Archive for the ‘Publishing’ Category

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

 

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Ordinarily when I write longhand, I use a Lamy Extra Fine Point fountain pen or a Shaeffer Extra Fine on old accountant ledgers. (Why old accountant ledgers? See this post: https://michaelmarano.com/category/lovecraft/) Why a fountain pen? I love the feel and flow of a fountain pen and, best of all, I love the scritching sound they make on paper. I use ballpoints all the time for note-taking and regular, everyday writing not related to writing fiction. But the sound ballpoints make on paper isn’t nearly as satisfying as a fountain pen nib’s scritching. I’m old enough to have begun my writing career on a typewriter, and to write in a way that is not associated with some kind of sound feels like a cheat. (For that matter, as a journalist, I’m of the very last generation to have worked in a newsroom with a typewriter and a teletype. All that wonderful noise and clatter helped me to focus and make deadlines. I still have a few sheets of used teletype paper in my files, on the backs of which I scribbled copy.)

Why write longhand at all? Simple. I get really fucking sick of looking at computer screens. Past a certain point, they hurt my eyes, and my hands get all achey from too much typing. Plus, it’s just a good idea to grab a pen, a tablet of paper, plop down in a coffeehouse or a library and just write, without any interfacing digital technology. I think it’s a healthy way to use different parts of your brain, so they don’t get all creaky and gummed up.

Today, though… I wrote with a Cross Medium Point. Why? Because in the novel I’m writing, A Choir of Exiles, I had to kill two sympathetic characters, and the ink had to really flow along with the mayhem. I gotta finish typing it all up before I make dinner.

Maybe I’ll play a sound file of a teletype machine going, so it’ll sound like a race with a real deadline?

 

 

The totally gorgeous new cover for DAWN SONG by Erik Mohr

The totally gorgeous new cover for DAWN SONG by Erik Mohr

Hi, Everybody!

Above, please take a look at the stunning new cover by Erik Mohr for ChiZine Publications’ reprint of my first novel DAWN SONG. I think it’s an absolutely stunning piece of work, and when Brett Savory e-mailed me the cover, I was in a coffee shop in Cambridge, MA, where I kinda embarrassingly expressed my delight almost the same way Jan Brady would, upon receiving a signed 8 X 10 glossy in the mail from her favorite Monkee.

The reprint of DAWN SONG will be coming as a Trade Paperback and an ebook in June 2014; the ChiZine edition will be loaded with a few extra goodies that have not been in any other previous edition of the book. It will be followed by a sequel in 2015 and another sequel in 2016, the titles of which aren’t really finalized yet, though I can assure you that DAWN SONG: BREAKING DAWN has been considered and soundly rejected.

For those of you who don’t know, DAWN SONG was first published in 1998, and went on to garner the Bram Stoker and International Horror Guild Awards. According to some metrics, it’s still among one of the 100 most critically lauded genre publications, at # 72. (Hey, man… I’m right between Philip K. Dick’s Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said and Fredrick Pohl’s Man Plus on that list. That’s pretty goddam good company to be rubbing shoulders with!)

DAWN SONG is set during the first Gulf War build up of 1990, and is part of a mythology I’ve been developing in fiction based on the notion of a War in Hell… in which the struggles of various factions of demons in Hell for supremacy at once create, and are created by, the psychic shockwaves of conflicts on Earth. The book centers on the quest of Lawrence, a young gay bookstore clerk who’s come to Boston to create a new life for himself, and a Succubus who has also come to Boston to further the agenda of her demonic Patron in the War in Hell. I’ll be posting here about DAWN SONG some more in the future. But for now, let me sign off with a very generous quote from a writer who really helped me a lot in the development of my approach to this kind of material. Thanks so much for stopping by!

“‘The falling snow, dropping from the darkened sky, reminded her of the steady rain of souls upon the plains of her homeland. Although, unlike the souls, the snow did not scream.’ When I read those lines (from Michael Marano’s Dawn Song), I got up, turned on all the lights and checked the locks.”

“The author’s talent is unquestionable, his sensitivity and power of expression quite impressive. How rare to find a work of this genre written in so literate a style. It put me in mind of Anne Rice.”

