Stop Reading Books About How To Write A Book!

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by J. Scott Bugher

I am a writer and have the standard bookshelf dedicated to instructional books, most of which would be more useful as fire kindling or maybe origami practice, depending on the weight of the paper. Most instructional books are titled like outrageous promises found in Cosmopolitan or Men’s Health magazines: “Guaranteed Multiple Orgasms” or “Get Ripped Abs in Seven Days.”

Here’s the skinny. If you want to be edified in the craft of fiction, read Janet Burroway. If memoir is your thing, check out Natalie Goldberg. Like poetry? Then read work by other poets and write your own. Poetry instructional books will just make you hate poetry and life in general.

Now, if you want to be the most fantastical badass of a novelist, be super careful about today’s instructional books. Go old school first and read John Gardner’s book, On Becoming a Novelist, and maybe Henry Miller’s On Writing. In my opinion, I’d cut it out with the novel tutorial books after those guys. If you insist on getting that How to Write and Publish Your First Novel in Two Weeks book written by some guy who published a recalled romance novel in 1987, then practice some discernment.

I’m not going to identify the book I recently read about writing novels, but I’ll call it You Just Wasted Twenty Dollars by Stephen McBlowChunks.

The book begins with character development and advises to make them larger-than-life since, as the author generalizes, larger-than-life characters powerfully attract us. Okay, so this book might offer good advice to a writer planning on developing yet another asshole character with super-powers. Fair enough. But I have to ask: what’s so wrong with characters we can identify with, characters who are lonely and hang out in record shops or characters who think about tying shoes while riding an escalator? I’m lonely, I like record stores, I have random thoughts often (most recently, a thought of my cat inventing new batteries for Proctor and Gamble). So why should I give a shit about a larger-than-life character who can travel through time, shoot fire from their eyes and lick their own elbow?

We then move on to the “Personal Stakes” chapter, and stakes can make a story interesting, but goddammit–– This book advises everything to result in nuclear war. How would Nick Hornby make things worse for the record shop guys in High Fidelity? Give them each a terminal illness? Make them all heroin addicts? Have the mafia chase after them? Feed them a diet of badger shit and vinegar? And Nicholson Baker’s guy on the escalator in The Mezzanine? Would the book be better if the lead character was sodomized by Mr. T on his way up the escalator?

God, and the whole antagonist thing: the villain, the bad guy, the boogieman. The word “villain” makes me want to Google how to tie a noose. Every book on writing tells the practicing writer to include a villain. Hornby. Where’s your Lex Luthor at? Baker. You forgot to include a man-eating zombie-attacker-thingy. Okay, I’ll cap it on the villain rant.

You know what? I’ll cap it on everything. Long blog posts bore me to death, and if you’re still reading, you’re probably over it. I think I am, too. I was about to discuss plot and all the terrible things you can do to it according to this Write a Best-Seller in a Weekend book, but I think I’m done.

Split Lip: The Origin of Our Name

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by J. Scott Bugher

Some have asked how I came up with Split Lip as the name for the press and magazine. Kind of funny, too. Literary analysis geeks have tried to figure out the correlation between our brand name and the content we publish. Here’s a hint: There is no correlation, so go take a breather and get back to cracking the codes of Jack London and Kate Chopin because there’s nothing to analyze up in here. Anyway, the name – Am I a Split Lip Rayfield fan? Not exactly. Do I enjoy the sight of blood dripping from one’s mouth. Nope. Am I big fat copy cat who is stuck in the early 90s? Yep.

Twenty years ago, I was active in the Indianapolis hardcore underground music scene, a bunch of pissed off kids onstage playing guitar and screaming into microphones or offstage moshing in the pit, the hardcore equivalent of line-dancing. I spent a lot of time at a local punk venue, The Sitcom, listening to Jackhammer, Shelter, Birthright, Endpoint, et cetera, and I liked it. I liked things loud. I liked to get injured in the mosh pit. I liked the angst of it all. And I really liked my favorite band from back then: the Split Lip, a band that produced one of my favorite records, For the Love of the Wounded, a record I still spin today.

