Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Manifesto

I started writing this blog approximately 2 years ago. A good friend of mine suggested that a blog would be good for spreading the word on my upcoming book, one that is finally out and available to buy after so many years of hard work. It’s intriguing to me how many blogs are out there. Each of them, to me, represents a little island of influence that culls together strangers to follow viral personas and causes. I always thought of blogs as online journals, which is still accurate, but not the case for most blogs we read on the internet today. Blogs have transcended their original purpose and become tools for influence beyond that of spreading goodwill and information. This all sounds naively cynical, but I’m also a criminal in this respect. I write for the reason to generate revenue and intrigue regarding my projects.

For the sake of reassessment I am inclined to put my blog on hold for a while I undertake some critical projects at Sequart. As I grow in my role there I am finding less time to contribute to this blog, at least with the regularity that I have kept for so long. This isn’t a bad thing, really. I feel that a lot of my work suffers from poor planning and spur-of-the-moment composition. I actually have written most of my blogs on the spot since 2012, including this one. For a good while, earlier this year, I wrote my blogs on my lunch break at my day job, clocking in about 400-600 words in under 20 minutes. This contributed to a nervous breakdown and a mandatory leave of absence from my work that allowed me to reassess the reason why I write, both of which have been beneficial.

I will continue to post on this blog. I still believe in it, why I write what I write, and desire to cultivate a culture of education and insight into the writing field, especially fiction. My posts will not continue as I had originally intended at this blog’s conception. Three posts a week is just too much for me, and I fear the quality has dropped off significantly since I began writing. I hope, though, in the event that I am hired to work for Sequart, or some other publishing company, that my time to do these posts will greatly increase. Until then I only feel capable of posting once per week for the foreseeable future. Writing with less regularity doesn’t bother me though. With the extra time at my disposal, I can create better stories, articles, and personal posts for you all to enjoy, and I relish the opportunity in doing so, with your patience of course. I just feel convicted that, in light of what I’ve come to understand about blog culture, along with my own experiences, that I am doing a disservice to you all by writing as I have been. You deserve better. You deserve content that isn’t phoned in and rushed, and I am sorry for perpetrating regimented work for so long.

In the future I promise engrossing stories, engaging articles, and some more honest posts about what I struggle and deal with as a novice author and publishing assistant. While I am undertaking my reassessment please visit my blog at least once a week. I plan on having content up that often, maybe more. The world needs less product and more creation, and I will endeavor to give you all my heart and my soul from now on. Thanks for listening. I hope this finds you well.

Beste Hilsen
(Warm Regards)


SW

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

'Porters


Last year I left for Spain to spend time with old friends. When I got back I realized that my face was gone.

No. Really. It was gone…

I didn’t expect it to be my whole face. Everyone knows that Valkyrie ComNet’s teleporters take something, but it’s never anything big. Usually it depends on how far. Maybe a finger, or the top of your mouth, but never a whole face. In order to leave we must sacrifice something. That was how it was when I was a kid. My dad would whimper impatiently, reiterating with colorful words there was no money to travel. As I got older, I realized he was just stingy. Only when I was as old as him did I discover why. My mind labored on my wage, how much I earned. Could I afford to go? What would it cost? Now I understand. To travel is sacrifice.

When I go to the TELflat complex, I go an hour early. It doesn’t matter to me how early exactly; as long as it’s an hour. My seat, right in between the travel gift shop and the duty free boutiques, helps me see clearly. (Maybe I can learn to listen now.) Everyone glows like a firefly, listlessly hovering, dynamically eye-catching. Some are dressed in their best, which they wear like armor against the world. The others? They‘re slobs, just like me. Most who pass me by are veteran ‘porters. Missing arms, augmented internal organs, and reconditioned eyes, constitute their badge of honor.  They stumble and lurch, those that step off the platform. Their new bodies adjust to what was taken from them moments before, and their contorted bones and seeping sores seem less burdensome in the presence of friends and family. Sadly, less and less do their relatives recognize them.

There’s no need to lose sleep over something like the workings of ‘porters (that’s just a waste of time), but I, while going out to get my coffee from Java-the-Hut, think about my old face. Stepping off into darkness and my sudden, jarring moment where I realized it was all gone taught me that all moments and meetings are precious. They say that, in the age of air travel, the sacrifice was sustained by those that served the traveler. These thankless people once saw us, took us in, and showed us the way. Everything cost something. For them, it was their joy. Today, we sacrifice. And it is painful. In the early morning, when the air is wet and damp, I feel the rails around my condo. Bumps made of putty lead me onward, tactile Sherpas teaching me to experience the world anew.