–William Peter Blatty, author of The Exorcist and Legion

 

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Hey, Everyone…

Thought I’d post the week-by-week breakdown of my new class at Grub Street in Boston, REVENGE of the Smart Page-Turner! which will run for 10 weeks at Grub HQ in Boston on Mondays from 10:30 AM to 1:30 PM beginning on January 10, 2013. Here’s the official Grub Street class description:

The newest addition to Grub’s ground-breaking series of classes that combine the best of literary fiction with the punch of popular and genre storytelling. In this course, students will get serious “hands on” instruction that applies the characteristics of three archetypal figures from pop fiction–the Detective, the Outsider, and the Thief–to the actual process of writing fiction. The goal for students is to acquire a practical set of writing tools that can make scenes and narratives dynamic, emotionally involving and intelligent. Special attention will be given to strategies that can rework familiar pop fiction tropes so they can be used in fresh and innovative ways, which will entail a multi-week analysis of Suzanne Collins’ YA bestseller The Hunger Games. There will also be analysis of how the techniques of great screenwriters like Paul Haggis (Million Dollar Baby), Joseph Stefano (Psycho) and David Mamet can be applied to the “nuts and bolts” of writing popular fiction, be it romance, supernatural, adventure, thriller, crime fiction, science-fiction, erotica, etc. Individual class time will be devoted to the workshopping of portions of novels and/or short fiction. While this class expands upon topics covered in Grub’s “Writing the Smart-Page Turner” and “The Smart Page-Turner Strikes Back!” classes, it is open to all but recommended for those with previous workshop experience. Students should come ready and eager to read a variety of materials across a broad spectrum of taste, from Pulitzer-winning fiction to meat-and-potatoes paperback potboilers. Students should expect to be workshopped 1-2 times over the course of ten weeks, depending on the class size.

Please note that this is not a finalized list of readings and other materials selected for the course.

1. The Skill of Noticing

Ever notice that really good writers… well… notice a lot of things? The layout of a room? Clothing? Character quirks? Things that just ring true? Noticing things like these is a developed skill. We’ll start this course with a close look at how to look at things in ways that strengthen your writing.

Edgar Allen Poe, “Man of the Crowd”; National Book Award Winner Bonnie Jo Campbell, “Boar Taint”; Pulitzer Prize Winner Elizabeth Strout, “Criminal”

2. Positioning Yourself for the Right P.O.V.

Great! We’ve learned how to notice! But is noticing really observing? Contextualizing what you’ve observed is an important writing skill, too. We’ll look at ways to choose the right narrative “vantage point” that will make your writing richer and more resonant. In particular, we’ll look at the ways in which the use of outsiders and thieves as characters in the works we’ll cover gives the authors of those works unique opportunities to dig into human nature.

Christopher Nolan’s film Following [NOTE–This film is available streaming on Netflix and via IFC OnDemand, if not enough students have access to these resources, we may screen it in class]; maybe Jack Schaefer’s Western Classic ShaneRoland Topor, The Tenant; Saul Bellow, To Jerusalem and Back,

3. Polishing the Turd–Practical Approaches to the Rewrite

Legend has it Steinbeck once said, “I’m not a good writer. I’m a good re-writer.” We’ll find ways to add/or subtract the right elements from a work by looking at the different tools that screenwriters and prose writers use to tell the same story. A re-write is basically an adaptation of a first draft, almost in the same way a screenplay can be an adaptation of a prose work and a novelization can be a prose adaptation of a screenplay.

Joseph Stefano’s teleplay “A Feasibility Study”; Michael Marano, “A Feasibility Study”

4. Set Decorating

One of the most common problems with new writers is the so-called “White Room Syndrome”, a failure of imagination on the part of the writer that makes it seem as if the characters are functioning in a vacuum. We’ll take another look at the readings and other materials we’ve gone over so far to pick out the ways that these writers and screenwriters have enriched their settings and characters through the use of specific and carefully chosen details.

