Posts Tagged ‘study abroad trip’

I normally don’t do introspective posts like this. You know me, if it’s not something horror or writing-related, there’s a good chance it’s related to an issue near and dear to my heart, such as disability rights and awareness. But I found out today that there’s only 45 days left of the year, and it’ll be even less once you’re reading this post. And that’s significant, because it’s not just the end of 2019 that’s approaching, but the end of the 2010’s. And that’s crazy to think about. An entire decade is ending in just over a month and a half.

So I’d like to take a bit of time and write about my thoughts concerning the ending of 2019 and the 2010’s.*

And a lot can be said about either subject. For 2019, I’m going to argue that the best things about this year were in terms of entertainment. Think about it: Avengers Endgame, The Lighthouse, Us and the fourth season of Lucifer. They were all amazing! And the rest was pretty much cringe-inducing (I won’t say anymore on that lest I break my rule about commenting on politics and certain current events).

But it’s hard to deny that it’s been a tough year, and a tough decade to boot. Depending on who you ask, things either started out good and got worse over the years, or things started out bad and got better. Or a couple other answers, but those are the main ones, I think. However you saw the 2010’s, it’s been a decade of profound change. Technology became faster and more efficient, more ubiquitous and necessary to our lives. Many peoples became more divided because of beliefs, or backgrounds, or a hundred other reasons. Leaders have changed, and with them the policies of various nations. The need to protect the environment has become stronger, and we’ve taken steps forward and backward to address that. Pop culture took radical shifts too, with horror gaining a new, hard-won respect it previously never enjoyed, and Marvel became the movie powerhouse that DC has always been. Streaming has become the new frontier. And more media is being created every day to reflect our increasingly diverse society, with much of it making into the mainstream. All along lots more remakes and reboots and sequels than anyone wanted or needed.

In short, lots and lots of change.

The 2010’s were a decade of change for me as well. Quite literally. I started the decade as a high school student who thought I had a cushy after-school job selling basketball tickets and that I was going to be a bestselling author by the time I was 25. I graduated high school, went to college and dealt with all the growth and crazy and learning that comes with it. I went on a study abroad trip, moved to my first apartment, and graduated again. I went to Germany for an internship, and then came home for the nadir of the decade, where I dealt with a horrific job search and back pain. I finally got my job and my old place. My health improved, though at some point I did develop a nasty anxiety disorder. I visited haunted locations I’d always dreamed of visiting. I got my driver’s license and my car.

At some point, I stopped being a kid and started being an adult. And along the way, I found this amazing community of writers and bloggers and readers and published books and short stories along the way, including Rose this past summer. It’s been kind of crazy.

And for the most part, the decade was good. Yeah, there were some bad times, but the good are what I remember the most. Mostly because the good was the result of my own hard work and perseverance.

And as the new Roaring Twenties approach (hopefully they’ll be roaring because they’re fun, and not because of nuclear missiles being launched everywhere), there’s something we should all keep in mind. I know the future seems bleak and scary. Believe me, all I have to do is look at the news to be reminded of that fact. But we have the power to make good things happen. I’ve seen amazing things happen just through sheer effort. And when you take a step towards what you want to see in the world, you’ll see the world come together to help you along.

So as we end this year 44 days from now and enter a new decade, just remember to keep your chin up. You have the power to make the changes you want to see. And when you take those steps, you’ll be amazed at what you accomplish.

Well, this post is getting super long. I’ll cut off here and say see you Thursday at the latest. Until next time, my Followers of Fear, pleasant nightmares!

*Normally I’d reserve this sort of post for New Year’s. However, I’ve noticed that, probably because of the holidays, those posts don’t get that many readers. So I figure I might as well get my thoughts out now before we’re all caught up in our personal lives and can’t spare any time to read blog posts.

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

Five years. It’s been five years since I started this blog, feeling my way haphazardly through the process of writing and posting about my writing and my life (in order of priority), with the hopes of building an audience so that by the time of I published my first book (at eighteen, I figured it was only a matter of time before that happened), I might have some ready readers eager to buy my first book, and every one after.

