Wednesday, December 31, 2014

PIRACY #3, #4.

I picked up two more EC books for my collection: PIRACY #3 and PIRACY #4. They are part of Bill Gaines' failed effort to keep EC afloat as a comic book company after the comic book scare of the 1950s that all but killed the industry. And looking at these books I'm reminded once again how the Comics Code and its insane backers robbed us of the finest comic book publisher of the day.

Both of these covers are by artist Reed Crandall. Crandall was noted for amazing line work and attention to fine detail. He was considered one of the best artists around in the Golden Age and it was likely only the high page rates that Gaines offered his employees that enabled Crandall to be able to lavish the attention he needed to create his lush pages.

Gaines was keeping his stable of great artists busy for the year or so that he tried to change direction on his radical imprint. But it just was not to be. Not when he had MAD under his wing and which he was able to switch to magazine format to merely escape the pernicious Comics Code Authority.


PIRACY #3 with a gorgeous Reed Crandall cover.

PIRACY #4 with another spectacular Crandall cover.

Almost Done...

Well, 2014 is almost one for the history books. My day-job became so intense and difficult that I have almost no energy remaining when I get home in the evening for my writing job. I always kept a blog to fire up my creative energy to get me going on my novels and short stories. As anyone who has followed my blog can tell, production on TIL THE LAST HEMLOCK DIES fell off precipitously. I didn't even hit 200 posts.

What will the new year bring in that respect? It's hard to say. Impossible, rather. I will note that I'm getting older and just don't have the strength to do some of the things I did when I was younger. (Such as sitting at the keyboard and creating fiction for hours after I had just put in a full day of labor.) I'll keep trying and I'll keep writing, but production of fiction is terribly slow, these days.

I have made plans for 2015 to go camping, rafting, kayaking, and hiking. No solid plans to take any backpacking trips, although I have noted some long weekends when short backpacking opportunities may arise. We'll see.

I'm left with an old John Lennon quote (from "Beautiful Boy"):

'Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.'

McAfee Knob, Virginia. Ironically, one of the most comfortable spots I have ever slept. There was a hollow spot on the clifftop that seemed to be perfectly constructed for my body. I reclined there and fell promptly to sleep. (Photo by an old hiking companion.)

A "walking tree" in Congaree National Park in South Carolina.

Swimming in Salt Springs in Florida. My wife could not pry me out of this place. It remains one of my all-time favorite Florida springs.

Darkside Cliffs in the Wilson Creek area of the Pisgah National Forest.

Sunday, December 28, 2014


Many years ago I was offered a contract for my first short story collection which I titled A CONFEDERACY OF HORRORS. Unfortunately, as I've recounted in the past, the publisher went under before the book saw publication. I kept trying, though, and managed to find another publisher...who also promptly went out of business before the book could appear.

Then more years went by as other publishers expressed interest but weird stuff kept happening (editors left, were fired, etc.).

Finally, years in the making, A CONFEDERACY OF HORRORS found a home at the excellent Hippocampus Press. The book is now up for pre-order and today I was shown the cover rough from the very talented Pete Von Sholly.

It feels good to finally see the book approaching the light of print.


You can order the book HERE.

Cover rough my Von Sholly.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Another Golden Age Kirby Book

I added one more Golden Age Jack Kirby book to my collection. The Simon & Kirby Studio turned out a fair amount of romance comics for various publishers. One of their more successful titles was YOUNG ROMANCE and its spinoff YOUNG LOVE. This is a copy of YOUNG LOVE #1, from 1949. Apparently the titles had some weird numbering systems and re-starts along the way. This is the #1 issue that appeared in 1949.

The cover looks to have Jack Kirby layouts and is signed by "Simon & Kirby". The women and the male figure look like classic Kirby from the period,but the man's face looks to have either been redrawn by someone else, or just very heavily inked until it bears almost no resemblance to a Jack Kirby piece. (It's also possible that the cover was penciled by Simon and then heavily inked by Kirby.)

