Friday, August 24, 2012

What's In A Title? Invocation Of The Abominable...

...or something like that.  Coronado's Invocation might end up being the title, referencing fictional poet, Henry Coronado's epic work, read only once at an event called, Welcoming Chaos.  Perhaps Welcoming Chaos would work; that even sounds like a good title for the second collection.  Perhaps Maggot Eaters From The Cranial Dungeon Within, no.  Though, yes, I expect maggots may be laced throughout this one.  (I think of it as an intellectual affair, but...but...maggots, yeah, maggots would be a weird addition, lending it the appropriate horror nod I want it to embrace.) (That said, even without them, it's quite a horrific story, it's just...yeah, maggots.  Why not?)

So, what's in a story title?  Do you start with a title or allow it to come to you as the story takes shape?  Is it important to you?  It is for me, absolutely, but for others, sometimes I see titles to their works and think, what the...?  

The current WIP is a novelette/novella and will probably have one of the titles above.  Usually a title comes to me and sticks, sometimes from the beginning: I have a story in my collection called, I Wish I Was A Pretty Little Girl, which is a variation of a song title by the industrial death/noise band, Brighter Death Now.  For reasons only my muse understands, I wanted to write a story around that title.  So, as Captain Picard might say, Make it so!  And I did. 

Other times, titles keep shifting and it becomes a battle.  I want something catchy at all times, but sometimes...  For example, I have a story that started out being called, The Black.  It deals with a Lovecraftian entity that lives in the shadows of a strip club.  A Lovecraftian entity in need of sustenance.  Hence, the Live Nude Girls bring in the men, the meat, substance and souls, to appease the Lovecraftian  entity, which in turn grants the Live Nude Girls immortality.  Anyway, it started out being called, The Black, shifted to, Into The Black, then got chewed on as taffy and reshaped into, The Lust Vacuum, a slippery and quite appropriate title within the context of the story, though odd, yes, odd, which I quite like...but my publisher, as we went through the stories for the first collection, weren't too thrilled with that title.  They dug the story, but we decided on others--it will be in the second collection.  Anyway, what now?  I might have to figure out another title for that one.  Perhaps...Live Nude Girls And The Lovecraftian Entity That Loves Them?  Hmmmm...No!  Well, maybe...

Four mentions of a Lovecraftian entity in one paragraph, oh my.  If you can find it, the story appeared in The Corpse Magazine in the mid 2000s.  Otherwise, it should be in the next collection.

Then there's working with the publisher on that collection and the changing of one title at their suggestion.  The Perceptive One was originally called...oh wait!  In its original form, as a 3,000 word piece, it was called, A Torrent Of Ages. Then, expanded to 11,000 words and given the wonderful voice of Peg as narrator, it was changed to The Oblivion Express, a title I really like.  But when my publisher suggested calling it The Perceptive One...y' made sense.  I liked that vibe.  Why not?  I'm flexable when necessary.  No, don't go there, you perverts. What? Okay, so my warped brain went there.  Anyway, working with people who understood my writing, that made any changes or suggestions viable as opposed to me sticking my ego in the air and saying, no, I demand this story be called The Oblivion Express, arms folded, it's my ball, damnit, so my rules.  I don't work that way.  Open to discussion, especially in making the story and/or stories work. 

BTW, Strange Trees was originally called Shadows And Tall Trees after a U2 song from their first album, changed fairly late in the show, just before publication.  Why not?  More direct title, yet still making me want to read it.  Then again, I love strange trees, I'll read anything that hints at them...

So, important part of the process.  A great one can raise my curiosity for a story, while a lame one might not even inspire me to check it out.  (Then again, with some writers I truly enjoy, I don't really care what they call the story, just give me your demented visions, please and thank you!)

This spontaneous tangent--blog post, for those actually reading it--brought to you by my desire to get one written before we--Alessandra and moi--head up north for a week, a mini-vacation, which will be capped by seeing a free concert by Patti Smith in a piazza in Sienna, and I'm not even sure if we will have an internet connection.  Of course, even on the vacation, I will be dealing with, um, Coronado's Invocation Welcomes The Chaos of Maggots Spawned From the Cranial Dungeon Within The  Mind Of Yours Truly...or whatever it actually ends up being called. 

