Good Writing Days

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I think it was Stephen King in his great book “On Writing” who stated something to the effect that if you show up at the same spot and time everyday, the muse will do the same.

Okay, I found the quote. It’s much more articulate than my paraphrase (go figure):

“Don’t wait for the muse. As I’ve said, he’s a hardheaded guy who’s not susceptible to a lot of creative fluttering. This isn’t the Ouija board or the spirit-world we’re talking about here, but just another job like laying pipe or driving long-haul trucks. Your job is to make sure the muse knows where you’re going to be every day from nine ’til noon. or seven ’til three. If he does know, I assure you that sooner or later he’ll start showing up.” Read more

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Beware the Plain Girl

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Miss Brody’s “assassin”.

There is a type of girl in literature and in life you should be aware of: let’s call her the plain girl. She’s the girl who gets passed over for dates and leading roles in the school play, and on the surface she seems okay with it. Whether conscious or not, the society around her has written her off. She’s not beautiful, nor even youthfully vivacious, just kind of blah. Other girls don’t mind her because she’s no threat, guys look through her or maybe treat her like “one of the guys”, or just ask her nicely to get the coffee. And she does. Oh, the plain girl plays the game while the whole time she is plotting her revenge. When the plain girl sees her opportunity to deliver the coup de grace at a deserving rival, she takes it with  deadly precision.

Remember the classic “The Prime of Miss Jane Brody” when one of the star teacher’s little girls destroys her  life in one deadly revelation? Miss Brody the career teacher, collapsing in her classroom after being fired, screams after her young pupil, “ASSASSIN!” Read more

Long Live Rock!

Writing is a solitary, at times lonely, occupation, which is probably why I decided recently to start a rock band. It’s been one of those things I wanted to do for years, so why not do it while I still have all my joints intact?

I’ve always loved rock and roll (I refuse to call it by that farty moniker classic rock) and I consider myself fortunate to have grown up during its heyday. Ten years ago I wrote and produced a popular web series about a 1970’s rock band called Gemini Rising. It won a Webby Honoree and was recommended by the Washington Post and the Boston Globe.  I’d like to say it was picked up by HBO, but alas no. It’s still out there, however, to be discovered and enjoyed. I put a lot of heart into the writing of the show and in the original music, and it’s always the artist’s hope that these strong emotions will somehow resonate with an audience. Read more

Deconstructing Franco

Actors Anonymous: a Novel by James Franco

I was never a big James Franco fan (yeah, he’s cute), and I tuned out The Deuce after a few episodes, but I was really hoping The Disaster Artist would be good and I wasn’t disappointed. I was an early fan of The Room after spotting the billboard on a trip to L.A. then serendipitously seeing a small blurb on it in a Spin magazine someone had left on the plane. I immediately ordered the DVD and began having screenings of it and helped spread the love on the East Coast.

After watching The Disaster Artist, and laughing my damn ass off along with the rest of the movie theater audience (when was the last time that happened?), I excitedly texted a film friend of mine “Franco pulled it off” to which he replied “you don’t hear that said often.”

Francophile or not, The Disaster Artist is great, and I was happy to hear that Franco won a Golden Globe for it. Seeing Tommy Wiseau on stage with him brought the entire meta moment to a beautiful denouement, till the Twitter storm started.  Here we go again… While the jury’s (jury, what jury?) out, I’ll move on.

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a skull of stars?
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hi handsome.

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Vocabulary Building with David Foster Wallace

I still haven’t yet finished Infinte Jest (New Year’s resolution), but I’m a big fan of DFW’s essays.  The late writer’s mastery of the English language, as well as his courage to experiment with it, truly puts him in a class by himself (along with Shakespeare, Joyce, and Wordsworth).

I try to keep a notebook by my side while I’m reading (even when it’s trash) so I can jot down words or phrases I like. Listening to DFW read his great (and hilarious) essay on the AVN porn awards, Big Red Son, had me pausing the video and jotting like crazy (and reaching for a dictionary). He’s famous for  his long, but grammatically sound sentences and elaborately constructed footnotes.

Below are some of the juicy bits from Big Red Son (interesting phrases and word choices bolded).

“We pretty much all tune in, despite the grotesquerie of watching an industry congratulate itself on its pretense that it’s still an art form, of hearing people in $5,000 gowns invoke lush clichés of surprise and humility scripted by publicists etc.—the whole cynical post-modern deal—but we all still seem to watch.”

“He contrasts the woeful paucity of his own ejaculate with the concussive orgasms of certain well-known performers, comparing these men’s ejaculations to automatic lawn sprinklers and doing an eerie sonic impression of the same.”

“Treasure Island, with its intricate facade of decks and ringing and mizzens and vang.”

“The Harley-Davidson Cafe, with its tympanum of huge protruding hawg; Bally’s H&C, with its row of phallic pillars all electrified and blinking in grand mal sync.”

“A second-tier Arrow Video starlet in a G-string poses for a photo, forked dorsally over the knee of a morbidly obese cellphone retailer from suburban Philadelphia.”

“Several of the outfits defy basic precepts of modern physics. Coiffures are towering and complex.”

