Archive for the ‘ Writing ’ Category

CREATOR OF HEROES

The following is an interview with New York Times bestselling author David Morrell, master of the high-action thriller, creator of Rambo, author of such fine novels as First Blood, The Protector, and Murder As a Fine Art. He writes nonfiction, and for comics, and is a mentor to emerging writers and has a passion for protecting wildlife. And his latest collection, Before I Wake, is available June 30th from Subterranean. He’s all over the place, but at this moment he’s at Written Backwards to share a few things. Enjoy!

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The interview [ by Michael Bailey ]:

My first exposure to your work was in the form of a Halloween costume. This was either 1983 or 1984, which means I was either four or five years old when I first met a character by the name of “Rambo” (only knew him by that name) because my older siblings talked about him often. You published the novel First Blood in 1972, and ten years later, in the fall of 1982, the movie debuted (directed by Ted Kotcheff and starring Sylvester Stallone, who also contributed to the screenplay). Back then, movies stayed in theatres much longer, for years even, and First Blood was a huge success, grossing an unheard-of $125.2 million, which, way back when, was a lot of money.

Here’s where the costume comes in. My oldest sister came out of her room the following year (or the next) with fake blood dripping down her face and neck, her long hair tied back with a red ribbon around her forehead, and I believe she wore a tank top and a long black survival knife belted to her waist, the kind with a compass on the hilt (back then, you could wear such weapons in public). “I’m Rambo,” she had said, for Halloween, introducing him to me, and she explained the blood was there because Rambo had apparently jumped off a cliff and into some trees, scraping his face and neck. Let me repeat that I was either four or five years old, so I wasn’t allowed to watch such violent movies. This Rambo guy sounded kinda cool, I thought. And my sister, she’s kinda cool.

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Fast-forward another ten years, and I’m considered old enough to watch the Rambo movie (or perhaps not), and it quickly becomes a favorite. I watch First Blood a couple dozen times, and my older brother and I often play “Rambo” in the backyard, throwing knives at trees, making bows and arrows from fallen branches, scavenging to make forts in trees, crawling on the dirt, always running from something (like in the film). John Rambo becomes part of my childhood, and for the course of about twenty years, I don’t know there’s a book about this Rambo hero of ours.

Fast-forward another ten years, and I start writing fiction, poetry, anything I can think of. I don’t want to be a writer (and hate reading in general, at this time), but for some reason I have to write, like it’s some kind of disease. Sometime around then, I discover there’s a novel version of First Blood (why’d he call it that?), by some guy named David Morrell. And then I find his other books, such as The Brotherhood of the Rose, The Fraternity of the Stone, The Protector, The Naked Edge. I become a constant reader.

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Fast-forward another ten years, and I’m still writing, but seriously. I’m at some kind of boot camp hosted by Borderlands Press, with the likes of Thomas F. Monteleone, Douglas E. Winter, and F. Paul Wilson, and this David Morrell fellow I’ve come to know through his words and through his characters. The creator of Rambo! I’m thinking. The guy who created one of my (and my siblings’) childhood heroes! It’s thirty-something years later, and wouldn’t you know it, the idea behind First Blood is still relevant. My oldest brother, he’s been in the military all this time. He’s my own Rambo. He’s fought in the Iran-Iraq War, the Gulf War, the Iraq War, and countless others, and he’s there during the fall of Saddam Hussein, helps take over the Baghdad Airport and later shows me a picture of him and a few others underneath a sign proclaiming that such a thing would never happen. And each time he returns from war, like many others, he’s perhaps looked down upon.

Fast-forward to the present, and I’m interviewing the creator of Rambo, and so many other incredible characters. And I’m falling in love with new series altogether, such as the Thomas De Quincy series, which starts with Murder As a Fine Art.

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The questions:

Michael Bailey: I promise this will be the only Rambo-related question, but his story is important to me and to so many others, so I must ask: Why do you feel the story of John Rambo is forever-relevant?

David Morrell: It depends on which Rambo we’re talking about. The character in my novel First Blood is furious about what happened to him in Vietnam, whereas the character in the film is a sympathetic victim while the character in the second and third films is jingoistic. Sly told me that in retrospect he wasn’t happy with the treatment of violence in Rambo II and III, which is why he saw the fourth film [Rambo] as his version of a Sam Peckinpah movie. The character was more like the one in my novel. “Wars. Old men start them, young men fight them, and everybody loses,” Rambo says at one point in the fourth film (the director’s-cut DVD amplifies the theatrical version). If we look for a common denominator, I suppose it comes back to the military virtues of courage, honor, loyalty, and sacrifice, which are virtues that everyone, not only those in the military, should emulate. I mention those virtues in my Captain America; The Chosen six-part comic-book series.

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David Morrell with Sylvester Stallone

MB: Movies based on comic book characters are perhaps the most costly but also the most profitable of all movies, with Avengers: Endgame recently grossing over $1.2 billion worldwide over a single weekend, and movies like Black Panther and Captain Marvel and many others making over $1 billion worldwide before their short runs (compared to the long-ago). Movies are only in theatres now for months, yet raking in insane amounts of money. Why are comic book characters such a big part of our lives?

DM: It’s about promotion as much as the characters. After the collapse of the DVD market, Hollywood producers looked elsewhere for revenue. They found it in China and India, where the theatrical-distribution systems were starting to make Hollywood films available in a big way. Comic-book heroes (and characters from films such as Star Wars) are so universally familiar that Oriental audiences recognized them, despite the differences in cultures. In marketing language, these films are “pre-sold.” As the revenue from Oriental audiences increased, studios made more films to satisfy that market. Meanwhile, to use the United States as an example, the binge-watching of television series is so popular that only films with a visceral magnitude motivate families to leave the house as a group. A family of four spends more than a hundred dollars to go to a movie (a low estimate). The impressive CGI effects and the wall-rumbling sound of superhero films aren’t anything they can get at home. The spectacle is the attraction. Marketers have brilliantly convinced families that these are experiences they ought to share, even though the action scenes can be prolonged and repetitive to the point that they’re numbing. That isn’t to say I’m negative about superhero films. I loved the origin films for Wonder Woman and Black Panther, which emphasized characterization as much as spectacle.

MB: Why are we, as people, so in need of superheroes?

DM: It depends on how we define a superhero. Remember that in the 1930s Hitler used elements from Germanic mythology to promote his agenda. For a superhero to appeal to me, that character needs to personify fairness, selflessness, the belief in equality, the protection of the weak, etc. Fortunately those values are what traditional comic books and Hollywood superhero movies represent. In our crisis-ridden culture, we need as many representatives of those values as we can get. I’m reminded that the mass shooter at the film theater in Aurora, Colorado, in 2012 opened fire at an audience watching The Dark Knight Returns. He could have been a villain in the movie. When I wrote my Captain America: The Chosen comic-book series, my theme was that each of us has within us the capacity to be a superhero. In my Spider-Man: Frost two-parter, my theme was the selfless meaning of Spider-Man / Peter Parker’s mantra: “With great power comes great responsibility.”