Remember that dream sequence from David Cronenberg's The Fly?  Well, here's a reminder...and one big freakin' maggot!  Enjoy!  (PS. That's Cronenberg holding the beautiful,

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Six Sentence Sunday: "Rock 'N' Roll Bitch Goddess."

And, yes, as usual there will be more than six sentences here, I'll give you the whole 999 words or so.  This one was written perhaps six or seven years ago, postscript to a break-up.  Well after, I expect, because the immediate reaction to the break-up was a slew or short stories--after a few months of brain dead nothing, of course--enough to make up a brief collection I called Missing, followed up by a novel called, The Corner Of His Eye, a meshing of Magic Surrealism and subtle Horror.  At some point after things had settled, I wrote this one, liked the character so much, the Glam Rock Star, Mick McGregor, though not in this more horrific form, that I've got over 10,000 words of another piece dealing with him written, the beginning of a novel or novella.  One of those backburner pieces all writers have (and I've mentioned before); something to jump into between things and, if it catches, ride it to the end; or something that just requires a certain mindset to write, one that's exhausting, which might be the reason this one is not finished yet.

Also of note, any time I can write original lyrics for a tale--or steal from my old notebooks and manipulate into appropriate shape for a story--I'm happy to oblige. The title of this story is also one of the big hits for Mick McGregor and his band, Petrified Girlfriend; yes, that's something I learned from the backburner piece. The story below even references lyrics I wrote many years ago, though none of those lyrics are here as they are really, really bad teenage stuff, but the title--"CCKSCKR," ahem, yeah, that's the license plate of the woman in the, appropriate for this story.  I believe the lyrics here were probably written mostly on the spot, but if I'm wrong, does it matter?  hehe...just give this one a gander and enjoy its rather blunt and crude and leering smile trek into Rock 'N' Roll Horror.


