I present to you the Write in Three Steps Rule.

Okay, so maybe it’s not your rule. But it’s my rule. And maybe it’s not so much a rule as a habit that works. And maybe it’s not so much a habit like that Pop Rocks addiction I once had, as it is a magical unicorn that makes writing easier and less scrambled in my brain.

 

*cue token unicorn photo*

*cue token unicorn photo*

 

Writing in three’s is something I’ve always done, but have only recently come to this “Oh-hey- I-actually-have-a -process” newsflash.  I use these three steps for flash fiction, blog posts, for my day job copywriting, and to a more liberal extent, as I’m writing my novel.

Do with them what you will.

 

Step #1: Death Gurgle What You Think You Mean

Word vomit is your friend. Go on. Just upchuck the words. No matter the thought, the random, unintelligible sputter, get it out.  Don’t worry about how it sounds, what you mean, if it contains numbers or bad spelling, it ain’t no thang.

I like to think of this part as the skeleton. The base outline. A small paragraph, even a sentence, helps you formulate your thoughts. Get that shit in order, son. Leave blanks where you don’t know what to say. I usually put  ‘XXX’ as a placeholder so it looks exceptionally dirty, but that’s just me.

Step #1 is like the death gurgle of writing. No one will understand it except you, and I say, let it gurgle.

 

Step #2: Say What You Want to Mean

This is the lengthy, drawn out, JUST FUCKING WRITE step.

Elaborate upon what you death gurgled in Step #1. Fill in, flesh it out, make the sentences fatty-fatty.  Try to get some semblance of shape and meaning.

But still, as you say what you want to mean, just write. Still, just write. Don’t worry if you’re wrong yet. Don’t let doubt interrupt your blather. Make it up if you don’t know it. This part can take a few go rounds. This will be never ending until you get it right.

Now you’re probably wondering how this is different than the first step…well, you’re fixing and shaping it into a paragraph, a bullet, or a story, when Step #1 is just getting it out.

You’re shaping it into what you want to mean, what you want your words to stand for.

 

 

Step #3: Say What You REALLY Mean

 

This third step contains murder. Blood on your hands when you’re done so get out the body bags and the bleach. This step is being cruel and kind. Kill your (word) darlings with a hatchet. A buzz saw. Or my personal favorite a mace.

mace

the finest writing instrument available.

 

I let Step #2 sit for a few minutes, days, hours, weeks, depending on how much time I have, and then I go back to clean. Let there be nothing extraneous, confusing. Cut out the shit. Finesse words and polish it up to be clear. Read and reread, chop out extra words.

Sometimes, not all of your story, your writing will need this step. Sometimes you’ll luck out and get it right in Step #2.

Say for example in Step #2, I wanted a character to be hangry so I wrote: “Discovering he was all out of snack cakes, Gus shouted at his woman to head down to the Piggly Wiggly.”

But when I comb back over the sentence in Step #3, it’s what I wanted to say, the boring gist of it, but not what I REALLY meant. Gus needs to be hangrier, more dickish, his love of snack cakes more obvious.

So working on the description, I revise to: “Discovering he was all out of snack cakes, Gus bellowed at his lazy woman to march her fat ass down to the Piggly Wiggly for a box of the finest Little Debbie’s she could scrounge up.”

Now if that sentence doesn’t earn me a Pulitzer, what will?

Next, fill in those triple X blanks. Do research in this step.  And not Wikipedia research. Branch out from that and really dig around on the internet like they taught you to in those libraries back in school.  And for anyone born in the 90s/2000s and don’t know what I mean, suck it.

The key here is to say what you REALLY MEAN. Your character’s reaction zeroed in on. Your plot point crystal clear. Your call to action obvious. All finessed, smoothed out, prettied up for your boss, yourself, your blog, your audience, your basement gimp.

Make sure they get it like you do.

 

Got the inside scoop on some of your own writing tips? Have Little Debbie snack cakes to send me? Give me either in the comments below. Remember, sharing is caring. Especially when it comes to cake.

