The Waiting Game…

I finally got some definte good news from a small press publisher about one of my drawings earlier this week. They want to use a drawing for a future issue of their magazine.

It’s defintely exciting to get such good news, especially since they’re a paying market and a publisher who puts out a quality publication. I can’t say too much more right now, but once the issue comes out later this year I will give you the details.

I’m not about to quit my day job, but it’s nice to get an acceptance letter and a payment rather than another rejection slip or even worse no response back at all.  I think not hearing anything back from a publisher is the worst, because it takes a lot of effort and time to create something and a certain amount of courage and self-confidence to submit it.  Rejection letters defintely suck, but at least I’m completely aware that they  looked at my submission and made a decision. No response at all is a let down and feels like I wasted my time.

Rather than dwell on the perpetual waiting game of hearing back from publishers, I prefer to keep busy with new projects. The worst thing to do, in my opinion, is to keep my email open in my browser and obssesively checking it.

The same can be said when it comes to getting work accepted. I’ll defintely take time to celebrate, but I know I need to  keep creating, keep improving/learing, and keep submitting work.

 

 

Advertisements

Book Review: Darkness on the Edge of Town

darknessontheedgeoftown

 

 

Darkness on the Edge of Town by Brian Keene

2010, Leisure Books

Premise: One day the citizens of Walden wake up to find their town in perpetual darkness and with no way to communicate with the outside world. The darkness not only poses a physical threat if anyone attempts to leave town, it also has a strange and dangerous effect on the minds of the citizens of Walden.

This is the first book I’ve ever read by Brian Keene. What drew me into the story was the personality of the narrator, Robbie. He’s an average guy, delivery boy I think, who’s simply trying to get through life with his girlfriend much like every other 20-something. He has loyalty to his lfriends and to a greater extent the town of Walden.  He’s an ‘every man’ for the most part, albeit a bit of a stoner, who’s thrust into extradordinary situation when the darkness arrives in  town. The fact that he’s not some over the top action hero or natural born leader or jackass makes the narration made him a likeable character as well as a believable one.

The main plot of the novel focuses on Robbie, his friends, and an assortment of fellow citizens, trying to find a way past the darkness. They also attempt to find out the cause/origin of the darkness and whether the rest of the world exists beyond it. Their attempts have varying degrees of failure and minor sucesses.

Unlike most novels, there is no tangiable villian in the novel. Instead it is an ambigous presence in the form of the darkness. However, that doesn’t lessen the threat that it posses to Robbie and the rest of Walden.

In one early scene when Robbie and his friends approach the edge of town, the darkness shows them apparent hallucinations or illuisions that take the form of each characters loved ones that have passed away.

Later on in the novel, it is suggested that sudden outbursts of anger between Robbie and his girlfriend along with all the chaos and violence throughout the town is the result of the darkness’ pressence in their minds.

Whether the darkness is corrupting and tempting them into violence  and anger or whether it’s the banal consequence of being trapped within the town’s limits is never fully explained.   But it is interesting to see how it effects the relationships that Robbie has as the story progresses.

The characters, in particular Robbie, really drive the story. Robbie takes it upon himself early in the novel to ‘save’ people, but over the course of the story his outlook on things shift to a more self preservation attitude. It’s an interesting twist on the trope of a reluctant hero, a character starting off self-centered and developing into a ‘hero’ that saves the day. Instead Keene presents in the reverse of what we’re used to, and I think its much more believable and a refreshing take on the idea that the main character is the ‘hero’.

Midway through the novel, Robbie and his friends along with some other towns folks attempt breach the darkness. Without giving too much away, things don’t go well and Robbie and his friends find themselves the targets of a lynch mob that gathers outside their apartment building.

All of this made for a great read, however Keene drops the proverbial ball toward the end of the novel. He wrote a chapter where Robbie attempts to find answers by meeting with the local crazy homeless guy. It turns out he has some knowledge about what’ s going on but it comes across as a scatter brained mashup of bad theology and HP Lovecraft. No real answers are given and as a reader I felt it dragged on much too long.

Afterwards, Keen manages to give an ending that feels more like he ran out of steam or was simply writing to reach a predetermined word count, rather than wanting to tell a full story. Nothing is resolved by the final page. I had no idea what the fate of  Robbie and his friends was, what happened to the lynch mob outside the apartment complex, or whether the world still existed outside the darkness or not.

The ending left me feeling dissatisifed, especially after reading over 200 pages and developing a connection with the characters and their plight. I don’t mind ambigous endings when it comes to short fiction or filling in some minor unanswered questions but when an author fails to conclude major plot lines,  I get annoyed.

