Without Fear

Ryan K Lindsay – Writer

Category: books

NOIRVEMBER 2015 ebook coming!

My series of NOIRVEMBER posts from Noirvember last year will be available as an ebook on the 19th of January for 99c on Smash Words from Four Colour Ray Gun. You can pre-order it now, if’n you like. It’s in multiple formats and represents nearly 40k of my thoughts and words and misconceptions about life and art.

PREORDER NOIRVEMBER 2015 – ESSAYS AND RAMBLINGS EBOOK NOW! – LINK

I’ve tidied up the posts a touch, and added a CURRICULUM ADDENDUM section at the end of each chapter to give you the boring deets I didn’t want to didactically drop into the essays – plus sometimes some links to scripts and rad pdfs and other cool stuff.

It also features this ace cover from Christopher Kosek!

noirvember2015_v2

If you want, all the posts are still right here [LINK] but there’s something cool about being able to have this on your tablet, just waiting for you, or maybe you just buy a copy to share with friends. Or maybe you have that site-to-pdf Chrome extension. Or maybe I die destitute and alone.

NOIRVEMBER, the ebook, coming January 19th – tell your friends [who don’t already read this site, follow my twitter, like me] – [LINK] for the preorder, or the order if you are accessing this post post-Jan 19.

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What is Best in Life? – 2015 Edition

2015, I believed.

BEST COMIC

DEADLY CLASS by Wes Craig and Rick Remender

Just loved every single panel in this crazy messed up book. It’s a wild idea, wrapped up by a wide array of intriguing characters, in a $10 intro trade, with some of the most nuanced and superb comic making I’ve seen in a while. Just an utter joy to behold – well, in a sense of how it is made…most of the actual narrative is as bleak as leftover coffee the next morning.

BEST TV

HANNIBAL

Just the best in show for everything, really. This year was S3 and it closed out the show and did it so masterfully that I’m still in awe. This is one of the few things I just keep bringing up to people and gushing to them about. It’s a show I want to share because it represents so many things about storytelling I love, and I wish I could do.

I’d love more seasons but I also love how tight and wonderfully this is all stitched up. This year, everything else paled in comparison.

BEST MOVIE

INSIDE OUT

And I mean hands down, best flick of the year. I crazy loved the idea but the execution was better. With a simple narrative throughline, they then explore emotions in such a deliberate and delightful way that my 5yo man dug it but I was floored by it. I cried twice in the damn flick and then when I got home and tried to explain it to the wife I started tearing up again. She thought I must’ve had a stroke. So good, and who knew we needed HERMAN’S HEAD the kid adaptation so bad?

BEST MUSIC

NEW BLASKOOOO!

Yes, a new Sarah Blasko album dropped and she’s still amazing. ETERNAL RETURN has fuelled some words in the last few months.

BEST PODCAST

COMIXLAUNCH

Every time I listen to this podcast about using Kickstarter for making comics it inspires me to make some more comics. I just get the fire in the gut again. You need to have that fire, and stoke it, and shift it, and kick it, if you’re going to survive this stupid ride we repeat again and again making comics.

The ComixLaunch podcast is just gasoline all up in my bonfire of life. I was also on an ep, dig it, it’s all about kickstarting DEER EDITOR and doing a digital only campaign from Australia [LINK]

BEST BOOK

ELEKTROGRAD: RUSTED BLOOD by Warren Ellis

This ebook was like two bucks or something stupid and it was a tight, short, very interesting read. And I’m finding it hard to hang on to novels because they are taking me crazy amounts of time to get through so short novella stuff is just right and this book was aces [LINK]

Are there other best things from this year I should be considering? No app jumped out at me this year, and no way could I single out all the cool art I’ve been able to scope in my travels with collaborators, so I think this is it.

2015 was a building block year, and it built in me patience. Hopefully I can use it to calmly slaughter 2016.

NOIRVEMBER 023 ~ PKD

Philip K Dick knew from noir. He thought he was living in one. Conspiracy, drugs, self-hatred [though maybe that’s just all writers but he certainly didn’t always seem to think the most of himself, though he did respect himself in some ways], and an early demise.

PKD lived as he wrote, and wrote about how he lived. Interreality noir.

FullSizeRender

– my personal PKD shelf –

The first PKD book I ever read was A MAZE OF DEATH. I had these rad local flea markets in a shopping centre carpark every Sunday morning and I used to religiously ride in and just wander, eat some insanely good hot jam donuts, and peruse all the people selling old paperbacks out of last week’s broccoli bins. And this was the age where old sci fi pulps got the price they deserve: between 50c and maybe two bucks if they were superfly.

