Building Worlds and Reinforcing Perceptions

The Manipulative Foundations of Writing and Marketing
by
Daulton Dickey.

Writing is manipulation. If you set aside the poetry and the romanticism surrounding writing, if you view it as it is, then you can only conclude that writing is manipulation.

Writing conforms, in one way or another, to rules and formulae that will better enable a writer to manipulate a reader. Continue reading

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Brutal Honesty and Depression, a Desperate Confession

by
Daulton Dickey.

In marketing yourself online, the experts tell you to keep things light. Nothing serious. Humor your audience to grow your audience. Nothing serious. Nothing too personal. Nothing dark.

But what do you do when the point of marketing yourself is to market your writing, and what do you do when your writing represents depression and the dark and uncomfortable sides of the human condition?

I’ve tried to play this game, I’ve tried to humor people, I’ve tried to present myself as something in opposition to the tone and nature of my writing. And I haven’t succeeded, and so I’m done trying. Continue reading

The Beginning of Ronan

Alice is Out of Wonderland...

Note: This is the first chapter of a book in progress. Please leave me comments letting me know what you think, and if you’d be interested in reading a first draft once it’s completed. Thanks! ~Alice

‘There’s a fiddle player in the square tonight, Brighde, my love! Why don’t we go down and dance a jig or two?’ Lachlann knelt in front of his wife’s chair by the fire, his hand going to her swollen belly automatically. She sat with a blanket over her lap and a shawl around her shoulders, despite the balmy summer air floating through the windows. Her hair, usually the color of fire and full around her face, hung damp and dull behind her. Her skin, which had been rosy and bright with her pregnancy, was waxen and pale. Lachlann was worried.

She sighed and gave a feeble attempt at a smile. Even the sparkle in…

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On Writer’s Block

by
Bradley Sands.

I have an MFA in Writing and Poetics, which is a fancy way of saying, “Creative Writing.” My graduate program does a summer writing program every year, and MFA students are required to do it twice in order to receive their degrees. My first year, I think during “opening ceremonies,” someone (possibly Anne Waldman) said that some students would give up writing after graduation. I scoffed at this and thought that it was impossible. How could someone who liked writing so much that they enrolled in a graduate program that’s devoted to it give it up?

I’ve published seven books and written a bunch more. I may never write a book again. I never thought I would say that. And it’s such a dramatic proclamation, although it’s inconsequential to everyone except my readership, which seems rather small, and that’s mostly based on my books’ Amazon sales rank.

Writing is a laborious process for me. It’s hard work. And I’m very slow because I edit as I write. Because of this, my first drafts are almost identical to my final drafts. And if I wrote quickly and didn’t write so methodically in order to try to “get it right” the first time around by striving for near perfection then my first draft would be awful. With a typical writer, this wouldn’t be a problem. As Hemingway said, “The first draft of anything is shit.” And then the typical writer turns shit into gold through revision. But I’m incapable of doing that. I’ve tried. I can turn a bad first draft into a better second draft that’s still shitty. And I can turn a good first draft into a great second draft. I feel that my books are better than those of most of my peers, but they’re better than me at writing because they’re capable of writing a good book at a quicker pace. Continue reading

Tonight—12:02 a.m.

Tonight—12:02 a.m. (A Failed Experiment in Automatic Writing)
by
Daulton Dickey.

1.

Night rolls inward and I’m perched on a bed, supine and
Tired but alive and wired and
The city is wooing the walls outside, pushing its breath
Into the latticed screens and thumping the
Windows

Emptiness gnaws on my stomach and my
Fingers
Tingle

My head is an oven into which uncertain bakers
Peer—all tired and skeptical of the ingredients they’ve
Dumped into the bowl that is
Now threatening to crack beneath the
Gaze
Of the culinary anarchists who through tradition and
No fault of their own
Have
Slogged the push of the handle and the
Skeleton of the bowl boiling in the
Cacophony of their
Confusion

Continue reading

The Hills of Zoar

by Daulton Dickey.

