Posts Tagged ‘social media’

So do you remember the other day, when I posted about the character of Momo, who supposedly reaches out to kids and teens online, and tries to hurt them or make them hurt themselves? I outlined the myth and how the character took off in the public consciousness, before mentioning that I was working on my own story inspired by Momo and other terrifying figures that originate online and gain a life of their own in the real world.

Well, I just finished that story a few minutes ago. As you can tell by the title, I’m calling the story Queen Alice, and it follows an investigative reporter who delves into the burgeoning legend of a cult leader named Queen Alice who uses social media to bring harm to her targets. Or does she? Is she even real? The reporter is determined to make it to the bottom of this mystery, and what happens when he releases his report will change his world forever.

Writing this story was a lot of fun and I found it easy to write it, despite how much went on in my life (it’s gotten to the point where I’m going to bed earlier and setting lower writing goals so I can get more rest during the work week). The online world is as much a play and communal space as the campfires were for early humanity, when our first boogeymen were created. Today we’re creating boogeymen through the Internet, and people are taking them seriously in ways that would’ve been unimaginable even just ten years ago. Tapping into that fear, even though I sometimes have trouble understanding the most basic of human emotions and motivations, allowed the story to really flow for me and I was able to get it out much quicker than I thought I would.

It probably also helped that I pictured actor John Noble in the role of the reporter. Not sure why, he just fit the part in my head when I was visualing the character.

So what now? Well, I think I could get it published somewhere. At 27 pages and under 7,600 words, the story isn’t too long for many publications. I’ll get it looked at first and see if a beta reader can’t give me some good feedback before I edit it. With any luck, I can get it published somewhere very soon.

Well, that’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I have some stuff to take care of before the day is over, so I’ll see you all later. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

 

And while I still have your attention, I’m still looking for advanced readers for my novel, Rose. The book is a fantasy-horror story 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 on or after the release date. If you’re interested, send me an email at ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com.

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Hello, and welcome back to another interview. I’m so glad I’m able to spotlight so many different authors lately. Really livens things up a bit, and it’s a great way to connect with new friends and new readers. And today’s interview is with a new acquaintance whom I met through the Horror Writers Association. She’s a writer, editor, and she’s hear to talk about her work.

Please welcome KG Finfrock.

Rami Ungar: Welcome KG. Tell us about yourself and your novel House of Redemption.

KG Finfrock: I love to listen to people’s stories. I had a friend in high school who was a pathological liar and I didn’t care. I loved to hear the stories she would weave as truth. I love to get people to open up about what’s going in their lives and where they’ve gone. Being a homebody, I’m happy to live vicariously through their experiences and yes it’s true. Anything and everything you say to me may end up in a story.

House of Redemption is about eight strangers who come to Blackstone Resort, a large luxurious plantation house in the middle of nowhere. After a lovely evening of good food, drinks, and music, the guests discover they cannot leave the house. All the doors and windows are sealed shut. As they try to find an escape, they each meet the ghosts of the people they have harmed. There is no escape for the guests until they repent their evil ways.

RU: It sounds like an interesting idea. How did you come up with it and what was it like writing it?

KGF: One of my favorite films is Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Indians. I play the DVD repeatedly as my comfort background noise. I was attracted to the large house. The idea of the whole island to your self is heavenly and I realized, when I wrote Good Thoughts for Bubble Off-Plumb, I like the concept of people not being able to escape punishment for bringing harm to others.

There are eight characters in House of Redemption and I began by writing each person’s situation and how they ended up at Blackstone. I then realized one quarter of the book was all backstory and it was several pages in before the real story began. I had to cut it all out and, that was all right, as I had a firm grasp on who they and what kind of person they were. The story begins with the arrival of the guests, as it should. As a bonus, I included the characters stories at the end of the novel.

RU: You’ve also been involved as an editor for the collection Good Thoughts for Bubble Off-Plumb and put together The Daily Ten-Minute Writing Prompt (Volume I). How did those projects come about?

