Friday, April 9, 2010

ONE WORD - WEEK 12 - BUNNY

I'm still a week behind. This was the word for last week, and this week I got an entirely different word that will most likely be written next week. I've decided that until I can completely catch up by writing two of these scripts in one week I'll just keep saving the new words I get every Monday for the following week. I will catch up eventually... this, I vow!

The word for this (last) week is bunny, obviously. I figure it was because of the Easter holiday, but I really didn't want to write a story about the Easter bunny. The only other kind of bunny I could think of off the top of my head resided at the Playboy mansion, so I decided looking up bunny on the 'net would probably be a good idea. It immediately redirected me to the word rabbit, and I found a bunch of information about rabbits, including a number of mythological fables. One story, in particular, really interested me, and this is my attempt to convert the story into a comic script with my own embellishments stirred into the pot.

PAGE ONE

Panel 1. A father and son are lying on their backs in a grassy field at night. The son is resting his hands behind his head in a position of extreme relaxation as he looks up into the moonlit sky. The father’s hands are folded together and resting on his midsection as he also watches the sky.

SON:
The moon is really big tonight.

FATHER:
Yes, it is. Can you see the rabbit?

Panel 2. The son is sitting up now, surveying the landscape for any sign of the rabbit his father mentioned. His father has propped himself up on one arm and is laughing softly at the reaction of his son.

SON:
What? Where?

FATHER:
No. Not on the ground. On the moon.

Panel 3. The moon is very large in the sky, and is positioned so that the image of the jade rabbit is visible. The father is pointing up in the direction of the moon, and the son is looking up at the moon in response.

FATHER:
Can you see the rabbit there? It’s carved into the face of the moon.

Panel 4. The son is still looking up at the moon, and now his moonlit face is reacting excitedly to the fact that he can see the rabbit his father has pointed out. The father is pleased at the reaction the new discovery has prompted.

SON:
I do see it! How did that happen?

FATHER:
Go ahead and settle back down, and I’ll tell you the story.

PAGE TWO

Panel 1. A monkey, an otter, a jackal and a rabbit are gathered together in an open area of a forest. Trees from the forest surround them on all sides, but there is enough space in the open area to provide them with ample room to congregate.

FATHER (CAP):
Long, long ago a monkey, an otter, a jackal and a rabbit met in the forest that was their home.

Panel 2. The jackal is sitting on its haunches, and its mouth is wide open with its tongue lolling out. Drool is dripping from the jaws of the jackal, and the rabbit is looking up at the jackal nervously.

FATHER (CAP):
Though they were not normally friend to one another, they decided that they would set aside their differences and be charitable to the next person they found to celebrate the Buddhist Sabbath.

Panel 3. A gaunt, old man pushes his way through the trees and underbrush into the open area where the animals are gathered. He is frighteningly thin and dirty, and is wearing little more than rags. There are copious amounts of minor scratches on his bare arms, legs, hands and feet. His hair is unkempt and he sports a tangled beard.

FATHER (CAP):
Upon making their decision, an old man entered the wooded glade and approached the four animals.

Panel 4. The old man is curled up into the fetal position, shuddering

FATHER (CAP):
The starving man begged the animals for any food they could spare, and the monkey, otter, jackal and rabbit set off to gather what they could.

PAGE THREE

Panel 1. The monkey is in a tree, looking at a variety of fruit hanging from the branches, and biting into another juicy piece of fruit that it is holding in its hands.

FATHER (CAP):
The monkey took to the trees, and found a bountiful assortment of fresh fruit hanging amongst their perches. It was more fruit than the monkey had ever seen at one time.

Panel 2. The monkey has dropped to the ground, and is examining the misshapen fruit that has fallen from the fruit tree.

FATHER (CAP):
But although there was more than enough to share, the monkey ignored the lush fruit hanging in the trees and dropped to the ground.

Panel 3. The monkey has picked up a couple pieces of rotting fruit from the ground and is holding them in its hands. It is looking down at the fruit, with the remnants of the juicy, fresh piece of fruit still clinging to the fur around its mouth.

FATHER (CAP):
At the base of the tree the monkey found numerous pieces of rotting fruit. Knowing the beggar would never know the difference, he quickly gathered it in his arms and began to make his way back.

Panel 4. The otter is trotting along the bank of a flowing river.

FATHER (CAP):
The otter had also gone to a place he deemed comfortable. His home was the river, and he knew with hard work and determination that he could catch a beautiful fish to present to the old man.

Panel 5. The otter has lifted its head and is smelling the air as he continues to trot along the bank of the river.

FATHER (CAP):
But as the otter approached the river, his keen nose detected the scent of fish in the air. He began to follow it to the source.

PAGE FOUR

Panel 1. The otter has come across a number of dead fish lying on the bank of the river. He has his nose down close to the dead fish and is examining them.

FATHER (CAP):
There the otter found dead fish that had washed up onto the river bank days before.

Panel 2. In the foreground, a strong, healthy fish is leaping from the river with rivulets of water trailing after it. The otter watches the fish from his place on the river bank in the background.

FATHER (CAP):
Although he knew a freshly caught fish would be better, the otter believed the effort involved would be too steep a price to pay for something as small as a beggar’s gratitude.

Panel 3. The otter is holding one of the dead fish in its mouth and has turned and is trotting away from the surging river.

FATHER (CAP):
He decided to bring one of the dead fish back to the starving man instead.

Panel 4. The jackal is on a well worn foot path in the forest that leads out from the dense forest into a field. An antelope is grazing not far from the jackal in the field, and the jackal is watching the antelope with hungry eyes and its tongue lolling again. The antelope is turned in the opposite direction, and has its head lowered for grazing, so it does not see the jackal.

FATHER (CAP):
The jackal was facing his own dilemma. He had come across an antelope grazing alone.

Panel 5. The antelope is lazily grazing in the field in the foreground. The jackal continues to watch in the background.

FATHER (CAP):
The jackal knew that if he gave chase he would eventually run the antelope down. But to work so hard for a meal only to give it away seemed a fool’s errand to the jackal.

PAGE FIVE

Panel 1. The jackal is looking down as a lizard emerges from the thick confines of the forest and onto the foot path.

FATHER (CAP):
At that very moment, a lizard sluggishly crept forth from the dense undergrowth of the forest into the path of the jackal.

Panel 2. The jackal has snatched the lizard up, and the lizard is hanging limply from its jaws.

FATHER (CAP):
Without hesitation the jackal snapped the lizard up in its jaws, celebrating his good fortune with a yelp.

Panel 3. The jackal is trotting away from the field with its ears up and its tail happily in the air. The antelope is bounding away in the background.

FATHER (CAP):
The jackal turned tail to bring its prize back to the beggar, satisfied it would be enough.

Panel 4. It is night now, and the old man has built a fire. All four animals approach the fire cautiously. The rabbit is the only animal that does not have something in its mouth or paws.

FATHER (CAP):
As the sun left the sky, each of the four animals returned to the spot where they had left the beggar to present their charitable gifts.

PAGE SIX

Panel 1. The animals have gathered near the fire, and their offerings are sitting in front of them. The rabbit has nothing sitting in front of him. The beggar is looking at the offerings carefully.

FATHER (CAP):
Three of the animals presented their offerings to the old man, but the rabbit had nothing to show for his journey into the forest.

Panel 2. The other animals are looking at the rabbit with mirth and malevolence as the rabbit bows its head before the old man. The old man is looking at the rabbit pleasantly, with no anger or disappointment evident on his face.

FATHER (CAP):
The other animals mocked the rabbit for his lack of virtue, but the rabbit ignored them and humbly apologized to the beggar. He had not the skill of the monkey, the otter or the jackal. All he would have been able to gather was grass from the ground.

Panel 3. The rabbit leaps into the fire. The old man and the other animals are reacting with surprise.

FATHER (CAP):
So with no physical gift to present, the rabbit made the most charitable offering of all.

Panel 4. The old man is gesturing dramatically and light exudes from his body as he transforms into the Buddhist god Sakra.

FATHER (CAP):
As the rabbit burned upon the fire the beggar had built, the other animals watched in wonder as the old man began to change.

PAGE SEVEN

Panel 1. Sakra is towering over the blazing fire and the three animals cowering near it.

FATHER (CAP):
Standing before them now was Sakra, the ruler of Heaven.

Panel 2. Sakra is gesturing with a sweeping motion of his arm. The fire is gone, and the unharmed rabbit is all that remains. Smoke is billowing from the back of the rabbit and drifting up and away into the moonlit sky.

FATHER (CAP):
Sakra extinguished the flames and restored the rabbit back to life.

Panel 3. The smoke in the sky has formed the shape of a rabbit and is framed by the full moon. Sakra is gesturing at the smoke as light exudes from his hands. This same type of light outlines the “smoke rabbit” as the image is seared into the face of the moon.

FATHER (CAP):
The smoke from the fire rose into the sky in the shape of a rabbit, and as a reward for the virtue of the rabbit, Sakra traced its form into the face of the moon.

Panel 4. Sakra has gathered the rabbit into his arms and is holding it protectively as he glowers down at the other three animals. They are humbly bowing their heads in shame.

FATHER (CAP):
Though the rabbit did not have the skills of the other animals, he had proven that the rewards of virtue were not defined by what one was able to do, but what one was willing to do.

Panel 5. The moon, with the shape of the rabbit cut into it.

FATHER (CAP):
The evidence would be plain for all to see forevermore.

Friday, April 2, 2010

ONE WORD - WEEK 11 - SWELL

Yeah... I know. This one is weird. Blatch!

PAGE ONE

Panel 1. Establishing shot of a crummy apartment complex. The building is very plain and square. The lawn is dilapidated, the sidewalk has cracks in it, and maybe there’s a dog peeing on a bush or something. It’s a pretty skuzzy place to live.

Panel 2. We’re looking at a right foot sitting on a pillow with a badly bruised and swollen ankle.

TONY (O/P):
Aw, man. That does not look good.

Panel 3. Sammy is sitting in a plush chair in the living room of the small apartment he shares with Tony. He is wearing shorts and a t-shirt. The front door of the apartment should be visible, because it’ll matter later in the script. Sammy’s right ankle is elevated on a pillow that is sitting on a stool in front of him. Tony is standing nearby, looking at Sammy’s swollen ankle with disturbed fascination.

