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FULL BLEED: WAKING THE WITCH

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It’s that season again. The trees are being steadily shorn of leaves, but the grass beneath them grows, having slept out the summer. The pumpkins are being put away, whether in pieces after vandalism or whole and unloved past their expiration date. It’s November. It’s that time.

National Novel Writing Month is upon us again. Steel your souls against the waves of advice and unrelenting encouragement. Be ready, for they are legion and will not be stemmed so easily. Their teeth want your flesh, your attention and your belief. They want what power you have to give and take it for themselves.

Let me state my caveat and then get on with the supper. If NaNoWriMo is what gets you going and writing, then that’s wonderful. I mean that will all sincerity. You may not believe it, but it’s absolutely true. I remain method-agnostic in this process. If this event gets you moving, great. If writing fanfiction gets you moving, then great. I’m only conflating the two by way of convenience, though I’m sure that a lot more fanfiction will be written this month than in others.

All this said, the event itself is something that I don’t participate in, for a variety of reasons. Firstly in that it is a perfect growth medium for disappointment. The novel that is written (even the novel that is just drafted) in a month is in all likelihood not one worth reading. There will be exceptions to this. But I bet in all of them, there was extensive revision taking significantly longer than a month to execute. The truth of it is, you will not draft a novel in a month.

I have been writing for a long time, some of that even professionally. I wrote the first draft of my first novel over a period of about six months in 1991. The spine of the plot was a screenplay that I drafted in about three weeks previous to that. (Hint: it was not good at all.) When I was rolling on the co/ghost-writing thing, I was working on plot for around a month and doing 400 pages of draft in 3. That wasn’t every working hour of every day, sure. But I doubt I could have doubled efficiency, much less tripled it.

This month, if I am lucky and my efforts pay off, I’ll finish about a hundred pages of novella (of course, that means writing one hundred and fifty plus and throwing out stuff wholesale.) It will require revision after the fact. I’ve had practice. Yes, I have external complications, which is why I’m tempering expectation.

You should temper your expectation too, lest it become an Everest that you can’t climb without training and equipment (one of these is literal, one metaphor.) If you don’t have real-world concerns dogging you, then great, ramp up expectation. I am not in that position. My obligations are many and often some get short shrift (thinking that self-care ends up in that category.)

If you want to participate in NaNoWriMo, then do so. Don’t expect a compelling result at the end of it. Expect that you’ll have a much shorter piece that with some work will be worth reading. Be pleased with that.

Fend off the bromides and anodyne of helpful advice accounts. Be particularly wary of anything that smells of snake oil and just wants your money. Be wary of the free advice that is not prefaced in bold type with “This is what worked for me, and I can only guarantee that it worked for me.” Be distrustful of success advice, or those who tell you that you can have a #1 bestseller in your category on Amazon if you game the system like so. Those books are worthless. Leaning on bestseller status isn’t worth it, and gets you far fewer returns than you think it does. Beware the writer as best friend and the cult of personality. Shunning it is a good plan altogether.

Success advice is your enemy. You might crave it. I did. I still do. I would love to have a life coach tell me something other than “keep rolling the rock up the hill” or “the rock only rolls downhill if you push it downhill.” Seriously. If you step away from writing for a day or three, you’re not a bad writer. You’re not even a bad person. If you have real life demands then honor those. Because your real life is just that (but be careful to know which demands are genuine and which are manufactured at best or pure distraction at worst.)

And know that being a writer is not a glorious profession. It doesn’t make you smarter or better or more honest or authentic. It. Does. Not. The attention of others is good right up until the moment that it becomes bad (and I’ve seen this pursuit burn up some folks right to ash – again, this includes myself.) Being a writer does not bestow a coat of ermine or even a visible badge that one can wave around to indicate an elevated status. Other folks may choose to elevate you on that basis (just as likely, they will seek to bludgeon you with that pedestal.) Both these are to be considered only on a minimal basis at best.

I know many other writers (and artists, and musicians, and assorted). They are all, to a person, smart, witty, cantankerous, difficult and exceptional. They would be all these things if they never wrote or created another god damned thing in their lifetimes, or even if they hadn’t ever. And, frankly, some of the most successful that I’ve met in these fields? Well, they’re not people that you’d choose to hang out with for an extended period because some of them are (wait for it) just plain bad people.

