“Writing is risk-taking behavior” - Lynn Slaughter, author of “Deadly Setup”, “Leisha’s Song” and “It Should Have Been You” (https://lynnslaughter.com/)
As I’ve mentioned previously, I attended the Imaginarium Convention, which genuinely is THE convention for the creative mind. If you were to attend, Imaginarium would provide you with a space where you can buy, sell, and trade works including books, artwork, music CDs, etc. Imaginarium would also provide you with incredible panels on a variety of topics and subjects such as “The Author/Editor Relationship”, “How to Kickstart Your Book”, and “Story Mapping”, all of which contain professionals on the subject. Published authors, actors, editors, directors, poets - people who have done the work and have humbly signed up to share that knowledge and experience with others, without ego.
This is why I attend. As someone who is dying to get his work out there in the hands of someone who would appreciate it, I have found that this collection of people not only gives information in abundance but creates an atmosphere that is alive and inspiring. I have met and continue to meet wonderful individuals that take the time to encourage and enrich the creative spirit while also becoming resources for future projects and opportunities.
I’ve already covered some of the basics of the convention in the “Imaginarium 2022” blog, but with this one, I want to share some of the information that I actually learned. This year, I took many more notes than last year in the hopes of being able to share them here.
This is the gist of what I learned from the panels at Imaginarium 2022:
The first panel I attended on Day 1 was “Writing Groups”. For context, I invited my writing partner and best friend, Katherine McHugh to attend Imaginarium with me. As we were walking into this panel, we assumed that “writing groups” referred to a group of people you write with. That wasn’t quite it.
“Writing Groups” indeed was about groups of writers, but more about organizations and what the pros and cons of being a part of one could be for a writer.
My biggest takeaway, as far as the benefits of being a part of a writing group was that a well-run writing group will provide you with accountability. It promotes a writer to work regularly and helps its members improve their craft. With activities like “Writing Sprints”, where members just write for a period of time, and newsletters, where a member's work is posted or published, creating a deadline of sorts, used as a motivator to get a writer to write.
As for negatives, “chest pounding” was the biggest drawback I heard. This is basically when the group is just a bunch of people showing off their works, bragging about themselves, and providing no space for growth in either themselves or other members.
Consider what you’re getting out of your writing group or what you want to gain from this writing group and make sure you’re getting what you want or need. Two writing groups mentioned were the Corner Scribblers (https://threeravenspublishing.com/the-corner-scribblers/) from the Chattanooga, TN area, mentioned by William Joseph Roberts (The Hillbilly) and the South Carolina Writers Association (https://www.myscwa.org/) mentioned by Barbara V. Evers, author of the Watcher series. While you may not be able to join these groups, I’ve included their links for support and so that you can look them over and get an idea of what serious writing groups can offer.
One of my future projects will be a horror novel that’s currently titled, “The Red Soul”. Because of this, I decided to attend the “Terrifying Horror” panel, moderated by Don Guillory, author of Magnolia Lane and Bastards of the Bayou and co-host of TheNecronomi.com (by now, you should know how I feel about that podcast and its hosts. Shout out to James Sabata, who wasn’t able to make it this year due to other obligations. You were missed, buddy).
A lot of what I got from this panel was in the miscellaneous discussion that took place, but the important takeaway elements in telling a horror story are in the source of the horror. The panelist all cited different sources such as fears that were relatable; fears that the average person would have and could connect to, a lack of power; the feeling of being helpless against the ‘villain’, a fragile morality, a villain whose idea of right and wrong is skewed, and real-world fears relating to the world we’re living in today.
When asked about past fears that have made it into their works, a few things were mentioned, but the most impactful to me was from Bram Stoker Award Winning Author Michael Knost, (author of Return of the Mothman) when he discuss the loss of a family member, a parent I believe. This touched me because my deepest fear is losing one of my children. I’m sure that I’m not the only one who would be terrified at the risk of life to our families, especially our kids. This would be a really deep fear any reader would respond to. Other past fears mentioned include the “impact of today on our kids in the future”, grief in general, and the death of animals.
We were left with three suggestions: 1, Don’t be afraid to play off your own fears (from Michael Knost), 2, Leave space for the imagination (from John Cosper, author of Dead Park Plaza), 3, Focus on the characters (from Jeff Strand, Bram Stoker award-winning author of Pressure and Deathless).