That didn’t go exactly as planned. But I have gotten a lot out of Rami Ungar the Writer. For one things, I’ve made lots and lots of friends. Angela Misri, Matthew Williams, Kat Impossible, Ruth Ann Nordin, Pat Bertram, Joleene Naylor, Dellani Oakes, and so many more. I’ve had the chance to write for other blogs, including Self-Published Authors Helping Other Authors, and, yes, I’ve met people who’ve picked up my books and read them.

I’m also this close to nine-hundred followers, as well as so very close to five-thousand likes (like, sixty away! Sixty!). That’s something I’m very excited to achieve, though I’m not sure when either of those will happen.

But it’s more than just stats or book sales. The fact is, you’ve all been with me through a lot. Four years of college, the highs and lows of that fun, crazy experience. Progress in my writing career, including my first three published books, and the creation of several more, which I hope to get out as soon as possible. My study abroad trip, and then my internship in Germany, and all those fun, cool experiences. The long period of unemployment that nearly drove me insane, and finally the beginning of my new job/internship, which I hope will someday become a full-time position (God willing!). All of you, my Followers of Fear, have been with me through these past five years, and I’m really grateful for all the love and encouragement and interaction you’ve had with me. I hope that in the next five years, we can continue with this awesome relationship of ours, and maybe grow to let more people into this awesome community we’ve constructed online.

And that’s what the blogosphere is, when you get down to it. It’s a community. Connections of thousands upon thousands of writers on a million different subjects, getting together to talk about whatever. It’s a beautiful thing, and I’m so happy to be part of this community, no matter the size of my following or what we talk about on this blog.

Though I am happy that some of you are into horror and that some of you also read my books. I appreciate that a lot!

Now, onto the other stuff I promised with this post. First, a reader-suggested Q&A, with questions from this blog and from Facebook, as well as a couple of things I wanted to unload off my chest, so I asked myself (yes, I ask myself questions. I just don’t usually answer back. That would be weird). So without further ado, let’s begin:

What is your earliest recollection of your love of writing? (Sherri Kauth, from Facebook)

I don’t think there was ever a time I didn’t love to write. Or rather, a time I didn’t like storytelling. I would draw for hours, pretending I was making a great fantasy story or the storyboards for the next Pokemon movie. When I started learning how to spell and write and read, my pictures were accompanied by words, and as I got older I used more and more words, until I was writing novels. It wasn’t until I was ten that I really set myself to writing (with the occasional flirtation of becoming a mad scientist or a rockstar), but all things come in good time, am I right?

If you had to write in a completely different genre from what you’ve done so far, which one would you choose? (Kat Impossible, from the blog)

Easy, I’d go with erotica! I’ve read erotica before, and there’s definitely an art to it. It’s more than just simple porn, it’s a story revolving around sex. And I’ve written a sex scene or two in my time, one of which ended up in the final draft of Snake (of which someone close to me said, “He nailed it!”). I even have an erotic pen name I’d use if I ever got into the genre, along with some ideas for stories.

Of course, I’m not so sure my current employers would enjoy having an erotica writer on staff. Then again, they’re okay with me writing horror stories, so long as I don’t talk about them at work, so…

What is a favorite hobby besides reading, writing, or watching horror movies/TV? (Joleene Naylor, from the blog)

Oh goodness, that’s most of what I do when I’m not at work or eating or sleeping. Hmm…I guess rocking out to music or reading too much manga. And hanging out with friends, and family too (when I feel like I can retain my sanity).

Who is the favorite character you have created? (Tammy Whaley, from Faceebok)

Ooh, another tough one. In a way, I love all my characters. They’re like my children. Even the psychopathic ones. But if I had to choose, I’d have to go with Laura Horn, from the novel of the same name that I’m working on. In a way, she’s the character that I’ve made go through the hardest trials, and for whom her growth as a character is especially dramatic. For all of that, I want to give her a hug and tell her that she’ll be okay, even though I’m the source of her suffering (like I’ve said before, Writers are Cruel Gods). So I guess her suffering makes her my favorite character. What does that say about me?

What’s something from the past year you regret?

This is one I’m asking myself. Yes, I do have something: back in winter, I said I was going to do a series of posts about mental illness and its portrayal in horror stories. However, since then I’ve been so busy with so many different things, I haven’t had a moment to really work on this series, let alone do a post about attitudes about mental illness in general. So that’s been a problem for me. I felt guilty about it, since a lot of you were enthusiastic about me doing the project. And if I ever have actual time for it in the future, I will try my hardest to do the project. For now though, it’s on a far back burner until I can actually do something about it.