Please accept my apologies if this is not the comforting boost that you had perhaps sought on this, the month where promises are made that only winter itself can keep. The nights are indeed growing longer and even colder here, finally. The skies are heavy with rain.

You already know if you want to keep to this path or not.

Our supper served, back to more mundane matters.

My wife’s surgeries are completed. However, there is no proof that these procedures will have mattered at all until we go in for an appointment on Friday. So imagine undergoing two surgeries over a couple of weeks and then waiting another out to begin the process. This after literal and actual years of struggle against symptoms and medication that is notoriously unreliable. The frayed ends of my nerves are themselves worn down to invisible and fractally-complicated patterns, all quite tender.

I’m just waiting this out, as is she.

As alluded-to above, I’ll be doing the draft of THE QUEEN OF NO TOMORROWS this month, hell or high water.

Work on the pitch for THE FUTURE AMERICA continues, but nothing I should show yet.

I bought far too much candy for Halloween and I really should hide it from myself.

 

Until next time.

FULL BLEED: RUNNING UP THAT HILL

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Only I won’t be making any deals. I know things don’t work that way. Yeah, there’s maybe four of you who will get that joke.

This week will be big. At least assuming that the insurance company stops fouling up the infomation chain and my wife’s surgical procedure gets approved. Apparently when you put humans into an equation and there’s several chains of information running through them all, there’s a chance that mistakes will get made. Only these mistakes can have some serious fallout.

Been on pins and needles for the last five days over this, but it looks like the insurance approval is just a hiccup. Find out tomorrow. Which is good, because surgery is on Friday. And not simply surgery, but potentially life-altering surgery, at least in terms of symptom relief. I’m not going to give out too many more details. If you’re reading this, then you probably already know the nature of the operation. I will say that it’s actual brain surgery, but about as risk-limited in nature as that endeavor can be.

But I know how things go. Nothing is without risk, even though everyone involved does their best to minimize it. So I’m going to be holding my breath until she comes out of surgery early Thursday afternoon. Sorry if I’m edgy, I hope you understand. And if anyone out there wants to send out positive thoughts/good vibes/the force/manipulation of the simulation/non-sequential transactions with the Basilisk, I’m all for it. I will accept any and all of them, as will she.

Like anything else in this life, this isn’t a race with a finish line, but this time around there are some definite hurdles to clear. The biggest one is Thursday. There’s another two weeks after. Then another two weeks or so after that when we begin to see if the operation will actually pay off in terms of improvement of quality of life. Which is to say, how much of her life she gets back. She’s fought to keep as much as she can, but her condition is variable from hour to hour (and balancing the medicine makes it worse.) Yes, she’s still working, which requires an effort that I can only characterize as “super-human.” But when the symptoms are bad, everything’s bad. Hence surgery, of a nature that one doesn’t just undertake on a whim.

But let’s us clear the first bar before we worry about the second.

In the meantime, I’ll probably be going quiet on most public outlets, perhaps interrupted only by more-cryptic-than-usual pictures from the field. Everything else has been sitting by the wayside. No work on ABYSSAL, which kinda stings (but it needed a little more time to simmer and loosen up). Intrapanel basically shut down (and honestly I flip-flop on whether or not I should even continue it.) The outside world is a vortex of flaming aircraft parts with no discernible eye to the hurricane, so perhaps I should stop watching it for awhile. Plenty to do on the inside.

This Saturday, my 49th birthday, I hope to be driving my wife home from the hospital with the best possible outcome awaiting us. That’s all I want. That’s all I’ve ever wanted.

Practice a little more kindness (but suffer not fools gladly or otherwise) while I’m away. Maybe it’ll be catching.

FULL BLEED: TERMINATION STATION GREY

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Let’s get the news out of the way first.

1) I signed a contract yesterday. Kind of a big deal for me because it’s not something I’ve done very often. Last time was a story for Blizzard Entertainment, which actually has yet to be printed (meaning that it won’t ever be.)

2) It’s for a story titled “The Queen of No Tomorrows” which is a thing that I’ve referred to as with the code-name ABYSSAL. This name might or might not stick. The project itself has changed some since inception (which is a good sign, really.) The title for the story itself isn’t going to change because I’ve become quite attached to it.

3) That’s all I’ll be saying about this project until the story is done. My hope is that it will be substantially done in the next four weeks with plenty of time for revisions. This would put me well ahead of the planned schedule which is fine by me.

