Review – Tokyo Ghost

Back in 2006-2008, I was heavy into weekly comics. I was making decent money and not doing an abundance of drugs, nor was I faced with any real responsibilities. So it wasn’t anything to drop more than $60 a week on comics. Around this time, Marvel was doing the ‘Dark Reign’ banner books, one of which was a new Punisher series written by Rick Remender. I remember seeing the name and thinking “that’s a cool name”, upon opening the book I was instantly hooked. I loved every second of that run, yes even the Franken-Castle bits. That was actually my favorite. It was only recently I became aware of the hate for that story. Before Rick completed his run, I was pulled away from comics—that’s a story for another time. The point is, I never forgot his name and a handful of years ago I came across a couple of his Image books, notably Black Science which is a benchmark for comics. It is incredible. I dare you to not get hooked.
I finally got around to reading Tokyo Ghost last month and I savored it. Soaked in the art across the 8×12 large hardcover that is absolutely perfect. This is a big story. Very stylish and cinematic. The first couple issues are dripping with this humor that I wasn’t expecting but quickly the real emotional hooks of the relationship between Debbie Decay and Led Dent stuck themselves into me.
It’s a story about dependency, whether that is on technology or other people or power or anything else. It’s all present here. I really related to a lot of it. Rick does a great job of putting in things in his stories that are relatable but I think this is the one that hit me the hardest.
The art by Sean Gordon Murphy and Matt Hollingsworth is nothing short of incredible. It pulls you in and doesn’t let go. There are car chases and sword fights and everything anyone could ever want. It’s really something to behold. You just have to look at the covers to get a glimpse of the style that is all over this book.
I have been paying attention to Hollingsworth for some time now and it’s really impressive the depth of his skillset. I’m not an artist, I don’t pretend to know what he actually does, it’s apparent that there’s a lot that goes into his coloring. Just comparing this book to Seven to Eternity (another fine Rick Remender product) really displays a lot. He is able to lift these books to heights I’m not sure they’d achieve without him.
So I’d like to thank Frank Castle for putting me onto Rick Remender and I’d like to thank Rick for putting me onto some of the greatest artists working in comics today. If we’re in a golden age of television then it’s a fucking platinum age of comics.
Read Tokyo Ghost, it’s not just flash and noise, sure it has that but there’s also a point. Sharing art is the meaning of life. Tokyo Ghost starts with a needle drop, what more could you ask for?

How about getting it for 50% off at comiXology?
Here’s the first half collected (issues 1-5) for $3.99.
The complete deluxe set for 59% off!
Or individual issues for $.99 each.

SALE ENDS TODAY, JULY 2nd. The sale includes all of Rick Remender’s books for Image. Black Science is a universe hopping thrill ride! Seven to Eternity is a brilliant take on the alternate world fantasy adventure. It’s almost guaranteed to not go where you expect. But I actually recommend buying Seven to Eternity in physical means because the art is otherworldly. Jerome Opeña is a master and this is his finest work to date. Every issue is stunning and more stunning than the last.
I literally can’t say enough good things about this.

Disclaimer: I am not an affiliate nor do I receive any cut of anything you spend on these fine books. I just really fucking love them and want other people to read them!

Halfway through 2018!

Earlier this year I posted my goals for the year, here they are again:
**Finish new sci-fi short and begin submitting it
**Continue writing and working on novel
**Be more consistent on the blog
**Continue the application process to bring fiancée into the country
**Travel across the world, collect fiancée and bring her home
**GET MARRIED
**Be happily married
**Switch shifts at work

