincing. I especially loved the interaction between characters Janice and Linda, who have a very sisterly bond between the two of them, to the point that they don’t want to be adopted unless it’s together. It was so adorable, you just wanted to give them that home they wished for! I also liked the character of Sister Charlotte, the nun who takes care of and teaches these girls. Nuns in film, at least in my experience, are either matronly and motherly, or weak and wilting, but Sister Charlotte was strong and decisive, willing to risk her life and even do some things that would make others hesitate when she realizes what’s going on and has to defend her girls.

Me having some fun before the film.

There’s not much else to say on the plus side. The sets and costumes are convincing of their period, there are fun references to both the doll Annabelle’s actual form (a Raggedy Ann doll, if you didn’t know), as well as to the other films in the universe and even a hint of what we might expect in the upcoming film The Nun (coming out in 2018), based off that creepy nun-demon in The Conjuring 2. And they do connect this film to Annabelle, which does explain a lot.

There are some issues, of course, (and here I get a little SPOILER-y). And I don’t just mean the normal ones when watching a horror film (why doesn’t anyone else in this house hear the screaming? Why aren’t they running further away from the house? etc.). I would’ve liked to see more interaction between Linda and Janice, because they were so cute, and because that would’ve made the moment where one of them figures out something’s wrong with the other that much more convincing. I also didn’t care for the moments when they took the demons out of the shadows and showed them full-face, because it looks a little hokey. I would’ve preferred that they showed more of a creepy scarecrow, if truth be told.

And ironically, the way it connects to the original Annabelle leaves a few more questions that we’ll never get answers to.

But, in total, Annabelle: Creation is a great horror film, delivering on its promise of scary dolls making us crap our pants. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving it a 4.6. Go see it, and make sure you bring someone (or a stuffed animal) to hug when you get terrified. Believe me, you may need it.

*GTFO = Get the fuck out. It’s what every person thinks while watching a horror film and seeing when something awful is about to happen in a particular location.

So yesterday I’m having a conversation with the receptionist at my doctor’s office while I wait for my appointment, and we get onto the subject of the stories I’m working on (because if you know me, after a while that WILL come up). I tell her about my WIP Rose, and what that’s about, as well as some of the themes in the story. When she hears that it deals with some pretty heavy themes like abuse, her response was, “Wow, I didn’t know horror could be so deep.”

And that’s a common response from non-fans, not just of horror but of speculative fiction in general. People who are on the outside of this genre tend to look in and see only a stereotypical surface: swords and wizards and weird humanoid species who make weird oaths with the names of oddly named gods for fantasy; funny costumes, silly effects, and incomprehensible in-universe technical jargon for sci-fi; and of course, people screaming and dying in gross ways for horror. And to be fair, a lot of these stereotypes do have examples in the genres that are just that, especially the slasher genre for horror. Whether they emerged as a result of the stereotypes or they were the influence that created the stereotypes, I’m not sure.

But, as any fan can attest to, any one of these genres can delve deep into very complex ideas and themes. And that includes horror, which is what I’ll be focusing on in this post (sorry sci-fi and fantasy. I love you, but you’re not my normal bailiwick). In fact, horror does this quite a bit, it’s just usually more subtext than overt. The reason behind this, obviously, is because horror’s main purpose is to scare, so having exploration of ideas take the forefront of the story over the actual scares and plot actually takes away from the latter, which causes the story as a whole to suffer. In novels, you can sometimes devote a few paragraphs or even a couple pages to that, but it still cannot be the main component of the story.

And because it’s often more subtext, the heavy bits are often overlooked by non-fans and even some fans, who are more likely to focus on how scary/creepy/unnerving the story was. This happens especially in movies and TV shows, which as visual mediums are very good at conveying the scare with their subtext.

A text full of great subtext.

However, even if it’s not obvious, the heavy themes and ideas are still present in the story if you look for them. A good example would be Dracula by Bram Stoker: on the surface, you have a Gothic vampire story. But go a little deeper, you see a commentary and criticism on Victorian ideas and fears. Dracula himself can be seen as a sort of twisted Jesus Christ, offering immortality through the drinking of his blood and the taking of the blood of others; the vampires themselves can be interpreted as corrupting sexuality turning good people, particularly women, into carnal monsters; and the vampires coming to England as a nod to English xenophobia, with Dracula and his kind, who speak and act strangely and must sleep in the soil of their native lands, representing the influx of foreigners to England during the later Victorian era and how they may not be suited to English society, according to some Victorians.

A story that’s more than just scares.

