Sunday, September 26, 2021

Seeking Submissions for Sharp of Tooth and Dark of Claw: Operation Cryptid from Mechanoid Press!

Mechanoid Press, a small indie publisher specializing in science fiction and pulp adventure, announced a slate of anthologies for 2022.

The first anthology is entitled Sharp of Tooth and Dark of Claw: Operation Cryptid. The book is the brainchild of pulp writer Sean Taylor, who will also edit. In this twist on Mechanoid Press’s Monster Earth series, soldiers take control of cloned cryptids to make the world safe for democracy. Tales will include such famous cryptids as the Jersey Devil, Skunk Ape, Mothman, the Chupacabra and more, and is slated for a summer 2022 release.

What sets this anthology apart is that the writers are donating their stories and the proceeds will go to help Afghanistan veterans. Jeffrey Ray Hayes, of Plasmafire Graphics, will provide the cover.

The book has 9-12 slots for stories between 5 thousand and 7 thousand words in length. The story bible is available here. Stories may be submitted in standard manuscript format to Sean Taylor here: staylor104@aol.com. The submission deadline is March 1st, 2022.

For more information, visit: https://www.jamespalmerbooks.net/press-release-2022-anthology-slate/

Saturday, September 25, 2021

[Link] Our fiction addiction: Why humans need stories

by David Robson

It sounds like the perfect summer blockbuster.

A handsome king is blessed with superhuman strength, but his insufferable arrogance means that he threatens to wreak havoc on his kingdom. Enter a down-to-earth wayfarer who challenges him to fight. The king ends the battle chastened, and the two heroes become fast friends and embark on a series of dangerous quests across the kingdom.

The fact that this tale is still being read today is itself remarkable. It is the Epic of Gilgamesh, engraved on ancient Babylonian tablets 4,000 years ago, making it the oldest surviving work of great literature. We can assume that the story was enormously popular at the time, given that later iterations of the poem can be found over the next millennium.

What is even more astonishing is the fact that it is read and enjoyed today, and that so many of its basic elements – including its heart-warming ‘bromance’ – can be found in so many of the popular stories that have come since.

Such common features are now a primary interest of scholars specialising in ‘literary Darwinism’, who are asking what exactly makes a good story, and the evolutionary reasons that certain narratives – from Homer’s Odyssey to Harry Potter – have such popular appeal.

Escapism?

Although we have no firm evidence of storytelling before the advent of writing, we can assume that narratives have been central to human life for thousands of years. The cave paintings in sites like Chauvet and Lascaux in France from 30,000 years ago appear to depict dramatic scenes that were probably accompanied by oral storytelling.

Read the full article: https://www.bbc.com/culture/article/20180503-our-fiction-addiction-why-humans-need-stories

Friday, September 24, 2021

SUPERNATURAL MYSTERIES AND PULP ADVENTURE ABOUND IN ANCIENT ROME! ‘THE CHAINS OF ARES’ BY FRANK SCHILDINER NOW AVAILABLE!

 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

A political priest. A gladiatrix bodyguard. The vilest occult evils ancient Rome could produce. Three volatile ingredients in author Frank Schildiner’s THE CHAINS OF ARES, the first volume in a new series and the debut book from SCHILDINER’S WORLDS, an imprint of Pro Se Productions, now available in print and digital formats.

Marcus Fabius Maximus is a Patrician of one of the most elite families in the history of Ancient Rome. Married to the daughter of the legendary murderous Dictator Sulla, he holds the highly prestigious position of Rex Sacrorum, one of the most elite priesthoods that is quite onerous and has zero political power. Maximus has a simple view of the world; Romans are the most important and intelligent people in the world and everyone else are barbarians.

His closest friend and bodyguard is a German woman named Kara. Kara is a powerful, muscular, scarred, tattooed former champion gladiatrix. A legendary warrior, she possesses a unique view of Romans and their obsession with politics and other unimportant activities.

Ordered by his murderous father-in-law, Dictator Sulla, Maximus and Kara are forced to investigate a murderous ghost, a monstrous specter claiming to be Sulla’s infamous archenemy.

Having helped save the Spanish armies from disaster, Kara and Maximus investigate a man claiming to be the high priest of the God of Sleep, Hypnos. Maximus suspects the true power is something quite ancient and terrible…

Sent to Sparta by the Senate, Kara and Maximus discover an ancient artifact devoted to Ares, the monstrous god of war, and a secret cult of Spartan warriors secretly being manipulated by some of the most dangerous monsters in mythological history…

At the request of the legendary Julius Caesar, Kara and Maximus explore rumors of a secret, bloody fertility cult inhabiting Rome. They must destroy the horrors that rise in the dark Vatican woods before Rome is transformed into a city of death and horror.

With a fantastic cover and print formatting by Antonino lo Iacono and Marzia Marina, THE CHAINS OF ARES is available in print for 7.99 on Amazon at https://tinyurl.com/7nz9cte8.

This first volume in a new series is also available for only 99 Cents for a limited time on Kindle, formatted by Iacono and Marina, at https://tinyurl.com/3ycu4cf8. Kindle Unlimited members can get in on the first book from SCHILDINER’S WORLDS for free!

For more information on this title, interviews with the author, or digital copies for review, email editorinchief@prose-press.com.

To learn more about Pro Se Productions, go to www.prose-press.com. Like Pro Se on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ProSeProductions.

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Mocha Memoirs Press Focus #3: Rie Sheridan Rose

This month I'm following up the previous series (eSpec Books) with a new one -- this time the amazing writers of Mocha Memoirs Press. Meet Rie Sheridan Rose!

Tell us a bit about your latest work.

My latest novel is Mutiny on the Moonbeam from Mocha Memoirs Press. It is the story of a runaway fleeing an abusive stepfather who winds up aboard a flying Elven pirate ship. There is adventure, romance, and derring-do involved—oh, and a really big spider.

What happened in your life that prompted you to become a writer?

I learned to read. Honestly, I wanted to be a writer as soon as I learned what letters were and how they fit together to make words. I have some things my mother saved that are written in crayon.

What inspires you to write?

All sorts of things. I got inspiration for a YA novel last week on vacation because there were children everywhere playing an interactive game, and it made me think “What if someone were drawn into the game for real?” Yes, it’s been done, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done again. It’s how you tell the story that matters.

What are the themes and subjects you tend to revisit in your work?

Independence; self-sufficiency; learning from experiences; standing up to wrongs…

What would be your dream project?

My dream project (literally—the main character came to me in a dream) is a Space Opera/Sci Fi story set in a future world where power has been consolidated in the hands of a group called the Lords of Discipline and my band of revolutionaries is trying to thwart their injustices. It’s been written to an ending at least twice, but it is still not at the publishing stage yet. I’ve been working on it off and on since the early 80s.

What writers have influenced your style and technique?

There are many. Anne Rice. CJ Cherryh. Anne Perry. Tanith Lee. Ray Bradbury. Lynn Flewelling. Those come to mind immediately.

If you have any former project to do over to make it better, which one would it be, and what would you do?

Well, I’ve done this with my first novel—one that also took about thirty years to write—The Blood That Binds. I completely rewrote it after feedback from my writing partner incorporating more realistic tactics and logical action into The Luckless Prince. It was a major undertaking, and then it got another thorough edit before it was published by Zumaya Publications. It has since been re-released from Dragon Moon.

Where would you rank writing on the "Is it an art or it is a science continuum?" Why?

I would say it is an artistic science. I do believe that you can learn the basic requirements and hone them through practice, but you also have to have that creative spark of imagination or your writing will be lacking heart. Does that make sense?

What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

Finding time to work everything in. I have so many ideas, and only so much time that I am not editing, or cleaning house, or running errands, or…  It would be awesome to have no responsibilities except writing, but I think it would also become old fast.

How do your writer friends help you become a better writer? Or do they not?

Critiques to point out where something can be better. That is a big help. Also, posting about their accomplishments is a goad to get more done myself, and that always helps. Suggesting markets to try. Encouragement. We really are a big community. 