Soon after posting this list it changed, such is the way I suppose. I realized quick that the short story was really flawed and wasn’t working. I could make it work but seeing as I’m not a huge fan of short stories, I felt fake putting so much into writing something I don’t enjoy. I do like writing them but reading them is often a chore. I probably just haven’t found the right collection or writer. So that story is safely tucked away until I decide it’s time to revisit. There is an idea worth revisiting there, character is the problem.
I finished the third draft of my first novel on June 10th 2018. I believe I can complete the thing by the end of the year and be querying agents before 2019. I’m not backtracking with it again by rewriting from the jump like I have before. The foundation is set, time to go into the smaller details.
As far as the blog is concerned, I’ve been more active than I think I have in a long time. Not sure I’m consistent, more like haphazardly posting things. It might be an accidental pattern. The problem is when I get sucked into a draft, I don’t think about the blog.
The rest of the above bullet-points are all under one umbrella, I just didn’t want to have one bullet-point because it’s far from one item. The things I have listed above don’t even begin to cover it. Her and I have decided to wait until the spring because getting married in the winter sounds like a fucking drag (that’s an understatement). The first stage of the paperwork should be finalized somewhere around September and by then we should have more of a timetable/plan for the rest of the things that feed into us finally being together for real. In a nutshell, I’m getting married next year!
Oh and the job, um… hopefully next year for that as well. I’m waiting on that as well.

This is the halfway point of the year and I think I’m doing okay with it all. There’s always room for improvement. I’ve written somewhere around 80,000 words so far this year. At the end of May, I did try to go without a “zero day”, as in words written. I didn’t quite make it a full month so new goal is to start with July 1st and try to go the rest of the year without a zero day. It does seem to inspire me, trouble is when there isn’t a focus on a project I get distracted. Not that I’m feeling guilty. The focus remains on the novel and I think I did need a break.
Let’s break down my new goals:
**No more Zero Days!
**Finish novel by year’s end and…
**Begin querying agents
**Blog more consistently
**Revisit, revise and release A CIRCLE OF TEMPORARIES

That last one is a bonus. I think it’s possible but I’m not sure exactly how much work that needs, seeing as I have yet to examine it as a whole. That’s slated for next month, after I do another pass of the novel before sending it off to be read by some people.
I am experimenting with scheduling things and so far so good. It’s just a little strange working on secondary projects. Especially since I feel so close with the big one and I have big plans for it. Hopefully I’ll be able to share some of that sooner rather than later.

Updates to the site and books

I have made some decisions and some changes to my website. Notably is the fact that most of the free fiction is now gone. There hasn’t been a lot of action in quite some time. Which is not a bad thing nor is a great thing, it’s in the middle and so I figured why not try different things with it.
My two poetry books My Enveloping Reflection and Armorless and Afraid remain available on Amazon and now they are both exclusive there and enrolled within Kindle Unlimited. I’m experimenting with the price point as well. I have updated the ebooks and the descriptions and even have my author page more complete.
As of this writing, I have completed the third draft of the novel. It came in just over 60k words, which is shorter than the second draft and longer than the first draft. There are things I have planned to add in which I’m calling in my head “interludes” but now my current worry (having overcome the thing about the ending) is it won’t be “long enough”. I’m not gonna pad it to just pad it. We shall see how it goes. I’m taking about two to three weeks away from it then there’s some tweaks and additions to make before I send it off to a couple folks. If all goes according to plan, I should be querying agents at the end of the year.
As for A CIRCLE OF TEMPORARIES, it is also no longer available on this site. Originally, it was meant as an effort in having content on the blog for people to read if they saw short stories of mine in other publications but having decided to abandon the short stories and also my personal feelings about ACOT, I’ve decided to revisit it and actually edit it as a whole rather than six Pieces, as it were.
The goal is to be proud of it. To be glad my name is on it. Not to say I wasn’t before, it’s just the first Piece is really clunky and if I can barely read through it…
Not to mention, I paid for cover art so there’s no reason to not put it on Amazon. I might even include some extras in the back, sketches and things. The goal is also to have ACOT complete and released by year’s end.
If you’re interested, you can see the poetry books here and if you enjoy them please pass them on.
Thank you for reading.

If you’re so inclined, you can join my mailing list and receive A VAST EULOGY for free. It is a 6k word short story about a woman venturing into a strange world and who she meets there.