SAMMY:
Tell me something I don’t know.

TONY:
Seriously, dude. You should go see a doctor.

Panel 4. Sammy is waving off Tony’s suggestion. Tony is looking at Sammy with an inquisitive expression.

SAMMY:
What’s the point? All he’ll say is I need to rice it.

TONY:
Rice it?

Panel 5. Sammy is holding up four fingers and counting them off.

SAMMY:
Yeah, you know… rest, ice, compression, elevation. Rice.

PAGE TWO

Panel 1. Tony is gesturing in the direction of Sammy’s swollen ankle. Tony is shrugging nonchalantly from his seated position.

TONY:
Okay--I’m not seeing any ice. And that’s what you do for a twisted ankle. But what if it’s broken?

SAMMY:
Ice is for pussies. Besides, it’s not broken.

Panel 2. Tony is looking at Sammy with an incredulous expression. Sammy is leaning forward in his chair, trying to explain the situation to Tony as if he were a child.

TONY:
How could you possibly know that?

SAMMY:
Because I’ve twisted my ankle dozens of times, dude. I was playing basketball, I came down on another guy’s foot and I twisted it. It’ll be fine in a couple of days. It barely even hurts.

Panel 3. Tony has turned and is jingling a set of keys as he walks toward the front door of the apartment. Sammy is licking his chops as he watches Tony walk away.

TONY:
If you say so. I’m about to go and get some food. You want something?

SAMMY:
Yeah, bring me back some of those microwavable burritos.

Panel 4. Tony is holding the front door open now, and is looking back at Sammy with a slightly disgusted expression. Sammy is being defensive about his precious microwavable burritos.

TONY:
Dude, gross.

SAMMY:
They’re good!

TONY:
Whatever you say, man.

Panel 5. Sammy is now yelling at the closed front door with his hands cupped next to his cheeks.

SAMMY:
And some salsa!

PAGE THREE

Panel 1. Tony is holding numerous paper bags stuffed to the brim with groceries as he stands outside of the front door of the apartment he shares with Sammy. He’s yelling at the closed door.

CAPTION:
Some time later.

TONY:
Dude, you think you can get the door? My hands are full!

Panel 2. We’re looking at the closed door of the apartment from inside the apartment.

TONY (FROM DOOR):
Dude!

Panel 3. The door has swung open, and Tony is looking down as he fights to get his keys out of the lock. The bags of groceries are sitting on the ground directly behind him, and something that was near the top of one of the bags has fallen out onto the ground.

TONY:
Thanks a lot, man. Now I’ve got to bend down and pick all the bags back up. Not cool. Not cool at--

Panel 4. Tony is looking into the apartment in the direction of Sammy. We cannot see Sammy. We can only see Tony. Tony is dismayed by whatever it is he sees, and he’s yelling.

TONY:
Aaaaahhhhhh!

Panel 5. Close in on Sammy’s face. He was sleeping, so he’s being startled out of his slumber.

SAMMY:
Huh? Whazzit? Whas goan on?

Panel 6. Tony is standing in the doorway, pointing in the direction of Sammy with a horrified expression on his face. His mouth is twisted into a sneer of disgust.

TONY:
Dude, you… I don’t--what the hell happened to you?

PAGE FOUR

Panel 1. We see Sammy for the first time. The right side of his body, save for his face, is swollen as badly as his ankle was previously. It is stretching his clothing and his skin to the limit. The right side of Sammy’s body looks a lot like a water balloon. Sammy is looking down at himself with revulsion.

SAMMY:
Aw, what the crap!?

Panel 2. Tony has stooped down a bit to get a better look at Sammy, almost as if he’s examining him. Sammy is flailing his arms demonstratively in an effort to get Tony to snap out of it.

TONY:
It’s like your whole body is swelling up like a balloon or something. You think I should call 911?

SAMMY:
What? Yes!

Panel 3. Tony is fishing his cell phone out of the pocket of his pants while he talks to Sammy. Sammy is holding his normal left hand over his massively swelled right arm and looking at it with fascination.

TONY:
You don’t have to be mean about it. Does it--I don’t know… hurt?

SAMMY:
No, actually. It just feels kinda weird. Like one half of my body is trapped in a water balloon or something.

Panel 4. Tony has gotten his cell phone out and is dialing. Sammy has made a fist with his left hand and has his index finger extended. He is hovering the digit over his massively swollen right arm.

TONY:
That is so freaking weird.

SAMMY:
I know. I wonder if--

TONY:
I don’t think that’s such a good idea.

Panel 5. Sammy’s index finger is prodding his massively swollen right arm. It is sinking inward as his finger pushes downward.

PAGE FIVE

Panel 1. Tony has the phone held to his ear. He is wincing at the sound of Sammy popping himself.

SFX:
POP!

Panel 2. Tony still has the phone held to his ear, but now he’s being struck by a massive amount of gore that is flying as a result of Sammy popping himself.

SFX:
BLATCH!

Panel 3. Tony still has the phone held to his ear. Gore is covering the front of his body and is dripping and pouring from him. Tony is in shock.

OPERATOR (FROM PHONE):
911. What’s your emergency?

Panel 4. Tony still has the phone held to his ear. The gore is still dripping from his body. He’s screaming at the top of his lungs into the phone.

TONY:
Aaaaaaahhhhhhhhh!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The DWPFF Journey - Part 8

ITEM - The one word script I missed out on posting on Friday of last week will be posted at some point this week, along with a new one for THIS Friday. Also, I suck... that is all.

*

Ok, so the last time we talked about the "Digital Webbing Presents - Future Fairy Tales" project, 'lo those many moons ago, I talked about how Chris Stevens - editorial genius that he is - told me that the script I'd written hadn't stuck to the source material of the original "Rikki Tikki Tavi" story as much as he'd like. The story was good, but it wasn't really a story that Rudyard Kipling could be proud of. Not that I'm saying Rudyard Kipling would be proud of any story I wrote... he's not my daddy or anything, but you know what I mean.

Chris' words were like a revelation. He told me what he told me on November 23rd, and by November 26th I'd re-written the entire script. My fingers literally flew over the keyboard as I crafted a brand new story. I sent it in, and I eagerly awaited a response from Chris. Chris got back to me the very same day, and this is what he had to say:

this is a winner, mike.

nice job.

Okay, so I know what you're thinking. The last time Chris sent me a short and sweet response I freaked out a little bit. Back then, I had this feeling in the back of my head that was telling me that Chris wasn't all that pleased with the story. So what was different this time? Well, for starters, I was pleased with the story this time. When the first script was sent in and Chris came back to me with a succinct reply, I thought it meant he didn't like the script. But what I've realized now is that Chris will almost always come back with a matter-of-fact response. I was just using his brief reply as an excuse to scrap the script I'd sent in because I didn't really like it anyway. I knew I could do better, and I wanted to do better. Chris gave me the guidance, and I felt like I'd finally written a script that was not only good, but was a proper homage to one of my favorite childhood stories.

Now all that was left was to tweak the dialogue and panel descriptions here and there, as I'd written the script in a bit of a rush, and wait for Chris to find the perfect artist to bring the story to life. One of my favorite aspects of the DWPFF project is that writers and artists in the Digital Webbing community that might never have spoken or interacted with one another in their lives are now collaborating and forming friendships because of it. Chris started a brilliant thread on the Digital Webbing forums called the dwpff: work journal (which is now over 30 pages long) where he could post updates to the project as it continued to develop. It started on November 11th with Chris posting artwork and following not too much later with a preliminary list of creators and stories that would be included in the book. The reason it was a preliminary list is that it originally consisted of 33 stories. As of this post, the number of stories has grown to 41 (as far as I'm aware, that is) and the list of contributors providing stories, pin-ups, editorial help, etc. has grown exponentially. It truly is a project that people want to be involved with. My name was on the original list posted on November 14th. It was placed in-between the title of my story and two other words. Those words were "need artist". On November 26th of the year 2009 Chris had my completed script. On February 9th of the following year the first page of my Rikki Tikki Tavi story was posted up in the work journal thread on Digital Webbing by the artist we eventually decided to go with. Why in the world did it take so long? We'll talk about that part of the journey next time.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Hold onto your butts...

So this thing hasn't been updated in a while save for the one word scripts. I feel bad about that, but my day job has been truly frightening lately, and I'm really buckling down with my writing outside of the blog as well, so most of my spare time is being spent on that. I'm trying to finish a full-length script for an artist I'm working with on an awesome concept so that hopefully we can get it to the point where it's ready to submit to publishers in the not-so-distant future. I want to have the script finished by Friday. That's my goal. I've laid out the entire thing, and I've written a good chunk of it, including the ending sequence, which I'm really pleased with.

I'm also working on a Zuda concept with an artist named Fernando Sosa. Fernando is a good guy, and he actually came to me with a concept after another Zuda idea we were working on fell through. I'm pretty excited about this one too, and I'm hoping to have the 8-page (screen) pitch script done by this weekend. Once I actually have the pitch script done and in Fernando's hands I'll divulge a little more information about the concept and how it came about.

And finally, I'm still trying to figure out the best way to convert the Zuda concept I mentioned (the one that fell through) into a prose novel. Work on that is going at a much slower pace, but because I have a really good idea of where the story is going I still feel encouraged about its prospects.

My one word script will be posted on Friday, as usual. That means I need to finish three scripts this week... joy! I'd like to try and get to another DWPFF entry as well, but I just haven't had the time lately. I do have a lot more to say about the DWPFF project because there have been, and continue to be, a lot of twists and turns with it. I'll try extra hard to get to it next week at the latest. So that's it out of me, for now. Until the next time...

Friday, March 19, 2010

ONE WORD - WEEK 10 - ROOT

Yeah, I know... this is going up late. I also haven't posted anything to this blog all week. The day job has been quite the thorn in my side lately, and it's been difficult to find time to write anything at all. But I vowed to myself that I'd finish at least one of these one word scripts a week, and now that I'm nearly a fifth of the way there I don't want to lose my momentum. The word for this week was root. There were a lot of things I could have written about, but this story just crept into my brain and I decided to run with it. I'm not really sure how well I pulled this off. The use of pictures in the panels might backfire from an artistic standpoint (frames within a frame, if you will), but I kind of like the story, and I like the fact that I was able to incorporate a couple of splash pages as well.