5. The Art of the Mash-Up: Plots and Sub-Plots

How do you create sub-plots that work with your main plot, and don’t feel tacked on? How do you resolve your main plot, without leaving your sub-plot dangling? We’ll look at ways to weave your plots and sub-plots together so that that they feel like a unified, integrated whole. In particular, we’ll look at the ways that Oscar winner Paul Haggis could take individual stories by F.X. Toole, each with their own plots and story arcs, and weave them together into one great narrative, his screenplay for Million Dollar Baby.

F.X. Toole, “Frozen Water” and “Million $ Baby”; Paul Haggis‘ screenplay for Million Dollar Baby

6. How to Steal, Part I

There are, after all, only seven plots. How do you tell your story and make it stand on its own? We’ll look in detail at a great recent Smart Page-Turner, Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games and dissect its component parts so we can see the actual mechanics of how to pinch ideas and reconfigure them in kinda awesome ways.

Robert Sheckley, “The Prize of Peril” and The 10th Victim; Suzanne Collins,The Hunger Games [Note–We’ll be reading this YA book in its entirety, so please purchase a copy or get it out of the library.]

7. How to Steal, Part II

We’ll continue what we started last week, with particular emphasis on using some of the skills we’ve covered in the class so far to craft our own unique takes on the Seven Universal Plots.

Collins, The Hunger Games [con’t]; An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge; Bruce Joel Rubin‘s screenplay Jacob’s Ladder; Sunil Sadanand, “Waiting Period”

8. Watching the Detectives

We all love detective stories, but what does a detective do? A detective connects disparate elements to piece together a description of what has happened. Isn’t that also what a writer does? We’ll look at a great work of detective fiction for ways to piece together killer plots, anecdotes, scenes and character sketches.

James Crumley, The Last Good Kiss; David Seidler’s screenplay for The King’s Speech

9. The Epic Voice in Pop Fiction

So… you’ve got a third-person narrator for your work. How do you give that third-person narrator a voice with a real personality that’s suited to your narrative? We’ll find ways to do just that, plundering tricks that have worked for writers from ancient Greece all the way to the production offices of Mad Men.

William Goldman, Marathon Man; Jack Ketchum, “The Exit at Toledo Blade Boulevard”

10. Creating Tension

Ever read a scene that just sits there, on the page? We’ll find ways to use tension and urgency to hook battery clamps to a dead scene to make the little bugger dance.

Thomas Harris, Hannibal; David Mamet’s first-draft screenplay for the film version of Hannibal; Aaron Sorkin, “Pilot Episode” teleplay for The West Wing.

To enroll, see the listing at Grub Street here. Thanks so much! Post below if you have any questions.

Hey, Everyone! Please check out Jaym Gates‘s interview with me at SFSignal about the upcoming reprint from ChiZine Publications of my collection STORIES FROM THE PLAGUE YEARS. Chizine’s Brett Savory weighs in on the reprint, and you can preview some of the gorgeous interior illustrations by Gabrielle Faust, as well as the bitchin’ new cover by Erik Mohr. Please check it out and RT, if you get the chance! Thanks! Click here to read!

Doctor Johansson packed his pipe with another bowlful of tobacco as fictional as the dreams I’d used as weapons.

—Would you describe yourself a serial killer if it would help your defense? To cop an insanity plea?

No, I am an avatar.

—I wouldn’t. Besides, I’m not going to see the inside of a courthouse. I’ll see the inside of a cheap coffin, first.

Here is the awesome cover for ChiZine Pub’s cover for the Trade Paperback

Just a teaser from “Displacement”, the opening novella of my collection Stories from the Plague Years, reprinted soon as a limited edition Trade Paperback signed by me and interior illustration artist Gabrielle Faust from ChiZine Publications. To learn more, click here. Hurry, because you can only pre-order the book until November 1, 2012. Here’s what Daniel Kraus at Booklist had to say about “Displacement”, which was nominated for a Shirley Jackson Award: “[A] tale that takes several unexpected and delicious turns, somehow combining a Poe-like belligerence and a Clive Barker–like vividness.”

Thanks!

I love this quote…

“Few horror authors are better equipped to write about madness than Marano.”
–– Daniel Kraus, Booklist

Hey, Everybody!

