Monday, August 29, 2011

Popcorn Fiction

My latest story, "The Final Shot," is live over at Mulholland Books' Popcorn Fiction site.

If you're into slashers and digressions on horror films, you'll probably enjoy this story.

Check it out here.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Quarantined Trailer!

Monty cut a pretty sweet trailer for the book. Check it out:

And don't forget that the book is available on Comixology for .99 cents an issue!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Hoax Hunters, Nearing the End

It seems further off than it actually it is, in some ways. But after tomorrow's release of Hoax Hunters, only three parts remain. Of course, in the world of comics shipping, that's still three full months. But on my end, things are coming to a close. Steve and I only have the final two pages left to write (which is already outlined and planned--has been for months now), and JM is wrapping up the art on the penultimate installment. It's strange to think how Steve and I hatched this crazy idea back in December of 2010, after Tim threw out the idea of having a Hack/Slash backup. We have ran with it since, and the Hoax Hunters universe has only continued to expand. The past nine months have zoomed by in a flash, and now our story is coming to a close.

For now.

Steve and I have plans for Hoax Hunters in the months to come--big plans, in fact. There will be some really cool announcements and news that hits before the end of this year; I just can't get into any of it yet. Soon though. And believe me, it's going to be a lot of fun.

For the time being, above is a preview page from Part Seven, which releases tomorrow in Hack/Slash #7. JM's art is as crisp and exciting as ever, and the story is definitely moving towards the big finale, which is just around the corner.

Thanks again for reading!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Here's How This Whole Thing Works

A few years back, I used my MA thesis project as an excuse to write a shitty novel. There, I said it. In my past is a painfully bad book that, should it ever somehow leak to the world at large, I'd have to change my name and move to a remote corner of the globe (which, the way I feel about people these days, may happen anyway--but that's another story). Academia had beat it in my head that, in order to be taken seriously as a writer, I had to write about serious things in a serious manner--like writers struggling with domesticity, writers struggling with writing, or writers struggling with global affairs that have no bearing on their day-to-day life. That kind of stuff. And while we're on the topic of Creative Writing grad programs, it's worth mentioning that what you've heard is true: they are pretty much useless. No agent or editor cares that you went to Important Writer's Workshop, or that you spend your summers at the Writerville Colony. What matters is the work. Is what you've produced any good? Will anyone want to spend money to buy it? That's the golden banana. Sure, I think I became a better writer, in a sense, by studying under fantastic authors. But when I got my degree and asked the university "well, now what?" and they just shrugged their shoulders, well, that says it all.


I was off living in New York during my thesis year, which is when the bulk of Shitty Novel was written. And during that year, I wrote like a derailed runaway train. I sweated through the book, labored through the edits from my thesis advisers, and got the thing written. The Sunday after I'd typed the final word, my wife and I were strolling through Prospect Park, and I clearly remember saying to her: "Thank God that's over; now I can go write what I actually want to write." Within a few weeks, I was working out the script for Quarantined.

In the meantime, I tried to find an agent or a publisher for Shitty Novel. Thankfully, there wasn't any takers. A few agents showed interest, some small presses nibbled, but nothing popped. Again, thankfully. At first, I was crushed. Who wouldn't be? This was over two years of my life, and as time went on it become apparent that Shitty Novel would bear no fruit (although that's not entirely true--writing a novel, good or bad, teaches you how to write a novel, and gives you the endurance needed to write another one). As rejection notices piled up, I started caring less and less. I was neck deep in Quarantined, and having the time of my creative life. The best part was that I was doing it for no one but myself. I enjoyed plotting out what turned into a massive zombie opus, the seeds of which were planted in my mind years before. The work wasn't labor. I wasn't writing for instructors or critics or with any pretense of making myself sound as wonderfully clever as possible. Although I read and loved comics since I was a kid, I knew nothing about comics publishing or the industry. Nothing. Which left me unencumbered to simply write.

The results of this shift showed on the page (see: Quarantined isn't an embarrassing mess, unlike Shitty Novel). And what do you know? The book got published.

The success of Quarantined led to more comics opportunities, which in turn led to more. That's great--I'm appreciative of it all, don't me wrong. But before I even realized it, I was working on stuff I felt that I was supposed to work on, not that I necessarily wanted to work on, toward ends I wasn't sure I wanted to achieve. Things I wanted to creatively invest myself in got pushed to the side, then moved out of my office, swept under a rug, and made for extra padding for my dog to sleep on.

