Social Media Break or The Horror of Storymakers17

I really need a break from social media, albeit, those who follow my blog would think I’m on a social media break 10 months out of the year – sorry about that. As you can see from the title, this blog post started last May as “The Horror of Storymakers17, and has morphed into something different.  I’m just now getting around to finishing the Storymakers blog post, and just in time to announce I’m taking the month of July off from all things social media… so, let’s begin with Storymakers…

I have been attending the LDStorymakers for about a decade now, and every year I say, “I don’t really know if I want to go – I’ve seen everything, done everything, blah, blah, blah.” At the same time I reflect on several memories: There was that conversation with Jennifer Nielsen that got me going again, or chatting with Sarah Eden that made me believe in myself, or just seeing Joseph Smith Savage year after year – these things, and friends like (see Storymaker Tribe on Facebook), convince me to go. It has always been the right decision. I always learn something, always get recharged, and it’s nice seeing old friends, even if you just see them.

I’m sure you’re expecting me to tell you the same thing happened this year. It did, but this year it was a spiritual experience. In all my years coming to Storymakers, this was the first time the presenter asked us to open our scriptures (on our phones) and read a scripture, and in the horror workshop no less.

Can I just say I love Mercedes  M. Yardley.  Now don’t get all Relief Society Squee on me, but this was the one thing that made my Storymakers Conference worth the drive to Provo. As you can witness from the photo of Shelly Brown and Michael Bacera, Mercedes is kind of like the Holy Ghost: in the background, always happy, glad to be here, waiting for us to let her in:) Her class was kind of like that – still, small, and piercing to the core — some background: prior to the Storymakers conference, I had spent almost a week in Long Beach at the Horror Writers Association (HWA) Stoker Convention (StokerCon) on the Queen Mary – there were real ghosts there, per my pervious post, and despite trying to meet/greet Mercedes, it wasn’t to be until Storymakers – we were aware of each other, we had probably even met in some somecial media setting, but never in the flesh (as far as I can remember) — When we finally met, back to the H.G. reference, Mercedes had a way of making me feel like we were kindred spirits, had known each other since the pre-existence, and both, for some crazy reason, decided to have challenging kids come to spend a short stay in mortality with us. She is an inspiration (and it was nice to get a short break from the dominating YR/YA/Romance themes of Storymakers). Now, several months after the fact, it is a feeling more than content that makes me glad about Storymakers (and sorry if this wasn’t the best write up ever).

Now, back to the social media break… well, I’ve been in a slump lately. Ever since I quit smoking and drinking coffee (was it last year, least decade, last week?), getting my hair cut (January?), shaving on a regular basis (February?), and working in an LDS Temple twice a week, things haven’t been the same – maybe it was that surgery I had, or possibly family fun (READ: challenges of special needs children et al), or my belief system constanly evolving, or maybe the state of my Nation, or that undiagnosed PTSD – whatever it was or is, I have been unable to write, to finish anything, to even want to – yes, I think depression may play a small role – Memorial Day was tough – remembering all the fellow airmen I had served with who didn’t make it out alive, most due to suicide, and then one of my idols, Chris Cornell, not making it out alive either. You would think for a horror writer, a lover of Hemingway, always being accused of being too literary, there would be more fodder for the dark cannon, a seven course meal with my muse, or at least some heavy duty bleeding of ink most excellent onto a page. I can’t explain it. And then…

I took a short hiatus back to my poetry roots, and wonderful enough, I’m having a poem picked up in the soon to be published HWA poetry anthology. Even that good news is not enough to get me back in my groove… so, a break from social media…

A few final points for July – everyone that is registering for my website, why aren’t you singing up for my newsletter? I keeping getting emails like:

New user registration on your site Fear Knocks:

Username: somedude-dudette13

Email: somedude-dudette13@email.com

What does it all mean?

So, if you’ve registered, why not sign up for my newsletter – yes, I plan to have it go out at least every 10 months or so (for now)

Re-reading through this blog post reminds me of a definition of bi-polar – anyway –

Happy Independence Day! Happy Pioneer Day! See you all again in August:)

 

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The Queen Mary & StokerCon

It was an adventure from the very beginning – having got my dates wrong, I found out 10 days too late that I had purchased airline tickets for the 16th instead of the 26th – a few hundred dollars later, I was en route to Long Beach at the wonderful hour of 0500 hours MST. This would be followed by a wonderful bus ride of approximately two hours, including a transfer, to get to the Queen Mary (my taxi fare had gone to the second plane ticket). Then things started to improve.

