muse

Nerf the World | Buttercup of Doom ep 32

BODep32-nerftheworldAvailable FREE on: Project iRadioiTunesStitcherAndroidTune-In

Knee pads, elbow pads, brain pads… there’s no adventure left in childhood. No stitches. No scars. No proof of survival. No stories to tell… We’ve bubblewrapped an entire generation, mentally and physically, accepted trigger words, created safe places, and Nerfed the World*

This week, I talk about bleeding on the page vs exorcising demons for public consumption, the disappearance of adventures and scars from childhood, and how much blood is really necessary for a bandaid. Join me, and find out WTF all those hashtags are for…

Sponsors: The Horror Show with Brian Keene | Bizzong (also, as promised: bizzong on FB and Books, Beer & Bullshit Frank’s “other” podcast) | Project iRadio’s Patron Page

Suggestions/Requests: none this week (to suggest/request, use the form here)

Mentions/Shoutouts and Linky-Links: Joe Rogan on Marijuana* | The Neighborhood (The Ravine) | BOD ep 2

Hashtag Hell: #bleedonthepage #muse #bubblewrap #nerftheworld #scars #weapons #playgrounds #schoolshootings #iphone #playboy #adventure #seatbelts #creepycrawlers #helmets #kneepads #stitches #latchkeykids #triggerwarnings #facebook #twitter #instagram #projectiradio #buttercupofdoom #podcast #kelliowen

This Week’s Rating: R (it went all to hell with the language this week) buttercup ratings system info here

Tagged, I’m It—Next Big Thing

Robert Swartwood was tagged by Tim Lebbon in his Next Big Thing blog, then he tagged me. This is the result… where I will answer the meme questions and then turn around tag others. It’s an ongoing thing that will continue until we run out of writers I imagine. Follow along each Wednesday for another block of 5 exponentially.

1) What is the title of your next book?

Because I have to be the difficult child, I actually have three, which are all going to hit in the next couple months, and I don’t know which order: Live Specimens, Buried Memories & The Three Dollar Notebook.  But I know Live Specimens will be out before Christmas, so let’s go with that one.

2) Where did the idea come from for the book?

Live Specimens actually came from a road trip gone funny—and only funny because it didn’t get bad. In short, someone saw a strange insect and thought we should take it home. It got loose in the car. It wasn’t just strange, it was scary and mean. Take that insect adventure and twist in my love of all things biologically awry and you get this tale of chewy goodness.

3) What genre does your book fall under?

While I generally walk the line along thriller, this one is most definitely horror. Blood and guts, slasher-esque horror at that. Yeah, you’re intrigued, I know you are.

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Oh, that’s a tough one. Especially considering I can clearly see the characters since I lovingly based them on real people. Charlize Theron would make a great Emily, Anthony Hopkins would be an excellent Ken. Dan and Greg would take more thought… perhaps Christian Slater and Ethan Hawke, respectively, maybe.

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

A ship carrying genetically altered animals, designed for the military, crashes ashore on a small tourist town the night before a blizzard… and all hell breaks loose. Can you tell I haven’t worked up my one-line pitch or synopsis yet? I’m doing it this week actually, but until then you get that.

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

This one is actually going to be self-published. It was originally intended for one publisher and I pulled it, then it was looked at by another, but I’ve decided to try something different with this one. I’m still publishing with Thunderstorm and Dark Fuse (ohhhh did I just let that cat out of the bag?) but am going to toss this one out there myself through create space as both a trade paperback and ebook. Testing the e-self waters if you will.

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

Too damn long! Considering I wrote White Picket Prisons in 8 weeks, I’m ashamed that I let life beat me up to the point that I didn’t write a single word for several months. Then I remembered I was in charge, not Murphy or Fate or Life and I finished it. (Nine months, but in my defense—other than the life getting in the way thing—I wrote two novellas and some shorts in that time as well. Yeah, I know, I’ll just walk away in shame now)

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

That’s a tough question. I generally don’t compare what I’m working on so I don’t pull from those sources while writing. If I had to say something, I guess Dean Koontz’s DARKFALL and WATCHERS kinda smashed together, with a touch of Michael Crichton’s JURASSIC PARK. And even that mash of comparisons doesn’t quite sound right.