This is how they saw it back then, those people, and less travel for it. Now we live closer. But like an ancient rite, we must step into the wormhole, see their pain, eventually. Now, we know the cost of serving another, but I don’t think the people think about it like I do. If only they knew the horror as I did. No one would travel at all.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Communications Breakdown

Well, well, I see you are all doing fine.

I’m fine. I’m about to go to Hawaii, no biggie. Lucky for me my dad has a home there so I’ll be able to get a chance to hang out with him and spend time with him again. That being said, the rest of this week will be a little silent as I can’t guarantee good internet. Stay updated on my adventures via twitter in the meantime.


I’ve been waiting for this a long time guys! I’m so pumped! Be pumped for me!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Getting a Dog, Selling Books, Etc.

My wife and I are courting a dog currently, a Shiba Inu-American Eskimo mix. Suddenly the world of dog ownership is making sense to me. Whenever you walk up to someone and say, “OMG! Cute dog! Can I pet it!?” yeah, that bugs the shit out of people... It doesn't help that Shibas are very approachable aesthetically but are not terribly sociable with strangers. We aren't sure if we want the dog yet, but I will reserve judgment until she meets my mother’s burly white lab and geriatric sheltie.

So you all probably have noticed that my posts have been lagging lately. I've been thinking about scaling back my involvement with this blog so I can write more for Sequart, but I feel that wouldn't be the proper thing to do. I still like giving writing advice and doing my short stories, which I both consider a form of exercise for my mind as a writer. The personal post is something I value. It’s an opportunity to be honest with myself and those that follow me. Still, I've decided it best to make my posting schedule less ridged. Starting next week I will still post three times a week, but maybe you’ll see a post on Tuesday instead of Monday, or a post Saturday morning instead of Friday. It’s all the better reason to subscribe to me so you can get round the clock updates on my content.

It’s weird to see my book on Amazon and iTunes up for sale. It never occurred to me that this day would finally come. The difficulties haven’t even begun to start, but at least my wife is a marketing coordinator. This kind of stuff is her bag. I still have a role to play in the book game as an author. I need to wave my arms around, flag down traffic, climb a skyscraper and shout from the top of the world, “Oh, by the way, you should read my book guys!” Beyond that I don’t have time to market myself. I need to work on my short story collection I began last year, but put on hold. My next book will be apocalyptic, but with that being the generic these days I want to search out a better angle. I hate what apocalypse books preach, what they represent. If I’m going to write a book about the apocalypse, it needs to be poetic and meaningful. I haven’t read the Revelation of St John in one straight sitting but it’s themes, to me at least, encompass what I would call a “meaningful apocalypse.” A good apocalypse is about beginnings as much as endings. Without closure on either end, it all decomposes.  


As far as the graphic novel goes, my artist and I have decided to push the release back to January 2015 for launch. We just realized that in order to color it and make sure everything looked nice it would take a lot longer to complete enough pages make for a good buffer when we start posting. Never fear though. From what Phil tells me it’s looking pretty good, and I hope you’ll think the same too. 

See you all next week! 



SW

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Snow Fall, Frost Water: The Pastoral Undertaking

Wisps of frost licked the cobblestones along the path to the Middle Empire. Beda felt the chill through his sandals, from the dew of the morning. Day was coming. Black mountains met blue sky as shadows, and in the distance Beda saw the dying lamps of two towns. A bitter wind blindsided him, forcing him off the road. His hands barred the assault as he swore to Refutemon. His master answered him with fog, much to Beda’s surprise.

Yet as the fog slowly enveloped him, Beda saw a dim light in the distance grow. The lamp did not flicker inside the spacious globe. It was a gas lamp. Why a gas lamp? How novel. No one used gas lamps any longer. Beda pulled himself up from the ditch and stood at the top of the trench. He could hear the crunch, crunch, crunch, of the lifter walking along the road.

“Ho there,” Beda cried out, waving his hands. He did so until the contraption halted, and beamed a light onto the road, just at his feet. Beda looked down and saw the grass browning under the light. And so he knew it to be a most opportune test.