Rock ’N’ Roll Bitch Goddess
by John Claude Smith

     “Every song is about her.”
     Wayne Tyler paused, looking hard into “Filthy” Mick McGregor’s black mascara-lined eyes.  There seemed an earnestness here that belied the glam rock star’s usually hedonistic, exhibitionistic, live-for-the-moment-and-hope-it’s-a-sticky-one philosophy. 
     Feeling as though more than the usual pat though amusing responses that interviews with McGregor typically deteriorate into was at hand, Tyler prodded:  “Every song is about her—Angie, right?” 
     “Is there any other?”  The far off, lovesick look in McGregor’s eyes is earnest, thought Tyler. 
     “You have mentioned Angie in the liner notes, listing her as the only person you ever thank.  Who is this mystery woman?”  Tyler finished his third glass of wine--McGregor had insisted on wine; it was quite good--and scooted it forward for more.    
     McGregor’s eyes squinted as he took in Tyler’s face, reading it as one would the fine print on a life insurance policy, or some such ludicrous invention.   
     “Angie Maxine Stabler, she’s the one, mate.  Love of my life, a life pretty much vapid and inconsequential without her.  I will love her forever.  I don’t have a choice.  She owns my soul.”
     Wow, thought Tyler, both ecstatic and a bit discomfited by McGregor’s unexpected blunt honesty.  Rock ’n’ roll, especially the retro, gender bending, teased hair and make-up adorned swagger that is glam rock, rarely really touched on something of such true candor.  Sure, love songs tried and there were millions of them, but just the shock of revelation here had Tyler at odds with where he would usually expect things to go in an interview with the premier glam rock God of the early 21st century.  McGregor’s sincerity was most surprising.   
     Tyler needled:  “Songs like, ‘Bend Over Babe,’ ‘CCKSCKR,’ ‘Pleasure Chest,’ and ‘Rock ’N’ Roll Bitch Goddess’—they’re all about Angie?”
     McGregor smiled.  “You’re thinking those are just crude anthems to wayward sex adventures, but they’re all about her.  She makes it into every song, somehow.  She may be the focus of all my sexual fantasies but, usually, there’s something more within a line, within each song, because it’s not just sex that we have.  You don’t really have to look hard to find the line, a stanza, something there of substance amidst the sleazy lyrics.”
     Tyler scanned the lyrics of two of the previously mentioned songs in his head and thought, okay, maybe McGregor’s pushing it.  He must be putting on a show.  There’s no way about 100% of what he has written could have anything to do with anything but sex.  It was all sex trash rants.
     “It’s not all sex trash rants, mate.  It’s so much more.”
     Tyler scrunched his face, wondering if he had actually said that out loud.  Maybe he better slow down on the wine.
     “What happened?”
     “What happened with…what?”
     “What happened with you and Angie?”
     McGregor’s eyes squinted again, this time as if he was looking through Tyler.  “She’ll be here any minute.”  He smiled; it was a mischievous glint. 
     Tyler felt like he was being taken for a ride.  He expected some half-naked groupie to wander in and play the role as McGregor’s muse and offer him a blow job while she was at it.  He was privy for the game.
     “Don’t always think with your dick, Tyler.  There’s more to life than what is on the surface.”  McGregor’s smile broadened.
     Tyler knew this was going to be a good one, whatever McGregor was trying to pull.  McGregor’s practical joking manner had gotten other critics and interviewers into fairly embarrassing situations, usually with a camera recording all.  He glanced up to the bar’s security camera; its Cyclopean stare was directed right at him.
     “Don’t be so paranoid, mate.”
     Again, Tyler felt a pang of unease. 
     “Well…if she is going to be here soon—”
     “Now will do!”
     Within Tyler’s already blurred vision, McGregor’s face seemed to shudder.  The glam rock fa├žade seemed to separate, pulling itself from the fleshy foundation beneath it.  The face below still smiled, but it was a more normal, scrubbed clean countenance, though a lunacy seemed to emanate from within.  As if maybe another layer was going to be peeled off, but no…  McGregor blurted a line from a song:
     “Rock ’n’ roll bitch goddess lives in my soul.”
     “W-What’s going on,” Tyler stammered.
     A tattered giggle of joy was spat from the cackling, wraith-like figure hovering next to McGregor.
    Abruptly, McGregor snatched the corkscrew from next to the wine bottle and plunged it into Tyler’s chest.  Tyler gasped in pain and shock.
     “Rock ’n’ roll bitch goddess, I pay the toll.”
     Tyler started to tumble, sliding off the stool.  McGregor caught him, twisting the corkscrew a little deeper.  The wraith-like figure—Angie--swooped down and mouthed the corkscrew, eagerly slurping up the blood, seeming to gain substance within the perverse process.
     “It’s paid with blood, warm, sticky and sweet.” 
     “Mick, please—”
     “It makes her real, my demonic love treat.”
     Angie released the drained body as she turned to face her paramour.  The body hit the floor with a dull thud and wheezed as a punctured tire.    
     McGregor cupped her left ass cheek and pulled her naked body close to his.  His erection ached for release from his spandex pants.  He rubbed it against her dark bush.  She opened her mouth wide and they kissed, him tasting the blood that brought her back to him, she tasting the desire that makes her real.
     “I suggest you two help me take care of this before you get all hot and nasty,” said the bartender, pleading to the deaf.
     It was already too late.  They had made way to the billiards table, Angie leaning over and McGregor plunging in full tilt boogie. 
     The bartender shook his head and thought, man, that rock ’n’ roll bitch goddess sure does have one sweet—
     “Watch yourself, mate!”  McGregor pointed back, shaking a finger at him, grinning as he thrust.
     “Yeah, yeah,” said the bartender, moving around the bar to dispose of the body.


The current piece in progress, tentatively called, "Coronado's Invocation," will actually include some original poetry, though the tone and such of this one is deeply serious and strange.  Most of what I write is quite serious, though it seems every few stories I need a break, my brain needs a break, and something like "Rock 'N' Roll Bitch Goddess" demands release--well, it IS serious but unfolds in a more amusing manner than strictly horrific.

Yes, I actually write mostly serious fiction.  Just check my collection, The Dark Is Light Enough For Me for confirmation.  Serious as a heartache, as the cliche goes.  Well, ten of the twelve stories, at least.  Oy!  I Love Dread. I Love expanding the boundaries of what we call horror.  I am not a fan of the regular horror tropes.  Give me something more, please and thank you; something different.  

