Borderlands Bootcamp and My Vacation Encounter With Kink

15 04 2021

I am slowly bringing my hopes back up regarding writing, and my first step on this new path is to go on a writers retreat. Throughout the years, I had been told I should attend Odyssey Writers Workshop, One Of The Clarion Workshops, or Taos Toolbox. The cost is prohibitive, sure ($4K, $6K, and who knows respectively), but the reason I did not go to these events is my Depression/Anxiety got in the way. These events are obvious advantages for networking and learning on a professional level.

The Borderlands Bootcamp is run by horror publisher Borderlands Books, managed by longtime horror author Tom Monteleone. He wrote a column for Cemetery Dance magazine a while back and I’ve seen anthologies he edited. The Bootcamp always had pretty big genre names teaching this weekend long session. The session is a series of lectures with breakout sessions where a pro critiques your submission along with others in your breakout group.

The price was right and my ego had been stripped of pretense this past year, so now was the time.

I’m critiquing my fellow breakout group member submissions. Reading strangers’ work is frustrating and also humbling, in that the problems with the work are obvious but also I remember having similar problems when I first started writing. The more experienced writers had problems I could identify with, say a stylish structure that works in theory, but lacks reason using the innovation.

Here are some of the critiques I noted (serial numbers filed off and edited to remove dissembling) which may prove useful to you:

  • The writer is creating a dream. Reminding the reader it is a dream jolts the reader from the dream. Reading attributions like “said” or “asked” jolts the reader. Attach dialogue to physicality for attribution.
  • Invent everything. Create your whole world and immerse us in it. Do not use Real Life names mixed in with invented names. Do not use gods from Real Life religions who are still being worshipped.
  • If you are using flashbacks, give the flashbacks a purpose. Shorten those scenes the reader already has seen, introduce new information in each flashback. Unify the flashback with the plot by giving the flashback a reason to have been prompted (seeing a memento, hearing someone telling a lie, etc.).
  • The story begins when someone does something to being the plot. Remove all world building or reminiscence or prologue.
  • All characters must want something. They must work toward that something. It is best to have the character state what they want. I heard that NK Jemison said there is no shame in making that statement blunt and obvious.
  • A Point Of View is sensation and emotion. What does it feel like to wear the beautiful dress? How does your character feel when wearing it?
  • Every event in a story must have an emotional reaction. Either characters react to it or the POV narrator selects the words to create tone.

I’ll you know how things go at this Bootcamp.

Here’s a little story from my only overseas vacation, Ireland in the mid-’90s. Ireland is a lovely country but overall it is Kentucky with a sexier accent. It is where I had an accidental encounter with someone’s kink.

I was taking a mid-afternoon tour of the Guinness Brewery in Dublin. I followed the tour guide through the brewery, through the tunnels used to port the barrels to the trucks. In the museum, the sundry middle-aged crowd and I looked at the clay pipes used to carry the beer, and the nails driven into the pipes so that porters could drink from the pipes when they passed under. Posters of the Guinness toucan saying “My Goodness! My Guinness!” and such. We eagerly went to the gift shop, as getting Guinness gear was Goal Number One for any Irish vacation.

Once we were looking through the shirts and hats and such, a young woman hissed.

“Why are we here? I’m bored!”

The crowd seemed to part to reveal a couple. A tall man looked down at a young woman saying “Look at this stuff. This stuff is tacky!”

She was maybe five foot two and in her early twenties. Long black hair and dark eyes. She wore a teal velvet catsuit that would have been gauche on a casino floor. My brain seized up when I looked at her attire. How had I not noticed her? I mean she was hawt and fit and just this side of trashy. She stood out even in a crowd of American tourists.

“Who has even heard of this place?”

Silence fell on the crowd.

The guy was Long Island, New York personified. Maybe six foot tall wearing khakis, expensive sneakers, a Ralph Lauren sweater, all in earth tones, with wire rim glasses and a well-groomed receding hairline. He would have fit in at a dentist convention.

