Tag Archives: illustration

Post-Partum/Past-Perfect

Draconfyx Text

I’ve made the first draft of this project available for those interested in reading (see details below).

My projects are my children, and when I finish one, there’s a sense of letdown which must resemble that following childbirth.  Incidentally, such creative “labor”, as kindred spirits will agree, can in its own cerebral way be just as messy and painful.

20190708_102751Midnight Steps is done.  The suspense novel set in the 1920s that I’ve worked on for three years.  I didn’t say “finished” because it definitely is not.  It has a long way to go before I will let it out of the laboratory.  Already, since writing the denouement/final chapter, I see a ton of things that won’t work earlier in the book because they just don’t line up with the end result.  Characters need to change and harden or at least act more suspiciously.  And then there are outright asininities…for instance, the male lead, Ethan (oh, how he fought me to survive at the end!  Did he win?), is supposedly hiding out in a secluded boardinghouse from underworld enemies.  Then why does he wind up taking June, the female lead, out all the time in very public urban settings???  GAAAAAHHHH!!!!  That’s the kind of thing that authors bang their heads over, and in this case, it’s my own fault.  I didn’t know the characters as well as I thought I did before I started writing in 2016, nor was I as sure as I should have been about where the plot was headed.  Another fault I admit to is not being well-read on or familiar with the “underworld”, present or past, i.e., exactly how it works.  That’s not as big of a problem as it might have been, because I chose to keep the story’s focus more on the characters than what they do, with just an occasional glimpse of their shady activities.  Is the thing salvageable?  Of course!  These minor quibbles aside, Midnight Steps is probably the best fiction I’ve ever written…personal, at times even profound, and most of all, alive.  That doesn’t mean it’s good.  It doesn’t even mean it’s worthy of selling.  But it represents real progress as a writer, and so I unabashedly award myself a gold star for effort.  By the way…I’ve probably said this before, if not here, then somewhere else, but…it is possible to fall in love with your own fictional character(s).  I did.  Think of it as a Pygmalion/Galatea-type thing.  Or Pygmalion/statue-of-David, rather.  I’m not sure David is Greek, but…whatever, the metaphor works.

As the title to this entry indicates, after a little research on past-perfect tense–the use of product_thumbnail“had” to place an already past event further in the past–I’ve decided to revise The Horrible Hand! one last time to correct my blatant abuse of said grammatical tool.  A lot of the book is told in flashbacks, and so I have a surfeit of sentences like “…He had had to do this”, or “She had met him…he had met her…they had then gotten married and had been miserable ever after…” yada, yada, yada.  Yeah.  ANNOY-ING.  The red flag was when I was rereading a chapter and thought, This ‘had’ thing is really getting old.  So, it’s going to get another pass with the literary lawnmower.  Why?  Who cares?  I care.  Even if no one ever buys a single copy, it still matters to me that when it’s languishing out there in cyberspace, it’s right.  At least as right as I can get it without paying some ridiculously high fee for someone to tear it apart and cajole me into reconstructing it Their Way.

And then?

Well, I’m not very good at it, but I need to rest.  The Horrible Hand! and Midnight Steps were both huge projects which took years to wrap up.  I know that over the past year or so, I’ve often felt creatively tapped-out and just plain tired.  Maybe I’m getting old.  (No, I AM getting old.) In addition, maybe I’m not, after all, as creative or gifted as I was brought up to believe.  Middle age can trigger cruel self-doubts.  I never thought I would become a bestselling author, but it would be nice to know that people are taking in my point of view and acquainting with the characters and scenes I so loved creating.  Still, when I reach the end of the road on a major work like these, and I find myself wondering who I did it for, my honest answer is usually, me.  And those who inhabit the story.   Even when others do read my work and compliment it, they’re only getting that topmost tip of the creative iceberg; same as audiences who view movies and plays and paintings.  They see the finished result only, not the creative process which is the real attraction for the artists, and which is rarely shared with “consumers”, whose reaction to it frequently amounts to nothing more than the following exchange:

ME: So, did you ever finish reading that book of mine?

READER: Yeah.  We liked it.

ME: It held your interest, then?

