The Haunted Mansion Project trailer

Learning iMovie has been a slow and agonizing process, but I think I am finally happy with the book trailer I’ve made for The Haunted Mansion Project: Year Two.

I really like book trailers.  I love the idea of a commercial for a book. I would say that I think they are difficult to do well, but maybe it’s just difficult to make one that I like.  I think they tend to go on too long if they drag on much past a minute and a half. Like any other homemade video on the net, they often rely too heavily on filters and effects that distract from the message they want to convey: please buy my beautifully produced, carefully edited, and extremely well-written book.

I’d like to think my trailer meets those criteria, but let me know what you think.


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Behind “Mothflame”

Mothflame originally appeared in Not One of Us and was reprinted in my chapbook Ashes & Rust.

Mothflame originally appeared in Not One of Us and was reprinted in my chapbook Ashes & Rust.

While I was at the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Workshop, I went through a novel that I just couldn’t finish writing and pulled out my favorite scene.  In it, a rock’n’roll singer is methodically throwing wine bottles against a white wall, hoping to express his anger and grief when his young companion dies of an inevitable OD.

I loved the scene.  It was the piece I would miss the most when I abandoned the novel, which had gotten huge and unwieldy and could not be separated from its source material.  I’d written myself into quicksand and the only way out was to dig out the scene and write a new story around it.

That’s how I wrote the story “Mothflame.”  The title seems to refer to Ysanne, the singer (who became female in the story — I think she looks a lot like Tilda Swinton), but it really refers to Chris, the androgynous first-person narrator, who is Ysanne’s opposite.

All these years later, I am really proud of the story.  The scene-setting is particularly nice.  I adore Aden, the doomed young model, and his wardrobe.  The descriptions of the concert come very close to shows I’ve seen.

I’ve been thinking about all of this because I’m experimenting with Wattpad, a site where authors can post their work for free.  Mothflame is up there now, if you’d like to take a look at it.  Here’s the link:

Please let me know what you think, either here or at Wattpad.

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It takes an army to learn to write

Rhoads_cocoa_0345I have been blessed with an army of writing teachers.  I’m sure I’ve forgotten some here, but these were so important to my growth as a person and a writer that their names are engraved on my heart.  Let this be my thank you to them.

  • Eleanor Perrone, who taught my first creative writing class at Flushing High School and allowed me to “student teach” a session of the class my senior year. I watched the other students tear each other apart, looking for a crumb of approval for being so vicious.  I felt it was my job to encourage, rather than condemn.  Thanks to Ellie, I believed that it’s possible for everyone to tell a good story and learn to write.
  • The Flint Area Writers accepted me when I was still in high school and taught me to give and receive criticism gracefully.  I’d especially like to thank Trilby Plants, Fran Bacus, and Diane Carey.
  • At the University of Michigan Department of English, I studied with George Garrett, Alison Hagy, Tish Ezekiel, and William Hollinger, Jr.  From them, I learned about literary fiction and how to avoid writing what you know, just like every other student living in a dorm room.  They made me want to live, in order to have something interesting to write about.
  • The Clarion Writers Workshop taught me about the hard work of writing and revising on a deadline.  My teachers were Algis Burdys, Joyce Thompson, John Kessel, Thomas Disch, Kate Wilhelm, and Damon Knight.
  • At the Kansas University Science Fiction Writing Workshop, James Gunn told me that I couldn’t write the sort of stories I wanted to write and expect to become the next Ray Bradbury.  Either I could drop writing about queer characters and stick to the mainstream, or the best I could hope for was to become the next J. G. Ballard.  That still seems like a worthy goal.
  • Jane Underwood taught my first introduction to personal essay class in 2002.  She wouldn’t let me drop out when my brother died and I had to go home for his funeral.  She said the most important thing I could do at that painful time was to write — and she was exactly correct.
  • The Red Room Writers Society allowed me the time and space to write when my daughter was an infant.  I’m particularly grateful to Ivory Madison and Venus Klinger, who helped me to remember my joy in writing.
  • I was blessed to be a member of The Paramental Appreciation Society, which held me accountable to literary standards on a monthly basis for four years.  I learned more than I can say from Claudius Reich, Seth Lindberg, Lilah Wild, A.M. Muffaz, and Mason Jones.  I think I miss the writers group most of all.

