Wednesday, June 5, 2024

Three Things I Learned About Writing From Roger Corman


The world recently lost who I would name as the single most influential figure in the history of motion pictures, Roger Corman, but I am not here to substantiate that claim (perhaps I will one day). And before I get too far, let me say I've never actually met the man, but have admired him and his work for a very long time. He and James Whale are my two all time favorite directors, but Corman did much more than just direct film, he also produced and yes, he even sometimes wrote the screenplays. So today's blog is a collection of information I've learned about writing from stories about his work and interviews I've read and seen with him and how he has influenced my own work. Perhaps you may learn something from it as well, or at least hear some neat tidbits about Corman you did not previously know.

Sometimes you need to write a lot very quickly. In case you don't know, Corman is probably most famous for his Edgar Allan Poe adaptations from the early 1960s, which he produced and directed. One of my favorite stories about him concerns filming of The Raven. He had three weeks to complete filming The Raven, and he finished several days early. Instead of breaking up production, he wrote the script for another film, The Terror, and filmed most of it with the same cast and sets for the remaining days of the shooting schedule. In order to do that, he had to write the movie script very quickly, so he stayed up and wrote that entire script virtually non-stop for an 80 minute movie in just 48 hours!

I understand that a novel is much longer than a film script, in most cases, but it inspired me to see just how productive I could be when I really set my mind to it. So I once set myself a schedule to try and punch out a rough draft of a novel within Corman's film shooting schedule of just three weeks. That was one of the most productive writing bursts I have ever had before or since. I wrote up to four chapters per day. And I succeeded in (a very crappy) completed rough draft in just three weeks time. It had to be edited heavily before I could send it out to agents or publishers, but eventually, that rough draft became The Sorcerer, my first completed novel-length manuscript, which has at least garnered some interest with a publisher, but as of this time, is not yet published.

There is no writer's block. Roger Corman did not believe in writer's block. I believe there is such a thing as writer's block but it can be overcome, and anyone who wants to be a writer must find ways to overcome it. That does not mean that I do not occasionally sit in front my of computer staring at the scene for hours during a writing session. But I have my own methods of overcoming that. Corman's take on overcoming writer's block was actually quite simple, and would probably work for fiction writers in most instances. He once said (and I am paraphrasing here), if you are suffering from writer's block, simply watch a movie and change all the nouns. I would modify that to reading a book or a short story. Chances are, in my experience, when you are done "changing all the nouns" as Corman put it, you will end up changing a lot more as well. You will not be able to help changing other attributes about those characters and locations and other nouns and events in the story as well. In other words, you will likely wind up with a completely different story that was simply inspired by the story you set out to recreate.

Now, I'm pretty sure your next question is whether or not I have ever used that method of overcoming writer's block. My simple is answer is that those files are sealed and marked as highly classified.

Follow your passions. Look at Roger Corman's body of work and you will see he did a lot of genre work, mostly horror with some science fiction, but also some westerns, biker films, gangster films, etc. He even did a number of parodies, sometimes parodying his own work. You can see what his interests are from his body of work. It is no secret. He wrote about his interests, his passions. His passions were known to all, just by looking at even a small portion of the body of his work.

One of the things that first drew me to Roger Corman was that I have similar interests, particularly with horror and science fiction. It is also easy to discover my own interests by looking at my body of work, or by looking at my Facebook group, Classic Camp's Classic Horror Emporium

So there you have it, three writing tips I learned from film director, producer, and screenwriter Roger Corman. I think they can be useful to any aspiring, or perhaps even a few experienced, writers. Feel free to leave comments below on your thoughts about this, Corman, or anything else.

Friday, April 26, 2024

I'm About to Become a Full-Time Writer (For 3 Months [Again])

 I hold three jobs that actually pay the bills. Like most writers, I like to consider my writing a job, a fourth job in my case. Sometimes I consider my membership to the HWA still a fifth job, since I attend meetings, and am the Virginia chapter's events coordinator, but it does not pay me any money. In fact, it costs me a little in membership fees, but I enjoy it nonetheless, and it does provide me connections and opportunities to the publishing world. My main gig that pays the pills is teaching as adjunct faculty at two higher education institutions, which means my summers are (mostly) off. I have a third job that pays a few bills, and I continue working there during the summers, but I still work far fewer hours during the summer months than I do during the school year.