PAGE ONE

Panel 1. A man named Boyd is sitting at a desk in a room in his home. The room has been converted into a personal office. Boyd has pulled the chair he is sitting in very close to the desk, and is hunched and slouching in it, so all we can see of him is from the middle of his chest upwards. He’s looking down at a picture he is holding in one of his hands. In his other hand is a bottle of whiskey. There is a glass of it that has spilled onto the desk. Behind Boyd, on the wall, is a shelf or case displaying a number of framed pictures. There are also plaques and framed documents (newspaper articles, certificates, etc.) hung up on the wall.

CAPTION:
It’s who I am. I can’t change it.

Panel 2. We’re looking at one of the framed pictures on the shelf. It is a picture of Boyd as a young boy, around 13 or so. He is with his father in the picture. His father is dressed in the uniform of an officer of the law--a sheriff. The father is massive in comparison to Boyd, and has a bit of a gut. He’s wearing large mirrored glasses and a wide-brimmed cowboy hat.

CAPTION:
My daddy was a lawman—one of the best this county ever had.

Panel 3. Another framed picture on the shelf. Boyd is an infant in this picture, and is being held by his father. His father is younger and thinner in the picture, dressed in a police uniform and excited to start his career in law enforcement. He’s shaking hands with an older man, Boyd’s grandfather, dressed in the same sheriff uniform that the father was wearing in Panel 2. Boyd’s grandfather appears very worn down physically, although there’s pride in his eyes at his son’s accomplishment.

CAPTION:
His daddy was a lawman before him. It’s been that way for generations. Never had much of a choice. I had to do the same.

Panel 4. Boyd is eyeing the bottle of whiskey he’s holding in his hands. The glass of whiskey that spilled is near.

CAPTION:
Had to be a drinker too.

Panel 5. Boyd takes a deep slug of whiskey straight from the bottle.

CAPTION:
The drinkin’ I’m good at. The law…

PAGE TWO

Panel 1. We’re looking at one of the framed newspaper articles hanging on the wall. The headline reads “Culver trumps Boyd” with a picture of a slick, clean-cut man with a 100-watt smile beaming out at us.

CAPTION:
Not so much.

Panel 2. Another newspaper article. This time the headline reads “Deputy Boyd in traffic accident” with a picture of a police cruiser wrapped around a telephone pole, and Boyd sitting on the curb nearby with his head in his hands.

CAPTION:
Never really took the time to put two and two together. Those things don’t mix.

Panel 3. A final newspaper article. This one is much smaller, it is dwarfed by the frame, and the headline reads “Deputy Fired”. There is no picture.

CAPTION:
So when I lost my position as deputy sheriff I wasn’t ready to blame myself. I decided to blame her instead.

Panel 4. We finally see the picture that Boyd is holding in his hand. It is a picture of his wife, a beautiful woman named Sally. She is smiling openly at the camera, pleased and comfortable with having her picture taken.

CAPTION:
Sally.

PAGE THREE

Panel 1. Another framed picture on the shelf. In this one, Boyd and Sally are high school kids dressed in clothing for their senior Prom. Boyd is wearing a tuxedo that doesn’t fit him very well with a frilly shirt and a large bowtie, and he’s somewhat angular and gangly in it. Sally is wearing a dress that fits her much better, and she’s a vision.

CAPTION:
Prettiest thing I ever saw. Fell in love with her and it stuck. She was my high school sweetheart and I married her first chance I got--just like my daddy did with momma, and his daddy before that.

Panel 2. We’re looking at another framed picture on the shelf. In this one Boyd and his pregnant wife Sally are looking at cribs in a store. They’re holding hands and very much in love. Sally has a slightly swollen belly.

CAPTION:
I loved her unconditionally. She could do no wrong in my eyes.

Panel 3. Boyd is taking another bitter slug of whiskey.

CAPTION:
I didn’t even blame her after the first miscarriage. Not even when we found out she’d never be able to bear children. Never give me my own son.

Panel 4. Another framed picture on the shelf. This is a picture of Boyd and Sally sitting together in a posed “Sears-style” shot. They’re not smiling very convincingly, don’t seem happy at all, and each of them is looking not at the camera, but at some distant point off in space.

CAPTION:
I guess that’s where it started to fall apart.

Panel 5. Another framed picture on the shelf. Boyd is a teenaged boy in this picture, and he’s with his father. There is a police cruiser in the photo, and its hood is open. Boyd and his father are both hunched over the open hood of the cruiser, examining the inner workings of the engine.

CAPTION:
You see, I had no legacy. No wisdom to impart to my son like my daddy had to me, and his daddy had to him.

PAGE FOUR

Panel 1.

CAPTION:
And that was a hard thing to live with. My daddy always told me that the strength of a family wasn’t in what you did, but what you left behind after you were gone. The stronger the roots, the stronger the family tree.

Panel 2. Another picture. Boyd is a young boy wearing a cowboy costume. He has a toy holster, six-shooter and a red cowboy hat with white stitching.

CAPTION:
I wanted my son to be a lawman like his daddy and his grandpa and his great grandpa before that.

Panel 3. Boyd is holding the whiskey bottle out in front of him, looking at it as his eyes drift off into memory.

CAPTION:
I wanted him to carry that tradition and pass it on to his own son someday. But that was never going to happen, because I’d never have a son to call my own.

Panel 4. Boyd is holding the whiskey bottle in the exact same way in this panel, only he’s somewhat younger now and less morose. He’s wearing his deputy uniform, but the shirt is partially tucked out and the uniform itself is wrinkled. The emotion he has now is one of fury. He’s looking past the bottle at Sally, and yelling angrily at the top of his lungs. Sally is yelling back at Boyd.

CAPTION:
So I fell into the bottle, and I could never quite bring myself to climb out again.

Panel 5. Sally is pulling at Boyd’s arm, trying to get the bottle away from him.

CAPTION:
Sally tried to help, god bless her.

PAGE FIVE

Panel 1. Boyd is striking Sally.

CAPTION:
But I didn’t want her help.

PAGE SIX

Panel 1. Boyd is crouched down next to Sally. Sally is on the ground, huddled up in a near fetal position, cradling her face. Boyd is trying to soothe her with his words, and he seems very distressed by what he’s done.

CAPTION:
I regretted it the first time, and told her it’d never happen again--and she forgave me like any good woman would.

Panel 2. Boyd is gripping Sally by the shoulders, and he’s yelling vehemently into her face. Sally is very frightened by Boyd. This is taking place days or weeks after the first incident of abuse, so they should be dressed differently, but Sally still has remnants of bruising from Boyd’s first attack.

CAPTION:
But we were fooling ourselves.

Panel 3. Boyd is in the bathroom of his house, hunched over the sink and staring at himself in the mirror. Vomit is clinging to his lips and bits of it are running down his chin. His eyes are bloodshot and bleary. His shirt is stained with vomit in a ring starting at his collar.

CAPTION:
It went on like that. For longer than I care to remember. And I came to loathe what I’d become. I wasn’t like my daddy, or his daddy before him. I was something else. Something I could barely stand to look at.

Panel 4. We’re seeing Boyd back at his desk again. He is pouring the bottle of whiskey out on his desk.

CAPTION:
I have plenty of regrets. Sally never deserved what I did to her, and maybe if I could have controlled my drinking I might have made a fine lawman sometime down the line.

Panel 5. The bottle of whiskey shatters on the hardwood floor of the office.

CAPTION:
But the biggest regret I have.

PAGE SEVEN

Panel 1. Boyd has finally leaned back in his chair. He is gutshot, and blood is seeping from the wound in his stomach. His shoulders are slumped, and his hands have dropped to his sides. The broken glass of the bottle is underneath one of his hands. We see that the blood has flowed down onto the floor and leaked out from underneath the desk. It has made a tree shape on the hardwood floor as it spreads out away from him.

CAPTION:
Is that I allowed my roots to wither and die.

Friday, March 12, 2010

ONE WORD - WEEK 9 - HEX HEROES

So the word for my ninth installment of the one word project (where I take a word from oneword.com on Monday and write a short script based on that word to submit to the masses on Friday) was British. I had no clue what to write about, and I was too busy this week to research the British Isles and come up with something extraordinarily clever as a play on the word. So instead I decided I'd write a story about the Hex Heroes that Jamie Roberts (he's from England!) has been creating recently. For those not in the know, Jamie has been working up headshots for various characters and asking people on Digital Webbing and over at DeviantArt to name them. Once he had enough name suggestions he set up a voting process over on his DeviantArt page that I believe is still ongoing. I didn't necessarily use the names that are garnering the most votes at present, and instead used the names I liked the best. This is just a silly script that took me less than a few hours to write. But it was fun.

If you want to see the characters check out the Hex Heroes thread at Digital Webbing

And if you want to vote for the names you like best visit Jamie Roberts' DeviantArt account

PAGE ONE

Panel 1. We’re inside a bank, and one of its walls is being smashed in from the outside by Wrecking Ball. His head is crashing through the wall, and he’s snarling menacingly as he bursts through.

WRECKING BALL:
YARGH!

Panel 2. Wrecking Ball, Optic, Recluse, Magenta and the Bubblegum Shark are all standing in the open area Wrecking Ball created by smashing the bank wall. Wrecking Ball’s head is detached from his body, and there is a sturdy chain leading from his head to his closed fist. The patrons of the bank are looking at the five villains with distressed and fearful expressions.

OPTIC:
We’re here to make a withdrawal!

PAGE TWO

Panel 1. Cueball, a super speedster, is racing down the street towards the bank at a ridiculously fast pace. He’s speaking into a miniature wrist communicator.

CUEBALL:
This is Cueball reporting. There’s trouble down here at the Hex National Bank! I’m moving to intercept, but you guys better get here fast!

Panel 2. Blind Patriot and Ashtray are standing around the water cooler in their superhero headquarters. Blind Patriot is smoking his trademark cigarette. They’re both trying to decipher the garbled message coming through their wrist communicators.

SFX (wrist communicators):
This is… WOOOOOOOOSH!

BLIND PATRIOT:
You catch any of that?

ASHTRAY:
Nope. You were saying?