READER: Yeah.  It was good.

ME: …Thanks.

One of the things writers and other storytellers deal with is the brutal reality that just because we were fascinated enough with our plots and characters to spend three years or so on them does not mean that anyone else will share our fascination.  I used to give copies of my books as gifts now and then–never again, and neither should you.  It is not fair to strong-arm your family and friends into reading your work when they may not be remotely interested.  That is, as I’ve stated, the reason why artists would do well to admit that their true motivations are, fundamentally, as selfish as an only child.  Which I happen to be.

That said, I’ll go on creating, if on a smaller scale for a while.  Oh!  Draconfyx is finished also, and not to blow my own bugle, but I don’t think it turned out too bad.  It was only a six-month undertaking, text and art, yet it has a sharpness, urgency, and timeliness to it that make me half-seriously regard it as “the one they’ll like best”.  That would be fine with me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can’t go wrong with Dracula, or even a spin-off, and a new slant on the drug war might actually be useful.  Plus God’s in it!  He’s been making cameos in a few different projects lately.  I’m toying with the idea of publishing Draconfyx for a Halloween release, but I am not sure that it will be ready this year.

Back to what’s on the agenda.  First, prewriting only for something new: writing a story/novelette in public–on Wattpad or even Facebook–while simultaneously writing it as a play…then illustrating it.  I have this craving to get back to making art, in particular dioramic setups, as of old.  More on that in a minute.  Before that, I may look at illustrating Flickers and writing more on the old memoir, What a World...  And/or, starting my own YouTube channel, which I’ve wanted to do anyway, and recording excerpts of WAW.  So…nothing too big or complicated, just enough to keep me creatively satisfied and productive.

With that said…aren’t these the absolute limit?  This is the kind of art I want to get back to doing, especially to photograph for illustrations.  I have a whole closet full–two, actually–of toys like this.  Miniatures have always intrigued me, and I’ve challenged myself to work as small as I can with this next collection.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And I’ll sign off with some random film images that have stayed with me over the years–some since childhood–and which represent recurring themes in my writing.  An eclectic selection?  You know it.  Disturbing?  Maybe.  But I believe I was meant to tell certain stories, and in order to do that, I needed certain, often very dark inspiration very early on.  And so I must have subconsciously absorbed these representative images and situations, then later incorporated them into my own personal brand of grim, ironic, yet redemptive tales.  I will admit that my endings are usually somewhat more hopeful than those found in the fiction below.  I guess that, too, is a kind of progress.  Besides, there must be shadows if there is to be light…right?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

A Vintage “Drug Sting” with Bat Wings

3Just a quick update on the status of my three present projects at the start of 2019.  Two are old and one is new…and slightly borrowed.  (They all keep me from being too blue.) The latter is a work “strongly suggestive” of Dracula.  I’ve long wanted to do my own version of Bram Stoker’s old reliable warhorse, but at least this time, my concept is only (heavily) reminiscent of it.

Draconfyx is centered upon a vintage drug dealer of the title name, who, with the help of his minions, purveys a mysterious, addicting elixir to lost people searching for something to fill their empty hearts. The elixir eventually renders these unfortunates vulnerable enough that Count Draconfyx can steal their souls…and thus, his victims become soul predators–“Users” like him. Geeeeet iiiiiiiiiit???  As Dracula is a classic story of good vs. evil, so is Draconfyx, for while these Users do not actually drink blood, fear the sunlight, or sleep in coffins, they do fear and respect God. And so it is with God’s help that a young girl and retired professor seek to destroy Count Draconfyx and his kind, to prevent other people, especially the young, from falling prey to addiction, death, and eternal loss,

You might call it a Gothic horror/spiritual take on a drug sting…with bat wings.

I’m writing it as a fairly short storybook for youth and adults, with mixed-media illustrations like these. It’s great fun.  Certain iconic elements and scenes from the Big D will be paid homage to, i.e., Dracula’s move to a new country for a fresh smorgasbord of victims; the three vampire women; Professor Van Helsing (Professor Vanover here); the ruined Carfax (Craxton) Abbey; plenty of storm-tossed nights and moonlight; character names with the ring of their Stoker counterparts–Mina and Lucy are now sisters Minnie and Luna, and Jonathan Harker is Jem Harks, a local delinquent youth who corrupts Luna–and so on and so forth.

