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Writer at Work: Trusting the Process

December 29th, 2016

There’s a scene in Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Le Mystère Picasso, a 1956 documentary that shows the artist Pablo Picasso at work. The artist starts with random lines, splashes of color. There seems to be no method in what he’s doing, but soon a few recognizable images emerge — a boat pulling a water skier, a woman in a bathing suit, people at a café. As he paints, the details coalesce, but just as everything seems to come together, something goes wrong.

The artist seems to lose control of the work. The painting changes, grows darker, loses continuity. Finally, the master stops, assesses his progress, and says:  “This is going badly, very badly, very very badly.”

“Whoa! … That CAN’T be right!”

There’s something therapeutic in that comment. It’s reassuring to know that even the masters stumble, or — as critic James Wood tells us in his sometimes abstruse, often insightful book How Fiction Works: “It’s useful to watch good writers make mistakes.” Both Picasso and Wood remind us that the creative process isn’t linear. It’s rife with experiments, setbacks, and dead ends that often force us to reevaluate and possibly scrap work that has taken hours, days, or longer to complete.

When that happens, consider doing what Picasso does next.

After reassessing the work, he says, “Now that I know where I’m going, I’ll get a new canvas and start over.” And so he does. And this time, his artistic vision clarified from hours of experimentation, he completes the painting.

This week, as I lay down the first exploratory lines of what I hope will become a new writing project, I find myself reflecting on Picasso’s approach. It’s useful to remind ourselves that art requires exploration, and exploration takes time and an ability to step away, reassess, and learn.

Sounds like a good resolution for the new year.

Images:

Picasso. Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Le Mystère Picasso, 1956.
Spider Cartoon. Gary Larson. The Far Side.
Trailer for Le Mystère Picasso.

Penguin Bookshop, Nightmare Cinema,
& “This Way to Egress”

April 21st, 2016

Nightmare Cinema presents This Way to Egress (2)Don’t go to sleep! Nightmares are coming.

On Wednesday, April 27, I’ll be visiting the Penguin Bookshop in Sewickley to talk about writing stories and adapting them for film. Along the way, I’ll be sharing some of the latest news about Nightmare Cinema, the forthcoming feature film that will include an adaptation of my story “Traumatic Descent.”

Created by Mick Garris, Nightmare Cinema is an anthology film (think Steven Spielberg’s Twilight Zone: The Movie, George Romero’s Creepshow, or the classic Dead of Night) composed of five short films by five different directors. Here’s how a new promotional release describes the project:

Fdirectors NCive acclaimed directors of the most macabre horror films from around the world, tell new blood-curdling stories, all carefully curated into the multi-platform feature film, Nightmare Cinema. It’s a selection of one-of-a-kind tales of terror that turns the genre conventions on their heads, but without every giving up the primary desire to scare the hell out of the audience.

The directors are Alejandro Brugués (Juan of the Dead), Joe Dante (Gremlins, Matinee), Mick Garris (Stephen King’s The Stand, Sleepwalkers), Ryuhei Kitamura (The Midnight Meat Train) and David Slade (Hard Candy, 30 Days of Night, and the acclaimed NBC television series Hannibal).

Alejandro Brugués and Mick Garris will each direct their own screenplays, “The Thing in the Woods” and “Dead.”

Matheson and BecerrilRyuhei Kitamura will direct “Mashit,” written by Sandra Becerril. Making her home in Mexico City, she is the author of numerous novels, short stories, and film scripts. Her work is well known to horror fans in Mexico, Argentina, and Spain, and her forthcoming film Desde tu Infierno (checkout the trailer here) and Nightmare Cinema are sure to win her plenty of new fans from around the world.

No stranger to American audiences is Richard Christian Matheson, whose script “Mirari” is being directed by Joe Dante. Following in the footsteps of his father, the great Richard Matheson, R. C. Matheson is the author of  the short story collections Scars and Other Distinguishing Marks and Dystopia; the novel Created By; and the magic-realism novella “The Ritual of Illusion.” He has also written extensively for television, including two scripts for Mick Garris’s Masters of Horror.

Rounding out the Nightmare Cinema roster will be “This Way to Egress,” directed by David Slade, from our collaborative adaptation of my story “Traumatic Descent.”

Nightmare Cinema TW2ELinking the five episodes in Nightmare Cinema will be a wraparound story written and directed by Mick Garris. Here’s the synopsis:

Sitting at the edge of a deserted town, under the guise of a decrepit theatre, is the gateway between heaven and hell. It can only be found by tortured souls, lost in a place of unknown time and origin.