I’d like to make a special announcement. My good friends at ChiZine Publications are putting together a really beautiful signed, limited, and I do mean limited, edition of  my recent collection of horror fiction Stories from the Plague Years, coming in December 2012. The bitchin’ new cover is by Erik Mohr. Check it out!

I dig the new cover a lot… we’re making the blood on the hands kinda ambiguous. Blood on a murderer’s hands? Or is it from Scarlet Fever? Or both? The concept nicely blends the theme of violence as plague that I explore in the book.

The new edition will still have the same Introduction by cyber punk godfather and Dark Fantasy legend John Shirley and the same gloriously gorgeous interior illustrations by Gabrielle Faust as appeared in the out-of-print hardback edition. Here’s one of Gabrielle’s beautiful illustrations…

This is a scan of Gabrielle’s illustration for one of the sections of the book, “Days of Rage”, which explores the idea of Violence as Plague that I talk about above. The mask on the table to the lower right is a Shakimi mask from Japanese Noh theater. It’s a traditional representation of… demonic rage.

The limited edition Trade Paperback will be signed by both Gabrielle and me. We’re really excited to to be putting this new edition together and making the book available to a wider audience, because the original edition from Cemetery Dance sold out in just nine days. It was kind of frustrating, to get really nice notices on the book–like being named one of the Top Ten Horror Publications of the Year by Booklist, the original novella “Displacement” getting nominated for a Shirley Jackson Award and the original novella “Shibboleth” getting an Honorable Mention from Ellen Datlow— and not have  any copies available anywhere to share with anybody.

Also, I am pretty psyched that this text of the book will be corrected. These will be the preferred versions of all the stories, both original and reprinted.

Now, when I say that this signed limited edition trade paperback will be coming out in December, that doesn’t mean you can just pick it up in December. You need to pre-order a copy from Cemetery Dance or ChiZine by November 1st, 2012! We’re only gonna print as many as we get orders for, so this really is a one-time offer, folks!

So, please place your orders soon, and if you know anybody who might be interested, please let them know!

Thanks so much for stopping by!

Hey, Everybody!  Well, I am back from Readercon… had a most awesome time hanging with a bunch of my home-boys and home-girls. Will try to write a more complete report later, if time permits. I do want to follow up and say that I was not awarded the Shirley Jackson Award for Best Novella for which I was nominated (for “Displacement”). That award rightly went to Elizabeth Hand (for “Near Zennor”), whom I had the pleasure of finally meeting at the con after years of admiring her work. The mighty cool thing about being a Shirley Jackson Award nominee is that, while other awards give nominees official letters or certificates, The Shirley Jackson Awards give you… a STONE! Yes, a little mineral-based reminder not only of Jackson’s “The Lottery”, but also (to me, any way) of The Haunting of Hill House, and the stones that fell on Eleanor Vance’s home when she was a child. How freakin’ cool is THAT?

Here it is! Pretty cool, huh? It has a place of honor in my living room. I’m gonna name him “Pollock,” ‘cuz I always wanted a Jackson Pollock in my house. (Sorry…)

So… I guess I can write about this, now that Lois herself has blogged about it. I recently placed a short story titled “Reign” in an anthology edited by Lois Gresh and coming from PS Publishing called Dark Fusions: Where Monsters Lurk. I’m really proud of the work, and the story kinda represents me coming out of a period of semi-retirement. (Aside from “Shibboleth” and “Displacement”, the two original stories in my 2011 collection Stories from the Plague Years, I haven’t placed a piece of new fiction since 2005 or so. And the fact of the matter is, these works aren’t too “original.” I wrote “Displacement” 20 years ago. And “Shibboleth” is, in fact, a chapter of a sprawling science fiction novel I’ve been unable to sell for about a decade.) I think more writers “retire” for periods of time than people really acknowledge. I remember when Arthur C. Clarke “retired” for a while in the late 1970s. Clarke, an avid SCUBA diver, claimed to have celebrated his retirement by photographing his electric typewriter resting submerged atop a corral reef. Alfred Betser, I think in an interview in Omni, laughed and said something like, “Oh, please! Arthur! No one retires from writing. Shut up and get back to work.” Soon thereafter, Clarke sold The Fountains of Paradise for beaucoup bucks (I seem to recall it was the highest advance yet paid for an SF novel). Bester, who was married to an advertising executive (what an episode of Mad Men that would make!), I think knew the workings of people’s minds pretty well.

