Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

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.

Dreamt I attended a screening in a very large outdoor amphitheater of a newly unearthed work print of an unfinished _Lord of the Rings_ movie filmed in the late ’60s… and it was AWFUL. In order to appeal to the fucking hippies, the filmmakers removed Tom Bombadil and replaced him with some fucking longhair named “John the Bard” who looked like one of the Bugaloos and who sang groovy songs no doubt intended move lotsa units of the eventual soundtrack album. Groovy. The breaking point at which everyone got up and left en masse was when our heroes reached The Prancing Pony, and among the Hobbits there, in extra special cameo roles, were Liz Taylor and Richard Burton.

Really.

 

 

 

Yesterday, I bought a new fountain pen: a Lamy Extra Fine Safari in Charcoal Grey and some fresh bottles of ink (in the classic colors of blue, black, and blue/black). Yes, much in the way that Veronica in the Archie comics will feel better about the world when she impulsively buys shoes, I feel better when I impulsively buy stationery and pens. (Worth noting: on the Archie-inspired TV show Riverdale this week, Veronica mentioned using a Mont Blanc.)

bbb8a22f6f2e51a04fb399ed980a0a21

 

When I got home, I broke in the pen by working on a scene in the novel I’m working on, A Choir of Exiles, on my favorite kind of paper, old accountant ledgers.

 

CKC02PtUkAEwrDU

Why old accountant ledgers? I wrote about that here.

Though I should say that these aren’t old accountant ledgers, anymore. I took the truly old ledgers to a print shop and had them make me a box of new tablets to the exact specs of the old sheets on which I first started writing fiction when I was a scrawny teen in the late 1970s/ early 1980s who looked like this (pretentious beard and all):

High School Pic 1

And why fountain pens? I wrote about that here.

Here’s the current pile of A Choir of Exiles sheets I’ve been writing on said ledgers with said fountain pens, next to a bottle of absinthe for scale and to show that I’m still pretentious.

2017-05-07 10.41.21

 

But something occurred to me this morning… I never really thanked the person who introduced me to the joys of writing with a fountain pen, as opposed to the shitty ballpoints on which I’d learned to write cursive.

Anne Lindberg was a friend from college whom I’ve not seen in 31 years. Back then, I was busting my ass to to get a degree in History and Medieval Studies, taking a heavy load of classes that were very lecture-focused. Scribbling notes in ugly ballpoint (and sometimes felt-tip) while seated in those horrible plastic desks/chair hybrids took up most of my time. While we were hanging out in Anne’s dorm room one night, she gave me a fountain pen. Now, it was one of those basically disposable Sheaffer jobs that cost (as I recall) $2.95 back then, but I thought it was one of the most miraculous things I’d ever used. I couldn’t believe how the thing just skated over the paper when I took notes while in lectures, like these notes of mine from 1985, about Early Medieval Cosmology in De consolatione philosophiae by Boethius :

2017-05-07 10.42.45

By the way, did you see how I used the original Latin title of De consolatione philosophiae instead of just saying The Consolation of Philosophy? I told you I was still pretentious!

But back on point, the fact is, Anne taught me that the physical act of writing could be a  delight, that grinding a 19 cent, piece-of-shit pen into foolscap wasn’t the only way to commit words to some kind of permanence without typing. Since then, I’ve written probably a million words in fountain pen, maybe more. And for that, I owe her thanks.

So… wherever you are… thanks, Anne! Your random act of kindness to a college friend has had a lovely effect on my life and my craft.

 

stoopy

 

 

This is Stoopy, so named for his love of visiting people while they hang out on their stoops. He is the boss of my neighborhood in Boston, and looks upon all the humans living here as if he is their patron and boss… which he is. If your door is opened, he will calmly walk in to your place and make himself comfortable, often demanding turkey and other cold cuts before leaving. He walks around using the _exact_ center of the sidewalks, and only crosses the street at crosswalks, after looking both ways. Stoopy is Zen. Stoopy master of all he surveys. Be like Stoopy.

 

2017-01-25-16-17-20-copy

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?

