Marquis de Sade on Perverse Writers

Marquis de Sade on Perverse Writers

As I was finishing the first drafts of the third part of SICK, I picked up the infamous Marquis de Sade. I had been wanting to read him for years. Would he be as depraved as I had been told?

The first thing I noticed was the similarities between his characters’ (or de Sade’s) logic and the philosphies of John Branch (my MC). I never read de Sade before, but hundreds of years later, the argument between nature and religion is the same. Do we live according to the instincts and impulses we were born with, or do we live according to what society deems as acceptable?

Despite the obsessive focus on anal sex and the tiresome naïveté of the protagonist, who, though heroic, gets duped time and time again, de Sade writes with admirable zeal and devotion. Most surprisingly, I felt an undertone of love throughout his writing for every facet of this confusing existence we humans face.

But of all the quotes I collected from my readings, I thought my fellow writers, those who are brave enough to go to the darkest depths of the human psyche and those who aren’t afraid to explore the places others dare not tread, would appreciate this one the most.

“…he is like unto those perverse writers whose corruption is so dangerous, so active, that their single aim is, by causing their appalling doctrines to be printed, to immortalize the sum of their crimes after their own lives are at an end; they themselves can do no more, but their accursed writings will instigate the commission of crimes, and they carry this sweet idea with them to their graves: it comforts them for the obligation, enjoined by death, to relinquish the doing of evil.”

 

I believe de Sade is taking stab at himself here. No doubt the public thought he wrote solely for these reasons, and he was mocking them. It was obvious to me that his drive to write was fueled by a calling much more profound than the reasons he mentions here, though I’m sure the thought of his ideas propogating into the future put a smirk on his face at the time of his death.

Since I first began writing, I often wonder why I go to such dark places. I never expected or intended to. I outlined my theories in this post here. But, I think what is important about de Sade and books like SICK, is to face the ugliest of humanity, to seek the truth no matter how horrific it is. No matter how hard we close our eyes, our sins will not go away. Sex slavery still exists. War, torture, and vice persist. There has been no decrease in the atrocities of the human world since de Sade’s time. That is why we still must write about them. That is why we must rip off the covers we hold so tightly to our chins. Maybe one day we will figure out why we keep harming each other, why we keep destroying the world, and and we continue denying the truth about ourselves.

 

 

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How to Become a NY Times Bestselling Author with Writing Coach Anna David

How to Become a NY Times Bestselling Author with Writing Coach Anna David

I can’t tell you how excited I am to have Anna David here today. I’ve been working with Anna for about a year now and it has been the greatest honor. She’s a quick-witted, candid writer and an inspiring voice in the addiction recovery field. She’s also one of the funniest, kindest, and wisest people you’ll ever meet. She is currently the Editor-in-Chief of In Recovery Magazine, the host of the Recover Girl Podcast, and is the coach to the next batch of authors to hit the NY Times Bestsellers List.

Almost every writer I know has fantasized seeing their name on the NY Times Bestsellers List, but most writers have no idea how to get there. You can’t arrive somewhere you’ve never been before without a map. Anna David has mapped out a step-by-step method to take aspiring writers from obscurity directly to a publishing contract. I have sat in on her courses and I can tell you her information is like gold.

Learn all about her first-hand publication experience, her advice to aspiring writers, and how you can join her exciting new coaching program in this interview.


Interview with Anna David

Did you always want to become a writer? When did you decide that was what you wanted to do?

Always. When I was seven, I saw in the Guinness Book of World Records that the youngest author to publish a book was six and I was devastated that I couldn’t be the one to set the record. Of course, I didn’t finish writing my first book for another 20 or so years. There was never any question in my mind about what else I would do. I had no other skills! Everyone told me it was a bad idea—my dad never stopped talking about how I needed to go to business or law school—but I didn’t listen.

When did your drug abuse begin and how long till it spiraled out of control?

My coke use got bad when I was in my late 20s but I had loved it from the first time I tried it, when I was 16. I didn’t do it regularly until I was about 27 but the way I thought about it was never “normal”: I was obsessed with it. When I started doing it alone—with just my two cats, Camel Lights, Amstel Light, vodka and a whole lot of paranoia for company—it was definitely out of control. Though in many ways it was out of control from the beginning, in terms of how I thought about it.