Well, I’m getting to the point where I’m really worrying about length, so I’ll wrap up the Q&A there (too bad, because I wanted to include more questions). Thanks to everyone who submitted questions, and I hope you liked the answers.

And finally, the giveaway. If you are interested in getting an autographed copy of one of my books, here are the rules. Below in the comments, you have to submit the following:

  1. Your name, as it would be listed on your mail (if you have a nickname you’d prefer, we can talk about that later).
  2. Which book you’d like from me (the choices are The Quiet Game, Reborn City, Snake, or Video Rage).
  3. What you find scary personally.
  4. The hashtag #RUscared? (See what I did there?)

Include all that below, and I’ll pick a winner a week from today, on August 9th. I’ll contact the winner, and send them the book, no matter where they live. Excited? Good. Ready? GO!

Well, that’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ll let you know if anything comes up before Friday. In the meantime, thanks again for sticking with me through all this time. I really appreciate it.

My writing space

My writing space

As many of you know, I’ve been living in my own space for a little over a month, and I’ve been working at my new job for about the same amount of time. I’d been wanting to move into my own place for ages after I moved back in with my dad, but it took a paying job to finally make it happen (hopefully the job keeps going for quite a while). And I love it here. I can do my own thing (which is actually pretty weird, truth be told) without having to hold back for other people; I can cook my own meals, including some fun meat recipes (my dad’s a vegetarian, so I’m having a blast expanding my chicken recipes); and I finally have my own spot where I write my stories, something I haven’t had in years. Plus the neighbors are quiet and I’m in a pretty nice partof the neighborhood, so it’s pleasant to live here. And close to work, too. I’m happy about that.

There are only three things I can really complain about:

  • Laundry is almost as expensive as it was in my college dorm. Maybe more.
  • I don’t have a dishwasher, so I have to hand-wash everything. That’s not so bad, but when you’re sure you’ve scrubbed something as hard as possible, and then you find there’s some grease left…
  • As far as I know, my building isn’t haunted in any way, shape, or form. Yes, I consider that a con. It’s a minor con, but it’s a con, nonetheless.

On a somewhat related tangent, I took an AP Psychology course in my last year of high school, and I actually remember quite a bit from that class. One was that some very interesting things happen when you move house or change jobs, mentally. You are better able to break bad habits (though I can’t seem to lose my sweet tooth, no matter what I do), and something in your brain frees up, allowing for the easy formation of new habits and routines, and even heightened creativity.

Well, I’m definitely doing that heightened creativity thing pretty well. In fact, I haven’t been this creative since my first time in Europe! Since I moved into my new apartment, I’ve had a multitude of new ideas, and I’ve gotten even more ideas since I started working at my job. They’ve mostly been short stories, which are the most common ideas I have (and the ones I struggle with the most to get right, weirdly enough), but I’ve had a couple of novel ideas as well, really good ones. Like, really good. Like, the kind that I think people will compare to Stephen King novels someday, really good. I had one of those the other day while putting away my groceries. I was pulling Dr. Pepper out of a box and onto the top shelf (I think I formed a new bad habit, over consuming caffeinated sodas. What can I say? I need caffeine to get through work some days), and I had this idea for a story involving an actress and reincarnation. And I was like, “That’s a good idea. It could work.”

Ouroboros, a symbol of reincarnation to some. I may try to integrate it into that story idea I had.

Of course, with the many ideas I’ve had over the past six weeks or so, I’ve had less time for actually writing and editing. I’ve been working on Rose for a couple of weeks, but I’ve only gotten through Chapter 2 so far. I think that’s partly because I’m rewriting a lot of the first couple chapters based on the suggestions I got from my advisor and second reader after the second draft (and that’s a lot of material to work with), but on most weekdays I only have a couple of hours to write. Once I get home, I check my email and everything else I didn’t have access to while at work, I make and eat my dinner, I make a lunch for tomorrow, I shower. Anytime left over is for writing, editing, or blogging before I go to bed (unless I have to make a midweek shopping trip to the grocery store or something. Then I have even less time).

