You are currently browsing the archives for the “writing” tag.


From Page to Screen:
Talking about Writing @ The Penguin

May 2nd, 2016

Robert A HeinleinIt all began with Robert A. Heinlein.

Back in the 1940s, Heinlein gave what may well be the best writing advice ever given, a five step approach to achieving success as a spinner of tales. And last week at The Penguin Bookshop, an attentive crowd joined me in a consideration of those rules and how they apply to the writing, selling, and adapting of the story “Traumatic Descent” (a.k.a. “This Way to Egress”).

From the story’s first appearance in Tom and Elizabeth Monteleone’s anthology Borderlands 3, through its numerous reprintings and recent adaptation for Mick Garris’s forthcoming feature film Nightmare Cinema, the story has certainly taken on a life of its own. And it’s a life it never would have had without the steps that RAH outlined some 70 years ago.

Penguin Sign WindowFor the record, here are the rules: You must write. You must finish what you write. You must refrain from rewriting, except to editorial order. You must put your writing on the market. You must keep it on the market until it sells.

Over the years, people have followed, argued, modified, and disputed those rules. A few years back sf writer Robert J. Sawyer added a sixth, and more recently commentator Charlie Jane Anders disputed them over at io9. Surely, there must be something to them to keep the conversation going for so long.

In any event, they’ve worked for me, and I was pleased to have the opportunity to share the reasons with the good people who stopped by The Penguin on April 27. If you were there, you know the story. If you weren’t, you can still join in by clicking the player below.

It all begins with a burst of 4:00 am inspiration back in 1988 and continues today with the development of Nightmare Cinema. Guess it pays to follow the rules. Scop on!

 Image Credits:

  • Robert A. Heinlein at work. c. 1965. from patrickmccray.com.
  • Penguin Bookshop window display and podcast photo by Mark E. Connolly, copyright © 2016.

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. 

From Page to Screen: A Story’s Journey

February 3rd, 2016

This Way to Egress by Lawrence C. ConnollyIt’s the journey, not the destination. Emerson said something like that once.

He might have been talking about screenwriting.

The path that “Traumatic Descent” (a.k.a. “This Way to Egress”) has taken on its way to the screen is the subject of a newspaper article in a recent issue of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

On the whole, the paper provides a good summary of the details, although it does suggest that “TD” was under option for a quarter century. That’s not exactly true, even if it has sometimes seemed that way.

Borderlands 3 croppedThe story first appeared in the hardbound, limited-edition of Borderlands 3 in the early 90s, but it wasn’t until 2000 that a young filmmaker found it reprinted in a mass-market paperback in London. That was the beginning of the journey–a seventeen-year trek through the at-times fascinating circles of development hell.

And now it appears the trek is finally leading somewhere.

Earlier this fall, David Slade and I submitted our revised script for “This Way to Egress” to Mick Garris, who has partnered with Good Deed Entertainment to produce the story as part of a feature film titled Nightmare Cinema. A flurry of announcements followed our completion of the script, culminating (for the moment) with the article in the Trib.

connolly 1993You’ll find links to some of those earlier announcements at the blog post “Horror Films are Good for You,” while the full text of the newspaper article is available at the Trib‘s website.

Interestingly, the Trib also published a strong review of “Traumatic Descent” when Borderlands 3 first came out 23 years ago. The reviewer called the story “one of the finest scare stories ever written.” Not bad. The photo to the left appeared with that article.

Lawrence ConnollyFast forward, and we have the photo to the right, which ran with last week’s story. I trust the comparison suggests that the ensuing years have treated me fairly. At any rate, it looks as if I’ve been keeping busy.

I’ll post updates about the film as they come available. In the meantime, mark your calendars for April 21, when I’ll be speaking at The Penguin Bookshop in Sewickley. The title of that talk?  “From Page to Screen: A Story’s Journey.” No doubt I’ll have plenty to report. Until then . . . scop on!

Image Credits:
This Way to Egress, cover © 2010 by Jason Zerrillo.
Borderlands 3, cover © 1993 by Rick Lieder.
The 20th-Century Scop, Tribune-Review.
The 21st-Century Scop. Kristina Serafini, Tribune Review.

Researching a Novel:
Trekking the Rain Forest

August 17th, 2015

congo-crichton-book-coverThe untouched or virgin rain forest was called primary jungle. Primary jungle was what most people thought of when they thought of rain forests: huge hardwood trees, mahogany and teak and ebony, and underneath a lower layer of ferns and palms, clinging to the ground. Primary jungle was dark and foreboding, but actually easy to move through. However, if the primary jungle was cleared by man and later abandoned, an entirely different secondary growth took over. The dominant plants were softwoods and fast-growing trees, bamboo and thorny tearing vines, which formed a dense and impenetrable barrier.

That’s Michael Crichton writing in his novel Congo, pointing out that landscapes are as varied and complex as the people who inhabit them.

path  (2)I was reminded of this passage during my recent treks through the rain forests of Oahu and Hawaii, where I discovered that jungles that seem impenetrable when seen from a distance can actually be quite easy to walk through, as long as you are willing to let nature be your guide.

Some of the forests that we encountered, particularly those on the less developed Big Island, seemed to be Primary Forests. But all of them–even the ones filled with great tangles of vines and fast growing trees–were cut through with natural paths carved by runoff from the high volcanic mountains that surrounded them.

Naturally, you don’t want to try walking along them when the runoff flows, and the paths that you find might not be going in the direction you want to explore.  In that case you might have to assert some dominance by hacking your own trail.

How to Cut a Trail in AmazoniaThe people at The Brain Scoop have an interesting video titled “How to Cut a Trail in Amazonia.” It contains a section title “The Trail Team Cuts a Trail,” which offers a concise overview of how one might go about hacking a jungle into submission (and possibly clearing the way for even denser undergrowth in the future).

Click on the image to the left to view the video.

hutThis post is my fourth in a series of musings about my research trip to the Hawaiian islands. The other posts are My Lost World, Into the Abyss, and Above the Clouds — all of which I was able to finish within a week of returning from my Pacific tour. This post took considerable longer . . . and for a good reason. I mentioned last time that I hoped blogging about the trip would jump start the muse and get me working on the new book. Well, that’s happened.

I have a few other discoveries that I hope to share in the weeks ahead, not the least of which involves the construction of huts entirely out of native plants (right), but the muse is calling: “Scop on!”

Image Credits:
Michael Crichton’s Congo.
*A natural rain forest path.
The Brain Scoop’s How to Cut a Trail Through Amazonia.
*Big Island Hut.
*Photos copyright © 2015 by The 21st-Century Scop.