Posts Tagged ‘short story’

For the past two weeks, I’ve been reading The Best Horror of the Year, Volume VIII, an anthology of horror short stories and novelettes compiled by one of horror’s premier editors, Ellen Datlow (I’ll be taking a break from it to read The Institute by Stephen King, though). As you’d expect from any anthology, some you like, some you don’t, and some you just don’t get. But of those that I like, I’ve been noticing a trend that I’m not sure I’ve noticed before.

These stories are not outright terrifying in a way that’ll leave you screaming or having nightmares for a week or so. But they do make you feel uneasy. Like a voice in the back of your mind is whispering, “Imagine if this scenario were real,” or “Imagine if this happened to you.” And then you shiver at the thought of what is occurring in the story occurring in real life. In your life.

That feeling upsets the zen in your soul, and can put you off your day. It can make you afraid to think of certain places or names because you associate them with something evil and horrible. It leaves you afraid to be in dark places, or alone, or with people, or even in well-lit areas. Because who knows what’s hidden in your blind spot? Who knows what evil is bubbling in your coworker’s heart?

What you are feeling is disquiet. And that feeling drives a lot of shorter horror stories. Understandable: short stories and novelettes don’t have the word-counts to build epic worlds or have intricate plots involving five or six mind-blowing revelations. They’re short for a reason, and meant to be digestible as a way to save time and money. Or to quote Stephen King, “A short story is like a quick kiss in the dark from a stranger.”

I actually know what that’s like (don’t ask), and I’m not really surprised that King does, either. So I kind of get it: what the story does to you should be unexpected, but leave a powerful impression. The kind of impression where you look back years later and you’re like, “Wait, did that actually happen?” And in short stories, with horror, you do it with fear. You do it with disquiet.

So how does one create disquiet in their story? Unfortunately, I’m not sure I can answer that. It’s like how do you put horror in a story? You already know a monster is necessary, but what more is there? Not an easy question to answer. In fact, I’ve been writing horror since I was a tween, or trying to, and I’m still trying to figure it out. It doesn’t help that I’m better at novels and short stories are still something I’m figuring out how to do well (ironic, considering how many short story ideas I have lying around).

junji Ito will shake you every time.

In the end, all I can recommend is the old writer adage: read a lot and write a lot. In this case, read a ton of shorter works by a variety of different horror authors. Note how they make the story memorable, punchy, disturbing. Is it a specific twist? Is it in the scenario they set up? How do they set it up? Is it in a particular sentence or a paragraph? An element they included? The ending? Then try writing your own works and incorporating what you learned.

It seems obvious, but I guess we reiterate it for a reason.

Anyway, if you’re looking for recommendations, any of the volumes in the Best Horror of the Year series should work, as well as collections by most horror writers. I also recommend story collections from manga artist Junji Ito, if you want a more visual medium. And while it’s not literary, The Twilight Zone is usually pretty good at telling disquieting stories (or so I’ve heard. I really have to get on watching that show).

But tell me, how do you make your short stories memorable and disquieting? What are your thoughts on the subject? Let’s discuss.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Happy Friday the 13th, and if you see  guy wearing an old-fashioned goalie mask, RUN THE OTHER FUCKING WAY!!!

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I meant to write this earlier but, like my last post, the day got busy. Consequently why I’m writing this now.

But to get to my point, earlier today I finished a new short story, “Poor Unfortunate Souls.” And yes, that is a Disney reference, which may mean the title and some of the final lines in the story may need to be reworked somewhere down the line (is anyone here an entertainment lawyer or at least extremely knowledgeable about this subject?). The story follows a young woman who gets roped into attending a party in the Paris catacombs, and the unexpected guest who arrives at the party to throw things into chaos.

I really enjoyed writing this story. I’ve had the idea for it rolling around in my head since around college, but I only got around to writing it now. Which, in hindsight, was probably for the best. It probably would not have come out as well as it did unless I wrote it now, and having waited this long allowed me the time to educate myself on the issues of the community of the main character, one which happens to be of a minority both in society and in horror. That time spent educating myself allowed me to make the character rounded, sympathetic, and hopefully a good fictional representative for her people.

So at a little under six-thousand words, the story could be sent out to magazines or other publications. However, I think Ill keep this one for that upcoming collection of short stories I mentioned a couple of posts ago. I think it would be a good story to end the collection on, as well as the one I name the collection after (though again, that depends on if I can legally do that without invoking the cosmic monstrosity that is the Walt Disney Company). At the very least, I’ve made good progress on getting this collection finished. Though it’s still waaaay far away from being ready for release, let alone me sharing details about it.