After you got help and became involved in the world of recovery, what made you decide to focus your life and writing around addiction and recovery. Was it scary to ‘recover out loud’ as they say?

I never thought about it, really. I’ve always been a chronic confessionalist, telling the whole world my private business without realizing they may not care or it may not be appropriate. And I’ve always written about my own life, even when I was writing fiction—whether I was fictionalizing my own experiences or, in the case of my second novel, writing fiction around a world I’d researched. Addiction and recovery was my experience and so that was my material.

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Do you feel like your experience with drug addiction has made you a better writer? How?

I don’t think so. I will tell you that my writing was God awful when I was high. I used to do coke and then try to write screenplays and TV specs and I would write these ridiculous specs of shows I’d never seen. One day, not high, I came up with a novel idea: to write a spec of a TV show I actually watched. I wrote that one sober and suddenly had a slew of agents fighting over me. Turns out drugs made me a TERRIBLE writer.

In my opinion, the only thing that makes someone a better writer is reading. And writing. And rewriting. Mostly rewriting.

Party Girl, a roman à clef novel about your cocaine addiction, is about your crazy life as a celebrity journalist in LA, and the dysfunctional relationships that ensued. How did this idea become a reality?

My first job when I got sober was as a columnist for Premiere magazine, writing a column called Party Girl. It seemed hilariously ironic to me that my whole life I’d been a wild party girl and as soon as I became someone who went to meetings and coffee and hung out with her cats and became, in many ways, suddenly boring, I was suddenly wearing the “party girl” moniker. It struck me that this would be a great premise for a novel: a girl gets a job writing about her wild and crazy life right when she stops being wild and crazy and so she has to create a persona based on who she used to be. I had that idea and so I just sat down and wrote it, in about nine months.

I know my readers, most of whom are aspiring authors, are dying to hear about your publication experience. Can you give a brief outline of your steps to becoming a published author–from writing process, to agent, to NYT Bestsellers List?

It was a very different world when I got into it. First of all, there were magazines—that people actually read. Also there were far fewer writers. People weren’t writing blogs that suddenly made them famous. Social media didn’t exist. And I wrote for a lot of magazines so agents knew my work. I was lucky enough to have two agents who wanted to sign me by the time I finished writing Party Girl. I went with the agent I preferred and she sold my book to my top choice publisher (Regan Books, then a division of Harper Collins) within a week. It was dreamy. But my commonalities with Cinderella ended there. Judith Regan ended up being fired in the biggest scandal to hit publishing a few months before my book came out and the book ended up being released under a fake imprint that HarperCollins invented for my release. People talk about being orphaned when their editors switch jobs. This was like the orphanage being burned to the ground! My next book deal was half the size of the first and it wasn’t until my NY Times bestseller, in 2010, that I felt things even out again.

What do you think is the most important thing for a writer to do if they want to land a deal with an agent or major publisher?

Write the best proposal you can. Have creative ideas for promotion. Know the books in your genre that did well and try to create one that fills a void those books did not. And of course sign up for my coaching program!

Now your coaching writers to follow the same path to the NY Times Bestsellers List. What kind of stories will make the best fit with your methods?

Anyone writing a memoir, particularly one by someone who’s writing about their biggest struggle and how they came out on the other side. Because of my audience, at least half of my clients are always writing addiction and recovery memoirs or at least stories that involved addiction. But hey, any trauma works!

What’s your best piece of advice for writers just starting out?

Besides apply for my program? Read as much as you can. Also, don’t get wowed by all the self-publish success stories you hear. If you’re like me, and your dream was always to publish a book, then you owe it to yourself to try for the big leagues. The mainstream route—getting published by one of the big New York publishers—is competitive but I tell everyone at least try that first and if it doesn’t work, you can always self-publish then. But your dream when you were little wasn’t to upload your book to Amazon and tell your friends to buy it; it was to sign a contract with a big publisher, work with an editor, have the big release—the whole nine.

