Sunday, November 15, 2015

The Stanley Hotel - My First Writer's Retreat

This post originally appeared at the Erotic Readers and Writers Association web site.

I'm breathing the crisp, thin air of Estes Park, Colorado right now. I'm attending the Stanley Hotel Writer's Retreat, my very first writer's retreat. This one is for horror, but since it's my first retreat I thought I'd report on it. I bought the short story package, and my two stories will be critiqued after the retreat.

The Stanley Hotel is the hotel Stephen King stayed in that inspired him to write The Shining. He stayed in room 217, which is supposedly haunted. We're in room 319, which is not haunted. I tried to book room 401, which is also haunted, but someone beat me to it. The Concert Hall and the fourth floor are haunted as well. I went to the fourth floor and took pictures, but no ghosts. Yet. Here is a shot of the haunted fourth floor hallway. I fully expected to see two very creepy little girls hanging out at the end of the hall. Redrum!

We drove from the northeast coast of Massachusetts (any more east and you're in the ocean) to Estes Park, Colorado. It took us four days to get to Denver, where we stayed overnight and took advantage of pot tourism in the state. We bought edibles since we don't want to smoke - Cookies and Cream Cake Bites and sublingual Energizing Tablets, both infused with marijuana. Recreational marijuana is no longer seeds and twigs in a plastic sandwich baggie. I had no idea it was so fancy! The tablets were okay but those cake bites are amazing. Pure chocolate decadence and a very mellow high. I discovered something very important – I cannot write when baked. LOL I drool when baked, and that's about it. We're enjoying the mellow in our hotel room when things are slow, which isn't often. We also have Jacuzzi jets in the bathtub, and I'm taking full advantage tonight after all the events for the day die down.

We saw elk taking their good old time crossing the road on the way to the hotel. I understand the elk own the roads out here, so who am I to complain? LOL

The Opening Scaremonies (after all, this is a horror writer's retreat) consisted of our Guests Of Honor horror writers and editors you've likely never heard of since you read and write erotic fiction and romance. In case you have heard of them, they are Trent Zelazny, Jack Ketchum, Josh Malerman, Chris Morey, and Daniel Knauf. One of next year's Guests of Honor is Chuck Palahniuk. He wrote Fight Club. If we can swing it, we're going. Our host is Dark Regions Press editor RJ Cavender, and he did a bang-up job putting this behemoth together. This year's guests gave a very informative talk about the craft of writing, editing, playwriting, Hollywood, and their works in general. In two hours I'm going to a talk by a lake about dialogue and scene construction. It'll be given by Daniel Knauf. I do excel at writing dialogue, but I'm always on the lookout to learn something new. UPDATE: I attended the highly informative lecture by Daniel Knauf, who is one of the writers of the hit TV series The Blacklist. I learned why I've been having difficulty working on two short horror stories lately. I don't know my characters. I've done historical research, developed the location, and envisioned most of the plot. I've neglected my characters. I won't be able to work on the story until I know them better. Next step - write character profiles for each character.

I highly recommend you attend as many planned events as possible even if they cut into your writing time. You will learn a great deal, and you'll be in a position to mingle with other writers. You might even meet someone you've admired for years. One of the purposes of a writer's retreat is to inspire you to write. This one is doing its job. Not only have I made some fine contacts, Jack Ketchum is interested in being my guest on my radio show The Women Show in early 2016. He's one of the top horror writers out there. The Girl Next Door was sufficiently upsetting. Based on a true crime, too.

I've been asked by darker fiction publisher Rampant Loon Press to write a new short story based on a small Massachusetts island town I've created for one novel and several short stories. Rampant Loon published one of those stories – The Oily – and it has accepted a second one – Unrequited. Both are horror. I've decided to go one better. I'm going to write two new stories. One set in a wooded location in modern times, and another one set in the same location in approximately 1830, not long after the Salem witch trials. Salem plays an important part in my story since it's not very far away from my island.  I've already done all my research including hiking in the five acre area of woods near my home which provided much inspiration as well as a nasty twist to my right leg that is still healing. This wooded area is an abandoned colonial settlement, and you can still see the ruins. My two horror stories will be very desolate and creepy. I even read some Stephen King for inspiration, speaking of the Stanley Hotel. I'm using my time here at the retreat to inspire me to finish at least the modern day story. I need to concentrate on character development before I can begin to write the story, though. I learned that today during a lecture outdoors at a restaurant on a lake where we saw a bald eagle flying around. The eagle even dived into the lake to catch a fish. Knauf talked about getting to know your characters very intimately with important things like what are their dreams? What are they afraid of? Once I write down those notes I can begin writing the stories. There's no deadline so I'm not in a rush.

There's nothing like writing undisturbed by children, pets, television, Facebook, Twitter, strange foreign men on Facebook asking me if I'm married, email, the phone ringing, people banging at my door, the upstairs neighbors screeching at each other, and the latest appliance to stop working in my apartment. I'm free to be creative here, and I write when I want. I've also decided, with the help of discussing the matter with one of the guests, that I need to begin my agent search again. My family saga/thriller novel Secrets and Lies won't be published in 2016 after all since the publisher is going out of business. I was told about a week ago, and I have my rights back. Lucky for me, the book was never published so I don't have to worry about trying to sell a reprint. It was recommended to me to begin the agent hunt in earnest and don't aim for the smaller presses since they can be so unreliable.
Aim high. Good advice.

It's a long way from home, but the beautiful Stanley Hotel was well worth the drive. The views of the Rockies are gorgeous. Although I'm a beach girl at heart, I could see living here because of the views. I'd have to get used to the altitude – just walking up and down the stairs gets me winded – but otherwise this is a beautiful location to write. If you have a chance to go to a writer's retreat, I highly recommend one.

"Lean On" - Major Lazer & DJ Snake