What does literary success look like to you?

Not going to Amazon and seeing all the books I am involved in ranked over 1 million would be a start. But seriously, I think that literary success is a very personal call. I will feel like a literary success if I ever get something accepted to Clarkesworld. But I also feel proud of my bibliography on Amazon. When I look at the body of work I have been a part of, I feel successful, even if not monetarily. Some money would be nice…

Any other upcoming projects you would like to plug?

At the moment, I have nothing big in the works, but I would like to plug the book I am currently editing, because I think the series is outstanding. I am working on Blood Stew by Todd Sullivan for Mocha Memoirs, and it is the first novel-length book in the Windshine Chronicles (Book Three counting the novellas.) I think it is a fascinating world he’s created, and I think everyone should check it out. I didn’t edit the novellas, but I have read them, and I hope that this series continues for a long time.

For more information, visit:

https://riewriter.com/

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Movie Reviews for Writers: Grace


This exercise of reviewing movies about writers and about storytelling has led me to quite a few wonderful films I wouldn't have probably noticed otherwise. Take this one, for example, Grace. Every writer I know (and those I don't) should watch this endearing and insightful flick. 

Charles Elliston is a writer who is unproductive in his solitude and unproductive with the assistants his agent sends him to help him with everything but the writing so he can focus on getting his overdue work done. So when "the Supreme Narcissist" the agent's wife's nickname for Ellison) runs off yet another helper, his agent send him Dawn -- a hard-assed, take no crap writer at the beginning of her journey -- to clean the house, run his errands, etc. Her initial take on his latest book -- "self-indulgent bullshit." Cue the obvious Odd Couple plotline without all the comedy sass.

Grace succeeds in exploring the dynamics between a writer's solitude vs. intrusion from others. It encapsulates the problem of how careful we writers can be regarding who we let into our solitude. We tend to divide our lives into the solitude of actually writing or being "in the zone" and the other, regular stuff of going to the grocery store or visiting family and friends. But we are notoriously picky about the folks we invite into the "zone" with us. That's a private, personal, proprietary space for us.

Dawn and Charlie clearly have preconceptions about each other when they begin their time together. Dawn sees the world through the eyes of someone who looks up to a "genius" whose work she enjoys, and Charlie though the eyes of a writer who expects people to want something from him and disturb his settled world.

Dawn: "Do you ever get lonely?"
Charlie: "Not really."
Dawn: "How'd you start writing?"
Charlie: "I don't remember not writing. Are you a writer?" 
...
Charlie: "Most writers write about their childhood, which is a travesty in my opinion. I write about what embarrasses me, what makes me nervous, what enrages me beyond the pale. Write for yourself first; worry about the world later."

He's right. Those who chase markets like cartoon lawyers chase car accidents are usually just behind each trend they're following. And those who chase their own catharsis create cocoons that may never hatch. But those who write from the heart, from the story that just has to come out -- markets be damned -- that's the voice that's authentic. That's the story that rings true for readers, at least ultimately. 

In terms of their burgeoning friendship, Charlie has his issues; of that there is no doubt. He prefers walkie-talkies to texting with Dawn. Because of his past with him mother, he doesn't allow Dawn access to the swimming pool. Before Dawn explains it to him, he can't run a dishwasher. He watches her from his window with binoculars during the day. And most bothersome to Dawn, he is acutely bad at being social with another human being. 

Dawn isn't without issues either. Prior to assisting Charlie, she had slept with Bernie, his agent, as a way in to show her work to an agent.

However, Dawn has hidden depth that Charlie notices when he asks her about her favorite author. "Faulkner," she answers, and he gives her a look that says "Just another student of college writing classes." 

Dawn is quick to set him straight about her interest in the popular southern writer: "When I read Faulkner I think of dirt," she says. She explains further that dirt can be hard and brittle and break apart in your hands or hard to dig through, but once you get through it, it can also be soft and cool. 

Consider Charlie intrigued. When he finds a copy of her draft on the kitchen table. She quickly snatches it back from him and they literally fight over the document. 

Dawn: "You're such an asshole. I hate you."
Charlie: "And you're a coward."
She tosses it back to him to let him read it after all.
"I'm not a coward."

That's a good lesson for us as creators. We have to be willing to put our work out there and risk it not being loved like we think it should. It's easier to believe it's awesome to an audience of just us than to be brave enough to face rejection "out there" -- or praise -- that's always a possibility too. 

Charlie does read it, and soon Dawn gets a one-on-one lesson from the best-selling Charlie. 

Charlie: "You've got opinion and action but no inner life, but the passage at the end, where she's alone in bed, there you're captured that private emotional landscape I'm talking about. Her shame, it's visceral in the in the halting rhythm of the sentences, the start choice of workds. It's, well, it's breathtaking." 
Dawn: "It just came out that way." 
Charlie: "Well, if you wanna be a writer, you've got to find your way to go deeper into those channels."
Dawn: "I don't know how to do that." 
...
Charlie: "You've got talent, a ridiculous amount of talent. You're just cluttering up the good stuff, the raw stuff."

When she insists that it all felt right to her and that she still can't quite see what he's talking about, he questions her approach to writing. 

"I'm not letting you off the hook," he says. "Do you want to be clever or do you want to be great?"

And that's when their friendship really begins. Dawn is able to get him out of his house ins what appears to be the first time in years. She plans a birthday party for him. She discovers that his agent is stealing from him. 

In turn she becomes his muse to create something unlike any book he has written before, a book called Grace.

Rather than spoil any more of the plot for you, there are four other quickies I want to mention that really jumped out at me while watching.

1. Writing is researching. Charlie has a bookshelf (a unit, not just a single shelf) of research for his "baseball book," one for his "guitar book," etc. He jokes with Dawn that it's a form of "Karmic payback. I got kicked out of high school, and now all I do is research."

2. Writing isn't just recording. It's transliterating. It's not enough to simply jot down what you see. It must be filtered through you before it hits the page. Says Charlie when critiquing Dawn's story, "If you want to be a writer you have to interpret the world around you, not merely regurgitate your tawdry life experience."

3. Writing is inspired by reality. But you don't put yourself in the book. Or others. Not fully, anyway. Dawn is convinced Grace is about her, and in a particularly bad fight, Charlies tells her, "It's not about you. You're just a muse. It's fiction." 

4. Writers can be weird. We just can. Don't try to deny it. Charlies escapes into him mind with headphones and air guitars. We each have our methods. Charlie would be lost in a dining room conversation at Thanksgiving. How many of us would (or are) also? I know I'd much rather talk about the latest book I've read, board game I've played, or existential point I've recently pontificated. Sometimes I just don't fit in with... well... normal people. 

This powerful indie flick takes you into the mind of a gifted writer, well, two of them at different points on their journeys, and it demonstrates with compelling drama just how one writer's iron can sharpen that of another. 

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Geek Culture: Leading the Way AND Pulling Us Back?!


Sadly, I think geek culture may be the last hold out for the old "we want our women to look nice in this office" and "he's one of the good ones" and "get back in the closet" white boys' club, since we've had it that way so long in our comics. 

Ironically, geek culture is also helping to lead the way out of that boys' club with its current forward momentum on inclusion and showcasing heroes across racial lines and gender spectrums.

Of course, with every step we take forward there's somebody with a sign saying to stop putting our agenda in their comics. First, getting better as people isn't an agenda, it's a society's goal, last time I checked. Second, those are their comics; they belong to all of us who read and watch the things they inspire, and they've been in the hands of those who would resist growth for far too long.

The latest social media hoohaw about the costume change for Faye Valentine really just drove it all home for me. All the creators of the live-action show did was slightly alter her costume to make it work for a real-live woman who is supposed to be a true ass-kicker. But then some of the anime fans lost their shit because either (a) the costume wasn't just like the animated version (I can see your point, but c'mon, don't these costumes need to work in real life if you do a real-life show with real-life actors?) or (b) the costume didn't portray Faye as the dream fantasy wank material that whiny, horny, entitled fans wanted her to remain (to which I say, please grow up and understand that women, even drawn and animated women, were not put her solely for your eye candy). Though, to be fair, even in the new costume for the live-action show, Daniella Pineda is super sexy.  