“Not unlike urban gangs, police, carnival workers, and certain other culturally marginalized guilds, the US porn industry in occluded and insular in a way that makes it seem like high school.”

This is ambitious writing that flies in the face of most writing advice, which is one reason why it’s so great. The best writers add to the language, stretch it to infinite possibilities. They also sometimes use adverbs. I’d hate to miss out on forked dorsally.

 

Voodoo Thrills

The Believers, a campy 1987 thriller directed by John Schlesinger and starring Martin Sheen, is a guilty-pleasure favorite of mine. So when I found The Religion by Nicholas Condé, the novel on which the film is based, I couldn’t resist checking it out.

The book is dated (New York has changed since the early 80’s), and the social distance between the white protagonist Cal Jamison, an anthropologist in the book, and the exotic Latino population did peak my PC meter a few times.

The same is true of the film (Roger Ebert justifiably called out the racist undertones when he reviewed it back in ’87). Appropriating religious beliefs for horror exploitation has gone out of favor, which is probably why we haven’t seen too many voodoo horror films since Angel Heart and The Serpent and the Rainbow (another campy fav).

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Malick Bowens as Palo.

But putting bad taste aside (this is horror after all), I thoroughly enjoyed both film and book, although the stories are very different.

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Getting Featured on Wattpad

I joined Wattpad in August kind of as a fluke. A Netflix show I really liked got canceled (Gypsy with Naomi Watts) and when I was google searching why, I found a Reddit thread where someone had posted a fan fiction story about what happens to Watts’ character and her lesbian lover after the show ends. Intrigued, I checked it out and discovered a site I’ve since grown to love. Shout out to you, @AnnaGold1 for bringing me there. I’m ashamed to admit I’d never heard of Wattpad, before then, but as soon as I joined I was hooked. It’s become my destination social media site since I defected from Facebook. And, I’ve found, a much more productive one.

I quickly made a profile for myself and put up a few of my short stories that no one read, then I eventually put up my two completed novels currently lost in the Amazon jungle. They got a few reads on Wattpad, but it wasn’t until I wrote a novella-length story that catered to a specific audience (YA) in a popular but not over-used genre The Ghosts of Dark Hollow (paranormal), and got a stunning cover for it (credits below), that my story got featured by the site without me having to submit a request. I didn’t quite understand it at the time, but this is considered grabbing the brass ring on Wattpad. That, and reaching the #1 spot out of millions of stories (mine is currently ranking at #5).

I also wrote what I think is a pretty good story that keeps the pages (or screens) turning. It’s something I try to do with all my fiction, along with a good twist near the end. Since I first posted it as a draft, I did quite a bit of polishing and editing: some of it formed from the comments I received from readers. Read more

Fostering Creativity – Part 7

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It’s easy to get sucked in.

Eliminate Distractions

Multitasking may seem like a necessity in today’s world, but it’s a killer for creativity.  I saw an interview with Patti Smith recently where she said that during her sojourn in Michigan she would use the early morning hours before her kids woke up for writing and studying. I’m an early riser too, and I need absolute silence (or Zen music) when I’m writing. People have different levels of tolerance, but anything that distracts your mental energy from focusing on the creative task is bad, and the internet is full of them.

When you get stuck on a sentence, it’s temping to open a window and kill some time, but I’ve found it’s better to stay with the thought and work through the problem. If all else fails, it’s probably smarter to take a walk or do something physical than to open the Daily Mail. It’s easy to get pulled into one wormhole or another and before you know it, hours have passed and you haven’t written one word.

No assholes

Mind space distractions are killers to creativity, and certain people can burrow in there real good. My husband has a rule for his business. If he wakes up still thinking about some asshole on the job, he fires them. Now, most of us don’t have that luxury when it comes to our working lives, but how many of us have hung on to shitty relationships out of some warped sense of duty? I know I have. We all have bad moments now and then, but if someone is consistently obnoxious to the point where you are thinking about them too much, it’s time for the old heave-ho. It may sound harsh, but in order to create to your fullest potential your mind must be free from the petty dramas of life. Read more

A Good Fantasy

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Drogon, take me away.

There was this hippie dude back in the early 80s when I was in college, one of many older guys (anyone past twenty-seven) who pursued philosophy degrees part-time and tried to hook up with each new crop of freshmen girls. I doubt if this particular guy had much luck in that department considering his Bilbo Baggins appearance complete with pot belly, meerschaum pipe, and puffs of frizz crowning his bald pate (hey, you never know.) I don’t recall his name but I do remember he always wore the same faded t-shirt with an illustration of a dragon next to which were emblazoned the words: “I have abandoned my search for truth and am now looking for a good fantasy.”

This is exactly my creed as annus horribilis comes to a close. The stress of reading the “reality” of news stories has left me in shatters. One more article about my favorite actor digitally penetrating an unwilling someone thirty years ago will break me. One more smug shot of Trump making that hand gesture will send me to the loony bin. So I seek refuge in fantasy, particularly George (not your bitch) R.R. Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice books, where murder, rape, incest, and torture is so much more palatable than reading about these topics in the Daily Mail.