Brian Keene has a reputation for being a stellar novelist in the horror genre. I enjoyed his literary voice, and his character development. Although I’m not happy about the ending of the novel, I would check out his other work and hope that this weak ending is a fluke and not a staple of Keene’s novels.

Year of the Worm: Cover Art

yearofthewormcover1a

Cultists, Ex-girlfriends,  and Shotgun toting preachers.

For Jackson O’Neil the worst part of the New Year isn’t the killer hangover or the fact that he wakes up in ex-girlfriend’s apartment with no clue as to how he got there. He soon finds himself at the center of a bizarre series of events that threaten his life and the very fabric of reality.

Year of the Worm is my upcoming webcomic series which will be arriving in March 2017. My plans are to upload a page or two at least every Sunday. I’ll be posting it here and also at the webcomic site Taptastic

If you want to subscribe to Year of the Worm on Taptastic, a great site with some terrific webcomics for free, use this LINK If you like what you see, I’d appreciate it if you click the ‘like’ button on Taptastic.

 

 

Bookworms

I had this idea for this drawing for a long time. Sometimes ideas come and go, but this one stuck around until I finally put it on paper. I did a rough sketch awhile back in my sketchbook and then it sat there for a bit over the holidays. Still, it called to me and toward the end of the year I started working on it.

I’m glad the idea stuck around.

In part it was influenced by H.P Lovecraft’s Necronomicon as well as Robert Bloch’s short story ‘The Shambler From The Stars’ which features a nefarious tome called ‘The Mysteries of the Worm’. scan_20170115

Digital Popcorn: Ash vs Evil Dead (Season One)

Over the long weekends for the holidays, I was able to finally watch the entire first season of Starz’ original series Ash vs Evil Dead on dvd. I’d seen the original Evil Dead movie, along with Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness, back in my college days and the movies had become a personal favorite along with a source of countless references and inside jokes among my college friends. The original movies have a cult following for sure and the star Bruce Campbell has managed to reach legendary status among horror fans like me.

So, a few years ago when I heard various rumors of a remake of the original with every one from Ashton Kutcher to Bruce reprising the role, I was disheartened. I’m not a fan of remakes and the idea of seeing an aged Campbell as Ash drew up dreaded memories of another childhood hero trying to resurrect his role, unsuccessfully, that being Harrison Ford’s godawful ‘Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull’.

At the time my position was that I’d much rather rewatch the original Evil Dead films than see it butchered with a reboot. Fortunately, when the Starz series came out I was pleasantly surprised.

The Ash vs Evil Dead series takes all of what made the original movies a lot of fun but avoids being merely fan boy service and nostalgic.  What I liked the best about the series is that rather than simply being trapped in a cabin in the woods the entire time by himself, the series provides Ash (Campbell) with a pair of younger partners that are more than mere cannon fodder for the Deadites as was the case in the original movies.

Instead of being campy and annoying, Pedro and Kelly are enjoyable characters that provide comic relief as well as give the character of Ash a way to develop beyond the snarky jack ass he tended to be in the movies. That’s not to say that Ash is a completely changed man, but over the course of the first season you do get to see a side of him that the movies didn’t get into too much, the fact that Ash is capable of caring about other people and willing to put himself in danger for them.

Kelly quickly proves to be the bad ass of the two new characters, and is a fairly strong character. Unlike the original movies, she’s a woman that can stand her ground against the Deadites and tolerate Ash’s antics without being a stereotypical ‘bitch’. Her backstory and motivation to help Ash is definetly believable, albeit simple, and is an adequate explanation for her growing blood-lust as the series progresses.

Pedro may lack self confidence around the ladies and is not as capable in combat as Kelly, but what he brings to the series is some knowledge and experience with the supernatural. Given that his uncle is a brujo and Pedro himself studied some of his people’s mystical ways gives him an important role in the show. The movies never delved too deeply into the origins and supernatural aspects of the Necronomicon and the Deadites , but with Pedro’s background the show taps into that side of it a bit more which makes the world a bit richer. The scenes with Pedro’s uncle add a lot to the supernatural aspect of the Evil Dead world and set Pedro up to fight the Deadites in a different manner than Kelly and Ash.

The show itself is in thirty minute episodes, aside from the slightly longer pilot episode, which I think works well with the whole comedy-horror genre. The plot of each episode is brisk but contains just enough backstory or character development to keep things from being too shallow.

Fortunately, unlike like some series like The Walking Dead, the writers of Ash vs Evil Dead stray away from the drudgery of characters ‘developing’ a la sitting around and talking about their feelings despite the ever present danger of their situation.