Jane Doe sits in a chair beside a window in a dimly lit room. A book in her lap is open to a chapter filled with blank pages. She turns the page and scans the textures. Her eyes bounce right to left, right to left, as if reading Hebrew. The textures, fine, almost imperceptible, are arrayed in scattershot patterns. Pulp dropped and compressed into pages. Random. But the textures say something. They mean something. Of that, she is certain.

The window to her right overlooks a brick wall. Someone at some point long ago, probably long before Jane was pushed into this world, had tagged the wall with paint. A cock with eyes and a mustache sitting on top of a scrotum. Above the cock, in perfect calligraphy, reads, “Beware, ye who enter here.” Continue reading

Making Goals vs. Creating Opportunities–Guest Blog

by
Jennifer Barnes.

This time of year many people are busy making goals, taking stock and trying to change their lives. Writers are no different so they’re setting word counts, listing projects and combing through submission guidelines. These are all good and useful things but in the creative arts, and even day to day life, most of the “big breaks” come from out of nowhere. Whenever I talk to established authors about how they started in publishing I come away with stories of coincidence, chance and luck. But when I talk to writers who want to break into the business I often hear they want to be a New York Times Bestseller or they want to be published in a particular magazine or win such and such an award. They set their goal and work toward it singlemindedly.

This is an admirable approach but doesn’t take a lot of things into account. For one, your goal may not give you the big payoff you were expecting. Maybe you get the publishing deal you were hoping for but the experience doesn’t turn out to be as great as you expected. Also, maybe your goal can’t be achieved or there’s something better out there but you just don’t know about it yet.logo2

This is why it’s also important to cultivate opportunities which increase your chance of getting a big break or stumbling onto something you never heard of. Creating opportunity isn’t hard but it can be uncomfortable. You simply need to put yourself out there with no specific expectation of reward. So, you can volunteer to read slush, submit a piece for no pay, edit a fellow writer’s work, throw a party, organize an event. Meeting new people is probably the best way to create opportunities. Be open and friendly about your goals. If people know what you’re interested in they might just hook you up.

Here’s an example of an opportunity chain that worked out for us. RDSP recently decided to rent a lodge and organize a writer’s retreat. This was daunting because we hadn’t done one before and didn’t exactly know how but we found an awesome luxury lodge that we really wanted to hang out in. Then, through a series of unfortunate events we lost some funding for the project and also did not start promoting soon enough. At that point the whole thing looked like a really bad idea. But we went ahead with the event.

Even with the short notice we were able to get many people to come, including some we’d never met before. We had the chance to meet James & Janice Leach the minds behind DailyNightmare.com who then blogged an excellent recap of the event and were also the suppliers of the fabulous skull pies that everyone went crazy over. We met Bram Stoker award winning novelist Kealan Patrick Burke for the first time and got a chance to build bonds with many other writers, both ones we’ve published and ones we haven’t. While talking to the rental person I mentioned that we were doing a writing retreat and it just so happened that he needed some writing help. We worked out a trade and will now be able to do another writing retreat which will allow us to make more connections and create more opportunities. Though we loved that lodge and have always wanted to do a writing retreat it never would have occurred to us to barter writing for a discounted rental. That’s just an opportunity that came along because we took the chance and did a retreat. Plus we learned a little something about hosting retreats.

I see many writers who pass by small opportunities because they don’t fit into their projected goal path and I see people who force opportunities by trying to get to know a certain person and racking up favors with a balance sheet at the ready. But the key is just to find what interests you and dive in. The opportunities will come. It won’t be exactly the thing you’re hoping for but it could lead there or even to something better. The important thing is to keep your eyes open and make the most of any opportunity. Enjoy the process and you won’t have any regrets even if you don’t achieve the particular goal that you set for yourself.BOOKS-betterhauntedhomesandgarden

Jennifer Barnes has a B.A. in English with a concentration in poetry from the University of Maryland. She is an editor for Raw Dog Screaming Press an indie publishing company that champions, “fiction that foams at the mouth.” Barnes was inspired by the art of Kristen Margiotta to pen a children’s book, Better Haunted Homes & Gardens

Writers: How to Market Yourself on the Internet

by
Daulton Dickey.