And this can be found throughout horror stories, particularly in novels where there is room to explore these heavy themes. A lot of times, you can see these themes embodied in some way in the supernatural forces that may threaten the character(s). Stephen King does this very well in many of his stories: while explicitly stated that the events of The Shining are supernatural in origin, on another level it’s a great story of a family breaking down due to stress, isolation, alcoholism, and old tensions arising, with the hotel simply being a stage for things to play out rather than a true supernatural entity. Likewise, It is a story about a supernatural force, but that same force is also a representation of childhood fears, what we fear in the dark as well as fear of growing up. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg of this great novel.

You also see this in movies, with a great example being The Babadook. While the titular monster could be real, it could also be a form of shared delusion between a mother and her son, trying to work through their individual and collective issues. There are a number of articles that look at the film from a psychological perspective, and the arguments they make put the story in a whole new light from first viewing. The Babadook is a story laced with deeper meaning, if you just look beyond the surface.

So as we can see, horror is more than just people screaming and dying in gruesome ways. Like any story, it can have a deeper meaning, going into the psychology of characters, the beliefs of society, philosophies on life, death, love and so much more. You just have to pull back a veil and take a closer look, and you’ll see what’s always been there.

It’s unusual that I give an update on draft progress when I’m in the middle of the third draft. Usually after the first draft, I only give updates when the draft is finished. However, given the unusual journey and evolution Rose has gone through, as well as the all the work that still needs to be done, I feel that giving an update at the one-third mark is warranted. Let me explain:

I began work on Rose during my senior year of college as my thesis project. I had been sitting on the idea for about a year by that point, and had done quite a bit of thinking into what sort of story I wanted to tell. I started in September 2014, went back and started all over again when I realized the direction I was going in was all wrong for the story, and then finally managed to finish the first draft in January 2015. I then banged out a second draft in time for thesis discussions in April 2015. At those discussions (which you can read more about here), I was given a number of suggestions on how to improve the novel for the third draft, after which I could probably start thinking about publishing.

One of those suggestions, which I did not mention in the post about the discussions, was that I add a whole lot more words to the word count. Like, ten to twenty-thousand words more.

Yeah. I know. Even seasoned authors might find that a difficult challenge to accept.

In any case, I planned to get back to this story eventually, just not immediately. I first went to work in Germany, and then went through the job search. During that time, Rose was never far from my mind, but I never felt it was the right time to work on that story. After I got my new job and moved into my own apartment though, I did feel like revisiting the story. And I utterly floundered trying to edit it. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, moving had entirely changed my routine, and without being able to get that routine back, I was unable to edit as I used to. Thus, it took me three months just to get through five chapters. After that, I had to stop and reevaluate what I was doing if I was to continue writing at all.

And then two months ago, deciding I needed a break from work on Full Circle, I began working on Rose again, even though I thought I wouldn’t get to it until after my Boston trip. With a new routine in place, I managed to get through the five chapters I edited last year in weeks rather than months. And then I got through Chapter 6, and then finally Chapter 7, finishing edits on that about an hour before I left to go see The Dark Tower.

And now I’m one-third of the way through the book. And it feels almost like I’m working with a totally different story, like this is the first go-around with Rose rather than the third draft of (and the fourth dive into) the story. Hence why I feel it is necessary to write a progress report at this point in the third draft.

So if you’re new around here, you’re probably wondering at this point, “Okay, but what’s the novel about?” To put it simply, Rose is about an amnesiac girl who finds herself turning into a plant creature. It is as bizarre as it sounds, more bizarre than I remember it. But it’s also a very dark story, exploring themes like abuse and dependence in relationships, as well as how truth, falsehood, and memories shape our perceptions of our ourselves and others. So yeah, as bizarre (and possibly comical) as it sounds, it is still a scary story.

And I have to say, editing is going very well. I’m incorporating as many of the suggestions from my thesis discussion as I can, and I’m definitely seeing an improvement in the story. The characters definitely feel like they’re actual people in this strange situation, and I feel like if this book does get published, people will really respond to it.

As for that suggestion to add ten to twenty-thousand words, I’m actually doing okay with that. I’ve thought about scenes I’ve wanted to expand, and I’ve even looked ahead to certain parts of the book to see where I can make some additions. And in the first seven chapters, I think I’ve done a good job of that. Let me break down the numbers (already I can hear my longtime readers groaning about that, they know I love to do this): in the second draft, the first seven chapters measured up to 44 pages (8.5″ x 11″, 12-point Times New Roman font, double-spaced) and 13,579 words. In the third draft, I’m at 70 pages (same parameters) and 20,990 words. That’s an increase of 26 pages and 7,411 words. And I like to think none of it is unnecessary.

So what’s next? Well, I’ll get to work on the next fourteen chapters, and hopefully be done with the end of the draft by the end of September. I’ll also try to add another three-thousand to thirteen-thousand words, if I feel that amount would help with the story. After that…I’m thinking beta readers, more editing, and then maybe an agent/publisher. We’ll see.