Note: Listen to Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings by Father John Misty while reading this blog to get you in the mood…for murder…

[cue evil laughing]

Memorial Day weekend I hopped a plane and flew to California to visit my cousin. Luckily, in her, I have a freakish spirit animal that enjoys the same type of macabre fascinations as I do.

While relaxing by the pool, chilling at the beach, or taking in an art museum is what some normal people do, I’d much rather have my vacation involve the weird. Take me to a new place and I’ll instantly ask to be pointed in the direction of the nearest graveyard. Or wine bar. And hell, if those two ever combine then I’ll be in heaven.

Our dark day in LA consisted of three things that I most heartily (and gruesomely) recommend…

 

American Horror Story House

 

AHS

First, a pit stop at the locale of the American Horror Story house – the Rosenheim mansion. It’s a weird scene; a beautiful mansion set in the middle of a random street of normal-ish houses. Sadly, the mansion seems to have fallen into a state of dilapidated disrepair. The backyard was covered in weeds, while in the front it was apparent the owners have had all they can take of gawkers, because numerous signs warning against stepping foot on property dotted the front yard as well as a flock of foreboding ravens. I kept expecting to see a face staring down at us from one of the upstairs windows before we bolted for the safety of the car.

 Find the Alfred Rosenheim Mansion at 1120 Westchester Place, Los Angeles CA

 

Dearly Departed Tours – Tragical History Tour
 Dearly

Founded by Scott Michaels, this tour is THE tour for morbid curiosity seekers everywhere. Seriously. If you’re in LA and like this kind of weird, dark Hollywood history, book this tour STAT. While numerous tours are offered (Ahem, Manson, anyone?), we booked the Dearly Departed Tragical History Tour.

The Dearly Departed Tours office on Sunset Boulevard was a museum in its own right. Celebrity death memorabilia line the walls and the floors. Jayne Mansfield’s pink suitcase, a signed Sharon Tate autopsy report, a letter from John Wayne Gacy, door pulls from Room 105 of the Landmark Hotel where Janis Joplin died.

Our senses were overstimulated, and after craning and nearly climbing on top of a desk to get a better look at the John Wayne Gacy letter we were stopped by a man. Instead of getting a lecture about keeping my slovenly body off the furniture, the man instantly launched into the story behind the letter, keeping the cousin and I in rapt attention for about fifteen minutes.

After purchasing a souvenir Hotel key chain, we climbed aboard the tour bus and the cousin and I were instantly elated to learn that the man we had been speaking with about the Gacy letter was our tour guide.

He announced to the small group, “I would kill a small child for a Yuengling right now.”

And with this quote so began our tour on Dearly Departed Tours with Brian Donnelly.

Donnelly, an amazing, energetic tour guide, can navigate the city like a pro and show us about 150 sights in two and a half hours. He had a mic and an opinion and like he said on the tour, it’s the perfect combination for someone with ADD. He knew his Hollywood history, was proud to live in LA and didn’t skimp on the gory details.

dd2

Some sights/discussions included: Rebecca Schaeffer’s apartment, Storybook Homes, Scientology Celebrity Center, Lana Turner scandal, The Viper Room, Bela Lugosi, Black Dahlia rumored murder house, Knickerbocker, Beverly Hills homes, Whisky a Go Go, Bugsy Siegel’s murder house, Château Marmont, the Menendez Brother’s family mansion, the spots where Janis Joplin and Sharon Tate ate their last meals (Barney’s Beanery and El Coyote respectively)…and a shit ton more.

I’ll stop here since it can’t even sum up the awesomeness of this tour. All I can say and all I can do is pimp it out. If you’re ever in LA, take three hours and make this a priority.

Dearly Departed Tours haunts 6603 Sunset Blvd, Hollywood, CA

 

Museum of Death
 PicMonkey Collagemod

When all you want to see is genuine serial killer letters from Richard Ramirez The Night Stalker and artwork by John Wayne Gacy look no further than the Museum of Death. The last stop on our frightful escapade.