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I mentioned the idea to a couple people and they were intrigued enough to get the muse to start whispering and scratching at the back of my skull while I worked on other things. But I don’t really think anyone can take the blame for this one…

10) What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

This is hands down the bloodiest thing I’ve ever written. Period. To keep the action moving and the story progressing along with the death toll, I kept the chapters short, but there’s blood and gore in about 90% of them. It was weird to write when I started, because I knew I was going for a bloody kill-fest, but once I got inside it was a fun ride full of blood and guts with a story and good characters to boot. I hope you all enjoy reading my messier side as much as I enjoyed writing it.

And with all that said…  TAG, you’re it! Those listed below, post your blog next Wednesday and tag the next five! The rest of you, watch the blogs below for the chain-meme to continue.

Mary SanGiovanni

Kevin Lucia

Wrath James White

Bob Ford

Nate Southard

 

Broken Headlights

An interesting thing happened on the way to “the end”…

I didn’t type it.

I finished the novella “Headlights” Monday night. It went exactly where I thought it was going to go. I loved the last line (I have a thing about that—if I don’t love that line, I won’t turn it in!). Shut the laptop and went to bed.

And while getting comfortable in bed (read as: beating the pillows into submission and sticking that one leg out of the blankets just so), I realized I hadn’t written “the end” before I shut the laptop. I drifted off to sleep with a “hmmm” buzzing around the back of my mind, but mostly I was thinking about dinosaurs (that’s a whole different blog—ask me some time).

Yesterday morning I got up, had some coffee, ignored MS Word—after all, I had finished and I was in “walk-away for a couple days” mode. Then I remembered I hadn’t typed that definitive pair of words. Those words all writers adore. So with my first cup of coffee I pondered why. Was I too tired? Did I just forget? I started thinking about the ending—replaying it in my mind. And then I realized what happened.

I had forgotten the fingers on the keyboard aren’t actually mine to control. That evil, tattered, good-for-nothing, flighty, two-faced muse is in charge. And she knew better than to write those words.

Sure, she smiled at the ending but she knew it wasn’t done.

Sometime during the day job, she tapped my shoulder. “Ohhh… okay,” was all I said. I know better than to interrupt her. So I listened.

And last night I went in and added that scene she was so eager to see fleshed out on the page rather than just buzzed into my ear.

Then I followed the normal path of things. I reread the ending several times. I smiled at the last line. And then I typed “the end.”

I’ve been blessed to be able to type those words twice in two weeks. I love those two words. So now “Headlights” is done. All that’s left to do is let the pre-readers tell me why it sucks. Fix what they complain about. Then send it off to the publisher…

And then call my dad to apologize. Of course, I’ll probably do that again when it comes out, just so he remembers which one I’m apologizing for…

“For Dad…” (you’ll have to wait for the release to see the rest of the dedication)

Traveling the Universe

Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.
~E.L. Doctorow

One of the coolest things about writing is being able to create entire worlds. These worlds are full of people and places and events. In my universe, as with many writers, the people and/or events often hop planets. A nod to someone here, the mention of an event there, it can happen—and does. Often.

The first time I tossed a nod at a previous character I thought it was fun and quaint. I hadn’t intended to do it purposely from there on out, but that’s what happened. A couple times, the mention was published before the original story of that person—it happens.

I think it’s fun for a couple reasons. First, it’s fun for the readers who catch them. I get a kick out of someone telling me they caught so-and-so in the wrong story. Secondly, I have some characters/events that I really love, so I enjoy bringing them up. Though I know that’s not even me. It’s the damn muse. She likes to mess with me. She loves to put a scene in my head and get me all excited about something I’m not supposed to be working on yet. She’s kind of a bitch like that sometimes actually. But when she puts those little nods in, the ones I don’t necessarily do on purpose or notice until I’ve typed it (Gracie appearing in the middle of a monster novel), it makes me smile.

And worry.

When I do it on purpose, it’s me weaving my worlds. When she does it, she’s usually up to something.

And because it’s Thursday, I’ve decided to have fun with this week’s Q&A session and let all of you be the muse for a moment—or some distant cousin of the muse at least. In my universe of characters and events, are there any you’d like to see revisited? I ask because she’s been humming a lot lately. Oh I’ll tell her stories, I have to to avoid the nuthouse, but since I’m taking suggestions from her, why not see what you’ve got to suggest as well. Is there a character you really loved and would like to see come back? A storyline you’d like to see continued? A tale you think deserves a sequel?