I’ve been doing a survey of neo-Lovecraftian literature and I thought that I had a lot to say about it, but as it turns out, maybe I don’t. I spent a lot of time reading it being constantly (well, almost-constantly) frustrated with any number of choices going on, slogging through to the end of stories that I didn’t enjoy or stories that weren’t even stories, each one adding fuel to the fire of what I was going to say about the whole sub-genre of weird fiction. It was going to be a roiling, raging thing, y’all.

And then I gave it some more thought.

And I let it go, like a practiced zen master might with regard to his worldly attachments.

And I felt better. A lot better.

Because, of course, the best criticism of limitations in a genre/mode, of course, is to write it instead how you would write it and not to bow to to expectation. Unless that’s the job. In which case, you take it as the job presents itself.

Seriously, I felt a lot better after embracing this conclusion.

And, to be honest, that issue was one that rested squarely upon just one guy’s shoulders. Me. Expectation, execution, whatever. My irritation with these stories (even when well-executed) lay solely with myself in thinking that they could address the kinds of things that I wanted addressed, that they would do things they way I wanted them done.

That, dear friends, is total folly, narcissist-level delusion. The only one who is going to address things the way you want, one hundred percent of the time, is you. Character, language, setting, even the dreaded “content”, whatever. That set of expectations lies with you. So instead of being angry that so and so wasn’t doing a thing I would’ve done, I should’ve been out doing that thing. Should be.

Understand that and you’ve got some freedom, or at least I do. I can only speak for myself. Everyone’s going to have their own way of doing things, their own process, no matter how addled it may appear from the observer’s standpoint.

So I let that all go, and I’m writing my own.

Two weekends ago, I was up in Portland, ostensibly for the Rose City Comic-Con, but really to visit folks and rummage through bins of old comics and eat schnitzelwiches (though not in the plural, for along that path lies madness.) All three missions were accomplished.

Rose City is an interesting show because it originally started as something completely different. Not too long ago (okay, almost ten years now), it existed as the Stumptown Comics Festival, which was held in the conference facilities of the Doubletree at Lloyd Center. Cramped aisles and the whole room would shudder a little at the passing Max line trains, but a great show. Very much an indie comics show, though you had lots of presence from studios like Periscope (now Helioscope) which embraces both mainstream and independent/artcomix artists.

But it was too small a venue. Or the show had too many artists. Whichever you choose to embrace. So the show migrated over to the Portland Convention Center, where for the first couple of years it felt like it was trying to fit into dad’s shoes. The hall was too big, too cold, too bright. Lots of the independent comix folks felt like they were being left behind and wanted a return to the old show (alongside concerns about expense and the door price eating into folks’ spending money). But instead of crumbling, the show hung on (and I’m pretty sure there was at least one change of management, perhaps two) and now RCCC is a pretty big, pretty busy show. Lots of quality artists and books to see.

Sure, there’s still a lot of indie art show stuff, a lot of two-things drawings, a lot of art that I wouldn’t give a second glance to. But that’s the same as with any comic show I go to these days. I’m sure it appeals to someone else, otherwise it wouldn’t be there. I don’t get mad about it (well, except maybe for the artists who do nothing but draw other folks’ creations and intellectual property but everyone has to make a living, right?) But I don’t have to be excited about it, either.

Bought a foot and a half of books, mostly trade collections of things that I’d have bought from a comic store if I had a good one around. The one I do go to only gets stuff I’m really into if I pre-order it, and I don’t. Mostly because it feels like homework. Mostly because I don’t know what I’ll be up for reading three months after purchase. I know. I’m part of the problem. Got it.

Got to talk to a bunch of folks who I only see a couple times a year now (don’t go to nearly as many shows as I used to, for a variety of reasons.) Met some new folks and even found some cheap old issues of ENEMY ACE for two bucks apiece, and that’s Joe Kubert art in there. A bargain at twice the price. Played some old video games, realized I still stuck ass at SINISTAR and always will, hung out at a barbecue where I mostly just hid upstairs and talked to a friend who has similar crowd issues as I do. I know, I’m supposed to network and when I try to do that, I turn into a gawky ten-year-old again and simply can’t. This is why I’ll never work in the business, right? Maybe I just need more ketamine in my diet.

Returned home after a long delayed flight and watching half of JAWS at Parker’s house and wish it was delayed long enough so I could watch the whole thing because damn that’s one effective movie.

