Back to my inspiration – Comic Books

When I was eight, my parents had no problem supporting my $10 a month comic habit. This consisted mostly of Transformers, GI Joe and Batman.

Entering into my working teen years, I had nothing important to do with my money, so my $10 a month habit expanded to $60+ a month.

Then adulthood struck; car payments, mortgage payments, food, clothing, kids, little room for a comic habit. So my comic collecting, and therefor reading, days ended.

I’ve recently been able to resume a small portion of comic reading. It’s funny, but I didn’t think for a moment that it would make me as happy as it has.

What has surprised me most, is how it’s helping me see my writing. If you view each issue as a chapter, some comics have plot lines that go for hundreds, maybe thousands, of pages. Each issue has to extend the plot and leave the reader hooked to come back next month.

The reality is, comics have become the modern serial. In the past, comics were seen as the domain of children and their stories were seen as having little consequence. That has changed as audiences have aged and demanded stories that still provide the visual flair of comics but deliver a story worthy of an adult reader.

A particular comic I’ve started to read is The Walking Dead. AMC has recently started a TV series based on it. The Walking Dead is about a group of people trying to survive in a world over-run with zombies. While the setup sounds cliche, the execution of the book is anything but. Sure, there is action, but much of it has little to do with the zombies themselves. In fact, the zombies are just a minor obstacle to the greater threat, which is other survivors. There’s tense character development, conflict in relationships, interesting back stories. Essentially, everything a great novel has. And each issue has a development arc that leaves you waiting anxiously for  the next issue. It’s fabulous.

As much as reading novels has always been inspiring to me, I had forgotten how much comics had engaged me as a child and powered my imagination. Getting back to comics makes me feel like some of the batteries are getting recharged.

Burning Books Is Never A Good Thing

When I started this blog, I never thought I’d be writing anything that might be seen as a political diatribe. Yet, here I am.

So the story, as I’m sure you’re aware, is that a small Christian parish in Florida intended to burn copies of the Q’uran in order to mark the anniversary of September 11. Thankfully, cooler heads have prevailed and the event has been canceled. But it got me thinking about the idea of burning books.

To me, burning a book is not an act of protest, it is an act of fascism.

Wow, a pretty bold statement.

Simply put, books are not merely symbols, they are ideas. Burning a book isn’t just about saying you don’t like the content or you disagree with policies or actions that a particular group takes, burning a book is about destroying ideas and knowledge.

It doesn’t matter if that book is the Q’uran, the Bible or Harry Potter. This to me is a form of control. By destroying ideas, you deny people the ability to expand their knowledge.  By gaining knowledge, we make informed decisions. When we lack knowledge, we all too often have another person’s message pushed in. Anyone remember what the Nazis did? Oh yeah, they burned books.

This is from Wikipedia;

Fascists believe that a nation is an organic community that requires strong leadership, singular collective identity, and the will and ability to commit violence and wage war in order to keep the nation strong. They claim that culture is created by the collective national society and its state, that cultural ideas are what give individuals identity, and thus they reject individualism

Reject individualism? Singular collective identity? How could such a world exist if books were allowed? OK, one book would be allowed, the book that supported the ideas of the fascists. But numerous books? Books that contained contrary ideas? Books that encouraged free thinking and individual spirit? Such things would have to be destroyed.

Books are precious. They give us insight, understanding, and sometimes even entertain. To burn such a thing seems a horrible act, religious text or not.

Don’t join the book burners. Don’t think you’re going to conceal faults by concealing evidence that they ever existed. Don’t be afraid to go in your library and read every book…

Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890 – 1969)

Who do I want to be when I grow up?

First off, a little thanks to those of you who have stayed subscribed & have been coming by to check the site.  I know I’ve been pretty quiet this summer, but school’s return will allow me far more time for the writing bug, so I will be here more frequently.

Now, for the actual purpose of this post.

I was logged into Facebook the other night, playing my favourite time-killer, Bejewelled Blitz.  I noticed they had added a new feature, which were badges you earned.  The way to earn a badge was to play the game & add your score to your running total.  As you achieved certain totals, you leveled up.  I admit it, this was insanely addictive to an old-school RPG fan such as myself.  Something about pushing to new levels, achieving new accolades, it just had me hooked.  And why?  I didn’t get anything for it other than a shiny bade graphic next to my name.  As the volume of hours I had wasted on this effort dawned on me, I started thinking that there was a blog post in the experience.  It wasn’t until tonight that I realised what that was.

