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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