Hey, Everybody!!!

Yeah, I haven’t posted in a while. But I wanted to let people know about my new biz, GET OFF MY LAWN, through which I’ll be offering Writing Instruction & Editing, Personal Training and Fitness Instruction, and Curated Dungeons & Dragons sessions! Check it out at www.GetOffMyLawn.biz.

Through Get Off My Lawn!, I’ll be offering my class SUSPENSE! HEART-POUNDING LESSONS FROM CLASSIC THRILLERS. It will be starting on October 25, 2021, via Zoom, for 10 weeks, running from 1 PM to 4 PM EST. Class sessions will be conducted virtually, over Zoom. Rates are on a sliding scale. If you think you might be interested, contact me at Mike AT GetOffMyLawn DOT biz

Here’s the class description…

How do you keep your readers in… SUSPENSE?! This class from Mike Marano at Get Off My Lawn Personal Instruction will show you the dark-and-stormy workings of suspense and tension and fear through a nail-biting 10 weeks, during which we’ll read, take apart, and study the mechanics of three brilliant novels: Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca (THE definitive romantic thriller!); Ira Levin’s Rosemary’s Baby (THE definitive supernatural thriller!) and Thomas Harris’ Red Dragon (THE definitive serial killer thriller!). We’ll look at the structuring of plot, characterization, use of Point of View, escalation, pacing and other tools for the building of SUSPENSE! not just as they are used in these three books, but in other classic thrillers so that you can have your own readers sweating bullets as they compulsively turn pages until dawn. The edge-of-your-seat techniques of SUSPENSE! will be studied not just in the context of prose writing, but also screen and TV writing and play writing. The class will entail in-class writing exercises, and there will be workshopping of students’ fiction in each class as well. Recommended for students with previous workshop experience. Starting October 25, 2021, 1-4 PM, and running for 10 weeks. Contact Mike at Mike AT GetOffMyLawn DOT biz for more details and rates.

Let me know if you’re interested!

Thanks!

Mike

Happy Valentine’s Day! I got bored and made a bunch of horror-themed memes. Send them to your Sweeties!!

I don’t care who knows this. I’m an author. A well-established Culture and Arts critic. An Instructor of Creative Writing. And I love Rose Estes’ Endless Quest/Dungeons & Dragons, “Choose Your Own Adventure” books for kids. I fucking ADORE them. It’s not like I grew up on them, because they first came out when I was already an adult. As of today, I’m the proud owner of all the entries in the series Estes wrote. A small triumph. But one that gives me a bit of joy.

Happy 2021, from Wally Brando:

“My family, my friend, I’ve criss-crossed this great land of ours countless times. I hold the map of it here, in my heart, next to the joyful memories of the carefree days I spent, as a young boy, here in your beautiful town of Twin Peaks.”

Hey, All! Here is a link to the Duo Circus Hoop act that my dear friend Lianne Ratzersdorfer and I cooked up for the Esh Circus Arts Fall Student Showcase entitled “I WASTE IT WITH MY CROSSBOW! A Tale of Teen Angst and D&D”. More thanks than can be expressed must go to Shane Bushey, for agreeing to be our Dungeon Master/Narrator on incredibly short notice and becoming a full-blown third collaborator. And still more thanks must go to our coaches for the act, Elise Sipos and Johnny Blazes for nurturing our nutty ideas, despite our getting a late start on our choreo. A shoutout has to go to Rachael Chapin Longo for accommodating our last-minute point rental requests. But above all, Lianne deserves gratitude for being willing to share this journey, the first step of which was taken when we were trying to think of what we could create for this Showcase that was themed around “True Stories”, and our shared nerdy teen biographies and experiences with Fantasy Role-Playing Games crossed.
Video credit: Beren Jones

Used to see Ric Ocasek on Newbury Street, back when it had actual culture to offer. Couldn’t miss him, all 6′ 5″ and maybe 140 pounds of him. In the Avenue Victor Hugo Bookstore, with his ’80s hair teased up, it looked like he’d brush the ceiling. Truthfully, I was never a big fan of The Cars. I liked their stuff as catchy pop tunes, and that’s it. But I knew that Ric was fighting the good fight, giving _scores_ of Boston bands a leg up, with free studio time so they could cut demos (and maybe actual albums, not sure). He gave back, big time, to the scene that made him, and an argument could be made that without his help, the Boston scene in the ’80s might not have existed, or been much, much different. Never spoke to him. Never shook his hand to thank him for it. And tonight, I wish I had.

 

'Hairspray' Premiere - 16 Feb 1988

Hey, Folks!