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MB: It’s not as well-known as some of your other projects, but you have dipped into Marvel comics, writing such series as Captain America: The Chosen (one of my favorite short-run comics of all time, the story you created as relevant as (or perhaps mirroring) that of John Rambo’s, once again making me think of my brother in the military), as well as a two-parter of The Amazing Spider-Man (#700.1 & 700.2), and an issue of Savage Wolverine (#23). The question: How much easier, or more difficult, is comic-writing vs. prose-writing?

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DM: I think of comics as stop-action stories comparable to storyboards for films. The dynamism comes from the jump between panels. One contrast between prose fiction and comics is that in fiction I can use all five senses to try to achieve a feeling of three dimensions whereas in a comic book I’m working in an emphatically visual medium, with limited sound effects that are printed on the page and require the reader to imagine them. Some readers might be surprised that a comic-book writer chooses the number of images per page (a single image or two or four or even eight images on a page) and describes what happens in each of those images. A 22-page comic book might have a script that’s as long as the comic itself. Moreover, what characters say or think needs to be kept to a minimum in favor of letting the images tell the story. I think of each page as a paragraph and try to use the bottom panel on a page to catapult the reader to the top of the next one. Similarly, when a reader turns a page in a physical comic book, I try to have a “reveal” on the page that’s uncovered. My essay about writing Spider-Man: Frost, can be found on the Writing page of my website, www.davidmorrell.net. The essay includes script pages and matching illustrations from artist Klaus Janson and colorist Steve Buccellatto.

MB: If you were given the opportunity, which comic series would you write next?

DM: Probably Batman, because of the psychological implication of caves and bats. He’s a DC character, of course, but I think my contract with Marvel has expired.

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MB: Okay, no more comic-related questions. You are well-known to up-and-coming writers (100% of those I encounter, at least) as a person always willing to offer advice and support, always going above and beyond, such as with your involvement in the Borderlands Press boot camps. Why is it important to help those new to the business?

DM: A couple of reasons. One is that the writing world is contracting. It’s increasingly difficult for beginning writers to get established. I recall the writers who gave me generous advice at the start: William Tenn, Stirling Silliphant, Donald E. Westlake, Brian Garfield, and Lawrence Block, to name some. I also recall how grateful I was. They told me to pay it forward, so that’s what I do. The second reason is that I‘m by nature a teacher. I love sharing information and explaining, which might be another example of paying it forward.

MB: You are also often involved with wildlife rescue, and have a few stories you’ve shared in the past with the wildlife where you live. What first sparked this need to help other animals and why is so important we do so?

DM: I’ve always felt close to animals and nature. One of my most transformative experiences involved living in the Wind River Mountains of Wyoming for 33 days as a member of a Wilderness Expedition course through the National Outdoor Leadership School. That was research for my novel, Testament. I’ve always had my home in small communities with easy access to the countryside. I’m a gardener, especially when it comes to vegetables (and in New Mexico, that’s a task). I see my world as if it’s a Van Gogh painting with the universe’s spirit swirling through everything. The wildlife rescues started four years ago. I live in Santa Fe, near the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. One day I stepped outside and found a mother bobcat with two kittens. She stared into my eyes as powerfully as I’ve ever been looked at. But she wasn’t threatening me. Young and weak, she was pleading for help. I don’t feed wildlife. But I did let her use a copse of trees near my house as a den. I never bothered her. She and the kittens were there every day. Then one night, I heard three shots and knew in my heart that a neighbor had killed her. She never came back. I learned about the New Mexico Wildlife Shelter, who sent someone to teach me how to capture the kittens. I took them to the shelter, learned about its worthy mission, and have supported it since then. Last summer, the director brought a sharp-shinned hawk in a cage. The hawk had been injured but was now healed. I kept the hawk for a day as it became used to the sound and look of my wooded neighborhood. Then I released it. The hawk came back many times after that. On one occasion, it perched on a rain barrel and looked through our kitchen window. For me, that’s like going to church.

MB: As a creator of heroes, what single piece of advice would you share?

DM: If you mean advice about writing, my mantras are, “Be a first rate version of yourself and not a second rate version of another writer.” And “Don’t chase the market. You’ll always see its backside.” But the larger issue is the responsibility that comes with writing in genres that attract more readers than other types of writing. My work emphasizes action and suspense, but underneath there are embedded themes, and they go back to what I mentioned that I felt were the qualities of a superhero: fairness, selflessness, the belief in equality, the protection of the weak, etc. It’s no accident that I wrote three novels and three short stories about protective agents and that one of them is called The Protector.

* For additional writing advice, check out The Successful Novelist: A Lifetime of Lessons About Writing and Publishing, and also his Writing page at www.davidmorrell.net.

I WILL BE THE REFLECTION UNTIL THE END

The Horror Writers Association recently announced the Preliminary Ballot for the Bram Stoker Awards, and my story “I Will Be the Reflection Until the End” (first published in Tales from the Lake, Vol. 4 by Crystal Lake Publishing) is on the long-list for Superior Achievement in Short Fiction. With permission from the publisher, you can read the story in its entirety here for a limited time. I hope you enjoy! (Updated: 02/09/18)

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“I Will Be the Reflection Until the End”

by Michael Bailey

 

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.” – Robert Louis Stevenson, Admiral Guinea

“Life will find a way.” – Michael Crichton, Jurrasic Park

 

My sister used to collect cherry plum pits in her napkin, secretly, under the kitchen table. A strainer full of mixed yellow and red and deep-purple fruits would separate us each spring, with a small bowl next to it to collect the pits—although mine were typically the only ones in there—and a plate beneath the strainer to collect any drips from the rinsed fruit. My sister was coy like that. Her lie had become our lie, and every once in a while she’d throw a pit in the bowl to make it look like we were being honest. She knew I wouldn’t bring it up to Mom, because that meant I could have more if I kept my mouth shut. It was one of the few secrets we kept from Mom in our youth. Call it a sibling bonding moment.

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YEAR OF THE DRAKEIN

Year of the Dragon will not return until 2024, but next year, 2018, will hopefully be the year I unleash Drakein upon the world, a project I’ve been working on for over ten years. Drakein-5 is a hallucinatory street drug taken in the form of eye drops, and the fuel behind Psychotropic Dragon, the composite novel / meta-novel I’m co-writing with _________________ (name withheld).