KGF: I believe being offered the position of editor for Bubble Off-Plumb was the result of good networking and being in the right place at the right time.  And I would like to add, it was a blast working with the other authors. Some stories in the anthology still stick with me. I also learned something about my own writing in my story contribution Good Thoughts. I realized I write about the bad guys getting their comeuppance which is probably why I enjoy House of Redemption so much.

I host a monthly writer’s group with small selected membership. The Daily Ten-Minute Prompt came about when I saw how much fun the members in my writer’s group had when I set the timer and gave them a sentence. They had ten minutes to write and in some part of their story, the sentence had to be in the story. I saw what fantastic stories could be written in only ten minutes. Even as a first draft, they were great. There were moments of hysterical laughter (because the story was funny) and moments of stunned surprise.  Since I had been posting a daily writing prompt on my blog for three years, I figured I might as well put them all together and publish them in a few books.

RU: What are you working on now?

KGF: I’m working on a sequel to House of Redemption, I have two more volumes of the ten-minute writing prompts, and I have a ghost story on the back burner which is more on the side of a cozy murder mystery that happens to include a ghost living with the main character.

RU: When it comes to writing, do you have a routine or a process?

KGF: I need a routine, and I keep trying to stick to a routine, but life events constantly interrupt and thus I have not been as productive as I should be. I’m hoping that will change when the youngest child in my family starts school full time later this year.  As far as process goes, I’m off to a good start as soon as I put fingers on the keyboard and I just go with the flow.

RU: Is there any kind of story you’re particularly drawn to, as a reader and a writer?

KGF: I like mythical monsters, beasts, and a bit of the paranormal.  I like reading about large houses and places I’ve never been.  I admire Fredrik Bachman’s style of writing where he brings the community together and is able to show the faces behind the masks.

House of Redemption by KG Finfrock.

RU: What advice would you give other writers, no matter the background or experience?

KGF: Put your butt in the chair and just start to write. It can be done if you make it a priority, a must do, but it won’t be accomplished without you actually writing.

RU: And finally, if you had to go to a desert island for a while and could only bring three books with you, which would you bring?

KGF: I would pick the three that are on my table waiting to be read. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah (a book my sister gave me) Kill Creek by Scott Thomas (May’s book-club selection) and Parasite Life by Victoria Dalpe, a book I chose supporting women horror writers (and the synopsis caught my attention).

RU: You’re going to love Kill Creek. It’s my current favorite. Thanks for joining us, KG. I hope you join us again soon.

If you’d be interested in reading House of Redemption, you can get it from Amazon. And if you’d like to find out more about our guest today, you can find her on her very own WordPress blog, as well as on Twitter and Instagram.

If you would like to see some more of the conversations I’ve had with various authors, head over to my Interviews page. And if you yourself are an author with something coming out you’d like to promote, then send me an email at ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com with the subject line “Author Interview” and we’ll see if we can’t make some magic happen.

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

If you’ve been on the Internet lately, you’ve probably heard of Momo and seen the photo associated with her/it. For those who haven’t, Momo is an Internet urban legend that, like Slender Man before her, has gained a sort of life on and off the Internet. Supposedly, she’s a woman or entity you contact or she contacts you online and threatens you and taunts you, predicting your death and encouraging you to do increasingly dangerous tasks and dares, including committing suicide (this latter part is known as the Momo Challenge). Most photos that pop up when you search her are of a woman with bug eyes, long stringy hair and a beaklike mouth. This is actually a 2016 statue from a Japanese artist named Keisuke Aisawa depicting an ubume, or the spirit of a woman who died in childbirth.

Over the past several months, normal people and YouTube personalities have said to have found Momo’s contact information for apps like WhatsApp and posted videos/screenshots of their conversations (not sure if those are faked, though they are creepy). Parents have also reported their children coming across videos of/about Momo on YouTube and YouTube Kids, traumatizing them and causing YouTube a lot of trouble (this is what happens when you have imperfect algorithms and AI that can’t actually examine video content for appropriateness or guideline violations). And rumors of deaths around the world supposedly caused by Momo (though no official police statements have definitively named Momo in any way to the case). This caused parent groups, celebrities, and Internet safety organizations to warn the public about Momo, saying she could pose a real threat to children and teens, and encouraging Internet safety.

