Telling the Truth as a Radical Act by Loren Rhoads

My dear friend, Loren Rhoads, is an awesome woman all around and she has a new book out! Today, she’s here to talk to us about zines, her new book This Morbid Life, and telling the truth as a radical act!

Rhoads Headshots 9-18 FINAL-1662I discovered zines in the early 1980s, spread across dealers’ tables at my local science fiction conventions. Those were mostly fanfic, but they inspired me to publish my first zine the summer I left high school. Sanity, Ltd. collected stories, essays, and artwork created by my friends. My best friend’s father surreptitiously copied it on the Xerox machine at work. We sold the zines at the local media convention. Sanity, Ltd. only lasted four issues, but it taught me the joy of seeing my hard work in print.

It’s hard now to imagine the massive variety of zines that thrived in the Nineties. Every style of music had its zines, of course, but there were personal zines and thrifting zines and zines about illnesses and bad jobs and traveling… So many unfiltered voices were published all at once. The spectrum was truly inspiring.

In 1994, my husband Mason and I founded Automatism Press. We published two books in the next couple of years. Lend the Eye a Terrible Aspect collected first-person essays and short stories interrogating North America at the end of the 20th century. Death’s Garden: Relationships with Cemeteries was originally meant to showcase cemetery photographs by my friend Blair, but as I pursued the project, I discovered that everyone’s life had been touched by at least one graveyard. The book blossomed into a collection of over two dozen essays and more than 200 photographs involving 27 contributors, ranging from confrontationalist Lydia Lunch to many authors who were published for the first time.

After Automatism Press published those books, I started to think about editing a zine again. I decided that what I liked best about putting together Death’s Garden was discovering the deepest thoughts of its contributors. I never had any doubt about the zine’s title. Morbid Curiosity started out in 1996 as one woman with a dream, but ended eleven years later after publishing 310 survivor narratives about encounters with the unsavory, unwise, unorthodox, or unusual: all the dark elements that make life worth living.

I learned a lot about writing—and telling the truth—from my years editing Morbid Curiosity. My newest book is a collection of my own essays—some previously published in a spectrum of zines, online magazines, and blogs, and others written especially for this book—covering everything from taking prom pictures in the cemetery to spending several days in a cadaver lab, from getting high with a friend dying of AIDS to eating bugs in a science museum, from looking for the limits of consciousness to chasing ghosts. It hopscotches from Michigan to San Francisco to La Specola in Florence. Luckily, curiosity does not often kill the cat, especially if she’s light on her feet.


Here’s a sample of This Morbid Life from the essay “Dead Bodies Everywhere”:

ThisMorbidLife-small coverAs our little family stood before the first peeled human on display, I realized that the guy responsible for Body Worlds was a mad scientist, in the finest tradition of the term. Dr. von Hagens took donated human cadavers, dissected them, posed them, then used a special polymer process to preserve their tissues. That meant the exhibit consisted most spectacularly of life-sized (or larger, in the case of figures like The Cyclist, whose muscles had been pulled off his bones to display their interconnections) human “plastinates” in full color. The goal was to reveal to the average person secrets normally seen only by medical professionals.

I found an esthetic purity to a human being stripped down to its muscles. And while I was disturbed in Florence by the wax models at La Specola, the real thing in LA didn’t upset me. These people had donated their bodies to science and art. While they might not have known exactly what they were in for, they’d chosen a sort of immortality.

Most of the Body Worlds figures stood on their own merits without any defense of where the bodies came from or why they’d been posed a certain way. I wandered among them, wondering what had been so controversial: the flayed penises with naked testes hanging down alongside? The belts of flesh bearing nipples and pubes like some twisted bondage harness? Was it that the plastinates—unlike the plastic teaching torsos Americans are accustomed to seeing in museums—had not been neutered by death? Their genitalia made them real to me: people, rather than mannequins. I kept looking around, waiting to be shocked.

Perhaps it’s just me, I thought. I live in San Francisco and my attitudes about sex and death are fairly inclusive (i.e., everybody should have some). Maybe the people around me were reacting differently than I was. I tuned into their conversations, amused by laughing observations that these “slices of life” were “pretty whacked.” The most shocking thing I heard was the trio of nurses identifying the IUD left inside one of the detached wombs and their memories of the bleeding those devices had caused.

