[Insert Empathy Statement Here]

Something disturbing has happened lately. I normally restrict this blog to my own project updates and thoughts on writing, but I had to take a moment to share this story.

I am an independent author. I do not work at writing full time, and I have a “day job”, but writing is something that is very important to me, and getting exposure as an independent author is hard work, especially when you don’t have the time to invest in marketing and promotion.

A few years back, Craig Groshek of Chilling Tales for Dark Nights reached out to me for permission to feature some of my horror short stories on his website’s podcast. Three of my stories were given a fantastic treatment by veteran storyteller, Otis Jiry, and Craig was very respectful and courteous as we correspended about the permissions involved. The folks over at Chilling Tales for Dark Nights are a respectable and admirable group, and that has made it hard to witness what they are dealing with right now.

Earlier this week, their youtube channel was the target of a hacking incident. The hackers changed the channel’s name and privatized most of their videos, in essence erasing their brand identity and destroying their subscriber base in one foul swoop – all in an effort to post fradulent bitcoin videos.

The incident itself is awful, but the worst part is how YouTube is responding to the incident. As a result of posts made by the hackers, there were multiple community strikes made against Chilling Tales’ channel and they have had monetary losses as a result. This incident happened days ago and as of yet all that the channel has received from YouTube as a result of their many pleas for help are automated (bot) replies [insert empathy statement here], and generic messages telling them to await appeal.

This is a time where many are trapped at home, or unable to socialize with friends and family as they wish to. We are divided by a global pandemic, and one of the things that helps bring people together during these times of need is art. Art, and exploring creativity. The team at CTFDN not only promotes an interest in horror fiction, but promotes artists and authors in all that they do. They deserve better than this.

To help, please tweet @TeamYouTube regarding the strikes against Chilling Tales for Dark Nights (their YouTube channel name got changed to Tesla by the hackers). Thier official twitter handle is @ctfdn_official and they need all the help they can get.

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…


Oceans Under Oceans (a short story collection)

I’m excited to announce that I am working on compiling a collection of short fiction, entitled “Oceans Under Oceans.” This will contain a selection of nine short stories, including “The Town That Moved,” “The Water’s Edge,” “The Definition of Fog,” and six more that have not been published anywhere online. This collection of non-horror short fiction will follow a common theme of nautical life and serve as a sort of faux folktale compilation. I can’t wait to share more, but for now, here’s a working cover design:

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.

Spooky things (in audio form)

Just making a quick announcement that I will soon be linking out to narrations of my stories by various voice actors on YouTube. I particularly enjoy hearing the narrations because everybody has a slightly different take on the flow of these stories that I’ve been hearing in my own head for years. Also, these people do a great job of building atmosphere with the aid of great background music and sound effects at times. It really adds something to the experience.

Stay tuned for that, and more, coming very soon.