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.
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.
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.
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?