Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Woke in the middle of the night after writing, hard

On Monday, I had a late evening of getting under the body of my novel-in-progress (second draft, resplendent with previously unseen possibility). I rolled up my sleeves and tackled a fundamental scene that affects much of the book. It is, without exaggeration, a crucible. The experience is tough on all the main players involved, from two best friends to someone who becomes a greater antagonist to a figure from the past. I worked hard. Later on, in the middle of the night, I awoke, with a start. In a dream, I was confronting someone in my own novel, using armlocks and Aki-jitsu holds and exchanging punches. I was, in fact, faring better than my young heroes did in the scene I immersed myself in a few hours previous. My partner had to calm me down and tell me I was dreaming and soothe me back to sleep.
I guess that means I'm onto something.
Or that I should not write so deeply before sleeping.
It certainly means that I should I stay with my partner.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Grateful in solitude

You know, I can be angry and frustrated that I am working the Thanksgiving Weekend and missing dinners for my family on both sides. Or I could be grateful for what I have. As I was talking to a newly arrived co-worker this afternoon, I failed to notice, at first, that they were wiping tears from their eyes and that my co-worker looked rung out. Their father passed away suddenly and shockingly about six weeks ago. This is their first Thanksgiving without their dad. My attempts to comfort my co-worker were wholly inadequate. (My efforts to buoy them, later on, however, were more successful.)

My partner also lost her mother in April so this, too, is her first Thanksgiving without her parent.

I should consider how often I have made my co-worker laught these past weeks, trying to help.

I should also know how lucky I am to have know my partner's mother Jacomina "Iet" (as I knew her) Dolman, a fine and fiery spirit whose spirit animal was the wolf. She was lovely and unconditionally supportive of my writing career, and I miss her.

I should also be grateful for what I’ve got, from family that I will not see immediately, but soon enough, with luck. I should be thankful for even the quarrels and disagreements I have with my parents or father-in-law. These are the richer contrasts of family life that hands about.

Grateful, too, that I’ve a fairly good job, all things considered.

Instead of bemoaning my struggle in editing my second novel, I should be grateful to have a novel to rewrite. (And, lesson in the novel-writing craft.)  self-doubt and some underlying mythological infrastructural reworking that is a

I should be grateful, even, for the long delay at the drive-thru at St. Hubert’s, where I was gifted with more
strong and true ideas about the underlying roots of my book's mythology and the be grateful that I can get drive-thru, for that matter.

I should consider, too, that a family member was waiting for me to return, even if this family member is furry and has four legs.

I guess it’s about considering what you’re holding and not what you’re coveting.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Glen Hirshberg on fine Castle of Horror Podcast

The Castle of Horror podcast did a fine interview with my friend, the ever-gracious Glen Hirshberg, about his second (of a trilogy) vampire novel, Good Girls, and the writing process. I love how he says he is a full-time dad, and a full-time teacher. As always, Glen is an inspiration to me.
"I’m on the whatever-gets-this-book-that-I’m-working-on-written track. I have really done it a lot of different ways, to be honest. I’m a full-time Dad, I’ve been a full-time teacher for some 20 years. Good Girls is book number seven. One of the things that has made it possible for me is I get up every day and I find a way to fit some writing in, no matter what."
Glen Hirshberg, on the writing process

Monday, September 4, 2017

Mad Weekend, A Note for Hugh

This is a mad weekend for me, with birth, love, and marriage all represented. I got hitched on this weekend in 2006, and still am, with gratitude.
One of my three best friends' birthdays also occurs this weekend.
On a sadder note, I unexpectedly lost Hugh DeCourcy, a beloved friend, mentor and kindred spirit on this weekend back in '96. He had a heart attack.
I have no online photo of him. I do, though, keep a framed picture on the bookcase by my writing desk. It is the last photo someone took of Hugh before he moved away from Cornwall to go out west and teach high school in Vancouver. Hugh is standing under a tree, in August evening light, nonchalantly, as though to say, "This is me. I'm happy to be going. Here's a tree. There's that."
Sometimes, if you're lucky, restless and growing up in a small city, you can meet someone who changes the course of your life, and influences you still later on. Hugh was that someone for me. He introduced me to the works of H.P. Lovecraft, and showed me that I could pursue my passion no matter what everyone else thought. Hugh taught me that you can be an hobby guitarist, a keen chess player, an amateur painter, a cross-country runner, a close observer, and a writer of infinite passion and curiosity.
This one's for you, Hugh.