I was late coming to Game of Thrones, but now after binge watching the entire oeuvre last year and just completing book two, I’m officially obsessed. I’ve found in fantasy the catharsis of watching my enemies burn with dragon fire when in real life I’m stuck with platitudinal memes extolling my self-worth in the face of “toxic friends.”

Now that my Wattpad writing career has taken off (The Ghosts of Dark Hollow is now featured on the site and gaining a little following), I’m considering trying my hand at the fantasy genre. To prepare for that feat, I’m checking out sword and sorcery tomes from the library and vowing to finally finish Lord of the Rings this year. Of the sixty-seven books I read this year (according to Goodreads) only seven were fantasy. I vow to change that in 2018 as well as read all those “fucking George Martin books.”

Fantasy definitely helps me deal with reality. Bring on the dragons.

 

My Favorite Booktubers

They’re like friends I check in with nearly every day: my favorite BookTubers.

First up is Will, aka the BaldBookGeek.  I’ve checked out other book vloggers, but Will is the one I always come back to because he keeps it real, whether he’s waxing poetic about his favorite YA author, bitching about his incessant sinus infections, or just telling it like it is in his latest rant, I sense it’s all coming from an honest place. Plus, I just adore his accent.

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Some Updates

NanoWriMo

Well, I survived another NanoWriMo, although I must admit, I cheated. I continued writing a story that I had started a few years ago (about 10,000 words worth of notes and outlines). For that reason I’m not celebrating my “win.”

After guiltily Googling the topic I learned that I’m not the only one bending the rules. I look at it this way, Nano helped me write over 50,000 words of a novel I probably would have abandoned without that incentive. I didn’t finish it yet, but I got near to writing a loose mess of a first (or zero) draft and that’s something. For now, it’s shoved in the proverbial draw while I finish some other stuff.

Like….

Wattpad

I’m still a relative Wattpad newbie, but man, I love that site. Ever since I quit Facebook , Wattpad has been a productive way for me to keep focused on my writing while filling the social networking void. I really enjoy reading other people’s work and seeing what people have to say about mine.

So, my news is I completed my first Wattpad novella, The Ghosts of Dark Hollow. Isn’t my new book cover beautiful?

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NaNoWriMo Part Deux

Or is that part duh? This has been a tough one compared to last year’s. At least I have a pretty cover.

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Note to self: never start a novel and then try to resuscitate it nearly two years later because your mojo will be buried so deep it will take a team of Egyptologists to find the tomb of your original inspiration.

Expanding that rather shitty metaphor (they are not my strong suit), I’ve learned this time around that writing is like digging (or shoveling shit depending on the day), and that you may find something unexpected during the excavation: a hidden underground spring, a dangerous fault line into your own psyche, or a diamond mind (still holding out hope for that one).

It’s become a rather tiresome cliché (was it Stephen King or a Twitter meme that started it?) that fiction writers are either plotters or pantsers, meaning those who plot out their stories versus those who write by the seat of their pants. Although my writing habits lean toward the former (I always outline), I’ve discovered with this project the rewards of pantsering only because I ran out of ideas at the 30,000 word count, meaning I had at least a 15,000 word gap to fill between where (basically nowhere) I was and the dramatic ending I envisioned.

So this morning I awoke before dawn as usual, put on my mood music, set my word count goal, lined up my liquids (coffee and orange juice), and started making it up on the spot.

Lo and behold I discovered a very cool subplot that magically reunited les enfant purdus of ideas I had abandoned in the ether many chapters ago (told you I write shitty metaphors). Long story short (at 43,000 it will be) I got excited about my story again, which is precisely the jet fuel I need to get to the 50,000 word count goal.

By letting go of control I found the joy of discovery, an important lesson to take with me as I move forward on my writing journey.

Stephen King was (partly) correct when he took a swipe at plotters. It great to have a map, but losing the path has its rewards. Sorry, the bad metaphors just keep coming today.  I’ve already spent too much time at the keyboard and I’m in desperate need for some outdoor exercise. #nanoass

 

Fostering Creativity – Part 6

Setting Boundaries

Something my husband and I have often discussed is how hard it was to have personal boundaries when growing up in a household with a lot of kids (he is one of twelve so he should know). As one of four kids I may not have had it so bad, but I still struggled with trying to establish an independent identity within a tight, at times dysfunctional, but mostly loving family dynamic.

When I was a little kid I was (like most American children at the time) a huge fan of the Monkees. I only got to experience the tail end of the Beatles just when they were breaking up—I went to see “Let it Be” in the movie theater when I was too little to really dig it. The older kids may have had who’s your favorite Beatle? , but we had a similar who’s your favorite Monkee? Not as cool, perhaps, but still….

While my sisters and my friends were swooning over Davy Jones, my favorite Monkee was Peter Tork. Like George Harrison, Peter Tork was the “spiritual” one, the sweet simpleton perhaps, but I could relate to him, plus he wore psychedelic banded collar jackets, and had his own personal guru.

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Gosh, he was cute.

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On Writing

Go where the pain is

This is a quote from Anne Rice who was told this by a teacher of hers and she found it useful and passed it on. A few days into my second nanowrimo writing marathon (while continuing to update a Wattpad story) I can relate to it.