So, did you have a moment or two, or three, this Holiday Season that was full of drama, good or bad, that you’d LOVE to put into a work of prose you’re writing?

You ever look at works by playwrights, screenwriters, and TV writers and how they can take moments from real life and make them dynamic and compelling and say to yourself, “Damn! I wish I could put things like that in my short story or novel?”

Well, whether your idea of a Holiday story is Die Hard or Hallmark Channel movies, multi-award-winning novelist and nationally syndicated film critic Michael Marano’s class at Boston’s Grub Street, SCREEN & STAGE TO THE PAGE: What Drama, Movies & TV Can Teach Prose Writers (starting January 10, 2019) will let boost your prose, giving you access to the incredible storytelling tools stage and visual media writers have been using for decades in the creation of Tony, Oscar, and Emmy-Award-winning narratives!

What kinds of tools are we talking about?

Well, chances are you’ve just had, or maybe had last year, an exchange around the Holiday Dinner Table that’d make for an awesome chapter in a novel, or a scene in a story. Take a look at this scene from Judd Apatow’s classic show, Freaks & Geeks (play from the 15:40 mark to 19:30)…

 

<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/58193659″>Episode 4 – Kim Kelly Is My Friend</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/smokinrobocop”>smokinrobocop</a&gt; on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

 

In SCREEN & STAGE TO THE PAGE: What Drama, Movies & TV Can Teach Prose Writers, we will dissect the ways in which all the highs and lows and escalation of that scene are concentrated for maximum emotional impact.

What other kinds of tools will we learn to use?

Think about it. Is there a scene more clichéd than the police interrogation scene? 99% of them can be summed up to: “Hello, Detectives. Here’s the exposition you need to go to the next act, where you’ll get more exposition.” But with True Detective, novelist and short-story writer Nic Pizzolatto re-invented the interrogation scene so it became riveting drama in and of itself:

 

 

We’ll dissect exactly how Pizzolatto did it, so that what in TV format is binge-worthy can, for your prose, be page-turning!

Screen & Stage to the Page will meet for 10 weeks on Thursday mornings from 10:30 AM to 1:30 PM at Grub Street HQ in Downtown Boston, 162 Boylston Street, 5th Floor by Park Street Station near the Common.  Click on this link to enroll!!!

Hope to see you all in January!

 

beb9adc2-c54c-491d-bcae-e77973037e87

 

I’m an artist who works in a number of fields. I even consider my work as a magazine interviewer an art, because I try, with my interview subjects, to collaborate on the creation of a unified narrative about their work. And as an artist, one of the most rewarding things I’ve experienced has been what I call the “Art of Letting Go.”

What do I mean by that?

When I was very young, one of my first gigs was writing radio plays.

I can’t tell you the joy I felt during the very first read-through of my very first play when one actor in particular who played the heavy portrayed the character in a way I’d have never, ever have imagined that character to be played. I was a twenty-something, inexperienced shithead, and this guy took what I’d handed him and made it into gold. During that read-through, when this guy (whom I can’t name, because he’s SAG, and he was performing under the table with a pseudonym) brought his prodigious talent to my newbie words, my eyes dried out, because I didn’t blink as I read along as he recited what I’d written and completely rewrote it with his own artistry.

That was the first time I’d Let Go as an artist, and trusted my art to another person, and experienced the magic of what they brought.

Letting Go of Your Art is an Art.

And it’s an incredibly rewarding Art.

As an author, I’ve been blessed with never having a shitty book cover or illustration. Something I’ll never forget is when Tor’s Art Director Irene Gallo grabbed me by the hand and yanked me through the Tor offices to show me the glorious cover that Cliff Nielsen created for my first book, Dawn Song. I was stunned at the sight of it. I worked closely with my dear friend Gabrielle Faust to create the cover and interiors art of my collection Stories from the Plague Years, and I got a lot of joy out of that collaboration. (I hope she did, too!) Erik Mohr did gorgeous covers for ChiZine’s reissues of my work.

It’s a beautiful thing to inspire beauty.

And you can only create that beauty by Letting Go of your Art, and let someone else’s Art come to bear upon it.

As a circus aerialist who has worked with partners (both in the aerial apparatus and with coaches and choreographers and teachers on the ground), I can say it’s truly magical to be suspended in the air, to completely trust your partner and create something new.

Which brings me to novella-length scenario I wrote for Evil Overlord GamesSusurrus: Season of Tides, entitled “Angels of Our Better Nature”.

That’s a pretty great title, huh?