I was about 12 and had read enough Stephen King and Clive Barker and Star Wars books – and I’m talking SPLINTER OF THE MIND’S EYE and the Han Solo trilogy, not that later extended universe stuff – to know it was time to branch out. I started shifting this weird stuff around, because all the other horror authors didn’t interest me and I found myself digging more and more sci fi flicks [ALIEN/S, BLADE RUNNER, THE ABYSS, THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL, THE OMEGA MAN, PLANET OF THE APES, etc], and it was getting late in the morning. All this stuff looked the same, a whole mess of Heinlein, lotta Donaldson and some Bradbury, there was plenty I wanted but nothing I could choose. Nothing worth the two bucks. But then I picked up A MAZE OF DEATH and it sounded half decent, I had no idea about the author, but the price was slashed in half from a buck to 50c. It was worth the gamble. I picked it up and my future path was set.

a-maze-of-death

I read A MAZE OF DEATH and while it’s not PKD’s finest, it is lean, and harsh, and the end stuck with me like tar to your shoe. The story looks at a spaceship crew who go through the story all either being murdered or killing themselves and in the end we reset to find out they’re actually just using virtual reality to kill time as they orbit a dead star and are waiting to die. That kicker, that they’ll no doubt just go through all of this again, such anguish, such empty human rage, was something that hit me in the guts. Looking back, it’s like a recursive noir loop set in deep space. It’s insanely dark and brilliant and a very bloody good hook on which to hang yourself as an intro to PKD.

I was about to become a teenager and embark on a quest for more that I am still on.

In the early days, it was hard to find PKD books but when they arose, they were cheap. It felt like a worthy adventure. I go to a lot of secondhand book shops so in every one the first thing I still do is go to the sci fi shelves and scan for D, which means Gordon R. Dickson, with his middle initial and very very similar last name has become my nemesis for the fact he bloats these shelves and always kills me with false hope. Because now, PKD books are rare. I blame flicks like MINORITY REPORT and maybe PAYCHECK for jacking up the price because for a long while PKD pulps remained cheap but suddenly they’d be asking $20 a copy, and the worst thing was the bastards would sell. So you’d either put up or get shut out. The game is suddenly dark and sharp. But, still I look and my shelf grows.

Often times I think of my journey procuring and slowly reading PKD books as a noir where I’ll die before reading them all, though I’ll probably get them all, because that’ll make the final sting all that much worse. As the life ebbs, I can probably see the shelf, the titles smirking back at me, the one found in that gargantuan warehouse of a store, the one the eccentric shopkeeper held for me, the trio I sniped on eBay back before people knew how to snipe on eBay, they’d look down and judge me for not having imbibed them all and I’d look up and whisper out to them, and my family would hate me for looking at the books when they were gathered around.

Then I’d wake to find it was all a virtual reality test to see how I’d fare in my final moments, and I’d be left wanting, my family would leave, and the books would be empty, filled with the vast works of Gordon R. Goddamn Dickson. Because if I’m going to go down, I want PKD writing my end.

And that’s what PKD did best, he messed with your reality so your happily never after chased you through space and time. His brand of sci fi isn’t about intergalactic discovery and exploration as much as it is a synthesis of how far we can see into ourselves wrapped in a metaphor of the crushing dark that surrounds us, as well as fills us. He saw beauty and horror in everything, his dichotomy of life was to fear and then fearlessly bound forward anyway. It’s the sort of thing they don’t teach you in class.

Looking through the works of PKD, you see bleak horizons laid out in his final pages all the time. A SCANNER DARKLY is a terrible piece of drug noir, and one of his finest works. It looks into the future at a narc who goes undercover into a drug house, and one he’s already also an active member of and in during his out of work hours. But due to a scramble suit which hides the identity of all narcs, this clash is not discovered, neither by the occupants of the house nor his superiors.

A Scanner Darkly

So we have a man spying on himself while imbibing hallucinogens and of course this is a problem. It’s a fascinating read into paranoia, and the system that lords over the street, and how interpersonal relationships open you up to salvation as well as damnation. By story’s end, we find our protagonist trapped in a loop of rehab where he’s being made to harvest the drug in the facility, and he’s seemingly gone from the top rung to the bottom and regardless of more movement the actual problem is there’s little hope he’ll ever get off the wheel.

Dick’s wife at the time, Tessa, said she found him weeping by his typewriter after particularly harrowing nights of writing this story. It is clear PKD was putting his life and his soul into his work.

THE ZAP GUN is a deliciously morose slice of consumerism noir as we follow weapon makers who come up with their ideas in fugue states only to have their designs turned into completely useless and random household artifacts. As an alien invasion looms, they struggle to team up and design a salvation for Earth.

the zap gun

The way this story plays out, everyone ends up in a black hole of their own reality of redundancy. People have their ideas handed across time, people have their own ideas turned on them, people have their own ideas nullified, and nearly all ideas are in service to fight oppositional ideas that are fabricated. Your life’s purpose is a lie. Even the way the book was birthed, the publisher wanted a story to match this title they had, is insane. They brought very little to the table and PKD obliged. That idea of ideas becoming larger ideas is right there.

There’s a great through line where a board game is constructed and in it a small character wanders aimlessly in a seemingly futile experiment. As you play, you connect with the playing piece until eventually you replace it, and you look up, and there is no hope. It’s barely subtle but it’s a visceral thing as it plays upon your feelings of empathy, and how many crosses you’ll die on, and the fact the world is out to slowly draw you in and stop you, entrap you, claim you, absorb you.