Last weekend’s excursion to Los Angeles was under the guise of research and the Long Beach Comic-con. Mostly what I did was walk around and take pictures. Walking along Olive and Victory in Burbank, taking pictures. Walking around the purple neon of the vape shop at night and taking pictures. Walking around the abandoned Griffith Park Zoo looking for sacred geometries in the cage shadows, taking pictures. Stumbling through LBCC and only taking occasional pictures, but mostly hunting for old Gold Key comics worth paying sticker price for and encouraging friends to do the same. Didn’t stay for too long, just the afternoon, really.

LBCC is a show that’s had an odd transition. Once it was a Wizard World show, the only one for the LA area, and DC/Marvel used to show there (even when Marvel was rarely at big shows at all, back in the early 2000s). Now it almost feels like a local show, with I think Top Cow and Aspen being the biggest publishers with a booth presence. Lots of toys and such, but not the kind I’m looking for at this time. Which is almost no toys, really. Trying to de-clutter the office ahead of some renovations to the house.

Anyways, LBCC seems to have settled into a regional show status, which means it faces competition from a bunch of other, diversified offerings. I’ll probably keep going since it affords a nice excuse to get away for a weekend, but it’s not a show that I am actively looking forward to any longer.

And before anyone gets upset, I’ve done shows for long enough that my days of actively looking forward to them are pretty much over.

Had dinner with friends across from a freshly-restored Art Deco theatre, talked comics and movies and honestly I wish I had more friends up here in the sticks, but I knew what came along with this move when I undertook it nearly ten years ago.

Tried to sleep that night and couldn’t. Up at 4:45am and just packed up everything and went. Drove up to Griffith Park after doughnuts. Listened to a guy and his drone-operator DP talk out a shot which they then actually shot as the sun came up. Something about pterodactyls attacking a kid, they’d add it all in post.

Sunrise at Griffith Park, by the by, is spectacular stuff. Recommend you do it if you get a chance. If you get there early, you can even get parking. This isn’t a joke, either. Lot was full by the time I left at just after seven AM. Still, worth the effort.

Walked around downtown, past the LA TIMES building, past City Hall, to Olvera Street and Union Station, met a friend at Grand Central Market for lunch, walked around the Bradbury Building and the theatre district where I took pictures in dazzling sunlight (last year when I was there, it was all about the buttermilk sky and being obscured by clouds, which gets you very different results. Met another longtime friend for a rummage through the Last Book Store and coffee afterwards.

And like that it was time to get home. Time to start working on a thing. Time to count days. Time.

FULL BLEED: ABYSSAL

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2016 continues to be an unpredictable mother of a year. I know, for everyone, right? But me and my family have had a few punches thrown that we didn’t see coming, and payments from others are coming due.

One thing that I probably didn’t talk up enough was appearing in TOMORROW’S CTHULHU from Broken Eye. I should have made a bigger deal about it as it was the first thing that I’d sent to an open anthology call (that’s a thing in F/SF/genre) that actually got printed. But I’ll be honest. When it happened, it was a smaller thing than I’d thought, or I thought it was smaller than it was. Whichever. Loss of perspective and fixation on other issues. Let’s hang it on that. Then I broke my arm and sat mostly immobile on a couch, chewing painkillers for about six weeks, watching all kinds of garbage on-demand on the television or via Netflix. I also gained what I say is ten pounds (but was probably less than that.)

With that fixed, I went to work on some stuff, notably THE FUTURE AMERICA, for which I did a bunch of world-building, research and writing (as well as visual design stuff which was fun and a welcome break.) That’s still being worked on by the guys down at Estudio Haus in Buenos Aires. I’ll share stuff when I can.

Then summer hit in full and with that a brief return to San Diego, which probably deserves its own entry some time, as it’s been about ten years since the family and I bailed there and ended up here in the Sierra Nevada foothills. And the aforementioned other stuff coming due that had to be dealt with, yeah. Like dropping almost twenty-five pounds, which leaves me susceptible to periods of more-than-usual grouchiness but my jeans fit a lot better now, so, trade-offs.

So I’d honestly put “Chunked” behind me, that being the story in TOMORROW’S CTHULHU. Though in the process of going through my notes for various project pitches I could do (and spend a fair amount of money on to get a pitch package, but that’s life) as a comic. I’m thinking about this since I’m going to be at Rose City Comic-Con next month, which is kind of a big deal show now. Not that I can pitch comics on the show floor without art. Be real. Only known quantity creators who know editors personally get to do that. Otherwise, shows are too noisy and busy and you don’t want to try and do the publisher speed date while everyone’s watching the clock for show close so they can hit the con bar or go back to their room and scream into a pillow for an hour.

