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Saturday, January 13, 2018

I am a Monster Kid, and What That Means

I grew up a monster kid. I'm not exactly sure what that even means, but it's a label being used a lot these days. There is even a quick guide to help determine if you, too are a monster kid on this blog.

To the best of my knowledge it simply means I loved monsters when I was a little kid growing up. According to many articles, I'm in good company. There is an entire magazine dedicated to monster kids. According to one source, the term was not coined until 1995 by someone on the internet. Forrest J. Ackerman can certainly count himself as one of the original monster kids. In modern times, Guillermo del Toro can certainly count himself as a monster kid. Certainly, Author Ray Bradbury, and Moviemaker Ray Harryhausen are counted as other famous monster kids.

To my understanding, a monster kid is simply anyone who grew up watching and loving monster movies. One of my earliest memories of my love for monster movies was when the 1976 version of King Kong was first released on television in a two night event, and my grandfather encouraged me to sit with him and watch it when he was babysitting me. I was immediately hooked on King Kong.

It's sometimes funny how one small event in your childhood can have such a large role in developing who you become later in life. It makes one wonder if, for instance, I would have grown an interest in monster movies anyway, or if this event was the cause of it all.

Anyway, after that, I was in the library with my mother one day when I found the Ian Thorne Monsters series of books on Kong, Godzilla, Frankenstein, Dracula, and all the rest of the great monsters. I read them all several times. Every time I went to the library, either public or at school, I would check out one of these books, or another one similar on monster movies, how to make them, the actors who played in them, or anything else on the topic. Then one day in the third grade, I found the novelization of King Kong by Delos Lovelace, and it became the first real book I read.

Like most monster kids, I then found a hosted horror movie show in my area. It was The Late Great Horror Show on WJET-TV channel 24 in Erie, Pa. Here I finally found some of the most famous horror monsters such as The Mummy's Curse, Frankenstein, and what became my favorite, Godzilla!

A few years later, we got cable. This opened up a whole new world of television to my developing young mind. Included in that world was certainly the world of monsters, particularly those on WWOR channel 9 in New York on Thanksgiving Day and the Friday afterward. But I could still never catch the 1933 version of King Kong, nor could I catch another favorite of mine, King Kong vs. Godzilla. Then one night, King Kong vs. Godzilla was scheduled to come on the other cable channel 9, WGN in Chicago. I snuck up, and watched it in the middle of the night. Finally, a brand new cable channel came out called American Movie Classics, and they aired the original Kong and Son of Kong.

At the beginning of each week, I used to (and still do quite often, actually) check the television schedule to see what monster movies were coming on that week. Then my whole week was scheduled around the movies that would air. This was just before my family got a VCR. When we did, Godzilla, King of the Monsters on another hosted horror movie show, Super Scary Saturday on WTBS, hosted by Grandpa Munster, was one of the first thing I recorded, and King Kong on AMC (back when American Movie Classics actually showed classic American movies) was soon after.

Fast forward a few more years, and I was in my early twenties. I had rediscovered a lot of those famous monster movies, such as Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, Dracula, The Wolf Man, and all the other Universal horror monster movies.
But by this time I was looking for something a little bit more. I wanted to discover the original stories that these movies came from. One day I borrowed The Time Machine by H.G. Wells and read it in one day. This made me thirsty for the other original horror and sci-fi monster stories. I got a copy of Dracula by Bram Stoker, and this became my all time favorite novel, and shortly after Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. At this point I was hooked for life. There's no turning back now.

As an adult, I now have become a collector of action figures, which are pictured throughout this article. I'm sure there are many other Monster Kids out there. I hope this lends a little light on what that means.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Why writers need to make New Year's Resolutions

It is a new year, and time to make those promises to yourself that (hopefully) you will keep the whole year through. It is very rare that I make New Year's resolutions because I want to be sure to keep them. The ones I have made and been able to keep include no longer flipping off other drivers in the car, and that one still gives me trouble from time to time.

But as writers, we all have an obligation to make that same resolution year after year, even if we are sure it will not be kept. But hopefully we will keep those resolutions. You know, the ones like, lose weight, exercise more, stop drinking (yeah right), save money, and as writers we all have to make the resolution to write more. Therefore, everyone raise your right hand and repeat after me:

"I promise to watch only the Ren and Stimpy Show, to make underleg noises during the good scenes, to wear unwashed lederhosen every single day, for the rest of my life."

No wait, that's the wrong resolution. Here is the correct one:

"I promise to write more this year and be distracted less, to finish my major projects, and to submit my work until I become a published writer."

Give it a try, and hopefully you'll be as successful as I am. No wait, I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy. Well, you know what I mean.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Teaching writing

The semester is over (well, pretty much). Papers are graded and grades have been assigned. That's why I thought it was a perfect time to talk about the benefits of teaching writing. I can personally say, teaching writing has been the most beneficial thing I have ever done to improve my own writing.