“Hallo, stranger,” a voice shouted back to him. “What brings you to the fjell lands? Are you armed?”

“I am but a simple man of simple needs.” Beda replied. “I am no criminal.” In his mind, Beda repeated his words.

A moment passed of indecision, then the light turned off. Beda wiped the sweat from his brow, heaving a sigh of relief. The lantern swayed closer until the fog broke and a man emerged a few hands off the ground. He was perched inside the metal chassis of a lifter, hidden away by tubes and wires. All that was visible was his meaty chest and cherry face. Tuffs of hot breath vaporized in front of him, casting off his spirit.

“Well, a priest or monk? Has no member of the kvitekrist’s communes a place to abide in these bitter winters? Are you lost traveler?” The man approached cautiously, never leaving his lifter.

Beda held his tongue, a moment.

“I am itinerant. I go forth and spread my Lord’s will. May I have the road?”

The man in the lifter laughed. The suit followed his motions in pantomime with alarming precision, as the arms thrust forward into the back end of the torso.

“Rather, go forth with me stranger, out of this cold, and to the nearest tavern we can find. I reckon not you to be much of a drinker, but I am and my thirst must be slaked.”

Beda agreed to go along with him then. It didn't take much to convince him. He wished for anything to get out of the cold. This of course did not spare what he would do to the man, for he was a sinner. And sinners deserved punishment. Just like all those that had not yet submitted to the will of Refutemon.

The Inn was family owned, 4th generation, and when Beda entered the main drinking hall, his eyes sought the ceiling, but could not tell where it was exactly. The roof had been replaced by a construct reality of decent quality. Above him was a calm blue sky with the sun overhead. He could hear the sounds of springtime. A willow wren chirped in the trees above him, nested in the branches of an ash.
Concluding the necessary introductions, Beda learned the pilot of the lifter to be named Rugga. Beda listened to the poor man a little while. Rugga was one to brag. He was loud and assertive, as was his stories. Beda listened as his training permitted. Secretly, he admired Rugga. There was no regret in Rugga, vices notwithstanding. That Rugga was a farmer likely had some part in it. Farmers were the hardest to break. They were too humble.

“So why not drink?” Rugga spouted. He slammed the drink to the ground fiercely.  “You look like one of those dressy folk, the beer drinkers from the south. You know them? Even the monks endure to this day. You’d have to.”

“It is not the way of Refutemon,” Beda began. “I serve only the master of restraint.”
Rugga’s face ceased to be gleeful and soured.

“Oh,” he said. “You’re a cultish bloke, ah? Well my evening is soured. I knew there was something funny about your ways.”

“So I’m not funny?”  Beda retorted swiftly. “Why am I not funny? Everyone is funny.”

“Thasss not what I said,” Rugga spoke in a low, drowsy voice. “I said there was something funny about your ways, you hear?”

Beda sat back in the chair by the table.

“Am I funny?” Beda asked, his eyes like stone.

Rugga stammered incoherently. Without provocation, Rugga began to shake and crossed his eyes. Beda leaned in towards Rugga and whispered into his ear.

“What is it that you wish to forsake, Rugga? Humor can’t be the only thing…”

Beda watched the farmhand collapse into the table, sparking some interest from the others around him. He heard some comments about Rugga. The man was a drunk. He was always in here making silliness. Those that turned to watch Rugga collapse went back to their business, as did Beda. Taking a sip from Rugga’s unfinished drink, Beda paid the tab and left the tavern. It would be an hour or so before the patrons would discover the nature of Rugga’s mind, but none would know how Beda broke it.

After all, they were his trade secrets.


Monday, October 6, 2014

The Unofficial Sequart Author Bootcamp: Comic Theory and History

Over the last few weeks I’ve talked about the basic protocols when it comes to writing articles, the word economy, the balance of content, and how to be timely and meet deadlines. Another thing to consider about writing articles for Sequart Organization is building a working knowledge of theory on comic books. Our articles can be informative on the surface level, but also knowing about the minutiae of comic history, the process by which comics are written, and the critical analysis of structure are just as important. 

A book I can recommend right off the top of my head is Douglas Wolk’s Reading Comics: How Graphic Novels Work and What They Mean. It’s a great overview on the history, development, and theory of comics featuring appendix overviews of a variety of famous creators in the comic book community. Another book that I have heard a lot of good things about is Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art by Scott McCloud. I haven’t read it personally (yeah, it sounds lame of me to recommend something I haven’t read), but it’s been recommended to me by enough “important” people that I should pass it along. 