On this busy Friday afternoon, most people seemed absorbed, fascinated in the old sense of the word: bewitched. There seemed to be a lot of learning going on. Visitors studied the diseases that had touched their loved ones: ulcers, cancers, Alzheimer’s lesions. Kids were curious about the graphic dangers of smoking: “It really does turn your lungs black!” I pored over a cirrhotic liver like the one that killed my brother.


Loren Rhoads is the author of This Morbid Life, 199 Cemeteries to See Before You Die, and Wish You Were Here: Adventures in Cemetery Travel. She was the editor of Morbid Curiosity magazine and the book Morbid Curiosity Cures the Blues: True Tales of the Unsavory, Unwise, Unorthodox, and Unusual. Her most recent book is This Morbid Life, a memoir comprised of 45 death-positive essays.

What others have called an obsession with death is really a desperate romance with life. Guided by curiosity, compassion, and a truly strange sense of humor, this particular morbid life is detailed through a death-positive collection of 45 confessional essays. Along the way, author Loren Rhoads takes prom pictures in a cemetery, spends a couple of days in a cadaver lab, eats bugs, survives the AIDS epidemic, chases ghosts, and publishes a little magazine called Morbid Curiosity.

Originally written for zines from Cyber-Psychos AOD to Zine World and online magazines from Gothic.Net to Scoutie Girl, these emotionally charged essays showcase the morbid curiosity and dark humor that transformed Rhoads into a leading voice of the curious and creepy.

“Witty, touching, beautifully written, and haunting — in every sense of the word — This Morbid Life is an absolute must-read for anyone looking for an unusually bright and revealing journey into the darkest of corners. Highly recommended!” — M.Christian, author of Welcome To Weirdsville

Free Reading: Angelus Rose by Loren Rhoads and Brian Thomas

“If Romeo had wings and Juliet a barbed tail, could they find happiness in the City of Angels?”

My good friend, author Loren Rhoads, gave us an exclusive excerpt of her new book, Angelus Rose.

After their escape from the ashes of Lost Angels, the succubus Lorelei and the angel Azaziel want nothing more than to enjoy each other’s company. Unfortunately, Asmodeus, the Demon Prince of LA, has threatened to devour Lorelei’s new-grown soul if she doesn’t bring about Azaziel’s downfall. Meanwhile, Aza is keeping secrets of his own that threaten the tenuous peace between Heaven and Hell. 

Three archangels come to town to try to set things right, but friendships are fracturing. The demon in charge of fallen angels is sniffing around. And Los Angeles is about to catch fire between a devil and the deep blue sea.


Lorelei & Tuan on Melrose, an excerpt from Angelus Rose by Loren Rhoads & Brian Thomas

Lorelei led Tuan down to the less fashionable end of Melrose, away from the designer boutiques and overpriced restaurants. When she stopped, the shop’s windows were smeared with dust, less as a decorative motif than as a philosophical statement. A mangy taxidermy chimpanzee crouched on a threadbare purple silk cloth. Beneath one of its paws rested a human skull, spade marks still visible on the dirt-scuffed cranium. Secondhand paperback books on ritual magic and serial killers formed a circle around the monkey. Their covers were marked with masking tape that quoted very reasonable prices.

“What are we doing here?” Tuan asked.

“Picking up a gift for Floria.” Lorelei swung the door open. The room smelled musty, with an undertone of unpleasant incense. Lorelei wound through the jumble of glass cases filled with charms. Tuan tore his eyes away from Lorelei’s juicy ass, only to meet the gaze of the guy behind the counter. He looked like a wax figure with watery colorless eyes. Then he blinked.

“Hi, Daniel,” Lorelei cooed. “I need to go through my stuff.”

The old man shifted his gaze to her. He manipulated the ropy muscles of his face into a corpse’s grin. “I’ve missed you.”

“It’s been too long, hasn’t it?” She slipped into his arms, pressing herself against him, and pulled his head down to meet her kiss. When his tongue searched her mouth hungrily, Tuan turned away.