The story is serving as an exercise in brevity.  I have a tendency to be extremely wordy, and to include much too much detail, to the point of rambling.  Here, I intend to keep the finished product short enough that it can be read in one sitting, like a movie of modest length.  An hour and fifteen minutes is perfect, as such was the running time of most Universal classic horror films of the 1930s which have inspired me.

 

Midnight Steps marches ever onward.  I’ll soon be into the third “act” of the story, and if I do say so myself, this one is a corker.  More on it later, but…wow.  Even as I write it, I can feel chills at the overwhelming sense of “me” pouring forth in every aspect.  The experience has taught me that you definitely should write what you know–including when you don’t know firsthand the when, where, or occasionally even the what of it.  Sheer emotional honesty will nearly always fill the gaps.

And then there’s that other chestnut, now published.  I plan to embark (not too soon) upon a third and final round of revisions to The Horrible Hand!  It wouldn’t be necessary from a writing standpoint–the story’s text is what it is, after three years.  What keeps tripping me up is the fucking formatting; for example, spacing properly the stupid-assed little logos at the start of each chapter, and keeping the same amount of text on every page so that they’re even and don’t look like some clueless self-published writer put it together.  I keep telling myself that next time, I’ll let a professional do it.  Maybe, maybe not.  Regardless, I’ve learned volumes on what to do and not to do in future works, particularly the Eerie Series.

Don’t misunderstand me, though.  I’ve enjoyed every detail of the work on this project and the rest.  Even the shit work.

I guess that’s why they call it a labor of love.


Good Medicine

A whole year has passed since my last entry here?  I guess it has.  The reason for that long hiatus is simply that I haven’t felt compelled to write about the projects I’ve been working on, because they hadn’t developed far enough until recently to really discuss them.

poster.jpg

The Horrible Hand! is completed, not finished.  It’s written, and it’s been read by a few people who seemed to like it.  The illustrations are done, so it’s just a matter of putting it together.  I’m in no hurry, though, because I want this book to turn out right.  It’s a personal favorite of mine, as well as the “pilot” for a series of other books to be created through the same concept–a novelization of a fictional film, accompanied by bogus history and behind-the-scenes articles, actor bios, etc.  And, yes, I would like to continue shopping it to various publishers and agents as I haven’t with most other projects.  I made a vow to myself at the beginning of 2018 that I would get my work out there, one way or another, whether through submitting to publishers, self-publishing and promoting, or publishing online.

Which brings me to the project I just finished.  Last November, I was suffering a serious depressive episode, made all the worse when my beloved Scottie, Finnigan, died just after Thanksgiving.  My heart was broken, even though I had had fifteen-and-a-half good, memory-filled years with him.  The grief made it hard to concentrate on Midnight Steps, the book I had been working diligently on for many months, and so, I shelved it at the halfway mark, and tried my hand at something new and different–a web comic.  Comics and graphic novels have perhaps never been more popular than they are now, or regarded more highly as an art form.  So, I decided to hop on the bandwagon.  I wrote a script, just as I would for a movie, and carefully gathered the images I needed to represent the characters and settings, which I planned to combine with my own black-and-white sketches to illustrate the action.  I did not anticipate that it would take me more than a couple of months, at most, to complete, but I rapidly found that even a short web comic such as Bad Medicine, as I titled it, is extremely time-consuming and exhausting to make.  That said, I enjoyed every minute of the process, even when I was ready to scream from the endless technical challenges, particularly making the lead character’s face and features consistent throughout.  At the end of the construction, I decided to add film grain and “weathering” to each of the frames, for I had wanted to give the impression in the images of an old, badly-preserved movie.

