Can I do this?

In 2012, I started writing a fantasy novel titled The Keeping of the Light – a story focussed around three point of view characters trying to survive in a post-war country where ancient magic seems to be coming back to life, with dangerous implications. The tale follows their personal journeys as they are forced to leave their homes and try to make sense of an unfamiliar and unfair world.

Pretty vague, I know, but if you’re looking for details, the rough drafts of the first 19 chapters or so are available on this website.

The thing that bothers me is I never finished writing the novel. About 3 years ago I reached the 50000 word mark and just… stopped. I ran out of steam. The tale had grown too large, too overwhelming, and looking back, I found that there were many errors and blunders that would need to be reworked and rewritten in irder for the story to be cohesive and clear. Also, my writing approach and ideas had changed, meaning the atory that I wanted to tell wasn’t the same as the story I had set out to tell. I didn’t feel like I was ready to tackle this task, and because I was focussed on my personal and professional life, writing came to a standstill. Since then, I have yet to write another word of the book.

I think I lost my drive.

Lately, though, I have spent a lot of time thinking about the story. I have always known the ending that I wanted to work towards, but I became overwhelemed with how to get there. Now, though, I’ve spent some time re-evaluating and I think I know where I want to go with the story.

I’m going to try to finish it.

I don’t know if it will be good, and I don’t know if anybody will like it, but I have to try. I want to finish this book, even if it is a peice of hot garbage because at least then I can say that I’ve done it. Then, if it takes me another 8 years to write another draft, then so be it – this is the story that I set out ti write, and It’s what led me to create this blog in the first place. It’s what got me writing, and I owe it to the story and these characters – and most if all, myself – to make it complete.

Happy writing.

Read (and write) between the lines (and in the margins (and in the footnotes (and anywhere you want)))

Book design has so many traditionally accepted formats that are taken for granted. There are standard rules for setting margins, line spacing, font, sentence structure, page layout, font allignment, image inclusion and so much more. We are so attuned to these practices that it really stands out when some starts breaking the rules.

But that’s the tricky part. In order to break the rules, you have to know what the rules are. There are three examples that immediately come to mind when I think of books that incorporate non-traditional page layouts and/or typesetting. Some work better than others. Let’s take a look.

Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities

Invisible Cities doesn’t sway too far outside the norm when it comes to the layout and formatting of the page. Instead, Calvino breaks the rules by exploring an atypical series of chapter and section titles, where chapters and sections are not organized chronologically, but by theme, and the ordering of these themes is based on a mathematical pattern rather than an arbitrary Chapter 1, 2, 3 and so on.

While the content of the book is highly stylized and artistically fluid, each section is fitted with a rigid structure of:

  1. A1
  2. A2 B1
  3. A3 B2 C1
  4. A4 B3 C2 D1
  5. A5 B4 C3 D2 E1
  6. B5 C4 D3 E2 F1
  7. C5 D4 E3 F2 G1
  8. D5 E4 F3 G2 H1

And so on.

This works, especially given the nature of Calvino’s work because despite a shared theme, the stories contained within don’t follow a traditional story format. If not for the highly planned-out table of contents, a reader could read the various descriptions, stories and sections in whatever order they please and still get lost in the journey of the book, however, the table of contents and the mathematical structure act as a sort of architecture to guide the reader through the tangled web of concrete, plumbing and beams that is the city of this book. The unorthodox arrangement gives the reader a sense of purpose in the text, which Calvino has used to cleverley set the reader up to search for and discover that purpose. Each reader discovers their own – led on by that mathematical road map.

Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Here, the author uses typesetting and page layout as a visual representation of emotion. While the ordering of the table of contents and the journey of the narrative follows a more typical format (albiet a non-chronological one), the individual pages and the formatting of the print of those pages are free to morph and change.