If you try that and it doesn’t work. you then have a completed book proposal—which is the perfect outline to go the self-published route. But every writer deserves the opportunity to try.

Do we get to expect any new novels from you?

Nope! Pretty busy with my day job (editing In Recovery Magazine), speaking and coaching. But maybe one day (famous last words). 

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Thanks so much to Anna David for sharing her story and her expertise with us.
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Are you ready for a journey into the dark?

Are you ready for a journey into the dark?

I told you all I had cool news for you. Here it is!

Project 13Dark has launched its Kickstarter Campaign. Tired of the same ol’ mainstream fiction? Find out all about this unique project that will showcase both dark fiction and art. Become part of movement that demands quality but also insists on paying the artists who create it. Watch the video and read on to find out how.

Lose yourself in a unique, epic world that will be created over 13 months. 

†3Dark is a unique project created by Joseph Sale that will showcase both the written and visual artwork of some of this century’s greatest creatives including Richard Thomas, Moira Katson, Eden Royce, Veronica Magenta Nero, Christa Wojciechowski as well as newer voices such as Matthew Blackwell, Andy Cashmore, Samuel Parr, Tomek Dzido, Anthony Self, Ross Jeffery, Jamie Parry-Bruce and Tice Cin.

All of their work will explore the sacred and profane, the holy and damned, the beatific and the demonic. 

The aim is to release 13 unique never-before-seen short stories, monthly, in digital and paperback form, accompanied by custom artwork from Shawn Langley, and with cover artwork by grandfailure. These editions will be beautifully produced, melding the visual and written elements, offering unique insight into our world. Each story will be edited and have a foreword written by me. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be part of something colossal. 

Visit the Campaign

Visit the 13 Dark Kickstarter page

to view the full details about the project.

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For 13 Dark Backers 

Readers will be interested in…

In addition to 13 beautiful editions of short fiction with YOUR NAME in the ‘Thank You’ section, †3Dark will provide opportunities to receive limited edition signed copies of Dark Prophets Press titles, specially discounted subscriptions to Gamut Magazine (the prestigious neo-noir magazine created by Richard Thomas of Dark House Press) and much, much more!  

Writers will be interested in…

If you have a group of short stories or a novel coming out and need in-depth analysis, coaching, and intensive editing, you will want to snatch one of the top reward spots! The cost of the the pledge is far cheaper than you would ever have to pay for a writing coach and editor, plus you get all the free goodies listed above (and a T-shirt!)

We hope you’ll join us on this descent into the heart of the divine… and the dark. 

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EXIT EARTH: Short Story Competition from @moreStorgy

EXIT EARTH: Short Story Competition from @moreStorgy

Check out Storgy Literary Magazine’s latest short story competition. Entries will be judged by Diane Cook, former producer NPR’s This American Life and of author of Man V. Nature. This competition is open-genre and based on the theme, Exit Earth. I’m sure many of you will have fun with this theme. The grand prize is £1000, so get to writing!

From Trumpocalypse to Brexit Britain, brick by brick the walls are closing in.

But don’t despair.
Pick up your pen.
Bulldoze the borders.
Break free.

The STORGY Short Story Competition is here! We need you!

ENTER HERE

 

Writing from Dreams

Dreaming

Why I Wrote Sick – Dreams often set the tone for my day. I have vivid dreams that feel just as real as the fact that I’m siting here writing this blog. They form a vapor around me as I go about my normal life – whispers, impressions, and lingering emotions. I’ve always had the ability to overlay fantasy over reality (or the other way around), and I try not to box-in my perception. I think our human brains have room to grow if we let them, and I keep my idea of reality is very loosely defined (Carlos Castaneda and psychedelic drug use could have a part in this). Sometimes this swirling imagery makes me anxious because I feel like I don’t have anything solid to hold onto. But, most of the time it’s wonderful to experience life on so many levels.

