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Writer’s Blog Tour

My friend Meghan Arcuri invited me along on a writer’s blog tour. Her leg on this journey can be viewed at www.meghanarcuri.com
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I met Meghan at Borderlands Press Writer’s Bootcamp a few years ago. We made fast friends and bunk together at various Cons. She has written some great short stories and is currently working on a novel.

She’s also very helpful with my work, filling holes and eliminating noise. One of the greatest lessons we learned at Bootcamp was how to edit.

You know–kill your darlings. Meghan helps me bury the bodies.

Meghan had been invited by a fellow camper, Sean Davis, whose novel Clean Freak I’ll be reading this summer.clean freak

Meghan also invited Marianne Halbert who has a creepy Shirley Jacksonesque style. She has a fine collection of short stories in Wake up and Smell the Creepy wake up

We met Marianne at Anthocon last year and shared a lot of laughs!

Every writer has a Work in Progress. Even if nothing gets written down, a story is always mulling somewhere in the cranial nether world. The Writer’s Blog Tour is a peek into what’s at work with various authors you’ll meet along the way.

Kind of like interviewing yourself, then asking other writers to do the same.

So here goes:

WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY WORKING ON?

Tom Monteleone from Borderlands Press Writer’s Bootcamp recommended I write short stories. I’d always thought I’d be a novelist, but he said short stories give a sense of completion. Like setting short term attainable goals.

He was right. The first two short stories I’d written have been published in two anthologies:

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I thought maybe this summer I’d go back to one of the novels I started years ago, but I’m having fun writing short stories. Especially when I get an acceptance letter!

So–

My new title is “Swimming With Angels,” a Southern Gothic tale about a twelve year old girl who feels responsible for her mother’s death. What Asa doesn’t know is that her mother was dying anyway and had taken her daughter fishing for what she knew to be the last time. Her mother wanted her to go to college instead of getting pregnant and trapped in rural Virginia like her teenage sister did. Asa thinks her mother is being unfair and wishes her dead. This coming of age story has Asa’s imagination take her on a mystical journey through her budding sexuality while confronting the truth about her mother’s death.

HOW DOES YOUR WORK DIFFER FROM OTHERS IN THE GENRE?

I wouldn’t say I’m a horror writer in the traditional sense, but most of what I do write is very dark. I take real situations and create a story around them. For instance, I wrote a story about a Christian missionary who does bad things in the Amazon while on a mission to convert the “savages.” I got the idea from reading an article in the Smithsonian Magazine about an archaeologist who wanted to be the one who finds the last of the Uncontacted Tribes. I was so mad when she said, “How can we save them if we can’t find them?” There was a photo of her plane swooping through the trees where they had located a longhouse, the natives forced to flee further into the jungle. If anything, they need saving from her! So I turned her into a bad man who gets it in the end. Ha!

In real life I tell funny stories and feel blessed with a kind heart. But we all have to face our shadow selves eventually. We all have a dark side. I’ve had some dark moments in my life. My stories are filled with dopplegangers and mirrors and small horrors that haunt people all the time. The world is not a nice place.

WHY DO YOU WRITE WHAT YOU DO?

I don’t think I have a choice. I get an idea for a story and that’s that. I use to write children’s stories when I was young, but life ain’t so rosy I’ve come to find out. I like to make my characters squirm. I like when plots twist and leave the reader thinking about the story for a long time. I like to write about uncomfortable subjects, things people don’t want to think about.

HOW DOES YOUR WRITING PROCESS WORK?

I have to write with a pen. I’m not good at typing. It takes too long to get my ideas down so I lose a good train of thought. I buy cheap spiral notebooks and scribble away. Then I type it, edit it, print it. That’s when the red pen bleeds all over the page. As far as any discipline goes, I have none. I know it’s good practice to write a certain number of words a day. I do keep a diary about daily events, but I can’t just wake up at the same time every morning and pick up a pen. I usually have the idea rolling around in my head for a while, walking through scenarios and putting it all together. Once I’ve seen the story from start to finish, I sit down to write it. And it changes of course, but for the most part I know the story before it goes on paper. I’ll write until it’s done.

That’s when the dog hates me and my husband can’t understand why I’m so mean.
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My leg of the tour is coming to the end. But please follow along next week when I will be “interviewing” Elizabeth Massie.
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She posts sweet nighty-nights on Facebook. Some of them are inspiring while others sing like a perfect lullabye. Beth will be on my blog because her site is being worked on. And read anything you can find by her! She’s wonderfully talented and knits beautiful scarves!

I’ve also invited Kristi Petersen Schoonover. We had a great time at Anthocon last year. I loved Bad Applebad apple!

Another great writer is T.G. Arsenault. DSC_0255I just ordered Forgotten Souls for my summer reading.

That does it for this time. Check next Monday night to see what Beth, Kristi and Mr. Arsenault are up to.

Necon Newbie – A Picture Book

I never thought horror writers could be so funny. But they are. And creative. Very creative. I recently returned from a weekend in Bristol, Rhode Island from The Northeastern Writer’s Conference, affectionately known as Camp Necon.
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When I think of summer camp, I think of the movie Meatballs. This is better. The same, but better. Some of the best horror writers in the country attend every year.

I’m a newbie. A Necon Virgin.

Since I first attended Borderlands Press Writers Bootcamp I wasn’t able to attend because Necon takes place in July, the height of my busy season at the restaurant. This year I’ve decided to feed my passion for writing and let the restaurant run without me.

