I have decided to begin opening up my Patreon story rewards to the public in hopes of stirring up interest and gaining readership of my work. If you like what you read, please consider supporting the creation of more work. It only costs $1 a month or $12 a year and would serve as a morale boost and a reason to continue. The first opened post contains the story “Sanity” along with the cover I created for the collection I hope to publish. Find the files here First Patreon Reward.
If you haven’t noticed yet, most of the titles for my stories are one word. “Sensu Learns a Lesson” is actually an aberration for me. Why do I chose such simple titles? Well, in most cases you will find that the titles are far more complex than the single word expresses and has a profound connection to the underlying theme of the story.
For example, “Sanity” is a story about creatures that can manipulate people’s minds. In fact, they can reach into their minds and bring forth their deepest fears, pushing them until the person hits the point of breaking into insanity. Thus, “Sanity” is used as a counterpoint to what actually happens in the story. Also, one of the creatures says “We have returned your sanity”. The whole story is based on the choices made that lead us down dark roads that can end in insanity borne from sanity.
“Lepidoptera” on the other hand is a symbolic title. Lepidoptera is the class name for butterflies and moths. Yes, butterflies actually appear in the story but they are representations of art, beauty, and peace. War is represented by crows killing butterflies, while peace is represented by being embraced by butterflies. Artists are marked by butterflies.
Basically, I like to use very simple titles that seem un-complex until after you have read the story. Then the title turns out to be much deeper than the simple word suggests and cuts to the root of the entire story. Please consider reading one of my stories to see how their titles resonate throughout them. For only $1 a month you will get a every month at my Patreon page.
Well, … huh. I will admit that I tripped when approaching this subject. I was going to say that I try to avoid making cardboard cut out villains, but then I remembered using the devil in several stories. I also remembered that I don’t normally focus on the villain all that much because I usually delve into my character’s reaction to the villain, which may in some ways be a uniqueness to my stories that I did not intentionally strive for.
My characters universally fit into what I view as my reality. They are people or aliens dealing with situations outside of their control where the villains are not clear-cut. The villains most often were created beyond their knowledge base. For instance, King Hadrian in “Sanity” was a manipulative leader used to being one step ahead of his opponents, maybe a little arrogant and foolhardy because of it. He felt there was no one that could best him. Unfortunately, he learns the hard way that the villains of this story can destroy his faith in his own abilities. However, the story also shines a light on a another villain we all fall prey to, fear. The Thrall, our bad guys in this one, reach into his mind and play with the fears at the core of his being.
In “Sorrow and Remembrance”, the novel I hope to pull together, the villains are the forces set into motion by overly proud and self-righteous people. Forces that reach out far beyond the immediate area of conflict to engulf innocent bystanders. Here the forces spread beyond defeating enemies in a war to steal years of life from some and to force others to destroy beauty to protect those they love. For me this idea is very personal because of my interest in history. How many of the problems we face today have been created by the choices of others? How many decisions that we had no say in have become issues that we cannot afford to ignore?
Another enemy I have written about is ourselves. I wrote a story for my collection called “Stubborn” which details the hellish world the protagonist becomes trapped in that is an externalization of the darker recesses of his mind. Through the course of traveling this world, without memory, the character must confront the demons he thought he had overcome. Demons of self loathing, weakness, and guilt.
Finally, in “The Devil’s in the Code”, the obvious villain, the devil, is actually not the villain. The true villain of the story is human hubris. Beelzebub is only the catalyst for our penchant for trouble making. He leads people where they are so willing to go, such as playing with genetics for profit, and lets them hang themselves. Hell is full of people who thought they were immune to the consequences of their actions, including a pair of investment bankers now living as crows among more powerful hell spawn. So, yes some of my villains are not very developed in terms of personality, but they are different from the run of the mill.
There are few times more enjoyable to an artist than to see their art take on a life of its own. You tweak and strive, erase and repaint, sharpen and blur all in hopes of capturing something your brain locked onto then magic happens. You see something more in your artwork then you ever expected to be able to place in there. Maybe the glassy reflection in an eye looks like you need to dry it with a tissue or the bug on a log makes you want to swat it or with a slight tilt of your head the image appears to have extra dimension. What ever the effect is, the world has become that little bit more magical. I have experienced some of these spells in the works of others and on a few lucky occasions within my own. One such for me is the corona around the sun in my painting “Juliette and Josephus”, which at least viewed in gimp changes aspect with the position I view it from. There is a change almost like looking at an embedded hologram. Another image that gave me more than I expected was “Sanity”, the cover for “Mystics and Misfits”. The eyes in the background feel like they are floating in space if viewed right. In each instance I had had no plan to create these effects, nor any idea that I could. However, when I spent time studying the completed images, well …. To me that is one of the best parts of being an artist.
As I have said before, as a writer, I try to be very descriptive because of my artistic background. By descriptive, I mean I use a lot of words and sentences to strongly suggest or lead the reader to visualize the scene I wrote in their head. However, I do not use this only to paint a visual in my reader’s mind, I also use this to paint emotions as well.
To paint an image for a reader you have to find references that most can grasp through life experiences, which is why some books can mean so much more upon rereading. Once you have seen similar images to those the writer had, the story becomes much more alive to you. The same can be said for emotions. If you read a densely written book in your youth, where lots of emotional events are explored deeply, you may say it is slow or drags on. Read the same book years later, after living through many life changing dramas, suddenly the story is gripping and insightful.
With my writing I try to paint the reader an image of the emotion. For example in “Sanity”, the first story I posted here, I wanted to express what it feels like to be an obsessively clean person thrown into a situation where grime, filth, and disease cannot be avoided no matter how hard they tried. I wanted to make the readers skin crawl when filthy unwashed hands caressed the main character, give them the sense of revulsion he felt. In addition, the nature of the story also dealt with the loss of control. I wanted to convey the feeling of control loss for someone that control means everything. My method was to use multiple senses; sight, touch, and smell, to express the growing panic of the character. I also used metaphors. In one scene I described the feeling of sensing some vast predatory shark swimming beneath the surface to express fear and loss of power over the situation.
Basically, I wanted to say that descriptive writing is not only about spending extra time and words to convey an image to the reader, but about conveying anything you want to them. Whether you want to set a visual scene or emotional feeling, you need to be descriptive. However, there will always be a balancing act between description and pace. Please let me know on both accounts when you read my stories.
Well folks, finally mustered up the energy to send another story out. I sent my story “Stubborn” off to Apex magazine; if anyone knows Sigrid Ellis, put a good word in for me. I have only one other story out at the moment called “Sanity”. I sent it to Michael Moorcock’s New Worlds some time ago and have not heard back yet. Maybe I will check in with them soon.
So once again I have sent off one of my precious children to vanish into the wide world upon the four winds.
Please cross your fingers for me because I have sent another story out to a magazine. I e-mailed my story “Sanity” to Michael Moorcock’s New Worlds, which was not my first consideration for this story. I had actually planned to give this one to Innsmouth Magazine because it is basically a horror story that I tried to aim for that venue, but they are currently closed to submissions so I looked for another home for “Sanity”. That actually sounds appropriate given the status of American government.