He looked at her with a blank helplessness.

I exchanged looks with a black guy wearing a Jameson’s sweatshirt. No one ever hearing about the Guinness brewery? She had to be kidding, right?

She continued berating him. He just looked down at her and took it. Everyone fidgeted in anticipation or confused disgust. I mean, what the hell dude?

She made it clear that she was not enjoying this vacation. That he needed to do something interesting this afternoon.

“She must be good in bed,” I muttered. The black guy raised his eyebrows and shook his head. The group moved on onto the street and went on with their lives.

I don’t remember when I realized this, but now I recognize that the woman was a domme. This guy had paid his domme to come on his vacation so he could be kink-shamed in public.

Looking back, I am annoyed that this dweeb pulled an unsuspecting tour group into his humiliation fantasy. Not cool at all. Let this learn ye! Keep your kinks thoroughly consensual.





This Writing Book Is Helping Apple Pie Preserves Save My Life

11 03 2021

“Woo-woo”. “Twee”. “Arty-farty”. I had a litany of dismissive syllables for Anne Lamott. Deep down, I knew she had some emotional truth. From my earliest memories as a frantically joking five year old, I did not want emotional truth. I wanted manuals on how to conquer the world.

Fifty years later, my latest endeavor, after decades of abandoned endeavors, was to become a self-publisher. Working a full-time job and writing every day, I now told myself “time to learn about Amazon marketing!” And my body said “Nope!” The next morning I woke up to my first panic attack since high school. And every morning after that.

Now I’m beyond dealing with the tumult of crappy jobs and mortality. Now I had to face that I was a collection of traits that kept people away and defeated my goals. I knew that I wanted to “do” and did not care about wanting to “be”. I knew perfection was my enemy, sure, but somehow it kept defeating me. After two decades of councilors who helped me with immediate turmoil, I had nothing left but to confront The Grand Unification Theory of My Crappy Traits.

They seem insurmountable. I’d hit the 3/4 point of my lifespan and I believed in being realistic: I was never really going to be successful at comedy or writing, or have a relationship, or even like myself much. If I could understand WHY I had these traits, I could at least die content.

Thanks to a new counsellor, I have been discovering how to be “happier” which turns out to be an emotional synonym for “being”. My definition for happiness had been very terse. The only time I ever felt truly self-accepting was during the thirty seconds I watched myself on national TV. “NOW life makes sense. This is RIGHT. Everything is IN PLACE.” I knew this was sick, but I did not care.

I rediscovered that I liked the feel of fleece. I liked being warm. I used to like drawing, but I still couldn’t hold a pencil even to doodle. I took days off to drive around, anywhere, just to be and find whatever. One day at a farmers market I found McCutcheons Apple Pie Preserves. I discovered I like them for sandwiches, cooking glaze, and as a spice. I order it by the box.

It is literally like they gutted apple pies and put the delicious entrails in jars.

I allowed myself to take days off, then weeks off, because I was sick, had been sick, and I needed to get well. I learned to talk with my emotions, not ignore them and use their starved revenants to power the treadmill.

Then at the end of a session, my counsellor handed me a sheet with the Personality Traits of Adult Children of Alcoholics. I stood, about to leave, and scanned it. Every muscle locked. Irritability. Impatience. Risk Avoidance. Problems with Emotional Intimacy. Lots more. Every thing about myself that I regretted, every mistake I made, every thing I did to make my life harder, all of it filtered through this list. Here was my Grand Unification Theory. I had a new problem now.

What is the difference between my personality and my pathology? I was irritable, I was impatient, I was hard on myself. I was funny when drunk and overly polite and ingratiating. Now I knew: no, that wasn’t me. The acquired traits made me this way. Moving around the country with only two troubled people as consistent, reliable support made me this way.