THE THREE STIGMATA OF PALMER ELDRITCH, a novel PKD wrote amongst many as he struggled to make ends meet supporting a wife and four daughters, from whom he was estranged during his writing periods, wandering away from the homestead and down into a small shack that would get so cold the ink would freeze in his typewriter ribbon. If there was ever a confluence of events to create a noir masterpiece, this was it.

three stigmata of palmer eldritch

PKD had been spending every day isolated in this shack, every day inside his head with these wild ideas, and it took its toll. One day, he saw a vision in the sky above the horizon. It was the face of evil, and it was God, and this was the worst possible thing to consider. Which means that as the face continued to appear over a month, PKD processed it inside and the output was this magnificently sour and majestic novel.

It is certainly one of the most bleak PKD tales as it looks into the concept of seeing/meeting/becoming god through drug use and how dangerous a line any of that is. The book strongly treads into the territory of Gnosticism – the fact that God may be real but that doesn’t mean in any way that they are a nice or even sane deity. When man loses his higher power, or discovers that power is corrupt, well that means there’s nowhere left to fall because we all suddenly live on the grainy rock bottom.

In the end of the story, after many twists and turns, the kicker is that our lead man never knows if he’s escaped his hallucinatory nightmare, if he’s still in it, and whether he’s right or powerful if either of those scenarios prove true. Once you know there’s been a hallucination, how can you ever know you truly came out of it? And even if you did, if thoughts plague you that you didn’t will you ever be fulfilled? That noir of uncertainty and doubt that will mock you and haunt you for eternity is a scarier prospect than any actual definitive answer that will at least stop you hunting for clues or signs or ideas. This thin possibility means you are a ball spinning in a hoop that will never fall.

You can see the layers of eXistenZ and INCEPTION presented in this idea and it’s scary because the moment you apply it to your own life, you could be up all night chasing loops. Once your concept of reality is shattered, there is no recovery.

Philip K Dick didn’t seem to believe in happy endings, and if he gave you one, he wanted you to know it was perilous. He wanted you to question it because as soon as you did, it puffed away in blue smoke. That aspect of storytelling as a thing offered, and a thing taken away, and a thing unknown to which you can only guess is something that’s inspired me for decades now. As I continue to write, and have PKD paperbacks yet to read, may I die happy and certain, if he allows it.

pkd quote

NOIRVEMBER 015 ~ The Vengeful Virgin

I’d never heard of Gil Brewer before. I found the Hard Case Crime copy of THE VENGEFUL VIRGIN in a discount bin for $5 and snapped it up mostly on the quality of the publisher, as well as a little on the title. Salacious pulp titles are better than Cards Against Humanity every single time.

The Vengeful Virgin (Gil Brewer, 1958)

The cover copy told me Brewer had also written “SATAN IS A WOMAN,” and a quote from Anthony Boucher, from The New York Times, informed me what I held in my hands was “A Cainlike story of greed, sex and murder, culminating in retributive horror worthy of Jim Thompson.” Bold words and so it was on tipping point to reach apex of my ‘to read’ pile and Bill Pronzini’s quote slid the nail in my coffin with ease as he said “[Brewer] produced some of the most compelling noir softcover originals of the 1950s.”

Yes, I was excited. And, yes, the book completely lives up to all of this hype.

The book opens with Jack Ruxton meeting Shirley Angela as he comes to perform some repairs and alterations to the house she lives in where she cares for her flagging stepfather. Naturally, a plan is hatched to dispatch of the old man and abscond with his bountiful dollars. Because that’s what two pretty young things consider when the passion and the fury takes over. They think they sniff a happily ever after because the lust fuels a whiff of satisfaction right now. They cannot keep their hands off each other and yet Ruxton still thinks, “I knew I’d never get enough of her. She was straight out of hell.”

He’s letting himself be led down, and why not? A short fall is better than the long flat most people face for their whole life.

So the plan is set but the execution takes a long time. They have too much time to think and worry and ponder. The tension builds, the opportunities to bail out mount. But neither stirs. They are dedicated to the path, this is premeditated murder in the first degree. Even when a nosey neighbour and Ruxton’s jealous and drunk ex stick their heads in the way, they find them pummeled back. There is no stopping this plan, there is no hesitancy in their desire. There is no hurdle too complex even when it’s more murder.

In the hustle of a possible discovery, Shirley stabs the neighbour, Mayda, in the back, killing her. They’re in for a penny, so they’re in for a pound, but weaseling out of this trap proves the kind of mental undoing that would destroy lesser people on the spot. Ruxton takes the body and decides to dispose of it in some nearby water. Ruxton enters into the messy business of staging her alleged death by driving her car around at night in the hopes it’ll be seen, and then slamming it into the canal. This sets up a car crash/drowning, but to account for the knife wound, he turns it into an accident wound by busting off a piece of the convertible soft-top housing and jamming the steel into the open wound. It’s gruesome business and the kind that doesn’t sell your soul so much as shred it up and feed it to the dogs. The three-headed kind who are waiting for you at your next stop.

