Let’s talk Blue Ruin

Netflix. That collection of digital entertainment where television series and bad movies go to retire.

Netflix. That collection of digital entertainment where a patient subscriber can find the occasional gem.

Last weekend I watched Blue Ruin. I had read the AVClub review of the film and knew it had received some critical love. Sign me up!

Blue Ruin is a revenge film. Many revenge films are stylized and done with the visual flair of an auteur. Blue Ruin is quiet, darkly humorous, and quite depressing.

Directed by Jeremy Saulnier, Blue Ruin stars Macon Blair as Dwight. He’s no Charles Bronson or Uma Thurman. He’s small in stature and speaks barely above a whisper.

Dwight is a introduced as a homeless man living in a beater car park by a beach in Delaware. He lives a sad, despondent existence. For 15 minutes, hardly a word is spoken as we follow Dwight digging through garbage for food and breaking into people’s homes to steal a bath.

All this character background pays off throughout the rest of the film.

A kindly police officer visits Dwight and shares the news that the man convicted of the murder of Dwight’s mother and father is being released from prison.

Dwight cleans up. It’s a startling transformation. He wants revenge, and that means he wants to kill the man who killed his parents.

The film is unflinching in showing how pathetic Dwight is as a person. A particularly harsh scene occurs where his sister tells him he is weak. Despite being pathetic, Dwight is determined and endures much pain and fear to accomplish his goals. He has nothing to lose and is not afraid to die. Much of the dark humor spins from this fatalism. Dwight disables a car only to have to use it for a getaway (in his anger he stabbed a tire with a knife that nearly cuts his hand off). He’s shot in the leg with an arrow and there’s a great scene in a pharmacy where Dwight buys needle, thread, pliers, rubbing alcohol, and bandages (the self-surgery…way less amusing).

Blue Ruin shows how dangerous a person can be when they have nothing left to lose. Dwight could be a character straight out of a Coen Brothers film. Hapless, quirky, lacking in respect, but dangerous.

In fact, this film compares well with several Coen Brothers movies (one of the highest compliments I can give as I am a worshiper of their work).

Check it out. Blue Ruin.

Trailer:

 

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Newsletter. It is here.

Over on my Facebook page, I tested the waters to see if folks would be interested in a newsletter/announcement related to my writing, editing, and teaching. Enough people responded in a positive manner to convince me it wouldn’t be a waste of time. :)

And now I present to you…the Jason Sizemore Newsletter Sign Up Page!

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If you don’t wish to subscribe at this very moment, the sign up button is conveniently located over on the far right, at the top of the column.


Imaginarium — Workshop, Panels, and a Table

There is a new writers’ convention happening this weekend in Louisville, KY.

What: Imaginarium

Where: Louisville, KY

When: September 19-21

Website: http://www.entertheimaginarium.com/

Workshop list: http://www.entertheimaginarium.com/workshops/

I count 12 workshops happening over the three days led by the likes of Tim Waggoner, Lee Martindale, and…me! There will also be panels on a wide variety of topics and forms.

I’m running a workshop Saturday evening starting at 6pm. Here is the synopsis.

6:00 PM Writing Genre Short Fiction: Join Apex Publications owner and editor Jason Sizemore for a two hour workshop that will (hopefully) lead you on the path to mastering the art of short fiction. The workshop will cover common new writer pitfalls, cover the basic structure of short stories, examine plot, talk about the importance of perfecting your first page and how to tantalize your reader from the start, and discuss the short fiction venues and short fiction editors that you should follow.

My panel schedule:

Saturday, 2pm: What Editors Expect of a Professional Author

Saturday, 4pm: The World of a Magazine Editor

Sunday, 10am: Publishing Magazines

Sunday, 2pm: The Editor’s Function

Finally, Apex Publications will have a table in the dealer’s room. Come grab our latest titles and chat with me and my minions.


You must write (a lot) to be a good writer

On Wednesday, I wrote that you must be a reader to be a good writer. Again, this isn’t true for everybody, but it is solid advice that I believe in and will continue to share.

In response to the post, writer Erin Jensen shared the following wise words about the need to write (a lot):

The notion is that it should be obvious that to write well, you must write, but because it’s considered so apparent a point, it’s hardly mentioned and, therefore, has become undervalued. This isn’t to belittle the importance of reading, but I think the two should go hand-in-hand.

And she’s right. To be a good writer, you have got to put the time into it. Perhaps not 1,000,000 words as an old axiom would lead you to believe, but enough to where it becomes second nature to you. Again, this isn’t true for everybody, but it is solid advice.