So one of the main things I do during the summer is write, and write a lot more than I do at any other time of the year. It is my most productive season. Most of the short stories, poetry, and non-fiction projects I've published in the past were written during the summer months. That does not mean I do not write at all during other times of the year, but I do have months where I can devote more time to writing and publishing than other moths. My annual writing schedule is something like this:

January: I'm off the the few weeks, but recovering from the holidays. I still find quite a bit of time for writing.

February and March: Early in the semester, I have some time for writing, but once essays start coming in that need grading, my writing time starts to dwindle.

April: Essays pile up to nearly unmanageable levels. Very little writing gets done.

May: First half of the month is finishing up finals and grading, but once final grades are posted I write nearly a full time schedule.

June, July, and August: The nearly full time schedule continues and I can usually be pretty productive during the summer month. Even when classes first start up in late August, not much needs grading yet, so I still find quite a bit of time for writing.

September and October: Since I write primarily horror, these can also be particularly busy months, attending cons as well as classwork starting to pile up. Still, because I primarily write horror, it is also a particularly inspiring time of the year, so I can usually continue to work in at least some writing time.

November: Essays and other classwork piles up again, so not as much writing gets done, with the exception of Thanksgiving break.

December: Not much gets done in the beginning of the month, and after classes end, I usually plan a trip to see family for the holidays, but I still usually work in a decent amount writing time after the fall semester ends.

And if you don't think there's that much grading to do when teaching college English, here is a photo of a stack of items needing grading I took in days before everything was turned in digitally:

I read about 1000 pages of student writing per semester. I could be reading War and Peace twice annually.

But then the summer comes and I get to pretend to be a full-time writer for three months out of the year (albeit a very poor one, since I also do not get paid over the summer). Still, I always feel as though I could have and perhaps should have been more productive during those summer months. I do create an annual summer writing to-do list (along with a summer honey-do list I make up with the wife, where I work around the house and complete some household chores that need attention). So that end, (um, the writing one, not the honey-do list), I thought perhaps if I published my summer writing to-do list here, I will hold myself accountable and be more productive this summer than in years past, so to that end here it is:

  1. Make a Word file of all my class notes, (One school I teach at is changing over from Blackboard regular to Blackboard Ultra, so my files may not be good any longer. Besides, I have been meaning to do this for a while now. I even applied for a stipend to have my notes published as an Open Educational Resource)
  2. Finish putting together the short story and poetry collection for self-publication. This is a project I started during the spring semester, and it is pretty close to being finished already. It will feature most (but not all) of my previously published short stories and poems, and a few new short stories I have been shopping around for a while, and have decided to add to the collection.
  3. Finish editing Blood of the Werewolf. It is so close to being ready to send to an agent or publisher. It only needs about 50 more pages of editing, and maybe one last quick passthrough for continuity. This is a top priority this summer.
  4. Work on a rough draft of Osiris, the next in my series of historical horror tragedies. I'm thinking about joining Camp Nano to punch out a good portion of a rough draft in July.
  5. Edit the short story "The Vampire's Coffin" which I did for a writing group recently. It's pretty short, so this should not take very long.
  6. Finish that next section of Franksploitation non-fiction book and write the proposal on Frankenstein in film. I'm embarrassed at how many years this appears on the list and does not get done. Especially, since the sample chapters are actually pretty close to finished.
  7. Edit and resubmit a non-fiction article on Ed Wood to a literary magazine. I have done this a few times, but still have not found the right market for it.
Aside from all that, I will continue to do my usual submitting more poetry and short stories to various publications. Chances are I will still not get all of this done even this summer, but it never hurts to shoot high. My hope is that publishing it here will help make me more accountable and hopefully more productive this summer.

Sunday, March 10, 2024

How Long Have I been Editing My Current Novel? (It's Complicated)


Not long ago, I was in a monthly meeting with the HWA - Virginia Chapter when I was asked how long I had been editing my current work in progress (WIP), and I was not ready with an answer. I am sure whatever I said sounded evasive, but honestly, I had to think about that question for a while, and was not quite sure what the answer was. The more I thought about it, the more I felt it may make for an interesting blog post about my process and since this is apparently going to be my second completed manuscript ready for submission to agents and / or publishers very soon, it may also make for great promotion for this labor of love.

The current project is titled Blood of the Werewolf, and as the title suggests, it is a werewolf tale. The setting is the early 1800s Great Britain (with a few key scenes in Tibet), which places it in the same universe as my first completed manuscript, The Sorcerer, which is still under consideration at a small press publisher at the time of this writing. I will one day blog about why I have chosen that location and timeframe, but the short version of that answer is, it is the era of literature I studied in college.