Once you’ve gone that extra step, you don’t deserve any kind of happily ever after you were aiming for. And Ruxton certainly doesn’t get it. The deed is done but things begin to go shaky, his resolve is wobbly, the paranoia sets in. He diverts, steals a gun, he’s making all the wrong moves, and well knows it, but doesn’t really know how else to play it. He’s made big moves but in this world he’s not a big mover, he’s a guy who installs electronic equipment. He’s a nobody with delusions of money, promised him by some girl he barely knows, and which legally may be problematic even before then [due to obscure inheritance laws and rules, or so he’s told]. It all looks sour.

What follows is a frantic conversation between these blood cross’d lovers. He’s panicking, she’s a little fawny and clueless, and between them the errors and tension are thicker than a bank vault wall. The volleyed dialogue tears you through the pages and your heart starts to race with them. Brewer certainly knows how to make people yap and have it mirror the tone of the narrative at that point – seductive, frantic, suspicious.

The most fascinating aspect of the whole book is not that killing an old man is a risky move, or covering up another woman’s murder is a bold and terrible thing to do, it’s that these things are not Ruxton’s downfall. He’s lost from the very first line of the book because that’s when he meets Shirley. She is a girl with passion, a girl who draws you in, but ultimately she’s a girl who draws you down because she’s considerably unhinged due to this abundance of passion.

Ruxton knows this all along but he sweeps it away, partly for the lust, mostly for the money. But in the end, this decision is his undoing as Shirley becomes fixated on Ruxton’s previous girl, Grace, who hounds Ruxton and so Shirley starts imagining how he is playing her under the guidance of another woman. Shirley gets bad ideas in her head and cannot shake them. In fact, she inflates them constantly and in the final sequence of the book she gets loaded on whiskey and expands her problem big enough to engulf them both.

Brewer illustrates an image of Shirley, wielding Ruxton’s gun [because it was his choice to introduce a weapon to this venture and so naturally it will come right back in his face], stark naked in front of a fireplace. A raging fireplace. A scene of over $340,000 in bills going up in smoke. She stands there and she screams insanity at Ruxton and then she shoots him dead. Dropping to kneel next to him, she then takes her own life.

Only Ruxton doesn’t die, and he’s stuck, almost paralysed, watching her commit suicide, the money turning to ash before him, and then watching as the police do eventually track him down and take him in. He wishes he was dead, it would all be easier, but it’s more painful if he’s left to go to trial, to wait it out, and to eventually burn at the hands of others. It’s a fait accompli but he has to feel the dread anticipation, he can’t escape it. When you think it would’ve just been easier to die, you know you are below rock bottom. And he knows he has no one else to blame.

Gil Brewer writes a phenomenally on point description to start a chapter and it summarises Ruxton’s core problem, as well as standing as a lovely way to describe noir in its entirety.

“Doom. You recognize Doom easily. It’s a feeling and a taste, and it’s black, and it’s very heavy.”

NOIRVEMBER 008 ~ The Shining

The first rule of THE SHINING is: forget the movie.

Yes, Kubrick made a horror masterpiece. The tone and timbre of that flick is intensely on point. Kubrick is a weird case in that he spent his career bouncing from genre to genre, defining them and mic dropping but he was never able to make THE definitive flick of those genres because his pieces were always more style over character substance. There are moments where this isn’t the case but on the whole people remember HAL before they can name more than one astronaut on the Discovery One, and before those men they probably remember the man-apes from the opening sequence.

And when it is that Kubrick makes a truly iconic character, it is because of their hollow nature. R. Lee Ermy’s Gunnery Sergeant in FULL METAL JACKET, Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman’s married couple in EYES WIDE SHUT, and Alex in A CLOCKWORK ORANGE. These are all fantastic monuments of the silver screen but when they meet their downfall, if they even do, it doesn’t sting as much because they kinda feel like they started on rock bottom. Which is the mammoth problem with Kubrick’s version of Stephen King’s greatest novel – Jack Nicholson plays Jack Torrance as insane from the start [or at least quite unhinged] so his drop to murderous father isn’t a fall so much as it is a restrained mental patient finally laying back under their restraints and accepting the darkness inside. It’s a lateral move, not downward.

the shining

The book however is a downfall as epic as any you will find, and it’s so utterly tragic because it is real. It’s a father always worrying he’s on the edge, sometimes nudging a toe over the line, but he wants to be good. He wishes he could be great but you get the vibe he’d settle for better than bad. But it all slowly unravels and it’s brutal to follow as you read.

Because, and here’s the dirty little secret, reading THE SHINING isn’t scary, it’s heartbreaking. Jack Torrance fails at his most important job and it kills us all inside, especially because we all knew he couldn’t really do it all along, himself included. Once we find out he once broke his son, Danny’s, arm because he lost his temper, well, the seeds of doubt were not only sown but they were fertilised and the liquid nourishment of alcohol was all it ever needed to grow more, with Torrance not having the mental tools to know how to tend to that garden.

