My Big Mouth

Between the hours of midnight and 6AM this morning, the temperature in Austin dropped close to forty degrees.  Sure, it’s happening across the country right now.  No big deal.  Down here, however, I have cornered myself.

See, I tend to complain about Austin’s lack of seasons (real seasons. “football” and “hunting” don’t count).  I’d like to see hills full of gold, orange, and red leaves, or be able to go sledding or have a snowball fight once a year or so.  Or to light a fire in the fireplace when it’s less than sixty degrees out.  I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

To the average Austinite, however, it means I like to walk around naked in drifts of snow, unable to feel the cold wind cutting into my naked flesh.

No, I’m not sure how one translates into another, either.

What I keep neglecting to mention is the reason I can stand cold weather.  I don’t go out in it.  Snowball fights and sledding, a trip to the chili parlor or a drive around to look at holiday lights.  Those are just about the only reasons you need to go out in the winter weather.  That’s all.  I should probably add walking the dog, becuase I’d most likely get stabbed in the neck if I told my girlfrend it was too cold for the boy from Indiana to help her out on that front.  That’s it, though.  Nothing else.

So remember these wise words my Southern friends.  And folks up North, throw a snowball for me.

There I go, shooting off my big mouth again.

Concerning the use of fear

Not fear as a tool or anything like that, but fear as inspiration.  Let me explain.

Okay, so if you write horror, you want to scare people.  Sure, other things go into it: story, character, the hope that your work might somehow better mankind (or not), but you want to make your readers squirm, shriek, or feel a nice chill across the back of their necks.

So we go to our fears, because what scares us is bound to scare others.  I’ve always divided the things that frighten me into big and little fears, or rather, the scary things that can effectively affect my or my loved ones’ lives or wellbeing and those that can’t.  The big fears are the mugger that steps out of the dark alley, the hundreds of dollars that mysteriously vanish from the bank account, disease, or anything of that sort.  The small fears are often more interesting.  They’re things like the shadowy skull I swore I saw on the living room ceiling when I was a kid, the thing rustling in the trees that makes the dogs bark at three in the morning, or the entire town of Sulpher, Kentucky (I’ll save this story for later). 

These things, no matter how big or small, can be the genesis of a good story.  Stephen King (you’ve heard of him, I’m sure) wrote a scene in Salem’s Lot about a nightmare he’d had since he was a child.  And y’know what?  It was a damn scary scene.

So there you go.  Next time something scares the pants off of you, don’t freak out.  Just sit down and start writing.

Monday again?

I guess so.  Oh, well.  The extra day off was fun while it lasted.

I spent the vast majority of Saturday finishing the second novel, typing THE END at 11:57PM.  I spent most of Sunday in a semi-comatose state. 

And now I have to go to work again.  Yay.

The Writing

A recent update on various writing whosits and whatsits…

The new novel chugs along, rapidly approaching the end.  First draft will be done by the 30th.

Artist possible found for a new comics project.  Won’t know for sure for a little while, but very hopeful.

Just signed a contract for a short comics project.  First spec script I ever sold.

As mentioned on Pod of Horror, I’m collaborating on projects with Steven Shrewsbury and Mike McBride.  This is all part of my “raise my profile by latching onto more recognizable writers” plan.  Anyway, the first collab with Shrews, the post Civil War horror story Hell Billy, is publisher hopping right now.  Our second collab, which I’ll just say features the greatest team-up EVER, is being picked over by Shrews before it hits my desk.  Killing Frequency, the book I’m writing with Mike, is waiting for my next chapter.  We have maybe four chapters to go, then a rewrite.  We’ll see how it goes.

Fear files are on their way to the printer.

Happy Thanksgiving, Americans.  Let’s all get fat together!

Comics vs. Novels, TV vs. Film

Been thinking about this lately.  All four are great media for storytelling, and each has its own strength and weeknesses.  I wanted to talk about that a little bit, maybe get your own thoughts on the subject.  This is just thinking out loud, really.

I never followed a single television series with any great interest until 1998, when I caught the second and third seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer in reruns and got hooked.  I’d be lying if I didn’t say an early infatuation with a pre-skinny Sarah Michelle Gellar added some appeal.  I fell in love with the characters, who grew so much over two short seasons.