In an age of mass communication, an image-obsessed age, an age in which instant gratification isn’t the exception, but the rule, and in an age in which billions of people have access to this wonderful invention we in the “know” call “a series of tubes,” marketing is the hinge on which success or failure turns. And take it from me, a bona fide loser, turning yourself into a whore whose name trips from the lips of people matters. Not “people who matter.” Fuck them. When your name is on the lips of other people, then the “people who matter,” whom we’ll henceforth refer to as “Associates of Social Significance” (or ASS for short), will leap onto the bandwagon, as Asses are wont to do.

What’s important to remember when traversing this series of tubes is that you should know your audience.

—But I don’t have an audience, dumbass, you might say.

And that’s a valid comment—although I hope you’ll keep the name calling to a minimum in the future.

So the question remains: how do you market yourself on the series of tubes and amass an audience? This, in turn, raises another question: —Why do I, a writer, need an audience independent of finding one through my writing?

We’ll take the second question first:

Setting aside the ontology of numbers, “numbers” as symbols that Asses associate with potential sales figures matter, and that’s our focus here. If you amass an audience on the series of tubes, and if it’s a large audience, then that might be sufficient reason for an Ass or two to all but demand—through force if necessary—to read your book. And if your book is at least on the high-end of a staff marked “shite” at the bottom and “mediocre shite” at the top end, then at least one Ass will throw a contract in your face and jab a pen in your hand—inadvertently leaving a permanent manmade stigmata—and order you, on pain of all Asses ostracizing you, and demand that you sign the fucking contract already you fucking idiot.

That I had to explain why you need an audience is kind of mind-blowing, so I will sum up the above paragraph thusly:

I  = WA

[Where “I” = Interest, “W” = Writer, “A” = Attention]

(The above summary requires the following assumption: The asshole who wrote that is an asshole. Now I know that that’s technically probably not a necessary assumption, but it is important to keep in mind that you’re a pedantic motherfucker.)

Now for the first question:

How do you market yourself on the series of tubes and amass an audience?

This question is complicated and involving, and it might get a little weird, so bear with me. Amassing an audience is all about paying attention to what others are doing, and have done, and copying their approach—is not the right answer. There’s a reason that so many writers are playing the “look-at-me-and-my-numbers” tactic: because it can work for people.

That it does work for people, however, is a sort of pyramid scheme. If a million people do x and one person succeeds, then people doing x will have justification for their use of the tactic. More people might even jump on the bandwagon, so to speak. As a result, so many people using the same tactic become, at one point or another, noise. The people who stand out don’t always stand out because of numbers; they stand out because they’ve done something to make themselves stand out—they’ve marketed themselves differently. Sometimes it is numbers, but sometimes it isn’t.

Setting aside the whole numbers game, let’s look at people who do things differently.

I wake up surrounded by lizard corpses, lying in a pool of phlegm. A power tool is running in the next room. The pitch lowers and rises again, as if the power tool is cutting into something. I get to my feet and amble, on the balls of my heels, to the door. But I don’t open it. Instead, I … There’s that sound again: lowering and rising, lowering and rising.

People who market themselves differently, people who examine what the others are doing and alter those tactics, are the people who succeed. They stand out because they’ve adopted different tactics. Like, for example, saving a firefighter from a burning building and then posting a photo of it to Instagram with a tattoo on your forearm in plain view, a tattoo that says “I’m a writer.” Or you could be the son of one of the world’s most famous living novelists, and you could publish your books with a different name, and publish a recent book, a book about which the reviewers will mention you and your father every fucking time; and then you could become a published writer and then ridicule people on Twitter for daring to try to promote their books—without realizing that you’re published through a corporate entity that does most of your promotion for you (by virtue of the fact that it’s a corporate entity, which opens you to possibilities that are closed to most small-timers)—accompanied by a healthy dose of your father’s notoriety.