Outburts of emotion or anxiety-ridden revelations have the text running into itself, becoming more and more compressed and interwoven until it reaches a point where the pages become nothing more than a black scramble of ink, then solid black, then nothing. In another example, hand-written notes between a non-verbal character and others are represented as single lines or even single words on otherwise blank pages. In some chapters, words and phrases are outlined in ink, while in others images are printed among the words.

While the practice is effective in some circumstances, in others it comes across as a bit of a gimmick. I think that maybe this is due to a lack of consistency, and as a result it feels like Foer is just playing around with format. When it works, it’s brilliant, but the novel is quick to return to standard format after these explorations. Unlike Invisible Cities, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close fails to work (in my opinion, of course) because while the physical text represents the character’s emotions and journey, it doesn’t represent the reader’s journey, and it is the reader who is affected by the presentation of the story, not the characters.

Therefore, if we are breaking down the format and presentation of a piece of literature, it should both inform the reader and form a representation of the reader’s journey as they experience the book.

Mark Z Danielewski’s House of Leaves

Here, those two aspects come together brilliantly. House of Leaves excercises non-typical chapter formatting, font choice, page layout, images and even footnotes to convey the characters’ mindset, to reinforce the themes of the story and to represnt the readers journey by making the them an active participant in the progression of story and the actions involved in reading the physical book.

In chapters that explore labyrinthian themes, the reader finds themselves lost and trying to make sense of the confusing and overwhelming number of references and footnotes, winding back and forth through pages, forced to read backwards or even upside down. When action in the story becomes tense and threatening, the reader is forced to sprint through dozens of pages at a time, each page containing a single word or even just fragments of words in a clever representation of the stretching of time and space. Even the cover page of the book, like the walls of the house described in one of the narratives, is about half an inch too small to contain what is inside.

Of particular interest is the title: House of Leaves. The book is somewhat centered around the narrative of a house that is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. The book is as well. And what is a book if not a house for leaves of paper? As characters explore the titular house, the reader becomes an explorer as well, plagued by the eccentricities of Danielewski’s formatting choices. The formatting represents both the characters’ and the readers’ journeys in a way that creates a feedback loop where we begin to wonder if the characters and the book itself, for that matter, are not some representation of ourselves. What we find inside is informed by Danielewski’s text, but enforced by what we take in with us.

There are countless others, I am sure, that are exploring the boundaries of book formatting and presentation, but these represent three uniquely different approaches. This is a topic that I would like to revisit in the future, and it is a concept I am trying to explore in my own work.

That being said, I have much to learn. In the meantime I will be seeking out other texts that push the envelope in terms of book design and format. If you have recommendations, please leave them in the comments below.

Thanks, and keep writing.

I shouldn’t make promises that I can’t keep

Today was a good day for writing. I made real progress with my short story sequence “One Final Round,” almost ready to consider part 2 complete. Exciting stuff!

If you’re new here, welcome. One Final Round is a short story in a collection of horror tales I’ve been working on now – most of which are available for viewing here on my website. The eventual plan is to release the entire collection (a planned 10-12 set of stories) in ebook format.

Days like today, where I’ve made good progress, I feel excited to make some sort of big announcement, like this: “the collection should be completed by this fall!” or this: “expect an update soon on where you can download the completed ebook!”

As much as I want to be optimistic and make those sorts of excited announcements, I’ve been writing long wnough now to know that I shouldn’t make promises that I can’t keep. I’ve done it in the past, setting targets and deadlines for myself. I don’t typically succeed at meet those targets. It’s not fair to myself to keep setting these goals and celebrating them in advance when, in all likelihood, I will actually take much longer to accomplish them. It’s certainly not fair to anybody who is following these posts. Being isolated at home for these past few months has made me take stock of a few things.

So, I won’t say that the stories will be finished soon. I won’t say the ebook will be available for download soon. I won’t say that I have been dedicating all of my time to the project to get it out in the public as soon as possible… (I haven’t).

What I will say is that today was a good day for writing, and it feels good to have made some progress.

Something changed

For the first time in months, I am writing again.

