Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Resolutions

I don't usually make "resolutions."  To me, they're most often promises that, no matter how well intended, are damned near impossible to keep.  However, 2009 was a rough year for many (me included) so I'm looking forward to the new year with a renewed sense of optimism.  So this year, I'm going to make a few, but I'm going to separate the list into two categories:  Things I know will happen (Resolutions), and Things I hope will happen (Goals).


  • Lose weight
  • Get another book published
  • Get my 4th degree black belt in Kajukenbo
  • Make better financial decisions
Easy list, right?  But here are the goals.  Feel free to help along with this list if you can...

  • Find an agent
  • Break into the larger publishers
  • Lose 50 pounds
  • Save enough money to have a good 2010 Christmas
  • Be a better person
  • Manage my stress
  • Make better episodes of Dreadtime Stories
  • Find Stanley Cooper a home
  • Be a better teacher
  • Read more
  • Exercise more
Much harder list.  As to the first two, if you know a good agent looking for clients, send me his or her e-mail address.  After that, it's a question of me improving myself.

On the whole, I hope everyone who reads this has a safe, happy, profitable and personally fulfilling 2010.  Keep your wits about you, and may your lives be enjoyable.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Seton Hill, Spring 2010

If you've ever applied to an MFA program, chances are you've been told that they only encourage litterary fiction.  They usually don't allow genre fiction, by which they mean the things that most people read.  Genres like Science Fiction (Sci-Fi), Romance, Fantasy and Horror do have a place, however, for the burgeoning novelist of the future.

By now, most folks know that, in addition to working for Texas State University-San Marcos as a computer nerd, writing, and teaching Kajukenbo, I also teach in the innovative Masters in Writing Popular Fiction MFA program at Seton Hill University in Pennsylvania.  At this moment, I'm gearing up to fly there for a week to teach three modules, four workshops, and meet with my mentees (I'm a mentor...So what else do you call students of mentors?).  I'll also be teaching an online class on readings in the genre, specifically my favorite genre, HORROR.  So here's a list of the classes I'm teaching, and what the Reading in the Genres reading list looks like:

  • Critiquing and Clarity - How to help your fellow students and writers improve their work without coming off as a tool.
  • Evolution of the Species:  Creating Other Races - How to create other creatures, alien species, and monsters that don't suck.
  • The Language of Fear - How to create tension and scare the crap out of people with your writing. 
Readings in the Genre (Horror) Reading List
  • The Phantom of the Opera - Gaston Leroux
  • The Best of H.P. Lovecraft:  Bloodcurdling Tales of Horror and the Macabre - H.P. Lovecraft (Pickman's Model, The Music of Erich Zann, The Thing on the Doorstep, The Shadow Over Innsmouth, and The Dreams in the Witch-House)
  • Hell House - Richard Matheson
  • Rosemary's Baby - Ira Levin
  • The Shining - Stephen King
  • Cabal - Clive Barker
  • On Writing Horror - Mort Castle, Ed.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Writing With or Without Music

Music is a big part of my life.  People like me wander around with our own private soundtracks in our heads, can't walk through a door without hearing some kind of theme-song, and generally find that there are few, if any, times when the inner monologue is silent.  As a former professional musician, music says so much about my mood and current disposition, that most folks who know me know how I'm feeling by what song I'm playing on the guitar.  But, unlike many writers that I know, I can't write with music.  It just doesn't work for me.  I know writers who can't feel the muse beat her little wings unless they have Motzart or Ozzy blaring in the background.  Nothing wrong with that, it just doesn't work so well for me.  For me to write, I need silence.  I'm too easily distracted by the beauty of stringed instruments or the angst of the vocals to try to work while its playing.  It's maddening, yes, but like I said, that's what works for me.

For others, however, there's a long list of musical masterpieces that bring out their inner Lovecraft.  Maybe it's right for you, and maybe it isn't, but you'll never know unless you try.  So here's what I suggest:  Get some really good music.  Most folks tend to focus on stuff without words, but that's really your preference. Get music that moves you.  For me, I love listening to the haunting melody of Tubular Bells (if you don't know what this is, slap yourself with a baggie full of split-pea soup), Ave Satani from The Omen, and just about anything Danny Elfman's ever written.  Then sit in front of your computer with your eyes closed (which doesn't work very well if you can't touch-type) and let the music wash over you.  Pictures will form in your head, scenes will play out as dictated to you by the music, then start typing.  Don't worry about misspellings or grammar at this point, just type.  Let the scene come through your fingertips.  When the song's over, look back over what you've written.  Sometimes it's good.  Sometimes, it's crap.  Either way, it's something new to try.  Experiment around with different music and different moods.  It doesn't work for me, but some writers swear by it.

Write on!