It wasn’t “who can I be?” It was “what am I?” Successful people did what I yearned to do, and they did it not out of spite, but because they love it regardless of results, just like the people who were less successful.

Some people never learn these things. Over the years, I almost died a few times not knowing.

My response was, and still is, “Damn the world. Damn me for not knowing. Damn my parents for not getting their own counseling. Damn their generations before for screwing them up.”

So there was this book, this Anne Lamott woo-woo book, which my counsellor recommended.

I’m only half way through and I’ve found it affirming and comforting.

It’s “Bird By Bird”. Lamott describes her writers life as not driven by ambitions, but by the grace of self-expression.

The book goes beyond saying “ignore your first draft” and “its okay to make mistakes”. For me, it reminded me of what is the most fun about writing: sharing with the community of smart, nice people I have met through writing.

I have been in Noble Fusion Eastern Court for almost 30 years. There are five of us and they are among my closest friends. None of us are going to achieve a literary immortality. Reading this book reminded me that success is always receding to the horizon, but the people with you on the journey are the reward.

Mistakes are made. Sometimes goals are misguided. I’m learning forgiveness and I’m hoping to make kindness a priority.





Hey I’ve Done Artsy Things! Here’s Some Advice…

2 03 2021
I had Chili with Pancakes. This has placed me in an expansive mood. It could have been A Mistake.

As stated in my bio, I’ve been published professionally and have had a novel be received to some critical acclaim. I’ve produced two movies available on Netflix (DVD only) with a clip appearing on “Americas Funniest Home Videos”. Performed sketch and improv comedy on stage. Lived a life and had some struggles. The struggles include clinical depression and anxiety, which I think I’ll write about more as I become comfortable with sharing.

So! Advice about Art! Heed me!

Go Where No One Else Goes. Try music no one else listens to. Read things no one else is reading. Try an unusual movie. It’s not just being into something “before it was cool”. It means finding ideas, plotting, descriptions, moods, to expand your expression. Conversely, if you’ve seen it before, set it aside or find a personal analog. “Why play in someone else’s sandbox?” says Darryl Schweitzer. You could write a werewolf story, or you can sift and find what scares you about werewolves, then come up with your own creation. Use what is unique to you in your work. I watched way too much TV as a child then became a video producer. Readers say that I sequence action, block characters within space, and do dialogue really well. I owe that to my education outside of writing. What do you do well?

You Are Not The Idea. You are not learning to write to turn this one idea into a story. This idea may be a bad idea. You are learning to write storiesssss. You are on a journey of continual frustration which will never end.

The Best Symbolism Is Accidental. “Go deep for the big fish” says David Lynch. I take that to mean that you can tap into deeper emotion if you work with something personal, even idiosyncratic. Every story an editor ever liked was based on my personal experience. When I tried inventing a story from whole-cloth, the plot had no tension. When I tried forcing a moral onto a story, the characters would be flat. Just write a story.

Embarrass Your Mother. I don’t know who first said “write something that would embarrass your mother” but yes, allow yourself to express something unorthodox. Three things will happen: you will discover many others already expressing that same thing; you will clarify a belief you held; or you will make an ass of yourself. You will discover your vulnerabilities and prejudices and you will survive the embarrassment. Which brings me to…

Love Your Accidents. An accident can take you in unexplored directions. If a person looks at our writing and says “I love how you did this obscure thing”, do not say “what the hell are you talking about?”. Your proper response is “yes, I particularly love that obscure thing and you are ingeniously perceptive for having noticed.” This obscure thing has a whole universe of potential behind it. Explore its possibilities. It is a surprise to you, so it will be a surprise to your audience if you maybe explored the accident further.