The next panel was for “Thrillers”. Michael Houtchen (author of Tybee Island H-Bomb) said that a “thriller” is a mystery on steroids, while a “mystery” was defined by saying it’s “about the puzzle”. I attended this panel because I love to read thrillers and I was curious about the difference between a thriller and a mystery.
I got my answer.
I will give you a few statements or quotes from the panelist that stuck out to me. Depending on what I was seeking from a panel, my note-taking format changed.
“Write the type of book you like to read.” (Jeffery James Higgins, author of Unseen: Evil Lurks Among Us)
“For thrillers, the stakes are higher” (T. Lee Harris, author of Chicago Blues and New York Nights)
“A thriller needs to be alive!” (Michael Houtchen)
“I’d rather hear the bad than the good.” (Houtchen, on criticism)
Some bonus tips I got from this panel: Everyone here seemed to really benefit from their membership in a writing group. Also, when submitting works to a beta reader, someone who reads your work to give you feedback, give them an outline of what you are wanting to know about the work to ensure that you get the help that you’re looking for.
The rest of this will contain explicit language. If you’re somehow under the age of 18, consider this the end of the blog. How did you find this blog anyway?!
A Nerd’s Guide to Erotica, presented by Jennifer L. Barnes was my favorite panel of the entire weekend. I learned more from others, but there was no better good time than this panel.
The Scene: Kat and I walked into this panel right on time. It was taking place around the same time as the Opening Ceremony, but we had just come from dinner and we made it back just in time for the beginning. There was Kat and I in the back, a gentleman sitting in front of us, a group of three women in front of him, and a pair of women sitting on the right side of the room by themselves. At the front of the room, at a table by herself was Jennifer Barnes, a sweet woman that I had the pleasure of talking to throughout the day.
The Beginning: As she begins the presentation about writing erotica, which I would define as sexier romance, she shares with us an example of “bad erotica”. The following is a passage from Winkler by Giles Coren:
"And he came hard in her mouth and his dick jumped around and rattled on her teeth and he blacked out and she took his dick out of her mouth and lifted herself from his face and whipped the pillow away and he gasped and glugged at the air, and he came again so hard that his dick wrenched out of her hand and a shot of it hit him straight in the eye and stung like nothing he'd ever had in there, and he yelled with the pain, but the yell could have been anything, and as she grabbed at his dick, which was leaping around like a shower dropped in an empty bath, she scratched his back deeply with the nails of both hands and he shot three more times, in thick stripes on her chest. Like Zorro."
This was the beginning of the end of this absolutely professionally prepared presentation that I know for certain Ms. Barnes worked very hard on… (no pun intended). The group of us in the crowd began our takeover here.
In the beginning, we were lost. We all just kinda looked around trying to figure out what took place in this scene. [It’s worth noting that the format of the panels at this convention is set up so the audience is encouraged to respectfully comment or inquire during the presentation. It’s part of the charm. It’s not a matter of being rude, but the ‘open floor’ gives people a chance to get what they need from the panel. ] We started trying to figure out the mechanics of the scene, how she got from one position to the other, how his “dick jumped and rattled on her teeth”, how a “shot of it hit him straight in the eye”, and more than anything else, how he “shot three more times, in thick stripes on her chest. Like Zorro”, which was the phrase that was held onto more than any other from the weekend.
We got no answers to our questions, but from this and many other examples that are easily found across the internet (a few in this article I found here subsequently), we were able to draw a consensus that most “bad erotica” or “bad romance” comes from a lack of understanding about how the human body works sexually, including what body parts are called and how they work.
To fix this, Jennifer Barnes goes into detail about the function and operation of the penis, the vagina, and the anus. This is probably better information than most American Sex-Ed classes provide, which is a sign of a much larger problem, but this isn’t the blog for that.
Afterward, we started discussing kinks, or non-traditional sexual behaviors, that character may have and what is really involved in those kinks. It was also noted how important research is so that you can represent a kink or in some cases an entire subculture accurately.
I learned what “sounding” is and I refuse to share that here, but you’re free to look it up yourselves. I also learned that you should never use mustard as a lubricant.
All in all, a great presentation that I’m so thankful that I had the chance to attend. Jennifer, if you read this, thanks for being awesome, thanks for the information, and kinda sorry we took over, though, it made the panel that much better!
As I’m writing this, I’m realizing that this is getting pretty long so I will end this blog here. We’ll revise the title to “Just the Facts: Imaginarium Day 1” and I’ll follow it up with “Day 2” or Day 2 and 3” soon.
Until then, so long.
- The Moon