When I realized what I had gotten caught up in, I couldn't help but think about Shitty Novel. Different, yet similar, situations. Both involve putting creative desires aside and being led down a path, rather than making it on my own.

The point, in all this, is to let your creative/artist ambitions be your guide. It's so, so easy to become an automated Pleasing Machine-2000 (patent pending), trying to predict what editors and agents want, what people like to read, what critics will champion, what will further your career. But that's all ego. All you're working towards--and believe me, I know--is validation. And there's nothing wrong with that; unless you're a monstrously social deviant, being accepted into a community is one of the most basic of human needs. We all want to be part of something, and the art we create is where we feel most vulnerable, and where acceptance is constantly in jeopardy (thankfully, for some of us, there's grain alcohol to help allay the associated anxieties).

Maybe I'm wrong, and this is an ailment particular to myself. But it doesn't seem like it, because the more I think about it, this isn't just about writing. The need for acceptance, not to mention the gruesome push of necessity, hinder just about everyone. Jobs, relationships, whatever--you wake one morning and think, "how the hell did I get here?"

As for writing, well, here's what you do: Become the best writer you can (and if you want to know what that means, Chuck Wending has 250 bits of insight--275, actually--that every writer should know). Write what you want to write, and do so in as much of a vacuum as possible. Let the rewards, acceptance, and pleasure come from there.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Men Out of Time: The Long Goodbye and Point Blank

There’s something to be said about iconic characters, especially how they are able to transcend generations and, sometimes, the conventions of their own genres. Our culture, as it is, has become obsessed with this in a way; we seem to have more recycled ideas, stories, and characters, than we do fresh ones. Movies and comics are the two most obvious culprits: cinemas are clogged with sequels, remakes, and adaptations, and mainstream comics have been essentially telling the same stories for over have a century. There is certainly something to be said, after all, for giving people what they already know.

What got me thinking about this idea of transcendent characters isn’t our culture of reappropriation. There are two unusual films that have been on my mind, both of which take what we know about a character and place them in an entirely new context. These characters literally awaken in a new and unfamiliar world—one where everything has become strange, though they have stayed the same.

In Robert Altman’s brilliant The Long Goodbye, Philip Marlowe—probably the most recognizable P.I. of all time—wakes up in a lousy L.A. apartment in the early 1970s, accosted by a hungry cat and surrounded by California free spirits. It’s like he literally woke up after a decades long snooze and is never able to quite get his bearings. Elliot Gould (a brilliant choice to play the out-of-time Marlowe) wanders through the film, commenting on how anything goes, that everything is “okay” with him. The dialogue is all double-talk; no one is ever in sync with anyone else, just as Marlowe isn’t in sync with the culture he inhabits.

The same goes for Lee Marvin’s Walker character in Point Blank. Based on Richard Stark’s initial Parker novel, The Hunter, Walker (as he’s called in the film) has a similar experience to Marlowe—he suddenly comes to in an Alcatraz jail cell after being betrayed and shot by his best friend. Having been left for dead, it’s almost like he’s reborn—thrust into this new world with one simple goal: revenge.

Granted, only a few years separate The Hunter from Point Blank, but there is still that same sense of the protagonist being dropped into a world that he doesn't belong to. Like Marlowe, Walker is a lone wolf, navigating his world with a set of rules that are all his own. Lee Marvin plays Walker as stoic and, at times, callous, yet there is still a vulnerability there. He isn’t the unstoppable force of nature as painted by Stark. All the while, he’s confronted, like Marlowe, with a strange California culture, a frenzied, drug-imbued one, that is pitted against his nature.

Still, what’s interesting is both characters retain their intrinsic values throughout (to a degree); Marlowe is still a step ahead of the pack and uses his wits to misdirect, confuse, and manipulate at will. Walker is still a hunter, a silent predator stalking a strange—and at times, surreal—landscape, using people when he has to, deploying brute force when he must. And in the process, both films are able to hold a mirror up to culture, reflecting what it, and what was.

I think about this now as I embark on the longest, most intensive projects I've undertaken in some time. And it is, at least to me, a character-driven work. But what makes characters function in the most appealing ways: is it the context they are pitted against, or something indelible in who they are? Ultimately, there really isn't an answer to the question--let's be honest, no one would think twice about Frodo Baggins had it not been for the quest he was one and the bonds he forged with others. Still, it's interesting to consider these things--how the characters we grow to feel a kinship with, or forge some sort of identification with, manage to stick with us despite the changes within our own lives and the world around us.