In any case, I’ll be editing that Arthurian legend story I wrote for an upcoming anthology for my publisher, and then maybe edit another short story. After that…well, we’ll see. I’m still waiting on my beta reader to finish River of Wrath, so how that goes will affect a lot. Still, looking forward for everything that’s coming up. It should make for a fun autumn season.

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

 

It’s been over a week since I last wrote a blog post, so I just wanted to let you know I haven’t died and either become a ghost or returned to my home dimension. Of course, every blog post needs a subject, so I thought I’d update you on the many projects I’ve got going on. And believe me, it’s a lot of projects.

Rose

Now, I’m sure you’re aware that Rose has been out for about two and a half months at this point. What more could be happening with that? Plenty, actually. Firstly, there’s an audio book on the way. Yep, Rose is going to be in audio format. Now, I can’t share many particulars on that just yet, but I can tell you the audio book will hopefully be out in the next month and will be available from Amazon and Audible.

Which of course means I need to do a lot of work to make sure that the paperback, ebook, and audio book do well and get into the hands/devices of plenty of readers and listeners. Hopefully it all pays off.

And in the meantime, if you haven’t checked Rose out yet but want to, you can find it on Amazon, as well as on Amazon UK and Amazon Canada. Take a look, and if you enjoy the book, let me know what you think.

River of Wrath

Dante Alighieri, author of “Inferno.”

Some of you may recall that last year in the days before Halloween, I finished a novel called River of Wrath that was partially inspired by Dante’s Inferno. Since then, I haven’t touched that story once, but that’ll change soon. I have a beta reader who’s working his way through the book and says he’s going to be done soon. Once I get it back from him, I’ll get to work on editing it, with the goal of having the second draft done by Halloween. After that, I’ll hopefully be able to find a publisher for the story. River‘s a little too straight horror for Castrum Press, so I’ll have to look elsewhere. But I think there are plenty of publishers who might be interested in this one. With any luck, I could have River out some tie in 2020. Fingers crossed!

 

 

 

National Novel Writing Month

I’ve got something for NaNoWriMo this year, just wait and see.

As many of you are aware, November is National Novel Writing Month (though at this point, a name change should be considered, as it’s pretty much international at this point). During NaNoWriMo, participating authors try to write an entire novel of fifty-thousand words before November 30th, or about seventeen-hundred words a day. This’ll be my first year since college that I’ll be participating, and I’m almost done doing research for the book. I don’t expect to make the daily word count or even the final goal for the challenge (and even if I did, I doubt the resulting story would be high-quality. That’s what editing is for!). Regardless, I’m going to try and see what I can accomplish. I even plan to take some time off at the beginning of the month to help me get it done. With any luck, I’ll get enough done that by the time I return to work, I’ll have made significant progress on the story.

And as for what I’m writing for NaNoWriMo, you’ll just have to wait. I’ll announce what I’m working on when we’re a bit closer to November. Though I can tell you this: it’s going to be a very strange and unexpected story. Which I think means it’s going to be a lot of fun, both to write and to read.

A new short story collection is on its way!

You read that right. I’m putting together another collection of original short stories. And I know I’ve made that promise before, but this time I’ve made significant progress towards that goal. I already have several stories, novelettes and novellas on stand-by for the collection, and am working on finishing up a few other stories for it.

Sadly, at this stage the collection’s still gestating, so to speak, so it would be premature to state its contents, what it’s called or when/how I’ll be releasing it. However, as soon as I have that information, I’ll be sure to let you know.

Other

Castrum Press will be putting out a call for alternative history short stories for an anthology soon, so I’ll be editing up my Arthurian short story Mother of the King soon. Since I’m already one of their client, I hope that’ll help get the story in, but as you would expect, this sort of thing depends greatly on quality, timing and luck.

And here on the blog, I’m getting ready to write the next part in my series of marketing posts, as well as another anime recommendations list (because when you’re me, you devour anime like Scooby-Doo devours everything edible). Hopefully I’ll find time for both of those before the month is out.

 

Well, that’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I think the next time I post, it’ll be after seeing IT: Chapter Two. I’m looking forward to it!

Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

I’m very excited to announce that I will be doing my very first professional solo author reading on August 18th at Brothers Drake Meadery! And of course, one of the stories I’ll be reading from is Rose.

Now I think I’ve mentioned them on this blog before, but if you’re unfamiliar with Brothers Drake, they’re a local maker and purveyor of mead, or honeywine. I’ve loved their mead since college, and celebrated both finishing up the third draft and the publication of Rose with their product and posting pictures and videos of said celebration on my Instagram.

This has led to the owners of Brothers Drake and I building a relationship, and earlier this week, they agreed to host a reading for me at their bar in the Short North area of Columbus.*

Anyway, I’m so grateful to Brothers Drake for having me. I can’t wait to be there on the 18th and I hope it’s a wonderful experience for all.