This pandemic had really got me in a creative slump, but today something changed. Whatever the case, I’ve found my voice again, and this time I’m not immediately tempted to delete what I’ve written.

Stay safe, all. More updates to come soon.

What is lost in translation?

I’ve been spending a lot of time exploring ideas for “Oceans Under Oceans” recently, and when I write I often find myself taking breaks to read some of my influences to get a grasp on what it is about them that I adore so much.

When it comes to short fiction, for me there is no finer collection than Italo Calvino’s “Cosmicomics.” The way that he can thrust the reader into fantastic settings where time and space are arbitrary, the characters are almost entirely non-human, but you connect immediately with the tale in a deeply emotional way is nothing short of amazing. It really is superbly written.

But – I reminded myself today – I’ve never read it as Calvino originally wrote it. I’ve only ever read the English translation. Admittedly, the English translation is superb, but one wonders how many liberties were taken to make the works work in English. It would be incredibly interesting to be able to read Calvino’s work in both English and the original Italian. The inverse would be interesting as well – how do McCarthy, Steinbeck, and Dickinson read in French? Italian? German? What about the reading experience changes? What remains the same?

Just a thought.

Keep reading, keep writing.

A flash of inspiration!

I am just overwhelmed by creative inspiration right now and it is incredible. The last year for me has been a very difficult one, and I have struggled to find a consistent outlet for my creative thinking. I feel like this is coming to an end, and I am enjoying riding the wave. While it may be a temporary high, it sure is a good one. Peace and love, good people. And as always…


Italo Calvino’s “Invisible Cities” (a review)

Dreams, memories, signs. Some things we experience passively, influenced by them but not focusing our attention on them for more than a moment. Looking without seeing, hearing without listening, touching without feeling.

Invisible Cities can have the same effect on you, slipping by your senses if you let your guard down. Be careful not to let the easy readability take advantage of you, because as a reader you are constantly at risk of being wooed and passing through the experience in a daze.

Contained within its slim binding are pastiches, dream-like notes on fantastic and exotic cities visited by the adventurer, Marco Polo himself, as described by him to the great Kublai Khan. Each city, bearing a woman’s name, is described to the reader in precise detail in the ways that make it unique. As we traverse the pages however, it becomes clear that we are not simply learning about the various cities Marco Polo has explored. Any of the descriptions could be taken to describe any city, the same city, despite their fanciful design.

What’s more is the cities are not things independent of their people, nor are they the products of their people. The cities we discover throughout these delightful pages are reflections, images of the people who inhabit them. These cities are made up of the same stuff that their people are made of, and we discover this through various mediums: signs, dreams, memories.

If you should have the opportunity to explore Invisible Cities, please do, but proceed with caution. You might just as easily have walked a dozen miles through a street whose patrons are quickly forgotten. Pay attention, slow down, and meditate – as the Khan might have – on the images throughout. It is a truly rewarding and uplifting experience.

Well, hello there.

Hi, readers. It’s been long time since the blog was last active, so first of all I’d like to say thanks for being patient. I’ve been working on a project that has taken up most of my time but now that I have a little more availability, I’m going to be posting on mmo ore regular basis.

Some things to watch out for in the coming months:

  • More short stories, both horror and otherwise
  • More poetry
  • More book reviews

Also, the thing I’m most excited about, which is…

More chapters of my novel in progress, The Keeping of the Light!

All of this, plus more, coming soon. Thanks all and, remember,

Keep writing.

Beginnings and Endings

I’m in a bit of a weird mood tonight.

On one hand, I’m excited, because I finally published part 1 of “One Last Round” which I have been very excited to do for a long time. I’m also really excited to complete parts 2 to 5 and get those posted as well.

On the other hand, I’m really feeling the end of this collection of short stories approaching and it’s making me a little sad. The Seal Cove stories have been a lot of fun to write, and I love the concept of a collection of short fiction where the stories are all connected for share a common theme (think Robert W Chambers’ “The King In Yellow” or Michael Shea’s “Copping Squid”), but at the same time I feel like if I carry on this theme for too long I might become stagnant.