“Angels of Our Better Nature”.

I love it.

Guess what?

It’s not mine.

My title was totally lame. It was basically, “The Bad Guys”. On par with calling Dawn of the Dead something like The Mall Zombies.

I don’t know who at Evil Overlord came up with that title, but God bless them. I’ll probably find out tomorrow. Might have to send that person a fruit basket.

And do you see that beautiful illustration at the top of this blog post?

Here, I’m going to post it again.

 

beb9adc2-c54c-491d-bcae-e77973037e87

 

That illustration is the work of Duncan Eagleson, whom I’m sure most folks know from his incredible work on Neil Gaiman’s Sandman.

The illustration depicts a character I created for “Angels of Our Better Nature” whom, quite frankly, I’m very proud of and very fond of. I’m very attached to that character, and I let her go, entrusting her to Duncan’s monstrously talented hands.

I just saw the illustration for the first time tonight.

She looks nothing… at all!… like how I envisioned her while writing the scenario.

Yes, Duncan got down the basics of what I described in the character sketch I submitted.

But in terms of essence… no.

That’s not the character I envisioned.

And I absolutely adore this illustration of that character so near and dear to my heart.

Opening the file of the illustration tonight, I had that wonderful, giddy feeling of Letting Go. I tasted the magic of it.

It’s intoxicating.

Just like what happened at that read-through of my play almost 30 years ago, my eyes dried out… experiencing something beautiful that someone crafted from something I’d made.

And that I’d let go.

Look at this illustration.

I truly hope, some day and somehow, you can see the beauty of it in the way that I am privileged to.

 

 

 

 

Hey, thought I’d drop a note and mention that I’ve done a project that I’m very enthusiastic about for the good folks at Evil Overlord Games for their fascinatingly complex Susurrus: Season of Tides game scenario.  With the really splendid help and guidance of Evil Overlord’s Chief Writer Victoria Root and Game Writer Phoebe Roberts, I created a narrative set within the world of Susurrus that was as challenging to write as any work of long fiction I’ve published.

DOnbjDwX0AIU6eF

As a horror writer, I’ve been really eager to try my hand at a narrative form I’d not tried before. The Interactive Fiction format of Susurrus gave me that opportunity within an Urban Fantasy setting that is fully realized, layered and complex. I was given free reign to create characters and to use existing characters within the world of Susurrus while at the same time exploring the themes and motifs that define much of my fiction: alienation  in the modern city; the enduring legacies of ancient magical practices; redemption; finding grace in the face of adversity.

 

L_sm

 

Another real joy of working on the project was the chance to create story that dovetails with the incredible art that Sandman artist and comic book impresario and all-around brilliant visual artist Duncan Eagleson has created for the world of Susurrus.

 

DD-n75fUAAEU6cI

 

 

My contribution to Susurrus: Season of Tides goes live on Monday, November 20, 2017. A lot of love and sweat went into the creation of this work that is nested within a vast and complex fantasy world that I’m very grateful I had the opportunity to work within. Please check it out, and take the opportunity to explore the world of Susurrus. It’s a dark and lovely place.

WAIT! Can it be? A fourth class in the wildly popular series of Grub Street classes that combine the best of literary fiction techniques with the punch of genre storytelling? Yes, IT IS! In this newest instalment of Michael Marano’s “Smart Page-Turner” sequence taught at Boston’s Grub Street, you will receive serious hands-on instruction from a multi-award-winning novelist and nationally syndicated critic that will not only infuse your genre fiction with literary gravitas, but that will also infuse your literary fiction with the readability and popular appeal of fiction genres such as thrillers, mysteries, Science Fiction and Fantasy, erotica, adventure, etc. Classes will include writing exercises and workshopping of students’ fiction. Specific topics are outlined below on a week-by-week basis. This class expands on topics covered in Grub’s “Writing the Smart-Page Turner”, “The Smart Page-Turner Strikes Back!” and “Revenge of the Smart Page-Turner”, but is open to all. Recommended for those with previous workshop experience.

Where? At Grub Street’s Downtown Boston HQ, right by Park Street Station on the Red Line and Downtown Crossing, 162 Boylston St #5, Boston, MA 02116

Who?   https://grubstreet.org/about/who-we-are/faculty/#MichaelMarano

Michael Marano is a horror and dark science fiction writer whose first novel, Dawn Song, won the Bram Stoker and International Horror Guild Awards. Stories From the Plague Years, a collection of Marano’s new and reprinted short fiction, was named one of the Top Ten Horror Publications of 2011 by Booklist. His supernatural crime novella “Displacement” was nominated for a 2011 Shirley Jackson Award. Stories From the Plague Years was reprinted in 2012 by ChiZine Publications of Toronto, who also reprinted Dawn Song in 2014, which will be followed by two sequels, A Choir of Exiles and Winter Requiem.

