Tuesday, July 2, 2019

My First Horror Writers Association Virginia Chapter Event

There are perks to membership. I have lately been blogging about some of those perks here. And recently, I have another story about just great this type of membership is.

Recently, I was able to participate in my first event with the Horror Writers Association Virginia Chapter, which was Unhappy Hour at the Edgar Allan Poe Museum in Richmond. It was a lot of fun. I was able to finally meet some fellow HWA members face-to-face who live in the area (or at least in the same state).

I also participated in my first public reading. It was a fellow member's piece, but it was lesson worth learning; from now on I will bring at least one piece to read just in case the opportunity arises. But at least I was able to provide a little publicity for a fellow member.

I was able to slip away for a quick tour of the museum, which I hadn't seen in about 15 years or more.

Oh yes, did I mention there were free drinks for HWA members?

We had a booth to sign up new potential members. Members with books to sell were able to do so.

I handed out a few business cards to maintain publicity for my current non-fiction project, Frankspoitation.

Oh yes, and drinks, I did mention the free drinks didn't I?

Anyway, here are some photos from the event.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

What I Learned by Having a Mentor

This is author Tim Waggoner. He has been my mentor for the past few months. The mentoring program is over now, but I thought I'd share some of what I learned through the experience.

First let me go over how I got a mentor. I signed up for the Horror Writers Association mentoring program about six months before I was accepted. In fact, I had forgotten I signed up for the mentoring program by the time I was accepted. But it came at an important time. My writing had hit a plateau. I'm finally able to publish one or two short stories or poems a year at some small publications for nominal fees, but I just can't seem to break through to the next level. I'm really hoping the advice he provided will help me be able to publish with more regularity at larger publications. This made me very excited to have acquired a mentor in the first place.

When they told me who my mentor was, I felt like I had some homework to do (and some cyber-stalking). I had heard of him, but needed more information. Turns out, he's published over 40 books, some of which have received some critical acclaim, including the Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in Long Fiction and he was a finalist for the Shirley Jackson Award. He's also published several short story collections. He's even published some novels with movie, television, and video game tie-ins, such as "Supernatural," Nightmare on Elm Street, and Resident Evil. I had to confess I felt a little overwhelmed and out of my league (and I probably was).

Tim's website can be found here.

Anyway, the first thing I sent him was my completed novel manuscript, The Sorcerer, and then I sent him a sample short story I had recently written. He provided a lot of criticism and advice to improve. One thing of note, If you are planning to become a writer you have to be prepared for all sorts of criticism. Even if you plan on self-publishing you need to be prepared for bad reviews from readers, and arguing with negative reviews only makes you look even more foolish.

His criticism basically broke down to two main ideas. One was that my characters needed to have stronger reactions to supernatural events. I write mainly horror and other genre fiction, so there should be some pretty strong reactions from my characters. There was some, but not enough, not nearly enough. For whatever reason, I could not see how little there was until he mentioned it. I guess that's the power a mentor can have.

The other was that I needed to start using a technique called "scene and sequel." He provided a link to the technique, but I found another that seemed to suit my needs a little better. This is supposed to be the technique that draws readers in and keeps them reading to the very end of a story. I went ahead and made some notes in one of my notebooks about the technique as well, and try to keep it handy whenever I write fiction.

The last thing I sent him was a PowerPoint of several chapters of Frankspoitation, the the non-fiction book I've been working on about Frankenstein films. He was far less critical of this, and felt it helped him see some of these films in a new light. I'm pretty close to sending a few sample chapters to a former professor of mine who's agreed to help me out on it. I'll blog about this again soon.

But the lessons Tim provided me concerning my fiction writing will not be forgotten. He's even agreed to keep in touch so I can ask him further questions when needed. I've since rewritten the short story I sent him and have written a few new ones, hopefully using many of the techniques he suggested. Remember that your story is always yours, ultimately, but feedback is still excruciatingly important. In fact it's crucial. I'm still looking for a critique group either online or in person. I'll keep at it, and hopefully keep improving, and hopefully I've provided some information here that others can use as well.

