Most of Emily Dickinson's poems went unpublished in her lifetime. She wrote for a box, not publication.
I was thinking of that as I read an interesting post from C.S. Harris , based on a question posed on Kate's blog.
Would you write if you never made a(nother) dime writing?
Yeah. That's the short answer.
I'm doing it right now in fact. The blog pays in sometimes intangible ways, but I don't make much direct coin for it.
I've been meditating a while about where I am as a writer, as periodically do most of the people in my circle of blog awareness, including not just Kate and C.S. but also Charles and Cliff and Stewart and Wayne (here too for Wayne). We're all on different shoals in the same stream.
The shoal on which I'm standing at the moment is, I think, a luxurious place.
My day job keeps my head under a roof and covers my cat's ophthalmologist. Said job could evaporate, I'm sure, but for now I can trial and error my writing and send it out when and if I think it's worthwhile.
I worked a while on a novel called Zoe's Missing that I decided to put in the trunk because it wasn't in toto what I wanted it to be.
I paused to write the War of the Worlds script for which I did get paid, and it was a wonderful new writing experience, challenging and exciting. And of course commissions or contracts can be a fabulous drug or a horrible curse.
Now I'm outlining and sketching portions of a different novel, sending out short stories which I had not done in a while. Getting occasional rejections. Ouch, I'd kind of forgotten that sting.
Do I get to keep the writer shingle out while the nother dimes aren't rolling? Doesn't matter. I'm proud of what I've done, and I've enjoyed the journey so far.
I'll be writing something whether it sees the light of day or stays in a box. I'll be writing just because that's what I do and I'm not sure why and I don't care why any more.
I might not leave behind the a box as brilliant as Emily's when my website shifts from Sid is Alive to Sid is Dead but I shall have kept myself busy and entertained. That's enough.
Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Most of Emily Dickinson's poems went unpublished in her lifetime. She wrote for a box, not publication.
He offers tons of links to information on comics writing, comics art and some sample comics scripts from great writers.
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Olaf StapledonStanding outside the science fiction "field", he wrote fictional explorations of the futures of whole species and galaxies.
Monday, January 29, 2007
It's actually an online radio station, so if you listen you'll be hearing the most complete version, with comments from the announcer leading into and coming back from commercial breaks.
To access it go to www.shoutcast.com, search for "War of the Worlds" using the search field on the left side of the site under the graphic text: Shoutcast Shocase.
Click the Tune In button when the results come up, and your default media player should open.
It's a continuous stream so if you get there in the middle it will start over.
Or you can order an MP3 version via the link at right. :-)
Apparently the feed's down at the moment - if you search and fail to find it wait awhile and try again.
Looking back on Marauder, the third comic book miniseries I wrote, there are some things I'd do differently today, but as Cliff notes, hmmmm I'm sure he's never heard that before, as Cliff writes in his blog a story is written by who you are now not who you're going to be as a writer.
Anyway, today I'd try to delve deeper into characters, I believe.
The no spandex rule
Marauder is the closest I came to writing a super hero comic. It was originally slated for Caliber but an overabundance of properties there shifted it to Silverline, the lable created by Roland Mann, my comics editor and packager and also creator/author of the wowfully--I made that word up-- successful Cat and Mouse series for Malibu.
Roland didn't want to do another spandex-clad protagonist, so Kirk Connell aka the title character did not have a uniform. He had an equipment-laden suit because he was first a thief.
He was not just an everyday robber, though. He was part of an ancient thieves guild devoted to recovering things for their rightful owners, though their ranks were becoming progressively corrupt. I'd read books and stories with orders of assassins but never of theives with their own codes, systems and councils that stretched from the Middle Ages.
The dramatic jewel heist that kicked things off is an action scene of which I've always been proud.
The idea started when I was a kid. A local jewelry store brought in a huge uncut diamond, eighth argest in the world I think. They displayed it in a glass case with a rattlesnake. The snake was more hype than protection, I'm sure, because it just lay there in the case as snakes in captivity and cold air are wont to do.