The concept of the shattered man holding it together with trembling fingers is great noir fuel. Because you want it to go one way and when it goes another that’s killer, but when it’s his own fault for that downward curve, you just hate. You hate him, you hate alcohol, you hate the world for setting these things up.

The other major aspect of the book that the movie neglects, or at least adapts poorly, is the state of the Overlook Hotel. The hotel isn’t just haunted, it’s aggressively evil. It’s a conduit to our worst and so it aligns with Jack’s hidden interior to make it exterior. It takes over him, in a way, but it also feels like an acceleration of Jack’s natural timeline anyway. Even in the end, as Jack elects to try and save the Overlook from a volatile boiler, it feels like it’s Jack’s choice to do this. It’s is he who elects the method of his own downfall. But with him gone, imagine how much the world will improve for his family.

That’s not actual logic, but it is a choice made daily by people, sadly. And so, in that end, THE SHINING becomes this great exploration of one man’s inability to be good and so slowly spiralling down into pure evil until he implodes in and with it.

Yeah, heartbreaking.

RKL NOTE: THE SHINING was my favourite novel for well over a decade, in which I read it more than once, and found I could constantly just pick it up and flick through and lose myself for 80 pages. It’s amazing.

My new favourite novel is THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF KAVALIER & CLAY by Michael Chabon. It isn’t really a noir.

Words about WORDS FOR PICTURES – and Breaking In Links

The subheading for this book by Brian Michael Bendis is ‘The art and business of writing comics and graphic novels.’ And that is exactly what you get.

words for picturec over

I get asked at cons a lot about what sort of things can help you write comics. I’m not asked this because I’m anything special but more that I just talk about process so much that people assume I know what I’m saying. Jokes on them but it whiles away the hours on the con floor.

So when people ask me for tips and advice and whathaveyou, I invariably tell them to get Scott McCloud’s stuff and simply devour it. Set up the bbq, decant the HP sauce at room temp, and imbibe those pages like your future career writing Spider-Man depends on it. Because it most certainly does.

There is no denying the dominance of McCloud and his complete coverage of the comic medium structure and the accessible way he lays it all down. That layer and level of craft has been owned and so I was so pleased to see Bendis’ book is not an attempt to go this path. No, Bendis instead delivers the perfect partner volume to McCloud’s work.

WORDS FOR PICTURES treads water in a few ponds and all of them really important.

In fact, I’d go so far as to say this is ‘must read’ stuff for people right when they make the decision that they want to make comics and break into comics. I wish beyond belief that I had this book a decade ago. It’s full of the little tips and tricks about breaking in that I had to hunt around and find or stumble across over the course of years of living the life. Here, this book presents it all to you in one handy weekend read.

I’ll repeat this – WORDS FOR PICTURES IS MUST READ FOR THOSE EMBARKING ON THE JOURNEY OF MAKING AND BREAKING INTO COMICS.

There is no way around this, there are lessons here you need to learn. There are lessons here you have no doubt been told by someone else already but you weren’t sure if it was right. It is right. It’s here in this book, please read it a few times, learn it, love it, and then jump into the four colour waters, it’s always warm in here.

To give a quick rundown – this book drops knowledge and science on some of the early tripping blocks creators, and especially writers, face.

The editorial round table on how to meet editors, stay in contact with them, and not be a pest is worth its weight in gold.

The artist round table about what they dig and loathe in scripts is fantastic. Learning how to write for your artist is super hard – and a lot of that is because nascent writers don’t have many artists with which to collaborate and experiment so we have too many scripts written in a vacuum and not considering the collaborator. This chapter breaks down a lot of what you need to hear and the sooner the better.

The page with Kelly Sue’s pitch docs on it is just glorious. These are the sorts of things we don’t see anywhere near enough of. Trying to find, share, download, hack, ask politely for, and imagine pitch docs is hard so here we get a peek into some good ones – especially because Kelly Sue is irreverent in hers and that will free your mind – it did for me.

If you need to learn the art of comics, read McCloud, if you need to learn the art of making comics, read Bendis. I think it’s that simple.

Now, I know the book isn’t without its faults. It almost felt a little too quick to read. I would have liked to see more process about script breakdowns and real craft – though once you start talking about scripting gutters and the like then you run into McCloud territory so I see why this line was drawn. This book might not be perfect in the way McCloud is but I don’t know of anything better, and I know Bendis drops enough knowledge I wish I had five years ago that I know this book is completely worth it.

So the next time someone asks me what they need to help them make comics I am going to send them to this book, in a heartbeat.

——-

If you dig this book, or want to know more about the things you need to be a writer with a level head, click these links.

