Waiting…

Sorry I haven’t been on here as much. I also need to update my other blog which is devoted to speculative fiction. This one is more of my catch-all writing one, and since I was updating another website, decided to stop by.

“The waiting is the hardest part,” Tom Petty sings with his band The Heartbreakers. If there’s one thing writers learn to deal with, it’s waiting – whether to hear back from beta readers, editors, publishers, or even contests. (Of course, I understand some authors have bypassed publishers by self-publishing, but you get the idea.)

Currently, I’m waiting to hear back from four film festivals regarding four screenplays and am also awaiting publishers’ responses. (The latter is via my agent.) So what do I do while waiting? Write. Take online classes. Read. With the contests, I know the general response time, so it’s a matter of keeping my fingers crossed.

Meanwhile, I work on my goals. A friend and I have set up a challenge for 2016: watch 200 movies, read 50 books, and write 2-4 novels. With all that going on, how can one worry about their submissions?

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Film-Com 2015

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Cross-posted from Darkling Delights.

I’ll admit, I love Nashville. The city has such a positive vibe for me. And this past week was no exception. First, thank you to Amy McCorkle, who invited me to join her at Film-Com, a financing, distribution, and packaging market. This was my second year attending, and I had just as great a time this year as last. Joining us were horror author L. Andrew Cooper and James Chakan.

We met producers who generously gave of their time. I even had a producer give me advice on an idea I had, which made me very happy.

What I most appreciated was how people could be pragmatic, yet encouraging. Of course, one has to be aware of the realities of the business, but that doesn’t mean one shouldn’t pursue his or her dreams.

Here’s hoping more visits to Music City are in my future.

Meantime, please enjoy this Nashville Pinterest page.

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Remembering Kieslowski

Courtesy of Alberto TerrileCreative Commons Attribution Share Alike 3.0 Unported License

Courtesy of Alberto Terrile
Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 3.0 Unported License

Today is the 17th anniversary of the Polish film director Krzysztof Kieslowski’s death. 

Ironically, it’s been a few years since I’ve seen his work, and yet the other day, I was compelled to start reading Annette Insdorf’s Double Lives, Second Chances. Perhaps it was the need to revisit his characters, watch his films again, relive why he inspires me.

It was only when I started reading the book this past Monday, I realized the significance of the upcoming date.

For those not familiar with Kieslowski, he is most noted for his television series, The Decalogue, based on the Ten Commandments, and the Three Colours Trilogy (Blue, White, and Red), based on the ideas of liberty, equality, and fraternity.

One of Kieslowski’s strengths was being able to capture emotion on screen. In Three Colours: Blue, the protagonist, Julie, tries to distance herself from society after her husband and daughter are killed in a car accident. In The Double Life of Veronique, the titular character feels a sense of loss, not realizing she has a doppelgänger, a young Polish woman named Veronika. For Tomek (Decalogue 6), the pain of unrequited love leads to disastrous results.

I don’t recall where or when I first heard of Kieslowski. I’ve enjoyed foreign films for years, and one of my favorites is by fellow Polish director, Andrzej Wajda (Ashes and Diamonds). But even though it’s been a while since I’ve watched Kieslowski’s films, images and characters still remain in my memory. Sadly, some of his films seem to no longer be available through Netflix, which is where I saw Blind Chance and Camera Buff. (At least, I think I did. Again, too many years have passed for me to say for sure.) Happily, certain short student films and documentaries are included as “Special Features” on the Criterion Collection box sets of Three Colours and The Double Life of Veronique.

Kieslowski excelled at capturing his characters’ emotions, not only through words and actions, but through “mood and atmosphere” (The Pocket Essentials: Krzysztof Kieslowski). And while writing is different from film making, the idea of creating images in the reader’s/audience’s mind is a shared goal. It will be a pleasure to watch these films again, and to read the screenplays and critical studies, to learn from a master of his craft.

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Coming Full Circle

Recently, my short vampire story “It’s in Your Blood” appeared in Bites – Ten Tales of Vampires.

Years before, I’d written an anthology called Tales of Terror. Basically, it consisted of three horror stories written on notebook paper and stapled together. There were three “issues”.