But anyway …

Look, the point is this:

I’m not going to tell you how to do things differently. That’s for you to figure out. But what I am going to tell you is this: don’t do what everyone else does and expect to get noticed; sure, a few people will get noticed, but, going by pure statistics, those people won’t include you.

Now before we part, I have one thing to say about self-promotion. (I’m a writer who specializes in experimental and avant garde fiction.) Many people print “self-promotion” onto a piece of paper, set the paper on the floor, drop their pants, and squeeze a deuce onto it. Some people act as though self-promotion is a faux pas. (In addition to those two manuscripts, I’m currently working on a third.) Keep in mind, however, that the people who frown on self-promotion express their opinions via Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Tumblr, WordPress, and so on, and most of them do it with their names and pictures splattered on their pages.

I agree with the hypocrites, and I suppose I am one too: self-promotion is terrible. (My third manuscript is a memoir about bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, death, and memoirs.) Why should people promote themselves when they can’t afford other people, including mainstream websites, to do the promotion for them? The answer: they shouldn’t. (I also have a collection of short stories available here.) Self-promotion is for the uncivilized masses. (To contact me, friend me on Facebook.) No one with any dignity or respect should ever invest in the self-promotion concept.

End Transmission.

Guest Post: The Black List of Hope

by
Rory L. Aronsky.

A few Saturdays ago, during my usual volunteering time at the Green Valley Library here in Henderson, Nevada, I had a conversation with one of the shelvers, first enthusing about wanting to see Into the Woods, being that Stephen Sondheim is one of my heroes (she had gone to an advance screening), and then turning to her desire to be a screenwriter. I told her that she should pursue it, because while it’s never easy, it is possible.

Back in November, it was announced that an Air Force dentist, stationed in Palmdale, California, sold his spec script to Paramount. It’s called Matriarch, about a prison psychologist demanding that a serial killer tell her the location of a victim before that victim is executed in 48 hours.

I lived in Southern California for nine years, and have been to Palmdale many times. There’s not a whole lot to do there. Neither was there much to do in the Santa Clarita Valley, where my family and I lived, hence why we sometimes went to Palmdale for something different. In Palmdale, when you find something to do, you stick with it, lest you get caught up in the sheer emptiness of the area. So this dentist, in his off hours, decides to write a screenplay, gets it done, and sells it. He has an inside line to Hollywood right now. I told that library shelver this story, that this is how it was possible. It doesn’t always happen this way, but you can watch movies, and study screenplays, and form your own ideas, and write your screenplays. This might well have been a case of sheer luck, but you can’t get in line for possible luck until you’ve done the work.

Matriarch could be a fresh, tense screenplay, or it could be a cliché-ridden attempted thrill ride disguised as an intelligent thriller. I don’t know. I haven’t read it, nor do I have such access to it. But that this still happens in a time of sequel after sequel and hyped-up big budget movies gives me some hope. It also gives me pause.

I reviewed movies for a little over 10 years, first in a small capacity for the local newspaper at the end of middle school and all throughout high school, and then for various websites. I quit because I was tired of basically the same thing year after year: Hollywood dumps its embarrassments in January, summer is for big budgets and even bigger special effects, and the fall and winter are groveling time for Oscars. That won’t change very much this year, save for the new Star Wars movie coming out before Christmas.

I don’t like this trend, but I begrudgingly understand it: Get in, make money fast, and get out. Hence the sequels and franchises. But why is it that in the 1970s, creative risks were taken and the same can’t be done today? From what I can see, Hollywood back then wasn’t making it with such musicals as Paint Your Wagon, which featured Clint Eastwood singing. They were veering toward bankruptcy. They needed something new. They could also do it in secrecy if need be, since media outlets weren’t as ubiquitous as they are today, and social media would have been a fancy way of saying you had a chat with your next-door neighbor.