The interiors have two Kirby stories which I'll try to either photograph or scan later.

YOUNG LOVE #1 (1949).

A guy is running a series on YouTube pairing entire old Jack Kirby stories with music. You can experience rare Jack Kirby comics online--the entire comic with accompanying tunes. It's amazing and needs to be seen. The time and effort he's putting into these is impressive!

Thursday, December 25, 2014


Another sample from my current writing project, THE REZ.

Chapter One
By James Robert Smith
Represented by Robert Fleck of The Fleck Agency.

“Max. Heads up. Someone’s going to call,” Clyde said to him.

David Maxwell cringed at the sound of the voice. It was a good, deep, regular voice with a nice tone-- just the shade of a mid-western accent that had been mainly filed away from decades of government work. But it still got on his nerves when it crept up on him that way.

Instead of replying, he just sat for a moment and considered. He knew without asking what was coming and who (roughly speaking) would appear and why they would want to see him. It never changed. Instead of asking for verification, though, he considered the glass tumbler full of Jameson whiskey, trying to remember if it was his second glass or third. He didn’t feel all that drunk, so he was thinking it was only two glasses. It wasn’t quite ten in the morning.

“I know what you’re going to ask me,” Clyde said. “And, yes, they want you to help them sneak into the Rez to find someone they love.”

Max stood up. He was a very tall man—six-foot-four as they used to say in the day. For a moment he considered that tumbler again and downed most of its contents before he could come up with a reason not to drink it. And if someone was coming, he should probably get dressed. As it was, he was standing in his kitchen wearing briefs and a tank top and nothing else. If he’d thought that Clyde was going to show up, he would at least have put on a robe.

“Tell me again how you and Edgar met,” he asked his friend.

Through whatever barrier that separated Clyde’s exact position in this world from David’s, he heard the ghost of the former Assistant Director give out with a sigh. “I applied for a position. Unlike my other—unsuccessful—attempt to join the Bureau, this time Edgar saw the file personally and asked to see me.”


“Because he saw my photo. Yes, because he saw my photo and found me attractive. He asked to see me. We met.” There was that ephemeral sigh again that hinted at more than just mild frustration. There was sweet nostalgia in it, too. “And the rest, as they say, is history. But unlike with other people…me and Edgar…we really lived history. And made it,” he added.

Max turned and scanned the reaches of the house that he could see. He was searching for sign of his friend. And that was certainly what Clyde was, these days. Initially the presence of him had been a horror and then a bother. But the fellow had grown on him. In the absence of anyone else of substance (ha ha) in his life, Clyde served in the role of as good a friend as any. So far, he had no reason to doubt that friendship.

“Clyde?” David’s eyes bounced around the kitchen, looking. There were times when he couldn’t figure exactly where the voice was coming from. Especially if there was not corresponding input from his other senses. Once, his ghostly pal had laid a hand on his shoulder. The act had been comforting at the moment. It was the only time they’d touched one another.

“Yes?” Clyde responded.

And, ah, there he was. Wearing a white suit, white hat, black shoes. And spats. That was something one rarely saw these days. His face was long, with a strong jaw and a mildly bulbous nose above a smiling mouth. He was the young Clyde and not the aged one who had died long ago in DC. Max figured if you were a ghost you could be your younger self, if you felt like it. But he’d never asked him about that detail. Clyde’s eyes were bright this morning, unlike David’s which were bloodshot from another night of lousy sleep.

“And why is it that you haunt me?” Max asked the ghost of Clyde Tolson, one-time lover of arguably one of the most powerful men who ever lived in the USA: J. Edgar Hoover.

“Because you are a strikingly handsome man, Max. I like looking at you.”

“Well, if only I was gay and If only you were alive,” he said, raising the tumbler to the ghost and then draining the last little bit of the fine whiskey.