Panel 3. Blind Patriot and Ashtray continue to talk while Blind Patriot flicks the ash from his cigarette onto Ashtray. Ashtray is extremely annoyed by this.

BLIND PATRIOT:
Right, yeah--so what I was saying is that this country, the good ol’ US of A, is the greatest country around. And if you don’t like it, you should just leave, because we don’t want your kind mucking up the red, white and blue for the rest of us, ya dig?

ASHTRAY:
Uh huh. So basically what you always say. And hey, I really wish you wouldn’t flick your ash on me.

BLIND PATRIOT:
You’re the Ashtray--our superhero butler. What else am I gonna do with it?

Panel 4. Tuning Fork approaches the other two heroes and is talking in their direction animatedly. Blind Patriot is cocking a thumb over his shoulder in the opposite direction.

TUNING FORK:
Team! I just received a communiqué from Cueball! There’s trouble down at the Hex National Bank! Where’s Tenta-Cool and Bucky Spitcurl?

BLIND PATRIOT:
They’re in a backroom somewhere playing hide the tentacle, I imagine. Was that what that radio signal was? How’d you manage to figure it out?

Panel 5. Tunning Fork is gesturing to the tuning fork attached to his head. Ashtray is walking away from the water cooler dispiritedly, and Blind Patriot is calling after him.

TUNING FORK:
My tuning fork makes deciphering any auditory signals a snap. But there’s no time to talk about that now. Ashtray! Get back there and find our missing members. We’ve got to get to the bank!

BLIND PATRIOT:
And keep a sharp eye so you don’t slip in the slime.

ASHTRAY:
Ugh. Yeah, thanks.

PAGE THREE

Panel 1. Cueball is dashing through the bank at top speed, colliding with the villains within like a human pinball. The villains are sturdy enough that Cueball’s actions are little more than an annoyance. Magenta has raised a shield of magenta-colored solid light around herself, and the others are too powerful for Cueball to do any significant damage to.

MAGENTA:
This is getting quite tiresome.

Panel 2. Optic watches Cueball as he dashes from villain to villain, colliding into them.

OPTIC:
Yes, it appears Cueball’s sleek exterior is resistant to both Recluse’s webbing and Bubblegum Shark’s, er… gummy frame. Luckily I have a solution of my own.

Panel 3. Optic is tracking Cueball using his technologically-advanced eyes, almost like the heads-up display of a fighter jet.

Panel 4. Optic takes out Cueball with a blast of red energy from his eyes.

SFX:
PEEYOW!

Panel 5. Wrecking Ball is looking up and speaking to Optic from his position on the floor. His body is wringing the chain in his hands in frustration. Optic is looking down at the unconscious Cueball.

WRECKING BALL:
Let me smash this yahoo, boss! He’s been a pain in my backside ever since we were kids.

OPTIC:
No, Wrecking Ball. Though I’d enjoy disposing of your brother as much as you would, we may need him once the rest of his team arrives.

PAGE FOUR

Panel 1. The heroes show up in the area where the bank wall once stood. Bucky Spitcurl and Tenta-Cool are now gathered with Tuning Fork, Ashtray and Blind Patriot. Bucky Spitcurl is standing in-between Blind Patriot and Tenta-Cool.

TUNING FORK:
You won’t have the chance, Optic!

Panel 2. Blind Patriot is talking to Bucky Spitcurl and gesturing with the cigarette in his hands at her head. She’s scowling at him in response.

BLIND PATRIOT:
You got a little slime behind your ear, doll. Want me to get it?

BUCKY SPITCURL:
You couldn’t see it even if it really was there, so shut it.

Panel 3. Tuning Fork is pointing forward in an inspiring pose as the heroes spring into action around him. Tenta-Cool is reaching forward towards Bubblegum Shark with the tentacles lining his head. Bucky Spitcurl and Blind Patriot dash for Recluse. Ashtray makes a beeline for Magenta.

TUNING FORK:
Take them down, team!

Panel 4. Blind Patriot has flicked the smoldering cigarette he was holding into one of the eyes of Recluse. Recluse fires webbing from his mouth blindly at Bucky Spitcurl, who is dodging the spray of webbing easily.

RECLUSE:
Blast you, Blind Patriot! That was a cheap shot!

BLIND PATRIOT:
Don’t know what you’re complaining about, Recluse. You’ve got seven other eyes to look out of, don’t you?

Panel 5. Bucky Spitcurl is punching Recluse’s lights out as Blind Patriot watches something off-panel. Blind Patriot has a disgusted look on his face.

BUCKY SPITCURL:
And they’ll all be seeing stars!

SFX (from off-panel):
SQUELCH!

BLIND PATRIOT:
Aw, now that just sounds wrong.

PAGE FIVE

Panel 1. Tenta-Cool and Bubblegum Shark are stuck together in a slimy, gummy mess. Tenta-Cool is trying to pull his tentacles free of Bubblegum Shark, but the gum covering Bubblegum Shark’s hide is making it impossible to do, and they’ve pulled and yanked one another into very awkward positions.

SFX:
SQUELCH! SQUELCH!

TENTA-COOL:
Uh--a little help, guys?

Panel 2. All the rest of the heroes and villains that remain standing are watching with disgusted fascination as Tenta-Cool and Bubblegum Shark continue to sloppily flail around with one another. Tuning Fork and Optic are in the midst of a death-grip, but even their fighting has come to an abrupt halt.

SFX:
SQUELCH! SQUELCH!

Panel 3. Tuning Fork has taken his hands off of Optic and is throwing them up in the air in exasperation.

TUNING FORK:
Okay, that’s it! I can’t stand it any longer! I propose a truce until we can get those two un-stuck. It’s seriously grossing me out!

OPTIC:
Agreed. I just… I don’t have the words for how foul that looks.

Panel 4. Ashtray is pointing in the direction of Tenta-Cool and Bubblegum Shark as they continue to struggle. Magenta is nodding her head in agreement at him.

ASHTRAY:
All I know is I’m not cleaning up after this mess.

PAGE SIX

Panel 1. The two teams are standing in front of the damaged bank, facing one another. Bubblegum Shark and Tenta-Cool are both extremely embarrassed by the situation. Tenta-Cool has strips of bubblegum still stuck to various portions of his body, and Bubblegum Shark is missing hunks of gum from his frame. Recluse has a bandage over one of his eyes, and is being supported by Magenta and Wrecking Ball. Cueball is being tended to by Bucky Spitcurl as Ashtray and Blind Patriot look on. Optic and Tuning Fork are standing near one another. All of them have bits of slime or bubblegum on them in various places.

CAPTION:
Three hours later.

Panel 2. Optic and Tuning Fork are having an awkward conversation. Tuning Fork has some gum strung between the rods of the tuning fork on his head.

TUNING FORK:
So, uh… yeah. I really don’t think this needs to go any farther today. You guys gave the money back, so I think we’re good.

OPTIC:
Yes, well… we won’t be thanking you or anything. We could still beat you if we wanted to, but I just really don’t ever want to think about this day ever again.

Panel 3. Tuning Fork and Optic are moving away from each other now, only half-heartedly looking back and gesturing.

TUNING FORK:
You, uh---you got a little gum on your hands there.

OPTIC:
There’s a little bit of it sticking to your tuning fork, actually. I didn’t want to say anything.

Panel 4. The heroes are walking away from the scene of the battle. Tenta-Cool is walking with the team, but most of the heroes are keeping their distance from him. Bucky Spitcurl is nearest to Tenta-Cool, but even she is a little hesitant to get near him now. Blind Patriot is sparking up another cigarette.

BLIND PATRIOT:
This was the worst super-battle ever.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Laggy! The Lagger!

The Lagmeister! Mr. Lagerson! Lagging when he should be writing!

Anybody remember that old SNL skit? Yeah, I don't blame you if you don't. It was pretty horrible. Anyway, this is my first post of the week because I've been completely ignoring my blog. I see her sitting in the corner, all alone, sipping a glass of punch. And she glances up at me on occassion, with longing in her eyes. She wants me to ask her to dance, but I turn my back. I'm all nerves. But that's not really right either. It's actually that I'm just lazy, so this morning I dropped a fist into my open palm and decreed that I would write a blog post. So that's just what I'm doing.

Now, I haven't written a "DWPFF Journey" entry in a while because last week was solely dedicated to the "How the West Was Weird" book release, but I am planning to post part 8 of my harrowing tale up on the blog tomorrow. I could be doing it today, but since I haven't written in the blog for a while I feel like I need a bit of a warm-up. Speaking of warm-ups, the word I got on Monday for my one word project this week is a horrible monstrosity. I have absolutely NO idea what to write about. None at all. I'm thinking of approaching it in the same way that I did the word for week one - BAMBOO - and just doing a search online. The second I come across something mildly interesting, I'll give it a go. The only problem with that is that I'm sure I'm going to come across a gaggle of interesting prospects because the word is so all-encompassing. But there's no point in avoiding the problem. Only way I'm going to manage it is by tackling it head-on. I'm just being a whiny little baby, really, mewling about my problems. It's a fun blog entry, yeah? Tomorrow will be better.

Friday, March 5, 2010

ONE WORD - WEEK 8 - HTWWW

So this week I'm approaching my one word project a little differently. I did go to oneword.com this Monday, and I did get a word. But because I've been dedicating this entire week to the "How the West Was Weird" book recently released by Pulpwork Press, I decided to scrap my word for this week and write a script based on the image above instead. This was another of Jim Rugg's ideas for the cover of the book, and although it didn't make the final cut, the comic-style art is what gave me the idea to turn it into a one word installment. I'll be going back to the regular one word format beginning next week, but I think this is a nice way for me to contribute to "How the West Was Weird" beyond just talking up the stories the other writers came up with, and it might serve to help me finally close the chapter on my guilt for not having contributed a story of my own. That's the hope, anyway.

PAGE ONE

Panel 1. We’re looking down at a barren stretch of desert. Far off in the distance, the peaks of mountains can be seen stretching towards the sky. The vegetation, if there is any at all, is sparse and withering. There is a faint set of footprints on the hardpacked ground, leading across the panel. On the far right of the panel, we can see the shadow of a man. The man is not visible in the panel, but his shadow is.