Anyway, I began my college career in the mid-1990s and it was around this same timeframe that I started thinking about becoming a author. It turns out to be a very long, hard, and slow process. One thing I did for fun and practice was to write novelizations of some of my favorite horror movies, such as those from Universal Studios. I had no intention of getting these published, but it was a way to try my chops at writing something of some length.

It made me start to think about writing my own stories about vampires, werewolves, and mummies, so I started writing a few longer pieces, more so for my own amusement once again than with any intension of trying to get it published. Once I had a few of these under my belt, I started thinking more seriously about writing a full length novel and hopefully one day getting it published. I decided that with some major revisions, these projects could be made into full length novels.

Those who say writing for yourself is very different from writing for publication are certainly correct. These stories needed a lot of work. In their original form they were only the length of novellas and novelettes as they ranged from 12,000 to 17,00 words. Most publishers like novels to be around 80,000 words. They needed extra scenes, backstories, more thoughts and emotions from characters and other elements to flush them out into full-length novels and make them much better stories in the process. At their heart, they were already novels, really, they just needed to be flushed out to reach their true potential. The first of these stories I did this with was what is now titled The Sorcerer, and in its final form it reached the industry standard for a finished novel at 80,000 words. The second is the one I am working on now, Blood of the Werewolf.

So to finally return to the question above (You do remember the question above, don't you, "How long have I been editing my current novel?") The original 17,000 word version was completed sometime in the late 1990s. Then it was placed in a drawer for a very looooong time. I completed The Sorcerer, and edited it I don't even know how many times, until I decided I could no longer edit it. I finally put what at the time were the finishing touches on The Sorcerer around 2017. And I finally started a major revision of Blood of the Werewolf. But the question now is, does revision count as editing? I would say that since this revision was so massive, it is probably does not count as true editing. It became practically a new story.

But then in 2019 I received a mentorship from Tim Waggoner through the Horror Writers Association. He gave me some good feedback on that novel and insight as to why it was not attracting agents or publishers yet. In order to make Blood of the Werewolf come out right, I had to put it down once again and edit The Sorcerer one last time. This took about another year, which brings us to 2020, the year of Covid. I did work on it some during the pandemic, but like many other authors and publishers, no one was as productive as we wanted to be during those odd two years.

The editing process for Blood of the Werewolf I believe started around 2020 or 2021 (not counting the major revision years). I am now very close to getting this one finished and should have it done very soon. I'm editing page 306 out of 363 and it now totals almost 79,000 words. I will make sure it reaches at least 80,000 words by the time I am finished. It may need one more pass through before I am comfortable sending it out to publishers and agents, but that should only be a light edit to clean up a few things and ensure continuity throughout the novel.

I feel as though I am getting faster and better at this, and I've never missed a deadline when I've been given one. I am also getting excited to write more follow-ups to these stories, as I have one more, Osiris, that is in a very rough draft at about 13,000 words, and I have notes on numerous others in the series. The fact that I have been able to publish more short stories, poems, and non-fiction articles in recent years also shows I am improving. And keep in mind that I also wrote many of those short stories, poems, and non-fiction articles in between revising and editing these novels. Wish me luck with these and other projects in the future, so that I can post this self-made meme once again:

Sunday, February 11, 2024

Recent Cons & Photos

 I thought I would do another one of those blog posts where I present some recent photos. I have been making a few appearances at various cons to sell books and sign people up the Horror Writers Association. I thought I'd throw in a few photos from last Halloween for good measure, so here goes.

Here is the table I set up at Monster Fest at the Chesapeake Central Library in Chesapeake, Virginia in October of last year.

It is with great sadness that I announce the passing of my friend Paul Knight, who was sometimes known as Pauzilla. He always remembered me and my family on Halloween.

Here is another attendee from Monster Fest, who was working a puppet on that day.

I entered the costume contest at Monster Fest as a famous movie murderer from a movie directed by Alfred Hitchcock and a book penned by Robert Bloch. I also moderated a panel on how to write scary scenes in horror which featured Red Lagoe, Pam Kinney, and Justin Cristelli.

Here are last year's yard decorations for Halloween.

The wife and I went out dressed as Jason Voorhees and Ahsoka Tano.