But to the actual point of this blog post. Originally, Dark Fusions was to be published by Arkham House and would be called Arkham Nightmares. The guidelines stipulated, “The emphasis is on stories that capture the mood, atmosphere, and creative strangeness of Lovecraftian cosmic horror.” So, I wrote a story that I felt did just that. It became, as I chewed over premises, an homage  not just to Lovecraft, but maybe even more so to Harlan Ellison. (I’ll talk about the overt Ellison elements once the story comes out.) As a tribute to Lovecraft’s cosmic horror, “Reign” represents a kind of coming full circle for me.

How?

Y’see… I wrote a good chunk of “Reign” longhand on a very specific kind of paper that I once used as a dumbfuck teenager, who at the age of 15 in the era of Punk Rock and Toe Socks was writing gawdawful Lovecraft pastiches worse than you could possibly imagine. Unless, of course, you were yourself a dumbfuck teenager writing Lovecraft pastiches back in the days when a nickel bag of pot cost a good and proper “nickel.”

Portrait of a teenage Lovecraft wannabe. I’m 15 or 16, here… with a head packed full of Star Trek, Doctor Who, Tolkien and Yog-Sothothery. Make your saving throw against awkwardness!

(I even sent one of these abominations to Ed Ferman at Fantasy & Science Fiction. At the time, I was crushed to get the form rejection. Now, even more than 30 years after the fact, I hope no one in the F&SF offices actually read the damned thing that I so lovingly bashed out on a manual typewriter… that my cover letter was enough for them to just open up the SASE and send it back.)

The paper in question was something I got tablets of from my dad, who had originally gotten them for his home office that he maintained in the basement of our house. Check out the picture here, with pen and ruler added for scale. [Click on images to enlarge]

A blast from my creative past.

Whippersnappers might not know this, but… back in the days when writing actually involved paper, and not pixels, paper was an expense. Consequently, if you were a dumbfuck teenager writing Lovecraft pastiches, you had to use whatever paper was available. Which is why my monumentally clever opening for a story satirizing 1950s monster movies that I wrote during the summer of 1979 (the summer that ALIEN came out and that has since been semi-immortalized in JJ Abrams’ Super 8) was typed on the back of a blank billing statement from the nursing home my parents used to administrate.

Behold! “The Creature that Was Marxist”. BTW, you may ask, “Michael Linwood Marano?!” Well, I don’t have a middle name. And at 15, I thought all writers should have middle names. “Linwood” was the name of a street in my neighborhood. Thought it sounded good. And “Linwood” was also a tribute to Lin Carter, whose Ballantine Adult Fantasy Series paperbacks defined what I thought Fantasy should and could be.

Behold! The other side of my literary endeavor.

These tablets of paper were kind of funky. The pads were 9″ x 8.5″ and there were  little notations in the lower right corner that said “4049G Rev 2-78” on some pages and “Form 4046-G” on others. I Googled those, and got nothing. According to my friend Lisa Morton, they’re accountant’s ledgers, like the ones her mom used when she ran a college bookstore. OK… that might be what they’re manufactured for and meant to be. But to me, they are specifically and uniquely suited for writing Lovecraft knock offs. Why? You see those columns on the left by the binder holes? Well as you were feverishly scribbling dumbfuck teenager Lovecraft pastiches, you could write little marginalia notes to yourself, so you can keep track of not only elements of your own story, but of other Mythos goodies that might be relevant. Things like “USE ELDER SIGN LATER!” and  “REF TSATHOGGUA FOR SCENE AT LIBRARY!” and “MAKE SURE COPY OF BOOK AT MISKATONIC LIB IS MISSING!” The odd marginalia of “DEVO RULES!” might also have been jotted down, but I decline to confirm or deny that rumor.