Bear with me, I will get to the point.

The notion of this blog post finally hit me as I sat reading Neil Gaiman’s latest blog entry.  His latest was about attending the read-through of his script for the next season of Doctor Who.  I couldn’t repress this gleeful thought that maybe, one day, that could be me!  It was then that reality visited me, and I found out what this blog post is about.

Thanks for hanging in there. My point is coming, like next.  You’ve been so very patient.

The point is simply this; It is easy to lose ourselves.

How’d I get there from a video game and some wicked author envy?  I realised how much time I invest in chasing something that is either meaningless, or improbable.  It gave me pause to question my motives for writing The Veil.  It made me ask, “What do I really want from this?”  Because it is so easy to dive into something and lose track of why you did it in the first place.

Why do I play Bejewelled Blitz?  Is it really to pursue medals and meaningless titles?  No.  I do it because I have a little fun, it flexes some minor hand-eye-coordination and it kills time while I clear the clutter from my brain.  Do I need to reach the next level?  Should I forgo working on my novel or spending time with my family just to achieve that next shiny?  No, I shouldn’t.  But it’s so easy to lose sight of that when you slap on the blinders.

Why am I writing The Veil?  Is it because I truly think I’m going to be as big as Neil Gaiman?  Haha, well, maybe that’s one of those childish dreams I can’t let go of, but no, it’s not the true reason I want to write the book.  The true reason goes back to my parents’ basement when I was fourteen and I hammered out over one-hundred pages of a novel.  I did it because I loved it.  I did it because the act of creation was thrilling.  Because after pouring hours into something, it was almost magical to go back and read it and realise that they were all my words.  Truth be told, I still get a little thrill when I read a chapter I’ve finished and I see glimmers of something shiny to be buffed into beauty later.

It’s a universal trait.  We all lose ourselves.  How many books, movies, games, etc. are about failing to realise who we are, falling into a desired crowd, only to discover our true self doesn’t belong there.  It’s so often the topic of coming-of-age type stories.  But what shocked me as I hit my mid-thirties was that I realised nothing changed.  Here I am an adult, and there’s still days I lose myself and look in the mirror wondering who is looking back at me.  Sometimes it’s disheartening.  Sometimes I need to stop and evaluate why I’m doing the things I do.

This isn’t really about writing, it’s more about living.

I suppose when all things boil down, there needs to be realistic and meaningful purposes behind the things we do, or else our end result is shallow.  That’s not what I want for The Veil.  I don’t want something that was written purely for the purpose of trying to make money or finding market success.  I want The Veil to be something I am proud of.  I want it to be a statement of who I am.

Blinders off.  Full steam ahead.

Reading is the greatest teacher

I started reading a book two weeks ago, Justin Cronin’s The Passage.  It’s the first book I’ve read in several months. Unusual for me, as I’ve usually managed to read a book every two weeks for the past couple years.  Truth is, I’ve been too focused on my own words to allow someone else to take up my free time.  I realise now that has been a considerable mistake.

You see the advice everywhere; If you want to be a writer, you need to read.  I’ve taken this to heart in the past, but I don’t think the truth of it has impacted me until this past week.

First off, let me say The Passage is quickly becoming one of my favourite books.  I’m about 200 pages from the end, and the first 500+ pages have been incredible.  It’s been inspiring reading this book, following its twists and turns, watching how relationships have been built and how shifting point of view helps to build the tension and add substance to the world.

Which is exactly what I needed, because The Veil had become stagnant.  I’ve had that little work in progress at a standstill for several weeks; partly due to family things, mainly because I just didn’t feel excited about it.  I wondered how I would fill the pages.  Now I’ve had a number of ideas.  The structure is making more sense to me.  I’ve seen how I can use and develop other characters in a manner that will not only deepen the world I’ve created, but also the story in general.  All because I decided to take a break and read something else.

Learning by doing is often my preferred manner of doing things.  But in this case, learning by having an example is doing wonders.