My dreams and visions are especially important to my writing. Antoni Azarov came to me in a dream years ago. His presence felt like a shadow, mute and timeless, blocking out the rest of the world. When I looked up into his eyes, I felt jarring sensation underneath my ribcage. I will never forget his determined stare. He would not take no for an answer, so when it came time to write my first novel, I knew it was he who had to be the sculptor.

John Branch, the character in SICK, I met more recently. He didn’t have a name yet in the dream, but he was a beautiful and manic version of a young John Lithgow. I hadn’t seen John Lithgow movie in years! So I’m not sure why suddenly my brain conjured him up as this sick man. It still cracks me up to this day, but John Lithgow is perfect for him. Anyway, I wasn’t myself in the dream either. I was another woman, his wife, and I was a shorter, more grounded and level-headed sort of person. I was a person with faith in God.

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I remember the dream house with the same familiarity as my own real home, but this place was decrepit and neglected. I had difficulty getting around the clutter and mess everywhere. The silent white light of autumn glowed from the windows. The wooden floors creaked as I approached the bed. My husband lay there limp and motionless; a smell was diffused into the air by the warmth of his body. It was pungent from the dried blood, antiseptic, and medicine, but also sweet and overripe from his clammy skin, his healing wounds, and his sickly breath. I remember that most from the dream, my husband’s smell. It fills my nose right now as I write this. His broken leg was in a cast; the rest of his body was covered in bruises. The soiled sheets clung to him, incubating him. If you’ve ever been around a very ill or badly hurt person, you will know that sickly smell of a healing or dying body.

He then asked me for pain medication, a shot of Demerol. I remember that although he looked anemic and weak, there was an underlying menace that made me uneasy. I sensed that behind his sweet requests, he was mocking me. I was a little bit resentful and a little bit fearful at the same time. It was just a flash of negative emotion, and then my reason blotted it out.

I felt foolish and guilty for thinking about him in that way. I was a good wife, and this was my husband, whom I had been with for years. We knew each other inside and out, didn’t we? And he loved me, and I loved him. No matter how much of a burden he was, I would take care of him forever. I gave him his shot, and smoothed the damp hair from his forehead.

The dream continued and I viewed the whole story to a shocking and revolting end. When I woke up, I just couldn’t shake it off. His watery-eyed stare. And my fear. The eerie fog of  it snuck up on me for weeks. The experience clawed at me and wouldn’t let go.

I entertained the thought of writing it down. “Oh, yeah. Maybe I should write that as a book one day.” It wasn’t really my style, or so I thought. I never wrote anything like it before, but the scene just wouldn’t leave me alone. Then I researched the medical condition I was treating in the dream and discovered John Branch’s situation was real. I couldn’t believe it! I knew I had to write it.

So, I never set out to write a creepy suspense. I didn’t invent the plot or the characters. It was all handed to me by my subconscious. That’s the story behind SICK. Strange, but true.

 

Have you ever had a dream that just wouldn’t let you go?

Do you write or create from ideas based on dreams?

What role do dreams play in your waking life?


 

I’m happy to say my dream experiment worked out.

SICK is getting great reviews!

Check out what people are saying on Amazon.

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Click the book.

PS: Part II is in revisions and coming very soon. Stay tuned!

 


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#Amwriting: How do you know when you’ve gone too far?

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…and what has been written cannot be unwritten.

Since I started writing a few years ago, I discovered a peculiar phenomenon – I’m often shocked at what happens when these fingertips hit the keys.

I know many writers plot out every scene ahead of time. I thought that would be my way of putting a novel together. I am obsessed with efficiency and order in my daily life. However, I’ve found that I can’t adhere to any structure when writing. I suppose that’s why it’s so exhilarating and therapeutic for me. I get to let the messy, intuitive side out to play.

I’ve just finished Part II of the SICK series that my readers voted for. I had planned to finish it sooner, speed-publishing it like the first book, but I was delayed by my own aversion to the manuscript. Yes, I freaked myself out with my own writing. SICKER has become sicker than I ever wanted it to be.

(more…)

Seeking the Mr. Miyagi of Writing

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I love movies that depict a talented-but-too-immature student who begrudgingly goes under the instruction of some old timer. Eventually the kid realizes his pain-in-the-ass coach is giving him the tough love he needs. The student takes his lessons seriously and grows inwardly and outwardly to reach his full potential.