Friday, May 31, 2019

Finding Time

They say time ⏰ is a human construct. It doesn't really exist, except that humans have devised a way to measure it. If this is true, it is good news to the writer, because we are at a constant battle with it. Things have been pretty busy for me lately, which is why I haven't had much time to blog, and is why I've decided to talk about what to do when real life is leaving you with little time to write. I had the end of another semester recently, which is always a busy time of the year. Then I had a honey-do list of activities that was ignored for longer than it should have been. Along with all of this, I've had some personal issues that required a lot of my attention. Obviously, this has left me with little time to write or blog. So I thought I would take some time to talk about what I have accomplished in these last (good lord, has it been almost two months already) since my last blog, and how to steal as much time as possible to write during life's little moments like these.

I did manage to finish the introductory chapter to my book on Frankenstein in film, Franksploitation, and I'm writing the first chapter. My goal is to get a few chapters of this completed before the end of the summer. I also managed to outline the rest of the book, and make lists of films I would like to cover in each of those chapters. Just this week I also managed to write a mystery short story. It's the first mystery I've managed to complete, but not the first I've attempted.

I've read some writers who claim a writer has to write every day, regardless of outside influences. I suppose this may be true if you've already reached the level of writing full time as the main source of your income, but for many of us this is just not realistic. However, I will say the shorter the breaks the better, and it is important to steal a few moments whenever possible. I am much better at night, sometimes just before bed. Sometimes I have to quit because I'm just so sleepy I cannot concentrate any more, but if I can get in even a few hundred words, I call it a victory. If you are more of a morning person, you may want to plan on waking up early.

The main thing is to keep going, keep writing, and keep trying. Even if this means taking breaks that last, days or even weeks. Just don't beat yourself up over it. Write as much as you can whenever you can. I've had a few personal setbacks lately, and it can be hard to remain positive. But when this happens, it is equally important to remain focused on the goals and keep striving to improve.⏰⏰

Monday, April 1, 2019

My Second Scholarship Haul

Some time ago, I won a scholarship, and a short time after, I posted about my first scholarship haul. Recently, I made my second scholarship haul (pictured above), which I would like to discuss today.

Starting with the lower left is a book titled It's Alive: The Classic Cinema Saga of Frankenstein by Gregory William Mank. I was very excited to get this book because I still remember pouring over it as a ten-year-old kid after borrowing it from my local library. Published in 1981,this was the very first book on Frankenstein films, and although it is chock-full of interesting stories about the development and creation of the classic Universal Frankenstein films, it is also filled with out-dated information. For instance, it talks about deleted scenes, such as the Monster tossing the little girl, Maria, into the water as though it is a deleted scene in the original 1931 film. This scene has been restored since the 1990s. It also mentions that Mary Shelley visited the actual Castle Frankenstein in Gernsheim, Germany. However, it is very unlikely Mary and her husband, Percy, ever visited actually visited the castle after all, even though they were within ten miles of the castle.

And this evidence is presented in the book to its right, Making the Monster: The Science Behind Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Published just last year, Making the Monster by Kathryn Harkup is proving to be a fascinating read. It examines all of the science mentioned in Mary Shelley's novel and explains exactly what she was referring to in the book. Yet, it is more than just an annotated version of the Frankenstein novel, because Harkup proves to be a great story-teller, making this an extraordinarily fun read. While It's Alive is currently out of print (I had to hunt down a used copy), Making the Monster is available from Amazon and other book sellers. I highly recommend it.

The two DVDs at the top of the photo are seasons one and two of a television show titled The Frankenstein Chronicles. While I haven't had a chance to view it yet, it has been receiving rave reviews from all over the globe. I think it was originally produced by the BBC, and one should be advised that the DVDs will not play on most DVD players in the United States, unless you have a region-free DVD player, like I do. 😁 It is available on NetFlix. (I didn't provide a link because I don't have NetFlix.) The story follows a private investigator looking into mysterious murders that may or may not involve a certain mad doctor and his creation. I'm very much looking forward to it.