I described my take on writing recently to a fellow writer as a painful obsession.

A painful obsession is perhaps analogous to a long distance runner (it’s been a long time since I’ve done any strenuous exercise so maybe that’s not the best example). All you have to do to stop the pain is to stop the activity, which is exactly what keeps you going.

Writing isn’t easy. This morning I awoke from a nightmare (I have them often, so much so that some mornings I awake feeling like I just ran a marathon which makes my statement in the previous paragraph rather fallacious). At 4:30 am I was drinking coffee and chasing away the demons by writing them all down. I find that the dungeon sex scenes flow easily under these circumstances; the love scene in the garden not so much, but still you push through. Whatever scene I’m working on I  find it easier to do it early in the morning before the world rushes in with its distractions.

Sometimes it isn’t a nightmare that gets me up at 4:30 am but because I’m really excited to discover what my character will do next. That’s a good place for a writer to be.  Read more

Fostering Creativity – Part 5

Finding Your Own Voice

I wrote a previous blog post (a bit tongue in cheek) a while back about my writing gurus. Since then, I read one of Derek Murphy’s books, the YA paranormal romance Shearwater. I left a pretty harsh review that may have inspired the author to record this video.

 

I have since taken down the review after watching this because I felt rather bad about it. I don’t like to throw negativity out in the world. If readers enjoy Mr. Murphy’s work that’s fine. Read more

Vamp Lit

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Me before I’ve had my morning coffee.

October is the month for all things horror, but since that is generally most (not all) of what I read, I like to focus on one specific sub-genre. This time around it’s vampires. I read Dracula last year. I recently finished, and reviewed, Twilight  so that’s out of the way, thank God. So next up are two classics from the king and queen of horror literature: Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice and Salem’s Lot by Stephen King.

Here we go. Ladies first.

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The Terminator, a Modern Prometheus

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Enter the assassin

If a movie I’ve seen at least a dozen times (maybe more) since its release in 1984 can still get my heart racing and my palms sweating when the steely endoskeleton rises from the infernal wreckage of an 18-wheel fuel truck, I know that I am experiencing a great work of art, tested by the passage of time and an 80’s perm: a true classic.

Nothing delivers the punch quite like The Terminator directed by James Cameron. A rare combo of action, sci-fi, and horror, it is the perfect movie with something for everybody, including a convincing and heart-felt romance. Okay, I admit the cliche orgasm hand grasp and slow-mo release is corny, but still…it works. My God! It all works.

Let’s break it down. Read more

Indie Horror Review #6

Human Waste by C.M. Saunders

George Romero’s original Night of the Living Dead,  the progenitor of the modern zombie horror sub-genre, opened the door on those canny, clawing, rapacious flesh-eaters. And, for this horror fan at least, he closed it too because whenever I find myself needing a zombie fix—not too often, maybe every few Halloweens—I pop in my old NOTLD DVD, sit back, and enjoy. My appetite sated.

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But since Romero’s cult classic and subsequent franchise, the proliferation of  zombie films, comics, graphic novels, television shows, and city-wide zombie crawls have proven that I am in the minority. Fans can’t get enough. Zombies are hot, zombies are funny (many of the most successful offerings are black comedies in the vein of Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland), and sometimes, as in the case of C.M. Saunders’ new novella, zombies are not what they seem.

Human Waste begins from inside Dan Pallister’s council flat (a form of UK public housing). As he peers out his ninth-floor window, he sees that they are  everywhere: “Fucking zombies…horrible, shambling, rotting husks of humanity shuffling around, looking for brains to eat.” He’s not sure what exactly has brought on “the end of days”, but the world has been going to hell for a long time now. Now at last it’s here in the form of a full-blown zombie apocalypse. Read more

Books Never Read Part II – Twilight

About ten years ago, when Twilight by Stephanie Meyer came out in mass paperback, a friend loaned me a copy telling me that it wasn’t your average “chick lit”, that it was actually pretty good. A read a few chapters, and meh. I wasn’t into it. The girl meets boy plot seemed contrived, the prose just a bit too standard for a Gothic vampire story. Well, it appears I was wrong  because as we all know, the book and series became a phenomenon. As a reader and a writer, I am curious (despite resisting it for years) to try to find out why.

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Lilly gives Twilight 3 out of 5 barks.

I admit I didn’t go in cold. Like Harry Potter, you can have never read a word of text or watched a frame of any of the films, and still know the stories through environmental osmosis. I made that up, there is probably a much better term for it. Read more

Pure Joy Straight from Hell

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Lilly checking out the killer dog sub-genre.

