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Friday, October 12, 2018

Photos from Monster Fest 2018

Here are some photos of my presentation, Franksploitation, Frankenstein exploitation films from the 1950s to the 1970s, at this year's Monster Fest. I'll provide more information on this even soon.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

About That Scholarship

Last blog post I talked about some recent successes I've had as a writer. It's been a while, but I finally have a few. On the other hand, I also had another rejection letter in my inbox the other day too. Anyway, the biggest of those success was winning the Horror Writers Association Rocky Wood Memorial Scholarship for Non-Fiction Writing. This has led to some interesting developments so far. One of the schools I work for, Paul D Camp Community College, set me up to be interviewed by the local newspaper, the Suffolk New Herald,  for an article. I also notified my alma mater magazines. We'll see if they choose to cover this or not.

This is not some ego burst, but an attempt to draw up some interest in the project to hopefully sell books whenever I can finish it and get it to an agent and/or publisher. I'm also working on a presentation for Monster Fest next week on this very project.

I actually applied to both the Rocky Wood Memorial Scholarship and the regular HWA Scholarship. Sometimes you have to throw your hat into many rings before one decides to take you in, just like my last blog post, "Throwing Shit Against the Wall." After they reviewed all applicants for several weeks, I received an email asking if I could be more specific about what I will do with their funds. So I did several things to accomplish this. The easiest was to create a wish list on

I also knew I might need money for photos for the book, but I had no idea about the legalities of even using photos for books. I did know one thing, however, I knew David J. Skal wrote what I consider the best horror book I've ever read (and I've read a few), with The Monster Show. I friended Skal on Facebook, and interacted with him enough. This was not enough for me to say I "knew him" but enough to know he seems very approachable about this topic. So I Googled his name and found his author page, which provided me with his email, and I asked him about how to get photos. He proved to be as approachable as I previously thought as he replied to my email within 2 hours. I added this to my budget.

The third part of my budget was to purchase research articles. I work for two different higher education facilities, which allow me access to their article databases. These databases are enormous, and can provide a large amount of the information I'll need to write the book for free. However, while the majority of these articles are free, sometimes you have get an inter-library loan to get some of the articles. And these inter-library loan articles are often not free. I searched for some articles I knew I would have to pay for to get an idea of how much to budget for this. I found two articles that I felt were exemplary, one cost $6 and the other $36. So I budgeted as though these were the higher end and lower end of the articles I'd need.

They reviewed this for about another week or so, and then sent me an email telling me I won the scholarship. Now some of my colleagues at Paul D Camp are asking if I can do a presentation on my progress as I go. And I still need to contact someone to help me with the methodology, but that's a topic for another blog post.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Throwing Shit Against the Wall

I am from a blue-collar town in Pennsylvania, Erie to be exact. For whatever reason, everything up there relates back to various excrements and the crotch. We don't say a business went belly up, we say it went "tits-up." If an idea didn't work out, we say it "shit the bed." It's just part of the colorful way we talk.

So when we're trying all sorts of things to be successful, sometimes we'll say we're just "throwing shit against the wall to see what sticks." For some time now, I've been doing just that, and FINALLY, I have a few things that have stuck. Mind you, most of these things I was working on all summer in the hopes of drumming up some business during my slow time of the year as adjunct faculty. But then when things began to come in, it really began to pour.

First off, I spent part of my summer shopping my resume and a few clippings around to a few of the newspapers in the area to try and drum up business, keep busy, and bring in a few extra dollars. Well, they finally got back to me as soon as classes started again. I'll still work in a few articles into my busy schedule. I feel it is important for a writing teacher to continue writing for an audience anyway. And getting paid for it is always better than not.

Then the poem I sold at the beginning of summer is finally published in Teach. Write. Here it is. I seem to have a regular place to publish some of my more literary works since this is the second time they published my work. I have a personal essay I worked on over the summer that still needs some work, but when I do send it out, I will likely send it to them first. I like the publication a lot, and I think the piece is a good fit for them anyway. Their homepage is here.