Anyone remember the uproar when Wonder Woman got pants and "fans" went nuts because they believed it was their God-given right to see Wonder Woman's butt in bathing suit armor because the world owed it to them... or some equally asinine reason?

How 'bout when the gawky version of the new Wonder Girl created by John Byrne suddenly became "hot" and blossomed into a model -- because, as we all know, superheroines can't be flat-chested. It's a fantasy! They're supposed to be built like fit porn stars. (Right? And so are the men by the same fantasy argument, but ironically, not for the female readers. Instead, because that's how every American, red-blooded male is trained to see himself since birth, well, all the normal ones anyway.) 

I can almost hear -- We are the white, straight men, and we are tired of all you, well, other people who are not white, straight men telling us there are problems with the way we ran the world (and by extension, the entertainment industry). Stop insinuating we were ever doing something wrong. Stop changing things. We want our women to look sexy and appreciate our leering or at least realize that when we stare at their ass or their boobs or their legs, it's really a compliment and they should be thankful we think they are attractive (like they're supposed to be). We want our heroes to be white and musclebound and to have women flock to them in appreciation for being saved. (It matters not that we have now or ever looked like those strapping young shark killers or Nazi smashers on the covers of Men's Adventure magazines.) 

We see ourselves as King Conan with the women who adore us at the feet of our throne. Funny how Conan looks so much like our goal rather than a dark-skinned man. I mean, sure, give him a tan from all that walking from ancient land to ancient land, but not too much. He's not Middle-Eastern or African or from the indigenous peoples of South America. We created an ancient land of whiteness just for him. And if we ever need a person from one of those lands, we'll just "Iron Fist" it or "White Goddess" it and put a Caucasian who was orphaned there and grew to become the tribal hero or village leader or chosen one. 

We are Luke Skywalker atop the triangle with Leia gripping our leg for safety. Can't we have our one last bastion of male power fantasy where white guys still run the world and women love us, and we can be benevolent leaders to our sidekicks and B-players (where all the "good" multicultural characters are supposed to be?

It's like I'm hearing the same message through all the bumper stickers, op-eds, whiny complaints, conversations on social media, or griping over the comic book store counter. 

That message?

"Why are all the major heroes now black or Latinx or gay or women and not being relegated to the sidelines as sidekicks and B-listers like they used to be? Where are all my white guys going? We resent all our white guys suddenly having to take the sideline roles to make way for other folks. And why do the females character have to hate 'real men' so much?"

I haven't done the research on this other than by simply watching TV and movies and reading comics, but I'm pretty sure the truth still is that if you counted heads, the comics and entertainment industry remains predominantly represented by white straight guys in main roles.

In spite of the complaints about women finally getting to lead films without having to be romantic partners, in spite of black actors finally getting to play parts that haven't been traditionally black or characters who "aren't black in the source material," in spite of LGBTQIA+ roles no longer having to be the token gay for comedic distraction or over-the-top flameliness, in spite of all that, the bulk of the entertainment world hasn't really changed. Count the characters and do the math. 

But it's Captain American! But it's Superman! But it's... !

They're not supposed to be at the top of the triangle. 

There's the rub. Don't take our icons. Our white straight icons. Go create your own. These are my toys. 

No, they're not your toys. They never have been. And so what if we finally have a black Superman or a trans Flash or a black Captain America or a female Captain Marvel or a Muslim Ms. Marvel or a bisexual Robin. Do the math. The straight, white guys are still way ahead and still by and large write all the checks. 

But that never stops folks from arguing that they're having an agenda "shoved down" their throats. But to be fair, that sounds like a story I've heard before... 

Back in the days of emancipation, white landowners didn't want the anti-slavery agenda shoved down their throats. 

Back in the days of Irish immigration, citizens didn't want the "Irish are citizens too" agenda shoved down their throats (and they were white too!) 

Back in the days of suffrage, men didn't want the women's voting agenda shoved down their throats. 

Back in the days of desegregation, whites didn't want the black agenda shoved down their throats. 

Back in the days of equal rights for women, men didn't want the feminist agenda shoved down their throats. 

And now, folks are quick to jump on the train that they are having the LGBTQIA+ agenda shoved down their throats. 

They were wrong then, and they are wrong now. 

And they never stop to think about the years of having white, straight, patriarchal culture shoved down the throats of others. As if one is "normal" and the other is "other than normal" and needn't be presented as such. But there's another word for that -- default. For far too many, the default culture is the one of the white straight patriarchy and it's perfectly fine to have your little "representation" as long as it doesn't intrude on the "normal" or the default culture. 

You see, the thing is that by "agenda being shoved down our throats," what they mean is "we don't want to have to acknowledge your right to representation" and "we don't want to see you showing up on our shows and in our comics" and "we don't want to actually have to see you as people IF it forces us to confront nasty realities we'd rather avoid."

But here's the real, five-dollar deal for you. 

If you have a virtual highlighter you might just want to put this in yellow. 

Ready? 

Just having greater representation in the publishing and entertainment world isn't trying to shove an agenda. It isn't. It's trying to make us a better people, better citizens, more welcoming and loving individuals. It's trying to make our published entertainment look more like the world outside our doors and give all people someone with whom they can identify in the entertainment they see. It's trying to help all people of any race, nationality, gender, spectrum, feel like they belong in America (and by extension, existence). It's trying to help all people feel they matter and are important. 

And if you still want to call that an agenda rather than progress up the scale of what it means to be a better human, then I really feel sorry for you. 

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Top 100 Writing Blogs?!


Hey, folks, my little writing blog got featured on Feedspot's Top 100 Writing Blogs for Authors. Don't know enough about feedspot to put a value label on this, but it does look like a nice list of websites for writers, and I'm honored to be on it.

After all, my goal has always been to maintain the "best damn writing blog" for indie writers. 

Saturday, September 18, 2021

[Link] Scrivener Scenario: Creating a Series Bible

by Gwen Hernandez 

I was about halfway through book three in my series when I realized I needed a series bible. And since I write in Scrivener, creating it there was the obvious choice.

In case you haven’t heard the term before, a series bible (or series guide) is a collection of key details about everything and everyone in the world of your series, from the characters’ eye colors, birthdates, personalities, and the cars they drive, to their family history, the name of pertinent streets, and the timeline for major and minor events (current and backstory).

If you’d like to maintain a series bible in Scrivener, you’ll want to consider whether to put the series of books and the supporting material all in one project file, or to keep the books in separate files.

I use a hybrid version, so I’ll cover the pros and cons of each and give you a sneak peek at mine.

Here are some of the benefits to keeping a connected series of books—and all supporting info—in one Scrivener project.

Read the full article: https://writerunboxed.com/2021/08/13/scrivener-scenario-creating-a-series-bible/

Friday, September 17, 2021

Teel James Glenn presents Cronicles of the Skull Mask: Revenge Is Justice

Six adventures of the Skullmask and the various people who adopt its powers to avenge others ... or, ofttimes, themselves!"I was fashioned from the skin of the first victim I would avenge. I am the collective experiences of all who have worn me in their quests for just Vengeance. I am the means to redress wrongs. My wearer may die but I live on. I am the path to justice. My wearer shares my memories, which are longer than any who live today. I am a candle of justice in a cathedral of evil. Snuff me out and a new life will relight me. My causes are many. My lives are innumerable. I am the angel of vengeance. I am the demon of justice. I am the last and only hope of the hopeless. I am the Skullmask; pity those who wear me. Wear me if you dare."

Available on Amazon.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Mocha Memoirs Press Focus #2: Todd Sullivan

This month I'm following up the previous series (eSpec Books) with a new one -- this time the amazing writers of Mocha Memoirs Press. Meet Todd Sullivan!

Tell us a bit about your latest work.