I’ve seen some advice givers say that any writing counts. I’m not in agreement with that. If you wish to be a good short fiction writer, you need to write lots of short fiction. If you wish to be good at writing creative nonfiction, then you have to write lots of creative nonfiction.

So…this week I’ve covered two easy (and obvious) ways to be a better writer. I’ve got several more in mind. If I can find the time, I share them next week.

Obviously, the BEST way to improve your writing is to take one of my workshops! :P


You must be a great reader to be a good writer

One of my mantras is that in order to be a good writer you need to be a great reader. Maybe this is not true for everyone, but for a great many I would venture that it is.

I always encourage short fiction authors to try and stay current with their favorite zines. You’ll get a good sense of the type of material they publish. You’re likely to find other great authors to follow. Reading is a great way to feed the creativity beast that resides in your sweet meat . And, finally, you probably will be entertained by what you read.

Oh, and there’s also the whole ‘Supporting the Scene’ stuff. As a publisher/editor, this is one near and dear to my heart.

At the SF/Fantasy workshop I’m leading at the Carnegie Center, I am giving the participants 3 short stories a week to read. Yes, I give homework! For the first week’s reading assignment, I gave them 3 Apex Magazine stories, because self-interest trumps all! Oh, and that the 3 stories are all fantastic.

Here are my week 1 choices from Apex Magazine:

Sister Twelve: Confesssions of a Party Monster by Christopher Barzak
Build-A-Dolly by Ken Liu
The Performance Artist by Lettie Prell

For reading and discussion in our second session, I asked Lightspeed Magazine editor and publisher John Joseph Adams if he could suggest 3 stories from his zine. See, I spread the love! And if any of my workshop participants are reading this blog post, here is a sneak peek!

Here are John’s week 2 choices (thanks John!) from Lightspeed Magazine:

I’m Alive, I Love You, I’ll See You in Reno by Vylar Kaftan
Biographical Fragments of the Life of Julian Prince by Jake Kerr
Arvies by Adam-Troy Castro

I’ll also post week 3 and week 4’s stories on my blog as well so that you can read along with us.

Okay people, go out and be great readers! Whether you want to write or not.


The Dangers of Collaboration

I’ve decided I’m a terrible person to collaborate with.

It’s not because I’m a terrible person. Yes, I just said I’m a terrible person, but in different more narrow manner. It’s not that I can’t write…I’m beginning to believe that I some skills in that area. And it’s not because my co-authors get on my nerves or fail to bring it.

The onus of this problem belongs firmly on my shoulders.

I should have known I was no good. A couple years ago, Maurice Broaddus and I had this fantastic idea for a novella. We start writing it, and maybe 10,000 words in, I begin to cause long delays. My excuse list is long: Apex, day job, kiddos, travel…yadda yadda yadda. Finally, I threw the towel in and told Maurice I could not go on. To his credit, he finished the novella and Apex published it with the title I Can Transform You.

A year ago I co-wrote a story with Elaine Blose. We finished the story, but I had a bad habit of tweaking it without telling her. Yes, I realize this is a sin worthy of having my friendship card revoked. She forgave. I learned a lesson. And we’re still shopping the story.

Maurice, bless his heart, is a glutton for punishment. He asks me to write a novel with him. I say yes, because I’m oblivious to how much I suck. Things go great for the first 10,000 words. Then again…I hit a time wall. Everything and everybody wants my time, and I have none I can dedicate to our novel. I’m two months late submitting my next bit of words for then novel and fully expect Maurice to drive down to Lexington from Indianapolis and kick my ass (except he won’t because he’s scared of bridges, so he hates crossing the Ohio river, ha!).

So, the lesson here is to be careful who you collaborate with. You might get stuck with somebody like me.


LAST CALL: Writing Science Fiction: From Start to Finish

Final reminder…don’t miss out!

I’ll be leading a four week workshop at the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning in Lexington, KY beginning Monday, September 8th, 5:30pm.

Join three-time Hugo Award-nominated editor and writer Jason Sizemore as he takes you through the process of writing a science fiction short story. He will also lead you in finding suitable markets for your story. You will study popular modern stories as a guideline to the the craft of writing shorter works. Every student will create a new science fiction short story that will be polished so it is ready for submission to a publications [ALL LEVELS]

For more information about the Writing Science Fiction workshop and to register click here!

Each class is on a Monday and starts at 5:30 and runs for 1 hour and 45 minutes.

I’m also running a Writing Horror: From Start to Finish beginning October 6th, because Halloween.

For more information about the Writing Horror workshop and to register click here!

I hope you can come and write a new short story with me!