Bendis runs a process blog – dig it – http://bendiswordsforpictures.tumblr.com/

Bendis also runs his own tumblr where you’ll get a stack of comic art to adore but he often goes on jags of answering tumblr questions and some great stuff can be found therein – http://brianmichaelbendis.tumblr.com/

I have delivered a comic writing workshop before and you can download the presentation here – https://ryanklindsay.com/2014/05/18/comic-writing-101-at-comicgong/

I also run the Process Junkie tumblr with Dan Hill – it wants to be Bendis’ page pretty badly – http://processjunkie.tumblr.com/

The Comic Writer Services 2.0 page, curated by Dan Hill, has enough process links to fill a month – and I heartily endorse you calling in sick for a month and just getting your read and your learn on – seriously – do this – http://comicwriterservices.com/

Chuck Wendig is a guy who writes often and with passion about writing and all that craft jazz – I wouldn’t tell you to try to be like him, only so many people can get away with that sort of malarkey without alienating themselves completely, but he does drop some great grist for the mill – http://terribleminds.com/

Buy Scott McCloud’s books – http://www.bookdepository.com/author/Scott-McCloud

I like reading film scripts – I have scored many for download from this great flick site – http://cinearchive.org/

Stephen King’s ON WRITING could possibly round out my personal holy trinity of books about writing/making comics – http://www.bookdepository.com/On-Writing-Stephen-King/9780340820469

I like my writing craft books to have a personal tone. King’s author writing voice is something I could read for months on end – and I dig STORY (to degrees) and some of those other staples but if you want great ground level sensible stuff that has worked wonders for me, hit up the McCloud/Bendis/King triumvirate.

——-

That’s it, now go read something every day, and write something every day.

Go. Enjoy.

Pink Factory Lives!

PINK FACTORY is an all-smut adults-only NSFW magazine published through Crime Factory. Let’s get that straight, this is not for kids. You should be 18 to read this mag, okay? This is a magazine, so articles and stories, not straight up smut but it’s so smeared in smut and all that good stuff that you really need to be prepared for it.

Right, so with that in mind…

pink factory cover

“Trapped by Sexuality: The Downfall of Matty Walker in BODY HEAT” is an article I wrote for this issue and it looks at the standard noir accoutrement of sexuality but how BODY HEAT kind of flips it so instead of a tool, it’s a trap, and not just for the witless sap caught in the femme’s web. I’m really proud of the article, and I looove BODY HEAT, so this is something I really wanted to do and love that is now out there.

You can buy the book on the CRIME FACTORY site for a song.

You can also tell all your friends about it.

Then you can really just look at the contents page shaped like a peen and the real history of bukkake article and totally know this magazine was the best purchase of your week.

I hope you dig, responsibly.

What Is Best In Life? – 2013 Style

It’s always educational to reflect on the year you just imbibed. I have to admit, having a new baby (and it making two for the house) and scoring some larger writing gigs meant my pop culture intake was down a lot this year. I kept abreast of the best comics around but everything else suffered. Nonetheless, here’s some stuff I dug in 2013.

Top Comic – FATALE

I read the first 3 issues of this and then completely fell off. The singles I bought kept stacking up. The more I hadn’t read the more insurmountable it felt to catch back up, but I kept buying the floppies and I know I’d get there one day. And holy cats am I glad I did.

FATALE is the sort of comic that does what it does exactly as it should so if you want a crime horror comic then this is quite simply perfect for you. For my wheelhouse, this comic is king. I spent a sick day off work reading like 14 of these issues in a row and it was insane how good this book is. I’ve long been a fan of SLEEPER/CRIMINAL/INCOGNITO and this book ably joins the gang as a perennial favourite. Philips is just at the top of his game now where he’s stacking these panels densely and with intense purpose. The writing from Brubaker is airtight with every word feeling like it slipped from an aging paperback. The pacing and plot are great but there’s a tonne of little lines and moments that will stop you and inspire you. I wanted to go write for days straight after reading these issues.

I’ll also say, yeah, I dig this book more than SAGA. And I dig SAGA a lot but this book is just that touch more perfect, and more perfect for me.

Honourable Mentions

HAWKEYE – the top cape book right now (sans capes). This book does so many things right and it’s a process treasure trove.

THE MASSIVE – I love the singularity of this book, it’s like nothing else. The characters all pop, the art teams are so damn fine, and I’m liking the whole painting this story provides.

SEX CRIMINALS – I did not see this coming at all. This romance comic (and that’s what it is) is so damn real and beautiful. This should be the only Valentine’s Day present anyone ever needs again.

LOCKE & KEY – it finally ended and I’m so damn sad.

EAST OF WEST – another entry I was dubious about and yet caught up on the first trade’s worth of floppies and my oh my this book is tight. Hickman delivers a slew of simply amazing lines and Dragotta’s always been great.

ULTRANOVA – my favourite indie one-shot this year, Peterson and Ferrier drop a cerebral sci fi tale that stuck with me all damn year. Buy it on the cheap right here and thank me later!

HIGH CRIMES – the best Monkeybrain book by far this year, Moustafa and Sebela craft this beautiful and intricate character study amidst high altitude crime shenanigans. Also, possibly the best covers of the year.

FIVE GHOSTS – Man, this pulp massacre is just fun to read and so pretty to look at.