I checked into my room early,  luggage, computer bag, and CPAP machine, my only companions (yes, I sleep like Darth Vader – you don’t know the power of the dark side!) I stepped into the bathroom for only a few minutes, after dropping previously mentioned companions on bed, and when I returned to the two-port-holed, wood-paneled cabin of yesteryear, my suitcase was gone. After a little bit of a search I found it conspicuously in a section of the room I had not visited, back behind the wardrobe, waiting for me on a chair.  I had heard the Queen Mary was haunted, but really, ghosts before lunch time? I would later find the deck I was staying on was the most haunted deck on the ship.

Now, to the convention. Well, to be honest, StokerCon17 was pretty cool – almost as cool as the spook, specter, or ghost who moved my suitcase – and the Horror Writers Association (HWA) did an excellent job of lining up presenters and panels to meet most desires and tastes. With paranormal activity in full force, I had a wonderful 3-day/3-night stay aboard the Queen Mary, aka the Gray Ghost, rubbing shoulders with some of the biggest and brightest, or darkest, writers in the horror field. The Queen Mary was several steps back in time, not quite Gothic, but close with all the activity, and to make my visit even better, presentations on Mary Shelley and Shirley Jackson, not to mention a small hint at magical realism and horror with Toni Morrison.

To begin, I spent most of my time with fellow writers C.R. Langille, J.H. Moncrieff, Theresa Braun, Terra Luft, and Callie Stoker, with special guest appearances by Johnny Worthen, John Palisano, and Chuck “Jon” Wendig & entourage, and probably others I am missing, including a few ghosts. I also had a couple of chats with the one and only George R. R. Martin, took a few photos for friends, etc. George was a wonderful and gracious guest of honor, and added, I don’t know exactly, maybe a cachet or validity or credibility to the whole thing. Anyway, on to the wondefulerrific.

In addition to the regular festivities, there was a paid Horror University curriculum, a paid Librarians’ Day, and an academic component. I was all about regular festivities and academia, so I started with Karen Bovenmyer and her presentation: Shirley Jackson and the Fear of Ordinary People. In my younger years, I would have probably enjoyed a class in college taught by Karen. She had her bases covered, including a most excellent Shirley Jackson Bingo Card to keep participants participating. The presentation was a nice walk down the path of Shirley Jackson beyond The Lottery, and included some very fine points on The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in a Castle. It whetted my appetite for more Shirley, and I was not to be disappointed.

Laura Lee Bahr presented an interesting titled production called Slit Open: Inside the Minds of Women who Create Horror – from Frankenstein to Beloved – and Inside the Bodies of their Victims. and it was a production: Laura Lee is a one woman whirlwind without need of props or fellow actors, and I would like to think we reaped the whirlwind. This was the most entertaining and informational presentation of the whole convention for me. Laura Lee not only knew her stuff, but she presented in voices of the authors and their characters, almost channeling Mary Shelley and her creation, Shirley Jackson complete with Hill House, and Toni Morrison’s magical realism from a horror point of view. Laura Lee brought passages literally to life and had me, and several of my peers, wondering if we had really read any of these pieces of fiction before.  Not only did I gain a different point of view on the work, but the portrayal of the various passages breathed new life into the literature and I, for one, plan to re-read all of the stories, especially Shirley Jackson.

My final highlight was something unexpected: Writer’s Guide to the Occult: Craft Convincing Magick, Possession and Paranormal Threat presented by Michelle Belanger. Michelle is an author, singer, A&E Reality star, and just happens to be an expert on all things unexplainable: don’t think National Enquirer, think MIT or Oxford. It was the usual romp into medieval and modern misunderstandings of Judaeo-christian fun mingled with hints of Beowulf and Gilgamesh, or at least their periods. I was fasinated and asked a few questions, as well as waited after for some additional engaging conversation with the likes of Ereshkigal and Inanna, as well as Michelle’s take on some of the Mesoamerican cannon, for example, Tezcatlipoca aka Smoking Mirror.

I know I’m just scratching the surface, but feel free to contact me, ask questions, or check out the links I’ve provided for Karen, Laura Lee, and Michelle.

Two more things – I was able to read some of my work to a crowd of… well… some… I was paired with Dennis Etchison, who later won a lifetime achievement award. I guess it was nice to say I was able to read my work at StokerCon, and to have read with Dennis, but having my friends there was really the most important thing. I think that’s how we survive as writers: having friends, writer friends, who know what it’s like to live the dream. Needless to say, I think I’ll do StokerCon again next year. I hear it’s going to be in Providence, Rhode Island, the home of Lovecraft. Maybe I’ll see you there:)

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Fitting Life Around Writing: Distractions

Our last exciting adventure found our heroes examining Time and how to fit our lives around it and writing. If managing time isn’t difficult enough, Distractions tend to jump on the wagon in force, taking us away from what we want to do. At times, we wonder if we should be diagnosed, medicated , or Hey, Look, a Squirrel… Sometimes the only answer to Distractions is to find a real big Distraction, like putting on some headbanging music at 11, and just jumping into typing up that next chapter, story, or poem…

adhdIs this really the answer? Just put on some music and the Distractions will run away? (Okay, maybe if it’s some real heavy Sabbath…)

Sometimes, believe it or not, I have to just look at the Squirrel… it’s kind of like writing a blog post when I should be really finishing that novel, or meeting friends instead of that short story deadline, or attending a writers’ conference instead of attending to writing – ugh – more on conferences at the end.