Since 1990, he has also been reviewing movies for the Public Radio Satellite System program Movie Magazine International. Mike’s pop culture commentary has appeared in many national publications. Marano is also a beginning circus performer, developing and choreographing narrative aerial pieces for the trapeze and lyra based on the works of J.G. Ballard and Philip K. Dick.

 

When? 10 Thursdays from 10:30am-1:30pm, starting September 7th, 2017

How? Enroll here! SCHOLARSHIPS ARE AVAILABLE! https://grubstreet.org/findaclass/class/the-smart-page-turner-reloaded/

OUTLINE OF THE CLASS

Week 1. Creating Suspense and Tension

What the hell is suspense? What the hell is tension? How are they different? How do they compliment each other? What are their components? We’ll dive in and examine strategies for creating suspense and tension in genre and non-genre contexts.

Materials: Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca; Tracy Letts’ play Killer Joe; one of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels.

Week 2. Using All Five Senses

Ever read something that’s just blah, because the author is only using sight and sound to tell a story? You have FIVE senses… so why not harness them all for your fiction?

Materials: Patrick Süskind, Perfume; Elizabeth Kata, A Patch of Blue.

Week 3.  Stealing the Storytelling Techniques of Writers for Stage, Screen and TV, Part 1–“Tapping Real Life”

Some of the best storytelling created today is being written for performed media. We’ll look at how these techniques can be applied to prose fiction. First up, creating “Slice of Life” moments…when there’s this thing that happened… and you really want to write about it in a dramatic way. How do you take a “slice of life” that everybody can relate to, and still make it interesting and compelling? How do you avoid the dreaded, “Yeah, so?”

Materials: Emmy winners Judd Apatow and Michael White’s teleplays for the high school comedy/drama Freaks and Geeks and parts of renowned theater director Peter Brook’s essay “The Open Door.” A short story or two by Bonnie Jo Campbell

Week 4. Stealing the Storytelling Techniques of Writers for Stage, Screen and TV, Part 2– “Using Place and Time to Define Drama”

Drama and conflict and personal growth can’t exist in a vacuum. We’ll look at the specific ways the time and place of your story can and maybe should define its emotional impact and arc.

Materials: Emmy-winners Matthew Weiner & Robin Veith’s teleplay for the Mad Men episode, “THE WHEEL” and either Greg Mottola’s Independent Spirit Award-nominated script for Adventureland.

Week 5. Stealing the Storytelling Techniques of Writers for Stage, Screen and TV, Part 3–“Creating Personal Conflicts”

 Ever find yourself amazed at how some playwrights can just have a few people in a room, and the emotional results are like a UFC Cage Match? We’ll breakdown how they do that.

Materials Nobel-winner Harold Pinter’s play, The Homecoming and Pulitzer Prize-winner Jason Miller’s play, That Championship Season.

Week 6. Using Stanislavsky to Create Characters

Actors have a whole bunch of great tools to get into character’s heads. So… why can’t authors use those tools, too?

Materials: Kazuo Ishiguro, Remains of the Day or Never Let Me Go; Thomas Harris, Silence of the Lambs

Week 7. Using Setting, Part 1, The City

To really use an urban setting, even to in a work of realism, you have to tap a really unique sense of the unreal. Poets like Baudelaire and TS Eliot figured this out. And so have a few really great prose authors.

Peter Straub, “A Short Guide to the City”; Hubert Selby, Last Exit to Brooklyn or The Demon, Vera Caspary, Laura, Dorothy B. Hughes, In a Lonely Place

Week 8. Using Setting, Part 2, The Wilderness.

When you have characters in the wilderness, the real struggle isn’t always with the external wilderness, but the inner one. We’ll look at ways to tap that struggle.

Robert B. Parker, Wilderness; Bonnie Jo Campbell “Bringing Home the Bones”

Week 9. Satire and Hyperbole

When you take something emotionally real and blow it up, you’re using the same tool that humorists use, even when you’re not writing about something particularly funny. We’ll look at the ways that satire and hyperbole can be used to be funny and tragic.

Rod Serling and Michael Wilson, Planet of the Apes; Evelyn Waugh, The Loved One; a short story by P. G. Wodehouse; John Le Carre, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy;

Week 10. Catch Up, Loose Ends and Review