 

 

That was another month of work, not to mention replacing the dialogue balloons which were rendered illegible from the special effects.  Incidentally, for the balloons, I used a site called SuperLame, which allows for free creation of these.  This was a new experience, because I hadn’t worked with dialogue balloons, print or digital, since I was probably ten.  I guess I didn’t do a bad job for not knowing a thing about what I was up to.  The finished result was one hundred thirty-three frames, and took from January to mid-April to complete; a far cry from the “doodle” project I had envisioned it as, just something different to distract myself from life and the loss of my companion.  No matter.  I learned volumes from attempting it, and would love to do another one, although not for a very, very long time.  The story of Bad Medicine mixes and mingles themes old and new…a young psychiatric patient, Timthie Draven, is riding with his doctor, Dr. Pivott, through a bad storm when their car goes off a bridge.  Dr. Pivott vanishes in the river and Timthie is left to take shelter at the forbidding Hemlockhurst mansion, where a group of calculating relatives and friends have gathered to celebrate Lord Job Hemlockhurst’s birthday–except that he died not a half-hour ago from a fall on the stairs.  An accident?  Among these kin to the deceased is Chamelea Hemlockhurst, Lord Job’s granddaughter, who turns out to be in withdrawal from the same psychotrophic drug as Timthie, a (fictional) mood stabilizer, Gannerall.  Whose mental state is improved by the absence of the drug, and whose has suffered from it?  Was Chamelea deliberately not given her medication so that she would act suspiciously…the better to frame her for her grandfather’s death and get her institutionalized, thereby allowing the rest of his family and friends to assume control of it?   Or, did she really commit the crime in a psychotic blackout?  Most important of all…what does the story have to say about the threat of over-medicating those with mental illness, as is a very timely issue?

I’ve uploaded the first thirteen frames as the beginning episode of Bad Medicine here, at a web comic site called Tapas, reputedly the best one out there to showcase amateur comics.  It’s already gotten some views, and I’m intrigued as to where this might lead, even if I just make some new friends who are into expressing themselves in this way.

I didn’t write much new material for the memoir–What a World–but I spent a lot of time this past year editing it.  Had to rethink it, as well, and now I know I have to cut it back significantly (it’s only one-third finished and already one hundred sixty-odd pages).  But the concept, of exploring a hypersensitive man’s life and times, from childhood on through middle age, I think is on-target.  Those who have read excerpts have enjoyed it, most vocally.  I like the process of writing it, but there is always the emotional toll it takes, as well as the necessity of walking every memoirist’s tightrope–the balance between being nice and being honest.  I’ve dreaded attacking my junior high and high school years…especially since my college years weren’t much better and my young adulthood was, in many ways, worst of all.  I can’t help but think that I’m a late bloomer.  I really hope so.

mock poster frame.jpg

Predictably, Midnight Steps outgrew my original idea for it as just a short storybook, whimsically illustrated with, literally, rock-faced characters.  Once it took off, I knew I had a novel on my hands, and even though I had just finished The Horrible Hand!, my previous novel-length work, I leapt into it with both feet and was astonished at how my original idea shifted and morphed into something deeper and richer.  The central change involves the leading character of Ethan Hyde, whom I first envisioned as something of a sociopath, an irredeemable bastard who would come to a well-deserved, and very unpleasant, end.

But then I fell in love with him–it does happen with fictional characters, even our own–and so relented and have given him another chance, plus a kinder, if still flawed, disposition.   That doesn’t mean that Midnight Steps will be a fluff piece, oh, no.  These people, especially the leads, are going to suffer, grievously.  But I already know that they, and the story overall, will be better for it.  Ask me how I know that.

Ch3Chess Game

For the illustrations on MIDNIGHT STEPS, I’ve gone with a sort of blurry, indistinct look which matches the murky tone of the story.

So…next on the agenda is a continuation of M.S. and What a World.  I’ve discovered, though, that despite my intent to keep my life simple (creative life included), I cannot function with only two projects bubbling at a time–I have to have something else; a third, somewhat smaller and more visual project, which allows me to really be artistic.  Bad Medicine is a perfect example of this.  I haven’t settled on what the next one will be, but I have some ideas.  And that’s actually the venture I look forward to working on the most, I suppose because it’ll be something completely new.