But still, the best way to pass time is to keep busy. So I took another look at “Chunked” which s a story that defies easy categorization, but suggests a pretty interesting world with stuff going on outside the bounds of the story itself (some of which I actually had to cut for the anthology, want to say a couple thousand words, since my natural length in stories seems to be around the 10K mark.) Which, by the by, I’ve found is on the long side of things for most markets. But then I see flash fiction of “up to 100 words” and I shake my head sadly because I simply can’t do that.

The world hinted at by “Chunked,” could go somewhere. So I thought about it a bit, and a little bit more. And not just the story itself, but the approach to horror and in particular cosmic horror, might have some legs to it. So I dashed off a couple foundational statements about the possibility and a handful of story ideas and a statement on how I planned on handling this whole world, which was on the cusp of devastating changes. But the changes themselves were seeping in slowly. No armageddon at a stroke because that’s never how it is and it’s not so interesting to me. These transformations might seem familiar on the surface, at least once revealed, but I wanted to look at the kinds of counter-adaptations that would take place in the face of a new reality, even if that reality was submerged and obscured, perhaps even willfully-so.

Luckily, I sent it to the right place. And not just because they said “yeah, we’ll publish that” but more importantly they said “yeah we get that and it’s interesting and there’s possibilities there.” I’m not going to say there was something like physical relief, but perhaps you might understand if I had, as I’ve been working at this sort of thing for a long time, even if you discard the false starts and interruptions (working in digital animation, raising a young family, uprooting, etc) it’s still a pretty long time. So finding a publisher who gets it? Particularly in a field that is in its own way very calcified and conservative in terms of genre expectation? That’s a big deal. Or maybe it isn’t and my career is so stunted and nascent and I just don’t know it.

But yeah, it’s my career. Unlike that genre-mash-up schlock artist who gets to pay $500K back to their publisher because their last book in a three-book contract wasn’t up to snuff. There’s a lot more to say on that, but I’ll just leave the potshot. I don’t like that form, how it leans on other people’s work to boost yours, the easy cash-in, none of it. Look, I could write RED DAWN OF THE DEAD and probably get a whole lotta likes on Wattpad for it. So what. That’s not doing my own work.

And even if ABYSSAL is inspired by other works, particularly those of the dreaded HP Lovecraft, it’s my own work, and it will be told with my own voice. Even if the territory seems familiar, I can guarantee it won’t be. Mostly because my work tends to be about people and the systems they inhabit (and either change or force change upon.) That’s where the action is. Sure, dress it up in whatever genre you want, though that tends to get your “science fiction” called “sci-fi”. Hey, you know what the difference between science fiction and sci-fi is? The tone of derision in the speaker’s voice.

Cosmic horror talking about humans and human systems? I know, right? Weird. Especially since most cosmic horror seems to be about humans discovering cosmic horror and losing utterly. But what if, and this is crazy, what if cosmic indifference was a sword that swung two ways? And what if people found out about cosmic horror and tried to profit from it instead of run from it or go insane? What if it became a fulcrum for stories about humans and not an end in and of itself? Yeah, weird. Because cosmic horror, especially in the old school, was the point, not watching humans deal with it. There’s a longer essay in this, but not right now.

As I said last night, even exhausted and on low blood sugar, I can recognize good news when I see it. And this whole thing is some good news. The first career-wise in some time. It’s always great (and necessary) to hear from friends and colleagues that you do good work. That’s major sustenance when you’re out there sitting on a keyboard hundreds of miles from them. Hey, the foothills are pretty but there’s not a lot of people I can talk to about TOUCH OF EVIL or the psychosexual wonders of 1980’s FLASH GORDON. That feedback is critical, but all the same, you can’t really eat moral support. And while I’m not going to be buying any new Ferraris anytime soon, this is at least a project that I won’t have to publish on my own.

FULL BLEED: ANOTHER VOICE

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Quick-ish follow-up to Tuesday’s post. The consultation went as well as we could expect it to. Managing expectation is an important life skill and I recommend it to everyone reading this right now. Or everyone in general.