Quickly, then, Max put his long legs to work and strode across the dining room and down the hall toward the master bedroom where the shower was waiting for him. “Don’t look at my ass while I’m taking a shower,” he warned Tolson.

“I am, as always, a perfect gentleman,” the ghost told him.

In the bathroom Max decided that he would probably not have time for a soak and just programmed the shower for eighty-five degrees and waited while the water heated as he adjusted the jet for a massage effect. With the water pattering on pale marble he slid the opaque glass door aside, stepped out of his sweat-soaked underwear and into the loving embrace of the warm water. It was wonderful.
Above the racket of streams on the pale marble surface, he called out. “And who are these people who are going to want to see me?”

“The usual,” Tolson’s voice, volume slightly louder. “There’s someone…over there. In the Rez. Innocent, of course. Whole thing is a misunderstanding and they just want to rescue them. If that’s possible. And your name, of course, came up.”

“Of course,” Max whispered.

“What’s that?”

Max wasn’t sure if Clyde was really being a gentleman or if he was just pretending. But in the steamy air of the bath it really didn’t matter, he figured. All the ghost would see of him would be a tower of flesh tones hiding in the swirling bit of billowing vapor.

“Nothing,” Max called out. And as the water removed the soap he’d lathered on to his now cleansed body, he stepped out of the shower and grabbed one of the rough, cotton towels and swabbed himself dry. Reaching out with the cloth, he dried off a bit of the mirror and tried to look at himself in the polished surface. All of his life he’d been told that he was good-looking. Sometimes he was described as ‘devastatingly handsome’, whatever the Hell that meant. Once, Clyde had told him that Max had reminded him of Cary Grant. Who even knew who Cary Grant was, these days?

Max made a puffing sound at his image and turned. Cary Grant, my ass, he thought.

The stubble that had been sprouting from his chiseled features was soon swirling down the drain of his sink—polished granite of gray tones with bits of quartzite mixed in. He’d paid a lot for that damned sink. He brushed his teeth with a regular old toothbrush and washed his mouth out with Listerine to cleanse his palate of that good whiskey. Later, he’d reintroduce himself to that bottle and kill it off. He could be a real bastard that way, he knew.

Minutes later he was once again in the midst of his house. This time he was in what passed as his office: a couple of laptop computers, a desk, some portable hard drives, and a stack of notebooks. And, of course, there were the boxes of collectible comic books arranged on the floor, along with the various tallies of that collection and want lists for future purchases. And next to the desk were some very old-fashioned file boxes made of corrugated cardboard where he stored what were now over two thousand recipes for all manner of dishes and breads that he sometimes cooked.

Those recipe files and comic book lists had been Clyde’s idea. Max had to admit that it was all very clever. Actually, he cared not one whit for old comic books and had to force himself to cook any of the vast arrays of recipes over which he only seemed to obsess.

“Well, I guess you’d better tell me more about these people who want to see me,” he said to the ghost. But there was no reply. Clyde was like that. Sometimes he was there, and other times he was not. Max had yet to figure out the manner of the ghost’s manifestations. Tolson had come out of the Rez with him once, and had never quite left. Max hadn’t figured out how the shade of the dead former Assistant Director of the FBI had managed to squeeze out of that place when nothing else could. But he had. He’d tagged along somehow, and that was all there was to it.

Nothing else had ever done that—crossed over from the Rez into the real world. Nothing else, of course, but David Maxwell and those he was sometimes able to rescue. But generally speaking, you had to be alive to cross back over.

At the point when Max figured that Clyde was gone for a while, the voice finally spoke up, again in the same room, and again making David flinch a bit. He really did wish that Clyde would cut that shit out.

“Too late,” Tolson said to him. “They’re already here.”

And with that, the doorbell chimed: a quick and cheerful pinging of electronic notes that sang something that had always been familiar to Max but which he had never quite placed. It had come with the joint and he’d never had the bells replaced.

