Zero Hour

I’m reading the DC comics story arc ZERO HOUR: CRISIS IN TIME. Published in 1994, it details a cosmic event in which time collapses on itself, causing all sorts of chaos. Nearly thirty years since its publication, as our nation’s capital erupts into anarchy, it seems kind of quaint.

At least the DC universe has Batman. That’s one thought, but we’re not DC, and expecting weirdoes in capes and masks to solve our problems ain’t solving shit.

Find your home. Find your tribe. Build and grow the things that matter to you. Be ready to defend those things. You can’t stop the world from burning, but you can move far from the flames and keep them at bay.

Dissociation is considered a symptom of most mental disorders. I agree that full dissociation is unhelpful, but DELIBERATE dissociation is a great tool. Just remember that, as I say in SAINT SADIST, no safe space can protect you from yourself. In other words, before you retreat into yourself, make sure that you’ve made yourself into something you’re ready to face.

I want to believe we’re better than armed thugs storming the Capitol building. I want to believe we’re better than mass shootings, racial injustice, kids in cages at the border, the hypocrisy and sensationalism of cancel culture, bigotry against our LGBTQ friends, the death of nuance, and the all too convenient erasure of context in so many narratives.

All these things are symptoms of our broken nature.

The time to evolve is long overdue.

2021 – Real AF

I’m almost finished reading HITMAN, the autobiography of retired wrestler Bret Hart. It’s easy to forget that wrestlers are artists. Throughout the reading of the book, I’ve found myself nodding my head to parallels in the life of a wrestler and the life of an author. All the years of paying your dues. Mutual respect between the honorable ones. Backstabbing among the less honorable. Unhelpful coping mechanisms for loneliness. Pride when you manage to pull something off just right.

Writing is hard. I also love it. It’s important to take time to appreciate things unrelated to what drives you. Family is an obvious example. Also, hobbies outside your vocation. In my case, watching and reading about wrestling, my fish tank, music and comic books.

As soon as I finish HITMAN, I’m doing a buddy read of the 90s DC comics arc ZERO HOUR. I remember the ads for it vividly. I can’t remember why I didn’t read it at the time. Since I was ten or eleven, chances are I got interested in other things. My interests fluctuate a lot even now. Probably even more so back then. I’m excited for it though. My friend has been a DC fan forever. He swears that even outside of BATMAN, their output is better than Marvel, which is interestingly not the consensus. Then again, he and I have never cared about the consensus. I care even less as an adult.

Am I a lone wolf? I don’t think so. I have a wolfpack, real as fuck people I know I can rely on.

Anyway, it’s a New Year. Rot in hell to the trash fire that was 2020. Big things are coming in 2021 and beyond. Got all sorts of exciting things in the works. In the meantime, check out PANDEMONIUM if you haven’t already. Good reviews are rolling in!

Today will be spent with family, though I’ll probably sneak in some work on the Wesley Southard collaboration. Speaking of Wes, he’s got a new book up for preorder right now. Take advantage of that preorder price.

Be well, everyone.

Inversions

I’ve been thinking about inversions. Maybe it’s because I’m listening to the FROZEN soundtrack this morning, but it’s been on my mind for a while now. Inverting well-worn tropes has been an obsession in pop culture over the last decade or so. So-called “woke” Disney. THE LAST JEDI. TERMINATOR: DARK FATE. YOU’RE NEXT. I can go on.

Inversion is a very effective tool. I’ve used it myself from time to time. And there are a lot of reasons to use it, even beyond its efficacy as a narrative device. More often than not, it’s used by creators to “correct” elements of a franchise deemed exclusionary or problematic. Other times, it’s used to inject new life into a well-worn character or story.

I’ll keep my own opinions on the motivations behind inversion as a plot device to myself, mainly because I’m not sure I have a fully formed opinion. One of the benefits of being off social media a significant percentage of the day means the temptation to fire my half-baked ideas into the ether has been all but eliminated. I can only speak as another artist and a fan.

For my own work, I’ve found that the compulsion to invert isn’t always the right choice. At the end of the day, I’m in service of the story I aim to tell. If inversion serves that story, such as in my book EXTINCTION PEAK, then I will employ it as a storytelling device. If the urge to invert will impede what is already an effective narrative, it’s best left on the backburner. Now, if you do finish your first draft, and you find it’s all too familiar in the annals of your genre, then by all means, do a pass where you strictly look for opportunities to invert. It might turn your stale draft into something that pops.

I guess what I’m saying is contrived work will always feel like contrived work. Inversion, like steps on the hero’s journey, is a tool that can bring life to a work, but is not required in order for a work to have life.

What are some books/films/games that you think effectively employ inversion? What are some books/films/games that get by just fine without it?

Playtime

It’s Saturday morning, somewhere in Texas. My son is playing with his  Transformers. I got a couple of nice royalty payments this week, so I decided to get Game Pass for my PC. If you’ve got X-Box game recs, hit me up in the comments.

Games and comics are good for winding down. I still very much enjoy reading prose, but because doing so is necessary in order to keep my writing tools sharp, it sometimes feels more like work than play.

And I need to play.

It’s not just something kids do.

It’s something adults need.

Lately, I’ve been playing  Magic, the Gathering: Arena . It’s a lot of fun. I didn’t play  Magic as a kid, but always wanted to. There’s a lot to learn, but again, in the context of play, it doesn’t feel like work.

Reading comics and playing games has strengthened my writing, strangely enough. While I want Spider God (Gods of the Dark Web, Book 2)  to have the quick pace of its predecessor, I want it to be more epic in scope. I want to deepen the world and give the characters more complications as they move toward their ultimate destinies.

Comics and games are great for this. Not only are the worlds rich, they enhance and keep the pace fast by having each obstacle tied to a different setting. Interaction with the world has a very specific role in the plot mechanics. I think that’s something prose writers can really learn from. I know I certainly have.

I’m about 11-12,000 words into Spider God. I’m shooting for 60,000, but I’d be happy with 50,000 and thrilled with 70,000. We’ll see where I land.

Yesterday, the audiobook for my Splatterpunk Award-nominated novella Saint Sadist was released. Today, it’s placed #88 in Gothic Horror audiobooks, so that’s pretty dope. You can help me reach #1 by ordering your copy here. It’s free with an Audible membership, or you can cop it for the price of a venti mocha. I know a lot of you have read it on paperback or e-book, but believe me when I say the audio, performed by Melody Muzljakovich, is the way this story was meant to be experienced. She brings the narrative and its characters to chilling life.

That’s it for now. Stay safe out there and remember: take time to play.

Marvel Monday – The Dark Phoenix Saga

X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga by Chris Claremont

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This volume collects the issues which make up one of the most well-known stories in X-Men history. Though the story tends to meander a bit in the beginning, it ramps things up in a big way in the last few issues. I remember watching the adaptation of this in the ’90s animated series and being incredibly moved, despite not quite understanding all the nuances of the story. It was fascinating to revisit this tale in its original incarnation. Even 40 years after its publication, it remains a highlight of Marvel’s catalog.



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