Well, it’s late, so I’m off to bed, my Followers of Fear. You have a pleasant night and pleasant nightmares. Until next time!

I’m going to start this post by stating for the record that I have not read any of the Dark Tower books, or the audiobooks, or the graphic novels. I’m coming at this as an outside fan, someone who likes Stephen King a lot but has yet to try his fantasy series because, as even King puts it, it’s an acquired taste.* I also realize that this is a movie, so they’re going to have to make many adjustments between getting the story from the page to the screen. I’m okay with that, because I’m pretty sure a straight adaptation would be longer than Titanic (and that’s three hours long!). And I somehow managed to keep away from reviews from other sources, so I went into the theater with a clear mind in order to judge this film on my own terms.

That being said, I liked this film.

The Dark Tower follows Jake Chambers, a teenager from New York who is having dreams about this strange world, a man dressed in black who is trying to destroy a gigantic tower, and a man called the gunslinger who hunts him. While the rest of his family and even some of his friends think he’s crazy, Jake manages to find a gateway to the mythical Mid-World, and becomes an important piece in the battle between Roland the gunslinger and Walter O’Dim the Man in Black, as well as an important piece in the battle to keep all of reality from becoming destroyed.

So like I said, this film worked for me. The visuals were very beautiful, giving us this huge world with strange features and breathtaking views. The actors were all great, especially the main three, Idris Elba as Roland, Matthew McConaughey as Walter, and Tom Taylor as Jake Chambers. My favorite was McConaughey, his take on Walter was terrifying. You could sense the psychopathy in this character, the indifference to death and love of destruction. It’s really creepy. Elba was also commanding as Roland, making you feel this intensity, and Taylor as Jake was a believable character who finds himself in this strange world and is trying to make the best of it.

*shudder* Scary dude.

Also, shout out to Fran Kranz as a bad guy. Did not know he was in the film, so it was so cool to see the guy who played Topher in Dollhouse there.

I also thought the fight scenes were choreographed very well. They didn’t look silly or hard to make out, and the camera work wasn’t shaky or anything. And for a series well-known for being complicated and bizarre, I actually felt like it was easy to follow. Sure, some things didn’t make sense or weren’t explained, but I was able to follow it for the most part.

That being said, there were two things that I didn’t like: one was there was this minor character called Timmy, who is supposed to be a friend of Jake’s, and he’s in the film for maybe three minutes and really doesn’t serve a purpose. If you took him out of the story, the film wouldn’t be missing anything. I also thought that the story was kind of by-the-numbers. There wasn’t any sort of point where I was surprised by what happened, or the filmmakers threw me for a loop. Was I thrilled? Yes. Did I was like, “Oh hey, I didn’t see that coming”? No.

But all in all, I think this is the best adaptation of The Dark Tower series we’re going to get without being overly complicated or bogged down in details. I know it’s not going to please everyone, especially hardcore fans, but it was a good film for me, and I would be interested to see a sequel and/or the television series in development based on the movie.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving The Dark Tower a 4.4 out of 5. Go see it, and find yourself reciting the Gunslinger’s Creed for the rest of the day.

*And if the books anything like their probable inspiration, HP Lovecraft’s Dream Cycle, particularly The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, I’m willing to wait.

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

Six years.

I’m supposed to say that it went by super-fast, but it feels like it actually has been six years (though the past eight months or so have gone by in a flash). I think it’s how much my life has changed that really sells me on the fact that six years have gone by. When I first started out on this blog, it was at a library computer station. I was eighteen years old, had yet to start college, and I was sure this blog would bring me lots of readers for my first published book when that finally happened. My only regular readers back then were my parents, and I think they read mostly to be supportive (and to make sure I didn’t post anything on my blog that would get me in trouble later in life).

Today I’m twenty-four, I’m working in a good job and living in my own apartment. I’ve got four books out, and while I’m still not a world-famous writer, I’m taking steps so that someday I can be a full-time writer. Maybe. My readers come from all over the United States, as well as from Canada, Europe, and farther away. They’re writers and readers and horror fans and just people who, for one reason or another, like what I have to say on this or that subject. We have conversations in the comments, and some of these people become good friends with me. Once or twice, we even meet in real life (or make plans to but can’t due to issues of customs).

And you know what? This all happened because of you. Yes you, whoever you are, reading this blog post. Yes, I supply the content, but every time someone has tuned in and read a post, offered a like or their thoughts, and when they decide to follow me so as to get future posts, they keep me writing and interacting with this community.So thanks, my Followers of Fear. I really appreciate you being here for me, through thick and thin, highs and lows, reviews and political rants (dammit, admitting the United States isn’t perfect is not un-patriotic! It’s a desire to make this nation better). I hope you’ll stay with me for all that comes in the next year, whatever that happens to be.