The upshot of things is that my wife will be getting the surgery, barring any surprises, in the timeframe of three months or so from now. This assumes all bureaucratic expectations are fulfilled. This process will require several trips to San Francisco and back (that’s okay, I like SF just fine, though East Bay traffic in the afternoon is murderous.)

I’ll only talk in general terms about the surgery, other than to note that it is actual and literal brain surgery (though non-destructive.) The process is reversible, involving insertion of two probes (since brains are bicameral) to a pacemaker-like device, which should prevent the signals that cause Parkinsonian tremors from actually being broadcast. It will likely mean a reduced medicine schedule (which is good, as any medicines that work on brain functions are rife with unwanted side-effects.) There are minor chances of complication, but taken against possible benefit, the decision is easy. This surgery is not experimental, and doctors have had a very long time to refine the techniques involved.

My wife is one of the toughest, strongest people I’ve ever met. But that does not mean indestructible. She has been through a lot since her diagnosis, and particularly in the last year and a half or so. It is my fervent hope that this brings her a large measure of relief from these symptoms. I’m sure you hope the same thing. I’m looking at this as a positive, but there’s a number of milestones we’ll need to reach (namely waiting out the surgery, but also training and programming of the device and controlling medicine dosage after), none of which is inconsiderable on its own.

In the meantime, I do plan on continuing work, even if I have more important things to think about than fiction at the current moment.

Apologies to all the folks in SF who I didn’t get to see this time out. And maybe not the other visits, either. Schedule’s not my own to control right now.

FULL BLEED: INTERIM

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Relatively quick note here. Which would make for two blog posts on two consecutive days, something that hasn’t happened since, oh, 2008 perhaps.

Today I drive with my wife to San Francisco. Tomorrow we consult with a surgeon regarding actual and literal brain surgery to help alleviate the dual symptoms of her Parkinson’s disease. I say dual symptoms because the medicine used to deal with the symptoms currently creates its own set of problems as much as it clears them up.

We don’t know the timetable for the surgery or her potential recovery period. We don’t know if the surgery will work (though it does, apparently in 80% or so of the cases, at least that’s the baseline we’ve been given.) We don’t know if she will be able to keep working should the surgery prove to be ineffective. We don’t know much of anything other than things are continuing along a path that can not be sustained in the long term, even when you’re talking as something as short as human life.

There is no immediate danger to her health, but the prognosis is always negative with Parkinson’s. It’s a matter of keeping quality of life going so that we have the strength to deal with the bad days.

It’s not that the medicine doesn’t work anymore. When it’s working, you’d be hard-pressed to know that anything was wrong with her. When it’s not, well, it’s not, and that becomes all-consuming.

We will gladly accept any positive thoughts, chill vibes, prayers, offerings to the hidden mistresses of the universe, appeals to the void and plain old best wishes there are to be offered.

FULL BLEED: 1983 AND OTHER TERRORS

Given the year I call out, you all probably know what recent Hot Media Thing (at least on the internet) I’m going to talk about. Yeah, STRANGER THINGS. And I promise not to spend a lot of time on it because I’ve got other things to do. (Also: SPOILERS.)

So let’s start with some honesty. I didn’t hate STRANGER THINGS. I didn’t love it, either. So I’ve violated the single canonical rule of reviewing media on the internet: either you’re writing to tear something down or to venerate it. There is no in-between. Which, of course, is a lie, but is great for driving hits, yeah. You hate-read reviews that you don’t agree with just to see how much you don’t agree with them. You read and disseminate reviews that you support so that they can get more support. This is the game now.

I’m not going to play it. Or I’m going to play both at once. Whichever.

First things first. STRANGER THINGS is not a particularly brave work. Its hook is that it’s talking about things that as a self-identified-geek of a certain age, you were either a firsthand liker-of or you are supposed to be liking them even if you never did or just read about them. I can’t even say it’s a pastiche of one thing, because it’s a pastiche of twenty or so. For those of you not familiar, pastiche is the act of copying a thing without making fun of it. Parody (like MAD MAGAZINE) copies some surface similarities and then goes around subverting things. Pastiche just copies without adding anything. Pastiche’s more-grown-up sibling is the updating, which happens from time to time (and often does no more than point out how certain things only work when in their own time.) So the updating copies surface similarities but tries to scrub out certain (now-unseemly, but certainly forgivable if not expected in its original time – also to point out how reconstructed and mature we’ve become since we first liked those things.)