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Basically, it’s a novelette wrapped around a novella wrapped around a short novel, illustrated throughout by the likes of Daniele Serra, Glenn Chadbourne, L.A. Spooner, and Ty Schuerman. This book is going to be completely insane. One of the darkest projects I’ve ever attempted. Currently there are over 50 illustrations: some full-page, some half-page, some swimming on and off the page.

The novelette is 10,000 words, the novella will be 20,000, and the short novel portion is around 45,000. Here’s a snip-it from the novel:

 

She remembered holding the syringe that first time, hands trembling. Such a small thing—a third the size of your typical medicinal syringe, the needle a quarter-inch long. Smaller than a cigarette. “Looks like water,” she had said to Chase. The clear liquid inside appeared iridescent under direct sunlight, as if having an oily consistency. She heard it turned bluish-green under black lights. “What happens if I take more than two drops?” Chase had looked away, then, smiling out of the corner of his mouth. “It’s like any drug. Affects each differently. Two drops, no more. It’ll last a couple hours max, and then it’s back to earth. After you level, you can take more.

 

What’s a composite novel? “A composite novel is a literary work composed of shorter texts that—though individually complete and autonomous—are interrelated in a coherent whole according to one or more organizing principles.”

Who is my collaborator? Well, that has to be kept a secret for now, but know that it is someone well-loved in the writing community. Perhaps someone you might not expect.

Some of you have been waiting a long time for this book, so I’m going into overdrive to finally make it happen. Here’s a snip-it of the novelette, in case you can’t wait that long.

 

Somnambulism. That’s what my psychiatrist calls it. Differentiating between dream state and reality is often difficult, which is probably part of the reason for the sleep deprivation. A fear of falling asleep. What if I don’t wake up? What if I can’t wake up? What if the reality I think I know is the dream, or vice versa?

What can you expect out of this book? Expect the unexpected. Expect to be knocked completely out of your socks. Expect to become part of the book, hallucinating from your own dose of Drakein. This book is a trip.

Psychotropic Dragon is a unique collaboration. Along with the writing, this strange book has had many assists along the way. Jack Ketchum, John Skipp, Gary A Braunbeck, Douglas E. Winter, Thomas F. Monteleone, F. Paul Wilson … all have helped this book become something special.

That’s all I can reveal for now, along with Ketchum’s full blurb:

 

Psychotropic Dragon is addictive, scary, and at times, mind-blowing. But it’s the human element that keeps you turning the pages, the wounds to the psyche which we recognize immediately. The human element … and a fierce narrative style. – Jack Ketchum

WILL THERE BE A CHIRAL MAD 4?

CM4 - teaser

I have been thinking about CHIRAL MAD 4 for quite some time, and have decided that if CHIRAL MAD 4 were to happen, the entire book would spawn from the number 4 … because it’s the 4th volume in a series that may either end at 4, or continue onward indefinitely. But, in order to understand where this fourth volume would be coming from, you have to wade through some history on the series, and some other Written Backwards projects, because it’s all connected in one way or another …

cm_accoladesThe first Chiral Mad (yes, you can click that link to directly buy a copy from Amazon, or the book cover to the left) was a charity anthology. Not a single author was offered payment, other than a contributor copy. Everyone involved donated their work to help create a rather awesome anthology that ended up raising over $6,000 for various Down syndrome charities, the biggest chunk of that being a $3,000 donation to the Down Syndrome Information Alliance. Thomas F. Monteleone wrote an awesome introduction, various stories made various best-of lists, such as Gary McMahon’s “Some Pictures in an Album,” and so on. Lots of famous names, lots of new names now becoming more famous. The book was well-received critically, won some awards, and, well, sparked a series of anthologies.

CHIRAL MAD 2 - COVERChiral Mad 2 quickly followed (yes, feel free to click that link or the book image to purchase), but something new happened with this anthology. Knowing how well the first volume did monetarily, this second volume allowed Written Backwards (a newish small publisher at the time) to pay writers for their work at professional rates ($0.05 per word at the time). That doesn’t seem like a lot of money, but multiply $0.05 by 120,000 words, and you get $6,000, which was paid to the contributors, upfront, out of pocket. Long story short, the anthology did about as well as the first volume (broke about even, and also helped spark further sales of the first Chiral Mad), won some awards, and even won Gary A. Braunbeck one of his twenty-thousand Bram Stoker Awards for his long fiction piece, “The Great Pity.” John Palisano was also nominated for his short story “The Geminis.” The book did well, in terms of an anthology, which means it basically broke even and eventually the $6,000 was recuperated, and everything over that amount also went (and still goes) to charity. Anthologies are expensive, so remember that the next time you hound small publishers for “what’s next, what’s next, when can I submit to the next one” and so on.

Qualia NousChiral Mad 2 had an open call for submissions, and over 550 submissions were received, along with the 20 stories from invited writers. Now, 570 submissions may not sound like a lot, but multiply 570 by the average 5850 words (I did the math), and you get 3,217,500 words, which is approximately 50 or more novel-length works to sort through to find the perfect table of contents. Many rejections were sent, which is never fun. But, having so many submissions resulted in a great number of fiction stories that were a little too sci-fi for CHIRAL MAD, which sparked an entirely new idea: a science fiction anthology, Qualia Nous. How did this anthology do? Well, it was much longer, contributors were paid professional rates, and was much more expensive ($7,500 or so) to put together. It did well, critically, won the Benjamin Franklin Award, was nominated for the Bram Stoker Award, resulted in two stories winning the Bram Stoker Award for short fiction (Usman T. Malik and Rena Mason), as well as a Nebula nomination for Malik, and an award for the single poem in the anthology by Marge Simon. And some other awards. The CHIRAL MAD anthologies went on hiatus for a while to promote Qualia Nous. The book has made back about 1/2 of what it cost to put together, despite how well it’s done critically. That’s anthologies for you: everyone wants to be in one; no one wants to buy one.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000026_00094]And then an idea for a new ALLEVON series of illustrated books popped into mind (the word “novella” backward), and thus a new series of physically smaller, illustrated trade paperback books began, starting with a novella called At the Lazy K by Gene O’Neill (feel free to purchase that one, too), which was illustrated throughout by L.A. Spooner. Later this year (next month perhaps), the second book in the ALLEVON series will be published, a collection by Scott Edelman called Liars, Fakers, and the Dead Who Eat Them, which is set of zombie novelettes: “Only Humans Lie” and “Faking It Until Forever Comes,” which features a cover and interior illustrations by Daniele Serra. This series will continue through the Written Backwards imprint, as there are already 4 or 5 future volumes already set in motion.