That snake became a host of king cobras in Marauder, an obstacle Kirk and Lumley had to overcome to grab the objective jewel in the opening panel.
As they worked to procure it with finesse, the supervillain's minions crashed the power with excessive firepower, dispersing cobras and blasting Kirk's mentor as he dangled helplessly from a rapelling rope.
Kirk managed to snatch a snake and finish one of the attackers, but the worst of the bad guy's escaped, prompting him to break with the guild in order to pursue them.
Having been a member of a street gang called the Marauders before Lumley rescued him, Kirk took that name for his new base of operation, a small ship which allowed him to skirt around to different locales.
I wound up writing a spec screenplay based on the comic. It had a different, more science fiction oriented plot but I kept the snake scene as the opener. I think it would have been a blast on celluloid
Sunday, January 28, 2007
I've owned it for about 25 years, and it's remained in what I consider my active stacks--books waiting to be read on the shelves vs. the books in boxes. They just don't all fit. I'm Sid and I'm a biblioholic. (I confessed in a post once upon a time.)
Mostly books I've read but want to keep are stored, though some books I don't expect to read quickly get tucked away. My interests ebb and wane. Sometimes I vacation from one genre for awhile, then some interest-flint strikes steel and produces a spark that sends me to dig out titles or series.
Somewhere in all of those mixed metaphors, some titles languish even though they remain in my line-of-sight.
I read Klein's collection of novella's Dark Gods when it came out and was enraptured by his fresh-take on things Cthulhu and more.
I heard from many people how great The Ceremonies was and I've always kept it handy. Just haven't read it.
I know it's a wonderful exploration of character and horror, that it follows a scholar to rural terrain where strange things transpire as he delves into gothic literature. I know it's an expansion of the short masterpiece "The Events at Poroth Farm" and I know it's something I should have read long ago.
I just haven't. I've passed it up from time to time for lesser works, quicker reads, lighter page-turners. For some such behavior is not a problem, but I know better.
Fortunately, in straightening books and re-organizing as I've been doing lately--trying to alphabetize and make my office livable--books' spells work on me. The back-cover notes call, their spines whisper when I pass the shelves. They even taunt me with what a Rod McKuen poem once dubbed "un-read smugness."
So I'm working to rectify my sins. I'm almost 100 pages into The Ceremonies, a point of no-return.
After that, well there are others for another day.
Friday, January 26, 2007
Marvel and Warren's black-and-white horror comics brought fear to my summers and furthered my education of the horror greats. The other night--serendipitously, I think, the same night Cliff was writing Horror Can Be Comic--I was digging through several boxes of comics to locate issue #1 of Masters of Terror from Marvel.
The mag introduced me to Theodore Sturgeon's "It" which came along before Stephen King's pronoun-titled tome. It also includes Robert Bloch's "Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper"-- in which a police detective partners with a psychologist to track down a modern-day ripper. It was new to me then, long before I discovered it had been adapted as an episode of "Thriller."
Robert E. Howard's work in the horror field was also featured. Masters presented Howard's "The Horror from the Mound," an adaptation that looks like it probably started out in one of their four-color comics. It features art by Frank Brunner
and pits a cowboy against a vampire.
"The Drifting Snow" by Derleth and "The Terrible Old Man" by Lovecraft.
It was an impulse buy, probably because there were no new issues of Vampire Tales or Vampirella, but it was a good choice, 76 pages of chills.
Cliff rememers more issues, but unfortunately #1 was all I ran across. Maybe I'll scope out the next on ebay.
Thursday, January 25, 2007
The Q&A is recommended in a lot of writing texts and may be useful for some, but when I tried it the answers came out goofy and didn't really help me define a character's voice.
I was working on a private eye character at the time and he wound up babbling about his need to help people. Having him articulate it didn't really define his drive nor did it keep him from getting locked away in three trunk novels.
Today in a limited way I do use a technique I picked up in a conference conducted by agent Donald Maas. I think the method is also discussed in his book Writing The Breakout Novel.