So if you’re like me, writing but feeling like you’re getting nowhere, watching as pages fill, but being overwhelmed by how many more remain, take a break.  Stop. Read a good book.

Still Alive

It’s been a while since I was last here.  Thanks to all those who’ve hung in there and stayed subscribed.

So far I’ve realised that having my kids home all day, every day, is the fastest way to kill any future I have in writing.  Between keeping them entertained and keeping them from killing each other, I’ve had my hands full.

Also, my wife’s photography career is taking off.  While this is fantastic news for her and our family, I’ve been really focused on helping her out with her web designs, marketing and generally being around as a sounding board.

All this, and we’ve had a recent death in the family.

In short, I’m not getting much writing done, either here on the blog, or on The Veil.  This may be the status quo until school resumes in September.  In the meantime, my mind continues to work away on ideas.  Hopefully sooner than later I’ll have something to show for it.

Looking For Assistance – Haunting Dark Fairy Tales

Hello dear readers.  I post today with a small plea (I promise, more in the way of helpful posts soon).

My wife is a visual artist.  While her primary medium is photography, she is also a Photoshop guru and creates altered art.  We have talked at length about combining my love for writing and her love of art into a single project.  I would write a story, maybe 50-100 pages, and she would provide art for the work.

Here’s the thing, for what she does, I want to write something that is a haunting, ethereal, dark fairy tale type of story.  Problem being, I haven’t read much in that particular genre and as much as I have some ideas, I’m unsure of the voice for it.

So I ask for your help.  Do you have any suggestions of things I should read as research?  I appreciate anything you might be able to suggest.  I need some guidance and inspiration.

Thank you in advance.

Depression, Writing & Satisfying the Need

My tag-line for this blog is, “This is my writing journey.”

Because maybe someday  someone (perhaps only myself) might find this interesting, I’m going to not only throw out great tips and the lessons I learn, I’m also going to comment on me, myself, and sometimes, I.

Yesterday I was depressed.  I don’t mean just feeling blue, I’m talking about staring blankly at the screen, no energy, questioning my existence, depressed.  It sucked.  What irritated me most about it was that I had no idea why I should feel that way.  I used to have many of those days.  Since giving my life some serious evaluation, seeking a little professional help and getting off my butt and actually working to make my writing dream come true, I’ve felt much better.  So why all of a sudden?  I came up with two answers. One was no big surprise.  The other gave me some serious food for thought.

The easy answer was the weather.  April surprised us all with its warmth and sunshine.  While May got off to a good start, yesterday was a horrible day.  Though it wasn’t as cold as winter, it was that kind of damp chill that creeps under your skin.  Add the grey sky and you have a very dreary day.

The interesting answer had to do with my writing and my online persona.

I haven’t touched The Veil in over a week.  The word count sits stagnant at the right side of my website, begging to be increased.  I put it there to guilt me into action.  The guilt is there, not so much the action.  I also hadn’t blogged in four days.  While I’ve been present on Twitter, my posts have provided little in the way of substance.  In short, I felt like a poser, a fake.

I’ve had numerous story ideas in the past.  The more I thought about them, the more themes and ideas I threw at them.  They buckled under the weight until they finally cracked beyond repair.  By comparison, the more thought I give to The Veil, the more it asks for.  The deeper I delve, the more layers it reveals.  It’s liberating and scary as hell.  I’ve allowed myself to be frightened to a standstill.  I need to get over it.

I’ve made no attempt to hide the fact I am a chaotic writer.  I don’t plot ahead, I don’t plan for specific times of day to write, I don’t have any kind of regular regiment.  This is turning into a considerable weakness.

I work shifts.  Between my job, my kids, trying to be a good husband, and just finding time to breathe, it’s impossible to pick a time of day in which to write.  There’s no time that will work everyday.  So I’m thinking what I need to do is look at my schedule for the week and decide on a day to day basis when I’m going to write.  Whether it be a blog entry or The Veil, I need to get my fingers moving on the keyboard.  I feel more alive when I see words forming on the screen in front of me.  There’s an energy in creating something that never existed before.  Even if my first draft is crap.  Even if I end up rewriting eighty-percent of it, there is still energy and power in its mere existence.  Within the dirt is a gem worth harvesting.

Now the question is, will I walk the walk, or is this just a whole lotta talk?