Nestled in a  nondescript location on Hollywood Boulevard, the Museum of Death lures in the curious, crazed and unassuming. Sadly, photographs were not allowed and I resisted the urge to snap secretive stills. This museum is not for the faint of heart. I asked the front desk clerk about the pass-out quota and he said that they probably give smelling salts to someone about once a week.

The cousin and I have cold hearts and iron-stomachs as we braved the close confines of the small museum, only once getting slightly woozy as we took the self-guided tour.

Divided up into sections, each room is dedicated to a morbid curiosity or real-life tragedy. We feasted eyes on the Serial Killer Room, the Manson Murder room, the Black Dahlia Murder room, Heaven’s Gate recreation, Execution room, Mortician and Autopsy Instrument room (this is where our knees almost buckled), Taxidermy Room, Cult Room, Suicide Room, and more…

One section titled “Heads and Tales” involves a murderous methhead couple that’s an I-CAN’T-EVEN experience probably no one should have, but the cousin and I gawked in horror at the ghastly photos lining the wall and braced ourselves for the night terrors to come.

Leaving, we lingered in the gift shop, where Charles Manson’s vinyl recordings were being sold, and as we walked outside into the bright sunlight, pondered just how chillingly intimate we had just gotten with the gruesome side of death.

The Museum of Death rests-in-peace at 6031 Hollywood Boulevard, CA

 

Summer has officially started in the Valley of the Sun. 108 degrees has rolled in with pretty much everyone resembling this on a daily basis.

AD

 

car door

 

But the heat isn’t a bother. In fact, I love summer.  While my writing slows on Sundays as I’m usually out by the pool with a margarita, it doesn’t mean I’m any less productive.

It’s a positive correlation – the more summer, the more books I read.

And so here is the lineup to be conquered:

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It’s a random mix of books to be read – not exactly light and “beachy” material but I’m eager to start running a train on this reading list.

Wherever you are, I hope you’re enjoying the summer with a book in hand.

And if you’re wondering where I’m lurking, I’ll just be the creeper out by the pool reading about Charles Manson and waiting for the NSA to swarm.

Summer: It’s gonna be one hell of a read.

 

Might as well just toss them all together for some kind of book orgy, AMIRITE?

Might as well just toss them all together for some kind of book orgy, AMIRITE?

Read by Kathy Fish

Posted: June 1, 2014 in Uncategorized
Tags: ,

This. This.

Kathy Fish’s “Read”, originally published at Lascaux Review, then on her blog, and now (with her kind permission) on my blog, is one of the most inspirational things I’ve ever…well, read. It’s smart and it’s lovely (kind of like everything Kathy writes). It makes me want to fist-pump my way through this list and be a better person/writer and share it with as many people as I can.

So, okay. Here you go.

~

Read

By Kathy Fish

Read Flannery O’Connor. Read Joy Williams. Read William Maxwell. Read about the universe. Read about neuroanatomy. Read “On the Origin of Species.” Read “Nine Stories.” Read Tolstoy. Read Carson McCullers. Read Edward P. Jones. Read Willa Cather. Read Yasunari Kawabata. Study atlases and maps. Read E.B. White. Read fairy tales. Remember that “fresh new voices” can come from people over forty. Find those writers and read them. Read Shakespeare. Read Amy Hempel and Lydia Davis. Compare. At least once a week, read a book published by a small press. Read, read, read poetry. Learn the names of all the insects that inhabit your backyard. Or make up names for them. Read Freud. Read graphic novels. Read prose poetry and flash fiction. Study the dictionary. Read a book about a place you never heard of from a writer whose name you can’t pronounce. Read naked.