I will likely have two or three more hauls from the scholarship money as I still have not used up even half of it yet. I've outlined two more chapters for an academic conference I'm attending (stay tuned to this blog to find out how that went), and I plan on using much of my summer writing and researching as much of this project as I can. Wish me luck.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

The Origins of Classic Camp

I am Classic Camp, and I really should have done this blog post some time ago to let everyone know exactly how I earned this moniker. Although this really should have been one of the first blog posts I ever made, as they say, better late than never. I have been known in some circles as Classic for over 20 years now. It comes so second nature to me now that I almost forget some people may not have any idea how I earned the name at this point. So here it is:

I first earned the name "Classic" in college. I was a staff writer for the college newspaper, The Speciator, and worked my way up to News Editor and then Features Editor. As such we had a certain amount of space for weekly editorials and features. Often the other editors would complain that these articles would come in late and sometimes at all. Between semesters, we had a meeting about what to do about this, so I suggested doing a weekly column on one of my favorite topics, classic rock music. I could use cover art for each feature to add a graphic and even one or two trivia questions. We just needed a title for the weekly feature, so one of my fellow newspaper editors suggested Classic Camp.

The column became a big hit.I did columns on rock groups such as Led Zeppelin, Kiss, Alice Cooper, Bob Marley, Janis Joplin, and many others. While sitting in class I would hear other students discussing the feature, and my professors brought it up in class from time to time. People began to refer to me as "Classic" Camp. After a semester, even my professors were calling me "Classic" Camp.

Well, not everyone loved it. At one point a group of art students got together to complain that they weren't receiving enough press coverage, and even named my column as part of the problem. To counter this I tried to prove by writing a column on the Sex Pistols, but in doing so I also proved that music is an art form and even a group such as the Sex Pistols contained artistic elements, such as the style of music fitting the message of anarchy within the lyrics. Secretly, of course, I like art and felt it did indeed deserve more coverage, so I even began dedicating a section of the features pages (which I was editor at the time) to upcoming art events and shows.

After college I joined the message boards on the Internet Movie Database, and needed a name, so of course, I chose Classic Camp. To this day I still have a presence online as Classic Camp, including my own Facebook group, Classic Camp's Classic Horror Emporium. It has been an adventure, which I hope will not be over any time soon.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

I Received 3 Rejections in One Day (And Why That's a Good Thing)

I hit a new record the other day, three rejection e-mails in one day. Even though all three were rejections, do not feel sorry me. In fact, I'm rather proud that I received this many rejections in such a short period of time, and here's why.

For one thing, it shows I'm being productive. It means I've been writing and submitting my work at a reasonable rate. Naturally, it is always better if at least one of those rejections were an acceptance letter, but in some ways publishing fiction is a numbers game. You have to get your work out there to as many publications as possible in order to become successful.

Aside from that, I also received feedback. Only one of the three rejections was a form letter, and that actually from the smallest publication. The middle sized publication provided me with a small note asking me to keep sending them my work, and the largest of the three publications actually provided me with some very personal and helpful suggestions. This was a professional paying publication that actually commented that my piece was "well written" and offered a suggestion for revision.

But most importantly, at the end of the day, no one really cares about how many rejections one receives, only how many successes they achieve. There are very few exceptions to this, although I will state that one exception is Robert Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance which holds the word's record for the most rejections before becoming a New York Times best seller, after being rejected 121 times.

The point is, writers need to make goals for how many submissions they make in order to subvert the depression of inevitable rejections. All writers receive a great deal of rejection letters in their careers, and this is why it is imperative to aim for a number of submissions, and let the rejections and acceptances come as they may.

That's my advice for this week. Happy writing, and feel free to use this image for inspiration:

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Being Recognized

I received this from one of the schools where I teach, Paul D. Camp Community College. It is nice to be recognized. I'm assuming it has to do with the scholarship I won last year (and yes, I'm still working on the Frankenstein research). I also published several short stories and one poem last year, so I did achieve both scholarly and creative engagement as the certificate reads.

I'm hoping to continue my string of successes from late last year. I have several short stories and poems out right now, and am hopeful at least one of them might prove successful and gain publication. I'm also working with someone who may help with my long fiction. In addition to that, I'm still working on the Frankenstein in film project and hope to publish an article or two on that sometime soon.

Let's hope I find the success I'm looking for.