My latest novel, BLOOD STEW, is the third in The Windshine Chronicles, an ongoing fantasy series that takes place in an imagined version of South Korea called South Hanguk. ‘Hanguk’ is simply the Korean word for ‘Korea’. 

In BLOOD STEW, a young man with scoliosis, a malformed curvature of the spine, wants to go on a quest alongside mighty warriors and prove his worth to the people of his country by becoming a hero. 

The novel’s release date is October 1st, 2021. 

What happened in your life that prompted you to become a writer?

It was probably a combination of external and internal factors. I was born with a severe speech impediment and spoke very little throughout childhood. As a result, I lived in my head more than in the real world. 

Externally, my mother is a reader and had a closet full of books. The shelves in our home were filled with books that she’d brought me and my five brothers and sisters, and we often went to the library to get new books. 

And then, my father is a natural orator. Every night my family would sit down at the table for dinner, and my father would tell us about his day. Mostly they were funny stories, as people can be strange in their daily behavior, and my father would regale us with the tales of everyday people he encountered at his job as a stockbroker. 

These 3 factors probably created the writer in me—thoughtfulness from my speech impediment, a love of reading from my mother, and an ability to weave events into a compelling narrative from my father. 

What inspires you to write?

I think really I write because I’m good at it. At an early age, I got praise for my writing. I got praise for other things too, but writing was highlighted more than anything else, and so it became a lifelong pursuit. 

At 43 years old, I write mainly because it’s a habit. Plus, I’ve basically trained my mind to view the world as narrative. With people, I see characters; in conversations, I hear dialogue; with life, I see plots. I would suspect that the part of the brain that deals with communication and words is probably shaped a bit differently in me than others simply because I’ve been diligently using that portion of the brain over my lifetime. 

What are the themes and subjects you tend to revisit in your work?

Some of my usual themes are characters trying to achieve something greater than themselves, and fighting against the odds. My characters are usually more realistic, despite the fact that I write genre fiction. I don’t like to be dishonest with myself, and so I create characters and situations that reflect how life actually is, not how I want to paint the world to be.

This is probably why my writing is darker, and why there are often horror elements in it. I try to write about humans as they are, not as they present themselves to be through their public personas. 

What would be your dream project?

I’m not sure I have a dream project, as that implies something that I’m waiting to happen. I have goals, not dreams.

What writers have influenced your style and technique?

There are too many to name, but Herman Hesse, Anne Rice, and Octavia Butler are big influences. Really, though, the writers from a summer writing camp I did in my late teens and early 20s had a massive impact on my construction of narratives. That was with the National Book Foundation between 1997-2002. We were instructed by many established authors, and they’re the ones that taught me that life is narrative.

The best lesson I learned from the NBF was that there is no such thing as writer’s block. Every moment of your life is fuel for writing. 

If you have any former project to do over to make it better, which one would it be, and what would you do?

Nothing, really. Taking what you learned from the past so that you can optimize your future is key. 

Where would you rank writing on the "Is it an art or it is a science continuum?" Why?

Interesting question. I’m not sure how science is being defined here, but I’ll still say, ‘art’. 

Writing is an exploration and discovery of reality from a personal, subjective viewpoint. Whether or not a story “works” is decided upon by readers. The greater number of readers who agree that the writing is good, the better the writing is perceived to be.

Science, in my view, doesn’t work that way. The distance between the Earth and the Sun isn’t agreed upon. It’s measured, and someone from America and someone from China should get the same measurement. Whether or not you can breathe in space isn’t agreed upon. There’s a reason why humans can’t breathe in space, and the specifics of that reason are derived from science. 

What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

Lack of money derived from writing. 

Though narrative is everywhere, having time to pull it together and write it down are essential. And making more money from writing, which would allow that extreme luxury—time—would be helpful. 

How do your writer friends help you become a better writer? Or do they not?

I’ve always belonged to writer workshops. They’re all online now, though I’ve done writing camps and writing groups that fizzled out in a few months. 

People reading my writing and giving me feedback, and me reading other people’s writing and giving them feedback, is essential to optimizing wordcraft. 

What does literary success look like to you?

That’s changed over time as I’ve learned more about the industry of publishing. At this period in my life, literary success is book sales and reader reviews. There’s a bit too much politics involved with the publishing industry to define literary success any other way.

Any other upcoming projects you would like to plug?

I’m working on a web series and a play series with some creative folks in Taiwan. I’m also hoping to get a web series and play series started here in South Korea, where I currently live. 

For more information, visit: 

I have a YouTube Channel where I interview publishing writers. Please support by subscribing:  https://studio.youtube.com/channel/UCcSYSQpTpiyJknWjg2AkC8A

Also, check out Books 1 & 2 from The Windshine Chronicles, published by Mocha Memoirs Press: http://mybook.to/WindshineChronicles

And those who are into vampire fiction, check out my extreme horror book series, published my Nightmare Press: http://mybook.to/VampireSeries

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Movie Reviews for Writers: The Bat


We writers get our ideas from crazy places. We get them from events in our lives, from dreams, from what-if questions, and even from weird conversations with others. 

Why do I bring this up? Because I just watched the 1959 version of The Bat with Agnes Moorehead and Vincent Price. Besides being a tightly scripted and suspenseful whodunit, it has enough twists and red herrings to keep Marlowe and Hammer guessing. But, in addition to all that, it also says a bit about how our experiences as writers help to shape our stories. 

For example, upon learning about the murder method, Moorehead's Cornelia van Gorder, a famous mystery writer, perks up with the story-crafting side of her brain. 

Lizzie Allen: His specialty seems to be killing women, my goodness, two of them in one night, all his victims died the same way, like their throats had been ripped open with steel claws.

Cornelia van Gorder: That's charming, I'll have to try it some time.

[Lizzie stares at her with a weird look]

Cornelia van Gorder: In a book.

Have you been to a convention or conference where people ask you where you get your ideas? From now on, I want to remember Ms. Cornie's quote here for the next time I'm asked. 

I remember my buddy and occasional writing partner Bobby Nash telling me how when he talks about murders and the like, people will overhear in a restaurant, and he'll throw in an explanation that he means in his books. 

Of course, it's not always about murder. Sometimes, at least for me, inspiration comes from a song I'm listening to -- for example, when Prince's "The Beautiful Ones" triggered a comic book pitch about a group of aliens disguised as human women who learn to love high fashion and city nightlife and break off from their mission of destruction to save the earth instead. Or from conversations, such as when I wore a t-shirt with a movie poster for Hot Rod Girl on the front to a writer/artist get-together, only to be asked if that (Hot Rod Girl) was the new project I was working on. Well, before my mouth could say no, my brain quickly put together an idea about a dead female hot rod racer who uses her driving skills to help Death recover lost souls. 

And if the only thing The Bat had to say about writing, it would still be worth a watch (or in my case, multiple watches across my life). But it doesn't. It also has a little something to say about that cliche of "write what you know." 

After Cornelia and Lizzie are attacked in the house, Price's Dr. Wells offers his help and protection.

Dr. Wells: But do let me help you. Oh, don't forget that once I'm gone, you'll have to climb those stairs alone.

Cornelia van Gorder: Oh, I'm all right. I'm armed now.

Dr. Wells: Can you shoot one of those things without shutting your eyes?

Cornelia van Gorder: Oh, doctor, there are guns in every book I've ever written. I don't write about things I'm unfamiliar with.

In other words, Cornelia van Gorder writes what she knows. She doesn't just "make shit up." If she doesn't know it, she learns it. She clearly indicates that she has gotten to know how guns work... intimately. 

And that's the trick, isn't it? Writing what you know doesn't mean avoiding subjects you don't yet know. It means learning them. Experience them. Research them. Move them from your "don't know it" to your "know it" box. 

Last, Cornelia gets to experience almost every writer's fantasy in this creepy, campy flick. She gets to, in essence, live inside one of her novels. 

It's something we think about almost without thinking about. At the risk of saying that all of us Mary Sue ourselves into our work, we do have to figure out the working of choices and voice. What would our characters do in this situation or that? Who and how would our characters speak when presented with this deadly risk or life-changing choice? 