Speaking of which, what do I want from the next year? Blogging and writing-wise, anyway.

Well, I would like to reach a thousand followers, and that might actually happen this year. I’m within a hundred followers of that, so I think it could happen. I’d also like to write some more good posts and have good discussions with the many friends and acquaintances I’ve met through this platform. I’d also like to get a few more stories written, edited, and published. I especially hope I’ll finish Rose and maybe get it represented by an agent. Will that happen? Well, if people’s reactions to the story’s idea and my college advisers’ feedback is any indication, that could very well happen. Hard work and a bit of luck can do wonders, after all.

Well, that’s all for now. There’s a Stephen King movie coming out this weekend, so expect a review very soon, my Followers of Fear. And until then, pleasant nightmares!

I’ve been keen to read this novel since Stephen King tweeted about it months ago, saying this novel, which apparently is the first work of an already-established author published under a pen name, was the first great thriller of 2017.* By the time it came out on July 11th, I was one of the first people to get a copy at the library. And while I don’t always agree with King on what makes a good story (see my review for A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay), I have to say, he was right that this is a great thriller novel, possibly the first great one of 2017 (I haven’t read most of the others that came out this year, so who am I to judge?).

Final Girls follows Quincy Carpenter, the lone survivor of the Pine Cottage Massacre, in which a man she only refers to as Him killed all her friends while on a camping trip and she was the only survivor. This has made Quincy part of an exclusive club known as the Final Girls, women who have survived horror-movie style massacres and, like the girls in those movies, are the only ones to survive. The other two are Lisa Milner, the survivor of a sorority house murder spree in Indiana, and Samantha Boyd, who escaped and killed a killer known as the Sack Man at a motel in Florida. Quincy, who has no memory of the events at Pine Cottage, wants nothing but to keep up her baking blog, maybe marry her defense attorney boyfriend someday, and have some definition of normal.

That is, until Lisa Milner dies under mysterious circumstances in Indiana, and Samantha Boyd shows up at Quincy’s apartment in New York to talk. Suddenly Quincy’s life is thrown into a maelstrom as Sam’s presence threatens not just to unearth the memories from that fateful night, but change her world forever.

Immediately, you feel like this is two stories in one, a standard slasher and a mystery/thriller. On the slasher hand, you get to read Quincy’s recollections of Pine Cottage, which are told in third-person POV and past tense. And on the other hand, you get the events of Quincy’s current life, which are told in first-person POV and present tense, which is a mystery/thriller mixed with the story of two completely opposite people trying to bond over an incredible and dark situation. And both stories are peppered with references to horror movies, especially the best of the slasher genre. There are some obvious ones: Quincy’s last name is a reference to director John Carpenter of the Halloween series, while Lisa Milner’s massacre is an obvious reference to Black Christmas. But there are other, subtler references.  The mystery elements definitely remind me of the Scream movies and the TV series, which utilize mystery to offset themselves from tried-and-done-to-death slasher stories, as well as elements that make me think of Urban Legend. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, there are probably references I don’t recognize from movies/comics/shows/books I haven’t seen or read yet.

I also really enjoyed the characters. Quincy felt incredibly real to me: rather than being a character who’s always good and delicate or always damaged and dealing with her issues, she’s actually a pretty good balance of both. She’s clearly made some progress in trying to move on and have a new normal, but she also has issues that she doesn’t want to address, even takes some joy in, and those occasionally threaten the balance she’s trying to maintain in her life. It’s very refreshing to see such a realistic character like that. I also found Samantha Boyd (or Sam, as she prefers), to be very real. She’s a girl whose life is one defined by horrors, and who’s trying, in her own way, to reach out to the one person left in the world who knows what it’s like to have felt horrors like hers. The way she does it isn’t exactly smooth, but it does feel like someone with her background might use to reach out and find some mutual catharsis.

But the best part of the story is definitely how twisty it is. Even when we go back to Quincy’s past, it is anything but a standard slasher, going in directions you don’t see coming. Just today, while reading the last 70 or so pages, I kept marveling at surprise after surprise after surprise. And that’s pretty much how it is for most of the book, especially in the latter half of it. I think even some veteran mystery/thriller fans will find themselves surprised at the twists in store here in Final Girls.

If there’s one thing that might have been a drawback for this novel, I felt that the moments that Quincy and Sam were trying to bond were a little slow at times, but that may be nitpicking on my part. They were still well-written parts, and they showed both how much these girls wanted to be friends and how much they rubbed against each other as people.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving Final Girls a well-earned 4.6. From one page to the next, you never know what to expect, and it will only leave you wanting more. Go ahead, pick it up, and find you have a hard time putting it down.

* This tweet and hints about the author’s identity make me think it might be Stephen King’s son Joe Hill doing his own Richard Bachman turn, but that’s just my guess.