Panel 2. The man, a gunslinger, is trudging through the desert. Each step is agony. His angular features are haggard, victimized by the harsh rays of the sun. His clothes are sweat-stained and filthy. He’s dressed as a cowboy, with a wide-brimmed hat, duster, simple button-up shirt and tight-fitting, sturdy pants. A gun belt is strapped around his waist with a six-shooter in the lone holster.

Panel 3. Zoom in on the face of the gunslinger. His face is sunburned and his lips are cracked and faintly bleeding. His face is dotted with stubble from neglect of the razor. His squinted eyes are sunken in his face, as though retreating from the light of the sun.

PAGE TWO

Panel 1. The gunslinger is looking over to the left (right of the page) at something we can’t see.

SFX (O/P):
Rawk!

Panel 2. Vultures are sitting on a withered, dilapidated tree that’s holding on for dear life. The vultures are eyeing the gunslinger as he walks past them with carnivorous desire.

Panel 3. The gunslinger continues to trudge inexorably forward. The tree the vultures were perched on is behind him now, and the vultures are hopping off of the tree to give chase.

Panel 4. The gunslinger still walks through the desert, but now the vultures are walking behind him in an almost comical fashion. It almost seems like he’s leading them, but they’re only waiting for him to collapse from the heat so they can feed.

PAGE THREE

Panel 1. The gunslinger trudges onward, but he’s laboring even more now. His shoulders are drastically slumped, his chin heavily dropped against his chest. He’s a living zombie.

Panel 2. The gunslinger loses his footing and pitches forward, falling onto the dusty ground.

Panel 3. The vultures scramble forward, their necks and sharp beaks outstretched, their wings spread wide in excitement.

VULTURES:
Rawk!

Panel 4. The lead vulture has reached the gunslinger, and is tearing at the meaty calf of his leg with its sharp beak. The pant leg and flesh of the gunslinger is ripping away as the vulture claims its prize. The gunslinger is barking in pain.

Panel 5. The gunslinger has drawn his weapon, an 1875 Remington revolver, and is separating the head of the vulture from its neck. The other vultures are taking to the sky in panic as the gun roars.

SFX:
BOOM!

PAGE FOUR

Panel 1. The gunslinger is walking again, in a mirror image of Page 2, Panel 4, and the vultures are still following his lead. But this time they’re keeping a cautious distance from him. There is a rag tied tightly around the leg injury of the gunslinger.

Panel 2. Zoom close in on the rag or handkerchief tied around the gunslinger’s leg wound. The rag is stained with blood, and more of it is seeping through the cloth.

Panel 3. The gunslinger has stopped in his tracks, a small plume of dust rising around his boots. He has noticed something that we cannot see.

Panel 4. We’re behind the gunslinger, looking around him at a spaceship settled in the midst of this barren landscape. It is as large as a small house, its cold metal reflecting the blazing sun. There is no sign of life from the spaceship, but its appearance is in stark contrast to its surroundings. The gunslinger is around fifty yards from the spaceship. Between the gunslinger and the spaceship the ground is littered with the bodies of other dead gunslingers. Most of them are little more than bits of rotting flesh on scattered bones framed by tattered clothing.

PAGE FIVE

Panel 1. The vultures take flight from behind the gunslinger, lumbering into the air, and he has turned to watch them depart.

Panel 2. The gunslinger has turned back to face the spaceship, and there is an alien standing between it and the gunslinger now. The skin of the alien is a deep green, its flesh mottled and coarse. Its limbs and digits are unnaturally long, and its face is more reptilian than human. It is dressed in a dark flight suit, and is looking at the gunslinger with emotionless, alien eyes. The alien has a gun belt strapped low on its thin waist just like the gunslinger, but the weapon in the holster has the flair and ridges and curves of an alien ray gun.

Panel 3. The alien is standing in a defensive posture. Its hand with the long fingers and sharp claws is hovering over the weapon in its holster, challenging the gunslinger.

Panel 4. The gunslinger and the alien face one another down over the distance between them. The duster of the gunslinger is tucked back behind his thin frame to provide easier access to his iron.

Panel 5. The gunslinger and the alien both draw their weapons and fire. The gunslinger’s iron spits a small plume of fire as a bullet roars from its barrel. The alien’s weapon sends a thin beam of energy slicing at and past the gunslinger. We are looking at the action from enough of a distance that we can’t tell who is being hit.

SFX:
BOOM!

SFX:
ZEEEEEE!

PAGE SIX

Panel 1. The gunslinger has been sliced by the energy beam the alien fired. The beam punched through his ribcage and cut upward, cleaving his flesh all the way through and cutting a path from his ribcage up and out of his left shoulder. The gunslinger is still holding his weapon, and he is still miraculously alive for the moment. His face registers shock, but little pain. He is in his death throes.

Panel 2. The gunslinger falls in a heap to the dusty ground. He is very much dead now.

Panel 3. The alien has crossed the distance and approaches the body of the gunslinger. The alien has holstered its weapon. There’s no need for it now.

Panel 4. The alien holds the wrist of the gunslinger in one hand as it pries the gunslinger’s gun from his lifeless death grip with the other.

Panel 5. The alien walks away from the body of the gunslinger with his gun in its hand. In the background, the vultures are landing to feed.

PAGE SEVEN

Panel 1. The alien enters its ship, still holding the gunslinger’s gun in its hand. The ship is highly advanced with large viewscreens, a single misshapen chair, banks and panels of advanced circuitry and technology.

Panel 2. The alien approaches an ancient-looking display case that is as out of place in the advanced spaceship as the spaceship itself is in the barren wasteland outside. The display case is filled with western era guns of various kinds. Colt peacemakers, Schofield and Remington revolvers, various lever action rifles like the Yellowboy.

Panel 3. The alien reverently places the gun of the gunslinger into the case with all the others.

Panel 4. The alien has left the gun case in the background, and is operating one of the viewscreens by manipulating the advanced technology around it.

Panel 5. The alien watches the viewscreen as another gunslinger is shown trudging through the desert on the monitor.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

How The West Was Weird - Part 3

I fell a little bit behind in my reading, and I'm only able to review one of the last three stories today. I'll review the others tomorrow and add them to this post, and yes, I'll be posting my one word script as well. To make up for the lack of content today, I've decided I'd talk a little bit more about one of the other stories I tried to write for "How the West Was Weird". After I wimped out of writing my Daniel Boone in space story, Russ Anderson (editor extraordinaire) kept on me to try and write something for the book. And I did want to, people... I really did. So when Russ sent me the finished cover by Jim Rugg, I set out to try and write a story based on that. I figured it might be a little easier to put a story together with some visual stimulation behind it. But I was in a bad way with my writing last year, and although I was trying anything I could to get out the funk, nothing seemed to be working. But a couple of ideas did spark from the cover. The first was a story about a gunslinger being inexorably drawn through the desert to an alien presence. Once there, the gunslinger would be compelled to gun the alien down - if he could. The idea was that the alien was collecting the hardware of various gunslingers through the Wild West. Kind of like how the alien in "Predator" was always collecting the skulls and/or spines of his prey. Here's a few snippets of the eventually abandoned story...

*

The sun was a bloated teardrop of fire in a cloudless sky. The wanderer had been wandering for days through a desolate wasteland that stretched before him with no end in sight. His boots scuffed the barren ground and wisps of dust rose in their wake.

The drumbeat in his head drove him onward.

A shadow slipped between the wanderer’s feet and slithered along the dusty ground. He lifted his head to track it, and the sun framed the savage outline of a vulture circling overhead. Pain sunk its teeth into the eyes of the wanderer as the sun blazed. He let his chin fall down to his chest.

*

The iron twirled with seamless precision and was replaced. The other approached the crumpled body of the wanderer and plucked it from the desolate landscape like a withering weed. The vultures crept near, but the other paid them no consideration. It stripped the wanderer, peeling each layer carefully away. The bones of the wanderer snapped as the other carelessly pried the cherished iron from his unresponsive fingers. When it was finished, the other allowed the wanderer to fall once more to the dusty bowl of earth. The vultures lifted their wings in open gratitude and rushed forward, curved beaks snapping greedily at the air. The other picked its way calmly back to its lair, carefully traversing the tangled remains of the wanderers that had come before. The sound of tearing flesh filled the silence.

The iron was placed reverently among the others, and the other quietly admired the craftsmanship of its newest addition. Long months had been spent on this planet, and the time for additional acquisitions was growing short. The other cast its mind outward across the desolate landscape, scrabbling like a starving vulture for scraps of flesh. The drumbeat began anew.

*

What's there isn't too bad, I don't think. Not great, but not terrible either. I just couldn't bring myself to finish it. What you read, if you did read it, was the first and last paragraphs of the story. There wasn't much else written. I knew how I wanted it to start, and I knew how I wanted it to end, and I had an idea of how it would go in-between. But after numerous false starts the story withered on the vine. I came up with another story based on the cover image, and got about 2,200 words into that one as well, but that's enough lamenting for this installment. There's stories that were finished for the book, after all, and they're begging to be reviewed!

The seventh story of "How the West Was Weird" is titled "You Need to Know What's Coming" by Ian Mileham. The title is apt, not only because of the content of the story, but also because I never saw this story coming. It absolutely blew me away. The story starts with a man meeting a woman named Ms. McCullough for the first time. He falls for her immediately, but her interest in him is of a more professional nature. She shows him a large, precious stone and asks him to escort her to the place she believes more of them might be located. The reason she believes this is because a man dying of snakebite and starvation gave her the stone just before he passed, hinting that more of them could be found in an old ghost town. Only three men in the town are aware of the location of the ghost town, and McCollough has decided her newfound guide is the most desperate of the bunch. The man reluctantly agrees to lead McCollough and the two men with her out to the ghost town. During the ride we're blessed with more information regarding McCollough, the men she rides with, and the narrator of the story, the guide, who describes the landscape, his riding companions and his own doubts and fears in vivid detail. The story is a clinic in both the use of metaphor to describe the setting and emotions that frame the tale, along with intelligent, well-placed dialogue that leads you to believe that each character is searching for more than what is eventually made apparent. Once the party reaches their destination, the motivations of the guide and Ms. McCollough are revealed in stark detail as they fight for their lives in the ghost town of Blood Rock. When the dust has settled, the story slows down only long enough to sweep you up again with a classic twist ending. I admit that I saw it coming, but my accurate prediction made it no less enjoyable.