Hop around my universe for a moment and tell me if there are any planets that support life. Shoot me the coordinates. And if the muse already has that one covered, maybe, just maybe, I’ll tease the crap out of you and tell you she’s already loaded the GPS with that address =)

 

*Illustration by Selçuk Demirel, borrowed from New York Times

Good Night, Moon

“I like to think the moon is there…
even if I am not looking at it.”
~ Einstein

I had a talk with God the other day.

It didn’t go well.

Probably because we broke up years ago and I spent the entire conversation reminding him of my disbelief every seven words. It was a disaster. The nuns back in Catholic school would have crossed themselves, prayed for my soul and then giggled behind my back at the pathetic irony of it. I knew it wouldn’t work. I knew it wouldn’t help. I knew it wasn’t the right entity to chat with…

Tonight, I remembered the rules. Remembered what makes an old gypsy tick.

Leaving four sleeping kids and a snoring Hippie all tucked away in their beds, I sneaked downstairs, grabbed my smokes and a hoodie, and stepped outside. I knew there wouldn’t be natural water nearby (the pool didn’t count). I knew it would be too dark to pick at the gravel on the side of the road and pretend they were real rocks.

But I knew the moon would be there.

It had been shining through the slats in the blinds upstairs, whispering to my insomnia like a secret lover. Reminding me what its embrace was like, how well it listened, how easily it soaked up tears. And I answered its call.

I’ve been all over the grid lately. Circuit overload, if you will. Pick an emotion… I’ve had it. They’ve all been competing for time and space and privacy with my chi. I’m out of balance. I hate being out of balance. I am the great multi-tasker, damn it. I can do it all. Because I’ve always told myself I can. My mother could, therefore I can—heroes are worthless if you don’t try to emulate them, right? But I’ve been off. My chi is all out of shape and my brain is being pulled a million different directions. I couldn’t talk it out because I couldn’t untwist it enough to even understand what needed to be said. I know I have three story lines fighting for pecking order and a petulant muse that will not be ignored. I have friends that need me. Things that are bothering me—some I can control, most I cannot. Totem poles of life and love and longing being chiseled and redesigned on a regular basis. Overload. And I unleashed it all in a rambling mess, paying no heed to the connections that may or may not exist between points—real or imagined.

The moon and I had the talk that was never intended for God’s ears. It listened quietly, never wavering, never blinking. It didn’t interrupt. It never laid blame or got defensive. It didn’t judge. It just was.

And it helped. It calmed the woman and bandaged the twelve-year-old. Because the gypsy knew it could. It would. Because it’s always been there, even when I’m not looking. It’s tangible (sorry God, Catholic school was fun but the science geek wins this time) and it’s the same moon that the first gypsy in my bloodline talked to on a calm night, long ago, filled with crickets and night birds… and overload. It’s the ultimate keeper of secrets. The shoulder that never gets tired of being cried on. A shining beacon of light when it seems dark. And the healer of broken gypsies. When there is no water for your toes, or rocks for your fingers to pick through, the moon will be there. Always.

It’s well past midnight now. It’s Thursday and I’m supposed to have written some pithy question to throw out at all of you for the weekly Garage Talk post. Instead, I will say thank you to something beautiful, just for existing (for the second time this week), go crawl back into bed and fall asleep to the sound of my best friend’s heartbeat, while the moon sings her lullaby through the slats. And in the morning, I’ll post this…

Originally I had “sans question” as the end of that last sentence. But on the coattails of a good night’s sleep, how about we toss this instead: When you’re out of whack, where do YOU go to fix your chi? What do you turn to? Is there a place or a thing that you can unload onto or just be at that will help it all untangle? Not a person—that’s cheating. Pick an inanimate band-aid and tell me why it helps. Why it heals.

French Fries vs Garlic Mashed Potatoes

take2Yep, you know exactly where this is going… or at least, where it’s been. I posted a blog about a little writer rant the hippie and I were having. It started here, in my blog. Moved to hippie’s response. Was crossposted to facebook and my message board, and then cross-posted again by della in her blog and her facebook. It made the rounds. It got a lot of comments.