Continue reading FULL BLEED: 1983 AND OTHER TERRORS

FULL BLEED: DEEP WATER

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Teased this one earlier this week so I should actually commit to it. Life got in the way for a little while, which is why I’m doing it now and not a couple days ago when it was fresh.

So I was listening to one of those shows that turns up on NPR (yes, I listen to NPR sometimes when I’m driving because there’s nothing else that has even half a goddamned brain) that sometimes has interesting content but has become so beholden to remaking the wonder of radio that I often lose patience before the story is told. Anyways, this one was about failure. And the story being told was not about failure so much as it was about damaged persons.

For instance, the speaker wins a literary accolade and is flown to NYC and meets with agents, gives a talk and is immediately approached by a high-power agent who offers her services.

And the speaker turns this offer down. Not resolutely, but in a non-committal way. A nonsensical way. A way that only expresses a kind of psychic hurt that most of us don’t even want to contemplate ourselves being capable of bearing.

This woman was talking about failure. But what she spoke of wasn’t failure, rather it was the rejection of success, any success. So this is a little misleading and I get irked (something that happens a lot, just follow me on Twitter to see how often.) Now, what she had to say about the heroic journey being a fiction and life not working like that? 100% behind that.

But calling this failure? No. Recognition was baked into this whole thing. Recognition that thousands of writers (and yeah, I’m being specific here) are searching for every god damned day. Yet, she was compelled to turn from it. Again, this is an expression of hurt and not a comprehensible behavior (unless I suppose you have something to prove which I don’t believe the case was.)

There’s a funny cartoon I see on Tumblr sometimes. It shows a little blobby person, and before that blobby person is a little hill with a big jellybean on it marked “Success”, but the hill itself is marked “hard work.” And the blobby person sighs and says something about that being too difficult and shuffling off.

Continue reading FULL BLEED: DEEP WATER

FULL BLEED: CONDUIT

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Buckle up.

Readers over the last year or so will note a decided edge in my voice, which rises and falls at times but never falls away, not completely.

I want to say that it’s time to put that edge away, but there is no occasion for that, probably because I’m backed into a corner and you never know when a knife is going to come in handy.

What I talked about last summer or so, you know, in that Black Phase post? It’s still here, never going away. The condition does not improve, only can be masked better at some times than others. No, not mine. Mine is all out on the surface, easy to read. Decent degree of skill but no place to apply it other than in my own work which is not what the Market wants.

Ah, if that were the only problem. That I could live with.

Continue reading FULL BLEED: CONDUIT

FULL BLEED: AND WHEN YOU FALL

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Little catching up to do here. Meant for this to be a weekly update thing, but I’ve already botched that. Maybe I’ll talk about my trip to the Lush show in San Francisco and how it’s nice to be a grownup sometimes. Of course, you have to put up with a lot of unrelenting bullshit, at which this week has excelled.

Said bullshit often originating from quarters that you have precisely zero control over. And that’s often the most unrelenting kind, because you get to feel powerless over and over again. No, I won’t bore you with the details. I will instead talk about getting back to work. Remember the broken arm? Still broken, still got a plate in there, but I can sit and work at a computer for a couple hours at a time without things getting too bad. Still can’t play guitar for more than a minute though. Something about the angle. Maybe I should play lefty. There’s dumber ideas.

So now that I can sit and work, I’ve had to actually do it. Considering I basically spent all of last year planning things that didn’t amount to much more than plans and dealing with a long chain of personal/family brush fires and *not* actually writing, this is a daunting prospect. Particularly when you’re kissing the Qliphoth half of the time, and that’s some dark, seductive stuff. If you’re weak-willed, you might even get to believing what it whispers to you on those sleepless nights.

Wrestling out of that takes some doing. Like, you get to believing that nobody wants the work that you do (and I could/did make a compelling argument for that thesis for too long.) Nothing will suck the air out of you faster than that. And I’d love to say that this is done and behind me, but I’m going to be smarter than that. It’s there and I just need to know that instead of letting it drive the goddamn bus.

But this week, I actually sat down with my notes for THE FUTURE AMERICA and wrote five script pages for it, really in the last couple days. Earlier this week was consumed by the aforementioned torrent of real life. Hell, last night, too, but only after work had gotten done. So yeah, five pages is not a fucking achievement, I’m aware of that (at my best, I put down seventeen pages of script off of notes when I was writing MURDER MOON). It’s not an achievement, but it’s a start.