Streets of Shadows cover reveal and preorders

Today I write a happy blog post about a story I sold that will soon be published. That story is titled “God Needs Not the Future.” This one has the end of the world, a detective with an emerging superpower, a crazy preacher, Nephilim, and androids. And a flood.

The Streets of Shadows anthology edited by Maurice Broaddus and Jerry Gordon is now up for preorder.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/193984021X/

Says Jerry Gordon:

We’ll be launching Streets of Shadows near the end of this month at Context in Columbus, Ohio.  Ten of the books contributors will be at the launch, including both editors and:  Gary Kloster, Jonathan Maberry, Daniel R. Robichaud, Jason Sizemore, Lucy Snyder, Lucien Soulban, Tim Waggoner, and Michael West.

Here’s the cool cover art:

Cover art by Rhys Griffiths

Cover art by Rhys Griffiths

Here is the opening paragraph to “God Needs Not the Future”:

Raindrops bled down the windshield of the old Winfield taxi parked along the curb of Fifth Street. A streetlamp hunched overhead, blasting a sodium-yellow haze, its light casting a crawling tattoo of shadows across the hard-angled face of Eleanor Bennett. Her gaze, unseen, scanned the chaos outside the car: police tape, deputies draped in yellow ponchos protecting the scene, the manic whirling of emergency vehicles, the usual crowds of protestors. A preacher on the radio predicted end times, but then, didn’t they always?


Good intentions and all that

There is nothing like cruel reality to give you a good whack in the face, is there? Speaking from the writer’s perspective, one of the most painful whacks is an act I’m guilty of committing many, many times as an editor: the dreaded “It is good, but it just doesn’t work for me.

How many times have you gotten that rejection? I’ve written short stories only intermittently for the last 8 years, and I’ve heard this refrain many times in rejection letters…I would venture dozens of times.

“Your story is awesome. But you see, the story…it doesn’t click for me.”

As an editor, when I rejected stories in this manner, I always meant well. I meant it as a compliment. I meant it as a “Hey, you’re a swell writer and all, but me and this story didn’t click, so we’re just going to be friends, okay?”

Good intentions and all that.

The problem with being a frequent reader of all the top zines is that you get a damn good feel for the type of work they prefer to publish. When you submit to these publications and you receive the “It’s not you, it’s me” rejection excuse, it can be annoying. You see what they’ve published. You feel that the story you sent the editor is just as strong and enjoyable. Heck, they say as much in their rejection.

It just didn’t click.

Fine. So you sit back and watch the editor buy and publish story after story you feel is no better than yours. But you’re left in the rejection box. You play nice. You smile and you welcome any feedback you can get from the editor.

So like any good writer, you turn around and submit it the next nice publication on the list. They tell you the same goddamn thing.

Oh, that’s nice.

Now your confidence wobbles. What is it about the story that turns the editors off? They say they like the story, but obviously not in ‘that publishing way’. Successful writers have the ability to figure this out, to write work that is attractive enough to hook the editors’ hearts. Right now, I’m at that stage where I’m standing like a fool under a spotlight scratching at my head thinking “Uh, what did I do wrong?”

With all my editing experience, I feel like I should have a better grasp of this. Currently, I do not. And perhaps I have hubris considering my work as good as some of the stuff published in the top tier magazines…okay, yes, major hubris. Hey, being confident isn’t a sin, y’all!

So…at least I can take home one lesson learned from this experience of double rejection within a 5 day period…

…telling somebody that you just want to be friends with someone’s story is something you must do with care and extreme volition.

Pardon me while I go hug my story and eat a tub of ice cream (chocolate, of course).

 


Writing Science Fiction: From Start to Finish

I’ll be leading a four week workshop at the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning in Lexington, KY beginning Monday, September 8th, 5:30pm.

Join three-time Hugo Award-nominated editor and writer Jason Sizemore as he takes you through the process of writing a science fiction short story. He will also lead you in finding suitable markets for your story. You will study popular modern stories as a guideline to the the craft of writing shorter works. Every student will create a new science fiction short story that will be polished so it is ready for submission to a publications [ALL LEVELS]

For more information about the Writing Science Fiction workshop and to register click here!

Each class is on a Monday and starts at 5:30 and runs for 1 hour and 45 minutes.

I’m also running a Writing Horror: From Start to Finish beginning October 6th, because Halloween.

For more information about the Writing Horror workshop and to register click here!

I’ve had a couple of people ask which stories will I be choosing for study. I’ve made up mind on the three I want to use, but I still need to ask the authors for permission so once I have that for each I’ll post an update here.

I hope you can come and write a new short story with me! (Sounds corny…sorry)


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