Friday, August 11, 2017

WROTE podcast reviews Town & Train

Last week there was a fascinating review of Town & Train by the fine folks at the WROTE podcast. Jayne Lockwood calls me a speculative realist writer (a first for me), calls my protagonist John Daniel a teenage dirtbag (a term he would argue vehemently against) and suggests that my portrayal of pedophile villain Mortimer Winslow was meant to draw sympathy. Like I said - fascinating. Still, admittedly, Lockwood has given me much to think about, whether or not I agree with all of her observations.
"I loved the inventiveness of the plot, the building of atmosphere, the genuinely scary moments a la James Herbert or Stephen King. There are Koontz-esque scenes of banal normality set against an increasingly glowering backdrop, and a sense of impending doom as both David and John independently try to figure out how to prove that the town is being haunted by a ghost train from hell."
-Jayne Lockwood, WROTE podcast

Friday, July 28, 2017

Written on the Edge (WROTE) Podcast with Vance Bastian and S.A. "Baz" Colins

I was lucky enough recently to appear on the lovely WROTE Podcast, with Vance Bastian just north of Chicago, he of the velvet-smooth voice, and S.A. Collins ("Baz”), the man in San Francisco. It's live, at this link, today.

Giving my shout-outs aplenty, I realized how lucky I am, from describing gracious Steve Berman of Lethe Press to my writers group, the Little Workshop of Horrors (with shout-outs to Robin Riopelle, Sean McKibbon, Danny Lalonde Sean Moreland, Ranylt Richildis & Aalya Ahmad-apologies if I missed anyone).

We discussed inspiration, early writing influences (Ray Bradbury, Stephen King, Clive Barker, J.R.R. Tolkien, Universal Monster films), queer characters in speculative fic, and queer stories.
But don't take my word for it. Listen in if you're curious.
Thank you so much, Vance and Baz.

I hope, in my little heart, that someone out there hears it and enjoys it. I also hope to grace WROTE again someday.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Review of Grant Morrison's Supergods: What Masked Vigilantes, Miraculous Mutants, and a Sun God from Smallville Can Teach Us About Being Human

Grant Morrison’s Supergods is ostensibly an autobiography of a comic book writer with rock-star status. It’s a heady mix of mysticism, personal history, anecdotes about the business, replete with allusions to his indelible contributions to the medium and even a précis on landmark graphic novels such as Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight ReturnsSupergods is all these things, and not in any particular order. Even while unevenly paced, boastful and often utterly self-conscious, Supergods is great fun at all turns. The reader never knows what Morrison will relate next, whether his self-proclaimed practice of chaos magic, an off-handed quip about the British and Scottish invasion of comics in the late 1980’s, when DC Comics wooed the overseas talent, or a casual social encounter with celebrity Sean Connery.

The author writes with a swagger, relating his reclusive youth in Scotland and growing up with a larger-than-life father who protested U.S. nuclear bases then in Scotland. Morrison’s own dread of nuclear war budded along with his imagination even while his parents' marriage eventually failed. He immersed himself at an early age in the super heroics of British comics magazine 2000 AD and then DC Comics and Marvel Comics staples. There are more colourful details for readers to discover themselves, so I won’t particularize. From these roots, Morrison became cognizant of conspiracy theory and locked onto the idea of characters with great powers who might intervene on humanity’s behalf. He played in a punk rock band, the Mixers, during his early and shy and drifting twenties. Around the same time, Morrison began drawing and writing for comics, eventually stringing for 2000 AD and other British titles, always with a keen eye on subverting the form.

It’s personal history writ dramatically. Grant Morrison feels the need to defend the book's theme, perhaps, about how a kid can become enraptured by the concept of beings with godlike powers, able to intervene in the event of nuclear catastrophe. He essentially argues that his younger obsession forms the man he becomes as a creator.

Morrison also allots real estate to pontificate on the game-changers of the medium, describing The Dark Knight Returns as a Norse Opera, analysing Alan Moore’s masterful and yet in his view still imperfect clockwork-like symmetry in The Watchmen, and even explaining his theory that Batman snaps the Joker’s neck in the denouement of Moore’s The Killing Joke. His shrewd eye catches many fine details and illuminates themes and undercurrents as adeptly as any scholar poring over a text.

Throughout his catch-all book, Morrison is outlandish, spiritual, and self-aggrandizing. He is not without grounds. Morrison did, after all, shift many paradigms, including Arkham Asylum, his collaboration with artist Dave McKean and the conspiracy-theory-laden and cult-following-gathering The Invisibles, to name but two of his game-changing works. Since about three quarters of Morrison’s work is rather provocative or mind-bending or avant-garde, he is within his rights to strut the stage of high-brow comic-book intellectualization. So he swaggers like a peacock across the page, a raconteur backed by his own startling achievements. Think Ray Bradbury, were he still with us, musing about current sci-fi writing.