Nowadays, any numbers/accounts associated with Momo are reported inactive and people are starting to realize this is just another Internet monster going around and getting a lot of attention. In other words, more hoax than horror (unless people are posing as Momo online, in which case I hope they can be traced and turned into the police). Still, parents and many others are concerned, and it’s not hard to see why.

So what made Momo so popular?

Well, a couple of factors. Like Slender Man before her, Momo is a modern, Internet incarnation of the boogeyman figures and demons that have haunted humanity’s dreams since the cave dwellings. She is an entity, a witch or demon who tempts or influences people, particularly vulnerable children, to harm. We’ve seen this before with Lilith and succubi, various demons across different cultures, and Krampus, among others. As time and technology have changed, so have our fears and the forms and ways our demons target us, the Internet being the newest way, both as a way to reach people and as a way to spread the word.

There’s also the photo of Momo, which as I said is a statue of Japanese artist Keisuke Aisawa’s conception of an ubume. However the photo itself got associated with the Momo character, it fulfills a lot of the same visual requirements to make it an effective creepypasta image. For one thing, it’s human-like, but distinctly inhuman. This matches up with the theory of the uncanny valley, which states that the further something moves away from being human, the less we are able to identify it as human. At a certain point between human and inhuman, images or objects will enter the “uncanny valley,” where we can’t identify it as human or inhuman and we react with anxiety. Momo’s exaggerated features put her squarely in that valley.

That, and she’s very meme-able. In the time she’s entered the public consciousness, Momo videos, images, artwork, and stories have popped up all over the Internet, ranging from the creepy to the funny. Hell, I even made some Momo imagery. Look.

Like it? It’s me using a filter on my phone. And it was easy to make. So imagine how easy it is for other people to take Momo’s iconic look and put their own spin on it. As I said, instantly meme-able.

But there’s one more reason why Momo’s become so popular, and in this way she’s out-paced Slender Man. You see, Slender Man is specified as an impersonal entity who mainly sticks to forests. Outside of the movie, he doesn’t really rely on the Internet to do what he does to people (though the Internet has been great for his career). Momo on the other hand, while her exact nature is up for debate, is much more human than Slender Man. Her picture has features, she uses the human tool of the Internet, and she attacks us in a personal, psychological way.

Even worse, she can be anyone, and we sense that on some level. We get that beyond the inhuman picture, there’s a human intelligence trying to traumatize and harm us. It could be the elementary school teacher, the kid delivering newspapers to the neighborhood, your local politician, your neighbor, the PTA mom, the college student looking for a thrill that doesn’t come from a needle. She’s the avatar of how you really can’t trust anyone on the Internet and can never really know what their intentions are with you. And isn’t being unable to trust your fellow humans the scariest thing of all?

Obviously, I condemn anyone using the Momo persona to cause harm to others. And I would remind everyone that Momo is a fictional character birthed on the Internet, and shouldn’t be taken seriously.

Momo has given me an idea for a story. I look forward to getting it written.

But all that being said, it’s no wonder she went viral like she did. She embodies several types of fears in one persona and image, horrifying and fascinating us all at once. It’s fascinated me to the point that I’ve been inspired to write a story. Not about Momo, but a character like her, one born on the Internet that becomes so viral it takes on a life of its own. I think Slender Man and Momo are only the first of a long line of these sort of entities, and I would like to give my own thoughts on the character type through the best medium at my disposal. I hope it turns out well.

 

And while I still have your attention, I’m still looking for eARC readers for my novel Rose. For those unaware, this is the story of a young woman who starts turning into a plant creature (and that’s just the start of her problems). If you would like to get an advanced electronic copy, send an email to ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com and I’ll put you on the list. All I ask is you consider posting a review on or after the release date. Thanks, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Good night, my Followers of Fear. Pleasant (possibly Momo-filled) nightmares.