And then it reared its ugly head again in the garage. It started normal enough. We discussed the comments that came in and realized that some people may have misunderstood the argument. So before we go any further, let’s clarify, for the hippie’s and my sanity, and for all of you. The argument…

With the combination of self-publishing, e-books and Hollywood’s hunger for the next Harry Potter, anyone can be published—note, I didn’t say anyone can be a writer. I’ve been told informed, only other writers will complain, or even notice, if it’s less than par but selling more copies that Gutenberg. Poorly written books that have enough sex and explosions will be published—and possibly made into a movie. In short, the public doesn’t care about gerunds or semicolons. That’s a fact. It doesn’t matter if it needs to be edited to hell and back, that takes time and money, and the public will eat it up if we just wrap it in this pretty box and write a jingle to go with it (cue the universal humming of “two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese…”). I’m not saying the stories are bad, some are quite good—if you can get through the typos and grammatical errors and suicidal punctuation. I’m saying the race to finish and get it to the public sometimes leaves the language behind.

Hippie and I often peek into each other’s books—meaning, if he’s reading something, I may grab it and flip a few pages. It’s kinda fun and usually leads to discussion and the other reading it. I had plenty of comments on the one I’m currently reading, which he had first. He loved it. I’m struggling with the language. It’s a big mac pretending to be a filet. It’s got big science and grand ideas, surreal places and interesting characters. But it’s also written in a strange choppy fashion that could have seriously used an editor. His current book, which I peeked in earlier today for the second time, is the opposite. It’s a filet trying to pass itself off as a big mac. The prose is well done, grammatically and artistically. It’s literature, not genre. But its spine, its cover, its publisher all say it’s genre. Sometimes the line between big mac and filet get blurred. Great writing, bad story=big mac. Cheesy story, good writing=big mac. Opposites are filets. Bad, bad = purchased by editor that thinks the back of cereal boxes are brilliant. And then occasionally, there are those big macs that fall under that category based solely on the use of tropes, overused hot topics, etc.

In the first episode of this particular Garage Rants by Kelbert™, I said I would not write a big mac. I repeated it like a mantra. I swore to the stars and the moon and my muse that we’d never do that.

I lied.

The big mac argument continued, still continues. We’ve shared and ranted anew with friends as they enter the demilitarized zone, er, garage. We throw snarky comments at the other regarding big macs whenever possible. And then, on a fateful visit to the in-likes, we brought it up again. And, in front of his parents, he dared me. We made a bet. We would both write big macs. We would hop on the trope train. And we would race to the finish line.

I don’t know what they put in my coffee that day, but I agreed. He’s writing werewolves. I’m writing vampires.

Yes, vampires.

Me. She who has done countless panels and blogs begging writers to stop writing vampires and zombies (which I’m also writing, but in short story format). Strangely, much as I can feel bits of my soul dying as I do this, I’m actually kind of digging the way the vamps are rolling. There’s a good  storyline and a complex structure. It may be a big mac trope, but it’s got plot and character arcs and punctuation, damn it.

In the blurred line that is big macs, we know that neither of us will be able to write poorly on purpose. The grammar and punctuation will be correct, the words will be apropos and pretty. As we are both prone to do, his werewolves are smelling like metaphorland. My vamps are less metaphor and more social commentary. But the moral to the story? They’re big macs. There’s no fooling ourselves. They will be well written, but there may be cheese. And of course, tropes comes with their very own jingle.

I’m in three anthologies this year. I have a novel coming out this winter, two short stories and two novellas coming up, and an article this fall. And the next thing I’ll have to add to that list will be a vampire novel the likes of which no McDonald’s has seen before.

Wish me luck. I may go quiet. After all, this is a race, and I don’t know how to play not to win. Plus, I’ve always been a sucker for a dare… and he knew that!

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— · Rosie's Bookapalooza · —
October 5, 2019
Johnstown, PA

— · Merrimack Valley · —
Halloween Book Festival
October 12, 2019
Haverhill, MA

— · 2nd and Charles · —
Horror Writers' Panel
October 26, 2019
Harrisburg, PA

— · Read and Scream · —
Chester County Library
November 2, 2019
Exton, PA

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