Thursday, July 12, 2012

"Norman closed the door. He went back to the office and took another drink. A congratulatory drink."

This was going to be even easier than he’d dreamed. It was going to be easy as pie."
Psycho: A Novel - by Robert Bloch

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I love this tale. I know it seems ignorant to say that I didn't even know this was a novel until it was proposed for my Readings in the Genre (RIG) course in Horror (Psychos) at Seton Hill, but it's true. Apparently, 0 out of every 10 people I tried to discuss this book with (in my every day life, not with Seton Hill students or other writers) didn't know Psycho was a novel before it was a movie. Go figure. It seems a book still manages to reach the heights of anonymity even after a film is made based on its genius.

Despite that realization, I was extremely glad to have read the novel and to understand its origins. Robert Bloch wrote this tale beautifully, and I wish I'd read the story way before I ever saw the Hitchcock version. Novels tend to hold deep meanings within the pages that never quite translate to film, and so I always prefer to read the novel before seeing the movie. In this instance, it couldn't be helped.

I found Psycho suspenseful even though I'd seen the old flick. The easy language of the read was what captivated me most. There wasn't deep introspective language, or words I needed to look up. The pages held within them a simplicity woven with shadows and intrigue. It's something a reader doesn't get much these days. There are too many inexperienced writers who try to write beyond every day vocabulary, and who make their story more complex than it needs to be. What I most enjoyed about this tale were the simple motivations of the characters, the plain language in which the story was written and the scary backdrop woven into it which allowed me to obtain the experience of being at the hotel and "living" the nightmare.

One of my favorite lines once Mary gets to the hotel:

“Sorry,” he said. “I was just tucking Mother in for the night. Sometimes she’s apt to be a bit difficult.”
~Bloch, Robert (1959) Psycho

Norman is physically different in this novel, compared to the movie. Anthony Perkins was thin and lanky in Hitchcock's version, while the Norman in the story was round. Fat.

Still, the pictures in my mind were similar to the film. I found it interesting that for the most part, as I read, I saw the story in black and white. Perhaps it was the setting combined with the influence of the movie...but Robert Block's tale was thoroughly engaging and I loved each scene as it processed through my brain.

Drawbacks in the prose were those issues in writing that most of us are "dinged" for by editors and mentors. There are tons of repetitive words, lots of passive tense and even a "grimace" (I noted this just for my mentor Timons Esaias). As a modern writer and student of popular fiction, it's hard not to notice these things now, particularly when you are slashed and hacked with red ink or track changes in Word telling you that you MUST NOT do this...!

In order to cope, I admit I did edit the electronic version of the text with highlights and comments, but I also have to confess I enjoyed the novel immensely. Robert Bloch managed to show me that even though Norman Bates was certifiably crazy, everyone is a little crazy every now and then. And we never know what might throw us off the pier into the deep end of the swamp.



Monday, July 9, 2012

Time Flies Faster than Shit...

Can it REALLY be two months since my last blog post? I can barely believe it. So much has happened in such little time and I've let this blog lie idle for too long. It's time for an update!

The Education Scene:

Since the end of my I've completed my third residency in the MFA program (Writing Popular Fiction) at Seton Hill University in Greensburg PA. It was an amazing week seeing my fellow classmates again.
In addition, I've attained a new mentor (Timons Esaias) who is renowned for his thoroughness in a manuscript critique and I hope I survive him. If I do, I know he will help me to be the best writer I can be. Aside from that, I have a huge amount of respect for him.

Soon my "Readings in the Genre" course will start up with horror writer Scott Johnson, a man who tells an excellent tale both orally and on paper. This semester his course will focus on Psychos, and I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to read some novels I've never read before. (Stay tuned, because you'll see the reviews unfold right at this blog site!)

I continue to work on my dissertation for my PhD through Walden University and the analysis of data is going slow. Such is the work of qualitative research. I hope to have all of the analysis completed by the end of August, and the dissertation ready to go out for its first hard edit.


I submitted one short story (Green Waters) to Rymfire's State of Horror: North Carolina anthology and had it accepted.

Another short story of mine titled "Center Mass" was accepted into an anthology (my thanks to Will Horner for the edit) as a donation to help raise money for a friend suffering from breast cancer. My own mother battled breast cancer, and it's particularly poignant for me to have a hand in this work.

My novel "Sapien Farm" is still in progress and approximately 75% complete. The goal is to have the first draft completed by the end of July and edited by the end of August. It's a hefty plan, but editor R.J. Cavender believes in it and so my own belief is fortified with his positive comments and suggestions. In addition, my Ventura Writer's Group has assisted me with editing Sapien Farm at various chapter points, and my sincere gratitude goes out to editor Broos Campbell, Mark Juris and Kim Wild & Crazy Woman for their thought comments on my work. And my dearest crit partners Gina Greenway and Joe Borrelli...not only do I get to keep them for the next go round of the MFA program, but they have been instrumental in my novel getting to where it is now.

My other novel, "The Flatulent Adventures of Dr Stench and the DC Underground," is currently on hold but not forgotten. I will soon be getting Mario Zucarello back to doing some scenes and Tarot cards for me to help with the book. I'm still on the fence about self publishing this one versus finding a publisher. It's my literary baby, and sometimes the self publishing route is just what needs to be. I want the images to go into the book in color and while a book with color pages is expensive to print, it is not expensive to "e-book." I'm still thinking on this one.

Personal Notes:

This year has been one of challenges for many wonderful writers I love and consider dear friends. If any of you read this, you know who you are. Some of these people have family members enduring serious illness or they themselves are suffering poor health. Some have lost loved ones who've passed from this life to the next on the continuing journey. My endless prayers and affection pour out to you all with deep sincerity. You are all my heros.

Final Note:

Each and every one of you take care. If you're a writer, keep writing. If you are a reader, please keep reading and share a book, a short story or a poem with those around you. Lets keep "reading" alive and well in the U.S. and across the world. Good stories are an art form that should never die, and all of you are the ones who help keep it alive.

Stay glued.