The other question I find myself asking all of the time is this: when are Distractions really just one side of the procrastination coin? Are we so easily beset by Facebook, email, a dirty house, those dishes waiting to be washed, or anything technology-related that we can’t write? Or is that our excuse to put off writing? Why would we put off writing? Is our Muse ugly, unreliable, and smells slightly of the Catch of the Day? Do we fear success, or worse, believe we really can’t write, so what’s the point?

adhd1

A nod to the late, great Gene Wilder here: it’s a Distraction, a great procrastination meme, and chocolate; Chocolate, Distractions, and Procrastination… we all have problems, but most writers I know share a common bane: procrastination, and Distractions are part of that. I think it might be a good idea here to ask yourself a few questions:

  1. What are my biggest Distractions?
  2. Do my Distractions require my immediate attention (or medication)?
  3. Am I creating Distractions to avoid, and why am I avoiding? Am I afraid of writing, or afraid I’m not a writer, or even afraid of success?
  4. Can I make myself a priority list, a To Do List, including most of my Distractions, manage the Time and Distractions, and stick to it?

Just off the top of my head, the questions may be hard, but #4 is a definite YES! A reference to the last post again here: To start, I find it good to do a reality check. I have to be honest. I look at myself, my laziness or Distractions, and my use of Time. Almost always, I find an hour or two that I’m wasting, sitting around, watching television, surfing the net, mindless Solitaire, or just doing nothing.  

magic

If we keep a running list of our Distractions for a day or two I think most of us would quickly see that, like Time, Distractions are ruling our lives. I’m not going to diagnose anyone here, or make you lie down on my virtual couch and tell you that you have mommy/daddy issues, self-esteem problems, addictions, or just a plain fear of success. I am not going to joke about medication either because sometimes we do need to be medicated. Those things are for you and a professional to figure out. I’m going to tell you to honestly look at your Distractions, what is taking you away from writing, and what is making it impossible to concentrate. Once you have this list, these ideas, I’m sure you can put this into your Managing Writing Toolbox, along with your tricks to trick Time into being your friend, and get to work.

Now, a couple of things to consider and another list of four things…

Is social media the biggest Distraction? Did you find yourself wanting to share this blog, or any of the memes, or something like that? When you get up in the morning do you have to check your Facebook page, your email, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, your texts, and, and, and… and the next thing you know it’s almost lunch time and your Solitaire score is somewhere near negative $958 (Does anyone play Solitaire anymore?) I think you get the point. Here are a few things I do to manage Distractions:

  1. My email and FB are routed to my phone – I check them several times a day, but within reason (before I start my day) – 5 minutes – if I need a potty break – hopefully less than 5 minutes – when I take a break for lunch – 5 minutes – when I finish writing – 5 minutes – and when I go to bed – 5 minutes. That’s almost a half-hour of time right there. Yes, it usually doesn’t take that long, but I was erring on the side of time. and reason – let’s keep a grip on reality.
  2. I make sure I have a set time to write each day in a location that is relatively Distraction free – if I have to maintain contact with the outside world, I do have my phone, but I set it to stun (silent mode) and put it in my pocket, maybe checking messages for important stuff – bones, blood, death, contract – when I’m taking a natural break/breath in my writing – and by important stuff, I mean I just read the notices or subjects or partial texts – I don’t them unless it’s bones, blood, or death – 10 seconds at most.
  3. Location, location, location – as mentioned, a quiet place with everything I might need – bread and water, notepad, writing utensils, etc., and as few Distractions as possible.
  4. And then I get ‘er done!

Now for a Distraction-related Distraction.

Last weekend, I attended the annual League of Utah Writers Fall Conference in Provo, Utah. I was fortunate enough to be a “Special Guest,” meaning, I taught a couple classes, sat on a few panels, had a great meal, and came away with an honorable mention in the short fiction category.

luw

I have to say it was a real Distraction from my writing, but it was also an opportunity to break up some monotony, create some new ideas, refresh my memory of why I write in the first place, and the honorable mention kind of made me believe in myself again – we all need to believe in ourselves.

This last piece of advice is simple – manage your Time, manage your Distractions, manage your writing life, but make sure you have a life outside of writing. Good luck! Let me know how it goes!

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