I quickly realized the longterm storytelling potential of the serial television format.  It’s the same as in longform comics series.  Both serve characters more than story.  We get to know the characters and watch them grow over time, travelling through several character arcs, rather than the single arc presented by films of novels.  For character buffs like me, it’s heaven.

Which isn’t to take anything away from novels or film.  No way.  Both are excellent for stories.  They just lack that, dare I say, soap opera thrill.  You’ll never see a Luke and Laura reunion in a novel, and that’s the way it should be.

Are their exceptions on either side?  Sure!  Look at Harry Potter or The Dark Tower.  Keep an eye open for Brian Keene’s upcoming The Labyrinth series.  And some of comics best work has been in limited series such as Watchmen.  There’s been some misfires, as well.  Look at the mess that is just about any Marvel or DC character’s continuity.  And a lot of your television crime serials are two busy solving the mystery of the week to do anything more than pay lip service to such paltry things as character developement.

The trick is balancing the best aspects of all media and creating something durable, yet flexible.  Something that will let characters grow and change, yet not turn into an unbelievable mess.

Makes you think, doesn’t it?

Bookstore now open!

For those looking to buy my books, look no further!  On the right side of the page you’ll now find a link to the new bookstore.  From there, you can find my books and several online stores that carry them.  Buy, damn you!  Buy!

Making Noise

Been a quiet week.  Sorry about that.  Chugging along on the new novel, trying to finish it up by November 30th.  We’ll see how that goes.  Optimistic so far.

In order to give you folks something to read, here’s some pop culture thoughts.

READ: DMZ.  Brian Wood and Ricardo Burchielli’s comic book about Manhattan Island during a modern civil war has some of the best art and character work going.  They’ve just started a new story arc, providing a great jumping-on point.  Probably the only monthly book I still buy.

WATCH: SUPERNATURAL.  Yeah, it’s a CW series about two pretty boys fighting evil.  It’s shockingly good, though, with excellent chemistry between the two leads and an unusual visual style that I enjoy very much.  Manages to be genuinely frightening every now and again.

LISTEN: SUPERCHUNK “Here’s to Shutting Up”.  The final full length of all original material from this great Indie band.  A great blend of full-on rock and softer material.  “Art Class” and “Florida’s on Fire” are highlights.

Neurotic Writer Dreams

My friend Mike Oliveri already posted a fun entry on The Neuroses of Writers, but after the dream I had last night, I feel I can contribute.

So, last night I dreamed all the horror writers lived in one booze-fueled commune.  Keene and Oliveri were there, as were a host of others, all people I’ve read or hung out with.  We were stuck at this commune, hanging out and talking alot, but not getting much writing done.  Hell, I don’t think I saw a single laptop, typewriter, or pad of paper in the entire place. 

Okay, there was one large piece of paper, but that paper was a schedule with all of our names on it.  See, when not writing, we were expected to man several of the area McDonalds stores, making burgers and fries for the populace.  Damn, that sucks! you might be thinking.  Who’d make you do such a thing?

That’s where the evil Amish come in.

See, the commune was run by a group of oppressive, almost fascist Amish folks who gave us lashes if we were caught drinking and made us buy newspapers. I woke up just as I was about to be tortured for missing my McDonalds shift.  I decided to stay and party instead.

I’m no dream analyst, but it probably doesn’t take a genius to figure out why the now-sober writer who feels pressed for time and desperately needs to pull some research for his latest project is having a dream about being punished for drinking, missing work, and failing to stay informed.

Anybody else out there have some fun stress dreams?

Heath Ledger is The Joker

This has been news for months now, but Heath Ledger will be playing The Joker in The Dark Knight, the sequel to Batman Begins.

If you want (and this is a huge if), go check out this interview with Heath.  Maybe it’s three seasons of Entourage that did this to me, but I dig the idea of Heath doing the movie despite his apathy toward comics.  Sometimes a job is just a job, and sometimes it’s your agents, producers and managers telling you this is what you need to do in order to reach the next stage of your career.

I would advise you not to read the comments below the interview.  Newsarama posters are zealots among fanboys.