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.





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.





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

2 11 2018

Click here to find out.

haruki





Amazon Review: FIVE STARS for Lampreyhead Book One!

24 10 2018

He was created to please Satan, then – abandoned. Our hero is an abominable creature who, though…

Says author Dona Fox!

Click it! Click it and read!

My romp has emotional underpinnings that may out-Herzog Herzog. If you like the idea of Herzog creating a “Buffy” episode, it seems this may be the series for you.

Find out for yourself! Click the cover to read on Kindle Unlimited or purchase it outright. It’s just in time for Halloween. Takes only three hours to read. Try it today.

Book-1-Fishtown-Pback

 

 

 

 





Writers: For Amazon and Goodreads Reviews…

13 10 2018

Reviewing on amazon





Four More Days! Audio Book In The Works!

5 10 2018

I’ll be releasing an audio book of “Fishtown Blood Bath: Lampreyhead Book One” next year.

In the meantime, you can read it for free starting Tuesday for a limited time! Or you can read it now with your Kindle Unlimited account. Its 33K words of quirky, bloodthirsty action. Click on the cover to learn more.

Book-1-Fishtown-Pback





Writers: How I Wrote My Novella Series

26 09 2018

blueberries cake chocolate chocolate cake

Photo by Abhinav Goswami on Pexels.com

selective focus photography of people having a toast

Photo by ELEVATE on Pexels.com

CAKE OR BEER? IN TIME, I SHALL HAVE BOTH.

The three books of “Lampreyhead” are now uploaded on Amazon. A year ago, I started writing Book One. Through last Winter and Spring, I wrote Books Two and Three. I hired a cover artist, then had to hire another, and learned formatting for CreateSpace (RIP, now merged with KDP) and Kindle.

Part One! The Writing!

Peering from this site banner is Ned Winter, the protagonist of my new series “Lampreyhead.” Ned is a failed vampire prototype. The approved vampire prototype, Dracula, brought three separate bites with three separate nights of sexual ecstasy. Ned fastens on for three days straight, bringing a three-day long orgasm.

I had this “vampire prototype” joke floating in my head for almost twenty years. I wrote two  “MAD Magazine” style short stories where Lampreyhead was like Jerry Lewis’ Nutty Professor character, then set him aside. I wanted to write a novel about him, but the character wouldn’t work for a longer piece.

The problem with an over-the-top character is that once started, there is no room the nuance needed to sustain a longer work. The style and tone wear the reader down and eventually the humor becomes boring. To make a series, Ned needed a character arc.

I tore down the old Lampreyhead and built a new one.

I started him in modern Philadelphia USA because I know and love this area. How did her survive the centuries? How else? He’d been a gigolo since the 1400s, keeping a low profile from the church and the law. I needed him to be an underdog, so I held to the most oppressive myths regarding vampires: no silver, no sunlight, all holy objects causing spiritual agony or physical injury.

Then I took away most of the vampire perks. No transformations beyond turning into a seven foot parasitic fish. No control of lesser animals. Ordinary hearing and sight. I started feeling sorry for him, so I kept him notably stronger than humans.

For me, the big question regarding vampires is this: why would they be any more accomplished than humans? If I could live forever, would I become a violin virtuoso? Would I even pick up a violin? I lived for six years in a house that held the entire Great Books Series and I had no interest in broadening myself. I think I represent most average humans. So I made Ned not so much a slacker, as someone who settled into a decades long routine. He had no ambitions, but he also had to survive, and the birth-death cycle of mortals broke his heart.

Heart? This vampire has a heart? Yes, unlike the other prototypes, Ned has emotions.

Which gave his story a great new dimension. Most people worry about whether God exists because they see no conclusive proof. All Ned has to do is go past a church and he can feel God’s existence, but God Doesn’t Like Ned. Centuries of this knowledge would wear on a guy.

So I had a sympathetic character struggling to distract himself from his emptiness and wondering at the universe through The Fortean Times and astronomy.

I started the first book with a date. Ned has a date with an affluent, debauched woman. Ned would be well-practiced at concealing his transformation through an absolutely dark hotel room. Because he’s compassionate, he would prepare room service to have food and water ready at the door for “after care”. I threw in some lingerie, but the scene didn’t have much purpose beyond titillation.

Ned then goes to his usual diner to sit all night reading magazines. His routine is interrupted by an old friend and fellow prototype, a character of particularly gruesome nature, Gustav.

Gustav serves three purposes. He gives the reader an idea of what a horror Ned could have been and could still become. Gustav provides information that transforms Ned’s life. Gustav is a toddler with a fanged, prehensile umbilical cord. I love Gustav.

This brings Ned to a journey that is part horror and part slapstick.

Here was the problem: this left callow Ned to process these events on his own. Ned had no moral compass beyond “do as little harm as possible and survive.” He lacked the ability to distinguish Evil.

Remember his date? He still had her phone number. So I had him call her.

That’s how a throwaway character became the protagonist’s confidant for 90K words and still going strong. To grease the skids, I rewrote so that she saw Ned transform during their date. Why wouldn’t she freak out at seeing Ned attached to her? I made her a thrill-seeker also looking for answers through the supernatural.

My favorite TV show has always been “Kolchak”. One of my second favorites is “X-Files” but ONLY the “Monster of the Week” episodes. I wanted to do MotW books where Ned encountered and fought the rest of the vampire prototypes (now called the Formulae).

My research showed that a series needs a plot arc for it to be satisfying for the reader. I’ve tried to split the difference. Ned fights pretty cool vampires while picking up clues about Satan, Hell, the Apocalypse, and Magick, with an eye towards his future development.

Next time, the Editing Process.





Stephen King’s Top Ten Rules For Success

23 06 2018








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