The old guy started to heave in Lorelei’s arms. Tuan twisted back to stare at them in shock. Lorelei was smiling against Daniel’s lips. With one painful lurch, he coughed up a key. Lorelei caught it between her teeth, then reached up to take it with her fingers. “Thank you, Daniel.”

In an old man’s emphysematic wheeze, he asked, “When will you come spend the night again?”

“Have you been missing me?”

He guided her free hand to the front of his trousers and let her find out for herself.

Tuan fought back a shudder, desperately looking for anything in the shop that wouldn’t freak him out on some level.

“I’ll work you into my schedule soon,” Lorelei promised. “Maybe I can swing you a whole weekend.”

“How long has that been?” He gave Tuan a death’s-head grin and waggled his enormous gray eyebrows. Then he came around the counter and used a key from the ring in his pocket to unlock a closet tucked into the corner of the magic shop. Tuan noticed that the book Daniel had laid down on the counter when they came in—the one he’d been reading—was called Killing for Company.

Lorelei ducked into the walk-in closet. Tuan followed her, more comfortable in her company than alone with the skeezy shop owner.

Lorelei knelt in front of an old-style steamer trunk. Standing on its end, it was more than waist high. She fit the key Daniel had coughed up into the trunk’s ornate lock plate and turned it three times. After the third twirl, the trunk unlocked with a thump. Lorelei pushed the two sides of the trunk apart. Each half was lined with heavy particleboard drawers.

As Lorelei opened the drawers and rummaged around in them, Tuan said quietly, “He doesn’t look good.”

“Who, Daniel? Always three steps ahead of death.” She shrugged but didn’t turn away from her chest of drawers. “He wanted to live forever. He didn’t ask for eternal youth.”

“One of yours?”

“One of the early ones.”

Lorelei pulled out a couple of dresses, some prescription vials, and a roll of bills.

Curiosity got the better of Tuan. “Is this everything you own?”

“I’ve got a couple of other trunks stashed here and there. Floria does, too.” She glanced over her shoulder for his reaction.

Tuan wasn’t sure if he was meant to feel jealous that Floria kept her past and possessions from him. To be honest, he was relieved not to have been drawn into it. He changed the subject back. “You are powerful enough to keep someone alive forever?”

“It’s a matter of separating the soul from the flesh,” Lorelei said offhandedly. “In the state I found Daniel in, it wasn’t as difficult as it sounds.”

“Is his soul in Hell already?”

The succubus shook her head. “It’s hidden.”

“Does Daniel know where it is?”

She laughed. “He can’t get it, give it up, or die, without my permission.

Tuan felt as shocked as he was fascinated. “What if he’s in an accident or something?”

“He’d just better hope he’s not in an accident.”

“Why does he live in earthquake country, then?”

She looked at Tuan like he was stupid. “ ’Cause somebody’s got to watch my stuff, Tuan. Daniel watches my stuff and I keep an eye on his soul and he gets to live until he begs me to let him die. Not an elegant arrangement, but I was young when I set it up.”

“How old were you?” Tuan asked.

Lorelei stepped out of the closet to ask, “How old are you, Daniel?”

He shrugged. “I was born the 19th of February in the year 1832.”

“Had enough?” Lorelei teased.

“Not yet.”

She grinned as she went back to searching through the trunk. “Eternal devotion,” she marveled to Tuan. “Hard to believe he really meant it.”

Tuan felt his stomach spasm in disgust. Every time he started to think that Lorelei was the better sister, the more compassionate one, he discovered something horrifying like this.

One of the drawers clattered, full of brightly colored laminated cards. “What’s that?” Tuan asked, grateful for the distraction. He had to get it together.

Lorelei slid some of the cards out, turning them over in her fingers as she handed them to Tuan: The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, The Doors…all the dinosaurs of rock. Most of the laminates said, “All Access.” “Me and Floria worked the rock shows,” Lorelei explained. “Back in the day.”

She closed that drawer and opened the next. A stench oozed out like the damp, dense darkness of a swamp. Lorelei pushed that drawer firmly shut and opened the next without comment.

This drawer was filled with diamond rings. There were easily fifty or sixty of them, each representing a broken engagement. Lorelei dug through them as if they meant nothing to her. Tuan felt ill.