I know I've been sparse on this blog recently, but expect to pick up the pace soon, September probably.  I have some book reviews to write, have some novels to start featuring more diligently.  Have other writing to showcase.  Have more poems, dark music, art and madness to deal with.  Stick around.  Things'll get seriously dark soon again.

This is not "Filthy" Mick McGregor, this is David Bowie, of course, a Glam Rock God way back when he was at the forefront of Glam Rock.  A Lad Insane, Indeed.  One of McGregor's idols, for sure!


Sunday, August 12, 2012

Writing Advice 101: Don't Think. Write.

Writing Advice to live by. At least for me.

I have a lot going on writing-wise at all times.  What I usually have is good focus as well.  But...  I don't always have that focus aligned properly.  I have [pulls off shoes, counts fingers and toes and...pulls back, how many really in progress] three shorter pieces and the revisions for a novel in progress  Revisions were going fine until I hit the bump in the road, more like a body that somebody tossed in my path.  I gleefully deleted some words, mashed three chapters in the middle a bit, might just mash em into one and get it all moving, but, revisions are not the issue when I wrote that bit of advice up there.  It's the short pieces in progress. They battle me, but why?

Most often it's because I'm thinking too much, plain and simple.  I have too many choices for paths when all I really need to do is listen to the characters and transcribe what they are doing.  Kind of like reporting from the sidelines.  Just listen, watch in my head, let the words flow.  But right now, for those three pieces ("Heirloom," soooooo close to finished; "The Second Translation," a truly lethal and lovely piece; and "The Land Lord," which, for the last two, I know where they are going, know what they should be...but that might be the major issue.  I know too much, too much is "almost" plotted out...and that--hey, am I still in parenthesis?  Well, let me finish this thought and step out of here: knowing too much, thinking too much, derails my better intentions. And the stories.)  (There are also a couple of pieces percolating underneath, but I may have thought them out of being written, though with the stepping back, the core idea will probably be saved, but the stories taking shape will be somewhat different than originally conceived, I expect.)  (No, this kind of brain overload thinking never really stops.) (And plotting out stories too deeply, that's most often a  detirmental path for me to take...and will probably be the subject of another blog.)

Which, of course, in my need to align myself, I did what I NEED to do in situations such as this.  Start another story (Another Friggin' Story?!!!) BUT start it in the right mindset.  Turn my brain off and GO!  So, a wicked piece in progress, NOT overthinking it, but reading some non-fiction that relates, Not dictating anything, no matter my brain skipping to the story and thinking, yeah, do this or that, but some of that will remain as well.  The best path will come through.  I feel the flow in sweet motion, and love it.  NEEDED it, I tell ya.   The new piece?  Searching for a famous poet, the last sign of him being his empty car being found in Death Valley. What I am finding out about him is wild, but I won't know specs until I lock into that one again and let the words take me to what promises to be a wild, darkdarkdark finale.  Or not!  Don't overthink it, John Claude!

Don't Think at all. Just Write.

Oh, and another thing, this is one of those clues to myself I am in the groove with writing.  I do this [   ]  when I cannot think of the appropriate word.  And Move On.  So the piece may be littered with [  ] throughout it, but that's a GREAT sign as far as I care.

So, again Class, what do you do when you get in a writing slump, or at least stumble a bit?  Turn your brain off and write.

Don't Think!  Write!


Speaking of brains, here's a wild piece of brain art by Gary Mak.  A skull made from brain photos/scans/[   ]? for me.


PS. Just realized this post is my 101 blog.  Kismet, eh, what with that title?  ;-)

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Six Sentence Sunday: A Taste Of Subtle Creepiness...

The ambience of the old hotel and its surroundings on the beach inspires dread, something creepy of which Max and Teresa seem caught in its web.  Here's a scene from their second night...and much more than six sentences, yeah, yeah...