I’m tired of cleaning toilets. I’m tired of peeling shrimp. I’m tired of talking jambalaya. The restaurant business is way too glamorous for me. Not that I’ll quit that world, but I need another one.

F. Paul Wilson, Tom Monteleone, and Doug Winter came in for dinner Thursday night before Necon.  Mary Wilson wagged her finger.

“You take care of her. I don’t want her coming back changed.”

The three authors told stories with such fondness I was envious of the camaraderie. I wanted to be a part of the childish shenanigans and have years of story to tell.

Paul told his wife that I’d most likely be looking after them.

“What goes on at this thing, anyway?” she asked. I too wanted to know.

“Well, there’s bowling.”

“There’s a talent show.”

“There’s a Roast.”

DSC_0379“Ah, the Roast,”  they said in unison.

Will I be hazed? I wondered. Is there some sinister initiation process to this grand fraternal order?

Surely, Meghan Arcuri-Moran, my Necon roommate would have told me? She was there last year.

She’s a horror writer, maybe not.

It took me nine hours to make a five hour drive.

I spent the entire length of Connecticut stop-go stop-go. I calculated an average 20 mph. My left thigh still burns from the clutch.

I sent a text message to F. Paul (no I wasn’t driving):

“Holy traffic, Batman.”

To which he replied, “Where are you?”

I hadn’t hit New Haven yet.

“We’re in Bristol already.” And that was that. They were mixing drinks and I was all alone in the parking lot they call I-95.

I probably would have turned around if it weren’t bumper to bumper in the southbound lane.

I pulled up to the curb. Doug Winter was there. I gave him a hug. He said, “Well you’re here now. Good.” And introduced me to Dallas Mayr who Stephen King claims to be the scariest man in America.
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I walked through the lobby dragging my cooler. My roommate was at the counter asking if there was another ice machine in the building, the one on the first floor was empty.

Nope, only one in the entire conference center with so many writers, so many cocktails.

I missed dinner but Megan looked at my cooler and said, “You have ice in there.”

“I bought two extra bags.”

“Perfect,” she said and helped me carry it up the stairs to our room (no elevator).

We made drinks and went to the opening ceremony with Rio Youers hosting. It was scandalously naughty and I knew I was in the right place.
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Gardner Goldsmith was there. I haven’t seen Gard since Bootcamp 2010. I shared my drink with him. I was happy to see him especially since he was the brunt of many of Rio’s jokes.

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I love Gard. What a sport.

We drank in a courtyard and when 3 am rolled around it was time for bed. For me and Meghan anyway.

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I learned so much from the panels. Authors giving advice on how it is in the publishing world, editors giving their side of the story.

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Even though I didn’t know many people when I arrived, I know them now. Tony Tremblay took me by the hand and introduced me around.  I felt welcome, even though I haven’t had a story published.

The people at Necon don’t care about stuff like that. They want you to have fun. They want you to get it. They want to share the loving support they carry with them for their colleagues.

I appreciate all the great stories and advice from everyone. Heather Graham and Dallas both took time to talk to me and I could tell they loved the craft. The big old boot in the butt I need to finish my novel.

To be part of something so special is what Necon is all about. When I get together with my cousins, it’s the same way. We pick up where we left off. The same stories rehashed year after year and we never tire of them. They only get better.

I can’t wait for next year. I can’t wait to see who will be the next Roastee and hear the heckling from the crowd.

“Too kind! This is a Roast!”

I look at a picture with me, Gardner Goldsmith and Meghan Arcuri. Meghan and I are peeved with Michael Bailey and RB Payne who said they were coming this year. I think of all my fellow grunts from Borderlands and I wonder:
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Are we going to be like them? Are we going to share the beginnings of our writing careers together and one-day host the Game show?” Will we guide and support each other throughout our budding careers the way these guys all did?

I hope so.

The night goes on. Megan tells me I must have a saugie, which I hadn’t  heard of until Necon. She said they’re like a hot dog or some sort of sausage. The way everyone lined up I thought of the movie Soylent Green. These are all horror writers. Who’d they kill? Who are we about to eat?
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Megan handed me what looked like a hot dog. When I bit into it, the skin was crispy and it really was tasty even if it was old whatshisname.

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“When in Necon . . .” they all said.

Whenever I take someone to a restaurant I love or recommend I want to know if they liked it, worried they might not  appreciate something I love.

I got the same feeling from the Necon campers. They love their family reunion. All the joking aside, they all love one another. It was great hearing the stories. Watching everyone interact. Each assuming a role  chosen years ago.

As Doug, Paul and Tom get ready to depart (Meghan calls them the three amigos), Tom asked me:

“Did you have fun?”

“I learned man ballet.”
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“I learned how to shave a guy’s head.”

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“What did you think?” said Paul.

“I need to finish my novel.”

“That is correct. Will you be back?”

“I can’t wait til next year.”

“Good.”

Next year I can’t wait to see a newbie sitting in the cafeteria  so I can sit down with my tacos and welcome her with my own stories. I want her to feel as comfortable as I did. I want to be the one who asks, “Are you ready for a good time?”

Have I changed? Yes, but not because I had to sit in a baby pool full of ice or walk around with a dead fish around my neck singing dirty limericks.

Am I coming back next year?

You betcha!
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