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.





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.





Writers: How To Arrange Your Scenes and Structure Your Novel

20 11 2018

Do you attend writers’ conferences? I did recently…

Not a conference in my location, mind you. This was held by the Oak Park library of Johnson County, Kansas USA, a rather well-funded facility hosting a well-run symposium. There were only two lecture tracks, but one author had done panels at the 2019 SFWA Conference in Pittsburgh. Cora Carmack flew in from Austin to talk writing.

She recommends Jack Bickam’s Scene and Structure. For her, many years of figuring things out on her own clicked together after having read this book.

Here are my notes from her lecture with added explanations.

A) Story Goal

1) What will a character do to restore their self-worth (“Get things right”, “Get back to Hobbiton safe in time for elevenses”). a) Self-worth is based on self-perception. i) The character goal is to restore their perceived original values and regain control of their environment.

2) A story raises a Question  a) every event is filtered through accomplishing the Goal.

B) Cause and Effect  1) Every specified element in a story must have later purpose  2) Every effect or event must have a cause tied to an earlier element.

C) Stimulus and Response  1) Stimulus MUST BE EXTERNAL  a) action or dialogue   2) Response MUST BE IMMEDIATE   a) if the response is illogical, that illogic must be explained internally (have the character reflect that maybe it’s not the right choice, but it’s the right choice FOR THEM because [add rationalization here]).

A plot is structured STIMULUS > INTERNALIZATION > RESPONSE

D) Scenes = Building Blocks  1) State the goal of the scene (“the 3 oclock meeting was to summarize the events for the boss”), 2) Introduce conflict/opposition (“Jimmy and Helen did not agree on the ramifications”)   3) FAIL TO REACH GOAL (“Meeting left us more confused and doubtful”)  a) The scene’s goal could be met, but the Story Goal must be made more difficult

E) SCENE STRUCTURE IS DIFFERENT FROM STORY STRUCTURE

F) SCENE Goals  1) Always from POV character  2) IMMEDIATE  a) Clear goal that both      i) relates to long-term goals   ii) raises the Scene Goal

G) Conflict Development  1) IS the scene   2) MUST be about the scene goal  3) Details the Conflict

H) HOW-TOs  1) Dialogue  2) Action  3) MUST BE VISIBLE  a) Non-POV characters can only respond to sensory data (even if telepathic or magical, still counts as sensory).

I) The Scene Ends In Disaster   1) MUst be a) a Straight Denial of the Goal or  b) YES, BUT (adding a complication) or c) NO, AND FURTHERMORE YOU LOSE THIS TOO.

THE CHARACTER MUST LEAVE EVERY SCENE IN WORSE SHAPE

Before writing a scene: Set goals, arrange escalating loss, and figure how it moves the story forward.

EMOTION >> THOUGHT >> DECISION >> NEW GOAL

Introduce these elements in this order:

Setting + Protagonist + Problem + Antagonist + Conflict + Goal

###

Reading this again, it clarified a lot of things needed for my first draft in NaNoWriMo. I’m at 10K words, and while I have two POV characters (slight burden), one has a goal he is concealing from non-POV characters (more difficult), whilehaving to delineate a magic system and backstory from a previous novel (eek).

I’ve laid out the novel elements well, I think. The problem is maintaining the POVs cause-and-effect while giving each character an arc.

Oh and I’m pantsing, which means I’ll be freaking out in another 10K words as the elements have to be amended.





Writers: 20 Tips To Improve Productivity

5 11 2018

From Daily Writing Tips.

He even quotes Zelazny.





Writers: What To Do When The World Sucks? Haruki Murakami says…

2 11 2018

Click here to find out.

haruki





Writers: Pay For Proofreaders

19 10 2018

I’m now fixing the typos and usage problems in “Lampreyhead”.

The problems got past multiple layers of readers and software.

When professionals say you should pay for a proofreader, they aren’t kidding.

I’m quite embarassed.





What A Reader Or Editor Will Never Tolerate. And One Day Left For FREE Giveaway!

14 10 2018

I have read slush for George Scithers, the former editor of “Asimov’s” Magazine and “Weird Tales”, who was honored with two Hugo awards for editing. I listened to the man, learned a little, and through him met other editors. I learned something very basic that few beginning writers realize.
An enthusiastic reader is a forgiving creature. If you are writing zombie stories and the reader loves zombies, then the reader will forgive flaws in the story. An enthusiastic reader will forgive leaden pacing, flat characters, poor descriptions, even trite zombies.
A hopeful editor can be equally forgiving. If there is a nugget of an idea, an editor filled with hope can see the potential of this zombie story and show the writer how that story can be improved.
The worst such a reader or editor will say is “this is a bad story.” But they will probably still read it. Some of it.
What is the one thing a reader and an editor will not tolerate? What will keep a reader and editor from even turning past page one to even see if the story is any good?
Poor formatting. This includes poor grammar, typos, and wrong punctuation. For editors, this includes not following formatting guidelines.
Formatting, spacing, spelling, punctuation are all tracks that keeps the reader’s attention moving along the plot. Every time there is a slip, the reader is jolted from the plot and has to figure out what the author’s meaning. Enough jolts and even the most patient reader will get off the story before the end of the line.
For editors, not following the basic rules of writing and not paying attention to formatting guidelines shows that the writer lacks professionalism.
When I read slush for “Weird Tales”, they hadn’t started taking e-subs yet. Submissions came in by snail-mail in a stack about five inches tall. Each day. It was my job as slush reader to take that stack and reduce it to maybe one or two candidates to give to George for him to consider for publication. It amazed me how many writers had ignored the standard guidelines for “Weird Tales”. If these writers found the “Weird Tales” address, why didn’t they find the guidelines just above that address?
A good sixty percent of each day’s stack were in the wrong font, or had the wrong spacing, or misused English.
Reading these submissions was a chore and one easily relieved through first-round rejection. George was a gentleman and his rejection letters would provide a sentence of about the guidelines or about reading Strunk and White along with some encouragement.
Other editors, and almost all readers, would not have been so patient.
So guidelines and proper formatting will get you ahead of the bulk of your competition. Put your time in on the basics. Editors and readers will give your plot a chance.
Speaking of giving writing a chance….
Over ONE THOUSAND DOWNLOADS of “Fishtown Bloodbath”! Many readers are giving Lampreyhead his chance to shine. Download a free copy and get ahead of this morbid comedy curve.

Book-1-Fishtown-Pback





Writers: For Amazon and Goodreads Reviews…

13 10 2018

Reviewing on amazon








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