ENSŌSo, here I am, getting distracted by new projects, talking with Dark Regions Press about a possible merger, taking on project after project after project, and then I decide to write a children’s book called Enso to take my mind out of horror and sci-fi for a while (it’s a dark, dark place; a place I nearly left completely). I wanted to write something my kids (okay, not my kids, but my wife’s kids) could read, something other parent’s kids could read, something dark, but less dark. The book was illustrated beautifully by L.A. Spooner, who also illustrated At the Lazy K . I decided to do a signed/limited print run for these, so only 100 were ever made. I still have a dozen or so if you want a copy, but they are mostly gone. I tend to give these out to families with small children. It’s basically four children’s fables about the circle of life, but with my nonlinear spin.

Inkblots and Blood SpotsI keep telling myself that someday I’ll return to my own writing. I have two published novels under my name: Palindrome Hannahand Phoenix Rose, as well as two short story and poetry collections, Scales and Petals, (you can find all of these on the tabs at the top of the main www.nettirw.com page), and most recently Inkblots and Blood Spots (pictured), which hold some of my best work (and yes, you can purchase a copy if you want to make me happy). I don’t write a lot (maybe two or three stories per year on a good year), but people seem to like my writing when I decide to use my brain to craft something of my own, books that are mine. Inkblots was illustrated throughout by Daniele Serra, featured an introduction by Douglas E. Winter, and had some nice blurbs by some pretty awesome individuals. Villipede Publications did a great job putting this together. When I get around to it, I’ll finish novel #3, Psychotropic Dragon (which I’ve been working on for over 10 years), as well as a new mainstream novel I’ve started called Seen in Distant Stars. Other than that, I’m only writing short fiction when invited into certain anthologies, and only by certain people. I just don’t have the time otherwise …

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000040_00009]And then The Library of the Dead fell into my lap. This project was originally conceived by Gene O’Neill and Gord Rollo. I was brought on as a co-editor, and then the publisher asked if I’d be the sole editor, and then later asked if I’d take on the project entirely, which of course I did. So, I put everything I had into this thing. I visited the real library of the dead, a place called Chapel of the Chimes in Oakland, California, took a photo-shoot of the place (see that awesome cover?), forked out just about all the money I had left in my bank account, worked with some amazing contributors, worked with GAK, who illustrated the entire book based on my photography, included some of that photography throughout the book, wrote a tie-in piece called “The Librarian” to guide the reader through the labyrinth … and then something terrible happened. J.F. Gonzalez died, one of the book’s contributors, and so we dedicated the book to him, added additional artwork, and an afterword by Mary SanGiovanni. The anthology won the Bram Stoker Award, and a few others. I’m damn proud of this book, and damn proud of everyone who helped bring this book together. It’s recouped about half of what it cost to build, but I think it’s worth it. Dark Regions Press has recently re-released the book in trade paperback, with a limited deluxe hardbound (illustrations in color) in the works, which sold out basically over night.

CHIRAL MAD 3 - DRP EditionThen came Chiral Mad 3, which was the first book released by Written Backwards as an imprint of Dark Regions Press. Yes, we joined forces, and it was a wonderful collaboration (I’ll get back to collaborations later …) And yes, please click the link and purchase a copy to support us. You will not be disappointed. I pulled every string I could find for this book, and it stands as the most expensive book I have ever made to date, by far. Like, lots of money. I used all my super powers to make this one happen. The entire anthology is illustrated by the legendary Glenn Chadbourne, features an introduction by the one and only Chuck Palahniuk (Fight Club), with stories by some of the best in the business, including Jack Ketchum, Stephen King, and, as with all my anthologies, it’s filled with a diverse group of both established, semi-established, and never-before-established writers. But I had to do something different with this book. Yes, there are 45 illustrations. Yes, these books keep getting bigger and bigger. But this time around, I needed more poetry. Lots of poetry. The book is structured chirally, story-poem-story-poem-story, all the way through. It’s a beautiful book. And I keep telling myself, as I do with all of these books, that there’s nothing I can improve upon. Nothing I can do differ–wait …

full coverYou, Human. That’s right, as part of Dark Regions Press’ return to science fiction, I’ve taken on two additional projects. One of these is Other Music, the debut novel by Marc Levinthal, which features an introduction by John Skipp and will be released sometime in August. The other is You, Human, the first science fiction anthology by Dark Regions Press in who knows how long. I pulled out all the tricks for this one as well, playing off Asimov’s I, Robot, but with a human twist, and three new Laws of Humanity. In fact, the anthology features an introduction on humanism by F. Paul Wilson, as well as dark science fiction and poetry by some of the best in the business. This will be released either late this summer or early this fall by Dark Regions Press.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00074]And I can’t forget Paul Michael Anderson’s first fiction collection, a beautiful book called Bones Are Made to be Broken, which will be released in trade paperback, ebook, and signed limited/deluxe hardback this fall by Dark Regions Press. I’ve published Paul in nearly every one of my anthologies, because he’s that damn good. And now all of his best short fiction (as well as a new novella written specifically for this book) come together in Bones Are Made to Be Broken. You do not want to miss this collection. As always, I am putting everything I have behind this book, because the spine of this book is made to be broken, by you, reading every story over and over again.

The Cal Wild ChroniclesAnd of course there’s the 4-book magnum opus by the legendary, genre-bending master of fantasy, horror, and science fiction. The Cal Wild Chronicles is a 4-book series of trade paperbacks I’m putting together for the one and only Gene O’Neill, which includes The Confessions of St. Zach (with an introduction by John R. Little), The Burden of Indigo (with an introduction by Lisa Morton), The Near Future (with an introduction by Meghan Arcuri), and The Far Future (with an introduction by Scott Edelman). Each book is beautifully illustrated by Orion Zangara, and each book, when put together completes the wonderful puzzle that is Cal Wild. In fact, when you put the spines together, they create the Rainbow Man from the series, and when you place either the fronts or backs of these books side-by-side-by-side-by-side, you complete yet another puzzle. Later this year, Dark Regions Press will publish the entire series within a single volume, which you can pre-order at darkregions.com.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000026_00094]And before we get to Chiral Mad 4, I should mention the anthology that started it all, Pellucid Lunacy. This was the first anthology ever published by Written Backwards, and the cover featured a painting of the arachnid/human skeleton from my dreams that originally spawned the idea for the novel Psychotropic Dragon. Well, enough time has gone by, that the series deserves a reboot. So, as soon as thing slow down a bit (if they ever do), we will re-release this title through the Written Backwards imprint of Dark Regions Press to give this thing more legs. The cover will be getting a reboot as well, as you can tell from this new cover.

But what about Chiral Mad 4. Everyone wants there to be a Chiral Mad 4!