And, as promised, reviews for the last two stories...

"Of All the Plagues a Lover Bears" by Derrick Ferguson is the eighth story in the book, and this is another case of the title catching my eye. I'm not sure if the title of the story is a quote from elsewhere or not, as I didn't have time to seek it out, but it is spoken by the main character, Sebastian Red, during a quiet moment in the story. One of the very few quiet moments in the story, as it turns out, because this yarn is nearly wall-to-wall action. Sebastian Red is a large, powerful man with an ancient, 7-shot pistol on one hip and a 5-foot sword on the other. He rides an immense horse named Ra, and throughout the course of the story Sebastian Red outwits demons, tramples, guns down and slices zombies to ribbons, and burns an entire town to the ground. And yet, the dizzying pace of the action is framed by a love story between a man and a woman that struggles to breach the differences between them. Everything about this story is to the point, from the action, to the dialogue and beyond. Not a word is wasted, and you're swept along at a torrid pace as a result.

The ninth and final story of the book is titled "Out South of Borachon Creek" by Bill Kte'pi. The story is about a man named Frank Train living in a backwater portion of New Mexico. And when I say the story is about a man named Frank Train, that's exactly what I mean. We delve into everything that makes Frank who he is over the course of the story. We're introduced to his family, his job and the place he lives and what he thinks about each. Frank is in the midst of a bit of a mid-life crisis, and struggles to make heads or tails of things as he goes about his daily business. The story takes place in modern times, but the setting and the ruminations Frank goes through regarding his past and his present give the story a nostalgic feel. Frank eventually comes to a crossroads, both literally and figuratively, and runs across a mysterious man dressed as a scarecrow. The scarecrow and Frank talk about what it means to sell your soul in such a wistful and casual manner, and Frank decides to sell his soul to the man dressed as a scarecrow before they part ways. Frank returns to his life with his regrets, guilt and responsibilities still firmly in place. Did Frank really sell his soul? We never know for sure, but although the story doesn't end with a riveting climax, the realism inherent in the character of Frank makes for a completely relatable tale. I'm not sure how western it was, put it was plenty weird... and plenty good.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

How The West Was Weird - Part 2



So the last time we talked about the book I mentioned how I hadn't managed to finish the story that I'd been asked to write for it, and I also reviewed the first three stories. So I figure this time I'll talk a little bit more about the story I didn't write, and review the next three stories in the book. My final installment will talk about the story I decided to write instead of the original story I'd planned to write, and how I how I didn't write that one either... and I'll review the final three stories in the book. Good times!

So my idea for the story I wanted to include in the book dealt with Daniel Boone. Now, I realize that Daniel Boone was more of a "frontier" guy rather than a "western" guy, but I figured I could probably get away with the story considering it wasn't taking place on Earth. Stay with me now. The idea I had was to write about Daniel Boone... in space! While I was reading up on Daniel Boone, Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie and various other frontiersmen I came across this interesting quote by Daniel Boone...

I can't say as ever I was lost, but I was bewildered once for three days.

The quote immediately raised my hackles. This was a soldier and a hunter, the guy that blazed the Wilderness Road, saved his daughter from a Native American war party of Shawnee that later killed his brother during a hunting trip, and when captured by those same Native Americans duped them into believing he was on their side long enough to escape and warn of their impending attack. He founded his own city, and also fought valiantly in the Revolutionary War, where he lost his son. What could possibly have bewildered this man?

And then I read how Boone had also been famous for going on extended treks into the wilderness known as long hunts that could last up to six months or more. Sometimes he'd take a couple of hunters along, but most times he went off by himself, accumulating hundreds of deerskins. In fact, the slang term for dollar, "buck", was primarily coined because of the massive amounts of deerskins sold to fur traders during this era. But anything could happen to man out there on his own in the wilderness all by his lonesome. What if he was visited by some otherworldly travelers that had heard of his exploits as a soldier and hunter and needed him to help them? Daniel Boone was a celebrity even in his own time, so it wouldn't be too much of a stretch to think that an advanced civilization might have heard of him. The possibilities for stories at that point are endless. And perhaps a little too endless, because when it came time to write the story I was bewildered as well.

But enough about that! Let's get to the reviews!

The fourth story in "How the West Was Weird" is titled "Don Cuevo's Curative" by Thomas Deja. The story is about a young boy that is possessed by a little boy and the struggles the township faces in getting rid of the demon. After numerous failed attempts at exorcising the demon, the town desperately contacts Don Cuevo, a mysterious practitioner of the dark arts that might be a snake oil salesman, or might be something more. Don Cuevo responds by sending his female assistant in advance of his arrival, who dutifully prepares the town for a proper exorcism. I admire the way Deja sets up the story. There's just enough going on to keep the reader invested until Don Cuevo arrives. One of the best aspects of the story is that the narrator is one of the more grounded, relatable characters, so as he's caught up in the strange world of Don Cuevo and his assistant, Dolores, the reader is brought right along for the ride. This is an essential connection for the reader to make, because once Don Cuevo does arrive things take a turn towards the bizarre relatively quickly. Another thing that appealed to me about the story was the similarities it had to another story about a mysterious man that visits a town being plagued by sinister forces and takes all the advantage he can before saving them, Clint Eastwood's "High Plains Drifter". In that story there was a strong motivation behind Eastwood's abuse of the town, while Don Cuevo seems to do it only because he knows he's needed, but the spirit is there and I enjoyed it. The confrontation between the demon and Don Cuevo was tense and satisfying, and although the ending probably wasn't as strong as it could have been, this was another story I thoroughly enjoyed.

Speaking of stories I thoroughly enjoyed, Mike McGee and Chris Munn's "The Town With No Name" also seemed to have shades of "High Plains Drifter" spun into its prose. The story is about a hard man named Carston who arrives at a small town in Virginia filled with seemingly churchgoing, honest, wholesome and utterly defenseless people. The town is ripe for the plucking, and Carston might have been just the man to do it if he hadn't arrived squirming on his belly from the various injuries he'd received before his arrival. He's nursed to health in a variety of ways by an enchanting woman named Jenny, who just happens to be the wife of the mayor of the town. During his recovery, Carston is told by the mayor that the township will be visited by villainous outsiders, and that the town needs his help to drive them away. Carston speculates that the outsiders would be interested in the golden cross nestled atop the church in town, as it was the beacon that guided him to the town's doorstep. But when the outsiders finally do arrive, it turns out to be Carston they were after all along, for the town has a secret that has kept them in God's good graces. One of the other excellent aspects of the story is the internal war being raged with Carston throughout. His injuries came about when he rebelled against a group of bandits he'd been running with, after they went a little too far, and as a result Carston is pulled in opposing directions by his nature, his guilt over what he's done, and something bubbling just under the surface of the town and the people within it he can't quite put his finger on. It all leads to an excellent climax, which for me was almost like a twist ending turned on its ear.

The sixth story in "How the West Was Weird" is titled "Sins of the Past" by Barry Reese, a story starring an Atlanta-based masked hero of 1940's called the Rook. The Rook is a pulp-inspired crimefighter that has fought in battles spanning the globe, but when he appropriates a unique box from a thief that crumbles to dust before his eyes, the Rook is drawn into a new type of battle - this one spanning time itself. The story is divided into four short chapters, which frame the story well, but although the tale stands on its own, there are times when the narrative is slowed somewhat by snippets of backstory concerning past exploits of the Rook. This is a minor complaint, however, as the action is crisp enough to compensate for it. The story is an excellent introduction to the Rook, and a worthy inclusion to the book.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

How The West Was Weird - Part 1


So today I'm going to talk a little bit about a book that just came out from Pulpwork Press called "How the West Was Weird". I'm intimately familiar with this book because I was asked to contribute a story for it last year while it was being put together. I agreed to do just that, but last year was an unfortunate one for me regarding my writing, and I dropped the ball. The story I had in mind would have fit the book perfectly, I think, and I may still do something with it at some point down the line as either a short comic or as an addition to a potential sequel to "How the West Was Weird". But enough about me. Let's talk about the book itself.

"How the West Was Weird" is a collection of nine short stories with a western theme that are, in a word, weird. The coordinator/editor of the book (and a friend of mine), Mr. Russ Anderson, has put together a fabulous collection of yarns. Some of the stories have a horror bent to them, and some of them lean towards the pulpier side of things, but each of the stories is infinitely entertaining. The image you're looking at above is the cover of the book, and was done by comic artist Jim Rugg. I love looking at the cover, and the image above hardly does the real thing justice. The smooth, vibrant colors and sharp lines with their heavy hatching are best experienced while holding the book in your hands. The composition is genius in its simplicity, with a lone gunmen staring down a decidedly alien aggressor. The barren landscape and the burning sun above it frames the scene perfectly - and even the sparse lettering of the title works wonders, with the ghostly, seemingly heat-washed words leading to the stark, in-your-face WEIRD directly below. You know what this book is all about before you ever crack it open.

But you should crack it open, because the stories within are a delight. Reviewing each of them would make this one of the longest blog posts I've ever done, so what I've decided to do is make this "How the West Was Weird Week" at my blog, and break up my reviews into multiple posts. The first story done for the book is entitled "Camazotz" by Josh Reynolds. Remember in my previous post when I mentioned Aztec vampires gorging themselves on a Mexican village? You'll find all that and more in this story. It starts off with a confrontation between two men in a sweltering cantina. One is calm and composed and the other is haggard and distressed, and one of them doesn't leave the cantina alive. The meeting between the two men is over a mysterious golden mask the distressed man went through hell to acquire. But the unique thing about this mask, despite its appearance, is that it's still afixed to the ancient, rotting corpse of the last person to wear it. The entire time you're reading the story you're itching to find out what the face underneath the mask will reveal, and when it finally does happen there's no disappointment... except perhaps for the poor sucker that pulled it away. Reynolds masterfully spins his tale, keeping it tense and taut throughout, and despite the brevity of the story it is one killer opener.