He turned and could see his image reflected in the glass of one of the landscape paintings on the office wall. It was an image of Mount Katahdin, in Maine. Superimposed over that striking peak delineated in imaginative strokes of grey and blue, he could see himself standing there: white shirt, blue tie, navy slacks to match, white sneakers.

Max adjusted his cuffs, turned on his heel and went to answer the door.


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

FF 17

I just got this beauty in the mail. Gosh, I sure do like Ebay.

I have not read this comic since I was about nine or ten years old. It has been that long. Yes, I've had many copies over the years, but it was when I was a collectibles dealer and I didn't have time to read them. Back then, old comics were just a commodity to me. Yes, I liked them and felt affection for the old books, but all I was concerned with was selling them as fast as I could at a profit to enable me to buy the next collection coming down the line.

Nowadays, all I do is collect. I'm not in it to sell them. I buy them because I love the old comics and because of the nostalgia element.

Kirby realized what a cool character he'd created in Doctor Doom. I'm not sure if the fans in the early 60s were clamoring for more of his appearances, or if Kirby just wanted to write more stories with him. But by the time Fantastic Four #17 rolled 'round, this was Doom's fifth appearance! He was already on his way to becoming the Fantastic Four's arch-nemesis.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Takin' Stock.

Well, the year is almost over. This has been the worst year in a while for me as far as having time to post here at my blog. Things have changed where I work and these days I'm generally too exhausted to do much of anything when I get home except shower, eat some food, and get ready for bed.

At any rate, I was going through photographs that Carole and I took on our vacations this year. And even though this was a bit of an off-year for us as far as traveling was concerned, we still managed to take a few vacations and short trips. Generally, we tried to stay relatively close to home base. The longest trip we took in 2014 was to the Outer Banks. By sticking to the deep South we were able to have some interesting vacations.

Now, we're looking forward to 2015 when we'll travel much farther afield. Glacier National Park in Montana is highest on our list just now. And we're even looking as far into the future as 2016...could Europe be in reach, at last? Maybe so. I don't want to die without having seen Florence, Italy--specifically Brunelleschi's Dome and Ghaberti's Baptistry doors. Hopefully, it'll happen.

Vogel State Park, Georgia.

North Arch, Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area (TN/KY).

Sunday, December 21, 2014

My Two Favorite Comic Stories

As a kid, I loved superhero comics. As an adult...not so much. Except, of course, in the realm of nostalgia. I still adore those comic stories that inspired and fascinated me as a kid and enjoy looking at them through the lens of decades of history.

My two favorite superhero comic book yarns were written and illustrated by (of course) my two favorite creators of that period of my life: Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby. I won't get too much into the history of the pair of stories that so influenced me, except to reiterate that Steve Ditko created, wrote, and illustrated The Amazing Spider-Man; and Jack Kirby created, wrote, and illustrated the Fantastic Four. Neither man had a "co-creator"--just an editor.

I've also covered both of these stories in past essays here in my blog. So I'll just list the stories and the issues in which they appeared and leave my earlier words to stand; and perhaps add some depth to those essays on another day.

The first of these great stories was the Master Planner story arc that ran for several issues of The Amazing Spider-Man. This is, as far as I'm concerned, the finest super-hero story ever done. Ditko outdid not only himself with this adventure, but all other super-hero comic creators before or since. A few have come close to capturing the depth and breadth of what he was achieving, but no one has surpassed the sheer power of this tale.

When he was allowed, Ditko could create some of the finest covers being done in comics.

Yeah, the fans had never seen Spider-Man done like this.