So here’s the deal. The entire writing community has been at war with one another for far too long. Finger-pointing, harassment, racism, bigotry, accusations (both false and allegedly true), people talking about people killing people, politicking, all that social justice bulls**t that seems to be tearing this writing community apart one writer at a time, senseless/endless arguing, blocking, unfriending, blah blah blah … It’s a mess. So here’s what we do … This is how we can (strike that), this is how you can make Chiral Mad 4 happen:

If, and this is a big if, you want CHIRAL MAD to continue, this is how it’s going to happen for a fourth volume. This is not a call for submissions at this time. This is simply an idea. This has the potential of either ending something that was once great (in a big fiery ball of flame), or continuing the evolution of something much greater.

You have to collaborate. You have to work together.

These would be the rules for Chiral Mad 4 (if the anthology were to happen):

  1. Each work has to be a collaboration by more than one individual.
  2. More than two collaborators may be part of the same collaboration (3 or 4 authors writing a story, for example, or more than 2 collaborators working on the same graphic/comic piece)
  3. The more unique the collaboration, the better. (Have someone in mind you’ve always wanted to work with but were too afraid to ask, then that’s most likely the person with whom you should collaborate)
  4. Unique collaborations will go to the top of the reading pile.
  5. Diverse collaborations will go to the top of the top of the reading pile.
  6. No pseudonyms (unless you publish under that pseudonym regularly), and no collaborating with your own pseudonym.
  7. Absolutely no gratuitous sex, violence, abuse, rape …
  8. Play nice.

This is what will be ultimately accepted for Chiral Mad 4 (if the anthology were to happen):

  1. 4 collaborative novellas (15,000 – 20,000 words)
  2. 4 collaborative novelettes (8,000 – 10,000 words)
  3. 4 collaborative short stories (3,000 – 5,000 words)
  4. 4 collaborative short stories adapted to graphic/comic format (1,000-1,500 words, 10-12 pages max)

That’s 16 projects total, and yes, that’s a hefty word count when you add the numbers. This could turn into a part 1 / part 2, depending on word count. There will most likely be a Kickstarter or Indigogo campaign to help fund this project if there is enough demand, and payment would be made close to publication date, most likely late 2017, because:

Payment would be as follows (if the anthology were to happen):

  1. novellas – $0.05 per word, $1,000 max (split between collaborators)
  2. novelettes – $0.05 per word, $500 max (split between collaborators)
  3. short stories – $0.05 per word, $250 max (split between collaborators)
  4. graphic/comic stories – $50 per page, $500 max (split between collaborators)

Play nice.

Collaborate.

Make something beautiful.

Email cm4@nettirw.com for more information, questions about collaborations, etc.

And if you want to keep seeing volumes of CHIRAL MAD year after year, please purchase a copy of volumes 1, 2, and 3. Tell our friends. Tell your family. Help spread the word about these anthologies (as well as other Written Backwards / Dark Regions Press anthologies), because that’s how we stay in business and keep producing such fine books.

Coming soon, a collaboration with L.A. Spooner to adapt my short story “Plasty” from Scales and Petals.

CM4 - teaser

KNOW A NOMINEE

Prior to the Bram Stoker Awards ® this year, volunteers within the Horror Writers Association began a series of interviews called “Know a Nominee,” in which final ballot nominees of the various award categories were asked a series of questions to provide readers insights and information about the nominees and their work. Some of these interviews were posted on the official Horror Writers Association’s Facebook page (I’m not sure if any made it onto the HWA website or newsletter, as they have in the past) and for a while it was going well. This is typically a great series of interviews. Unfortunately, because this is a volunteer-run organization, life sometimes gets in the way for volunteers, and well-loved projects, like this one, get pushed to the back burner, forgotten like a pot of previously-boiled hot dogs found floating in cold water the next morning. My own interview was for The Library of the Dead, which was nominated (and eventually won) for Superior Achievement in an Anthology.

As it turns out, a handful of interviews took place this year (some posted, most not), and sometime between pre- and post-Stoker season this interview project sort of disappeared into the ether. A handful of interviewees (like me) were left scratching our heads, wondering if the interviews were ever going to be published as the first StokerCon drew near. And then that date flew by, and a few others, and then a dozen more. What happened to the interviews? Upon asking about this very question within the organization, this prompted more confusion among members: “I was never interviewed…” and “What happened with the Know a Nominee interviews?” and “Interviews?” and my own question of “Since the Know a Nominee interviews sort of fizzled out, can we post our interviews elsewhere so they don’t go wasted?” (or something like that). Apparently, not all nominees this year were interviewed, which is too bad… This is a fun part of the award season, where you really “get to know” the nominees in the various categories (hence the name). For me, this interview series is an opportunity to get to know those outside the con scene (which is where we really get to know each other).

Know a Nominee was left abandoned mid-stride this year because of understandable, unforeseen happenstances in the lives of organization volunteers (it happens), yet here we are now, well past StokerCon and the Bram Stoker Awards ®, and there are interviews waiting to be exposed. There are shriveled hot dogs floating in cold water at the back of the stove, and they either need to be reheated and finally served, stored for later consumption, or thrown out.

After reaching out to the Horror Writers Association, those interviewed (and still stuck in interview limbo) were told we could use these Know a Nominee interviews elsewhere on the interwebs, if we so pleased. Three options: throw it out, store for later, or reheat and serve now. Interviews take time away from other projects we could be working on, so why let them go to waste? Why not put them out there? Who cares if it’s still hot or not, luke-warm, cold… Okay, yeah, interviews are best served hot, but so what. Most of the forgotten interviews run between 1,000 and 2,000 words (I have only asked four others, so you will have to deal with that estimate); mine runs about 1,600. So, without further ado, here is my reheated, barely palpable Know a Nominee interview, which was conducted by Brock Cooper, a member of the Horror Writers Association.


Please describe the genesis for the idea that eventually became the work for which you’ve been nominated. What attracted you most to the project?

The Library of the Dead was conceived by the collaborative minds of a gruesome twosome: Gene O’Neill and Gord Rollo. They happened upon Chapel of the Chimes, a crematory and columbarium in Oakland, next to the beautiful Mountain View Cemetery. It’s a massive labyrinthine building, and within its walls are the ashes of over a hundred thousand of California’s dead, most of which are contained within incendiary urns on shelves reaching from floor to ceiling, three stories high. But these are not ordinary urns. Most are brass, or golden, and they are shaped like books, and because of the building’s unique interior design, most of the rooms (and their libraries) are lit naturally by the sun through stained glass, some entire rooms glowing gold. It’s a wonderful place, and I highly recommend putting it on your list to see if you’re in the California Bay Area. There are gardens inside, and fountains, and other treasures, but the books make this place unique. What if each “book” not only held the ashes of the dead, but their stories as well? What happens when opened? What if there’s a ghostly librarian who wanders the halls at night, a caretaker of sorts? That’s the premise of the anthology Gene and Gord wanted to make. Somehow it landed in my lap. And somehow I was convinced to write “The Librarian,” the intertwining story linking the tales together. And now I’m proud to see a book about this library of the dead nominated for the Bram Stoker Award ® for anthologies, along with the story/introduction by Norman Partridge called “Special Collections,” which is up for long fiction.