Honestly, I wish I could divide myself in two during the day. One Rami stays home and works on the stories, the other goes to work and gets the assignments done.

Yeah, I know. Bad idea. One Rami Ungar is a sign of the Apocalypse. Two of me would surely cause calamity and discord just by our very existence (kind of like a certain American presidential candidate I could name).

But I digress. The point is, these new environments re getting my brain going, giving me all sorts of ideas for stories that I hope to write as soon as possible. In the meantime, I’ll keep working, and I’ll keep riding this creativity wave for as long as possible.

And I hope that you all get to enjoy the ideas I come up with during this period someday. I would very much like that indeed.

Today I leave for my first post-college job, working with the US Army Civilian Corps in Germany. I’m all packed up (hopefully my suitcase is under fifty pounds, I think it is but that scale’s needle keeps moving), my carry on has everything I need, my passport’s tucked away, and my farewells have all been said on Facebook and Twitter, with lots of comments on both wishing me well. As far as I can tell, I’m all ready to go.

And yet it feels so unreal to me, like instead of going to Germany, I’m jumping into a fantasy world straight out of a movie. You can understand why I feel that way: while I’ve been to Germany before, this is going to be on the opposite end of the country, I’m going to be on a US Army base, and whenever I step out of that base, I’m going to be in a place where the language, culture and the people are very different from what I’ve grown up with (thank goodness I’m already a little familiar with all three of those). It’s definitely going to be unlike anything I’ve experienced before, and unlike when I went to Israel the summer before my senior year of high school or my study abroad trip, I’m not going with a bunch of people in the same boat as me. I’m going by myself! To say the least, I’m a little nervous.

Despite that, I’m looking forward to this. I’m looking forward to immersing myself in the life and cultures of both the US Army base and of Germany. I’m looking forward to meeting all these contacts I’ve been set up with through friends and through my own searching (who knew there were so many people friends with people I know in Germany?). I can’t wait to explore the cities, the castles, the forests and museums and Jewish sections of the cities I’ll be near. I’m looking forward to all the ideas I’ll have for stories or articles while doing this.

And I’m sure that, despite the fact that I’m diving into this alone, I’ll be fine. I’ve reason to believe that. Despite my nervousness, I’ve usually been good with new situations. My dad can testify to this: he saw me on my first day of kindergarten, my first day at Columbus Torah Academy, my first USY (that’s a Jewish youth group) convention, my USY trip to Israel, and then when I got to Ohio State. And, as he made clear on Facebook, I was fine, so I’m sure I’ll be fine this time around as well.

Plus my latest Tarot reading gave a pretty positive outlook on the whole thing, so there’s more reason to be hopeful. Yes, I’m still reading Tarot, and no, I don’t really believe in it but it’s nice to have a positive reading, isn’t it?

When I post again, it’ll probably be in Germany, and to say I’ve arrived safely. What else will there be to say, I can only guess. First impressions, what my roommate is like, how they weren’t kidding about Europe being in the grip of a heat wave, a bunch of other stuff I can only guess at. We’ll see what happens.

In the meantime, wish me a safe flight, in English or German, and wish me luck in my new environment. I have no idea what’ll happen, but I think it’s going to be one of the most exciting experiences I’ve ever had.

Auf wederschein, my Followers of Fear!

It’s coming soon.

It’s coming.

Well actually at the time I started writing this post it’s six days, eighteen hours, and 18 minutes till graduation. But who’s counting?

Still, it’s amazing that this milestone in my life is coming so quickly. I’ve been looking forward to it for nearly a year, and by he time I turn around, it’s probably going to be here. I’ll see my whole family (and I mean my whole family, around ten or so people are showing up for this), I’ll walk down that aisle for my diploma, my mother will cry her eyes out and then be grateful that for mother’s day she’s got one kid graduated and three to go. There will be tears, photos, selfies galore. I’ll get my diploma and meet President Drake for the first and possibly only time. Afterwards there will be more photos and congratulations, I might have time to change my clothes, and then we’ll go out to dinner.

Oh, and alcohol. Pleeeenty of alcohol will be consumed. It’s graduation, it’s to be expected.