Cover art by Gary Frank. I'd recognize
his particular line work and facial
expressions anywhere.
Random House Publishing Group, 2011
With the 1989 publication of Arkham Asylum, and its stratospheric success, with multiple sold-out print runs, Morrison found himself the fortunate co-signatory to a lucrative royalty contract. Here was a hard cover comic book with gorgeous paintings and psychological writing. It discomfited and fascinated readers. This was not exactly a comic, but more a bona fide book, and a gorgeous one. Still, everyone who could afford the book wanted it (Editor's Note: Even young readers at the time such as myself). Morrison has said in interviews that Arkham Asylum is about the nightmare that he believes Batman must have every night. 

With his newly earned funds, Morrison traveled the world and wrote The Invisibles, inserting an avatar of himself into the comic in the form of the character King Mob. With artists with a talent for dazzling detailed including Phil Jimenez pencilling interiors or Brian Bolland drawing covers, the series ran for three volumes. Morrison incorporated his own life into the book whenever possible, and had a blast doing so, from depicting fetish clubs in a magical setting or trans character Lord Fanny (Editor's Note: Morrison has always been ahead of his time!) having a fling in New Orleans. The title holds the infamous distinction of Morrison asking readers, in the letters column, to masturbate and perform a magical ritual using a sigil to save the series from cancellation. 

In Supergods, Morrison expounds on chaos magic, as he often does, relating his world-view-altering spiritual experience in Kathmandu and his claim that he is a chaos magic practitioner. Morrison has spoken at length about his transformation in interviews, in particular, in the extraordinarily bizarre two-part Fatman on Batman podcast interview he did with director and filmmaker Kevin Smith. I won’t repeat the details here, because you really should seek it out for yourself. It's here.

Morrison extends his spiritual beliefs to comics, also positing that comic books are another dimension and that somewhere someone is reading our human stories from another dimension as well. As in other interviews and podcasts, Morrison philosophizes that we are tapping into archetypal and older power.

Whether or not one agrees with Morrison, he is consistent in his responses about his own mystical views. In his outspokenness about magick, he is similar to only one other warlock in the business. While he and Alan Moore have not seen eye-to-eye in some time, you can search online and find articles about their antagonist relationship. The crux of the matter, though, is that Moore disputes Morrison's claim to be a magic practicioner as well, citing Morrison's coming-out as a chaos magician as being suspiciously close to Moore's announcement that he was a warlock shortly after Moore turned 40. To his credit, Morrison pays only tight-lipped flattery to Moore in Supergods, however. When Morrison does go on a little long about Watchmen, one suspects he is trying to make amends through praise of the other rock-star warlock of comic books.

As a result of his multiplicity of reality-bending interests, and his accomplishments, he is a fascinating subject for documentarists, biographers and Ph.D. students alike.

And Morrison is a truly an avant-garde rock star of comics as well. His opus not only includes the thoroughly engrossing The Invisibles (in fact, sometimes dizzingly so), but also its spiritual predecessor, The Filth, the postmodern and reality-shifting Flex Mentallo, the dysfunctional Doom Patrol with emotionally troubled and schizophrenic anti-heroes, a pivotal, several-year-run on Batman, a fourth-wall­-breaking run on Animal Man, not to mention his fearless Final Crisis and Convergence, two complicated, multiple-Earth shattering DC-Comics-mega-series that any sensible writer would have steered clear of. Also of note is All-Star Superman, his 12-issue collaboration with artist Gary Frank, in which Superman lives out his last days performing 12 great feats after his nemesis Lex Luthor bombards him with cancer. The storyline carries an irascibly enjoyable tone. Readers will be ruined for reading any other notable Superman books afterward. In All-Star, Morrison show the Man of Steel showing compassionate when he intervenes to save a suicidal young woman from committing sucide. This show of compassion is rare for the flagship character.

Because of Morrison’s street cred and his undeniable charisma, whether as a guru or comics creator or self-professed chaos magician, Supergods is worth picking up. You will learn a lot more about Grant Morrison here than in the pages of his comics even while some of the material has appeared elsewhere, online and in interviews. Steel yourself for a plunge into mysticism, chaos magic, mind-bending transcendental experience and a cocky overview of Morrison’s accomplishments and his take on comics and graphic novels that made history. The book has a multiple personality disorder, but this oddly is part of the roguish raconteur’s charm. Supergods is a rich, introspective and, at times, humble trip.