On crafting a story

Over the past few months I’ve been thinking about how I have crafted stories, both the ones that are complete and the ones I’ve been working on. The novel I’m working on was a combination of two things. I began writing it in December of 2014 after the protagonist (name and all) popped into my head. The other thing was a few pages of a story beginning I had written in I think it was 2008. I don’t know what happened to those pages and it still kinda haunts me. The story itself was really just a scene or part of a scene I could never figure out what to do with it. I tried different things and nothing worked.
It is odd how things work themselves out eventually.
The other project I’ve been working on this year is a short story that I started last year, one that I have since abandoned which is partly the reason for this post. It was quite a journey with that short because when I wrote it initially I thought it was very comedic then I read it months later and was stunned to discover the opposite. It’s just weird. And I love the ending. I think a lot of that story has to do with current events and I tried to present something positive. I think on that front it succeeds, on a certain level. But ultimately I decided the story didn’t work because I found upon a few read-throughs that I did not care about the protagonist at all. Even after I tried to give to flesh him out more. I cared even less.
But there was an idea I had about the story that would involve tearing the whole thing apart and rebuild it from essentially nothing and I decided I didn’t want to do that. I didn’t believe in it. I still don’t. I found that what I liked was the ending. That was a lot of what the story always was for me. There are two images that I dreamed up that I loved and I haphazardly put a “story” around it.
That approach has worked for me before but after some thought I have decided I can’t do that anymore. I need to be more intentional. I don’t really want to be someone who creates only popcorn fun entertainment.
I’ve been listening to Brian McDonald’s INK SPOTS which is a collection of blog posts on writing, his other book INVISIBLE INK is probably my favorite book on the craft of writing that I’ve come across. There’s a part in INK SPOTS where he talks about a writing student who was having trouble with an ending for her short story and he asked her:
“What is a story?”
She thought it was a trick question but he wasn’t playing at anything. He just wanted her answer. He believes that every writer should have their own definition of what a story is or rather a definition that fits their writing.
It really helped me and I’ve thought about it a lot. I keep coming back to the word intentional. As I’m making my way through the third draft of my novel I’ve kept that word in my mind. There are things I want from the story and their are things the story wants. It’s fascinating how a certain idea has come out of it that I didn’t see until recently but it has been there since the first draft. I just couldn’t see it and that’s why the previous iterations have had disappointing endings because there was something there but not fully there. I don’t know if that makes sense to anyone but me…
One thing I have learned so far this year is about slowing down. I didn’t have a plan for the novel when I wrote the first draft of my novel and I’ve rebuilt it so many times, it’s been exhausting but also very informative. But going forward, I have other novels to write and I’ve actually been working on those ideas in the background over the past few months. I’m developing these ideas rather than just diving into things headfirst. I’m not sure what I’m going to write first but there are two novels vying for my attention once this one is complete-ish. One is the obvious sequel and the other is something new and exciting. I’ve been careful about crafting and preparing it. I’ve been building the characters and not thinking about the plot much. I have the broad strokes because the character stuff informs that. It all has to work together to form a unified thing. I should be saying I’m building a novel rather than writing one because it’s more like building than just writing.
I don’t want to craft stories based on one or two cool images. I can’t stop my brain from having those cool things pop in and out but those aren’t stories. An arrow isn’t an arrow without a point.

Don’t call it yet…

She said to the doctor, who had just turned his wrist to take note of the time. The time of death.