Despair was never portrayed quite like this. Someday I need to do a study of the way Ditko utilized the imagery of water in his comics.
Years later, after Ditko had left his employment at Marvel Comics and abandoned his amazing creations there, his former colleague was winding down his own tenure at that company. Jack Kirby pretty much created not only most of the characters at Marvel, but the company itself. No one else was as important to that company as Jack Kirby. I have studied his run on his most popular title there, FANTASTIC FOUR, and always noticed that he seemed to let up on the gas after the "Him" storyline in issues 66 & 67. Further research led me to the conclusion that his editor there had wrecked his story, almost completely nullifying its effectiveness and mucking up the dialog pretty much beyond belief. Thereafter, the explosion of creativity that Kirby had lavished on the book to that point ceased. The stories were still excellent and the art was still the most dynamic around, but there were almost no new characters coming out of the book. Kirby was, I am convinced, fed up with seeing the sweat of his brow being capitalized by his employers with nothing for him beyond his page rate. Further, not only was his intellectual property being robbed from him, his stories were often being mangled by the ego-mad idiot editor under whom he worked. Thus, the flow of new properties to his bosses slowed to a trickle.

Then, in issue #90 of the title, a new story arc appeared. The Skrull/Slave arc. It could be argued that the plot was partially based on the germ of an idea from the TV series Star Trek. But beyond that it was all classic Kirby. Kirby had always been fascinated by mob characters and science fiction. And so he plunged his comic book alter-ego, Ben Grimm, into a long story steeped in mob culture and a pure science-fiction, planet-spanning adventure. It was, I now know, Kirby's fond farewell to his character of Ben Grimm as he planned his move away from Marvel and to fields greener for his creative energies.

Symbolism. One of Kirby's earliest creations for Marvel was the alien race, the Skrulls, who were shape-shifters. Here, he is tricked and kidnapped by a Skrull posing as his friend, Reed Richards. Fooled again, sucker!

Ben Grimm, in chains!

One of the most effective and dramatic covers I've seen in superhero comics.

The finale. Torgo was the major character (I can't say "villain" because he truly was not such) that Kirby created for this story arc. However, for all the emotional power of Torgo, Kirby chose to give him a kind of generic android appearance similar to the kind of thing he'd been handing off to his employers since issue #68 of the title. Let them create their OWN unique images to exploit!

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Revolutionary, a New Project

Just a bit of one of my new projects. More as it develops.

By James Robert Smith

And if there's any hope for America, it lies in a revolution, and if there's any hope for a revolution in America, it lies in getting Elvis Presley to become Che Guevara.
Phil Ochs

I look at the face in the dingy mirror. It’s a good face. Different from the others I wear, but a good one all the same.

Simon B. calls it the Hyde-Super-Jekyll Effect. Refers to me sometimes as "the good Mr. Hyde". But others don’t call me that. The folk call me The Revolutionary, or The Insurrectionist. As if I’m the only one.

And that’s okay. I suppose I’ve been called worse. And it’s not entirely accurate. I didn’t start out wanting any kind of revolution, or much in the way of social change of that sort. All I was after—and all that I’m still after when you get right down to it—is justice. If the result of my efforts is a mass revolution; well, they had it coming.

My Mr. Hyde face is gone. I stand before that grimy mirror in that filthy bathroom and gaze into the water-spotted, rust-pocked surface. If I ever showed this face, none would be likely to forget it. The dark hair, almost black, is not long: barely touches my ears and the back of my neck. The nose is strong and was formerly aquiline; but it’s obviously been broken a few times—three that I can recall. These lips are like thin, darker lines drawn across that square chin, below strong cheekbones that look born of some Navajo chieftain. And the eyes—piercing as any, black like polished jet.

A pity that no one ever sees that face—other than myself and Simon B. and a few who find themselves targeted by me. Everyone else—all everyone else sees is the mask. Not this flesh and blood mask, but the one that I wear made of synthetic cloth, shatterproof plastic, plexiglass lenses.
I’m a sight all dressed up in my outfit of black cloth.

The underground rags say I’m a superhero. The real deal. Fantasy come to life. Kids apparently adore me and draw pictures of me in notebooks. There would probably be posters of me for sale in comic book shops and toy stores if the authorities allowed those images to be marketed. But they don’t think
I’m a superhero--or any kind of hero.