There are many films with this theme, but the one that sticks out most in my mind is The Karate Kid. I know I’m dating myself when I say I watched these movies in the theater as a kid and they are among my favorites of all time. Everyone wants to reach their full potential, but most of us have no idea how to get there.

I wasted years dreaming about writing and never writing. I finally began five years ago after the tragic death of a pelican (a long story I will share with you one day). Then came The Wrong David, the NaNo series, and now here I am with SICK. I’m happy to be publishing my work, but now I’m anxious to move up to the next level. I feel like I could write my ass off, but I also am aware that I’m missing something. Many things, actually. I don’t know what they are, but I sense them whenever I read my work. I know a seasoned writer probably point the faults out right away, but I don’t personally know any seasoned writers.

A few years ago, my mom gave me a copy of Eat, Pray, Love. I vaguely remember Elizabeth Gilbert mentioning something like, “if you pray for your guru, they will come.” So this is me officially putting my call out to the Universe.

I’m ready for you, my Mr. (or Mrs.) Miyagi of writing. Put me through a composition boot camp. Drill me with grammar rules until I cry. Make me type until my fingertips are raw. I don’t know if I can catch a fly with chopsticks, but I sure as hell will try. I’m dead serious about becoming a good writer. I feel I have the potential. I know I have the desire. I just need someone to guide me. Mentor, please find me.

 

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Did you have a Mr. Miyagi in your life?

How did you find a mentor/coach/guru?

What’s your favorite inspiring coaching movie?

 

 

Quotes from Alesha Drew

What Are You Writing For?

What are you Writing For?

As a creative person and one who’s plagued by existential questions, I get trapped into that circle of thinking if what I’m doing matters. Will anyone read my writing? Will anyone care? Will I ever be able to make a living from it? Am I just wasting my time and energy torturing nice people with my substandard prose?

I work with writers and for writers (and this applies to all creative people), and I think we all have that dream of becoming famous (even if you say you don’t, you wouldn’t mind it, would you?). We all have that hope of changing the world with our work. We want to be praised and validated. We want to communicate on a deeper level. We want to be admired, at least just a little bit, and be able to say I told you so to all the haters. Most of all, we want to leave a legacy after our death.

But our dreams deflate each time we see the sheer numbers of other people who have the same exact dream as we do and are pursuing it more efficiently and more fervently. They write better, market better, sell better. We see other artists kicking ass out there, and we wonder how in the world they do it. Maybe we don’t have the resources, the time, or the energy. Maybe we don’t have the savvy or the persistence. Maybe we’re suffering from do-I-suck-a-phobia.

It’s easy to get caught up in the race to the bestsellers list, but let me wrap my arm around your shoulders and guide you into my existential realm here. Although contemplating our place in the ginormous, black Universe can make us feel insignificant and pointless at times, in the same way it frees us from our anguish. Look at it this way…

  1. You only have one life (as far as we know). If there is anything noble about it, it’s living in the pursuit of creating and appreciating beauty in all its forms. It’s one of the only redeeming qualities of our species.
  2. Your one life is very short. You could spend it watching TV. You could become a typical consumer, chasing promotion after promotion so you can raise your standard of living. Or you could live a life of passion and do whatever makes your soul sing.
  3. You have to be yourself. If there’s one thing I learned about being happy in this life, it’s being true to who you are. If you only behave and do what you think you’re supposed to do instead of what you really want to do, you will be a miserable person. Guaranteed.
  4. Your audience doesn’t matter all that much. Human beings are a very small, messy, and crude part of the universe. Having their mass approval is not necessarily anything special. There is much of existence beyond our little blue sphere that might marvel at your work if they ever got to experience it.

Creativity is a gift. In making something out of nothing, we can be the gods of our own little universes.

I hope you all found this comforting.

Happy Friday and Happy Creating!

Do you ever wonder if what you’re creating matters?

How do you think your work fits into the Universe?

What are you working on right now?

What are you writing for?

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