DAREDEVIL – Samnee and Waid brought me right back into the fold this year. Some great stories and always gorgeous.

THE WAKE – this is basically an action movie with solid characterisation and I’m digging these mermaids.

SAGA – it is a very good book, don’t you know?

STRANGE NATION – I know I write a column in it, but that doesn’t stop this book thoroughly entertaining me with every issue.

D4VE – only one issue dropped but it was so good. Ramon and Ferrier are doing a book like nothing else, and the sort of thing that should insta-open any door in the industry.

BLACK SCIENCE – I finished reading this and could see the problems with it and yet didn’t care because it was so much fun. I like fun comics.

Special Shout Out

FEAR AGENT LIBRARY EDITION VOL 1 – I finally read this beast and it was beyond brilliant. The art at that size is like nothing else. Remender feels really pure and raw in these pages. It’s pulp sci fi. There is every reason for me to love this book. I don’t even mind that Vol 2 keeps getting delayed. if it’s going to come out this good, I’m happy to wait.

Top Book – Fiction – JOYLAND

This tight pulp thriller from Stephen King through Hard Case Crime was better than I had expected. King is back on a high for me after the very very good 11.22.63 so I hoped for this and he really delivered. The overall plot isn’t too insanely intricate, and parts of the resolution do less than wow, but the craft with which King plans and executes his chapters is like a study of razor precision. There are many great lines in this book and that’s something I really appreciate now – someone who beyond plot knows how to use their words.

This also has me hoping for DOCTOR SLEEP to be good. I’m a fifth of the way in, and I’m enjoying it, and I’m such a fan of THE SHINING that it has to prove itself as good enough to exist so here’s hoping for the coming weeks/months.

Top Book – Non-Fic – MARVEL COMICS: THE UNTOLD STORY

This was a stellar read. I’m kind of the ideal audience as I love comics but also love the behind the scenes malarkey just as much but I cannot state enough how interesting some of the history of Marvel Comics really is. As someone who kind of knew some of this, and knows all the people and characters, this was a perfect read. Sean Howe did a very good job assembling this.

Top Movie – PACIFIC RIM

I’ll have to admit, I think these are the only two flicks I saw at the cinema this year. Admitting this makes me so sad. And while iron Man 3 might prove out to be the better film, I give this to PACIFIC RIM because it was just so enjoyable to watch. I haven’t felt that happy and in awe for a while so it made for a very rad night out. And sometimes I just want a flick to entertain me on the purest level. It’s like PREDATOR, brilliant because it entertains. This flick, the same thing. Though this screenplay was a touch more off in places (really off in some) but I could overlook the cheese and obvious set ups and logic holes just so I could get on with enjoying the show.

Honourable Mentions

IRON MAN 3 – a Shane Black cape flick that plays out exactly how you’d imagine such a flick to play out.

Top TV – BREAKING BAD S5 Part 2

Really, how could there be anything else? This show is the great American novel written in front of us over 6 years. This show had the best writing of any and the character arcs were beyond anything else ever attempted and the writing offered it up but every single actor nailed it. The show ended on a perfect noir note. There will be little else this good in our future.

Honourable Mentions

HANNIBAL – this show is my selection to take up BREAKING BAD’s throne. Deft writing, creative cinematography, superb acting, and an end note that if they can stick it right in S2 will show the world this series is a true contender. And I wasn’t even going to watch this show because who the hell needed more Lecter in our lives? I humbly rescinded my first opinion and now cannot wait until February.

THE WALKING DEAD – I continue to enjoy this show.

Special Shout Outs

TERRIERS – whoo, boy, this show was built for me. I really hope it gets kickstarted one day VERONICA MARS style because that would be immense. I also wish it was a comic, and I could write it.

THE WIRE S4 – I finally watched this. It seems THE WIRE is taking me years to watch. But when I pop a season on, I shotgun the hell out of it. And this one was about teaching so it hit me very hard.

Top Music – ENTER THE DRAGON OST

I discovered Spotify and my life has changed. Man, they have everything on there. So I’ve fiendishly been making playlists for projects but I also set up a list titled OST madness and it’s got a tonne of soundtracks on there, and first up is the ENTER THE DRAGON OST. It’s just great, for starters, but I also wrote a kung fu one-shot you’ll be seeing this year and the dna of this music is infused to its pulpy core.

Top Podcast – LET’S TALK COMICS

This is a late entry but it’s kind of the perfect podcast for me. It’s not shilling, it’s just career talk, process chat, open words. Great creators come on and discuss how and where they started and then every step along the way to breaking in and staying in. It’s fascinating stuff. It’s like the best parts of Word Balloon, which I still love.

Honourable Mentions

NERDIST – with the right guest, this show is amazing.

NERDIST WRITER’S ROOM – I find I don’t even know half the names but it’s all writing process (mostly tv but it all rings true). They also now have a comics themed segment of eps on the pod, and it’s pretty good.

WORD BALLOON – always good, Siuntres knows how to do his job.

VODKA O’CLOCK – this gives smaller creators the chance to chat (myself included) and I like that view from the underground, plus Amber is a top host and superb person.