Third, and most importantly, I just won the Horror Writers Association Rocky Wood Memorial Scholarship for Non-Fiction Writing for a non-fiction book idea I have on the history of Frankenstein in film. This is actually a really big deal. They split the award between myself and another writer, Joseph Maddrey, who seems like a real heavyweight, having published eight books and written and produced over 50 hours of documentary television. It's a tremendous honor just to be named in the same breath with someone with these kinds of accomplishments.

I'm sure I'll post much more about this scholarship and the project in the coming weeks and months. In the meantime, since winning this scholarship, I've received two more rejection letters in my email, but somehow, they don't seem so bad now.

Friday, August 17, 2018

The Return of Professor Staff

"Hello, I am Professor Staff," is one of my favorite ice breakers when starting off a new academic year. Some students get it, and some don't, but that's not the point. The point is you have to start with something, and it's often best to start with trying to get nervous people to laugh. At times, I've worked that into an entire stand-up routine. "What is this, a classroom or a yearbook picture?" or "Come on, I know you're out there, I can hear you withdrawing" are two of my other favorites (and there's always extra credit for anyone who knows anything about Henny Youngman).

Next week I go back into the classroom to teach college freshmen English composition courses. I enjoy my job immensely. I am only adjunct faculty, however, so that makes pay short, and pay periods awkward, but I'm not here to talk about that today. I enjoy helping students express themselves with words in ways they never thought they were capable. So after a few icebreakers, of course we start going over the syllabus, and talking about college expectations.

I've enjoyed my time off for the summer too. I'm nearly done with my honey-do list, like painting the living room. I also used a lot of time to write and submit. I also taught two summer courses, but that is a far cry from the 7 courses I am about to teach during the fall semester. I am always a bit nervous this time of year. Each new class has its own personality. I think I will continue to be nervous if I'm doing this 20 years from now. It's one of those things where if you're not nervous you're probably not doing something right.

So wish me luck, and if you didn't get the joke, adjunct faculty often appear in course catalogs as "Staff." Here's to (hopefully) another great semester for Professor Staff.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Getting Paid to Write Fiction (and Poetry)

I sold a poem a few weeks ago. I sold it to Teach. Write. which is the publication I sold a short story earlier this year. It is a small literary publication that pays token payments to its contributors. It is a very small payment, but the amount isn't the point. The point is that I found someone willing to pay me to write: fiction and poetry.

Perhaps then today's blog is a good time to talk about getting paid for writing fiction and poetry.

literary magazines, whether they cater to any particular genre or not, fall into four different categories: non-paying markets, token paying markets, semi-pro rates, and professional paying markets. I'll look at each going from lowest to highest paying markets.

The lowest is of course, zero. the non-paying markets will agree to publish your work, but will not pay you. There is some debate about whether markets that pay in copies of the publication should be lumped here or if they should be added to token paying markets, but I believe there is a majority who believe they belong in the non-paying category. This is becoming a moot point because the majority of these markets are now websites or some other online form these days. I do not submit my work to non-paying markets. It's not that the money is the issue, but the prestige. I just need someone to say this piece that I wrote is worth something, even if it is some small amount. For me, there has to be some acknowledgment that what I wrote was "good." (A subjective statement at any level).

Then we get to the token paying markets. These generally pay some small, flat rate for contributors. While many would debate where the defining line is, most would say the lowest rates are around $5 and go as high as $25. However, I think most would say they really end when you get paid by the word, a penny per word or so. This is where I am as a writer currently, although I have submitted to higher paying markets in the past and received rejection slips from them. I do have a few stories out in consideration at higher paying markets at the present time, and I feel they have a better chance this time around, I have not made any of these sales yet.

Then we get to semi-pro rates. According to Duotrope's Glossary of Terms, semi-pro rates go from 1 penny per word to 5 cents per word. If you don't know, Duotrope is an online listing of publications for, mainly, short stories and poetry. They used to be free, but now charge for their service. If curious, Write Good Books uses the same payment scale, so I would say it is likely very accurate.