Today, people know a lot more about Hollywood, especially in the wake of Sony Pictures being hacked. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as it makes the business practices and obvious human characteristics of executives more interesting, if not less vapid. The latter would be impossible. But that’s not the main issue.

March will bring In the Heart of the Sea, about the whale attack that inspired Moby-Dick, directed by Ron Howard. It’s fortunate that Howard, bankable as he is with his movies, can decide to make, say, a movie about David Frost’s interviews with Richard Nixon, and a studio will snap it up. If Howard’s interested in it, then we have a chance of getting some worthwhile movies. However, who looks after the orphans? By orphans, I mean the yearly Black List, billed as a look at the best unproduced screenplays of the year, ranked by 250 agents, development executives and others, meaning those who actually have a stake in what gets produced in Hollywood, or who simply pretend well enough to have a say in it.

Even though I don’t write movie reviews anymore, and I go to far less movies than I used to (though my DVD count remains the same), I love reading this list. Once a year, it lets me experience having a split personality without actually having one. I rejoice in such creative screenplays being written, and at the same time, I despair of any of these ever being made. I certainly hope they would be, but none of them are sequels or adaptations or “accessible.”

The second-best screenplay of 2014 was Rockingham, a look into the frenzy of the O.J. Simpson trial, through the eyes of his sports agent and detective Mark Fuhrman. Adam Morrison, the screenwriter, could have written it from the perspective of Judge Lance Ito and Kato Kaelin, but he chose to go for the less obvious. That’s where it matters; that’s what makes it more interesting.

I also like the sound of Moonfall by David Weil, about “the investigation of a murder on a moon colony,” and The Munchkin by Will Widger, about a “little person private eye” who investigates the disappearance of an actress in 1930s Hollywood and uncovers conspiracy after conspiracy at MGM.

Owing to my love of presidential history, I’m partial to LBJ by Joey Hartstone, which would only work if master historian Robert Caro was brought on as an advisor, having written about the life of LBJ his entire professional life. However, after Bryan Cranston had such success with All the Way on Broadway, in which he played LBJ, and with the play set to become a miniseries on HBO, executive-produced by Steven Spielberg, I’m not sure how much room there would be for this one, although I wouldn’t mind both.

There’s one more I have to mention: Wonka by Jason Micallef, which is a “dark reimagining of the Willy Wonka story beginning in World War II and culminating with his takeover of the chocolate factory.” It might sound like I’ve been decrying a lack of originality in Hollywood. It’s there, of course, but if a story can be successfully twisted to a new perspective, I’m all for it, especially this one.

Matriarch, by Eric Koenig, that Palmdale dentist, is on the Black List, way down the list, but still respectably in the middle. Further down from it is The Founder by Rob Siegel, a biopic about Ray Kroc, the founder of McDonald’s, which is becoming a movie, directed by John Lee Hancock, who most recently directed Saving Mr. Banks. So despite my despair, there is some hope in a few of these screenplays being produced.

If anything, at least Professor Pasghetti by Jeff Feuerstein should also be made. A famous children’s author who loves drugs and hookers, going on a journey of self-discovery with the eight-year-old son of a dead stripper? Yes! Let’s see that double life!

Star vehicles, franchises, prestigious biopics. That’s as far as Hollywood seems to want to go with movies, and will go no further. The most we can hope for with many screenplays on the 2014 Black List is that smaller outfits grab them and make them. There are independent companies with the means to do so, and I hope they do. To seek out this kind of entertainment instead of it automatically going for whatever’s playing in the major theater chains would be well worth it.

Sources:

http://deadline.com/2014/11/matriarch-air-force-dentist-veterans-day-paramount-1201282435/

http://deadline.com/2014/12/black-list-2014-winners-announcement-screenplays-1201325735/

Rory L. Aronsky is a former film critic, and a current book reviewer for BookBrowse (www.bookbrowse.com). He’s also the co-author of “What If They Lived?”, with Phil Hall, published by BearManor Media and available on Amazon.