Because comics are not universally respected as of yet as “legitimate art,” finding good commentary on specific comics is very difficult. Sequart Organization however, has a large book line dedicated to the study of specific works. That’s my shameless plug, but it’s worth looking into.

Boning up on comic theory starts with a spatial analysis of what comics do: they are snapshots, moments in time. The measure of time for each panel is determined by the amount of text. (Keep in mind I’m stealing all this from Douglas Wolk, so I recommend picking up his book for a deeper, more rewarding investigation.) Writers skilled enough to recognize this employ it often. Neil Gaiman uses “silence” in comics quite often to instill a lingering tension in his stories. Without text, there is nothing to determine the passage of time in a frame. Therefore a textless panel is an eternity.

Understanding the dynamics of a writer-artist duo is also a foundational aspect of studying comic theory. Most of the art comics that inspired the stylized, mature comics that one might find in Vertigo’s line was the work of Artists that wrote and developed their own comics. Without being confined to the house style of any particular publisher, the evolution of certain styles and approaches to comic making rapidly accelerated. So when we read a comic illustrated by Scott Hampton or Charles Vess, we have early art comics to thanks for showing the world that the medium of comics could escape the shackles of DC and Marvel house style. 

Consequently, the introduction of a writer into the equation of comic book production fostered a symbiotic relationship between the two creators. Collaborative efforts mean comics can be produced faster, but this increase in turnover risks sanitation of style in the final product. Jim Lee is a phenomenal artist but his style has often been critiqued for its highly stylized depictions. His work is a far cry from Daniel Clowes’s Ghost World

I could go on, of course. 

The idea here is try to look at comics more critically. They have a long rich history, just like any other counter culture. Books have been written on them. People talk about them. Etc. I encourage you all to look into comics from angles other than characters and really try to understand them in their cultural context. I’ve always wanted to read a Marxist interpretation of Iron Man, but I still haven’t found one. But the possibilities are nigh limitless. Just think about them beyond the surface level details. Try to spot things that you haven’t seen before. It’s these details that will help you understand exactly what’s going on in the comic world.


SW

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Writer's Block

 I had a gnarly case of writer's block yesterday. Even what I could write to finish my current story cycle entry was, I admit, forced. But that's the nature of meeting deadlines, there's a compromise between quality and quantity that ebbs and flows. The Wednesday posts are supposed to be my showcase days, where I exhibit my talent as a storyteller. But I've noticed that my non-fiction niche on Sequart has prevailed over my capacity for fantasy.  I've been working fiction back into my diet recently as a part of my ongoing campaign to relax. Right now I'm reading Mike Carey's Lucifer, Alan Moore's Promethea, and H.P. Lovecraft's selected works; a healthy balance of occult, horror, and speculative fiction. 

I saw the reviews for Left Behind on Rotten Tomatoes the other day. I wasn't surprised by the outcome. I had the unfortunate opportunity to watch some of the entries of the movie serial some years back. To think that Nicholas Cage was burdened with this in good humor is either remarkable or terrifying. 

I've been a Christian for a few years now. I guess it's been ten years since I've committed to following Jesus in all things. The world has grown ever more complex since then. My original outlook, both optimistic and positivist, has matured. Years ago I declared that my life was going to change, that everything was going to get better once I accepted Jesus. It has, only not in the ways I had expected. In fact, the operative definitions for excellence and growth advanced by our cultural milieu fly in the face of what my savior intended. He introduced me to my wife, comics, Sequart, and my love of books and reading, all good things, but they were hardly what I was anticipating in the moments shortly after my conversion all that time ago. 

My growing fascination with these supernatural stories, including my love of Nordic mythology, is not an unwelcomed development. The aesthetic promoted by these stories sheds light on what humanity, at our basest, strives for. It illuminates, to me at least, the true nature of Jesus, God, and his people, especially when studying the chance interactions that occurred between the early missionaries to the North and the East. It's comforting to know that the Anglo angle for cultural supremacy is a pagan characteristic, one evidenced by the conversion of King Hakon. Mass killings and commands to force convert entire regions was very characteristic of the Nords. Each tribe gave tribute to certain gods, forced other to adopt theirs. The crusading spirit was all old hat by the time Christianity had reached the North. When I read Gaiman, Morrison, Carey, et al, I capture glimpses of my ancestral tribalism. 