You know, I’m really going to miss Ohio State. So much happened here. I took so many fun classes, a few ones I wish I could do over or never took at all. I made great friends, some of whom I’ll stay friends with for life. I met so many great professors and learned so many awesome things from them. I published my first three books and wrote two or three more while I was here. I published some articles and short stories, started working for Self-Published Authors Helping Other Authors. I went to Europe on a study abroad trip. I worked in a really wonderful office with really awesome people. I got my first apartment and started to really become an adult (paying bills, creating a credit history, etc.). And while I was here, I grew an audience of readers who enjoy my posts, love giving me feedback, and even read my books from time to time.

I think what I’m going to miss the most though, more than the excitement and surprises of learning something new each and every semester, is the challenge. Each and every year, and each and every semester, I’ve had new challenges to overcome, new obstacles to tackle and fight against. This has ranged from getting used to college, to getting used to semesters, living in my first apartment with a new friend, going abroad, doing a thesis, and a million other things. I like to think I met and beat challenge successfully.

Well, depending where I get my next job, there will definitely be new challenges to deal with, so that won’t be a problem. Hopefully I’ll know where I’m going soon (still working on my first job, but hopefully I’ll have more news soon). And you know what? As much as I love OSU, I feel it’s time to move on and see what’s next for me. I can’t remain as a student forever, and I don’t think I’d want to, even if I could and it cost me next to nothing. College is meant to be temporary anyway, so why stick around?

And I’m actually looking forward to getting away from a few things. Classes I hate, huge reading assignments, that sort of thing. Enough with that. And I’ll definitely be glad to see the last of those preachers on the Oval who keep telling us we have to become proper Christians (whatever that means) or we’ll go to hell. Honestly, I heard one of those guys claim the Girl Scouts are going to turn us into hedonists. I was like, “Whuuuuuuut?”

Well, I’ll make sure to post about graduation after it happens in one week. Or as a certain ghost I know likes to say:


Sorry, could not resist. You know, I once joked on Facebook that I’d married the ghost in that movie and that one post got so many likes and hilarious comments. And then some people thought it was true. Yeah, that was the awkward icing on the cake. Still, hilarious story. Might post about it some day.

Anyway, I’d like to thank everyone for sticking with me through all of my undergraduate career. I hope you guys continue to stick with me as I take on whatever comes next and as I continue to work on becoming the next big horror writer.

Until the next time, my Followers of Fear. Hope you’re not as busy as I am.

As a Jew, Christmas isn’t really my thing. In fact, I’ve been referring to it in a half-joking manner as my month-long headache. But sometimes Christmas surprises me, as it did last night.

After watching The Interview on Christmas Eve and sleeping in much later than I had meant to, I’d pretty much been a couch potato all day, catching up on the shows I’d missed out on this semester. Since I was planning on watching the Doctor Who Christmas special, I went out for a walk and stretch my legs. And what a walk it was! The air was actually much warmer than last year, there wasn’t any rain or snow, and there was hardly any traffic! Hardly any at all! You could walk right into the middle of what would normally be a very busy street and just dance! Which I did, by the way. Several times! And nobody gave me a weird look at all…not that there was anyone really around to look. And I probably wouldn’t care what anyone thought if there was someone there, anyway.

After stopping off at the local donut shop for an after-dinner snack (and for what became this morning’s breakfast), I decided to go for a walk on campus. And it was unlike anything I’d ever experienced before. Everything was so quiet, so empty, and there was a slight mist in the air. It gave everything a strange, magical air, and I kept expecting to see something magical pop out at me (more than usual anyway). With my earbuds popped in, I ended up dancing on the Oval to some of my favorite uplifting party songs, just because I could. I then stopped by Mirror Lake, which at this time of year is lit up with Christmas lights. I don’t normally care for all the lights, but tonight it was enchanting and I really enjoyed myself.

It was at that point that I decided to head home, especially if I wanted to take a shower before the Christmas special began. And it was also at that point that something that I’d been waiting for finally happened: if you recall back in May during my study abroad trip, I began a short story called The Murderer’s Legacy that was inspired by some of the things I’d seen and read about while in London. The story was about a nobleman living in a version of Victorian England where magic is commonplace. The nobleman is being sentenced to death (or at least a very horrific version of it) for the murder of his wife, whom he did not murder. At the end of the story it’s revealed who actually murdered her and why, but by then it’s too late for the nobleman.