Finally, there are the professional payment rates, which is essentially anything over 5 cents per word. Some may even pay royalties, but I believe those are anthology books only, and even then it is pretty rare, unless you are a big name in your genre.

One thing to keep in mind is that money should always flow to the writer. Many people have gone broke in the pursuit of becoming an author, and many others have gotten rich by taking their money for very little service in return. Be careful, but that doesn't mean isn't always to your best advantage to spend money to make money. This is another reason I don't submit to non-paying markets, but if you are desperate to get published, and have been turned down numerous times, sure go ahead and submit to them. Also remember that non-paying does not mean they are scammers. A scam will ask you for money for the "privilege" of publishing your work. Good luck and stay safe out there. And remember:

Friday, June 22, 2018

My Writing Life Lately

Every once in a while, I should do a post about what I've been working on, and that will be today's post. First off, my house is finally calming down after my dad's passing. We emptied out some of the house and toted it back to Virginia. I finally got the last of those boxes put away today. I've done a little writing and submitting, so this is what I've been working on.

I finally finished my latest short story, "The Gargoyle Chair", and submitted it to a horror magazine and anthology last night. It's a weird fiction story. This publication pays pro rates, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

I also submitted a poem to a publication that published me before. I received an email confirmation today, and apparently the lady running the publication remembered me. That's a good feeling, but certainly not any sort of guarantee. More fingers crossed.

I also pitched an article idea to a newsletter. I heard back, but have not received a green light yet. I'm hoping it pans out because it will involve some horror research. I don't want to name any of these publications in a public forum like this unless they green light my stories for obvious reasons. running out of fingers, so toes crossed on this one.

I submitted my current novel, The Sorcerer, to another agent. We'll see how that goes.

I contacted the Horror Writers Association about getting me into their mentoring program for some research I did a while back. I'm trying to do more research, so I can get into a PhD program next year.

Finally, I managed to find a slew of literary journals that cater to horror fiction and films, thanks to the Horror Writers Association. I've been researching each one of them, and going through papers I wrote back in college to see what can be shaped up to send to some of these, but I haven't pulled the trigger yet.

I guess that's about it for now. Here's a shot of the desk I used to use. I'll get a shot of my current writing space once I get my room straightened out.

Friday, June 1, 2018

How to write a Eulogy

I wrote my first eulogy recently. My father passed away, and I felt obligated as the family writer to write one for him. That's him pictured with me in the late 1970s at my grandparents' house. I'm not sure I'm really over it yet, as I've found it very hard to do any writing since he passed almost two weeks ago. His eulogy was the last thing I wrote until this blog post.

I feel I did really well on the eulogy and received several positive comments, so I thought I would post today about how I went about writing it.

First off, I approached the eulogy as a college essay, with an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. I even included a thesis statement. Basically, mine was that my father had a rough upbringing but fought to become a very good person in the end. There was a lot more to it than that, but for the purposes of a how to blog post, I think that suffices.

Then I went through the various stages of his life. His upbringing, how his father built their house (and my father and his brother continued working on it until it finally sold in the early 2000s). Something about his time in the army, and then of course how he met my mother. A little something about when my sister was born and then when I was born, and finally the end concluded that portion.

But to ensure things do not become too sappy or depressing, it is good to put in a few humorous stories. I had one that everyone commented on afterward. It was about how my father used to teach me things, such as when he would play board games with me when I was a child, he would never let me win. When I asked if he could let me win, he would tell me that's not how life works, you have to work for everything. Later, when I married and we had a child, my daughter would play board games with my father (her grandfather), and he would ALWAYS let her win.

I finished up with a positive note, which I think is also important in writing a eulogy. I talked about how my dad didn't like to look back but forward to the future. To keep growing, and advancing, and moving forward. So here's to you dad, I finally put down a few words since your eulogy. Here's hoping I get down a lot more.