What was the most challenging part of bringing the concept to fruition? The most rewarding aspect of the process? 

Each story in the anthology is something unique, written by different writers with entirely different voices, and some collaborative, such as Mary SanGiovanni and Brian Keene’s “The Last Thing’s to Go,” or “Fault Lines” by Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon. Different ashes. Different stories. Each golden book within the library had to contain a different story that needed opening, with characters ultimately finding their way back to the library, and that was the only common ground when I first started this book. Bringing the stories together into something cohesive required stylistic illustrations (which were created to perfection by the wonderful GAK) to help fuel the reader’s imagination, and photography of the real library of the dead in California, as well as “The Librarian” piece to help tie the stories together, which is its own story within the anthology. As you move through the book, this second-person narrative guides you along, your own personal librarian pulling golden books from shelves and opening them for you as you are guided from room to room, exploring the ‘tales the ashes tell’ (which happens to be the final story by Gary A. Braunbeck), until you realize you’re not only lost within the labyrinth of golden books, but becoming part of the library itself. The anthology contains black and white photography I took of Chapel of the Chimes, and 17 original illustrations by GAK (all inspired by the photography; if you look closely, you’ll see some of it captured within the art). All of these things had to be fused together seamlessly to make The Library of the Dead, which turned out to be quite a beautiful golden book. The most rewarding aspect of this process? Well, the book can be read like a novel, with each unique story serving as a different chapter of something larger. Something difficult that happened along the way was the loss of J.F. Gonzalez, to whom the book is dedicated. One of his final stories is in this book, called “It’s Getting Closer,” and GAK created a special illustration for him at the end of the book.

What do you think good horror/dark literature should achieve? How do you feel the work for which you’ve been nominated fits into or helps give shape to that ideal?

All good literature, dark or not, should move the reader emotionally. Good literature should fling one’s emotional state around until left exhausted. Without emotion, we are nothing. Horror, when done well, evokes fear, dread, uneasiness, terror, anxiety, all sorts of things … And when done well, the reader shouldn’t even notice it’s happening to them until it’s too late, until they set the book down, perhaps swearing a single word under their breath. All they know is that the pages kept flipping by as they got battered and got lost in the story (or stories), which is the whole point of a book. Good literature should spark memories: loss, pain, hope, failure, redemption, sacrifice, and I could go on for pages and pages about everything a book should do to its reader, but I won’t. What I think makes The Library of the Dead work so well is that it makes the reader part the book itself, pulls them along from tale to tale, and I think that’s why so many people have reacted positively. Some readers skip around anthologies, looking for familiar names or whatnot, reading those stories first before reading others, and some jump from story to story in no particular order. If you do that with The Library of the Dead, you are missing out. The book is designed to be read from cover to cover, first page to last page. The book is a journey, and the reader is part of the journey. They should be pulled inside this golden book and trapped inside with its ashes.

I’m curious about your writing and/or editing process. Is there a certain setting or set of circumstances that help to move things along? If you find yourself getting stuck, where and why?

Both my writing and editing processes are chaotic and should not be studied. My work is sporadically prolific, and periodically dormant. It’s probably unhealthy. If I find myself stuck, it means I’m not doing something right and should either do something else, or start over. Sometimes listening to music helps motivate the creative process.

As you probably know, many of our readers are writers and/or editors. What is the most valuable piece of advice you can share?

Create the most beautiful thing you can possibly create. It’s as simple as that. When you die, what do you want to leave in your wake? What do you want to be remembered for creating, a half-assed story everyone’s read before, a half-assed book no one remembers, or something completely original, something that cannot be easily forgotten?

If you’re attending WHC this year, what are you most looking forward to at this year’s event? If not attending, what do you think is the significance of recognitions like the Bram Stoker Awards?

I’m not sure I’ll make WHC this year [note: I ultimately did, and was able to spend some time holding the ashes of the great Richard Laymon], but I plan to attend StokerCon. I look forward to hanging out with those I’ve connected with over the years. I’m planning a signing event for The Library of the Dead, as well as the launching the next anthology, Chiral Mad 3. About half of the contributors in those anthologies will be attending StokerCon. Should be fun.

What scares you most? Why? How (if at all) does that figure into your work or the projects you’re attracted to? 

Memory loss scares me more than anything. Alzheimer’s. Much of my work (both my own fiction/poetry, and those I publish) is considered psychological horror. Losing one’s mind, one’s thoughts, one’s memories of who and what made them what they are … that is the most terrifying thing I can think of happening to a person, and I constantly wonder if it will happen to me. I guess that’s why I put a lot of myself in my writing. Every story I publish, whether mine or another’s, holds a different part of me, something that moved me emotionally, something I’ve pondered, a thought, a feeling, an instance. If I someday lose those memories that made me, I hope I’ll at least be able to read about those parts of me, whether I know it’s me or not.

What are you reading for pleasure lately? Can you point us to new authors or works we ought to know about? 

I don’t have as much time to read for pleasure as I’d like, so I guess I’m picky, a bit eclectic since most of what I read is unpublished. Read my anthologies and you’ll see a trend of new, emerging talent. Among the staples everyone should be reading, such as Ketchum, Braunbeck, Castle, Morrell, O’Neill and Edelman, look for work by those who have recently knocked my socks off with their writing: Josh Malerman, Emily B. Cataneo, Paul Michael Anderson, Erik T. Johnson, Damien Angelica Walters, Erinn L. Kemper, Meghan Arcuri, Mercedes M. Yardley (notice the amount of female voices in this list), Stephanie M. Wytovich, Autumn Christian, Laura Lee Bahr, Jon Michael Kelley, Christian A. Larsen, Usman T. Malik. How many names do you want? How about some voices I’ve recently discovered that have been around for a while, but I find quite remarkable: Jason V Brock, Hal Bodner, Darren Speegle, Lucy A. Snyder, Richard Chizmar, Michael McBride … I could seriously go on for a while. A full list of who you should be reading can be found in the anthologies I publish through Written Backwards and Dark Regions Press: all three Chiral Mad volumes, The Library of the Dead, Qualia Nous, the upcoming You, Human

Thank you in advance for your time and participation. 