Gosh, that sounds like the kind of optimistic note to leave things on. Which is why I probably will keep going.

The plan is to arrange a pitch package with the script pages (and far too much background material) which needs to be boiled down hard and the work of the guys from Estudio Haus to try and sell publishers on the book. Shouldn’t be too hard, given that sci-fi action is a good place to start in comics. Granted, it’s not a natural to be adapted into a cheap TV series so there goes the Hollywood interest. I’m really okay with that. It’d be pretty expensive to shoot as I’m seeing it in my head, and depending on good design to cover up lack of big sets is a pretty bad bet, in my book. Sometimes that friction generates interesting results, but not enough to hold my breath over.

At any rate, the pitch is finished up and in the hands of a capable editor right now. Hoping to learn more about pitching itself, since I know fuck-all about it. Been far too worried about the final product and how to pay bills with it than learning the actual process of selling it. Cart before the horse, that’s me.

I did want to talk about one other thing while I’ve got your kind attention. That thing is fear. See, when you’ve worked for a long time at a skill, one that’s judged subjectively rather than objectively, particularly when it’s a skill that relies on the audience’s ability towards abstraction, well, that’s kind of like being in solitary. You get so you don’t know up from down after a time, go groundless. Especially when you feel like you’ve been treading water for years (this is the part where I remind everyone that STRANGEWAYS, regardless of quality, has yet to pay back its printing costs, much less art costs.) Them’s the breaks. Nobody cares how hard you tried (as reminded by friend Alex de Campi, indirectly, perhaps). The process isn’t the issue. The result is the only thing that matters.

So, yeah, fear. See, since I hadn’t written much of anything more than notes in the past year, I got to wondering if I could even write original stuff. Yeah, it’s dumb. Because writing doesn’t leave you. You might leave writing (like I did) but if you come back to it, things start rolling again. This doesn’t mean that the machine doesn’t need oiling or that the first few batches of work out will be all sideways and misprinted, spindled, folded and mutilated. But the machine starts up again. Which maybe I shouldn’t have been afraid of. Maybe.

Back to work now. I’d say put the childish things, like fear, away, but I’m not sure that I can. I’ll try to keep them out of arms’ reach so that they’re not such an easy distraction. When so much of life is up in the air and the floor seems to be lined with spikes more than nice comfy carpet, it’s pretty easy to anticipate that slice when you come down. Once cut, twice shy or something like that. Sure, I could go all swami and say “Welp, that’s just out of my control and deal with it as it comes” but I’ve never been good at swami and zen just makes my anxiousness, usually disguised as irritability, bubble right up to the surface. I’m allergic to the void and the calm it brings, I guess.

Out of arm’s reach, though, maybe that I can manage.

Nor is this an ask for assistance on this particular front, just a statement of the current situation. My sins against the various avatars of the creative act no matter how you define or name them, are legion. Primary amongst those is the dependence on others to confirm whether I’m doing good work or not. Now I’m not just talking editors or the market, because both of those are whimsical humans and beasts, respectively. Honestly, editors like what they like and if they knew what would sell as opposed to what they liked, we’d only see million selling books from the publishing houses that employ them (or whatever passes for success these days.) But yeah, I’ve sinned.

I’m talking about depending on myself, yourself. I guess that’s what it all comes down to, has to come down to. Cut through the bullshit and that’s what is. You get to save yourself. Sure, some folks are there to lend a hand, but that’s all that is. A hand. It’s not the whole thing, just a step. But the validation that you’re craving, that I’m craving, that ain’t even a hand, not even a step. Easy to think that it is, but that’s a lie. A pretty lie, maybe even thirsty in the desert mirage kind of lie, but still just as empty at the end of the day. The only thing that ends up being real is the work.

Folks’ thoughts about the work, those opinions? Well they’re just that. Remember, the work is there for someone to read, reflect on and maybe bounce something off of. You don’t get to control that as the author/artist/whatever. It’s not yours. Nor is the string of rejection letters, y’know? Or the indifference that the work spawns. That isn’t yours, nor should you or I dwell on it, no matter how strong the temptation, because that’s pure kissing the Qliphoth.

Remember when I repeated the line “nobody cares how hard you tried”? Well that’s both true and false, my sisters, brothers, fluids and non-identifiers. It’s true that world at large doesn’t care.

But you do.

I gotta work on that, still. Believe me, I’m trying.