(Hey, I just noticed that on some sheets of these pads, those left-hand columns are bisected, and on others, they’re not. I wonder if the pads were defective, and that’s why my dad unloaded them on me. Or if he got ’em cheap because they were defective.)

Only one sheet of my dumbfuck teenager Lovecraft pastiches that I’d written on those pads survives. (A few pages of a dumbfuck teenager Ramsey Campbell pastiche do survive to my chagrin, as do a few Dungeons & Dragons and Call of Cthulhu scenarios I cooked up.) I found it buried deep in my files in a folder marked “Teenage Epics” (a riff on the Undertones song “Teenage Kicks”; the folder in question originally housed the presskit for Child’s Play 3). And that lone surviving sheet’s not even a bit of proper manuscript, but a chunk of outline for the second part of a story that I think was going to be called “Legacy of the Lich”, or something appalling like that, the climax of which featured our hero using an electric grinder to grind a set of sterling silver dinnerware into filings that he packed into shotgun shells that he used to blast the undead, druid-y minions of an even MORE undead priest of Shub-Nigurath.

The one surviving bit of my teenage Lovecraft pastiche-i-ness. The image is blurry to lessen my shame as to how crappy it is.

Christ, what a piece of shit that thing was (though the setting was pretty cool as I recall, and I did come up with a phrase I kinda like: “The Sojourner of the Oaks”). Maybe it’s for the best only one sheet of outline remains. But that story was MILES… no… LIGHT YEARS better than another that I wrote about a Miskatonic University professor who goes some place where there’s an archeological dig and comes back the host of some evil thing or another and only his academic rival knows what’s going on and there’s a confrontation at midnight in the deserted university hallways and….

You get the idea.

(For the record, the opening line of THAT story was “Empty halls, dark and mysterious.” So, y’know… the reader would hafta FEEL how empty and mysterious those halls of the “Humanities Department” at Miskatonic U were.)

Shitty as those pastiches were, I still have fond memories of the frenzied altered states of conscious I’d go into hunched over those pads with a ballpoint or a Faber Mongol #2 pencil in hand, feeling the heat unique to the summer vacations I spent assuring the world of my legacy as the guy who would single-handedly bring Cthulhu into the 21st Century. Hey! According to Starlog and Heavy Metal, IRREFUTABLE journalistic sources, Paramount was making that awesome Cry of Cthulhu movie that was gonna come out in the summer of 1981. Cthulhu was gonna be HUGE! And Ridley Scott’s ALIEN had shown that there was a market for Lovecraft-y horror. I was gonna ride that wave to the BIG time!

But I digress.

Flash forward a few decades. Right before I started writing “Reign,” I found one, precious pad of that paper in a box of things I’d had in storage at my parents’ house. I thought back to the zit-faced troglodyte I used to be, and the fever that used to take me while I wrote Lovecraftian fiction on those funkily lines sheets of paper. I couldn’t resist. I wrote big chunk of “Reign” on that pad. It was a joy, especially because the original Arkham Nightmares anthology was going to be published by Arkham House. I thought back to how my dumbfuck teenage self would have swooned at the thought of that. And those left-hand columns? Jotting plot notes and thematic ideas in them as I scribbled was as natural and as comfortable as slipping on a favorite old leather jacket. It was me and my muse getting a little drunk and talking about the way we were. Crazy kids in love. Kind of a second honeymoon.

So… here’s my plea.

A bit of “Reign” as written longhand on that 34 year-old paper. This is blurry, as I don’t want any of the story legible until it comes out, of course.

If anybody knows how I can get my hands on more tablets of that funky paper that as far as I know hasn’t been in production since the Carter administration, please let me know. I’m working on some projects now, and I would love to crank them out longhand on those sheets. I have less than one full tablet left. I promise nothing I write will be as bad as “Legacy of the Lich.” For old time’s sake, I’d really, really appreciate it. Try me through Facebook, or e-mail me at dawnsong AT  mindspring  DOT com  Thanks!