So it’s been about three months with no updates here, I’ve been busy with the third draft of my first novel. It’s going well and coming together. I should be finished with the draft next month and after that I’m not exactly sure what I’m going to do. I did have a rough plan for the year earlier that was very ambitious, it included starting two new novels and finishing their first drafts this year. Yeah that’s not going to happen. The second half of this year is going to be a lot busier than the first half. I think editing and revising and getting the book into a presentable state for agents is going to be all I will be able to handle. And the more I think about it the more it makes sense to keep it simple in the writing side seeing as everything else is going to be hectic and overwhelming and I need to be present for it all.
Over the next week or so, I will be posting more content to get the ball rolling on the blog again. I have reviews of things in the works. First up is reviews of episodes of the new show THE CROSSING. As of writing this, I’m only a couple episodes into it (I’m about a month behind) but spoiler— I really like it so far. Tomorrow I will be posting at least the first. I also have a couple other things that are in the pipeline. I don’t think I’ll be doing book reviews nor will I be tackling big/popular things. I don’t feel the need to share my take on the latest blockbuster. I have a few ideas for things that are more popular but they are less reviews and more personal takes on things (could you be any more vague?).
The plan is as it was before to have more of presence here. I will be writing about different topics and things about my own writing process. I have one about my ideas on crafting a story that is coming.
Music is a big part of my life and I’m still trying to figure out how I’m going to approach reviewing albums which is something I want to do.
Thinking about it now, I consume so many things.

Fun fact: it’s been three years since I completed the first draft of my first novel. And a year since I started the second draft. I wonder what next May will bring!

Thank you for reading.

27th October 2017

I had so many ideas of how to do it like I’m sure most people do. On the 26th I thought of doing it in this sort of little park nearby it. Park might be a strong word. It was a little spot with trees and a little fence and playscape, complete with a solitary streetlight. I could see us being there, coming home after a little light grocery shopping. I brought the ring with me but we came back a different way and there was no way for me to carry the bags and wrestle the little ring free. We always end up with more than we intended. See book store trips from September 2016. I was a little disappointed but it was that night I decided when I’d do it.
We had made plans to finally go up the mountain where the giant cross resides and I figured that was perfect. Because the ring looks better in the daylight and there’d be a memorable locale. Pretty much anywhere in Skopje, you can see the cross on the mountaintop.
Friday morning, we made our way up. Bus ride to the park where the cable cars reside, we rode the swinging things up. My first thought was damnit there are so many people.
We had lunch looking down at the countryside and I was reminded of the woods near my childhood home and all those times I’d sit and wish I had someone by my side. I looked at her and again for the millionth time I remembered how I never thought I’d be this lucky. Throughout my life I’ve gone through waves, for every great person that has enriched my life there’s a legion of others that make me embarrassed to be a person.
Most people I wouldn’t drive ten minutes down the road for.
On the mountain, I noticed an area that wasn’t so densely populated with strangers and I steered her that way. Because sure, I wouldn’t mind being that guy at the airport on his knee but she would. We found a place to sit and in my jacket pocket I’m fighting the little plastic bag the ring was in. I was quietly freaking out because plastic is loud and she’s going to hear and also WHAT IF I DROP IT CUZ THESE DAMN SWEATY PALMS?
IT’S SIMPLE. DO NOT DROP IT.
At the same time I’m thinking about this rock I used to sit on that was in the woods near where I grew up, it overlooked the street and in a way it felt like I was there again, but with her.
Then a new pang of fear: what if she doesn’t love the ring?
The only thing that saved me here was she was occupied by her phone. Finally, I got the ring out of the little plastic baggie. Godamn I should have thought this through.
Spoiler: She loved (and loves) the ring.
She was surprised and she didn’t notice my scrambling or the plastic bag trouble.

I love her. She’s worth traveling across the world for. Again and again. Until we don’t have to leave anymore.

When we finally rode our own cable car down, we waited so long because we wanted our own, our perfect day on the mountain became super perfect when we met this delightful gang of trouble.

But then the bus driver was late, just proof that there’s always a Richard around.

 

Happy Valentine’s Day to my love. And to everyone else reading this too. Wait for the love you want, the love you deserve.