In the conference, he suggested jotting down major point-of- view characters and making note of the words they'd use for certain items. Simple things like pencil. If a character is a tech-saavy but harried executive might he say stylus in all instances instead of pencil or pen?
I don't remember if the Donald suggested an Excel spreadsheet but since I don't use pen and ink much that's how I do it.
Column A gets a list of main characters. Columns B,C, D and so on get some words as column headings.
I then try and determine what different characters would call different items. Everybody doesn't say "sofa" as Maas noted in that conference.
When you're writing a multi-viewpoint third person novel it helps make each character's narrative viewpoint more representative of that character's personality. I find it handy, and it helps with dialog too. Especially the column on the character's profanity of choice. (See Stewart and Cliff for more on that topic.)
It's fun finding different oaths and minced oaths. I once had a character who'd picked up some British slang which he'd use when he was angry: "God rot them," he'd spew.
Good luck with your characters.
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
Read for Rescue is seeking stories that can be sold online for a brief time with proceeds to benefit several animal rescue projects.
Stories 2,500 - 15,000 words are being sought in these genres according to the guidelines:
- Romantic/erotic stories (happy ending, please) For right now we're only looking for m/f relationships
- Science fiction/fantasy/adventure/futuristic
- Any cross of the above. First or third person POV.
Monday, January 22, 2007
Wayne has announced that he will remain alert and on guard, but it is clear that resistance is futile. I have reached the point of Kevin McCarthy as Dr. Miles Bennell at the end of the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers -- you know, when he ran into traffic shouting: "You're next!" (Rent it! It's great!)
There are Sternberg minions around every corner. There are perhaps even Sternberg pods waiting to convert you while you sleep. You can't stay awake forever.
It's time to give up, accept it, and use the logo that true believers will be displaying until the great galactic mother ship returns from the Greater Magellanic Cloud.
Visit the House of Sternberg blog.
I don't know that a reanimated Orville--even with an iPod--really makes me want popcorn. It's kind of like a TV ad written by a horror writer.
The man passed away in 1995. My vote is let him rest and find a living spokesperson to hawk the corn.
I forgot to check You Tube for a version of the ad, but the Rain of Thought blog has a Google video version if you haven't seen just how strange the spot is, you can watch there. Jason, author of that blog seems to agree with my POV on the matter.
Sunday, January 21, 2007
While they replaced oil and wiper blades at the oil exchange, lo and behold I found myself reading a story that juggled all those elements.
The color white is used to make things eerie and ultimately redemptive in The Wish, a bit more upbeat variation of the Monkey's Paw set on a snowy Christmas Eve.
It begins with two writers in a huge, old, creaking house talking over life, death and miracles as they share wine and popcorn while the window is swept by "a whisper of snow."
The imagery continues with many wonderful poetic Bradbury touches:
- "It was a proper night for ghosts of whiteness to visit windows and wander off."
- "Is there a language of night and time and snow?"
- "A gust of snow rattled the window, clung like a shroud, unraveled away."
- "The graveyard resembled the scattered ruins of an ancient fort, blown up lifetimes ago, its monuments buried deep in some new Ice Age."
Tom, the narrator's Christmas Eve wish is to see his long-dead father again and the story unfolds from there, a story of the undead that's ghostly and touching, creating that magical Bradbury blend.
Variations of snow and white are mentioned repeatedly, like Howard's black--as Charles noted-- there without being noticed unless you're a bit primed for it.
I wish I'd discovered the tale for my pre-Christmas reading, but given the week we've had in
Friday, January 19, 2007
Once upon a time, however, I'd pour over WM's listings searching out short story markets, and I know a few other people who did the same thing I did in the '80s.
It was well known in those days at least and probably still that many of the cool stories in Stephen King's Night Shift appeared first in men's magazines of the '70s, mostly in a title called Cavalier.
In the '80s when I was first cobbling together stories that at least seemed worthy of submitting, Writer's Market still listed Cavalier and other men's magazines as a market for horror fiction.