The second story is entitled "Wyrm Over Diablo" by Joel Jenkins. The story begins just as "Camazotz" did, with a tense confrontation between two people sitting at a table, only this one takes place in the dining car of a passenger train hurtling toward its doom. This tale is pulp at its finest as the main character, a brooding, sharpshooting Indian known as Lone Crow struggles against supernatural forces to save not only his lady love, but the entire complement of passengers on the train. Joel brilliantly sweeps us along at a frantic pace as Lone Crow races from car to car in an effort to bring the nefarious plans of the antagonists - not to mention the speeding train - to a halt, and his descriptions of the massive, potentially world-devouring Wyrm are so foreboding that it sends shivers down your spine. Lone Crow is a practical, refreshing sort of hero, unconcerned with what people think of his choices or actions. Despite the heavy reliance on supernatural elements, the story is relatable because the character of Lone Crow grounds the story with his matter-of-fact statements and penchant for punching, shooting or blowing up anything that gets in his way. Lone Crow is a hero you can get behind, and the story shines because of it.

The third story is entitled "Space Miners" by Ian Taylor. The title alone made me straighten in my chair as I sat down to read it. The story takes place in the distant future, in a desolate field of meteorites somewhere out in the depths of space. But despite the outlandish time and setting, the story Ian crafts has even more of a western flavor than the two stories preceeding it. A unit of miners comes across a ship rustling valuable meteorites from their field. The miners capture the ship, and discover the inhabitants are three alien beings known as Ala'rai. The miners capture the rustlers, and hoping to avoid any additional trouble give the three ornery aliens the option to turn tail and run, but the situation immediately takes a turn for the worse when the lead Ala'rai tells them that his father, a particularly menacing and notorious Ala'rai with a taste for human flesh called Tommy Khan, will be coming to spring them. It doesn't take long for the lead Ala'rai's prediction to come to fruition, and the resulting gunfight between the aliens and the humans is the perfect climax to the story. Ian also does a great job of introducing subtle details into his tale.
The speech the characters use has subtle hints of the old west, and the main character even sports a Stetson. Though the miners are all intelligent, extensively educated men that would normally rely on their brains to solve problems, there's something about doing work on a desolate rock in the middle of space that brings the cowboy out in them, and the final imagery Ian uses to highlight this fact worked perfectly.

So that's all for this installment. Tomorrow I'll tackle three more of the stories included in the book, and if you like what you're hearing even a little bit I hope you'll give it a try.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Do you people ever sleep?

Goodness. I think I'm going to be spending half the day just catching up on all the blog posts people made over the weekend. You'll hardly ever see me post a blog entry over the weekend. I feel like I post enough of these articles during the week that the weekend can be reserved for other types of writing, spending time with my family, and even going outdoors to feel the sun on my face from time to time. So that's what I do. But while I'm doing all that, the people running the various blogs I subscribe to are producing work at a frightening clip. Most of the people I follow are fellow comics creators of one stripe or another. I follow a ton of artists, a few writers and even an editor or two. Some of the artists are doing their own writing, others are working with writers, and some are doing both at the same time. Some of the writers are struggling like I am, while others are established veterans of the industry living the life I covet. The editors have insider tips and/or suggestions for improvement that are always a pleasure to read about. The number of blogs I'm following is already up around thirty or so, and it's growing all the time. I created this blog at the beginning of the year, after all, so there's still plenty of time to increase the number. Some bloggers are busier than others, but they're all busy enough that looking over the work they've produced over the two and a half days that I've been away can keep me occupied for hours at a time. So have mercy on my poor soul, you workaholics, and slow down!

Speaking of posting to my blog and following more and more awesome creators, I'd like to direct a few of you over to the blog of Jim Rugg. Jim is an amazingly talented artist responsible for the comic "Street Angel" published by Slave Labor Graphics and the uproarious "Afrodisiac". He's also done work for DC Comics and other various publishers. But that's not all! Jim also recently provided cover art for a project titled "How the West was Weird", a collection of short prose stories dedicated, but not limited, to - and I quote:

"Aztec vampires that gorge themselves on a small Mexican village! A masked hero of the 1940's that stumbles onto a town that time forgot! A gunslinging exorcist that works to save a boy from demonic possession! These are the stories of the American west your history teacher never told you about... because she was scared!"

I kind of hate my history teacher right now for depriving me of these stories for so long! The book is published by Pulpwork Press and is available for ordering now, and I strongly endorse doing so. It should also be noted that I had the opportunity to contribute to this book, and one of my biggest regrets of the previous year is that I dropped the ball and never finished my story. I was in quite the shame spiral over that for a good long while. The project was edited and coordinated by a good friend of mine named Russ Anderson, who I've worked with numerous times in the past. He doesn't have a story in the book, but he's a hell of a writer to boot. In his infinite wisdom, he's asked me to be a part of a blog tour promoting the book.

The first day of the blog tour is today, and Jim Rugg has tackled those duties. If you head over to his blog (linked above, remember?) you can view his thoughts on creating the cover for the book along with a ton of sketches, preliminary designs and other eye candy for your viewing pleasure. I, for one, love it when an artist shows the process he went through creating a unique piece of art, so I think the first post in the blog tour is a real treat. Tomorrow I'll be stepping into the batter's box to try my hand at promoting the book. I'm technically doing that today, as well, but tomorrow I'll be talking about the story I had in mind for the book and how I failed to pull through in the clutch, along with my thoughts on the stories that actually are included in the book. If you like westerns or weird stuff I hope you'll give this little book of stories a try. With nine stories, 152 pages of action and oddities, and a humble price tag of 11.95 -- I think it's well worth the price of admission.

Friday, February 26, 2010

ONE WORD - WEEK 7 - FAULT

The word for the seventh installment of this exercise was fault. The first thing that came to mind was earthquakes because of fault lines. I live in California, after all, and Lex Luthor would have sank us into the ocean because of those pesky fault lines if it hadn't been for you, Superman!

Erhm... sorry about that. Anyway, there's also the fact that you can't turn on the television without somebody famous asking you to donate money to the relief efforts in Haiti. Not that I'm complaining about that or anything, mind you. I'm just saying... I've got earthquakes on the brain. But I inevitably decided to go in a different direction. My last two scripts were pretty heavy on the panel description and light on the dialogue, so I decided to reverse course and drive this puppy with the talking heads.

PAGE ONE

Panel 1. A young man named Carlson is sitting in one of those swiveling, ergonomic office chairs at his workstation in a nondescript cubicle. He is wearing a long-sleeved, button-up, collared shirt with a tie and slacks. Office work clothes. He is busily typing away at the computer sitting on his workstation. There is an office phone with a display of buttons sitting close at hand on the workstation, and the workstation itself and the walls of the cubicle are decorated with photos, a cup of pens, coffee mug, stapler, and other assorted odds and ends necessary to survive a day of work spent in a cubicle. We should be looking at Carlson from an angle that provides us a view of the top of the cubicle. An attractive female intern is strolling past Carlson’s cubicle as he works. It is important that we’re able to see this over the top of the cubicle as it sets up the next panel.

Panel 2. Another young man named Johnson is peering over the wall of Carlson’s cubicle and speaking to Carlson. Carlson has stopped working and is looking up at Johnson inquisitively.

JOHNSON:
Better keep your head down today, Carlson.

CARLSON:
Why? What’s going on?

Panel 3. Johnson is entering the cubicle, and Carlson has swiveled in his chair slightly to regard Johnson. Johnson seems slightly unkempt in contrast to the neater Carlson. Johnson’s shirt isn’t tucked in very well, wrinkles in his clothing, and maybe his hair is a little disheveled. Stuff like that.

JOHNSON:
The boss is on the warpath. He wants somebody’s head on a platter.

CARLSON:
I guess that’s better than having it on a spit.

Panel 4. Johnson is holding a pen upright in his closed fist as if he would hold a tiny sword or a spear (or a pike!). Carlson is looking at the pen and smiling slightly.

JOHNSON:
Yeah, or a pike.

CARLSON:
Yeah--so what happened?

Panel 5. Johnson is shrugging his shoulders as he speaks to Carlson. Carlson is barely paying attention to Johnson now, fiddling absent-mindedly with one of the objects on his desk.

JOHNSON:
Aw, you know--the usual. Some document didn’t get faxed on time and he got chewed out for it, so now he’s trying to figure out whose fault it was so he can do some chewing of his own.

CARLSON:
That figures. So what was the document?

Panel 6. Johnson is leaning casually against the wall of Carlson’s cubicle as he speaks to him. Carlson has turned around to face Johnson again, and this time he’s much more interested in what Johnson has to say. He’s leaning forward slightly in his chair.

JOHNSON:
One of the quarterly reports for the Peterson file.

CARLSON:
Aw, crap. I was doing work on the Peterson file.

JOHNSON:
I know it. That’s why I’m over here. I tried to warn Jennings, but he already got called in. I’m sure the boss man is reaming him a new one as we speak.

PAGE TWO

Panel 1. Carlson has leaned back in his chair, slightly relieved. Johnson is still leaning against Carlson’s cubicle, but his arms are crossed in front of his chest now.

CARLSON:
Oh, okay. So it should be cool then, right?

JOHNSON:
Only if Jennings says it was on him. He’s the third victim this morning. Simmons and Polanski already took their beatings. I saw them a few minutes ago looking like walking wounded.

Panel 2. Carlson has thrown his hands into the air in frustration and turned away from Johnson. Johnson is watching him with a thin smile.

CARLSON:
Well that’s just great. I sure as hell hope it was Jennings that did it, because I wasn’t asked to fax any documents for the Peterson file.

JOHNSON:
Oh, I know it wasn’t you. I’m the one that was supposed to fax the file.

Panel 3. Carlson is looking back at Johnson with an incredulous expression. Johnson has dropped down to one knee so he is at Carlson’s level.

CARLSON:
What? Johnson, if you’re the one that was supposed to do it, why are you letting the boss go on his rampage?

JOHNSON:
Because if somebody else says it was their fault, then I’m in the clear.

Panel 4. Carlson is looking at Johnson with a flat expression. Johnson is still smiling faintly.

Panel 5. Same panel as before, only now Carlson is animated as he berates Johnson.

CARLSON:
Are you kidding me right now? That’s seriously messed up.

Panel 6. Johnson is using the flat edge of one of his hands and making a chopping motion into the flat palm of his other hand. Carlson is pointing an accusing finger at Johnson.