My book is now online, Huzza! I would take a look at it, buy it, tell your friends. I learned Norwegian, went to Norway, and spent 4 years meticulously researching Nordic paganism to complete it. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.


SW

Friday, October 3, 2014

Snow Fall, Frost Water: Prodigal Son

Initiates wore silk as a sign of opulence, so that all the brothers of the order would know the truth. Hálma didn’t mind so much. She liked the way it felt on her skin.

For the first time in 200 seasons, a woman joined the men in prayer to worship asceticism in the burnt out abbey in Nord Trøndelag. Their chants warmed her soul, transcendent reverberations speaking sweet lullabies into the darkness on the night. Each man kneeled reverently on the cold stone, straddling concave impressions of generations, as torchlight licked their faces. They had all come seeking refutation, and the authority to stay the Materia Elicitum. Each man bore their chosen brand upon their hand and the day would come when Hálma would receive her own: the entwined band, of penance. Then she too could serve as an acolyte and herald to Refutemon, and declare the folly of the unenlightened. 

Aspect Gauss, the Order’s chief herald entered the foyer and announced himself with customary formality. The brothers all turned their heads attentively. Hálma shuffled on her knees, positioning herself towards Gauss, who looked fat and dignified. His rotund waist puffed through his purple habit with his two hands folded over it delicately.

“Highest Aspect,” a lanky pockmarked acolyte spouted eagerly, picking himself off the ground. His busy hands dusted away the remnant stone. “How may we serve the agent of Refutemon?”
Gauss briskly whisked his hand impatiently in dismissal.

“Brothers,” he said blessing the space, “If you please, seek enlightenment elsewhere. I have words for the outsider.” Hálma held her breath and sat backward, onto her hands, as Gauss encircled her inspecting her closely. The cowed acolytes said nothing. They stood and filed out like ogres, hunchbacked and lumbering. Gauss watched them leave, patting his gut rhythmically with his fingertips.

“Well then,” he began, “How have you sought the Master this week?”

Hálma shrugged, looking away sheepishly.

“Still getting used to the robes,” she replied, tugging at her sleeves.

Gauss’s face changed in the firelight, subtly. He approached the altar to warm his hands, but paused and reached inside his sleeves to grab a pipe. Fixing the pipe to his mouth, he drew a slender stick from his belt and lit the end of it on the fire. He used the incense to light his pipe and anxiously puffed away.  

“No, please,” he said pointing his pipe stem at Hálma unamused. “Clearly my coffers aren't deep enough for you. Play the part, walk the walk, that was the deal.”

Hálma tugged at her sleeves. She felt the knives press into her skin.

“Why are you really here?” Hálma began, closing her eyes. She could hear the holy man falter. Two steps forward, one back, two back again. He takes a seat down on the kneeling stone. Opening her eyes, she could appreciate the fear he possessed, how raw it was, how articulate.

“Beda was spotted touring the waterways,” Gauss said twiddling his thumbs. “he’s coming back. He needs to be stopped before he hurts any more people. The order will not… cannot be shamed by him.”

Hálma’s body twisted and lifted off the ground, her body flowing like a cat.

“And… and I, for one, would like the matter dealt with discreetly,” Gauss added hastily. But as Hálma slowly approached him, his firm, confident grip on reality melted away. Gauss began to cry, and Hálma stroked his bald pate soothingly.

“He can’t… he’ll destroy everything. Our ways are not of violence, but we are desperate,” Gauss whimpered.

Nodding, Hálma gave Gauss a reassuring pat on the back.

“I can’t blame you, Aspect,” Hálma said, letting go of Gauss. “Religion has the power to create, and destroy. Beda, whoever he is, I don’t care either way for his intensions.” Hálma walked backwards, pacing closer to the edge of night.

“I’ve never had to kill a man that could talk me to death,” she said. “Sounds fun.”

She left Gauss alone to his thoughts, as she walked back to the dormitories. She had worked with the cults before, but nothing like the Order of Sacred Refutation. Religious nuts, this Beda character, she couldn’t make heads of tails of it. He was a talker, a rogue. Those were the most dangerous kind.


“Come home Beda,” she taunted. “My knives will find you first.”