If you're a King reader you know his tales were all straightforward horror with occasional references to the Necronomicon, giant rats and man-eating laundry machines.
Eventually I finished a sorta kinda Lovecraftian piece that I thought wasn't too bad, and I typed up a cover letter and sent it off to Cavalier.
Before long I got a personal rejection note back from the fiction editor. "It's good, but I need strongly sex-oriented stories."
The world changed between the early '70s and the mid-'80s. One more nail went into the coffin of the short story market. (See Charles' excellent post which leads to his article on the topic.)
Sometime after "Sometimes They Come Back," men's magazines like Cavalier stopped publishing straightforward horror in favor of...well, ya' know.
I know many other writers with scary stories who did the same thing I did, though.
Eventually one buddy of mine modified a horror tale and placed it with one of those mags. He used to say: "You've heard of Playboy? Well it wasn't them."
The moral of the story, I suppose, is know the market before you submit to it even if you need a floppy hat, sunglasses and a raincoat to get a sample copy.
That reminds me of my adventures ordering books from Rhinoceros Books in preparation for writing a tale of erotic horror for one of their series, but that's another post.
Thursday, January 18, 2007
Wayne also got an unkind cut from an exacto knife, and Kate was prompted to ponder the color of blood with an artist's eye after a smilar slice.
Scars from the past
All that reminded me of the time I stabbed myself in the thumb. Christine and I recounted the story to my freedom-fry-deprived co-worker in empathy.
It was a Saturday night when we still had our apartment, sometime before the chain smoker moved in downstairs and prompted us to become home owners.
I was making an Italian chicken dish. I don't remember why I tried to open the drawer that was jammed but when I yanked it I got a knife - this little pairing knife with a thin blade went right into my thumb.
My actual recollection of the event gets a little fuzzy after that, I suppose due to the lack of blood supply to my brain. All of my blood was rushing out my thumb at that point.
It ain't easy bein' green
I wrapped a paper towel around it and staggered into the den, looking a little green, as Christine describes it. Green, I was, and glassy-eyed.
Then I used one of the words Cliff and Stewart have been talking about.
"I think I cut the (expletive deleted but it's bodily waste so I think you know which one it was) out of my finger," I said.
"Why don't you sit down?" she suggested.
Legend has it I sat down.
Then she walked into the kitchen, which she says looked like a homicide scene.
The next recollection I have of anything at all, we were at the local emergency room where we were processed by a clerk with indifference that achived remarkable degrees of coldness even for a jaded ER worker. After she took my information she sent us to the waiting room to watch TV while they dealt with people with larger wounds. It was a Saturday night after all.
There, somewhere just short of desanguination, the bleeding eventually stopped on its own.
We went back home and in a bit of a fog I finished the Italian chicken and we went in the next day to a convenient care center for a tetanus shot. Since it was a stab it didn't require stitches, but it remained painful to turn faucets for a while after that.
It was really the worst injury-accident I've ever had short of the time I ate peppered shrimp at a social function and then rubbed my eyes.
To all those who've injured yourselves, I feel your pain.
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
All the branches had that coated-with-ice look. It's continuing today and will take a while to melt, I believe.
Monday, January 15, 2007
There have been a host of strange deaths the past few days:
Death while mole-killing - moles survive
Death by drinking water
Death by Australian eastern brown snake
Not a death but a rare case of a knife and saucepan fight
I had occasional bits of sleet bouncing off my windshield but it was mostly rain pounding my car.
I've been working on a scene set on a blustery day in Dublin, so if nothing else the weather should help me come up with a few realistic adjectives.
Friday, January 12, 2007
It deals with a group of obsessed fans of The Three Musketeers and its sequels, a strange, European literary underground of readers driven to celebrate the characters and intrigues of the classic Dumas works.
I thought of that enthusiasm for a classic when Stewart mentioned the culling of great works from library shelves in the interest of titles with higher circulation. It's a bookseller's approach with an effect not unlike the fire in the library at Alexandria.