Author Jason Stokes in an adorable photo with one of his cats.

It’s been a while, but I have a new author interview to share with everyone. This one is with an author with an extraordinary story, both in terms of the novel he’s published and his own life experiences. Allow me to introduce Jason Stokes, author of the new novel Watcher.

Rami Ungar: Welcome to the show, Jason. Please tell us about yourself and about Watcher.

Jason Stokes: My name is Jason Stokes. I am a writer and artist currently living in the mountains of western North Carolina.

Watcher is about a young woman diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis who witnesses a horrific crime via hacked webcams. Due to her own lifestyle, she is forced to make a decision between preserving her own safety and seeking justice for a woman she’s never met. In the process she finds herself against the most powerful citizens in her city and untangling a web of corruption that involves nearly everyone she meets.

RU: You wrote Watcher while taking care of your life, who has MS, and who gave a lot of input on the story. Can you tell us what that was like?

JS: It felt like it was time for a character that had the same struggles I’ve seen her go through and exposed the way caretakers in chronically ill lives support those they care about. I wanted her to have a hero she could relate to. She was invaluable, answering questions about how she would handle specific situations, helping me walk in her shoes and uncovering things I had never thought of.

RU: Did the idea for the novel evolve out of your wife’s diagnosis? Or did it influence an already-existing idea?

JS: I had an idea but It was all wrong. It was overdone and I wasn’t feeling excited by it. When I asked myself, how would she (my wife) handle this? It started to come together. I saw a story that had more depth and stakes that were higher than your average mystery/suspense story. When she (the MC)  wakes up every morning she is already at a disadvantage and it doesn’t get any easier from there.

RU: You founded the company, Gestalt Media, that published Watcher. Why go that route?

JS: Ultimately I’m a control freak but I also want to have a role in bringing forward original projects. I wanted full control over my own work and knew the stigma of self-publishing but I also know several creators and I wanted to help bring their projects to fruition. I’m currently working with an artist/writer to publish a series of offbeat comics sometime this year.

RU: On Twitter, you spoke about how a local bookstore refused to carry Watcher. Can you tell us why and how that made you feel?

JS: The store in question refused to carry Watcher because the main character has MS but I (the author) do not. Their stance is not unique. It is a trend among publishers and retail stores to insist on own voices and to refuse books by those outside of the represented  community. I felt that as my wife’s caretaker for the last six years, I have lived this as much as anyone aside from her. I wrote it with extreme care and respect and sought her input through the entire process. The fact is, there are people whose stories deserve to be told that may not be able to for whatever reason put it into words. As authors it is our responsibility to interpret and share the world. We often take ourselves out of the equation. If it’s done with respect, care and attention to the group being represented that should be enough.

I don’t think the store itself is wrong for their viewpoint. It’s their choice but I disagree with the narrow lane it provides for future literature. As I’ve said, it’s a good intent with misguided execution.

RU: I know this is tough to ask, but how are you and your wife doing these days?

JS: As well as we can. It’s a brutal disease and every day is a little worse than the last but we stay in good spirits. She’s a fighter, a true inspiration and I’m proud to stand beside her on this journey. As long as research continues we have something to look forward to. Anything can happen.

The cover for “Watcher” by Jason Stokes.

RU: That’s good. Can you tell us what your writing process is like, if you have one?

JS: I subscribe heavily to the tenets of the Snowflake theory outlined by Randy Ingermanson. Generally I will come up with a character or a situation I find appealing. Something that isn’t often seen or a new angle. Then I’ll place it in a world and find a central scene, something that brings the story to life. From there I’ll build out starting with a two or three sentence synopsis, then a few paragraphs, then a list of scenes, until the whole things appears.

RU: Are you working on anything now or have any future plans as far as writing goes?