The media, and their puppet-masters, call me a terrorist. They say I am, at best, a super-villain made flesh and blood. They say that I am a criminal and they scream for my head. They’re right, too. I want my enemies to think of me that way.

I want them to live in fear, to be terrorized. I want them all to piss their pants every time a board creaks in their Victorian mansions. I want them to shit their britches each time an unexpected movement enters their peripheral vision when they’re in their penthouses.

And then I want to kill them all.

I’m very good at that, as they have discovered, and as they are going to continue to learn.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Why I Love Yellowstone

There are plenty of reasons to love Yellowstone National Park. Too many to list, actually. But right at the top is that there is so much wilderness there between the Park roads that there is a ridiculous amount of wildlife. Specifically, there is tons of unspoiled habitat for megafauna. You know...the big stuff. Big herbivores and big predators.

Someday I'll go back. Not in 2015. We're going to Glacier in 2015. But maybe in 2016. We'll see.

You have to love this place. Carole and Andy and I were walking back to our room and what's in the parking lot eating greens? A giant bison. We gave him a wide berth.

Part of the giant elk herd that got between me and my family as we were hiking back to Mammoth Hot Springs. We had to wait for it to pass before we could link up.

I took this photo of this griz from a VERY great distance. This is a digitally enlarged image taken with my most powerful telephoto lens. This bear had dug a bed for itself in the bank of the Lamar River and was completely sacked out. Why wouldn't he be comfortable? Who's going to mess with him?

Actually in the area between Grand Teton and Yellowstone. A bull moose.
Again...this was just outside Yellowstone. This was the only black bear we saw in the Yellowstone/Teton area. It is, as you can see, a brown phase black bear. I wasn't as close as this photo makes it appear. He was feeding heavily on something low to the ground as he walked along. I never saw what it was and he never once lifted his head. He was just vacuuming whatever goodies were growing there.

Bison in a dust wallow. Hayden Valley.

And it's not just the animals. A boiling hot lake, ladies and gentlemen. A. Boiling. Hot. Lake. Give me a break.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Dumb Stuff

I've done some really dumb shit in my day. Looking back on life, I can hardly believe any boys survive childhood. Even the mildest of us do stupid freaking crap that ought to kill us off by the millions before we even hit puberty.

But it doesn't stop with the end of childhood. Oh, no.

Yesterday I was sick. Really, really sick. Could hardly sleep last night for the pain and constantly hacking up bloody phlegm. But come the alarm clock, what do I do? You got it. I got dressed and went to work.

Dumb. GodDAMN, that was dumb.

Now I am even sicker. So I am going to type this, take a shower, climb into bed and go to sleep. If I wake up this sick in the morning I will head to the doctor's office instead of work.

Go home, Bob. You're dumb.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Charlotte Comic Con

I went to the twice-a-year Charlotte Comic Con today. I always have a good time there, but I rarely sell any of my books there these days. But I keep going because I have a good time and like meeting up with my comic book artist pals.

Getting my stuff set up with Cavewoman creator Budd Root.

At the artist alley with Buddy Prince and Andy Smith (no relation).

The place was packed.

There is now a separate room for toy dealers.

Don't ask, because I have absolutely no idea.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

My Favorite Video

Ever since I got my first digital camera in 2004 I've been making short videos of the places I visit. I don't use the video option a lot, because I feel that the moment has to be just right. Mainly I'm just happy taking photos.

But one winter day I was hiking in the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area with some companions. There had been recent cold and snowy weather and we wanted to experience some of it up on the rim of the gorge. Down in the valleys there was still snow on the ground, but it was melting. As we climbed up into the higher country, around 3,000 feet or so, it was still below freezing and the winter precipitation that had fallen the previous days had not melted. So we were greeted with classic winter scenery the higher we hiked.