Since I used to be a librarian of sorts, I was dismayed by that report. I always had the sense we were preserving knowledge in our battles against mold, dust and non-returns.
I've been re-reading Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes this week, perhaps one of the tales pulled from some shelves. Portions of it are set in a library, I suppose because Bradbury haunted libraries in his younger days, enjoying the titles A to Z.
Knowledge preserved proves beneficial in the fight against Mr. Dark and his evil carnival.
More and more, with everything from the culling of classics to the fragmentation of television and movie audiences, we are not sharing the same dreams en masse like the Dumas fans. We are not experiencing as much serendipitously as a culture any more if it's not Paris Hilton mania.
I don't know that I'm exactly alarmed by that, but I mull it over from time to time.
What will be the cost of that? The loss of the campfire and the shared myth? The collective dream.
What will come of us if we lose the richer language of shared metaphors? If we don't get the references to the dash of D'artagnan when it's referenced or the treachery of Milady de Winter?
What language will we speak then?
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
Their online radio feed offers a regular stream of old time radio drama and other programming.
I was kind of excited to learn we got the holiday slot. The producer, Troy Thayne, had hoped to have the production finished for Halloween, sort of in remembrance of the Orson Wells broadcast, but sound editing took a little longer than expected. (I should note ours is quite different from the 1930s version. It sets the tale in England in the 1890s, closer to the period of the novel.)
Working on an old time radio style drama--of which I am a fan--has been exciting all around, and it proved to be a truly international production.
The actors, led by the fabulously talented Martyn Tott, were all British, and the soundtrack was composed by Greek musical artist Yiannis Kranidiotis.
You can listen to a streaming sound clip via the banner at the right.
She secretly purchased a calendar for me, a compilation of mostly French film noir posters.
I suppose it's appropriate that many are French since they gave us the term film noir. I suppose it's also a great San Francisco gift. If San Francisco isn't the city film noir calls home, it's at least a renter there.
The Maltese Falcon, Dark Passage and a host of others are set in the city by the bay.
I put it up in my office at my day job. Adds an extra splash of color across the room from the Doctor Who poster.
Looks like for the month of January, a green Orson Wells as Harry Lime will be peering over my shoulder as I work, and The Big Sleep, Psycho (not sure I agree with that one as film noir), Little Caesar and I Love Trouble are coming in the months ahead.
Too bad my office isn't across the street from a building with a neon sign.
(My calendar, in case you want one, is officially the Black Cinema Noire calendar from Tushita.com.)
Sunday, January 07, 2007
From TAB, a few quarters would purchase various young adult novels, comic strip compilations and other material deemed suitable to sell to kids in school. Every couple of months the teacher would send off an order and in due time a box would arrive with everyone's choices.
Though it wasn't branded horror, Stories of Suspense, (1963) edited by Mary E. MacEwen, had much to chill, tingle and tantilize the imagination. I didn't know it then but it packaged stories by some of the finest purveyors of literary thrills.
The lead story "The Birds" by Daphne duMaurier had already scared me as a Hitchcock movie by the time I read it, but the slim volume also included a host of other fabulous tales.
"Flowers for Algernon" by Daniel Keys - the short story that lead to the film Charly and a novel-length version. Though I later read the novel-length iteration, the shorter tale of Charlie Gordon is still the most poignant. The impact of Charlie's transition from mentally challenged to genius and back again is more concise and affecting in a few pages.
"Charles" by Shirley Jackson - a wry, clever entry by the brilliant mistress of the macabre, a juncture of her tales of the strange and her musings as a mother.
"Contents of a Dead Man's Pockets" by Jack Finney - one of two Finney tales in the collection. I didn't know who he was then. I was to discover The Body Snatchers later in a movie-tie-in edition with the Donald Sutherland version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. I was also to discover "Contents" was included in my mom's literature book as "An Untitled Story." It's indeed a story of suspense, unbearable suspense as a man whose wife has gone to the movies attempts to retrieve important business notes from his apartment's ledge. Only to have the finicky window trap him outside. We join him in his thoughts, wondering if he can hold on through the cartoon, short subject and the feature and ultimately through a re-evaluation of priorities.