JS: Too many things! There’s never a shortage of ideas and projects begging for time. I have another novel coming in time for Halloween. Ghost Story is the beginning of a series involving a protagonist that can see the dead on a road trip to discover more about his exceptionally unusual past.

RU: What advice would you have for other writers, no matter their background or level of experience?

JS: I’m going to quote Chuck Wendig ‘Finish your sh*t.’ You have to finish. As scary as it is. As difficult as it can seem. The real journey begins when you write ‘the end.’

RU: And finally, if you were stuck on a desert island for a while and could only bring three books with you, which ones would you take?

JS: Well, I think it would be only prudent to include the Worst Case Scenario Survival Guide. Alternately the Boyscouts of America field book if it was available. Next I’d bring along Robinson Crusoe for obvious reasons and Jurassic Park because it is the single most entertaining novel I’ve ever read.

RU: Thank you for being on the show, Jason, and the best of luck to you and your wife, both with Watcher and in life.

If you would like to check out Watcher (I’ve already sent a request into my local library to order a couple copies), you can get it for Kindle and in paperback from Amazon. If you’re interested in more of Jason Stokes, check him out on Twitter. I highly recommend you consider doing both.

And if you would like to be interviewed for an upcoming or recent release, either check out my Interviews page or send an email to ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com, and we’ll see if we can’t make some magic happen.

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

The other day, one of the YouTube channels I follow, Tale Foundry,* asked a question on their social media about the difference between an author’s writing style and voice. Since I saw it first on their Twitter, I answered their question there. It went something like this over the course of two tweets:

Writing style is the technical part of writing: the author’s word choice, how thoughts are written out, etc. Voice is that and more: what sort of stories the author likes to tell, their favorite characters, the elements they like to include to make the story exciting.

That was my answer at the time, but I wanted to make sure it was right and I wasn’t just pulling stuff out of my ass like most politicians. So I went to Google and took a look. To my surprise, I was pretty on the dot. According to that lovely resource none of my teachers or professors liked us using even when they used it themselves, Wikipedia, writing style “is the manner of expressing thought in language characteristic of an individual, period, school, or nation. Thus, style is a term that may refer, at one and the same time, to both conventions that go beyond the individual writer and to singular aspects of individual writing.” And according to TheBalanceCareers.com,** voice is “the author’s style, the quality that makes his or her writing unique, and which conveys the author’s attitude, personality, and character.”

For example, let’s look at HP Lovecraft’s writing style and voice, as they’re both so distinctive.*** His writing style is easy to pin down: an overly-wordy and stuffy Victorian patois filled with fancy words. Yeah, he liked to pretend he was a contemporary of Edgar Allen Poe. I think in his later works he tried to modernize his style, but he never got over using too many words and too many fancy ones.

As for his voice, that’s also easy to pin down: stories centering around terrors that give no care for mankind. Secrets and sights terrible enough to cause insanity. Entities so powerful they see humanity as nothing more than ants in the grand scheme of things. All with an unhealthy helping of xenophobia, racism, fear of women, fear of sex, fear of technology and progress, inability to grasp many sciences and maths, and an obsession with sophisticated upbringing and breeding.

Yeah, dude had his issues, and this was before getting help for your problems was effective and smiled upon by society. On the plus side, it had a lasting influence on the horror genre that’s still felt today. And the combination of the two makes it easy to point out an HP Lovecraft story when you come across one, even if his name is obscured.

As for my own style and voice, they’re still evolving. But I’ve noticed a few things for each. I prefer to write my characters blunt with their feelings, possibly because I have enough trouble understanding real humans and their confusing mix of emotions. And I love writing stories with unlikely heroines or nice-guy heroes, usually but not always in the their teens, supernatural enemies and horrors, plenty of either realistic or twisted love and romance, and more than a dash of weird to make it fun.

I think there are people out there who like that sort of thing. Not all of them are close relatives. I hope.

Writing style and voice are both very important aspects of writing, both for the writer using them and for the audience reading their work. It’s how we come to know the storytellers, how we identify them just from looking at a page, and it’s what allows them to stay relevant and immersive long after they’ve stopped typing on keyboards or holding pens.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ll have a review out this weekend, so if nothing else comes up in the meantime, I’ll see you then. Until then, pleasant nightmares!