What I learned from my writing in 2017

The biggest thing about 2017 was how I sort of stumbled into a more business mindset when it comes to writing. It can be both serious business and a fleeting art like most things it’s about balance. Constraints can fuel creativity and level it up. For example, writing the first draft of my upcoming novel was not what I would call a fun experience. I mean it was and it wasn’t. I drank way too much coffee, thinking that it would spark something more and so in turn I didn’t sleep very well. Looking back it’s crazy because I was hurting myself for… art? That’s insane. You could argue about musicians and heroin or whatever other drug and that’s fine if you think the drugs did it. A person shouldn’t sacrifice themselves so someone else can enjoy something they made. Fuck that. Art should enhance all life, not a select group.
Wow, this got away from me.
What was I saying? Oh, constraints… I always thought outline was a dirty word because Stephen King says so. That’s what works for him. Advice is just advice, the confusing bit is how everyone presents it as fact. You know, like how I just did with the bit about constraints? Everyone is wrong and everyone is also right. I’ve found that outlining is super important to my process. Early on, the problem I had was HOW THE FUCK DO YOU OUTLINE. No one ever says how really. Some go into index cards and sticky notes but I haven’t done it that way. The way I outlined the first Piece of ACOT was fairly simple, I didn’t really understand what acts were and the whole “it’s the beginning middle and end” answer doesn’t fucking explain anything. What is different between the three? Is the end the last bit like the last frame of a movie? Is the end the bit before the end? Is the beginning this or that? And so what the hell does the middle look like? I listed out the events of that short story. And every time the protagonist (Vike) made a choice, I decided that was an “act turn” or “act break”.
So when he decided to try to save the stranger’s life at the Rift is the end of the first act. It might not be clear in the story but that’s what he was doing. When he decided to listen to what the Moth had to say and really believe he could help was the end of the 2nd act. It’s essentially him realizing he fucked up by “saving the stranger” and the end is when he decides what he really believes which results in… well just read it.
The first outline had all those things as bullet points and like the surrounding story points, so just a list of things. Not all of the Pieces were written in a structured manner, the second Piece was mostly just “more action and more cool things”. I’ve since learned more about structure and I apply a little of it but mostly I like having a dash of structure like having a very strong midpoint of the story that works really hard. I’m still really unsure about endings. That is what I worry about most because when I was first thinking about ending ACOT, I couldn’t think of any endings I really really liked. That series owes a lot to the Matrix and the ending of that is really disappointing. What I tried with ACOT was to have something real to hang onto at the very end. It’s all fairly ambiguous but there was something I really intended to say at the end because that story was about Vike and Amnee and how someone can come into your life and be a surrogate for someone else.
When it came to revisit the novel after two years away from it, I was afraid of editing it, of rebuilding it because I knew I wanted to change so much. It was written in first person and I wanted that to change and I wanted to be more intentional in genre and tone. I couldn’t describe the book until a few months ago when I would talk about the first draft it was: “Well it’s about this and there’s this and oh there’s this and this too!” I was figuring it out as I went. I only just realized what the book really is about this month as I restructure and rework the outline. This will be the third draft but this is the sixth or maybe seventh outline I’ve done for this. I’ve torn it apart multiple times.
I’ve only edited short stories before this, so the novel is a huge learning process and I’ve committed myself to taking it slower and trying things. ACOT may be novel-sized, it’s roughly sixty thousand words but it wasn’t written as a novel. It was written as four long short stories, the 3rd and 4th Pieces were originally one and the final two Pieces were written as one as well. Outlining those made it easy to know what I was writing any given day and I’ve applied that to the novel and to these other short pieces I’ve written.
In 2017, I tracked not only the things I wrote and finished but while I rewrote the novel from May through September, I kept track of the daily word count. I have gotten into the habit of tracking things and taking more notes, it all feeds into the business angle which has been very interesting and rewarding. I didn’t think I had it in me.
I’ve also been experimenting more with deadlines. It’s ongoing, I’m not sure how to make all of it work because I want to be realistic but also challenge myself but at the same time there’s so much to do. Again it’s fear because I am afraid to set hard deadlines and then not meet them and I’ll be really hard on myself and that would crash the writing.
2017 was a big year for my development as a writer and I’m looking forward to growing and evolving more this year.