Keep Your Editors Close, But Keep Your Beta Readers Closer. We write for ourselves, yes, because otherwise we write mush. But when we send the stories out, choose your publications well. Cultivate a relationship with your favorite publishers. Send to them as frequently as possible. Greet the editors at conventions, remind them that you met, tell them what you liked about their recent editions. Be sincere! Editors deal with liars every day and can sense meaningless flattery. As for beta readers…they are your greatest asset and your greatest vulnerability. I have been working with my writers group for almost 30 years. They may know more about me than my family or my counselor. They have allowed me to be base, dumb, disgusting, hostile, and have coached me into writing stories people enjoy. Be gracious to beta readers! Help them as they help you! Forgetting to mention them in an Acknowledgments may turn into a flame war on File 770.com.

Remember: we are always talking to the phantoms of our expectations.





Notes from today’s Noble Fusion Writers Group Meeting

6 12 2020

Notes from today’s Noble Fusion Writers Group meeting:

1) The mansion will become actual ruins to reflect scavenging by fifty years of fortune hunters.

2) The venomous Monarch butterflies will be changed to venomous locusts (good symbolism) or venomous grasshoppers (actually toxic).

3) Olivia will awaken to the devastated mansion when she senses Alecsi has disappeared, when she also discovers her keepsakes have been stolen.4) Olivia’s mummification plays very well, especially her eyes shrunken like raisins.

4) It is possible that mook/renfield Eric will now be Erica, who has a uterine tumor, which Olivia will possess and use to manipulate Erica.

5) Despite her 5’9″ frame in life, Olivia will fit into the small Victorian terrarium.

6) Allusions to formerly extinct animal species being rediscovered must be prominent in the story.

7) The difference between “thrall” and “student” must be prominent theme; “Better the God you don’t know than the Devil you do.”

8) What is Olivia’s long term goal? May include driving away with silk scarf flowing. An Audi?





Writers: Use Your Quirks and There Are Bad Ideas

24 11 2020

Been sick last year and only recently got to reading stuff again. Been noticing writers giving writing advice, and those writers having only like a few short story credits.

This is puzzling because I wouldn’t have had the temerity. Then I realized, hey, I’ve got lots of credits now and a novel that made the 2014 long list for Best Novel in the Stoker Awards.

So okay, maybe I’ve got something to say now. I’ll start with this:

Avoid what everyone else is doing. Lovecraft is now what “Cherry-Flavor” was in the ’90s: it will either be an overpowering flavor punch or not taste anything like the original cherry.

Pastiche? Create your own sandbox. (Granted, this attitude kept me from modeling on older stories, thus learning how to write using that long-accepted method). So, in thinking more about it, use pastiches as templates for your own quirks.

What is a “quirk”?

A quirk is something that affects you, even on an oddly personal level. What creeps you? What scares you? Make the list long. Let me try one:

Airports devoid of people. Only seeing the top of someone’s head behind a shop counter. Crabs, and the evidence that evolution prefers crab physiology. Rot within something otherwise healthy. Prostate or colon disease. Dementia. Not having control of yourself and cruelly rejecting a loved one. Watching a series of tragedies in someone’s life with them not knowing they are all related. Eye injuries. Home invasions (I won’t even watch home invasion movies), THIS FRIGGIN BITCH….

Look at your lists and see if anything is uncommon or even unique. Use your pastiche to add your own dismaying quirk.

Know that you have a story idea and not just a neat visual or a Revelation of Horror. A story idea will have a transformation. A story idea will have a conflict. A story idea will have someone to care about.

Most neat visuals and RoHs are the germ of a story idea. Ask “How did this happen?” Ask “What happens next?” Play with that germ. Add elements of other ideas. Add this idea to other ideas.

Push an idea beyond reasonable boundaries. Where does it become new? Where does it become horrific? When does it become ridiculous?

What would make it tragic? Of all the people you know personally, who would be the worst person to deal with this story idea?

Does the idea now give you a thrill? Write it. Someone will like it.

Can’t make the idea work? You may not be able to write the idea at this time. Or it could be a bad idea.