Have you noticed anything about your writing style or voice? What about your favorite authors?

*Which you should check out if you’re interested in stories and looking past the surface to the mechanics and deeper meaning of storytelling, by the way. Here’s the link to their YouTube channel.

**They also mention voice can refer to a character or narrator’s voice. But since I think Tale Foundry was referring to the author’s voice, I’ll stick with that one.

***Speaking of which, yesterday was the 91st anniversary of the publication of The Call of Cthulhu, the first appearance of the titular character and the namesake of the Mythos. Happy Birthday, Cthulhu. May you someday rise out of the sea to irrevocably change the world (preferably before the 2020 election becomes super depressing/annoying).

Today I went to the movies for a double feature. The first film was the new Alita: Battle Angel (for my thoughts on that, check my Twitter feed). The other was the sequel to 2017’s hit horror film Happy Death Day (see my review of that here). Plenty of people who liked the first film, including myself, wondered if the sequel could live up to the fun and batshit insanity of the original. And I think they did a decent job.

Happy Death Day 2U picks up almost immediately after the end of the first film, with protagonist Tree and boyfriend Carter finding out Carter’s roommate Ryan is now in a murder-filled time loop of his own. They discover the source of the time loop, but in the process of trying to fix it, Tree is sent into an alternate timeline where things are quite different, and where she’s stuck in the loop again. And if she doesn’t solve this loop and find a way back to her timeline, things will get really messy.

As one would expect, this film does take a lot of cues from the first film, which takes a lot of cues from Groundhog Day and other time-loop stories. So people who were expecting something different will be disappointed (though how they could expect something different is beyond me). The stakes are raised this time though, because Tree has to protect not just her own life, but has to save other lives along with other tasks in order to get back to her life as she knows it. There’s also the added dilemma of whether Tree wants to go back to her original timeline, as the new one has some perks along with some downsides (you’ll see what I mean if you decide to see the film). The sequel is also more comedic than the original, which I was able to deal with even though I prefer more horror in my films. And if you wanted an explanation of why the time loops are occurring, this film does provide it.

That being said, the decreased amount of horror may turn off some viewers. And the sci-fi explanations for why the time loops are occurring may confuse some people, especially those who barely passed high school physics. Hell, even I was confused by the explanations, and I’m usually good with this stuff. I understood Inception and Donnie Darko on the first go-rounds, so you know they must’ve really made it confusing here!

But if you look at the whole package, Happy Death Day 2U is, while not as good as the original, a good successor. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’ll give it a 4.2. It’s a funny, crazy, bloody movie and if they made a third film (which, based on a mid-credits sequence, I think they will), I’d check it out.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. If you need me, I’ll be editing. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

I just published a new article on the other site I write for, Self-Published Authors Helping Other Authors. This article is, Does Comics Sans Font Make Writing Easier? I decided to answer that question after a friend of mine said on Twitter that writing in Comic Sans was supposed to make writing easier. After she pointed me in the direction of an article that talked about it, I tried it out while writing The Black Foals, my latest story. The results are in the above article I linked to.

Anyway, since my own experience can’t apply to everyone, I decided to open things up to the readers and see what they thought. Yeah, I’m doing a “From the Readers” thing. I’m asking for readers to try writing something in Comic Sans and to email me how it went for them. If you are interested in participating, I’d suggest checking out the article and getting the full details there. You’ve got till May 1st to send us your feedback, so there’s plenty of time to decide if you want to participate (but I hope you will).

And while you’re there, why not check out the other articles we have? Self-Published Authors Helping Other Authors is a phenomenal site for writers of all stripes and background who want advice on how to write, edit, publish and market not only well, but without paying through the nose to make their dreams happen.

That’s all for now, Followers of Fear. I promise you, there’ll be a review or two this week, so keep an eye out for them. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!