“There it is!” Lorelei pulled out a crumpled-up newspaper and handed it to Tuan. Afraid of what he might find, he gingerly unwrapped the package. Despite the closet’s dim lighting, crimson gems flashed inside the nest of paper.

The succubus hooked the necklace with her forefinger and held it up to make it shimmer. Five square rubies burned like the deepest hearts of Hell among a constellation of diamond chips.

“Where’s the newspaper from?”

Lorelei traced the name at the top of the paper with her left forefinger. “Pravda. The headline says, ‘The Socialist Fatherland is in danger.’”

“What’s that mean?”

“The Nazis had invaded Russia. 1941.” She smiled. “That was a good year. People were lining up to get into Hell.”

Tuan recoiled in horror. “A Nazi gave you this?”

“No, a communist did. Floria ought to love it. It is totally worth me gangbanging a handful of boys that she doesn’t give a fuck about.” Lorelei held the necklace out to Tuan. “Do you want to present it for me?”

“I’m gonna meet up with her tonight,” Tuan said, staring, unseeing, at the gems. He had to play this very carefully. Floria had stressed repeatedly that Lorelei could not suspect a thing. “Wanna come along?”

“Might as well,” the succubus decided. “Probably better if I apologize in person.”

“Yeah,” Tuan agreed. He thought his agreement sounded unconvincing. Lorelei didn’t seem to notice.


Don’t miss out on a chance to chat with the author April 11th, 2pm PST on Facebook

New Non-fiction from Emerian Rich: Self Promo Stories

selfpromobook

Check out my article, “Building Your Readership from Your Office Chair” in this new FREE eBook edited by Valerie  Estelle Frankel.

Just published? Self published? Indie title? Looking for wonderful advice on self-promotion? This book has it all: silly hats, theme candy, sandwich board costumes. There’s also plenty of up-to-date social media advice — Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, blogging. There’s advice for KDP free days and linking your book with bestsellers. Getting reviews and arranging bookstore events. Basically, these stories by award-winning authors can help you build you brand and pick the gimmicks that’ll get you noticed….and best of all, it’s free! Read these authors’ wonderful true stories and learn how to sell your book.

With authors…Emerian Rich, Valerie Estelle Frankel, Sandra Saidak, J. Malcolm Stewart, Victoria M. Johnson, Steve Masover, Vincent M. Wales, Marleen S. Barr, Loren Blowers, Kathleen Ann Gonzalez, Ashley Dioses, Elizabeth Barone, Valerie Lee, Dave M. Strom, Jennifer Ng, Loren Rhoads, Denise Kawaii, and Daniel M. Kimmel.

California Event: Con-Volution 2016

Come celebrate monsters with us!cropped-2016convoageofmonsters_withdates-100px

Con-Volution is an annual 3-day science fiction, fantasy, and media convention featuring guests, performers and vendors from a wide spectrum of the speculative fiction industry and community.

emzCome meet Emerian Rich as she discusses podcasting, monsters, and horror!
Hyatt SFO
1333 Bayshore Highway
Burlingame, California, USA 94010

Podcasting 101: How to Get Heard

Friday 5:00pm, Parlor 2036 (Hyatt Regency SFO)

Want to start a podcast, but have no idea how to start? Our podcasting pros will give you the lowdown, and help you figure out how to get yourself on the cast!

Ric Bretschneider (M), Emerian Rich, Daniel Cortopassi

Monsters In the Mirror

Friday 9:00pm, SandPebble C (Hyatt Regency SFO)

Reflecting societal fears in genre fiction and media, and why it’s important to us.

Emerian Rich, Robyn Bennis, Margaret McGaffey Fisk (M), Sumiko Saulson, Setsu

Devilishly Daring- Demonic Monsters

Saturday 12:00pm, SandPebble D (Hyatt Regency SFO)

We’ll discuss the devils, demons, succubi and lords of the underworld that feature in our genre fiction and media SO often- because we adore them!

Chuck Serface, Loren Rhoads, Emerian Rich, J. L. (Jim) Doty, Laurel Anne Hill (M)

Meet HorrorAddicts.net!

Sunday 10:00am, SandPebble C (Hyatt Regency SFO)

Meet and chat with the authors who comprise HorrorAddicts.net, and find out more about their monster favorites!