Paperbacks From Hell – Book Review

It was with great anticipation that I pre-ordered Paperbacks From Hell by Grady Hendrix after seeing it mentioned on one of my favorite blogs Too Much Horror Fiction (webmaster Will Errickson writes the afterword and provided a lot of the spectacular cover art from his personal collection). I dedicated a weekend to plunging into this Quirk Books release, and it far exceeded my expectations on every level. Read more

Mother! Issues

There will be spoilers…

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I went in cold to see this in an empty (except for one couple, should I have asked them out for coffee?), freezing cold mall theater yesterday at noon and came out feeling seriously traumatized. After reading a Daily Mail article (a daily bad habit, but I tell myself it provides grist for my creative writing) describing Mother! by Darren Aronofsky as the worst film ever made, I just knew I had to see it—right now! Read more

Altered States and the Master Cleanse

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My first awareness of Paddy Chayefksy, that celebrated wordsmith of the greatest screenplay ever written—Network not Chinatown—was when he told off Vanessa Redgrave at 1978 the Oscars (I was sixteen at the time and in love with Richard Dreyfuss in The Goodbye Girl). I pulled up the YouTube clip today and I must say I am impressed with his extemporaneous alliteration: “propagation of their own personal political propaganda”. For the record, I adore Vanessa Redgrave (I admit to skimming over the political sections of her autobiography). Read more

Autumn Ghost Stories

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

The Fall Equinox may be a few weeks away, but once my birthday arrives in late August (and perhaps as a consequence of receiving school supplies for presents as a child along with my many years of teaching), it’s a signal that the summer is officially over; and with it the end of trash reading (at least for awhile). Sandy beaches are a bit overrated, and I prefer them in the cold weather anyway.  I don’t do much lounging by the proverbial pool these days either, but I have been hiking once a week. Yesterday was truly glorious.

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It will only get better as the temperature drops and the leaves turn brown—all that stuff that feeds my Gothic soul! Read more

Misty Daydreams

The days have been cool and misty. Fall is my favorite time of year, and this year feels like an early one. I don’t miss those balmy September days. Summer is over (perhaps not officially) and so is summer reading. Done are those cheap romance and horror novels I love so (well, maybe not completely). I read a lot this summer. I meant to read Dune, but it’s still sitting on my shelf. Mostly I read silly Gothic romances. I bought a bulk lot of them on eBay.  They are fun and mindless entertainment, but as the weather chills, I try to be more disciplined. It’s time to get back to my Gothic reading list. Next on my list is the Henry James classic The Turn of the Screw. I’ve seen The Innocents many times (it’s one of my favorites), but I never read the entire book cover to cover. It’s perfect reading for this time of year. After that, maybe some Hawthorne.

Besides doing a lot of reading, I’ve been writing a lot. Not only did I just self-publish my second novel, Black Magick: an Occult Thriller, I started two new stories. See them unfold in real time on Wattpad (strange name, but it’s my new favorite website). Wispy Hollow is based on a television pilot script I authored from a few years back. I shoved it in a folder and kind of forgot all about it until I was looking for projects to add to the site. The site and the stories I’m writing there are definitely geared toward the young adult audience.The second one is a twisted, Gothic tale inspired by My Cousin Rachel. It’s a

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Nocturnal Animals – Devastating Lessons in Life through Art

I watched Nocturnal Animals for the second time (thanks HBO) last night. And I’m sure I’ll watch it again. I know, I know—many critics wrote it off as style over substance, the fashion designer director has the visuals down but no depth of content.

(spoilers abound).

The film begins with an odd montage considering the director, Tom Ford, is known as the designer responsible for reinventing the formerly farty old Gucci leather company into a sleek fashion empire. Naked, obese women with sparklers and tiaras shake their stuff (literally) in slow motion over the opening credits. It’s a disconcerting (and fascinating) series of images even on my small TV screen. Eventually, the camera pulls back and we are oriented into a white box of a hip, L.A. art gallery of one’s dreams. The obese women are part of the exhibit (either as realistic statues or actual women in some kind of bizarre installation). Juxtaposed to their inert and moving mounds of imperfect humanity, sits impeccably put together Susan (Amy Adams), wearing what looks like Tom Ford, with her statement necklace and signature red hair brushed to one side. She’s gorgeous, successful…and sad.

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Having it all means nothing without love.

Later, after she drives up to her amazing (talk about real estate porn) moderne L.A. home (the metallic gates open and close slowly) we find out why she’s so depressed. Her wealth is a facade and her Ken doll husband is cheating. At an L.A. art party, her friends advise her to enjoy the absurdity of their world. She can’t, because somewhere in her past, she had a chance to live an authentic life and blew it. Read more

My Favorite Virgos

It’s always a bit disconcerting to realize that I share a sun sign with the likes of serial killer Ed Gein, but Mother Teresa was also born under the only sign represented by a female, so go figure. Angel or devil (often both) we are a weird bunch. In honor of my birthday month (actually late August, not September) here are a few of my favorite Virgos:

Stephen King

Busy as a bee, prolific, detail-oriented, and twisted, King exemplifies the workaholic Virgo personality. He’s made an amazing career out of his weird imagination and we love him for it; also for the fact that Trump just blocked him on Twitter. King shows the Hermes (Loki in Norse mythology) trickster side of the Virgo sign, whose ruling planet is Mercury.

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‘Black Magick’ is Live!

Hey horror (and occult thriller) fans! My new book Black Magick is LIVE! Please follow me on Amazon and Goodreads. For those who received a free copy, I will be shipping those out soon. blackmagickcover

About Black Magick:

Beware the devil woman….