Find and read a newspaper from the day you were born. Or any old newspaper. Learn another language, then read a novel or poetry in that language. Read “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish” out loud with no children present. Read philosophy. Buy a thick notebook and write “Sentences I Love” on the cover. Fill it up and buy another one. Read collections of short stories. Read both print and online journals. Read the history of the town you grew up in. Read Jane Austen and Edith Wharton and the Bronte sisters. Read Katherine Mansfield and Shirley Jackson and Kõbõ Abe. Read Grace Paley. Read Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Read long into the night until the characters walk around in your dreams. Read “The Dead” at least one winter afternoon a year. And if your mother or your aunt or your grandmother want to tell you their stories, drop everything you’re doing and listen.

 

~

 

Kathy Fish is a fine, fine writer and you should read some of her stuff. Not like she needs the plug from me or anything, but still. Go to here: kathy-fish.com.

I get my love of rock and roll, my good spelling skills, and my dirty, feral pig of a mouth from my father.

But I gotta say I get my morbid mind, my warped sense of humor, my love of graveyards and aliens and anything creepy from the one who spilled me forth from her quivering loins. The Mother. My mother.

I probably owe some part of my deformed writer’s brain and cynicism to her.  Without that I’d probably be unnaturally trusting and crashing in some balding dude’s basement and wearing overalls and working on a loading dock.

In fact, my mother is an interesting creature; one who many admire for her ability to jet set the country and live life her way. Over the years, through emails, phone conversations and texts I’ve kept notes on her choicest quotes (Hey, I’m a writer – it isn’t right until I’m pilfering your words).

So, in honor of Mother’s Day and beautiful and kooky words, the below are random quotes spliced over our photos straight from my mother’s mouth. She should get her due, because hell, she’s got some great zingers.

I love you, mom.

Thanks for making me weird.

 

IMG_20130512_180926

Guys, I swear to christ these are real quotes.

IMG_20140510_141538IMG_20130521_20535944nurse IMG_20140510_141546 dfdfd DSC0147944

And I love you, Mother.

And I love you, Mother.

A few things I’m liking this month that don’t end with me gracefully face down in a pile of cake.

 *

 

Recently a short piece of flash fiction I’ve read and really enjoyed is, “Semi-Homemade” by Mitch McGuire at The Molotov Cocktail.  I like to pretend it’s Martha Stewart’s – or even better – Rachael Ray’s internal monologue.

“I wish cocktail time came at the beginning of the show, it would probably be easier to get through the rest of the taping without screaming.”

Read it here.

 *

 

Let’s talk about “Sharp Objects”. Preferably that meat cleaver under your pillow, but most definitely a novel by Gillian Flynn.

 

so

Yes, yes, it’s eight years old and as always I’m probably behind the times but screw Gone Girl. This book was darkly clever and very, very twisted. Not to mention the main character was a woman I really enjoyed. Flawed, not annoying and strong. I’d sit down and have a drink with her any day.  Those of you who like fucked-up books check it out. It’s a must-read and a nail biter.

 

   *

 

 

When using shower drain hair to write threatening messages on shower walls just won’t cut it…

 

 

I think it spells out "DIE"...?

I think it spells out “DIE”…?

 

…there’s AquaNotes. A writer’s wet dream. Get it, GET IT?

Seriously though. There’s no more streaking through the house (much to my husband’s deep regret) to scrabble for a pen and paper when an idea or a quote hits the ol’ cerebellum. Simply scrawl on the waterproof paper notepad to get your writerly ideas, grocery list, or murder manifesto out. I’ve used this so many times for story ideas that it’s nearly time for a refill.

Every writer needs one of these things. If not for ideas, at the very least to draw dick pics.

 

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Not my best work, but hey, even Picasso had his moments.

 

ME! ME ME ME.

Ahem.

Just a quick blog to say…

I finished my book.

Four drafts, darlings killed, and a polish, and it is done.

Revisions shall come but until then I wanted to share and I wanted to gloat and I wanted to drink wine tonight, so there.

Cheers and hell yes.

 

 

Can't you feel the rapture?

Can’t you feel the rapture?