Emerian Rich (M), J. Malcolm Stewart, Loren Rhoads, Laurel Anne Hill, Sumiko Saulson

Crocheting Monsters! with Emerian Rich

Sunday 1:00pm, Bayside A/B (Hyatt Regency SFO)

Bring hooks if you have them (materials fee of $1.50 if you need them) and crochet yourself a monster pal to take home! (all other materials provided)

Emerian Rich (M)

Seattle Event: Come chat with Emz Tonight!

crystalcon

Come chat with Emz and friends in
Seattle, September 9th

emzCome join horror authors Emerian Rich, Michele Roger, Heather Roulo, Crystal Connor, the host of Psychology in Seattle podcast’s Dr. Kirk Honda, actress/director Abe Eke, anthropologist and author Conrad Wesley Clough and author Joe Teeples for an evening of light appetizers, fancy soft drinks, robust conversation, trivia and prizes in a round table discussion of how and if our bedtime stories still influence us as adults.

Friday, September 9, 2016
6:00 PM to 9:00 PM (PDT)
The Leaky Cauldron
115 North 85th Street # 202
2nd Floor of the Works Progress Bldg,
Seattle, WA 98103
View Map

Tickets available at:Eventbrite

 

Seattle Event: Come chat with Emz!

crystalcon

Come chat with Emz and friends in
Seattle, September 9th

emzCome join horror authors Emerian Rich, Michele Roger, Heather Roulo, Crystal Connor, the host of Psychology in Seattle podcast’s Dr. Kirk Honda, actress/director Abe Eke, anthropologist and author Conrad Wesley Clough and author Joe Teeples for an evening of light appetizers, fancy soft drinks, robust conversation, trivia and prizes in a round table discussion of how and if our bedtime stories still influence us as adults.

Friday, September 9, 2016
6:00 PM to 9:00 PM (PDT)
The Leaky Cauldron
115 North 85th Street # 202
2nd Floor of the Works Progress Bldg,
Seattle, WA 98103
View Map

Tickets available at:Eventbrite

 

Writing in the Blood?

Is writing or the wish to write genetic?

It never occurred to me that it could be until I was looking at some old pictures my mother had. I found three pictures of the women in my family at their tables writing. They aren’t writing about vampires or love stories, but they did spend a large part of their time writing.0810151750a

My great grandma, Edna, was a school teacher and a boarding house owner. She wrote letters to her kids and kept the family abreast of news. She was also a seamstress and made a lot of notes about measurements and clients. She kept records and did all the books for her businesses.0810151749c

My grandmother, Beulah, was a thrift store manager and kept their books. As a church secretary she was in charge of the church programs and bulletins. She was also the mother of five kids and hundreds of grand kids, great grand kids, and great, great grand kids. She was the link to the generations, writing  a hand full of letters every week to family, friends, and those in need of a cheery letter.0810151749a

My mother is a minister and when I was little, was always studying for her seminary classes. After that, she wrote sermons, bible studies, and activity programs. Even now, she writes a great deal. Her favorite things to write are church plays and skits. That’s also where I get my sense of humor and performance background.

0220162153aAnd then you have me. I started writing very young. Usually journals or letters, but when I was 11, I decided I was sick of writing journals about my boring life and I would start writing stories. My first “novel” was 86 pages of big bubbly pencil writing. Since then I’ve written millions of words, everything from magazine articles to interviews, ghost stories to love stories.

Looking back on my history, it’s not the fact that all of us wrote–many people write, it’s a fact of life–but that we all took pleasure in writing. The act itself is fun to me and those that tell me to write my stories on computer, just don’t get it. It’s a pastime I enjoy and although I use voice recognition software, and can type rather fast, I will still write. I will write until I can’t any longer. They will have to pry the pen out of my cold, dead fingers!

Is there a trait you share with your family? How does it effect your outlook on life?

 

Music Inspiring Writing: Selah Janel

Welcome to my blog series all about how ♫ Music Inspires Writing ♫

Today my guest is Selah Janel a writer and music lover.

If Music be the Food of Love, Play On

By Selah Janel

“If music be the food of love, play on,” says the bard, but I think sometimes we forget how much music influences our daily lives, and our personal art. As a writer, it cocoons my workspace, puts me in that ‘ready to enter my inner universe’ mode, gets me comfortable feeling the emotions I need to feel to write whatever I’m working on. It validates, encourages, in a uniquely personal way that not much else can.