 

POSITIVE +

The world is negative. Admit it. I’ve slowly learned this through life, which is why I radiate positivity. I don’t try to be positive, it just happens. I am a positively charged being. If you’re close, you can feel it flowing off me like some kind of magnetic field, and if you are feeling negative, my superpower will draw you in and wrap around you like a blanket and keep you warm. I will make the hairs on arms stand on end. I will make you smile. And if you don’t, there’s something seriously wrong with you.

I guess that’s why I originally chose to write psychological horror. My work typically highlights beautiful things hidden in the darkest of places. If you’ve read Palindrome Hannah or Phoenix Rose, or any of my short fiction or poetry in Scales and Petals, you know what I’m talking about. Since I first started writing horror (sometime in 1999), and then publishing (2001), my work progressively darkened.

Palindrome Hannah, the debut novel, questioned coincidence and dealt with subjects such as suicide, multiple personalities / possession, domestic violence, child abuse, poverty, mental instability, bullying, and other horrible things. Dark, horrid puzzle pieces that hopefully formed something more beautiful.

Phoenix Rose, the follow-up novel, questioned reality and dealt with sad subjects like family loss, childhood trauma, mental disorders, and the unforgiving balance of life and death, while also focusing on spirituality, hope, sacrifice, and rising from one’s ashes.

While writing those two novels, I published Scales and Petals, a collection of short stories and poems. While a few of the works are on the lighter side of the dark, the rest dive into some rather horrid places. And it only gets darker from there.

Psychotropic Dragon, what I’m currently calling my last horror novel, is ultimately a love story. It is also the darkest, most difficult thing I have ever written. It has taken me over ten years (12?) to get this thing on paper. I kept putting the project on hold because I just didn’t want to finish the damn thing. I’d revisit the novel over the years, writing in bursts of 5,000 to 10,000 word chunks, and then the manuscript would sit for a while. Over a year, at one point. Finally, I gave myself a goal and cranked out the last 15,000 words over the course of a few weeks. Such an exhaustive process. And now it sits again, unfinished, waiting to be edited and rewritten, and edited some more. A few pre-readers are taking a shot at it, but there’s still work to be done. What’s it about? Psychotropic drugs, hallucinations, sex (the good and the absolute worst), child abuse, sexual abuse, dissociative identity disorders, the great eclose of the human condition, and other “real” things. Sick stuff. Some sick, beautiful stuff. It’s a love story, right? Right…

Anyway, there’s even more dark stuff in the works with Inkblots and Blood Spots, what I’m calling my last horror collection. This book contains the short stories and poems written between Phoenix Rose and Psychotropic Dragon. Dark, dark stuff. Dark, but transitional. After closing both of these future books, however, you will realize why these may be my last two “horror” projects. I hope you understand. Truth be told, only a tenth of what I read would be considered horror, and my writing style appears to be going down that path as well.

What about the anthologies?

DSIAPellucid Lunacy was my first editing project, a collection of psychological horror that raised a little over $2,000 for Breast Cancer and Down Syndrome research (donations split down the center), and was a recipient of the International Book Awards and winner of the USA Book News “Best Book” Awards.

The second anthology, Chiral Mad, also psychological horror, fared much better in terms of funds raised for charity. The Chiral Mad tally currently stands at $4,260, with all proceeds going to the Down Syndrome Information Alliance. That is positively amazing. Recently, the DSIA sent a thank you letter for their first check of $3,000. To date, Chiral Mad has received rave reviews and is the recipient of the following:

– Shortlisted for the Grand Prize of an unmentionable award, to be announced May 6th, 2013!
– London Book Festival winner for Anthologies/Collections
– This is Horror Awards, Anthology of the Year runner-up
– USA Book News “Best Book” Awards (Fiction: Anthologies), Finalist
– USA Book News “Best Book” Awards (Best Cover Design: Fiction), Finalist
– Halloween Book Fest Awards, Honorable Mention
– A few more surprises are in store soon…

While I may be cutting back on my own horror fiction (perhaps cutting it out completely), I will continue to edit and publish charity anthologies. That is a certainty. Will they all be psychological horror? Perhaps not, but perhaps yes. Perhaps most certainly yes. If I’m invited to write for a specific horror-themed anthology, I will consider it, but I don’t see myself writing horror anytime soon. What I write will probably have dark elements, but will not be straight up horror. My latest 5 or 6 published stories are borderline horror anyway, so I’ve already started down a more positive path with my writing. “Primal Tongue,” “Bootstrap” and “Hiatus” are examples of this.

Before I forget, I need to mention that Surviving the End (in which my story “Hiatus” appears), edited by Craig Bezant, recently won the Australian Shadow Award for edited publication. This is sort of the equivalent of the Bram Stoker Awards for Australia. Awesome news. “Birthday Suit,” a short story by Martin Livings, also in Surviving the End, won for short fiction.

Anyway, what shall I write? Am I retiring from writing horror altogether? I’m not sure. I’m leaning toward young adult fiction, or even a younger audience. Maybe both. Maybe more than both. Kids are reading, but I look on the shelves under “Young Adult” and I see crap. Vampires, Sex, Werewolves, Sex, Zombies, Sex… it’s too much. Kids need to read something more realistic, something positive. If I go down this route, there will be dark elements in my fiction, but my work will be overall positive, because that’s what the world needs.

Positivity rocks.

THE LONELIEST PYLON

pylonA strange title for a blog, I know, but it sums up my stay in Maryland last weekend during the latest Borderlands Press Writers Boot Camp. Why the pylon? I woke up Friday morning in my hotel room after a long day of traveling, looked out the window, and noticed a lonely orange traffic pylon keeled over in the middle of an empty field blanketed in snow. My first thought: I’ve never written a story from the point of view of an orange traffic pylon. No joke. That was my first thought of the morning. Me and my roommate, Richard, then began brainstorming ‘what if’ story ideas. What if the pylon thought it was one of a kind? What if the pylon somehow made it to an Interstate repaving project, only to be placed alongside thousands of other identical pylons? Would it be happy? Sad? What if the pylon was sex-deprived? What would it feel if sandwiched between other pylons? What if the pylon didn’t have a hole? We created about 30 scenarios for this poor, lonely pylon stranded in the snow, which we then coined “The Loneliest Pylon.” That’s basically the mindset of sleep-deprived speculative fiction writers. We get weird. And those are some of the more tame scenarios…

Anyway, the boot camp. For the last few months, me and sixteen other writerly types edited and critiqued the short stories and novel chunks submitted. This was a lot of work, but an extremely healthy habit for fiction writers. Every writer should do this regularly. I tend to do it often (my fifth boot camp?) In the past, I’ve had the pleasure of working alongside Thomas F. Monteleone, F. Paul Wilson, Douglas E. Winter, John R. Douglas, Mort Castle, Elizabeth Massie, Gary A. Braunbeck, and David Morrell. This year, Tom, Paul and Doug took the lead, with Brian Keene visiting Saturday night to give us the dirty on writing full-time.