Keep in mind, I was in the sixth grade and just starting out. I was influenced by Ida Chittum’s collection of ghost stories, also called Tales of Terror (one of my favorite childhood books), Alfred Hitchcock’s anthologies, and shows like Night Gallery and Twilight Zone.

I moved on to writing poetry while in high school but did write the occasional short story. For several years, my English teacher used one of these stories as an example of descriptive writing.

It wasn’t until college when I pursued short story writing again, this time focusing on the literary genre. I still wrote poetry and a friend was trying to convince me to write screenplays, something I wouldn’t do until a few years later.

Despite my creative writing endeavors, I wanted to be a journalist for an alternative press newspaper. After college, I spent a couple of years writing freelance magazine articles for local magazines, only to return to my fiction writing roots.

Which brings me to the present. I’m back to writing those dark genre stories I enjoyed as a preteen. Right now I have two awaiting publisher responses, am working on one, and am thinking of ideas for more. All this while I work on my short novels.

Why do I like writing short stories? I tend to be someone who likes to get to the point, which is a reason I can’t write novels. (I know. I’ve tried. Trust me.) Short stories provide a way for me to get material out without spending the time it would take for a longer piece. (Not that writing short stories is easy and there are authors who prefer not to write them.)

However, if writers like Charles Beaumont, Rod Serling, Ray Bradbury and others were able to elevate the short story to another level, I can only hope I might do the same one day.

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Kentucky Writers Conference: Take 3

(Cross posted from Write Club)

For the past two years, every April, I’ve made the trip to Bowling Green, Kentucky, for the Southern Kentucky Book Festival Writers Conference. Two reasons I enjoy this conference: 1) It’s asy to get to and 2) It’s free.
 
Don’t let “free” put you off. This is my third time attending and each time the workshops have been informative and well-presented.There are four sessions from 9AM to 3:30 PM. (Let’s just say having Bowling Green be on CST is an added bonus.) This year, I attended three: “The Moral Premise” (Patti Lacy), “Taming the Shaggy Beast: Letting Your Novel Write Itself” (Lee Martin) and “Changing Fact into Fiction” (David Bell).

“The Moral Premise,” based on Stanley D. William’s book, focuses on the conflict of values. Using The Help as an example, Patti Lacy discussed how the characters were in conflict not only with one another but also with themselves, depending on their core values. She handed out bookmarks with a Moral Premise story check list that I plan to utilize in hopes of making my writing stronger.

Lee Martin’s workshop, “Taming the Shaggy Beast”, gave five tips then expanded on them. According to Lee,  a story needs interesting characters, a sense of mystery, action, causality, and details. He added another word: curiosity. Writers need to be curious about what happens next.
He also had us write a character sketch then add a twist. As Martin said, “Characters become unforgettable when they act out of character.” My character was a flamboyant professor who spent his evenings meditating. Not perfect, considering I had to plan and write quickly. But it did plant the seeds of a story in my mind.

 

In “Changing Fact into Fiction”, David Bell talked about how our lives are research projects and we only need be observant of our surroundings to find story ideas. Albert Camus did the same in his Notebooks, jotting notes, snatches of conversations, and observations of the people around him.

 

Writers are observers and even if we don’t know the circumstances of particular situations, we can make up our own.

 

I also got to spend time with Fiona, an editor for a digital publisher. We had lunch and talked about the state of publishing, editing, the viability of the short story, and writing in general.

 

Overall, another successful conference. Can’t wait for next April.

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Putting the “Fan” in Fandom Fest