My personal tastes are all over the map. Growing up, I studied classical voice, and I still like to listen to Benjamin Britten, Purcell, Samuel Barber, Mozart, and on and on from time to time. I love musical theatre and did my time in that world, too, so soundtracks aren’t out of the question. I’m a die-hard classic rock fan, so that’s always going to happen. Still, writing music doesn’t necessarily pull directly from those catalogues. It’s obviously music I write, but I want things that will transport my mind to where it needs to go.

I love instrumental albums. David Lanz, Brian Eno, David Garrett, David Bowie’s instrumental work – I’ve had them all on repeat at different times, because they let my thoughts take the foreground while keeping my emotions on a steady simmer. I love moody artists like Delerium, Tina Malia’s Shores of Avalon, and Emily Autumn for similar reasons. If I need to just sit down and go, I’ll tap one of those, or sometimes pull up artists I’m super familiar with, like Led Zeppelin or Bowie’s massive catalogue, because it’s like having a friend sitting with me, egging me on, but not distracting me. I’ll edit to things like this or to big band, stuff that’s more background and not likely to have me falling too into the story or wanting to rehash things unless they objectively need it.

I don’t know how other people work, but I also have albums and artists that I don’t necessarily write to, but I character build or zone out to. G Tom Mac is my go to example – I love the emotions and textures in his music, and the narratives are open enough that I can apply them to a lot of my manuscripts and characters. If I’m having a problem with a sequence, I’ll play certain songs that remind me of those characters on repeat and let my mind go. Sixx: AM is another great group for this. I may not write with them playing, but their three albums give me loads of ammunition for my characters to work out their issues.

Sometimes it depends on the book. For an urban fantasy rock themed book, I wrote mainly to Zeppelin, Motley Crue, and AC/DC. The name of a short story collection I co-authored, Lost in the Shadows, is from a song title. While none of my pieces were written around songs, to me and S.H. Roddey, the title embodied our philosophy for the book and for ideas and genre in general, that it’s okay to go off the beaten path and delve into a place that others may not get or view as mysterious or apprehensive. That was in definite tribute to the sheer amount of time I’ve at least spent blasting that song during study sessions in college and later during late-night show builds for different places I’ve worked.  For other manuscripts, I name file titles/sequences by the song titles that either inspired them or that remind me of them. I just never know when a lyric or a bit of melody or something is going to catch fire and keep driving a scene into something more. I love that. I love having that support, that momentum, that inspiration from other artists, whether they know they’re giving it or not.

Music is a gateway for me, a spell to the lands that are in my head but not accessible in the real world. I find it fascinating that songs that may have been written with one intent can mean something entirely different when they’re in my ears, and inspire something that I make that is also totally different. That’s magical to me. It’s amazing that a few pitches and sounds and lyrics can mean so much to people as it is, but in a closed room when I’m focused on a manuscript or scratching at a notebook, it means so much more. It’s not always easy to keep working on manuscripts that feel endless, and although people mean well and try to be encouraging, there’s something about writing to music that screams ‘you are not alone, you have all these others with you, just get it out.’ I don’t know if it’s some semblance of permission or just the fact that I like the insulation and don’t want to be bothered when I write, but if I’m having trouble, music is definitely a huge step in overcoming block and getting words on paper.

**************

0908_Selah_Hedshots_60CSelah Janel has been blessed with a giant imagination since she was little and convinced that fairies lived in the nearby state park or vampires hid in the abandoned barns outside of town. The many people around her that supported her love of reading and curiosity probably made it worse. Her e-books The Other Man, Holly and Ivy, and Mooner are published through Mocha Memoirs Press. Lost in the Shadows, a collection of short stories celebrating the edges of ideas and the spaces between genres was co-written with S.H. Roddey. Her work has also been included in The MacGuffin, The Realm Beyond, Stories for Children Magazine, The Big Bad: an Anthology of Evil, The Big Bad 2, The Grotesquerie, and Thunder on the Battlefield: Sorcery. Olde School is the first book in her series, The Kingdom City Chronicles, published through Seventh Star Press. She likes her music to rock, her vampires lethal, her fairies to play mind games, and her princesses to hold their own. Catch up with Selah at http://www.selahjanel.wordpress.com, http://www.facebook.com/authorSJ, or @SelahJanel on Twitter.