So, I’m stuck between being thrilled at finishing this collection of tales and ending the series, but also not wanting to leave the characters, settings and creatures behind. It’s an odd mix of feelings.

Regardless, I am feeling good about the remainder of my work. I plan to reveal things that have been kept in the dark throughout the other stories, and also to explore the point of view of a couple of characters that have been recurring in the background and share some of their perspective on the weird and horrible situations surrounding Seal Cove.

And I guess I should stay positive, because leaving this place behind means I can start exploring somewhere new, right?


Even deeper… and even sleepier.

It has been almost a full year since I had “Deep Sleep” published on and what an interesting year it has been.

If you haven’t already, please check out “Chilling Tales for Dark Nights“, which is a fantastic website featuring narrations of weird and horror fiction spanning centuries. Craig Groshek and his team over at the site took the liberty of reaching out to me and having four of my stories featured on their podcast, “Scary Stories Told in the Dark“, hosted by fantastic story teller, Otis Jiry. I was so pleased with the treatment they gave the stories and I’m honored that they chose my work to be featured. Please check out their podcast network and subscribe for endless hours of horrific entertainment. One thing that I really respect about CTFDN is they respect classic weird fiction, and aren’t afraid to feature stories by HP Lovecraft and other historic writers in an era when the deep web and spooky Nintendo games seem to occupy the majority of modern online fiction.

Obviously, I haven’t released many new pieces of work since then, seeing as the blog has been very quiet, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been working on new things. I’m still chugging away at completing my short story anthology, and I’ve been focusing a huge part of my writing energy at completing the 5-part series entitled “One Last Round” that will act as a sort of climax to the Seal Cove stories. That being said, I am one hell of a slow writer.

In a way, I’m glad I haven’t achieved any significant level of success, because I can’t imagine the amount of pressure that puts on a person. It’s bad enough as it is, and I don’t have any “fans” to let down by being slow – I’m just letting myself down. I think of authors like George RR Martin and Patrick Rothfuss and how much abuse they take in the digital world on a daily basis for not having completed their series yet and I think to myself: “I would probably just give up.”

I probably wouldn’t, of course – I’m too damned stubborn to give up. But I would feel like I’m letting the fans down; like I’m disappointing them. I have so much respect for those authors, because they take it all in stride and don’t allow themselves to compromise their art for the sake of quick delivery. They don’t let the pressure force them ahead. They keep working as they have for years, honing their art and crafting their stories so that when they¬†are completed, we will appreciate them even more.

That being said, it’s still tough.

It’s tough, not having the time to dedicate to my writing, when every year I feel more and more that writing is the thing I want to do the most.

I started this blog a few years ago by stating that I did not intend to become a full-time writer, but now I’m starting to think that has changed. It is one of the things that brings me complete and utter joy. I love crafting my stories. I love my characters. I love the worlds I have created.

But, in the end, life takes precedent. I have a job. I have a family. I have a life outside of my weird little worlds that I need to attend to. And so, the stories will have to wait. They will have to carry on in my mind until I find the time to write them down. Until I find the time to share them. As long as I don’t lose them, I will have done them justice.

And, I suppose, the entire purpose of this rant was to say that I’ve submitted “Deep Sleep (Part 2)” on for publication. It was one of the scariest things I’ve done for a long time. I didn’t think it would bother me as much as it did, but I guess that means that the story is more important to me than I thought it was, originally. People really connected with “Deep Sleep” and gave it some good reviews, so I really hope that the continuation of the story is received well. I hope, I hope, I hope.

But if not, I will continue to write. I’ve come to realize, after this last year, that writing means too much to me to give up. It allows me to explore, to create, and to let go. It’s one of the greatest things in life.

Now, I wait to see if it’s published. I hope that people will like it.

Thanks for sticking with me, thanks for reading, and as always:

Happy writing.