Sunday, November 30, 2014

What It Is – week ending 30 November [2014]

With apologies to Dave the Thune.

Every day.  1000 words.  That’s the goal.

Ever since I completed the first part of the novel, along with the opening scene to part two, I’ve found my attention straying to other ideas.  In last week’s “What It Is” I noted that I’d completed the first draft of a new short story.  This week, I’ve split my time between another new short and a pitch for a short comic story, which I sent off yesterday.  The pitch was based on the short story I wrote last week, with minor tweaks so that it fit the guidelines of the submission call, and revolves around a childhood experience with an abandoned house that was obviously haunted (the light on the second floor was a testament to that), and I'm pretty happy with it.  We'll see where it goes.


This newest short story has been more of a chore to get out of my system.  Sections have been written and re-written a few times, and, despite having a good idea of what I want to write, it has taken longer to get the words down than normal. 

One thing that might have been holding me up was the fact that I didn’t know exactly how it ended.  But then I latched onto an idea and decided to write that final scene.  In the writing of the ending, some things came into focus about the story for me.  Initially, the parents of my protagonist were even less than background characters, hardly visible at all.  But with the final scene, they are front and center, as their daughter is returned to them at a point when they must care for her.  This provided the dramatic tension in that final bit, but I needed to seed in more of the parents interactions with their daughter in earlier parts for it to have the right emotional resonance at the end.  This had me rethinking those first couple of scenes I’d already written.  They will need some heavy revising.  It also spurred me to come up with other scenarios to include, substituting some of what’s already been written.  And all of this is working toward making this a far stronger, and more emotionally compelling story than it had any right to be, when I first conceived of the story.  I’m really looking forward to finishing up this first draft.

And, at this point, I think I’ll just wait and return to the novel in January.  Because Santa letters are next up on the list, and that’s something I can’t let slide. 

ECHOES (2011) by Joshua Hale Fialkov & Rahsan Ekedal, published by Image/Top Cow. 


Fialkov is a writer who has never disappointed.  And yet, maybe because of the methodical way in which he’s been building his writing career – with books such as Elk’s Run, Tumor, and the Bunker – he is someone with whom I’ve been familiar, but who is a writer I don’t often think of when thinking of writers I follow.  But, man, I need to change that, and Echoes solidified that for me.  This was an amazing book. 

Brian Cohn suffers from schizophrenia, just as his father did – an abusive father whose final words to his son were a confession of all the young girls he killed.  Brian investigates, finds these tiny dolls crafted from the skin and tendons of the girls, right where his father said they would be.  And when another girl shows up dead, with the doll arriving at Brian’s home, Brian wonders if he might not be doing the same thing his father did. 

It’s a chilling story that keeps readers wondering if it’s real or just a figment of Brian’s fractured imagination, exacerbated by his mental instability.  There are moments, truly chilling moments, that do not seem to make sense, hinting at some supernatural reality (or, again, the ravings of Brian’s mind) that threatens to derail the very real story being told by Fialkov and Ekedal.  But, in the end, Fialkov brings it all to an incredibly satisfying and reasonable conclusion, a conclusion that you will not see coming, despite it being the only one possible.

THROUGH THE WOODS (2014) by Emily Carroll, published by Margaret K. McElderry Books. 

A collection of five horror stories from Carroll, these are some of the moodiest comics I have read in a long time.  Carroll manages to infuse every story with a sense of dread and anxiety that is all too real, utilizing a beautiful cartooning style and a limited color palette to draw readers into the narratives and then play on their own fears as she lets each one unravel in their hands. 

There really is something magical going on in these stories.  None of them rely on the “shock” one finds in filmic horror.  None rely on huge, intense reveals, though there are revelations to be had.  None rely on grossing the reader out, though there are grotesqueries to be found.  Instead, Carroll hides the horrors in plain sight, either using shadow or the edges of the panels or the facades of other characters’ bodies (sometimes used by the grotesqueries of the stories) to chill her audience.  It is this, punctuated by some imaginative page layouts and shards of color, particularly sparks of red, and her facility at writing that evokes the chills to be found within this collection.  Great stuff.


So, the internet was abuzz with the release of the first teaser trailer of the new Star Wars film.  And everyone’s excited. 

Except for me. 

I don’t know.  This should be right up my alley.  Star Wars is ingrained in my DNA – it’s the reason I gravitated to science fiction and fantasy in my reading and viewing as a kid, and it’s why I had such a large collection of classic action figures (or mini-dolls, if you prefer) to pass on to my children.  I get excited when I see those retro-carded figures in stores.  And I get excited when I see a cool R2-D2 or Stormtrooper sculpt (as with the Pez dispensers I recently saw when shopping).  But this . . . nothing. 

Ah, well.  I’ve got a year’s worth of articles, images, and trailers ahead of me, and I expect those will whet my appetite enough to get me in line next December.  Odds are good that will happen, but they haven’t got me hooked yet, and that wasn’t the case after I saw that first trailer for Phantom Menace (and we all know what a wreck that was)

And, as always, check out my friends – Brad & Matt and Don McMillan for their own weekly recaps on things comic-y and geeky, and we'll see what's what in seven.  


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