Even if we deny it, there is a part of us that enjoys those plotting and character moments that let us, even for so brief a time, be the hero, be the lover, be the killer, be whatever our work needs. 

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Creating Effective Story Bibles


This week, we're going to pull out the red letters for bibles... No, not that kind -- Story Bibles! Some writers love them, some find themselves stifled by them. Some don't like having to use them but find them necessary regardless. This week, we talk about series bibles (or story bibles, as I've also heard them called). 

What goes into an effective and efficient story bible?

John L. Taylor: I use one even for single short stories, here goes mine. What goes in needs to be three things 

A. Character Bios that define their behavior and background to be consistent. 

B. the guide to overall tone of each piece and what tropes/themes are hard no's and which are auto includes. 

C. The overall arc of the series (if a planned number of stories) and what plot points resolve where and what milestones each character's arc reaches.

Aaron Rosenberg: Premise, setting, characters, theme, tone--anything that needs to be consistent throughout the stories. The more closely tied together they are, the more detail the bible requires. Often, for a series, this includes a timeline of existing events, and that and the character bios are updated as things get added and changed.

Andy Fix: Character basics (personality, physical description, any special abilities/gear character uses regularly, list of supporting characters and relationships to main character, anything that might make the setting stand out.

Gordon Dymowski: A good bible has character descriptions (including relationships and possible backstory), setting, and some examples of what to avoid in writing that particular character.

Bobby Nash: You need to get to know the characters in the bible. This will show the definitive version(s) of the character(s). Changes to that can happen, but this lets all involved start at the same place. Locations, terminology, special skills, equipment, etc. are also shared here. Where they live, work, eat, relationships, etc.

Sean Taylor: Something that a lot of folks don't think about that I really appreciate as a writer is a sort of web that connects the characters' relationships. Who is in love with who? Who doesn't get along and why. That helps me with the deeper, character-driven parts of the story I'm writing.

What shouldn't, but you often see in one anyway?

John L. Taylor: A detailed "beat sheet" of exactly what happens when in each piece. If you read the Encyclopedia Brown books as a kid, you get why this is a bad thing, as each book was basically a copy and paste of the first with altered clues. 

Aaron Rosenberg: I don't know that there's anything you SHOULDN'T include, it's just that you run the risk of bogging people down with too much detail they don't necessarily need.

Andy Fix: Detailed history of past exploits (unless there is an overarching story arc.)

Gordon Dymowski: A detailed history of the character. (I don't mind links/information about reprints/publications/etc, but it's the writer's job to do the research).

Bobby Nash: No one particular thing leaps out, but sometimes story bibles have too much information, not all of it necessary to write the character(s).

Sean Taylor: The dry, encyclopedia tone. I much prefer it when a story bible can give me a flavor or taste of the writing and the characters' voice, even when presenting the cold, hard facts of the bio and beats. 

Is a story bible something you look for before contributing to an anthology or series?

Bobby Nash: If it’s a character I am unfamiliar with, the story bible can prove quite useful. I’ve also found it useful in doing media tie-in work, even if I do know the character. Often, licenses come with a large list of dos and don’ts from the owners of the IP. It’s their toy so they get to tell you how to play with it.

In writing the story bible for The Ruby Files, you and I focused on the characters and their relationships first, then the settings, then types of stories we were looking for. I thought that worked rather well.

Gordon Dymowski: Definitely - a bible demonstrates that a publisher has done due diligence in researching a character to ensure its viability. Especially in developing a series surrounding a character, since having some continuity and cohesion between writers.

Andy Fix: Absolutely! It makes the editor’s job easier and prevents rewrites.

Sean Taylor: Every damn time. 

Aaron Rosenberg: For a series, yes. For an anthology, only if the stories are actually tied together. If it's just a thematic link, like "all the stories should be about bards," no, I don't need a bible.

John L. Taylor: Only for series. An anthology can vary in tone each entry. Series fiction like The Executioner or Longarm books that are published under a house name need better consistency. 

What's your experience with story bibles? How have they been helpful to you? Or have they?

Andy Fix: I’ve found them extremely helpful in wrapping my brain around a character, which, in turn, helps with figuring out a satisfying story. Fans of an established character are going to want to see certain tropes show up in any given story, and a good bible helps establish what those tropes are.

Gordon Dymowski: I find bibles very helpful when writing - I love having some background as a launching point for further research. It also helps me maintain a consistent tone and avoid a publisher's criticisms. Bibles can be a good guide for writing a character who may be relatively obscure.

John Morgan 'Bat' Neal: My late dear friend Cliff Roberts was the world's biggest Aym Geronimo fan. And he loved background stuff. All of his RPG characters had extensive backgrounds. And he wanted that info for other characters as well. And he wanted that with Aym. But often when he would ask me a question about her, I'd answer "I don't know."

Bobby Nash: They are helpful in terms of knowing what the publisher and/or license holder expects. I know that I am working on an IP I do not own therefore I can’t just do whatever the hell I want. Knowing what is expected helps me craft my story. It’s good to know what they are not looking for as well as what they are. As you once told me, and I quote this often, “Don’t blow up Cleveland. We may need it later.” I believe we put something like that in The Ruby Files bible because we were looking for stories of a certain type and they weren’t world-shattering stories like that.

Yes, it's a TV model, but the info is still fantastic.

Nik Stanosheck: I don't have one for my anthology, just plot points that need to be hit in each story. For The Vhaidra Saga, I have a story bible in Word and a timeline in Excel.

John Pence: I have only ever written such a thing for TV/movie people, and wrote them specifically for a cocaine attention span. I don’t use them in real life. yet." That drove him crazy.cure as well.

Aaron Rosenberg: When I wrote for Star Trek SCE, the bible was fantastic, and all the authors received regular updates. The bibles for WarCraft and StarCraft were both excellent and very thorough. I've worked on some projects where the bibles were extremely thin and vague, and more confusing than helpful.

Sean Taylor: I've found them very helpful both as a writer and as an editor. It's usually really easy to tell who really used them and who just gave them a cursory glance before writing for you. 

John L. Taylor:  I've not had to use one professionally until quite recently and found it quite helpful.

Publishers, do you require story bibles for anthologies? Do you find writers tend to request them?

Aaron Rosenberg: For ReDeus, OCLT, and Scattered Earth, we do have bibles. We update those every so often to make sure they're current, and refer to them ourselves when we do books in those series, to make sure we, too, are staying consistent.

Bobby Nash: I always ask if there is a story bible. If so, I read it and follow those instructions.

Sean Taylor: Any time I'm creating and editing  an anthology, I always create a precursor story bible to help the publisher get the vibe and tone, and then further develop it for the writers. 

Sunday, September 12, 2021

TOP NOTCH POLICE PROCEDURAL FROM A REAL LIFE COP ‘THE BIG GAME AND OTHER CRIME STORIES’ NOW AVAILABLE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Jim Doherty, author of AN OBSCURE GRAVE, a Dan Sullivan novel, and JUST THE FACTS: TRUE TALES OF COPS AND CRIMINALS, returns to a character that is in part auto biographical and wholly a unique character in police procedural fiction. Balancing action and suspense with authentic police work, Doherty’s Dan Sullivan leaves his mark once again in THE BIG GAME AND OTHER CRIME STORIES, now available in print and digital formats from Pro Se Productions.

Follow UC Berkeley undergrad and part-time cop Dan Sullivan as he works his way through fourteen stories, each one a case that tests Sullivan’s skills as a policeman and showcases the necessary, sometimes exciting work that a cop puts in on every job. 

“Doherty’s crisp, authoritative writing style put you right in Officer Dan Sullivan’s radio car, riding shotgun, as he navigates the surprisingly dangerous streets of Berkeley and the U.C. Campus.”

Officer Jerry Kennealy, San Francisco Police (ret.), award-winning author of the Jack Kordic series, the Johnny O’Rorke series, and the Nick Polo series.