Something people told me: there is no such thing as a bad idea. YES THERE IS. I’ve had them. Cupid’s cousin and the Quiver of Dysfunctional Relationships is a great one-liner. I tried for years to make it work. It does not. Will it work in another story with other ideas? Been messing with it for almost thirty years, so I don’t think so. You want the idea? Take it, it’s yours.

Something people told me but I did not believe: You are in a lifelong learning process. Even if no one likes this story, it is written and out of your head so new stories can grow. Writing is like a hobby in that it is a lifelong process. Are you better than you were two years ago? Do others appreciate your work more than when you started? Those are the guideposts to use to measure your progress.

I passed my first million words after twenty years of writing, around in 2010. I have to admit that even though I got stuff published before 2010, I didn’t write anything interesting until a few years ago.





Cat Rambo’s Secret To A First Draft

18 11 2020

Some writing advice from this writer on his writing blog!

I am working on a novel (horror and its veering toward science fantasy) and making good progress on word count. I do a little less than 1000 words per two hour session, which is pretty good for a guy who hasn’t written in a couple of years.

WHAT DID I DO?

A friend told me about Cat Rambo’s advice for a first draft:

Write the first draft in Comic Sans.

I was skeptical. But after my first session, I found myself a lot more relaxed about the drafting process.

I mean, how can you be intimidated by Comic Sans?

The font takes me out of the perfectionist frame of mind and into a more spontaneous, casual attitude.

Try it. Might work.





If I want to listen to a John Lennon album, I’ll drop it out a window: Overdue Concerns I’ve Been Too Polite To Mention

8 10 2020

Hello all,

I’ve been a bit bottled up. Thoughts clog up my creative pipes and some of them are controversial. With your indulgence, I’m making a stand and letting you know a little more about me with these somewhat overdue thoughts.

This may be best read in the voice of Lewis Black:

The chick from The Bugaloos was cuter than Susan Day, hands down.

People say the Krofft Brothers were on LSD, but have you watched any Irwin Allen shows? The man mainlined borscht and laudanum.

The company name “WHAMM-O” should have warned us re the safety of their toys.

If I want to listen to a John Lennon album, I’ll drop it out a window. If I want to listen to an Oasis album, I’ll drop a John Lennon album out the window.

Its not that I don’t like The Beatles. It’s that everyone is expected to love The Beatles.

How did I get into writing horror and humor? There was a penguin atop my telly.

Horror is Fantasy fiction for atheists and agnostics. Not my original thought here, but I like it.

Some Christian Apologists would be atheists if they could meet atheists who weren’t snotty.

Lincoln was wrong: you don’t need to fool all of the people all of the time. Just the right people at the right time. Never mind that about seven percent of the people believe in Q and The Storm.

Dungeon and Dragons, Sports, Politics, Fandoms, Religion all keep the same parts of the brain occupied. Trivia, statistics, ritual, dogma.

The Right is afraid of all the immigrants, but they don’t seem to consider those who come from Communist states. There are first generation immigrants equating Single Pay with marching to the gulags.

Yes, Ellen DeGeneris is abusive. Have you seen “Ellen’s Show Of Shows”? People have to win the chance to have water dumped on them. Or the bucket may contain loose bills which they have to pick from the wet floor. They Win The Chance To Do This.

The US network CBS went from “Shows Your Grandpa Watches” to “Shows Your Grandpa Watches While Cradling His Sig-Sauer”.

“SNL” is the show written by trust fund babies and only as good as the experienced artist hosting that week. All for an audience of Lorne Michaels. Michael Che is an exception and even he’s in over his head.

Fight me, if I’m in the mood.





8 Thrilling Horror Stories You Can Read Online Right Now

28 05 2020

via 8 Thrilling Horror Stories You Can Read Online Right Now





NEW VIDEO: The Land Of Mystery

12 03 2020





MY OUIJA BOARD SPEAKS

27 02 2020

Could you give it a thumbs up? It would boost my confidence.

 








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