In this twisted anthology, at least one character from each of the five shorts arrives at the cinematic purgatory, unaware of their fate. Upon entering the theatre, they are forced to watch their deepest and darkest fears play out before them. Lurking in the shadows is the Projectionist, who preys upon their souls with his collection of disturbing film reels. As each reel spins its sinister tale, the characters find frightening parallels to their own lives. 

But by the time they realize the truth, escape is no longer an option. For once the ticket is torn, their fate is sealed at NIGHTMARE CINEMA.

This Way to Egress by Lawrence C. ConnollyWant to hear more? If so, I’ll be glad to share a few more highlights at this month’s installment of the Penguin Bookshop Writers Series (PBWS), which gets under way at 6:30 pm on April 27. If you live in the Pittsburgh area, I hope you’ll consider dropping by for a conversation about books and writing in one of the region’s great independent bookstores.

The Penguin has been a fixture in Sewickley, Pennsylvania, since 1929.  With six different owners and three different locations over the last 85-plus years,  the Penguin has remained a vital community institution thanks to the continued loyalty of its customers and the passion of its booksellers. It remains one of the local and regional community’s greatest treasures.

PBWS-small-e1439910444421PBWS presents authors and publishing professionals each month who discuss aspects of both the art and the business of writing. The format ranges from hands-on workshops to lectures and panel discussions. The goal of PBWS is to unite published writers with aspiring writers, aspiring writers with publishing professionals, and curious readers interested in the author’s craft with professional writers.

In short, you won’t want to miss this one. Bring your friends . . . and let the nightmares begin.

Credits:

  • Nightmare Cinema promotional copy & images, copyright © 2016 Good Deed Entertainment.
  • Sandra Becerril, twitter.com.
  • Richard Christian Matheson, thorneandcross.wordpress.com.
  • Cover of This Way to Egress, copyright © 2010 Jason Zerrillo.
  • Writers Series logo & the history of Penguin Bookshop and PBWS are from penguinbookshop.com. 

Hearing Voices:
The Sound of Fantastic Fiction at KGB

September 27th, 2015

voicesTime travel is possible.

Thanks to Gordon Linzner and Rajan Khanna, you can attend a growing list of past performances at Fantastic Fiction at KGB. The reading series is hosted by Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel, and since the 1990s it has featured readings by some of the top writers in the science fiction, fantasy, and horror genres.

gordon l audiojpgLinzner (right) and Khanna can’t take you all the way back to the beginning, but their podcasts at the Fantastic Fiction audio site can easily transport you back to the beginning of this year for readings by Andy Duncan and Gregory Frost or to early 2014 to catch Laird Byron and Paul Tremblay. In between, you can listen to the likes of James Morrow, Wesley Chu, Lisa Manetti, Ellen Gunn, Nancy Kress, and others. It’s all free and only a click or two away. Reliving the past has never been easier.

KGB sign1And yes . . . if you missed this month’s session — during which Tom Monteleone and I joined forces — you can catch that one too. Pour a drink, click play, and it will be almost like being there.  You can get all of the available Fantastic Fiction audio by clicking here. A shortcut to my September 16 performance with Tom is available here or by clicking the graphic below.

Go ahead. Click the link . . . and I’ll meet you on the other side. Scop on!

KGB

Images:
Detail from the cover of Voices, Fantasist Enterprises. Artwork by Jason Zerrillo.
Gordon Linzner records at Fantastic Fiction. Photo copyright © 2013 by Ellen Datlow .
The sign above KGB, 85 E. 4th Street. NYC.
Voices: Tales of Horror from Fantasist Enterprises.
Dark Voices Volume 1: Horn of Plenty from Borderlands Press.

Aberrations: Flash Fiction for the Ears

October 6th, 2014

Aberrations EyeSince launching this blog a few years ago, I’ve written a bit about the art of storytelling and flash fiction. Along the way, I’ve posted a few samples from Aberrations,  a  radio demo featuring stories from Visions: Short Fantasy & SF and This Way to Egress.

Now, while preparing a couple audio samples to promote the forthcoming Vortex: Book Three of the Veins Cycle, I thought I might offer the full audio of Aberrations.

It’s a 20 minute program with a wrap-around narrative that frames three stand-alone stories. It comes complete with intro and outro credits and some cool music.

If you give it a listen, let me know what you think.

More audio coming soon. Until then, scop on!

Image Credits:

The Aberration Eye, illustrated by Nathaniel G. Sawyer from Visions: Short Fantasy & SF, published by Fantasist Enterprises, copyright © 2014 by Nathaniel G. Sawyer.


The 21st-Century Scop at the World Fantasy Reading Cafe, photo by Scop Media, copyright © 2014 by Lawrence C. Connolly.