And if you happen to be in the Columbus area on the 18th, head on down to the trendy Short North area and arrive at Brothers Drake a little before 5 PM (parking in the Short North area is a cutthroat competition). You can buy some wine unlike anything you’ve likely ever had before, and then sit back as I read from not just Rose, but other stories that are either coming out soon or I hope will come out someday. Afterwards there will likely be a Q&A and then I’ll be selling and signing copies of Rose. And after that…who knows? I’m no fortune teller, despite my many other supernatural talents.

Anyway, if you’d like to RSVP, you can hit up the event page on Facebook by clicking this link. I hope I’ll see you there. It’ll be a spine-chilling good time.

And speaking of Q&A, there’s still time to participate in this blog’s Q&A (or would AMA be more accurate?). In honor of my blog’s eighth anniversary, between now and August 16th, you can send me any questions regarding writing, horror, my stories or myself and, unless I have a good reason not to, I will answer them. Just send your questions to ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com and if I get enough questions, you might see yours.

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

*This is why you support local businesses, because you can end up building incredible relationships sometimes, and it can lead to extraordinary things happening.

Writers deal with a lot of tenses, and I don’t mean the ones associated when we hunch over our computers so we can better bang out stories.* No, I mean tenses like past tense and present tense, the tenses authors use to tell a story. Like first and third person POV, the use of either can vary from story to story (future tense and second person POV are rare, for reasons I’m sure people reading this blog can understand). And although I feel like I know plenty on the subject of using tenses sometimes, occasionally I find I still have something to learn.

Earlier today, I received an email from a magazine I submitted a short story to a couple months back. They rejected it. Which, honestly, I wasn’t broken up about. I figured out there were changes to this particular story while it was in consideration at the publication, so I thought this was for the best. However, they did include some notes on what worked and didn’t work with the story. Among those was one that really struck me.

They said that narrating in past tense, while giving the narration strength, also made it clear that the story took place in the past, and therefore made the story overall weaker, as it kind of gave away the ending. Namely, that the protagonist survives.

Now sometimes in a horror story, that’s fine. Part of the thrill is seeing how things turn out when you already have some idea of the ending. Interview with the Vampire is framed just as its title suggests, a vampire getting interviewed about his life. Jack Ketchum’s The Girl Next Door is told by the narrator when he’s an adult remembering his childhood traumas (still the scariest novel I’ve ever read). And Salem’s Lot by Stephen King begins with two of the main cast in Mexico after escaping the town, then rewinds to the beginning of the events, and then afterwards shows those two characters burning the town down.

But apparently, with this story, that should not have been the case, as it took away some of the tension. And a horror story without tension is like a hamburger without a bun. It’s missing something essential.

Food metaphors aside, this shows an issue not only with the story, but a lesson I can learn from. With stories, it often seems instinctual, at least to me, about what tense to write in. Perhaps in future, I should weigh options and think about what the pros and cons of writing a story in past versus present tense. Perhaps then I’ll be able to write my stories and make them more effective in scaring the pants out of people.

And that goes especially with the story I got the rejection for today. I feel like this one could be one of my best if I can polish it a bit more and maybe get some more feedback on it. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens when I try changing the tense (and maybe the POV. I feel like that could also be an effective strategy for this story).

At least I know there’s still room for me to improve and become a better writer. I hear perfection gets boring pretty quickly.

Well, that’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m off to do battle with some exorcists who believe I’m an ancient entity here to usher in the end of the world (they’re right on one count, at least), and then do some writing. Thankfully with this story I’m working on now, I’m sure I have the right tense and POV for what I’m trying to do. That should make things easier further down the line.

Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

*In all seriousness though, take care of your backs, fellow writers. That will come back to haunt you if you don’t practice better posture. Believe me, I know. Brought to you by a writer giving a shit.

Last night, I did some writing. And while that statement on its own might not be the most groundbreaking thing I’ve ever written on this blog, it was important for me. As you know, since early June, I’ve been consumed with the editing, publishing and marketing of Rose, as well as editing some other stories (but I won’t go into that right now). In fact, I’m still working on that last bit! I’ve been doing a lot every day to make sure people are reading the book. Just today, I’ve probably sent about ten emails related to the novel!*

Add in my day job, taking care of myself, sleeping and making sure I’m relaxed enough in the evenings not to go on a killing spree the next day, and I’ve had very little time to devote to new projects. I tried a week or two ago to do some work on a new short story, but it didn’t go as well as I would have hoped. I blame that on the story being existential horror, and I’m in too bright a state of mind these days to write that sort of horror well.

But last night, I was able to get back into the swing of things and get a significant number of words down on paper on a novelette I’ve been wanting to rewrite since 2015 but haven’t done since then (yeah, I can go for years without working on a story if I think I need more time before I work on it again). And I think part of the reason I was able to get so much of the story written in a single sitting, other than a glass of beer, was that I was able to put myself back in the mood to write after such a long hiatus.