Here was the band for that night, Everafter, at Big Woody's in Chesapeake. I loved their costumes.

There's Laurie Camp as Ahsoka again at Big Woody's.

My daughter, Delaney, also got into the spirit of Halloween and dressed as Pearl from the movie of the same name.

Delaney always challenges me to do a difficult jack-o-lantern. This year, she challenged me to make a Frankenstein Monster. Of course that's Laurie dressed as a ghost in our driveway where we handed out candy.

An now we're up to January where I ran a table at Mars Con in Virginia Beach. This was a rather elaborate costume that I felt was photo-worthy.

A few other authors at Mars Con included, from back to front, Pam Kinney, Sidney Williams, yours truly, and Bryn Grover. It was fun meeting up with the other HWA members and talking with them.

And finally, Laurie entered the costume contest at Mars Con, again as Ahsoka, but don't call her a jedi.

Friday, January 5, 2024

2023 Recap

 It's time for another annual recap of my writing successes. I did a little a better this year over previous years, which I am very proud of, and would like to share here, not necessarily to brag, but to show where my work can be found and to maintain some sort of accountability. This is my third year running doing a blog of this sort at the beginning of a new year (the previous ones can be found here and here, so here goes.

Looking at the numbers, I made slightly fewer submissions this year, but had more successes. I submitted a total of 42 items this year compared with 48 the previous year. I usually shoot for 50, but will settle for as few as 35, so I was well over my minimum. Of those 42 submissions, 1 was a novel (a submission in answer to a request for a full manuscript in 2022, so I am counting it here). The largest bulk of those submission were, as usual, short stories, 24 of them in 2023. That is slightly lower than 2022 when I had 29 submissions. I also submitted 10 poems, down one from the previous year.

One area that helped grow my numbers and acceptances this year was a return to non-fiction submissions. I had 7 of them this year. I had zero  the previous two years. 

Now onto the successes, where I broke a new record this year with six total items being published in one way or another, seven if you count my self-published short story, which I still need to blog about. My previous highest number of published works was in 2018 when I had five works published, so that new record is something. Two of those published works from this year were those non-fiction articles. I also did very well with poetry this year with three poems getting published in two different publications this year. Of those short stories, only one was published, but it was at higher rate than many of my previously published short stories, at a semi-pro rate.

Speaking of money, while it may seem shameful to discuss how much money I made at writing, this is also a sign of prestige. More money means more success or more prestigious publications, so I will bring up the subject without giving away exact numbers. Let's just say I made more money with my writing this year than other previous years (excluding full time jobs I've had in the past and regular correspondence work I've done with major newspapers). For the first time, the majority of this money was made selling copies of anthologies at cons, although it was only a slight majority.

Now for the disclaimers. Some of the publications I made this year were not exactly very competitive. But there's a conundrum there. There are a few publications that love when I submit to them, and I enjoy doing it, but they don't pay, so they often do go to the backburner. I write to them when I am inspired by something that could lead to an article that fits that publication. I see no reason to snub them, especially when I consider the people running them my friends. While I grow as a writer, I will continue to strive toward publishing in larger and more prestigious publications, but I do want to remember everyone who helped me get there.

Friday, September 15, 2023

How Two Rejections Led to an Acceptance

Although I have not been blogging much lately, I have had a recent run of success in short fiction, poetry, and non-fiction. I recently published a short non-fiction article on a little-known blues artist from the 1930s named Robert Johnson in Mike Korn's Wormwood Chronicles. The article idea stemmed from a Facebook post I made to Mike's group, Dr. M's House of Weird, where I posted about this blues artist who was said to have made a deal with the devil to become a better guitar player. I found it so fascinating, it inspired me to research a little more about Johnson until I wrote my own article titled "Robert Johnson: The World's First (Satanic) Rock Star," which can be found here.

Then I found success for my poetry in, not one but two, publications. "Introverts Unite" will appear in the next issue of Teach. Write. My work has been published in Teach. Write. a few times before, and I believe it is very good literary magazine. Then I received another acceptance from the literary magazine associated with Norfolk State University's English department where I teach college English courses. The poem, "Environmental Generations," will appear in the issue published later this semester. I am particularly excited about this one because it will be the first time I am published in a literary magazine directly associated with a university.

Between those acceptances, I received an acceptance from a podcast, a market I had been trying to break into for some time now, called Creepy Podcast. My short story, "A Witch's Revenge," will appear as part of their 31 Days of Horror series in October. I am very excited to hear how this story will turn out after it is read by one of their talented actors.