Something like I saw last night. You can see how inspiring it is, can’t you?

 

I thought at the time that it was a pretty good story, and that it had a lot of potential. I still do. But I felt that the version I had in the first draft wasn’t sufficient, and I had to do some major editing and rewriting in order to make the story work. This became more apparent to me as time went on, especially as some of the lessons from all the creative writing I did this last semester began to sink in, namely don’t plunge the reader into a fantastic world with a million different parts and pieces to it if you have only ten-thousand words to do it and tell a story set in that world. My first draft felt like starting Harry Potter in Book 4 or 5 and being plunged into this great big established universe, rather than being slowly introduced to that world in Book 1.

The problem was, I didn’t know how to fix this story so that it was not only simpler, but flowed better and actually told a story rather than introducing the reader to a complicated world they couldn’t take in slowly. Try as I might, I couldn’t think of a way to approach this story and edit it. Until last night, that is, when standing by Mirror Lake, something just clicked and inspiration flowed. I finally figured out how to make this story work, how to tell it in a creepy way while keeping the basic idea behind it alive. Not only that, but I had all the research materials I needed at home, so looking up what I needed for this story would be a cinch.

You can imagine the size of the smile on my face as I walked home that evening. I had all the inspiration I needed to rewrite The Murderer’s Legacy into a good story. Then I realized I have no time to work on it, with a thesis and classes to deal with. Oy vey, the life of a writer in college. It’s never easy.

Well, who knows? There may be a chance for me to still work on this story before May. I’ll have an easier workload this coming semester and that means more time for homework and writing. Maybe I’ll be able to finish Rose early and work on this and all my other projects. We can hope, right?

Well, that’s all for now. I’ve got plenty of work ahead of me, so I’m going to try and get that done. Have a good weekend and (if I don’t post again before December 31st) Happy New Year, my Followers of Fear.

Be very afraid.

AAAAAH! That was the reaction of several people in the audience at various points during the movie. Ever since I heard of As Above, So Below, I’ve been dying to see it, and that desire only increased after visiting the Paris catacombs themselves. So when my friend Ramsey, who went on the study abroad trip with me back in May, suggested we go see a movie this weekend, I had just the movie in mind.

Written and directed by Drew and John Erick Dowdle and starring Perdita Weeks and Ben Feldman, As Above, So Below follows urban archaeologist who finds a clue to an old mystery during a covert trip to Iran. Heading then to Paris with a documentary student and teaming up with an old flame of hers, she ends up realizing that what she is looking for may be more than just a legend, and goes into the Paris catacombs themselves to find t. But in the process, she finds so, so much more and in her search for the truth, she may just find her death.

Apparently taking a lot of work to film and bring together, the Dowdle brothers can be assured their hard work was worth it. The film’s slow build up of suspense, couple with the claustrophobic feelings of being in dark, underground tunnels (and watching it in a dark movie theater), lends to a creepy atmosphere that only gets heightened in the last act of the film, where monstrous visions and creatures appear one after another, eliciting those screams from the audience that I mentioned. The brother also know how to insert a twist into their script, by taking the last couple minutes of the movie in a direction that other directors might not have gone down, and completely subverting the rules of found footage films (for more on those rules, check out my article on them). And Weeks and Feldman as the film’s leads manage to portray a romance that doesn’t seem contrived or sappy at all.

My one criticism of the film is that at times, things move a little too slowly so that the terror and suspense dies down a little. Luckily at the drop of a hat it can be ramped up again, but I think terror throughout would’ve done more for the film. Still, it was a good horror film, and later over drinks Ramsey, two friends of his that he’d brought along, and I enjoyed a good hour or so of dissecting the film and looking at all the aspects of it, whether symbolical, plot-wise, or what terrified us in our seats.

Grading this film was hard, and I’m still not sure I was able to give it a good grade. Nevertheless, a grade must be given, so I’m going to go with a 4.4 out of 5. Great film, plenty of scares, and no bad sequel. If you like scares, you shouldn’t be disappointed with As Above, So Below. I know I wasn’t.