The first thing I did while writing last night was make sure my writing space–aka my desk and where I take most of my meals–had everything I normally used to write. I had my laptop in front of me, with the story and the outline for it in front of me. I had something to drink–usually tea with honey but last night beer–and some mints nearby, as well as whatever music I’m in the mood for playing on iTunes (these days, it’s classical). And I had some incense burning by the Cthulhu statue. That helped me really get me in the mood for writing, because those are all things I associate with and use while writing. Just having them all there, especially after such a long break from doing any real writing, made a huge difference.

There’s a perverse pleasure in lighting incense in front of a Cthulhu statue that makes you want to write horror, don’t you think?

Another thing that really helped was that I had the right story to work on. I think this story, which I expect to end up being a novelette between ten and twenty-thousand words, was perfect because it was simple and easy to work on. I won’t go into details at this point about it’s plot (though I will tell you this YouTube video I’ve linked to is a hint as to the subject matter), but it’s not a complicated story. It’s not dealing with any deep themes like the fragility of the human mind, or requires extensive research. It’s just a simple story about a supernatural force affecting the lives of a bunch of teenagers.

But that’s the beauty of it. By not giving myself a really challenging story, I’m easing myself back into writing. I’m getting back the motivation to write after so long away. And it works. Because the last thing you need after getting one of the most challenging stories you’ve ever written published and then doing everything to market it is something just as hard or maybe even more so, right? No, you need an easy story to get back into it.

With both of these factors working for me, I was able to get a ton of writing done, and maybe even get some more done this week. And after that? I don’t know. I have a few ideas. But at least I know I’ll have an easier time writing now that I’ve eased myself back into it.

Anyway, that’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ll probably have a new post about effective horror writing out in the next week or so, so keep an eye out for it. Until then, pleasant nightmares!

*And speaking of Rose, I think all that marketing work is…well, working. Amazon finally got both pages for the ebook and paperback linked, and the page lists the novel as a 4.5 out of 5 based on six reviews. In addition, Amazon Canada has the book rated as a 5-star and Amazon UK has it rated as a 4-star (both based on only one review each, but it’s a start. They also list the American reviews, but don’t list them for whatever reason). And on Goodreads, Rose is rocking a rating of 4.2 out of 5 based on 5 ratings and 4 reviews, and has nearly thirty people listed as having the book on their TBR list.

Not trying to brag, I’m just stating this is really good news and possibly bodes at more good things to come. Fingers crossed!

So if you’ve seen some of my most recent posts, last night the Ohio Chapter of the Horror Writers Association, of which I’m a proud member of, held its first public reading event at Kafe Kerouac in the University District in Columbus. And you know what? It was a great program. We had a decent-sized crowd, and there were about eight or so different readers showing off their poetry, flash fiction, or short stories. I actually had a few ideas for stories listening to other people’s works. We even had an acquaintance of mine from one of my Facebook groups show up and read a short story he’s been working on.

Unsurprisingly, all of the stories and poems read to us were really good. Some were kind of funny, others were pretty dark. All were quite imaginative, and reminded me how many different kinds of stories can be written between a thousand and ten-thousand words.

Of course, when my turn came up, I read part of Rose to the audience. This was my first public reading of Rose, and I was really excited to share part of the story with an audience.

Now, for those of you who don’t know, Rose is my upcoming fantasy-horror novel from Castrum Press and is currently on schedule to be released on June 21st, 2019. The novel follows a young woman who starts turning into a plant creature (and that’s just the start of her problems). Just wanted to make sure everyone was on the same metaphorical page here.

And as promised in my last post, I did get my reading on video (thank you to Jennifer Carstens for holding my phone and filming this for me). It took about three or four hours to upload the video to YouTube from my phone, but in the end, I think it was worth the wait. Enjoy.

Now as I said in the video, what I read to the people at Kafe Kerouac won’t be the final version of Rose. In fact, after I got home last night I started working on the edits my publisher sent me. But you get the idea. This is what you can expect from the final novel. And I hope this intrigues you enough to check out the book when it comes out.

Thanks to Ohio HWA for putting together and hosting this event. Thanks to Kafe Kerouac for being an awesome venue for our first public reading. And thanks to all our readers–Lucy Snyder, Sarah Hans, Anton Cancre, Maxwell Ian Gold, Megan Hart, Jennifer Carstens, Rob Boley, and Mark Dubovec–for making the night so creepy and inspiring. I hope we can do it again sometime very soon.

Now if you need me, I’m off to do a ton of editing (while also spending time to celebrate my birthday). Until next time, my Followers of Fear, pleasant nightmares!