It is an interesting story, how I managed to gain that short story acceptance. It actually starts with two rejections. I had previously sent another story to Creepy Podcast, but it received a personalized rejection that said the story I sent them had too much dialogue with too many speakers, and they prefer stories with one very few speakers and no back and forth dialogue. Meanwhile, I sent "A Witch's Revenge" to another publication, and it received a personalized rejection because that publication's editor said they did not like the fact that the story had only one character and no dialogue. So I got the idea that if one editor said they did not like the fact that this story had a single character and no dialogue, and the other publication rejected a previous story because they want stories with little to no dialogue, why not send the rejected story with no dialogue to the publication that wants such a story. And that's how I landed that acceptance with Creepy Podcast.

Meanwhile, I have also started making the rounds at several horror and science fiction conventions. I attended Fanta-Sci at the Chesapeake Central Library with the author of numerous books about Virginia folklore, as well as numerous short stories and poetry, Pam Kinney (pictured below), working the Horror Writers Association - Virginia Chapter table and sold copies of several anthologies I appear in as well as a self-published short story. Then I recently attended Tidewater Horror Con in Virginia Beach, and plan on attending Mars Con in Virginia Beach in January. Additionally, I started appearing as a regular guest on a YouTube channel discussing cult movies called MovieNaut. I will likely be blogging about all of these other ventures in the near future, but until then, see you at the cons.

Friday, June 23, 2023

My First StokerCon

I attended my first StokerCon in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania recently, and took a few photos, which I shared below. I am from Erie, Pennsylvania originally, which is only about 2 hours north of Pittsburgh, so I figured if I didn't make it to this StokerCon, I may never make it to one. You can tell I am from Erie because I just measured distance in time. Anyway, there was a Taylor Swift concert going on not far away, so I could not get a hotel room at the actual con, but found one about 10 minutes away (and I just measured distance with time again. It's an Erie thing, although I imagine a few other areas do that too.). I started out getting a late lunch next door to the con, at the Hard Rock Cafe. I love Hard Rocks, and eat at one every chance I get, especially ones I have not eaten at yet, like this one.

I met up with my friend and author of many books, both fiction and non-fiction, Pam Kinney. We chatted at length about Pittsburgh and current projects. She always has something going on.

I attended several public readings, including this one with another friend I knew online, but this was my first chance to meet him in person, Rami Ungar, seen here in the middle with the top-hat. He was reading from his upcoming short story anthology, Hannah and Other Stories. Next to Rami is Gabino Iglesias, who won this year's Superior Achievement in a Novel for The Devil Takes You Home. He read from his current work-in-progress. On the ends are Jeremiah Dylan Cook on the left and Barbara Cottrell on the right.

I also attended several presentations and panels, which I often enjoy. I won't go into details about them because it would take too much space to do them justice in a blog post such of this length, but I always find them very informative and interesting.

The panel below is from the Ann Radcliffe Academic Conference portion of StokerCon, proving genre fiction, even in the horror genre, can be considered academic.

Between all the panels and presentations, I was able to stop at a Pittsburgh favorite, Primanti Brothers. I love going to local eateries wherever I go. This location of Primanti's was within walking distance of the con and coincidentally was the original location. It is local Pittsburgh legend that their sandwiches were created because the owners forgot to purchase silverware, so they put the coleslaw and French fries into the sandwich. The steel workers at the time enjoyed the sandwich so much, they kept it as their staple. That's an I.C. Light (Iron City Light), the local brew, to wash it down.

I finally got to mee my mentor, Tim Waggoner, face-to-face. I blogged about some of the things he taught me when he was my mentor in a previous post. He also walked away with a Stoker Award during the weekend event. Unfortunately, we did not get a chance to talk for long because he's kind of a BMAC at the HWA, but we did talk briefly about current projects and he agreed to pose for the selfie. Perhaps another time . . .

I also went to the Mass Author Signing where I purchased a number of books from fellow HWA members and got many of them to autograph their books for me. In the center is Classic Monsters Unleashed, edited by James Aquilone. I've had my eyes on that anthology for some time because it contains new stories about all the classic monsters such as Dracula, werewolves, the invisible man, and others. Stories that will truly interest me. I am very much looking forward to reading these other books as well.

And that was my trip to StokerCon in Pittsburgh. It was a great time, and I hope to attend another one some time.