 

 

I never met William Peter Blatty. Yet as someone who was not, as he was, educated by Jesuits, but was educated in History and Theology and Philosophy by people who were educated by Jesuits, I felt a certain intellectual connection to him and his work. And, as someone who has always loved a good joke, I admired the hell out of the guy who could pull a fast one over on Groucho Marx, as Blatty did when he posed as an Arab prince on Your Bet Your Life.

I hold Mr. Blatty’s thematic trilogy of The Exorcist, The Ninth Configuration, and Legion in such high esteem because of the deep humanity and humor present in those works. Admirers of these novels, and their film adaptations, need only hear the following words to break out in an uncontrollable grin: “Carp”; “Rabies”; “Lama”. (Or maybe “Fritos.”) If you’ve read his comedic book Demons Five, Exorcists Nothing, the question “Did you fuck my sister?!” will probably make you guffaw. His humor was always based on deeply human interaction. As was his horror.

It was with Mr. Blatty’s understanding of humanity, and our shared intellectual background (albeit, mine was second-hand Jesuit instruction), that I approached him to blurb my first novel, Dawn Song. I wrote him at the end of 1997. he sent me the following reply, postmarked Dec. 31…

untitled

The generosity with which Mr. Blatty extended to me the courtesy of reading my book, and providing it with a thoughtful and very kind blurb that has graced every edition of it, demonstrated to me that the humanity present in his fiction was, in fact, the humanity present in the person. On this day of his passing, I know that I shall miss this person, knowing his humor and humanity are no longer in this world.

Inside the mind of author Michael Marano

Hey, Everyone! Just posting  for my students the topics I’ll be covering and the possible readings I’ll be assigning in my upcoming Grub Street class “The Smart Page-Turner Strikes Back!” The first class session will be on Wednesday, September 14, 2016 from 10:30 AM to 1:30 PM at Grub Street HQ in downtown Boston. The class will run at that time for ten weeks, with the final class taking place on Nov. 16, 2016. 

(If this seems like a lot of readings, keep in mind the lists below are tentative. I’m not going to assign them all!)

Grub Street is a non-profit creative writing center dedicated to nurturing writers and connecting readers with the wealth of writing talent in the Boston area. For more information on Grub Street, click here.

1. Creating Strong Imagery

How do you create effective imagery? How do you make imagery that’s…

View original post 899 more words

Hey, Everyone!

People have been asking me about the kinds of things I cover in my Grub Street class, Screen and Stage to the Page: What Drama, Movies & TV Can Teach Prose Writers.  Well, for want of a better term, we’ll be using ideas from theater and drama critics and directors to “reverse engineer” scenes like this one below from the brilliant cult TV show FREAKS AND GEEKS, so that the same techniques can be used for your prose fiction, or even memoir. Think of it as a computer hack, only we’ll  be dissecting the teleplay and watching the episode, then we’ll take those awesome nuggets and figure out how to plug them into our novels and stories. This specific bit from FREAKS AND GEEKS is what we’ll be covering in the section on “How to Tap Real-Life Experiences.”  We’ve all been in situations kind of like what Lindsey faces below. But how do you blow that up into something dramatic and funny and packed full of meaning? How do you write about “slice of life” situations and create compelling storytelling, and not just diary entries with names changed?

Watch!

 

That’s a pretty amazing scene, right? Full of a whole spectrum of emotions. It feels over-the-top, but it also feels real. When we’ll be looking at this TV script, we’ll be looking at the ways in which writer Michael White managed to concentrate Real Life into a brilliant fictional scene, and brainstorming ways to do the same things for your prose storytelling.

 

For a break-down of all the stuff we’ll be covering, check out the syllabus here!

To enroll, click here.

 E-mail me at profmike AT mindspring DOT com if you have any specific questions or want any further information.

 

Hope the New Year is treating you all well!

 

 

 

 

Hey everybody! I’d like to announce my new class, Screen and Stage to the Page: What Drama, Movies & TV Can Teach Prose Writers. It’s a 10-week class that will meet Monday Mornings from 10:30 to 1:30 at Grub Street HQ in downtown Boston starting January 12, 2015. Here’s the official class description:

Some of today’s best writing 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 rewrite 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 as well as 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. Deadline to apply for Scholarships is noon on DECEMBER 4, 2014.