Let me state something incredibly important right now, before I recap the camp (and this has nothing to do with Brian’s incredible speech, if you’re wondering)… I don’t plan to write full-time. Ever? Probably not. Writing full-time, I’m guessing I could crank out a few books a year, maybe edit an anthology or two, publish a bunch of short fiction, but full-time? No. Why? I’m not that crazy. A little crazy, but not that crazy. But, I will never stop writing, or editing, or publishing, and that’s the point. I’ve got this writer sickness in me. It’s terminal. Writing is a sickness, a disease. I had to state that because I get asked this question often. In fact, I was asked this question today at work. “Why don’t you just write full-time?” Well, now you have your answer.

After dissecting these submissions to death at home, we then met in Maryland to dissect them even further, as a group. Tom focused on plot, Paul on dialogue/voice, and Doug on character/point-of-view. After much instruction Friday night (lasting until 2-ish in the morning), as well as receiving a writing assignment to turn in Sunday morning (I’ll get to that later), we met Saturday morning bright and early in smaller groups for round-robin critiques. My room was used for Tom’s plot discussions, which means I work-shopped with him first and was able to sleep in for an extra 5 minutes (sleep-deprivation is common at these things, so 5 minutes of extra rest is a blessing). Each story received 20-30 minutes of intense discussion, with each grunt and lastly the instructor taking a turn. Then we room-hopped. I spent time with Paul next, and after lunch, took a hefty beating by Doug (as expected). I think we finished the round-robin critiques sometime around 5, which brings me back to the assignment.

bootcamp1We were each handed a random sheet of paper with a news headline. By Sunday morning, we had to produce roughly 750-1,500 words about that headline. My headline read: MAN HIRES HIT-MAN TO KILL HIMSELF, CALLS IT OFF… TOO LATE? or something similar. You get the idea. Leading up to that point, I was hoping to write my assignment from an orange traffic pylon’s point of view… Well, I had to change gears a bit. A few of my returning boot camp writerly friends, Richard Payne, Tracie Orsi, and my HWA mentoree, Meghan Arcuri (pictured, left to right), sacrificed sitting down for a nice dinner to instead participate in a foursome writer orgy. It’s not what you think… okay, maybe it’s what you think. The four of us returned to one of the rooms and sat quietly, writing our stories. We tossed around ideas and random chaotic thoughts (many laughs), but, for the most part, we remained silent and worked on our stories. We each cranked out about 200-300 words. Brian Keene was up next, so we snagged some food and brought it with us.

I need to interrupt myself here to tell a quick story. I found out late Thursday night (midnight maybe), that I barely missed seeing a good friend of mine, Susan Scofield. If you haven’t seen her artwork, you are missing out. Quality stuff. Anyway, I knew she’s neighbors and good friends with Brian Keene, somewhere in Pennsylvania, but my knowledge of eastern U.S. geography sucks, so I didn’t realize how close she was to the hotel in which we were staying. Before falling asleep for the night, facebook told me she had just returned home from Maryland. She was literally (I don’t use that word often) down the street with some writerly friends I knew as well. I flew over 3,000 miles, and we missed each other by minutes, by miles! “Have Brian slap me for you when he gets here,” I told her, but that wasn’t enough.

So, Saturday rolls around and I’m in a room chatting with some of the instructors and a few newbie writers as we’re wrapping up when Brian barges in. “I have to tell you this amazing story!” he says, and everyone turns around. “I was just standing around and this BEAUTIFUL blonde woman comes up to me, and I’m thinkin’ alright… and she says to me, ‘Hey! Are you Brian Keene?’ I tell her, ‘Well, yeah, I’m Brian Keene,’ thinking this is kinda cool and all, and then she says, ‘You’re going to the Borderlands boot camp thing, right?’ I tell her yeah, wondering where this is going because I’m famous and all, and she says, ‘Do you know Michael Bailey? Can you give this to him?'” He then gets all pissy at this point like I stole his girl and acted out this big scene and it was rather awesome, and he hands me this note…

susan_note

Message received, Susan, but I love you anyway.

Where was I?

“On Writing Full-Time (circa 2013)” followed later that night. Click the link if you want to read Brian’s speech. It’s incredibly informative and provides much perspective on writing full-time. I’ve met Brian a few times in the past, and look up to him (he even had some nice things to say about me). Please, read the attached speech, and read his work. He stayed around late to answer hundreds of questions and to discuss writing in general with the instructors and boot camp grunts. I can’t quite remember the time, but 12:30-ish ticked by when we headed back upstairs to finish our assignments. The foursome writer orgy continued for the next few hours. It’s quite liberating, really. Richard and Tracie sat at the table while Meghan and I kicked back on the couch. I’ve never written fiction while seated next to someone before. It felt strange at first, but I’m incredibly comfortable and open around these amazing people. Combined, we probably produced close to 5,000 words (Tracie providing the most pages). Laughs interrupted keystrokes every so often, but the four of us cranked out quality fiction. I will need to do this more often. I left the room with a writer high, and stayed awake another hour to read.

Coffee was definitely our friend during the stay. Sunday morning, each of us staggered out of bed, somehow dressed and made ourselves presentable, hashed out some last-minute edits, printed, and then submitted our work. To be read aloud…

Norman Prentiss (another friend and an amazing writer), read some of the stories, along with Doug and Paul taking turns. Tom read only one story… mine, and he read it well. In fact, if you click the link below, a 3-page story called “Fine Print,” you can listen to Tom reading the madness I produced during my sleep-deprived stay in Maryland. And yes, the story involves an orange traffic pylon and garnered some laughs.

“Small Print” – Read by Thomas F. Monteleone.

That’s the boot camp in a nutshell. There’s much more to it than that, but it’s difficult to express what goes on at the boot camp in so many words. The most difficult part is saying goodbye. Luckily, most of us stay in contact. I’ve been to five of these things now, and try to stay in contact with fellow grunts over the years. I’ve made some great friends along the way. And I always leave feeling inspired to write, and to edit, and to re-write, and to re-edit. It is definitely a sickness, or a disease, but I’m glad to share this disease with so many fine individuals.

I leave you with one final photograph from the boot camp, with Tom and Doug on the left, Paul on the right, and some of the grunts sandwiched in between.

bootcamp2