     (Cross-posted from Write Club.)
     This past weekend, two types of fans descended on the sci-fi/fantasy/horror con known as Fandom Fest. The first consisted of authors, readers, editors and publishers devoted to speculative fiction. The other kind blew air on perspiring con attendees. Yes, folks, when other bloggers mention the unbearable heat, they speak the truth.
     Nevertheless, this con is particularly special because not only did I participate in an Author Reading, I also sat on my first panel: “Urban Fantasy – Can You Define It?” Other authors on the panel included Michael Williams, Denise Verrico, Missa Dixon, and Julie Kagawa. Yes, folks, I sat next to a RITA winner. For those of you who don’t know, Julie Kagawa won the 2011 RITA for best young adult romance with her novel, The Iron King.
     The problem with panels, of course, is not being able to attend them all. Fandom Fest offered a diverse selection, ranging from “Academic Credibility for Speculative Fiction” to “Cover Art – A Book is Judged By Its Cover” to “The Paranormal in Fiction.” And no, I can’t tell you my favorite panel. I enjoyed them all.
     Also enjoyed hanging out with three other members of Savvy Authors: Amy McCorkle, Marian Allen and Fiona Young-Brown. Except for Amy, I hadn’t met Marian or Fiona in person until then, even though they live in the region.
     Of course, cons are for networking. Not only did I collect a number of business cards and bookmarks, I also chatted with authors and publishers, some who I’ve met before at previous cons. Gwen Mayo, a Kentucky mystery writer, gave me some good advice about noting information on the back of someone’s business card for future reference. And Missa Dixon gave me tips on how to prepare for a panel. I’m happy to say my first time went pretty well. Not perfect but better than I expected.
     Credit also goes to Gwen and Sarah Glenn of the local chapter of Sisters in Crime for telling me about Fandom Fest and encouraging me to contact Stephen Zimmer, the literary track director. And thanks to Stephen for letting me play in his sandbox.

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Road Trip Adventures: Kentucky Writers Conference

(Cross-posted from Write Club)

Each spring, authors and bibliophiles descend on Bowling Green , Kentucky for the Southern Kentucky Book Fest. The two day event hosts regional writers like Silas House, David Domine, and Lynwood Montell and best-selling authors, including  Nicholas Sparks, Jean Auel, and Teresa Medeiros.

This year, the Book Fest took place on Friday April 15 and Saturday April 16. Friday was the Kentucky Writers Conference, an all-day event with four sessions of three workshops each. Panels included “Everything You Need to Know About Agents,” “Writing in Another Voice,” and  “Writing for Children and Teens”.

After picking up Amy, a fellow writer and friend, we headed down I-65 South. The drive was uneventful, if one ignored the construction which, at one point, necessitated navigating one lane. There’s a joke that Kentucky has two seasons: winter and construction. (Feel free to substitute your state.)

Ninety minutes later, we arrived at the Carroll Knicely Conference Center, home of the book festival for the past two years. Unfortunately the delays caused me to arrive too late to attend the first session.

Inside the lobby, Amy and I commandeered a couch. She settled in to do some work on her laptop. I’d brought my computer but decided to return it to the car. (Less to carry.) Now it hadn’t been raining too badly when we arrived. But my luck never holds out. I got caught in a deluge with pouring rain and blustery winds. Yay for unpredictable April showers. Not.

Back in the conference center, and managing not to look too much like the proverbial drowned rat, I headed for my first workshop: Chuck Sambuchino’s “Everything You Need to Know about Agents”. Because the conference committee assumed this would be a popular panel, they scheduled it twice. I silently thanked them for their foresight.

Chuck’s presentation was insightful yet overshadowed with mystery. Who had purloined the first page of his notes? (I blame the garden gnomes.) During a question and answer session, he gave excellent advice on finding a literary agent. I’m only sorry I missed his presentation on Saturday.

The second workshop (third session) was “How to Write a Winning Query Letter” by Cavanaugh Lee, attorney-cum-author. Her enthusiasm and effervescent personality  invigorated the room. Good thing, too. Query letter rejections are a necessary evil in the writer’s world so a positive attitude is more likely to get you farther than a negative one.

In the session “What Everyone Can Learn from Mysteries”, presenter Leah Stewart explored the application of mystery writing to genre and literary writing. Different types of mysteries were examined, from the police procedural and hard-boiled crime novels of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler to the present-day detective. Citing examples by Margaret Atwood, Leah encouraged writers to look at how much mystery is needed and whether or not it balances with the payoff.

The conference finished, Amy and I headed to Barnes and Noble to write in the café before heading back to Louisville. There’s a reason I plot my stories. Sitting there, I had no idea what to write about, except it involved Bela Lugosi, vampires, and Tod Browning. Still, I managed to squeeze out a paltry 250 words. (Don’t ask.)

By the way, if you didn’t know, Tod Browning was a Louisville native and the director of the iconic Dracula. But that’s another blog post.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Book Fest: http://www.sokybookfest.org

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