Thank you Selah for sharing your thoughts!

So what music inspires you to write? Share yours in the comments below and tune in here next time when one of my friends shares their music inspirations.

A Message to Graduating Students

A random meeting this week made me step back and look at my writing career in a different light. At lunch, a young guy eating with his grandfather, asked if I was a writer. Answering that question with a definite “yes” still has my self-conscious calling me fraud. Even after seven novels, a dozen or so anthologies, and being Editorial Director for a magazine, I still don’t feel like I should be calling myself a real writer. But, we’ll talk about that later.

The kid told me he was graduating this week and that he is enrolled in the university for the fall. He wants to be a writer and asked if he really needed to go to college? Did I have any advice for him? I was kind of shocked at my answer, so I thought I’d share it with you and with all the graduates or those thinking of pursuing a career in writing.

  1. YES! Go to college if you can. One of my biggest regrets about my college ages is that I didn’t know then that I wanted to be a writer and went to art school instead. Do I regret going to art school? No. It was a great experience. I do regret not getting an English degree. I believe the basis of the degree would’ve helped me learn the fundamentals that I’ve had to learn on my own or with editor’s help. College in general is something I think everyone should experience. Although many of us change our careers multiple times during our lives, college gives us a good grasp of many subjects. It allows you to learn about other cultures and meet people you would never come in contact with otherwise. It instills within you a regiment and a deadline ability essential in a writing career. Most of all, it’s fun. I might be a weird one, but I just love projects! Every new school assignment was a challenge for me to conquer.
  2. Don’t put yourself in a box. If you truly want to become a writer don’t only concentrate on that one big novel you have in the closet. If you want to become a career writer, you need to write everything, in every subject, for anyone. In today’s world, a writer can’t simply make a living just writing one book unless they are the lucky one in a million that gets picked up by Hollywood. Even those writers would tell you it took them a long time to get to that point. Many writers spend their entire lives writing books or articles or short stories and never make that million-dollar media deal. So, when you say you are a writer, yet only concentrate on that one book, think of it this way: Nobody goes around saying I am “the writer of that one novel”, they say, “I am a writer and I wrote that novel, that short story, and those series of articles for that magazine.” Don’t think you of your life as a writer as only one novel or only one series. If you’re going to make it as a career writer you will have to write more things. Open your mind up to journalism or nonfiction writing or blog writing or writing for magazines and if you want to stick to fiction that’s ok, but know that you will need to work twice as hard to get those short stories out and spread your work so new readers will find you.
  3. DO consider your interests worthy. One of the biggest things that changed my outlook on being a writer was when I started treating my wish to be a writer as a career. Newbie writers sometimes hide behind the “retail clerk”, “admin assistant”, or “waitress” titles that we have to keep our bills paid. Don’t be afraid to put your writer career first, to stand up and say, “YES! I’m a writer.” Sure, you might have to do another job to keep a roof over your head. Big news…most writers still have a day job. But that doesn’t mean you have to put your writing in second place. Own your writer-ness and hold your head up high. Treating the title as a REAL thing, a WORTHY thing, is the only way to show others you are serious and truly will help you remember what your goals are.
  4. Allow your path to change course. For all of you new graduates, I applaud you for knowing what you’re going to do with your life. If I had known that I was going to be a writer I could have taken steps to make my career more successful in the beginning. However, if you find that writing is not for you and you go down a different path, that’s ok too. Don’t stop writing because it’s hard. All life is hard. If you’re going to stop, do it because you enjoy something else better or you have more talent in another area. Also, don’t be so black and white. When in college, we often feel it’s the end of the world if we don’t complete our mission. Well, sometimes our missions change. Allow yourself to change your mission. Don’t limit yourself. Don’t put yourself in a box. And most of all, treat college as a huge experiment. No other time in your life will you be able to explore, test, and discover with so much freedom again.