But first I should point out that I am one of those who makes the majority of his living as adjunct faculty at two local facilities. I have also served as a substitute teacher, tutor, and a number of other duties in the realm of teaching positive writing techniques. Currently, if you are curious, I am employed at Norfolk State University and Paul D Camp Community College. That means at various times throughout the year I have to grade stacks of paper that look like this:

But here are some of the benefits of teaching writing:

Teaching gives me a chance to go over grammar rules, such as the ever dreaded comma splice, verb tense shifts, fragments, etc.

It also gives me chance to discuss writing forms. Although my students learn the techniques of writing a good essay, it relates to fiction in that both must have a good beginning (it's best to open with a hook), an informative middle, and a satisfying conclusion.

Additionally, it gives me the chance to read essays from other published writers, such as Amy Tan, Maya Angelou, George Orwell, and Isaac Asimov, to name just a few. If these now famous writers once made a part of their living by writing essays for publication, perhaps I can as well.

Third, it gives me chance to see young budding writers honing their craft. Many of my students are starting out rough around the edges, especially when it comes to writing. That's not intended to be a knock on them. Many are first generation, and even first semester college students. After all, even the most beautiful sculptures started out as a hunk of shapeless rock.

Yes, I think teaching others how to write is one of the best things anyone can do for their own writing. If you consider yourself a writer, give it a try. If you can't get into a college, most libraries will allow others to give writing lessons for free. Or find yourself a small studio to rent and charge for the service. Give it a try. It really helps.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Monster Fest photos

Some time ago, I promised to post a few photos of Monster Fest 2017, so here they are:

The first one is of me doing my presentation on Ed Wood, titled "Your Stupid, Stupid Minds," the second is of me in front of the schedule of my presentation, the third is me and a statue of The Fly, fourth is Dr. Madblood, the horror movie host of Hampton Roads, fifth is the winner of the costume contest, and last is the other winners and runners up of the costume contest. Can't wait 'til next year!

Saturday, November 11, 2017

So I joined the Horror Writer's Association

I teach at several higher education facilities, that's at one university and one community college to be exact. I do it part time at both schools with the hopes that one day I can do it full time, which is just part of the reason I've been preparing to enter an English PhD program next year. Another piece to that puzzle is that I'm finding that higher education facilities want you to belong to organizations in your field of study. For me that would be literature, or writing, mostly writing. It's best to join the organization that holds the most interest for me, as it is the  area I will do the majority of my research. That's why I decided to join the Horror Writer's Association.

I've been in contact with this organization for last few weeks, and just paid my dues to join earlier today. I'm supposed to receive some correspondence through the mail in the next few weeks or so. According to the organization some of the benefits of membership (besides being able to put it on my CV when applying for jobs) are that I have access to mentoring programs where other writers can help critique my work and help single supporting members (like myself) get published. They also provide exclusive access to some publishers, agents, and publications looking for more horror short stories.

Here's the link to the HWA's website in case anyone is interested in looking them up.

So, we'll see how this goes. I will again keep readers up to date on this endeavor. Hopefully it works out and turns into an investment.

Today's picture is of this year's jack-o-lantern I made at the request of my 11-year-old daughter. Yes, it's supposed to be a bat, in case you couldn't tell.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Writing group no more.

I guess no one stepped up to save the writing group. The lady who said she would step up to be the group leader said she didn't realize there was a $15 / month fee through Meet Up either, so she also declined to become its leader. I am now in the market for a new writer's group. I'd like to start my own, and may look into that come the new year. I still have a huge stack of papers to grade that will last me until the end of the year, so a lot of other projects are waiting right now. So what did I get out of the writer's group? Besides a few new Facebook friends, I did manage to latch onto a Beta reader for my current novel project. That is pretty important.

Meanwhile, I also took the GRE to get into a PhD program at Old Dominion University. I reached my goal for the verbal section, of just over the 70th percentile, but fell short of the required 50th percentile for the quantitative math section. However, I blew the writing section out of the water, and scored in the 90th percentile! Counting that writing score alone would get me into Harvard (I looked it up).

Meanwhile, I received another rejection for a short story in my e-mail this week. Such is the writer's life.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Update on the writing group.

So the group leader of the writing group I joined a few Blogger posts ago, stepped down as leader. We hadn't any meetings in a few months, so I wasn't surprised. Several members (including myself) were sent e-mails to step up as the new leader. I would love to do it, but I would have to pay $15 / month to upgrade my membership. I just can't do that right with all of my other expenses. Time is also a bit of an issue, but since I'm currently teaching college writing courses, I could actually put this on my Curriculum Vitae (which I'm about to update, as a matter of fact).

So anyway, today I received a message from another member offering to step up as group leader, but she has transportation trouble and wants to hold them near her home in Norfolk. So I'll work with that, and replied and said I would try to show up for the group meetings if she held them on Friday afternoons. We'll see how this works out.

In the meantime, here's a picture of me coming out of the grave at a previous year's Monster Fest.