Who taught you what you needed to know?

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The Red Room Writers Society

Rhoads_lunch_2479I met Ivory Madison in October 2004 when I was a new mom with a colicky preemie.  Before the baby came, I nourished fantasies of spinning out novels while she slept.  Afterward, I learned to use naptime to shower or try to pick up or wash the endless loads of laundry.  Ivory saved my sanity with her Red Room Writers Society.

Once a week, I left my daughter with her father and drove across San Francisco through the early winter darkness to a mansion on the edge of Alamo Square.  There, Ivory welcomed writers with hors d’oeuvres and a selection of teas.  She made the lovely place feel special.

After a brief check-in, we writers settled in around a long wooden conference table and wrote.  It was heavenly.  For a couple hours a week, I was a grown-up with a mission, with a headful of words ready to spill through my fingers onto a screen.  I managed to draft an essay a week.  That book became Wish You Were Here: Adventures in Cemetery Travel.

See, having the date to write was huge.  I knew the quiet time was coming — and I’d paid for it — so I stole time at home to prepare for it.  I gathered my research.  I pulled together my photos.  I got myself mentally organized so that when the Red Room evening rolled around, I was ready.

Even better than the weekly Writers Society meetings were the monthly writing marathons.  We met for a lavish continental breakfast, provided by the mansion, wrote for several glorious hours, then Ivory ran out to fetch lunch from Arlequin.  The writers would chat during the lunchbreak, then it was back to work for a few more hours.

Those longer stretches were paradise.  I used them to edit the last couple issues of Morbid Curiosity magazine, to write book proposals, to copyedit my novel, to put together a chapbook.  Sometimes I even challenged myself to write an essay an hour.  Having hours at a time was the best kind of luxury.

Ivory helped me remember what it was that I wanted to do with my life.  She gave me the space and time to do it.  For that, I will always be grateful.

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Farewell, Red Room

Sirens CoverThere’s still no announcement on the home page, but I got an email from Red Room’s CEO Thursday with the news that Red Room is going away next Tuesday.

I’ve been a member of the Red Room site since my first blog post on January 18, 2008.  That was the day I announced my first book signing:  at Dark Delicacies with Maria Alexander and Christa Faust to sign Sins of the Sirens.

Red Room was envisioned as a site “Where The Writers Are”: a place where writers of every genre could blog and network, where they could have a home page that would feature their reviews, events, news, and that they could update themselves.

In a world ruled by Livejournal, Red Room was a revelation.  Of course, compared to WordPress, it was clunky, cluttered, and had features that never worked after the last update went live years ago. I’m sad to see it go, because I’ll miss the human component, but I’m relieved not to feel guilty for blogging less there are life got busier elsewhere on the web.

A lot has happened to me in the 7 years I blogged on Red Room:

  • I posted 343 blog posts
  • I won a life-altering trip to the IBPA’s Publishing University — for writing about hiring an editor.
  • I won a number of books through Red Room giveaways, including Ariel Gore’s The End of Eve, which I’m reading now.
  • I met some terrific, supportive writers, including Jane P. Wilson, Mary Wilkinson, and Jennifer Kathleen Gibbons, to mention a scant handful.
  • I had innumerable interactions with Huntington Sharp, who made the Red Room experience professional and enjoyable.

While I blogged at the Red Room, Sins of the Sirens was published by Dark Arts Books, Morbid Curiosity Cures the Blues was published by Scribner, Wish You Were Here was published by Western Legends, The Haunted Mansion Project: Year 2 was published by Damnation Books, and As Above, So Below was published by Black Bed Sheet Books.

It’s been a wild ride.  I’ve grown a lot as a writer and as an editor.  I’ve gained a lot of confidence because of the support and encouragement of the Red Room staff and writers.

I’ve gone ahead and opened a Wattpad account:  I put a sample short story up there Friday morning.

I don’t think I will migrate my Red Room blog over, though.  It holds vestiges of my past and I’m all about moving forward.  This blog — Morbid Is as Morbid Does — will continue to be my primary blogging home.

However, if you want more, you can follow me on Twitter @morbidloren or friend me on Facebook at loren.rhoads.5.  I’ll still blog weekly at, and monthly at the Western Legends blog and Scoutie Girl.


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