     I awoke sharply--I thought I’d heard a scream, something out of the ordinary--but a few minutes of concentration had revealed nothing beyond the harsh clamor of the sea and the weird, tinny screeching that rode above the insect sounds.  Agitated by this abrupt interference to my sleep, I turned toward Teresa to see if she was resting better than last night.  I was surprised to see she was sitting up in bed, sheets pushed away, her naked body covered in goose bumps, her nipples sharp, her eyes, sharper--her eyes were opened so wide I felt the orbs were attempting escape. 
     “I’ve been listening,” she said, her voice thick with phlegm.  “I’ve heard things.”
     “What things?”  I queried, rising to sit next to her, pulling the blankets up; she pushed them away with her feet, deciding instead to hug herself, the comfort of her own flesh more appealing than the warmth of foreign sheets.            
     “There’s something…voices, not voices”—she shook her head, perplexed—“I don’t know.  There’s something more in the sounds around us, in the ocean, in the wind, on the wind, all around us, like voices but not speaking…crying, screaming…but not screaming… We should leave.”
     I understood her trepidation if not really hearing the voices or screams myself, despite having my sleep broken by what I'd interpreted as screams...  Nonetheless, I felt it as well, the discomfort. 
     “Let’s leave in the morning—”
     “No!  We have to leave now!” she said, hugging herself tighter.  “I want nothing to do with anything else here.”  She did not move, though, did not do anything but hug herself.       
     “But it’s late”—or, to be more precise, espying the digital clock, it was quite early: 2:20 a.m.  "Let’s get up in a few hours after a little more rest and get Tom and Kerri together and trip down the coast away from here, to someplace less…subtly intrusive.”  In stating it as such, I knew I was hooked into Teresa’s sensations.
     “We should leave now,” she said, scooting down to me, snuggling into me.  “We should leave now.”
     Knowing I was not going to leave now, she burrowed into me and fell asleep.  I went to pull up the sheets but her body reflexively shoved them away.  I decided the warmth of her naked flesh would have to be enough.  I sank into the bed, adjusting myself to her awkward embrace.  She held on tight.  I knew the morning could not come soon enough. 
     Her blond hair, not even dry when we had gotten into bed, was brittle as straw as I nudged my nose into it, trying to smell her sweet, strawberry scented shampoo, or simply just her smells.  I only sniffed something that reminded me of dampness, of mold.  I pushed the pillow away, deeming it the culprit. 
     As I lay there, attempting but pitifully failing to slip into slumber, my ears perked up to the sounds, the many sounds, the cornucopia of sounds that seemed both distant and so very internal; I tried to hear the screams.  But it was just the ocean, the wind, the sounds of insects, of nature breathing.  I just couldn’t turn it all off and fell into uneasy rest after thirty minutes of effort.  The audio deluge was like when a faucet drips or, more precisely, as if one had been left full on and pounding the porcelain.  I remembered when I was a kid and being soothed by the rhythmic drones of the dishwasher as my parents always turned it on late at night, but the sounds here did not inspire a soothing experience.  There was no comfort in their embrace.  

And a slight bit later, more sounds.

     A sound chipped at my tympanic membrane--fingernails across an endless blackboard, dissonant screeching bagpipes—only this sound was like the sound I heard at night, initially thought of as the mysterious tone that hovered above the insects, but I knew now I was wrong.  This sound had a foundation I could make out, a quality I could distinguish from that of insect, fingernails or bagpipes.
      The sound was vocal—as Teresa had suspected--a chorus of tormented voices, wailing: a chorus of dread so profound it ate hope as nourishment.  These voices knew there was nothing left but to scream, an acknowledgement of their existence; escape, rescue or mercy was quite out of the question.    


This one's called "Dandelions," thought of as complete, but in need of a hardcore edit as I can see here.  Perhaps a run-through of revisions as I was changing things left, right and center with what's here.  Oy!  See, it was thought of as complete a few years back, tweaked a bit here and there, but now, as a better writer--I hope--I see so much that needs work.  Yeah, heavy duty work ahead on this one, but the foundation is strong.

A writer's work is never done, eh?

But at least that's a taste...a wee bit to get under your skin. 

What mysteries do dandelions reveal in the story?  Well, you'll just have to wait for publication, probably in the next collection.  More details when they are ironed out.