“They say ‘fiction is the lie through which we tell the truth,’ and I can think of no better example than this book by Chief Jim Doherty. Authors who have been in law enforcement will tell you that many times a spark of truth will enter our fictional worlds. We may base them on incidents that were funny, serious, or even tragic, but this dose of realism is often what helps connect readers with our stories. In his book, Jim takes the reader through a series of fictional events that will appeal to the police procedural genre enthusiast, but then, like a magician revealing a secret, he opens the door to the real-world incidents which inspired them.”

Sgt. Andrew Nelson, NYPD (ret.), author of the Commissioner James Maguire series, the Police Chief Alex Taylor series, and the Detective Anthony Antonucci series.

THE BIG GAME AND OTHER CRIME STORIES, with fantastic cover work and formatting by Antonino lo Iacono and Marzia Marina, is available via Amazon for $9.99.

This thrilling collection is also available on Kindle formatted by Iacono and Marina for $0.99 for a limited time. Kindle Unlimited Members can read these stories for free!

AN OBSCURE GRAVE, Doherty’s full-length Dan Sullivan novel, is also available in print and digital format on Amazon.

For more information on this title, interviews with the author, or digital copies for review, email editorinchief@prose-press.com.

To learn more about Pro Se Productions, go to www.prose-press.com. Like Pro Se on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ProSeProductions.

Saturday, September 11, 2021

[Link] A LOVE OF MYSTERY IS WOVEN INTO OUR BIOLOGY, AND EDGAR ALLAN POE WAS THE FIRST TO FIND THE FORMULA FOR A VERY SPECIFIC DOPAMINE HIT

Reading detective fiction triggers a fascinating biological function.

by Johan Lehrer

The Rue Morgue

In the spring of 1841, at the age of thirty-two, Edgar Allan Poe decided to write a new kind of short story. At the time, Poe was best known for a magazine column on cryptography in which he dared readers to send him a code he couldn’t crack. He received nearly a hundred secret messages from all over the country. Poe solved them all, except for one. And that coded message he proved to be “an imposition,” a jumble of “random characters having no meaning whatever.”

Unfortunately for Poe, his column only paid a few dollars a page. As his editor observed, “The character of Poe’s mind was of such an order, as not to be very widely in demand.” Poe’s desperate need for money led him to try writing fiction, as he searched for a tale that could pay his rent and bar tab. He gave his first story a salacious title—“The Murders in the Rue Morgue”—and an intriguing protagonist, Monsieur C. Auguste Dupin, a young bachelor living in Paris who is also able to crack the most inscrutable codes.

The story takes place during a recent summer when the evening papers arrive with news of an extraordinary double murder. The mother’s body was found in the garden, “her throat so entirely cut that, upon an attempt to raise her, the head fell off and rolled to some distance.” The daughter, meanwhile, had been rammed up the chimney, killed by brute force. While the police initially assumed the motive to be theft, no valuables were missing. After a lengthy and fruitless investigation, the police concluded that “a murder so mysterious, and so perplexing in all its particulars, was never before committed in Paris.”

Dupin is drawn to the mystery. He tells the narrator that they should visit the crime scene for themselves; perhaps they will stumble upon an overlooked clue. If nothing else, Dupin says, “an inquiry will afford us amusement.”

Read the full article: https://crimereads.com/love-of-mystery-biology-edgar-allan-poe/

Friday, September 10, 2021

Corrina Lawson's Steampunk Detectives on Audio Book -- The Curse of the Brimstone Contract and A Hanging at Lotus Hall!

Corrina Lawson is pleased to announce that audiobooks for her Amazon bestselling steampunk detective series novels, The Curse of the Brimstone Contract and A Hanging at Lotus Hall, are now available exclusively through Scribd.

The series is set in an alternate universe Victorian England where magic use was championed by the late Prince Albert, and mage coal revolutionized the technology of the time. This, unfortunately, also consolidated mage power in the hands of the upper classes, especially noble families. 

The books focus on the team of Joan Krieger, a Jewish seamstress and mage, and Gregor Sherringford, a scion of a noble house working as a consulting detective, as they solve magical mysteries that strike, in some cases, very close to home. 

The books are available widely, including at Amazon (https://amzn.to/2Wt3Mci). The audio versions are exclusive to Scribd (https://www.scribd.com/),  a subscription service with over a million paying subscribers. There is a free 30-day trial available for new customers. 

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Mocha Memoirs Press Focus #1: Ronald T. Jones

This month I'm following up the previous series (eSpec Books) with a new one -- this time the amazing writers of Mocha Memoirs Press. First up is Ronald T. Jones!

Tell us a bit about your latest work.  

My latest release is Blood, Sweat and Blaster Bolts. The book is an anthology featuring short stories that I’ve written over the years. The stories are action-adventure tales ranging from space opera to fantasy to steampunk.

What happened in your life that prompted you to become a writer?  

I have been a science fiction fan since my childhood. I enjoy reading the literature and watching it on TV and the big screen. One day in my early twenties, I decided that I wanted to add my own contribution to this genre. That’s when I began to write.

What inspires you to write? 

The love of the genre. Science fiction provides the parameters I need to let my imagination soar.

What are the themes and subjects you tend to revisit in your work? 

I grew up watching Star Wars and Star Trek and I’ve read much military science fiction. My work reflects those influences. Overall, war and conflict are major themes in my writing.

What would be your dream project? 

I would love to have one or a multiplicity of my novels or short stories featured on the small or big screen. It would be interesting to see how filmmakers interpret my work.

What writers have influenced your style and technique? 

There have been many. David Weber, Charles Saunders, Steven Barnes, William Forstchen, Poul Anderson, and others.

If you have any former project to do over to make it better, which one would it be, and what would you do? 

I wrote a novel, Warriors of the Four Worlds, years ago. I think I would flesh out the world-building a bit more. Of course, one of the challenges of writing is determining the right balance of storytelling and exposition. I would have to be careful not to get bogged down in long, drawn-out details. 

Where would you rank writing on the "Is it an art or it is a science continuum?" Why? 

Writing is definitely an art. Whereas illustrative artists render images with drawing pencils and paintbrushes, writers create images with words.

What is the most difficult part of your artistic process? 

For me, it is determining how a scene should play out, what dialogue to give a character that would be most impactful. Sometimes, I flow in those areas, at other times, I stumble. But I always resolve such issues.

How do your writer friends help you become a better writer? Or do they not? 

I have been a member of online writing communities for many years. During that time, I’ve received tremendous support, encouragement, and inspiration from the many talented writers who make up those communities.

What does literary success look like to you? 

Worldwide renown and the financial benefits that flow from it.

Any other upcoming projects you would like to plug? 

I have two novels in the pipeline: Superium, an alien invasion story, and my first fantasy novel, Ogon’s Fist. I’ve also written a number of unpublished short stories. I’m constantly writing, constantly mining my imagination for ideas. Fame and fortune may or may not grace me, but my passion for writing will always be my lifelong companion.

For more information, visit: 

Amazon

Facebook

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Movie Reviews for Writers: Cold Ones


This backwoods indie drama was also released as Lake of the Woods and Dead Letters, and it features notable talents as C. Thomas Howell, Duane Whitaker, and Geoffrey Lewis. There's also a beautiful minimalist soundtrack that features both strings at some points and evocative acoustic guitar melodies for most of the film. 

K.C. is a writer with a single novel from ten years ago under his belt, but not much else. And even that was "pretty good" and not good enough to bank a career on. On top of that, his girlfriend has left him and is sleeping with his agent, Rob. So, he does the only thing he can think of -- rent a cabin in the mountains to get away from everything and pound out a new novel.

K.C.: "I'm dry, but I can get it back. I can do it again. I mean, if you put me in the right environment, seriously with no distractions, I could get it back. I could."
Rob: "Are you talking about your writing?"
K.C.: "Yes, what else am I talking about? You know what? I'm gonna do that. I'm gonna get that cabin you were telling me about, up in the mountains, remember? Last time Becky and I split up... My instincts are telling me that now's the time for another book. The old-fashioned way. No things. No distractions. Just, just grass and trees and mountains. Fresh air to breathe."
Rob: "So what's this book gonna be about?"
K.C.: "I haven't the slightest idea."