JOHNSON:
I’m dead serious, man. I really don’t want to take the fall for this one. I think I’m on the chopping block as it is if you know what I’m saying.

CARLSON:
So why are you telling me then? I could just walk in there and tell the boss it was your fault.

Panel 7. Johnson is looking at Carlson with a smug grin. Carlson looks like he wants to amck it off of Johnson’s face.

JOHNSON:
Yeah, but you won’t do that.

CARLSON:
Why the hell not?

PAGE THREE

Panel 1. Johnson is shrugging and speaking in a casual, carefree manner again.

JOHNSON:
Because you’re a nice guy, C-money. If you go tell the boss it was my fault, I’ll get fired. And if I get fired, I’ll be out of a job. And if I’m out of a job, I’ll have to look for a new one. And I obviously won’t be able to use this one as a reference--because I got fired. It might take me months to get a new job, and I’m living paycheck to paycheck as it is.

Panel 2. Carlson is incredulous again as he reacts to what Johnson just said. Johnson is holding up the index and middle fingers of one of his hands to indicate the number two to Carlson.

CARLSON:
You make more than I do!

JOHNSON:
True--but I got expenses, man. Did you know I’m divorced with two kids?

CARLSON:
You’re twenty-four years old!

Panel 3. Johnson is shrugging in his easygoing, infuriating manner again. Carlson is rolling his eyes.

JOHNSON:
What can I say? I matured early in life.

CARLSON:
That’s debatable.

Panel 4. The phone sitting on Carlson’s workstation is ringing, and both Carlson and Johnson are looking at it like deer caught in the headlights.

SFX:
Breeet. Breeet.

Panel 5. Johnson is nudging Carlson gently with his elbow and gesturing with his chin in the direction of the phone. Carlson is glaring icily at Johnson.

SFX:
Breeet. Breeet.

JOHNSON:
You should probably answer that, man. Could be the boss.

CARLSON:
Mmm, yeah. Thanks for that.

PAGE FOUR

Panel 1. Carlson has his finger extended and is pushing a button on the phone. Johnson is watching Carlson with a pleading expression as he talks to the receptionist.

CARLSON:
This is Carlson.

PHONE:
Mr. Carlson--Mr. Winters would like to see you in his office.

CARLSON:
Okay--thanks, Judy.

Panel 2. Carlson has dropped his face into his hands. Johnson is gripping Carlson on the shoulder and shaking him lightly. The expression on Johnson’s face is bright and encouraging.

CARLSON:
Ugh. I really hate you, dude.

JOHNSON:
C’mon, big guy. Just take one for the team. You can handle that stodgy prick way better than me. And I know he’d never fire you. You’re like his golden boy.

Panel 3. Carlson has whirled on Johnson and is pointing a finger at him menacingly. Johnson has drawn back somewhat with his hands raised to about face level with the palms facing outward toward Carlson, trying to look as harmless as possible.

CARLSON:
If you’re trying to flatter me, calling me golden boy ain’t the way to get it done--and I’m not taking one for the team, Johnson. I’m taking one for your sorry ass.

Panel 4. Carlson is pushing his chair away from his workstation and the crouching Johnson. Johnson is looking at Carlson with supreme gratitude, as Carlson has finally relented.

JOHNSON:
So you’re actually gonna do it?

CARLSON:
Yes, Johnson. I’m actually going to do it.

Panel 5. Johnson is pumping his fist with one hand as he uses Carlson’s chair to help him get to his feet. Carlson is already standing, and he is looking at something outside of the entrance of the cubicle that we cannot see. His face is surprised and mortified.

JOHNSON:
Yes! You’re the man, Carlson. I won’t forget this!

PAGE FIVE

Panel 1. Mr. Winters is standing just outside of Carlson’s cubicle. Carlson is using one hand to scratch absently at the back of his head as he tries to think of something (anything!) to say. Johnson is on his feet now and sees Mr. Winters too. He’s reacting with disappointment at having been caught, slapping the palm of one of his hands to his forehead. Mr. Winters is holding a mug of steaming coffee in one of his hands, and he’s fuming nearly as bad as the piping hot drink.

CARLSON:
Oh, uh--hey, Mr. Winters, sir. Have you been here long?

JOHNSON:
Ah, crap.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

It's your world, squirrel

I've been noticing lately that this blog has become completely devoted to my experiences concerning the Digital Webbing Presents - Future Fairy Tales project and my oneword.com script exercises. I really haven't talked about much of anything else since the Zuda project I was working on fell through. I think the reason for that is actually because the Zuda project fell through. I'm one of those writers that sometimes has a hard time talking about what he's working on because I'll talk and talk... and talk about it instead of, y'know, actually working on it. I'm actively working against those tendencies this year with the one word project, but I still have this little bug of a fear whispering in my ear that tells me that if I keep blabbering on and on about the stuff I'm working on I'll psyche myself out of doing it.

And this is even if talking about it didn't derail the project. The Zuda project, for instance, wasn't tabled because I lost my motivation or anything like that. The script was written, it was in the hands of the artist, and all systems were go. It's just that once the artist started producing I realized things weren't working out. The styles didn't match. And that happens sometimes, and it's better to figure that out right at the start rather than months down the line after everybody's time has been wasted. Dario Carrasco did the original designs for the concept, with a very distinct style, and the artist we were working with was taking things in an entirely different direction. And the direction was so different that I don't think the project would have stood much of a chance at Zuda if we'd submitted it. Not that I'm saying the art was bad, or that the script wasn't good enough -- but I honestly feel like things really have to mesh if you're going to create a successful comic. The story has to compliment the art and the art has to compliment the story or readers will notice. They might not notice it right away, but in a competitive atmosphere like Zuda where every vote counts you can't leave anything to chance.

So I didn't. And I feel like it was the right decision. Sometimes I don't feel like I'm doing enough to make an impact as a writer. I'm not writing enough, and I'm not taking advantage of the resources that are available to me. Zuda is a resource, for example, and I should be tapping it for all I'm worth and all that. But that's another issue that I'm working to solve as I continue to produce this year. What are my goals, and what is the most likely path to achieving them? If I can't figure that out, all the one word scripts and anthology stories and Zuda submissions in the world aren't going to amount to much. I don't have it all figured out yet, but I'm working on it. I'm gradually chipping away at this massive slab of granite to carve out a niche for myself. And there's always this temptation to take a jackhammer to it instead, to take shortcuts that will get you to whatever you percieve as the finish line a little bit faster. But if you use that jackhammer it's possible you'll end up with formless hunks of rock instead of a polished sculpture at the end of your labors. You'll get to that finish line, but you won't have grown from the experience, and you won't be prepared for the next arduous race.

So for now I'm just writing. I'm plugging away as gradually as I can while I figure out all the rest of it. And I'm all right with that. It's not my world, after all. I don't need the whole thing. I'm just trying to get a nut.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The DWPFF Journey - Part 7

The last time we talked about the "Digital Webbing Presents - Future Fairy Tales" project, I mentioned that I'd sent another script to my editor, Chris Stevens. This script had an ending that consisted of a colleague of the father of the little boy in the story narrating the tale as a history lesson to a classroom of students, all with nanobot pets of their own. My idea for this was that once the nanobot mongoose saved the little boy, it was used as a template to revolutionize medical care. So all of the students needed to form a loving bond with their own nanobot pets as well, and the classroom scene was what I used to visualize it. I liked the idea of the relationship between the little boy and the nanobot changing things for the better, and I felt like the climax of the story was pretty good. I'd even heard positive things about the ending from Chris prior to writing it, as we'd brainstormed the idea together.

So I sent the script in, and I waited for Chris to get back to me. The addition of the classroom ending swelled the script back up to 12 pages. The first script, also 12 pages, had been sent on the 7th of November, and all the tweaks we'd made cutting it down to 8 pages and then eventually ramping it back up to 12 pages took around two weeks. By the time Chris had the latest script in hand, it was the 21st of November and it was getting to the point where we needed this to be done so we could find an artist to bring it to life. Chris got back to me the next day, and this is the email he sent...

I like this, Mike. Time to show it to artists!


...

That's it!? Yeah, that's right--because I'm the paranoid sort, I thought this was entirely too simple an email. The egotistical writer in me was thrilled that Chris liked the script, but something about the brevity of the email gave me pause. I knew Chris was busy, but it was an itch I just had to scratch. So I sent the following...


I'm glad you like it, Chris. I was actually expecting you to knock me down a peg or two, as I don't think it matches up at all to the scripts you and J-Rod put together.

J-Rod is another uber-talented writer/editor named Jason Rodriguez who was also contributing a story for the project, his based on Pinnochio, but talking about his and Chris' and some of the other entires out there is another post entirely. At any rate, I'd thrown down the gauntlet, and Chris - and I'll always be thankful to him for doing this - responded in kind.

If I was going to be tough I'd want more of a connection to the source material. But the script works, has a good heart, and to be honest, I need to get these scripts all out of the way. If it was September I'd be asking you to get more Rikki Tikki in there.


Okay, everybody... I want you to imagine for a moment that you're this massive blue whale. I'm talking about the undisputed king of the sea. Sharks see you, and they turn tailfin and run like little baby seals approached by a clubber. You're swimming out in the ocean having the time of your life, self-assured in the fact that you're the biggest, baddest mammal on the planet and nothing could possibly challenge you...

And then you're harpooned.

It was literally like a punch to the gut. Like a kick to the balls. The story, as I'd written it, worked. It did. It had a good heart. It was a heartfelt story that worked. I'm telling you it worked liked gangbusters. But it WASN'T RIKKI TIKKI TAVI! In my absolute and overwhelming desire to create this entertaining, clever story, I'd shuffled away from the essence of the original entertaining, clever story. I'd written a script that only connected to the original Rikki Tikki Tavi by including something that looked kind of similar to a mongoose. That was basically it. I knew, right there and then, that I couldn't let it end like this. So I emailed Chris, and I told him that I wished it was September. And he emailed me back and told me that if I could write another draft of the script in a day or two that he'd look it over, but that a day or two would be all the time I'd have because time was of the essence. Chris told me this on the 23rd of November, and by the 26th of November I had re-written the entire 12-page script. Was this the one? Had I finally accomplished what I'd set out to do from the very beginning, and written a proper ode to Rudyard Kipling's masterpiece? We'll discuss that next time!