POP CULTURE HOUND – another great interview show, and they get a wide variety of good guests.

COMICS EXPERIENCE MAKE COMICS – this started on the iFanboy podcast and is now it’s own thing. Good, short, clear, snippets of process talk focusing on one section of the game at a time.

THE Q+A – film chat pod where Jeff Goldsmith asks all the right questions.

FATMAN ON BATMAN – when they have the right guest, and Smith doesn’t get in the way, this can go some really interesting places.

Top iApp – WUNDERLIST

A late discovery but something that’s clearing up my head. It’s just making lists and you have the ability to tick off what you’ve done and it moves down but you can still see it all. You can also add due dates, this helps me not freak out too much. It’s also free, which means the world to me because I am cheap.

Honourable Mentions

ComiXology – gotta love the sales.

Zite – an intriguing media reading aggregating/personalising app that’s bringing me new content to read (when I ever have the time).

Coffitivity – this sounds like such a stupid app, but I kind of love it 😐

Dropbox – perfect for viewing the pretty art people send me on the fly.

Top Kid – My Second One

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She is gorgeous, adorable, cute, insane, and constantly learning little things (tonight she played peek-a-book with her towel and my heart grew three sizes). The perfect person to round out our little family.

So, that’s been my 2013. I hope yours was just as rad 😀

Examining Lois Lane – A Book of Essays

Examining Lois Lane: the scoop on Superman’s Sweetheart is a book of essays all about the intrepid reporter and all round fantastic character Lois Lane. It is edited by Nadine Farghaly, published by Scarecrow Press, features a slew of smart people talking about Lois Lane, and it also opens with an essay from me.

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You can buy a copy now on Amazon in print or Kindle-fied.

My essay is titled: “Full Disclosure: A Statement of Love for Lois Lane” and it analyses one fantastic issue of ALL STAR SUPERMAN by Frank Quitely and Grant Morrison. It’s a fun essay, one I enjoyed writing because it cuts to the core of the relationship between Superman and Lois Lane.

Other essays tackle heady topics like Lois Lane’s place on television, in Silver Age comics, and on the big screen. It’s well worth a look for any solid Lois Lane fan. And you can actually read all of my essay, bar one page, in the ‘Look Inside’ preview up on Amazon.

Enjoy.

SCRIBBLES FROM THE UNDERWORLD – in Crime Factory 14

I wrote a prose short story titled SCRIBBLES FROM THE UNDERWORLD which you can now find in Crime Factory 14 available through the Crime Factory site.

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Crime Factory 14 – featuring SCRIBBLES FROM THE UNDERWORLD – download now

I’m really proud of this short. I wrote it just weeks after my second was born. I spent a lot of time rocking her, sitting with her, and pacing the house trying to keep her asleep/quiet/happy/all of the above. All that pacing and holding kept me from my desk but I was not going to let that stop me writing. I wrote a few different things on my phone in those first weeks/months (a one-shot, some other scripting, some reviews and articles) but I found the small screen size and my even smaller sized brain from lack of sleep and light most of the time to not be conducive to delving into the good and deep stuff. I wasn’t going to work on any epics on my little iPhone 3.

Then I saw a post on Joe Hill’s tumblr about a prose short he’d written about action figure obits – it’s awesome, scope it out – and it sparked a little corner of my brain. Then, around the same time, he was asked a question and his response was basically, write what you can when you can. Short, small, inconsequential, gargantuan, just always add grist to the mill. Both of those posts sparked me to write SCRIBBLES FROM THE UNDERWORLD.

My story is actually a fictional magazine article about the writing detritus found in a Victorian pub when the cops raid it. Notes in pockets, scribbles next to the urinal, it’s all tallied. So, the narrative has no cohesive whole, but I like to think it still paints one hell of a picture. It’s not long to read but I’m sure you’ll get a kick out of it, especially if you hail from old Frankston way like I do…did.

To wet your whistle, here’s a little tease:

‘On the stormy afternoon of Friday the 11th of June, 1982, a squad of police officers raided the Downtown bar and made a slew of arrests and acquisitions. A known hot spot for the Melbourne underworld, thirty-five arrests were made with seventeen successful convictions stemming from the day. History would dub this day ‘The Last Drink’ as the Downtown would shut its doors and never reopen. Those who scurried away from the long arm of the law found new places to imbibe and plan for another rainy day.

The names and photos from ‘The Last Drink’ went down in history but what was never revealed were many of the material items recovered from the raid. Numbers of weapons and street value of drugs made good headlines but the little things that could fall through the cracks could and did. Until now.

With the aid of Victorian Police, we can present to you some of the stranger evidence collected on that day in the Downtown. Below you can read samples of the quirky paperwork taken from the thugs’ pockets, hidden cracks between tables, written on the bathroom walls, and crumpled in the bins. In their own words, we present to you the men of the Melbourne underworld and their secret thoughts and musings.’

Download Crime Factory 14 – scope my story on Page 99 – enjoy yourself.

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