And therein lies K.C.'s problem. I've heard them called one-hit-wonders, just like the bands and performers who strike the charts once and never again. We're led to believe K.C. is a one-hit-wonder as a novelist simply because he hasn't put the effort into it and expects inspiration to find him, not the other way around.

Regardless, when he gets to the tiny town in the mountains, word gets around that a published author is renting a place as fans he didn't expect at all suddenly know who he is and one, Buddy, behaves like the so-called "your biggest fan" at a convention.

After Buddy tells him how he liked the book and how never met a famous write before, K.C. quickly corrects him. "You still haven't. It was just the one novel." Still gaga, Buddy responds, "I know. I read it."

Of course, as a number one fan, Buddy is a writer himself. "I do a bit of writing myself. Mostly poetry," he confesses.  

After a few days, Buddy has a plan to capitalize on K.C. connections:

Buddy: "So what I was thinking, I'd feed you a couple of stories a day, and you know, you like my stories. Youd said as much. And then when you figure there's like a book's worth of them you, you sit down and write a book."
K.C.: "Well, Buddy, I don't generally work like that. That's not how I wrote my book."
Buddy: "Well now, hey, I would insist that your name come first on the dust jacket. And I figure like a straight down the middle 50/50 split would be the fairest way to go. Movie sales, the whole deal. Or maybe 55/45, you know, since your the more establish writer and everything."

After Buddy leaves, K.C. mutters under his breath: "Yeah, just write 'em up and we'll get rich."

Sometimes talking to non-writers about what we do is difficult. There are so many misunderstandings about the writing life. 

When K.C. meets and eventually sleeps with his neighbor, the carefree and sexy Juliet (who was named Candy at birth but has changed it unofficially), rather than just attacking him, Juliet's boyfriend, Mack instead decides to play a similar game as Buddy. But where Buddy is simply mistaken about the way the writing business works, Mack is more sinisterly so and threatens to take a share of the money on K.C.'s new book since he's getting his inspiration from them. 

Even on the wrong end of Mack's threat, K.C. still tries to explain that isn't how the writing world works:

"What the hell is it this you people around here, huh? I mean I'm just gonna spell it out for you one time really clear, okay? Because I got no guarantees. None! That A, I can actually even write a story up here and B, I could get somebody to read it if I do in fact get written and C, even see one red cent if I even got it published, man. No guarantees."

But it's not just a movie about people trying to horn in on a published writer to help themselves. For an under-the-radar indie flick, it has a lot to say about myths people think about writing. 

First, that books are a secondary art form in a world of moving and talking media. While drinking at the only bar in town, Hud, the local mechanic, tells K.C. that: 

"I'd like to lay on him what the fuck I think about English. 'Cause the way I see it, we don't really need it no more. A man can get him a DVD player. You slide in a Star Wars, a Charlie Bronson, a Debbies Does Fucking Dallas, and you ain't gotta work through all them fancy words and no page. So it seems to me if you come all the fucking way up here to write a book, I think you're wasting your time, Mr. Famous Writer."

Of course, as a writer, K.C. has a different viewpoint. "Literature saved my life," he says. "Many a dark day where a couple of perfect pages and a great story just, I don't know, made it all worthwhile."

Second, writing isn't real work. Perhaps you've experienced this from friends and family members. Sadly, a lot of folks in a writer's circle just don't understand the brain-draining work of writing a story because it doesn't put callouses on their hands, a point driven home when one of the local rednecks checks K.C.'s hands and calls him a "pussy" because they're smooth. 

This idea is driven home by Felton, the man renting the cabin to the writer. While dropping by with a delivery, he is interrupted by Buddy, who has pages for K.C to read. 

Buddy: "It's a work day here, you know. My buddy here look at these poems I wrote."
Felton: "Yeah, work day. You don't know what work is. Work is work. I got to say this about... You guys are lazy. You're ne'er do wells."

Third, building off the previous point, if it isn't real work, then it's perfectly okay to interrupt a writer while writing. 

Everyone in town cuts into K.C.'s writing time. Buddy wants to use him to get his own stories and poems published. Mack wants to keep him away from Juliet. And Juliet wants to spend more time with him. As such she consistently interrupts him to take him on a hike or to encourage him to take a risk and spend more time with her in spite of Mack's anger and violence. 

Last, writers always actively write themselves into their work. For example, after Julie reads his draft pages, she immediately connects: 

Juliet: "But a bit familiar. I really like Mandy. She kind of sounds like, you know..."
K.C.: "Candy, no."
Juliet: "So if she's me, then Warren must be you?"
K.C.: "Come on. Please. Okay?"
Juliet: "So we uh... had sex, did we?"
K.C.: "That is fiction."
Juliet: "It must be, because Juliet or Candy would not allow herself to be seduced in such a manner." 

In this case, though, she's right on target. She has become K.C.'s muse and his fantasies about her have influenced his work. It happens, but not every main character is an author's Mary (or Marty) Sue. More often, what happens is that character traits a writer is familiar with but not conscious of work their way into the work, and that's where astute readers who may know the author will tend to see the writer as a character. 

Ultimately, we get the picture that the real reason K.C. has failed as a boyfriend and as a writer is that he is, in his own word, a "chicken shit."

The movie drives this point home now only with his fear of being discovered by Mack but also a fear of the wildlife on the mountain, in particular a cougar he encounters while hoping to write out in the wild one day. It's only by overcoming this "chicken shit" way of life that he can become not only a better writer -- but a better human being as well. 

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Ideal Work Environments


Whether it's a special desk in a locked office or a noisy coffee house and a pair of noise-canceling headphones, we all have our preferred environments when we sit down to write. But often the difference between our practical workspace and our ideal workspace can be vast. So, this week we turn our attention to our ideal and practical writing environments most conducive to our work. 

What is your typical writing environment when working? What do you do to make it as ideal as possible for your output?

Michael Dean Jackson: Lately the only things that seems to get me writing and stay at it until I am finished is a deadline. That, solitude and quiet. No music, no talk. Just as close to silence as I can get.

Paul McNamee: In my home office with soundtracks playing to set the mood.

Davide Mana: I've my PC in a very crowded room that was supposed to be the house library, but it's more like a big book depot right now. I wish I had a more comfy chair, but it's okay.

Eric Wirsing: My typical work environment is a minimalist desk at home with a laptop and tablet with speech to text. I fix myself two beverages at the start of the day -- one glass of iced tea and the other iced coffee.

Tamara Lowery: I've been writing during work breaks and downtime for well over a decade. At home, there are too many legitimate demands for my attention to get any writing or editing done. I have to nearly DEMAND time to work on anything book-related at home. I LOVE having Word on my phone.

Christopher Hobson: I set up my environment to be as much like the setting of the story as possible. Lighting is a major factor. I also have a cork board with pictures for character reference and environments. And finally “my rock,” a small statue or figure that I look to as an anchor.I also have a unique set of skills that allows me to paint and animate clips to help me see what’s in my mind.

Robert McDonald: Typical is sitting on the couch after the kids go to bed or in bed next to my wife.

James Palmer: I need relative quiet. Those folks who write in a Starbucks or a busy coworking space astound me. I get most of my writing done at work on my lunch break, with just a closed door and my laptop.

Angela Hope: I work at my desk, with a real computer (not a laptop), no music, just quiet. Since I am an administrator by trade, my desk is my 100 percent workspace. I think that having a dedicated workspace is key. Since I work with numbers most of the time when not blogging, I tend to not play music, which distracts me. When I am writing for my blog, I consider it work, therefore, my workspace is where I do it. For me, a quiet, controlled space is best.

Sean Taylor: I tend to write in many different environments, from at the local coffee shop to sitting at my kitchen table to my desk in the "office" (it doesn't have walls so it's not really an "office" to me). Sometimes even I'll sit on my couch, but I can't write too long that way because of the way I have to lean over and how that makes my old man back start to hurt. 