My favorite episode from Season One was the one that involved Ash and his companions going to Books From Beyond and summoning a demon to ‘help’ them put an end to the Deadites. It’s a convoluted plan that’s doomed to fail, like most of Ash’s ideas, but it delves into the origin of the Necronomicon and the demons/Deadites in more depth. The proverbial bloody icing to the cake is the introduction of a new enemy in the form of a demon that proves to give Ash and company a whole new set of trouble unlike anything they’d faced before.

I enjoyed Season One very much, it had the right amount of humor and gore to make it an entertaining series. I would recommend it to any fan of the original movies, and I’m defintely looking forward to catching up  with Season Two.

The Last New Year’s Eve

The last time I went out to celebrate New Year’s Eve was one of the worst and weirdest nights of my life. Back  then I lived in Buffalo, New York. I had graduated from Buffalo State College the prior year. I had a run down studio apartment a couple blocks from the banks of the mighty Niagara River, and worked a dead end temp. job at some factory.

Luckily, one of my best friends from my college days still lived in the city, and we decided to go check out a few of our favorite local bands on New Year’s Eve at a bar/concert venue called The Continental. The place had the reputation for being the ‘goth/metal/industrial’ music center of Buffalo back in the 1990’s. It was a stark contrast to the trendy and posh dance clubs and high end bars nearby. The Continental was the kind of place where we felt comfortable, friends’ bands played there often enough,  and it was a bit of a legendary spot among our crowd.

When we got down there, parking was a joke. My friend drove us down there in her car that night, and opted to pay for a parking spot at a local auto repair shop a few blocks from The Continental. Now this wasn’t a large lot nor was it professionally managed by a parking company. It was just some local business dude that was taking advantage of the holiday to make some quick and easy cash. Directly in front of my friend’s car, after we parked, was another building. So essentially the only way out of that spot was to back out. There’s no way to get out otherwise. Keep that in mind for later.

So, after begrudgingly coughing up the cash for the parking spot to the half-drunk ‘attendant’, we headed off to The Continental. We had a great time watching all the bands, and the rest of the festivities that come with New Year’s Eve.

At some point after midnight we decided to the call it a night, and headed back for the car. That’s when this night took a strange turn. When I saw the blood, a lot of  blood, like whoever was cut must’ve been spurting it like a horror movie, splattered all over the sidewalk outside a business a few doors down, I knew things were bad. Other then the gore there was no sign of anyone or anything to indicate what had happened. My friend freaked, and we hastily headed back to where we parked.

When we got back to the parking lot, we were both relieved, but it was snuffed out when we saw that some asshole parked his big ass pickup truck right behind my friend’s car. His fender was only a few inches from our back bumper. We were literally pinned between the jack ass’ truck and the brick wall of a building.

My friend freaked the fuck out, total panic mode. I spotted a cop a quarter of a block away and drew his attention to our situation. Buffalo’s Finest’s only response was ‘that’s your problem’. He was totally unwilling to have the vehicle towed or anything. He did try the door to see if it was unlocked with the idea of putting it in neutral and pushing it out of the way. Of course, the doors were locked. So the cop walked off to continue doing  fuck all, and left us stranded. The attendant for the lot was long gone. There was a phone number on the repair shop’s window, but this was back in the day before cell phones were a common thing. Even if we had a cell phone or found a payphone I bet the number would’ve only been for the phone in the shop.

So, we decided to wait it out with the hopes that the shit head that blocked our car would come back, sine the majority of people were headed home. Since it was cold and snowy out we headed down the street to a local coffee house called The Spot. Luckily, they’re open 24/7. We got something hot and sobering to drink and tried to chill out. My friend was still in full freak out mode and I did my best to calm her down. If memory serves she had to go to work the next afternoon and needed her car for her commute.

As we sat there nursing our coffee, a parade of gaudily dressed and drunken middle aged women came through the coffee house. The shrillness of their laughter and their obnoxious voices were worse then the grating of fingernails down a chalkboard. The irony was that they looked like the type that only went out once a year and spent the other 364 days of the year looking down their noses at everyone else.

After an hour or so we headed back to our parking spot with the hopes that the d-bag driver of the pickup was gone. But Luck had a strange sense of humor that night, since the piece of shit truck was still there. Sobriety and the lingering cop kept up from doing anything to the truck, although it was still tempting to do ‘something’ to it.

We ended up calling a cab and got home at some godawful hour. I think we were both physically and emotionally exhausted. It’s still hard for me to comprehend why someone would park like that behind us. Were they just total assholes that didn’t care? Why would the attendant allow it? Did he only care about filling the lot and making even more money? I’d like to think that the d-bag with the pickup truck parked there illegally after the attendant left for the night. Some people are truly callous and apparently we found the grand champion of them that night when the pickup driver parked behind us.