Hey everybody! I’d like to announce my new class, Screen and Stage…to the Page! Using the Techniques of Playwrights and Screenwriters to Write Prose Fiction. It’s a 10-week class that will meet Wednesday nights from 6:00 to 9: 00 at Grub Street HQ in downtown Boston starting September 12, 2012. Here’s the official class description:

Some of the best writing being done today, in terms of theme, character, dialogue and plot, is being done by playwrights, screenwriters and teleplay writers. In this class, a nationally syndicated film critic and multi-award-winning novelist will show students how to use the tools of Pulitzer Prize-winning playwrights and Oscar-winning screenwriters for their prose fiction stories and novels. Topics covered will include: ways to re-write real-life incidents into tight and compelling drama; how to streamline exposition so it doesn’t stop your narrative dead; how to crystallize character-defining moments into a scene and how to use the context of specific settings to amp drama. Classes will consist of analysis of plays, teleplays and scripts and some prose source materials, group watching of films and TV episodes, and in-class workshopping of students’ short fiction and novel excerpts with special emphasis on how the tools of screen and stage writers can be applied to these works. All genres and kinds of fiction writers are welcome.

So, how will that breakdown? Here’s a tentative syllabus of the topics I’ll be covering and the materials we’ll be looking at.

1. Tapping Real Life

So, 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.”

2. Awesome Exposition and Action

So, there’s all this stuff… background information… that the reader needs to know about in order for the plot to move forward. But to give that information to the reader, you can wind up stopping the plot dead in its tracks. Which can be close-the-book boring. We’ll look at ways to give the audience/readers the information they need while still making your narrative interesting and full of dramatic punch.

Materials Oscar-winner Paul Haggis’s screenplay for the James Bond movie Casino Royale,  with some comparison to Ian Fleming’s original novel. David Koepp’s screenplay for Jurassic Park with some comparison to Michael Crichton’s original novel.

3. Point of View and Emotional Development

OK… point of view is vitally important to telling a story. So’s character development. How does your main character’s emotional arc affect how you use POV?

Materials BAFTA winners Joel and Ethan Coen’s screenplay for True Grit, with some comparison to Charles Portis‘ original novel .

4. The Scope of Time and Space and Hitting Emotional Beats

Let’s say you got a story that takes place over a long period of time, over a lot of geographic space. How do you keep a solid emotional core to something that takes place, well… all over the place, and for a long period of time? How do you pace out the emotional beats to keep that story going strong?

Materials James Vanderbilt’s WGA-nominated screenplay for the David Fincher movie Zodiac.

5. Creating Tension, Apprehension and Dissension

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.

6. Adding Dramatic Layers of Meaning to Your Dialogue

Wait! Did that person really just say that? Wait! Did that really mean what I think it meant? We’ll look at ways to load your scenes with different meanings and different emotional notes.

Materials John Patrick Shanley’s Pulitzer-winning stage play (and screenplay for) Doubt.

7. 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 or Alfred Sole and Rosemary Ritvo’s screenplay for Alice, Sweet Alice.

8. Putting Crystallizing Emotional Moments in a Scene

Sometimes, a dramatic moment can occur in a story that rips open a character so you can look deep inside to see what makes them tick. We’ll dissect a few of those scenes, to see how they can work in prose.

Materials Jenny Lumet’s screenplay for Rachel Getting Married  and Tony-winner Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

9. Adding Details to Make a Story Pop

The effect of little things can be huge in a story. We’ll look at ways to choose the right things to get the most dramatic bang.

Materials Brian Helgeland’s Oscar-nominated screenplay for Mystic River, with some comparison to Dennis Lehane’s original novel.

10. Mining Simple Conflict into Complex Drama

Sometimes, a really simple situation can be a really deep and profound exploration of the human condition. We’ll look at ways to use simple situations and conflicts to load stories with heavy emotional punch.

Materials  J.P. Miller’s teleplay Rabbit Trap and Paddy Chayefsky’s teleplay Marty .

To enroll, click here: http://tinyurl.com/3ctj92f  E-mail me at profmike AT mindspring DOT com if you have any specific questions or want any further information. Please note that scholarships are available for greatly reduced tuition. For more information on scholarships, please refer to the Grub Street page here.