Josh Nealis: More often than not I'm sitting on my couch pecking away while the TV is on in my kid is running around doing whatever. And honestly ideally, I've been doing it that way so long I don't really know any other way.

Michael McIlvain: A quiet place. Preferably with few people around.

David Wright: My typical set up is on the couch with the little recliner section kicked back. I get all settled in with a large lapdesk with plenty of room for my laptop and forearms. I will find my favorite YouTube channels of either low-fi Chill Hop or Lord of the Rings ambient sounds and put in my earbuds. This is just to block out the rest of the world without grabbing my attention. And I'm golden. I use Scrivener and on my best days I've already written out "description summaries" of each scene (written as if I'm describing a part of a movie to a friend). If so, this helps me start producing finished scenes with minimal-to-zero mental ramp up time to figure out what I need to be doing. This scenario is my ideal and when I am at my most productive. 

Sean Ellis: I have a usual cafe where I write 5 plus days a week, for 1-2 hours a day. Sometimes it’s problematic because I know a lot of people who go there, but that’s what makes it fun. Headphones on, listening to music and writing.

Larry Young: I can write anywhere but it has to be 100 percent quiet. A mouse farting two houses away will distract me for an hour. I don’t want real people intruding on my made up people; it’s just rude.

B. Clay Moore: My desk in my office, a massive instrumental Spotify mix playing loudly behind me. Preferably alone in the house. 

Aaron Rosenberg: I USED to write at my desk, which is in the back corner of our family room in the basement. Fairly quiet, decent setup. But since lockdown last year I've had to work remotely from there and couldn't write in the same spot (needed to get up and move around once the workday was done). Now I write on my laptop in our living room instead. We have recliner couches and the corner by the front wall is mine so I sit there, recline it enough to stretch my legs out in front of me, set the laptop on my lap, and work there. I have noise-canceling headphones for when I need them, and an instrumentals playlist. Works fairly well--I've done four novels there, along with several novellas and a handful of short stories.

Chris Burke: Brainstorming usually happens with a notebook and pen with dated entries. Sometimes fully formed ideas come out of this. Better is sitting at my desktop when the house is quiet where I can type to my heart’s delight. I can also do this during lunch at work with the flash drive hanging around my neck. 

John French: I "write" all the time, thinking and planning stories. Sometimes I even remember what I thought about. When I do sit down to put words on the screen (pen to paper no longer applies) it's at a desktop computer in the basement. I'm alone, no music, no TV in the background, just me listening to the voices in my head. I can't write if there's someone in the basement with me.

Alan J. Porter: I have two distinct writing environments. When I’m working on non-fiction I need to be in my office with my reference material and books around me. But no music or background noise. - Conversely, when I’m writing fiction I’m most productive in a public space with background chatter as “white noise.” I do most fiction work when traveling- writing on the plane, or in coffee shops or the quiet corner of a pub or restaurant.

Bobby Nash: I write at the desk in my office surrounded by clutter, comics, books, and collectibles. Is it ideal? Maybe. I don't know.

John Morgan Neal: I don't have one and I know it hurts my production. I want my big ol' military desk to be that but that has been problematic. I have pain and comfort issues.

Ed Erdelac: I write absolutely anywhere whenever I have the time. I've written sprawled on the living room floor as my kids watch Amazing World of Gumball, I've written on my bed, on the apartment stairs, in my van, at my desk on break at work.

Jason Bullock: It has to be at my work desk where I can let my fingers fly across the keyboard. I also will write excerpts of stories, scenes and chapters in small notebooks from the Dollar Tree. I then make notations in the main draft or script on the computer the labeled books or tear out pages to keep in my main draft hardcopy notebook.

I seem to thrive in writing by filling my background with the noise of an all too familiar movie or soundtrack to soothe my subconscious mind. This frees my frontal cortex up to plow the furrows of my story.

Bill Friday: I don’t want to return to my LAST successful writing space. That was a warehouse, on graveyard shift, alone, feeling like a cross between fictional characters (Mark Whatney and Jack Torrance to be exact). I have a new writing space beginning at the beginning of next month, renting a room with wood-paneled walls that make it feel like a chalet… without the forest. We’ll see how it goes.

Joann Maria: I can get a lot done in a quiet corner at the public libray

Gordon Dymowski: My preferred writing space is a section of my living room with laptop and/or pen and paper. I try to reduce the number of distractions: I use the Stay Focusd extension to block social media, I may have soft music in the background, but otherwise my writing environment is relatively stress free. (Another option - the Walker branch of Chicago Public Library, which allows me to have a long, contemplative walk before I sit down and start to write.

What would be your ideal writing environment for getting the most (and best) work done? And I mean really get work done, so no wild parties in Ibiza or men in loin clothes feeding you grapes on an isolated beach, please. 

Davide Mana: I prefer to work in silence, or have music in the background - possibly something that will work as a soundtrack for what I'm writing. Instrumental music, preferably, or I'd get distracted listening to the lyrics. And this is it, and it is my ideal environment. It's not very good for taking "the writer in his studio" photos, but I am here to write, not to be photographed, so it's fine.

Eric Wirsing: The ideal writing environment is just what I have now -- sufficient food and drink, a space to go for a walk in suburbia, and internet access for research (I'm boring, I know).

Robert McDonald: Ideal would be a home office where I could both have a drink and cigar, play some music, and not be interrupted.

Jason Bullock: My ideal working environment is and will always be lakeside near shoals or waterfalls in a mountain-esque scene. Fresh air, serenity, and the high bombardment of negative ions from the water hitting the rocks and lakes makes the human brain balance in harmony. I know that sounds hokey but it has beem scientifically proven that all atoms vibrate. Since we are a compilation of molecules of atomic nature we too vibrate on that frequency. Our emotions change the amplitude of that frequency whether happy, sad, focused, or diffused. The natural world can be connected by each of us to enhance our mental and physical productivity. Sorry if this answer was a bit verbose.

James Palmer: My ideal space is an office with my bookshelves, artwork and Funko Pops, which is my setup at home.⁠

David Wright: The only way my ideal would be different from my typical set up is if I have no other obligations for the day and no one making demands of me. But even a wholly dedicated writing day requires exercise breaks. I'll go workout or run to not only work out the kinks but also brainstorm or let my subconscious wrestle with a plot issue.

B. Clay Moore: I'd like to build a small office behind the house for maximum isolation. That would be my ideal circumstance. The problem is always interruption. No one understands how completely derailing even the smallest interruption can be.

Aaron Rosenberg: I'd be happy to switch back to my desk, with my Aeron chair and dual monitors and proper mouse. What would be nice, though, is to be upstairs with it, where I can have a window open on nice days and get air and sunlight and a breeze. Ideally in the back of the house, so as not to get distracted by passing cars, neighbors, mailmen, etc.

Chris Burke: I don’t know what would make it better. I use the Internet more than it distracts me so I wouldn’t want to be someplace away from it..

Alan J. Porter: I’m not sure I have a theoretical writing environment as I find writing in different locations part of what inspires me.

Bobby Nash: I love writing outside on my back porch. I have a swing and take a table out there. The downside of this is that I live in Georgia so it's either too blasted hot and humid outside (like today) or too cold. I take advantage of that week of Spring we get though.

Ed Erdelac: My ideal place is anywhere quiet. I miss my apartment in Chicago when I lived basically alone and could sit at a desk, but I write wherever I have to.

Gordon Dymowski: Ideally, I would love to have my own private writing office close to home. Home often brings several distractions (caring for a sick mom doesn't help), but I don't want to invest huge amounts of time commuting to a coworking space. Give me a small room with a desk, working Wi-Fi, and a coffee pot, and I'll be good to go.

Sean Taylor: I have two ideals. One is at my MeMe's house in South Georgia. It has not internet, and I simply set up in the front bedroom or on the front porch and write and watch the cars drive by. The other is a home office set up. In that ideal home office, it would have walls and be big enough for me to have my library in it too, along with my music equipment for recording and my record player.