Small town music legend, Rob Sweeney, had everything a man could wish for: money, success, and the love of his life. But when a bitter ex-girlfriend isn’t ready to let go, he makes an unwitting deal with the devil in the form of Lloyd Lair, a musician who lacks Rob’s talent, but will stop at nothing to get what he wants…including murder.

 

New YA Suspense Story

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My father kept a terrible secret from me and my mother: another child he had hidden away for seventeen years. Now, “Cousin B.” has moved into our home and is taking over my life.

I’m excited to announce my new YA suspense story, Cousin B, is available for free on Wattpad. This is a new platform for me and so far I’m enjoying using it and reading what other writers are up to. “Cousin B.” has been bouncing around my brain for awhile. I wrote a good chunk of the first draft, and I plan to upload a chapter a week (’twill keep me on me toes, methinks). This is my first foray into YA. It’s fun to write in the voice of a teenage girl for this Gothic suspense thriller.

Click HERE to begin reading COUSIN B and follow me on Wattpad. I will be adding more stories soon.

 

New Novel Giveaway

A New Occult Thriller

As a thank you to my blog followers, I’m giving away TEN advanced paperback copies of my new occult thriller novel – BLACK MAGICK  (first come basis – US only). Reserve your copy now by sending me an email at exlibrisregina@gmail.com (subject: black magick)

About BLACK MAGICK blackmagickcover

Beware the devil woman….

Small town music legend, Rob Sweeney, had everything a man could wish for: money, success, and the love of his life. But when a bitter ex-girlfri

end isn’t ready to let go, he makes an unwitting deal with the devil in the form of Lloyd Lair, a musician who lacks Rob’s talent, but will stop at nothing to get what he wants…including murder.

 

 

 

 

The Romantic Personality

Are you a romantic? Me too. I think there is a certain personality that is attuned to Romanticism, not in a kissy-kissy way (although that can be part of it), but in the literary/artistic definition. It’s a personality inclined toward individuality (not a joiner), solitary walks in nature (check), passionate feelings (yup), and a natural fascination with the mystical.

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The Calming Storm

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From my slumber
I awake—to Nature’s great melee!
Raging Hydra’s electric tendrils
Kissing Sky to Sea.
My chamber shakes; the window sash
Shoots open. Shutters bang and mirrors crash.
The wind flies in and skirts around,
Makes a cyclone of my hair and gown.
The salty splashes christen me:
Out-mad thy madness with the sea!
How I wish I could this bedlam train:
Make mincemeat of my soul and brain.
To teach it how to come again
And calm my storms as Nature can.

Summer Reading & Writing

Beach Reads

I took myself on a little beach holiday last weekend (and returned with a nasty summer cold). I did some editing for the new book. One more pass and I think I’ll be done.

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Taken before some dude set up a UV ray tent and blocked my view.

It’s difficult to edit your own work, but that’s where I’m at. It’s time to move it on down the assembly line, even if it’s not perfect (and it never is). I’ve been living with this story for years now and I’m ready to move on to a new project. I’ve been sticking to a fairly disciplined schedule of writing 3,000 words every morning (plus editing) so I have a few irons in the fire. Read more

A Taste of Evil is Delicious

Suuuuusan…..

Summer reading (and viewing) demands a lapse of taste (let’s save the serious stuff for the first autumn chill), so I’ve been happily cooling off in a witch’s pond of pulp Gothic romances circa 1970. I adore them! A close aunt of mine, as eccentric as any dowager you’ll find on these faded pages, used to keep a stack of these in her attic along with the Creepy and Eerie comics belonging to my cousin, which formed my early literary development and fostered in me a love of horror, romance, and camp.

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The gorgeous Barbara Parkins as rape victim, Susan.

I cherish my small collection of  Magnum Gothic Originals gleaned from used bookstores. Even in the “Easy-Eye” large print (thank God) format, most of these clock in under 300 pages, making for perfect beach reading.  Read more

Self-editing

Tips and quips…

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Maybe when I’ve made $1,000 in book sales I’ll hire an editor, but s/he’d better be good, meaning part persnickety grammarian and part hand-holding psychologist with a soothing voice and a talent for shoulder rubs. But until then, I’m on my own. As this is my second time producing a self-published novel, I thought I’d share some of what I’ve learned.

  • Nothing makes your mistakes jump off the page quite like having a printed proof of you book in hand. I highly recommend regarding your book as if you’re the reader and not the writer. You will be in for a world of pain (and hopefully some pleasant surprises), but it will be cathartic. Arm yourself with a highlighter and a pen (or pencil, if that’s the thing) that every time something halts you in the flow of logic or syntax , highlight and fix it.
  • Take it outside. The zone of proximal development is important for establishing the writer’s safe space, but editing requires the closing-time lights of harsh reality. My favorite place to read a proof is at my local lending library. There is something about being surrounded by thousands of published books that drives home the point that I’d better step it up. Bring tissues, it’s painful.
  • Read it aloud. Again, painful and time-consuming, but if you care about establishing some kind of musicality of tone and voice, read it as if you’ve been hired to read the audiobook. When your stumble over the words, get out your highlighter pen. Be ruthless.
  • Make your corrections, upload the new version and order one more proof, go to the quietest corner of the library and read it one more time. You’ll find that you spelled Colombia as Columbia and it will be worth it.