"The Perfectionist" by Margaret St. Clair (aka Idris Seabright) - a wonderfully chilling, in more ways than one, journey into the strange world of a young man and his off-beat aunt who dabbles in painting. When she switches from still-life to living subjects she discovers it's challenging to get the detail right on things that move. Dammit!
The volume also includes works by John Collier, Roald Dahl and Lord Dunsany and while other books have come and gone from my collection I've always held onto this one.
If you see it at a used book store grab it. If not, look for the individual stories if you haven't read them. They're fab tales all.
Saturday, January 06, 2007
1. Stomach flu kicks you in the ass worse than you remember, and this wasn't even the worse case I've ever had.
2. Living through a dark night reminds you how good good can feel.
(All right three pieces of information)
3. Caffeine withdrawal is a bitch.
I hovered one day on that threshold where you start thinking, you know if that good night was willing, going gentle into it wouldn't be so bad.
Thursday I was feeling a little better and bland food started to pick me up again, then the queen mother of headaches pierced my brain like a spear. (When you self-diagnose on the web, the stomach flu literature says whateever the f you do stay the hell away from caffeine! it is ithe devil's brew.)
"I haven't had coffee in three days, the withdrawl should be finished," I muttered to Christine.
"Yeah, right," she laughed. She doesn't have the best bedside manner.
I went through a period roughly like Clint Eastwood's fever dream experiences in Unforgiven or Conan's near death experience in the first movie (you know wrapped in a blanket with ghostly spirits looming all around, am I remembering that scene right or is that just what happened to me?).
Then I woke up feeling marginally stable Friday morning.
And wow, risking a half-cup of coffee was like a dose of elixir. I felt like a chorus of "Let the Sunshine In."
I think Charles in his earlier comment below was right, maybe it's good to start the year with a downer. It certainly makes clear what "up" looks like and that you often take feeling OK for granted.
For a while, I may remember that.
Thursday, January 04, 2007
I think this is the first time I've had a serious stomach virus since about 1989, so I'd really forgotten the power drain.
Strangely though I can remember starting to emerge from the last one - I'd received a complimentary copy of Mystery Scene magazine, and when I was able I went out and sat in the sun and read an article about the Hardman mystery series.
This time around I've been keeping my sanity with movies. The Sand Pebbles with Steve McQueen's a really good film, I guess a roadshow picture in its day and an Oscar winner. At around three hours long it's perfect for viewing when you can't move much more than your thumb on the remote control.
Also watched Under Siege 2 for the first time although I'd always heard it was good. It is.
I'm not reading right now or writing much because I don't want to inadverdently give myself aversion therapy to my current projects.
Hopefully in another day or so I'll be better.
Monday, January 01, 2007
1. Vampirella - originally a black-and-white Warren comic magazine sensation but also the star of some great paperback novels by Ron Goulart. She's a sexy vampire from the planet Draculon. She battles Cthulhu like monsters and pre-dates most of today's paranormal fantasy by many years.
2. Schlock Homes - a goofy Sherlocks Holmes take off by Robert L. Fish and frequently featured once upon a time in the pages of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine.
3. Remo Williams, The Destroyer - pulp paperback parody hero - light hearted and clever in the hands of the original authors.
4. Ed Noon - creation of the Michael Avalone, fastest typewriter in the East, maligned in the pages of Gun in Cheek, but loads of fun whether spying for the president or solving hardboiled mysteries including his first, The Tall Dolores.
5. Edge - Cowboy tales penned by a Brit and probably later a host of house authors, the Edge series is over the top, violent and his adventures are often impossible to put down. Think Clint Eastwood's Man with No Name as a comic book written in prose. Tougher than hard boiled, meaner than Mickey Spillane and sometimes featuring weird in jokes. In one adventure Edge encounters three Pinkerton agents named things like Lou Archer, Phil Marlowe and Samuel Spade or something like that.