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Split Lip, 1992

Besides their music, I am inspired by the longevity of the band. While most bands of that era came and went like Little Caesars’ employees, Split Lip continued. Of course they outgrew their days of teenage punk, but instead of throwing in the towel, they grew up and moved on to name themselves Chamberlain and punk became an influence on their music rather than a definition. Guitarists Adam Rubenstein and Clay Snyder pawned off their DOD metal distortion pedals in exchange for Ibanez Tube Screamers and let go of their solid-state Crate rigs for lower wattage tube amps. Bassist Curtis Mead stopped strumming power chords and developed a more melodic approach to the bass, much like Carol Kay. Their almighty drummer, Charlie Walker, stowed away his chops and laid down the boom pop, boom boom pop grooves. Lastly, vocalist David Moore stepped up as a front man, dropped his screaming and developed a unique voice with hints of Springsteen and Petty present in it. I hate categorizing music, but think Goo Goo Dolls meets Dire Straits? Something like that? Kind of? Or Springsteen meets The Screaming Trees? I don’t know. I’ll give you a hint, though. They did not sound like Los Lonely Boys.

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Split Lip / Chamberlain 2011: Reunited after a six-year hiatus.

So, Chamberlain did their thing for a good while – up until the early 2000s. But all good things come to an end. The band called it quits in 2005. BUT. David Moore and Adam Rubenstein continued to write and catalog music, which resulted in David Moore’s solo record, My Lover, My Stranger, another one of my favorite records, along with Adam Rubenstein’s Excavator, another great record. Drummer Charlie Walker has also maintained a presence in the music industry as drummer for Bush and Helmet.

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David Moore’s Solo Record: My Lover, My Stranger

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Adam Rubenstein’s Solo Record: Excavator

I could write more on the evolution of these musicians, but I wanted to make it clear that not only did I name the magazine Split Lip because I thought it would sound cool; I named it after a band that represents birth, progress and longevity–my hopes for the magazine.

Bad Ass: The Blade Runners!

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by J. Scott Bugher

Split Lip is a bad ass press that likes bad ass things like professional wrestling. Read further and learn about Split Lip’s favorite two people one should never, ever fuck with.

Who were the most bad ass masters of wreckage to step inside a WCW or WWF ring? Give you some hints and some history: They were both a part of The Blade Runners, a tag-team for the ever-so-popular CWA (Continental Wrestling Association) back in 1985. One of the team’s world destroyers was Steve Borden, better known as Flash in the day. The other expert of torment was James Hellwig, better known as Rock. Not the Rock who took over our WWF brand sleeping bags and lunch boxes in 1996, but simply Rock. BAD ASS.

They were first known as the Freedom Fighters, a team of one looking like Zack Morris on steroids and the other looking like Lou Ferrigno on more steroids. But once the new wave music scene hit the radio, the two kings of demolition changed their look to spiked hair––Flash bleached his blonde and Rock dyed his jet black. BAD ASS.

Once the freedom-fighting brow-beaters of doom realized The Blade Runners would be a far more bad ass name, they painted their faces and fought as intensely as Kiss guitar solos. But only after six months as a tag team, they parted ways. Rock moved on to fight in the WWF and changed his name to the iconic Ultimate Warrior (RIP, Bruiser) and Flash went with the WCW as the oh-so-mother-frackin-bad-ass name, Sting! BAD ASS to the 10th power.

Why are these men loved by Split Lip? Because these two legends of pain define BAD ASS. Just look at the timeline below.

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A little cute, but still pretty Bad Ass.

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Who just escalated to complete Bad Ass? Oh, I think these guys did.

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OH MY GOD! ‘Scuse me while I go puke. I can’t stomach the Bad Ass.

So, there you have it folks. The definition of Bad Ass. Split Lip Press can only hope to be as bad ass as these two Doctors of Ruin.