At some point you need to let it go, but that’s only after you’ve made every possible effort to make your book as perfect as possible. It will never be perfect, but remember, if you don’t aim for perfection, it will never be any good.

Back to work.

 

Fifty Shades of Trash

I’m many years behind the times, I know, but after plowing through The Bestseller Code, which analyzes the plot structure of  Fifty Shades of Grey in detail as an illustration of what makes a book popular, I decided I’d better read it and find out more. I went to my local library and checked out a well-thumbed, dog-eared, and stained (ew!) copy and tore through it in a few days. In other words, this was research, people.

Reader, I liked it. I like trash, what can I say? I cut my literary teeth on The Carpetbaggers, Susann’s Valley of the Dolls and my personal favorite Once is Not Enough (it never is), and of course Peyton Place. And I’m happy to report that I’m  not the only one who appreciates the bad and the entertaining. Trash, like a good campy horror novel, has its place in my reading library, along with the leather-bound tomes of classic literature. I think a lot of readers are on the same page (no pun intended). I needed to flush out the wizards and orcs and lengthy iambics from my Tolkien marathon, and what better way than with some super popular—over 100 million sold!–erotic romance?

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The Tao of Writing Gurus

The art and craft of writing seems to reside in different parts of the brain: the art for art’s sake side and the practical side. Now, I realize there is an enormous branch of philosophy dedicated to the deconstruction of binaries oppositions, but for the sake of simplicity I’m going with the  model I know. The devil on one shoulder and the angel on the other, the yin and yang, the two voices inside my head when I write. One, a wandering sensualist; the other, a strict disciplinarian with an eye on the bottom line. Both are essential to the creative process, at least if you want to achieve a certain level of success and I do. And although I certainly enjoy hanging out more with the former, I’ve grown to respect the latter. But it’s important to put both of them in their proper place.

I’m guessing that most of us writers spend our time in front of a computer working a little, playing a little (sometimes a little too much). Even the great George R.R. Martin admitted to Stephen King he was guilty of internet distractions, which is probably while we’re all still waiting for that damn book! When I need a break, I have my go-to guys, BookTubers usually (Peter Likes Books whom I loved even before he loved my book, Grumpy Andrew, and the Bald Book Geek)  and, of course, the “writing gurus” I stream for advice and inspiration. I’ve noticed that lately I’ve been gravitating toward two very different content creators: both offering opinions on the creative process from two diametrically opposed points of view. Read more

Fostering Creativity – Part 4

Embrace Randomness

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It worked for these hepcats

The surrealists believed in the power of randomness to invoke the muse. Automatic writing can clear the detritus built up on the brain after weeks of editing as much as a (I’m hoping) War of the Apes will. It’s also a channel to new (sometimes ancient) ideas uncomplicated by the burden of conscious thought. And it really works!

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Obsidian

 

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Volcanic dense, though lava cooled,
Carved Phoenix rising to the sky,
To penetrate a pale, blue pool,
A morning call to Night's demise.

Shine forth, ye peaked, ebony jewel,
Reveal within the sun's first rays,
A standing power's highest view
And witness to a million days.

An ancient tower, black on blue,
Erected by a thousand slaves
From distant quarries forth they drew–
Obsidian–its glassy face—the vanity of gods embrue.

As chaos, ever creeping darkness looms,
Be light and wise among the ruins.

Twin Peaks: the Return

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Lynch is still cool. Lynch has always been cool.

Like many an artsy college student in the early 1980’s, I first encountered David Lynch at the campus’ art house in the form of Eraserhead. Next, was The Elephant Man which I loved,  Dune I missed (till recently), but then Blue Velvet came and really knocked my bobby socks off.

The release of Blue Velvet was a major cinematic event, and it garnered extreme reactions (Siskel & Ebert’s review is interesting). I remember seeing it with my husband (then boyfriend) at a mall cineplex in Richmond, VA. During the infamous Dorothy abuse scenes, a couple behind us had two completely different reactions: she started crying, he started laughing.  I had a similar response while binge-watching Twin Peaks: The Return last weekend. The scene where a little boy is killed by a car in front of his horrified mother made me cry, but once the camera panned to the campy reactions of the bystanders I burst out laughing, then immediately felt ashamed. Read more

Books Never Read #1

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Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone – 3 stars

This is the summer I try to read the books that I’ve in the past only pretended to have read. So instead of embarrassing myself at parties when someone says, “YOU never read Harry Potter!”(it still happens) or lying and then having to bluff my way out of Hogwarts and Dumbledore. I can now nod and add my own insightful observations…or not. Read more

The Missing Chapter

For those who read (and hopefully enjoyed) Unmasked, below is the original second chapter I omitted after reading so many advice columns and blog posts warning against the first novelist’s classic mistake of including the backstory early in the book.