Other than that…I’ve joined a writer’s group here in town, and am slowly but surely making some acquaintances who “get” this creative craziness that overwhelms me to the exclusion of most other pursuits in life–relationships, marriage, accumulating “stuff”.  For a while there, I had grown a little wary of how much I was isolating myself in the name of art…but after pushing myself to get out there now and then, I was reminded again of just how boring most people are, and consequently, just how little I was missing by directing my energies toward satisfying my inner muse instead.  I’ll always be devoted to my family, and my few close friends, but I honestly have grown less and less comfortable around most people as I’ve matured.  I can’t help but think this must be intended…for if we artists weren’t inclined to keep to ourselves, how would we ever do what we do?


Home Again

So I’m settled in a new apartment and doing my best to begin a new life, with as much time spent writing and creating as is humanly possible.  Over the last few years, I admit that I’ve slacked off–a lot–mainly because I had so many internal and circumstantial factors to distract me from what I really wanted to do.  That’s all over now.  It’s good to be home.

In August of 2015, my play Closing Night was produced by the same local theatre group that mounted Dot’s Journey in 2013.  Everyone involved did a superior job, and the play received a very positive response.  As a spectator of some rehearsals and all performances, I was able to discern what needed to be fixed and changed before it faces an audience again.  And so, even with the problems which made themselves apparent during the run, I count the whole experience as a success.

As I begin 2016 and dive into the creative projects that I’ve outlined, I find myself taking a much more mature, serene approach to my work than I have in the past.  No longer will I apply stultifying pressure on myself to produce material that will sell, that will please others, that will solidify my reputation–even in the immediate area–as a respected man of letters.  I now do my work for myself before anyone else.  If others like it and want to buy it, that is the ultimate compliment…but not the driving momentum.  Not anymore.  I’m getting too old.

The projects that I want to pursue in the coming year are ones that I have described in much more detail in other blog postings.  Namely, I have decided to realize my long-held yen to make something out of the concept for the Eerie Series–the stories within stories about a fictional director and the films he makes, which I’ve had in the trunk for almost twelve years. The first, The Horrible Hand!, is proceeding rather well for  being the premiere project of its kind in my repertoire, calling as it does for bogus backgrounds on the people/actors involved in the film, as well as behind-the-scenes history and details of mishaps, feuds, and what-have-you.  The finished product will be a medium-sized hard-backed book (similar in design to Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events) with a novelization of the “film” by the fictional director, Tony Miles, and supplemented by background information, “interviews”, and illustrations, which are a particular thrill to do, as they require me to be ultra creative in selecting backgrounds and settings against which to place public domain photographs of real people mixed with my own sketches, to create movie “stills”.  I know it’s hard to really grasp what I’m talking about in mere words, but those who actually read the book will have no problem understanding the concept.

Boo loses her composure

My other project, with which I plan to alternate intervals of working on The Horrible Hand, is What a World, What  a World, a memoir/testimony which will detail the whole arc of my life through the last few years, through the filter of a highly skeptical gay Christian sensibility.  Deep?  Nah.  Some parts might be, but essentially, the tone will be sardonic, brutally honest, and funny.  I’ve made many false starts and stabs at this volume, but I wind up reworking it every time I sit down to move it forward.  My inspiration for this writing is humorist David Sedaris, and to a greater degree, memoirist Augusten Burroughs, who knows how to season his tales with just enough laughs to alleviate the bitterness…of which I’ve got plenty, honey.

Aside from that, I’ll be hitting the blogging hard–here and in my film essay column, Recommendations by Retroman, as well as other personal, autobiographical writing which very likely will never see the light of day.  I plan to reach out to local and online writers, and share some of my work.  I also want to stay in touch (through social media) with local film writers and directors who might be interested in taking on my plays and such.

Acting?  Only God knows.

If it seems that I’m rushing along perfunctorily here, it’s because I am.  For one thing, I have been as tired as I have ever been in my whole life since the move, and am not sure why, other than that I may have just “crashed” after functioning for so long in extremely challenging circumstances on sheer force of will and adrenaline, along with a liberal shot of God’s own brand of Red Bull.

In addition, I hunger to get back to work, not to talk about it.  It’s been a very long two years, and there’s much to be done.