Good luck graduates! I can’t wait to see what you’ve got in store for us. 🙂

Music Inspiring Writing: Suzanne Madron

Welcome to my blog series all about how ♫ Music Inspires Writing ♫

Today my guest is Suzanne Madron, a writer and music lover.

Inspiring Music

by Suzanne Madron

When I started writing it was a diary, which was boring in comparison to some journal entries I’ve made since those first small books with small locks and tiny keys, hidden from the prying eyes of younger siblings. By high school my writing had evolved into a series of very artistic notes to friends passed in the hallways. We had a kind of daily newspaper with reports from each of our small group and they included artwork, the ever-popular ‘mood-O-meter’, and technicolor passages if we happened to be bored in art class. In true teenage fashion, we had lists of music we had discovered, and our favorite songs of the day. There was a lot of Nine Inch Nails, Fugazi, The Cure, the Ramones, The Damned, Siouxsie & the Banshees, The Misfits, Alice Cooper, Ministry, Danzig, Skinny Puppy, Front Line Assembly, Killing Joke, KMFDM, Dead Can Dance, Sisters of Mercy, Nick Cave, Shriekback, and then this new band called Nirvana. I know, I know, spot the goths.

In fact, it was because of Shriekback that I got the inspiration for my first novel, Nemesis. They have a song titled “Nemesis” (if interested in seeing the video,you can view it here – caveat, it was the ‘80’s and it is very much an ‘80’s video), and while listening to it in my room as an angsty teen, I drew a picture of what would later become the main character of my Immortal War Series. In my senior year, I wrote the first draft of Nemesis after being tricked into using the new ‘laptop’ computer (read: a giant unwieldy beast of a thing that had word perfect and solitaire installed) in AP English. I spent nine months glued to the screen and listening to music, the words flowing into the keyboard and onto the screen. My English teacher loved it. My theater teacher loved it. The select few friends who got to read the original draft loved it. I kept rewriting it. I created a small soundtrack for it a la mix tape, and the songs were mostly Sisters of Mercy songs at first. The Some Girls Wander by Mistake boxed set took over for the backdrop to my rewriting of Nemesis and the subsequent books, but I needed more. The mix tape made way for the burned mix CD, which was replaced by iTunes.

By then I had been rewriting all of my novels for over a decade. Fields of the Nephilim bumped Sisters of Mercy on the new NEMESIS playlist, and “Darkcell AD” and “One More Nightmare” were on repeat until the Mourning Sun album came out. The playlist evolved and grew as my iTunes library grew, and included all the bands above and absorbed VNV Nation, Covenant, Combichrist (which I used as a soundtrack when writing the short stories that eventually got included in the Cover Stories Euphictional Anthology), Rammstein, KMFDM, Sister Machine Gun, Rosetta Stone, SKOLD, Carfax Abbey, Rome, and Deathstars.

The playlists for the other books are even more varied and include Skruncha-roo, Fever Ray, Paradise Lost, Dethklok, Eivor, Arcana, and Gorillaz, to name but a few. It’s hard to nail my taste down to just one style of music, even, because my pseudonyms all have different tastes. For example, Xircon prefers loud and fast. Punk rock and metal populate that playlist. James Glass prefers Big Band, Dixieland, and old Jazz and Blues, though he’s been known to wander into Nick Cave territory. The lists can go on and on, but this is a decent primer of what soundtrack is playing in my head and outside of it half the time when I’m not plagued by the themesong from Bubble Guppies.

~ Suzanne Madron

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Photo on 12-31-15 at 5.47 PMSuzanne Madron is the latest incarnation of Suzi M. She has written several novels, many short stories, and created multiple pseudonyms under which to write. Her more popular pseudonyms include James Glass (The Metatron Mysteries) and Xircon (The Lazarus Stone [Conspiracy Edit]). All of her work can be found on Amazon, and select editions can be found on Barnes & Noble and iTunes.

Suzanne lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, son, and House Panther. In her spare time she likes to turn the step tracker app on in her phone while she’s in the car and let it think she’s a cheetah.

Suzanne Madron Amazon Author Page

Suzanne Madron Facebook Page: Suzanne on Facebook

Thank you Suzanne for sharing your thoughts!

So what music inspires you to write? Share yours in the comments below and tune in here next time when one of my friends shares their music inspirations.