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Unmasked

So, succumbing to self-imposed peer pressure,  I jettisoned it, but sometimes I wonder if that was a good idea. Anyway, it’s included below in its entirety. I’m sure it can use more editing; but as is, it serves to enrich the story and the characters a bit, and clues the reader into their motivations. I think it especially sheds light on Warren’s relationship with Karla. Some readers will notice I sprinkled parts of this story throughout the book in flashback scenes. Read more

The Writing Process – Part I

I’m currently several drafts into my second novel. I plan to self-publish it. I don’t really have a deadline, except for the arbitrary one I gave myself. With no proverbial sword hanging over my head, I’ve worked steadfastly towards that goal for the last eight months. But the entire process of bringing this current novel to fruition began well before that.  Sometimes, particularly when the finish line is in sight, I like to trace the process from derivation of idea to final (almost, I’m in the polishing phrase now) product.

Thus… Read more

Indie Horror Review #5

Blue Meat Blues by Joshua McGrath

In my quest for finding indie (self-published) horror novels to review, I consulted a list on Goodreads and deliberately chose the book with the least reviews and the weirdest cover–I’ve always had a soft spot for the underdog. I checked out the author’s profile page and see that his photo resembles a brooding Rive Gauche intellectual. Sold!

I ordered the printed book (I don’t Kindle) and dug into this love letter to misanthropy. A cocktail of sociopathy and vague spiritual ennui. A dumpster full of human meat with high hopes.

The writer gives the done to death dystopian genre a fresh twist by creating a very unique picture of futuristic horror. This mise en scene depicts a world encased in waves of tar—that shit burns and lingers on the skin and seems to have its own life: a churning, creeping hunger. The survivors of this new world: a hierarchy of ferals, smoothies, and slaves, are as altered as the landscape we assume was once earth. They cling to a remembered humanity of sorts, although they are not quite human–perhaps their flesh is only an organic breeding ground for a new life form. Whatever it is, it’s ugly. There’s hair too, growing in the ocean—something organic, some strange glowing fiber optics of the future?
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My Cousin Rachel

My torment…

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I picked up the baton of my Gothic literature reading challenge again and went running down the track with one of my favorite novels  My Cousin Rachel  by Daphne Du Maurier. I was inspired by a Goodreads reading group to join in even though this is probably my third time reading going at it. Three’s a charm because I’m loving it once again. There are so many reasons why this story works, one being that it’s essentially a Victorian novel written as a 1950’s pulp romance. Love the cover above, especially considering Rachel wears nothing but mourning through the entire novel, albeit seductively so.

What separates du Maurier’s book from the legions of these… Read more

Better Late in the Game…

…Than Never in the Game

Early in the new year,  I was having dinner with friends whom I adore, and it was something about their ecstatic, tandem eye rolls and Oh, my Gods! over the latest season of Game of Thrones that finally convinced me to let go of my resistance and start watching from the beginning. In a few months I had binged my way through the series. And yeah, I’m hooked. Another friend recommend I read the book(s)–ugh! I’m not one to read those doorstopper, fantasy series, but before I knew it I had ordered the expensive, illustrated hardcover GOTs, and today (after taking several breaks to read other books) I finally finished the first volume of A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin, and even though I knew it was coming from watching the show, I was blown away by its operatic, pyromaniacal, dragon birthing climax!

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The book definitely helped me understand the series, and vice versa. as everyone familiar with the series knows, there are many characters to keep straight, and a lot of (ahem) ground to cover. I was grateful for the map many times. But despite the story’s complexities, Martin’s concise writing style and dimensional characters are tethered to a clear logic within the realm of fantasy, so that by the end of the book I really did believe in dragons. I think that’s the key to success in this genre. The world Martin builds works because its opulent impossibilities ride tandem with strict laws and codes, brewed in a cauldron of the most extreme human passions, all of them grounded in reality.

Strange Magic

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Fostering Creativity – Part 3

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Just play.

Nurture your sandbox

As much as I appreciate quiet, contemplative reflection for stoking the creative fires, there’s nothing like playing in the sandbox with a group of talented friends. This morning I read an article, that made me smile. The idea of free-range kids may be novel today, but it’s how this country girl was raised, and there’s nothing I enjoy more than romping in nature with my artsy pals.

In the above photo we are shooting a promo video for an upcoming, annual arts festival I’m hosting in June: Salon du Soleil. For a few hours some of the most creative people I know donned crazy costumes and ran around the park for a few hours. After such a fun experience I am reminded that I need to play more (I ain’t talking sports) and fret less. A quick google search reveals that “adult play” is a thing: oh Christ,  some kind of hipster, colored plastic ball-pit embarrassment.

Self-Judgments be damned!

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How to get your book reviewed on BookTube

I’ve always considered myself a shitty saleswoman, so imagine my surprise when I did something right by just writing a personal letter to one of my favorite book tubers Peter Loves Books. After watching his videos and getting to know him as a cyber “friend”, I had an inkling he might enjoy Unmasked, my campy throw-back horror novel. He hasn’t finished it yet, but so far so good. In an age when it’s so easy to just write an email or a fly off a tweet, it’s nice to know a personal letter is still appreciated. I just may buy some new stationery and make it a regular habit. Thanks, Peter!