My friend decided to catch the bus downtown early the next morning, only to discover too late that the buses were on a holiday schedule and only ran a few times that day.So she wasted half her day waiting for the bus to show up.  She finally managed to get down there and get her car.

That was the last time I went out for a New Year’s Eve, and as far as I know my friend never went out again. I’m content to stay home and watch some Netflix and drink a few beers. Like my boss says about New Year’s Eve, ‘it’s amateur night’. I think he’s right, and they’re welcomed to it.

 

 

A Tyranny of Ice and Cold

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Photograph by Kevin Hurtack

 

Winter unfurls

sheets of snow

like funeral shrouds

upon fields

of Autumn’s faded gold

while we mourn

a summer grown old

leaving us huddled

like beggars and thieves

around our fires’

fickle heat

that does little

to keep

the frigid shadows

from our doors.

 

Just prisoners, we are

of this tyranny

of ice and cold

biding our time

until the heavens bestow

the golden sun

upon our jagged shores

once more

But what about Japanese Werewolves?

Despite taking several art history classes during college, I’d never heard nor seen any representations of horror in traditional Japanese artwork. So, I was pretty intrqiued when I came across the article Goblins, Ghosts, and Ghouls in Japanese Prints over on Hyperallergic.com

Some fantastic stuff to check out if you’re into that kinda thing. Use the links above to check ’em out.

Gaunt – Finished Drawing

 

gaunt
GAUNT, prismacolor premier markers and gouache on bristol plate 2016.

It’s been a long time since I’ve done anything with gouache. The first time I used it was when I was going to community college right after high school. I was taking a introductory painting course that focused mainly on watercolors. Midway through the semester the professor introduced gouache to us as an alternative. I did a few projects with it and frankly like it much better than watercolors. The main reasons being was the matte quality and boldness of the color when it dried. As well it tended to dry a lot faster than watercolor. I also liked that you did not need linseed oil or other mediums that pose health issues as well as plainly speaking – stink up the room. Although you cannot get some of the interesting visual effects or the atmospheric qualities with it as you do with watercolors, it can be used with acrylic mediums for textures and etc that you cannot use with watercolors. It also has a tendency to reproduce digitally or photographically much better than watercolors, hence it was often used and still is used by illustrators and designers as well as traditional artists.

During my college years I went onto paint with acrylics and oil. Although oil painting is the rock star of the fine art world it never really appealed to me as an artist. In fact traditional painting never appealed to me. One semester when I was taking an upper level oil painting class the professor said that I may as well be painting with sticks rather than brushes. I suppose that could have been perceived as an insult, but my brain is not wired to ‘see’ in planes of color. Lines, detail, shapes. That’s what lures me into creating imagery.

Overtime, I started creating line drawings with pencil and ink and shading them or coloring them with various mediums. In a lot of ways the old school illustrations of the weird fiction artists of the ‘pulp era’ influenced me. In particular the work of Jack Davis on Tales From The Crypt is/was a huge influence. Unfortuantely, Jack died back in July but he left behind a plethora of work behind. Besides Jack, others influence me like contemporary artists  Coop and Pus Head.

I chose to do this piece in black and white, and future ones, because I like the contrast and the subtle nature of the shading. It also does not distract from the quality of the line as would full color. Plus, for most of us we see full color everyday and by portraying something bizarres, such as this Gaunt, in black and white it gives it an even  more surreal/strange quality. Black and white is like one strong voice projecting itself across a room while color is an orchestra. Both are valid when used with precision and purpose but for myself, I prefer black and white.

This particular drawing was loosely based on the poem ‘The Night-Gaunts’ by H.P. Lovecraft.

Out of what crypt they crawl, I cannot tell,
But every night I see the rubbery things,
Black, horned, and slender, with membranous wings,
They come in legions on the north wind’s swell
With obscene clutch that titillates and stings,
Snatching me off on monstrous voyagings
To grey worlds hidden deep in nightmare’s well.

Over the jagged peaks of Thok they sweep,
Heedless of all the cries I try to make,
And down the nether pits to that foul lake
Where the puffed shoggoths splash in doubtful sleep.
But ho! If only they would make some sound,
Or wear a face where faces should be found!

H. P. Lovecraft, Night-Gaunts

Gaunt, A work in progress

I started this marker and gouache drawing the other weekend. It is loosely based on the ‘night gaunts’ of H.P. Lovecraft’s fiction. It still has a ways to go at this point, but is coming along nicely. I took this photo of it with my ‘stupid’ phone so it’s not the greatest. When it’s done I’ll scan it and put up a proper one up.

15271835_10209726881302378_2764974622143864636_o