I made the horrible mistake of wearing my summer hiking boots. They would have kept my feet warm under normal circumstances, but I'd hiked through rivulets of melting snow to get to the high country (down lower where the snow was melting). Thus, my feet got soaked, and then frozen up where the temperatures were still below freezing. I have not repeated this mistake and never will.
One thing that had happened right at the end of the storm was that the snow had turned briefly to freezing rain and sleet. This meant that on the mountaintops we were hiking atop seven or eight inches of snow shielded by about an inch of frozen sleet. The trees were coated in this stuff, too. It was indeed beautiful to look at and fun to walk on, especially as I had come equipped with my Yaktrax to keep me from slipping.

Then, along a high ridge, the temperature and the sun suddenly combined to begin breaking up the ice. For several magic minutes the forest was full of the symphony of shattering ice. I've never heard or seen anything like it and I often wonder about the confluence of events and perfect timing that put me in that spot at that particular moment. It was especially nice as I had separated myself from my babbling companions so that the only thing speaking in this video is Mother Nature.

Crank the sound up if you want to hear it the way I experienced it.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Comic Gods

The comic book gods were kind to me today because I received two books from two of the masters of comic book storytelling: Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko.

The Kirby book is a Golden Age comic; JUSTICE TRAPS THE GUILTY #22. This was published by the Hillman outfit who published until 1953. Joe Simon and Jack Kirby did a lot of work for them, mainly for their crime and police publications. This issue only features a Kirby cover, but it's pretty nifty. Inside is some art by Mort Meskin who sometimes illustrated so much like Kirby that when I was a kid I would get Meskin confused with Kirby.

Classic Kirby cover!

The other book that arrived on my doorstep is the new effort from Steve Ditko. Ditko is closing in on 90 years old but is still producing new comics! His right wing rants are the opposite of the way I interpret the world. Some of my friends ask me how I can enjoy his work when he obviously has nothing but contempt for those whose views are as far to the left as my own. All I can tell them is that I have always identified with his positions on responsibility and the similarity of the black and white world of good and evil. (Of course what I would see as "wrong", Ditko would see as "correct".) Still and all, I never tire of his work and enjoy it so much that I was one of the supporters who tossed in money for the Kickstarter campaign that resulted in the production of this nifty 32-page comic.

Steve Ditko's latest!

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Bookstore Musing

I love to go to bookstores. They are my favorite places to shop. I'm going to miss them when they're gone.

Two nights ago I hit a couple of bookshops on my rounds. I've found that not only are they great places to spend my money, they also almost always spur me to think and to write. Just being among the stacks of books makes me fool good and seeing all of the stuff in print spurs me to wonder about what I want to write, how I want to proceed with what I am currently writing, and force me to consider what kind of writer I want to be.

This latest trip especially had me dwelling on that last point.

What kind of writer do I want to be?

When I was younger all I wanted to do was write for a living. I didn't want to get rich doing it, but I wanted to be able to work full-time as an author. Frankly, I didn't care what kind of work would get me to that point--all I knew was that I wanted to produce prose for a living.

Initially, I wanted to write pulp fiction for a living. This meant that I'd create fantasies of one type or another. I'd generate worlds and outlandish characters and oversized plots. And there's nothing wrong with that. It's what some of my favorite writers did and it's no surprise that I wanted to follow along those lines. My initial modest successes were in producing and selling this type of thing. For a while--a brief while--I figured that I was on the right path and that soon I'd be able to sit behind a keyboard all day to make my daily bread.

I figured wrong, of course.

I've had a lot of writer friends over the years, and I honestly have never known anyone who wrote full time for a living. I've known people who wrote and didn't work, but most of those cats were being supported by someone else--usually their parents. And I've known people who were squeaking by on the starvation sums they were gathering from their fiction while their families suffered because of their stubbornness. But absolutely none of my friends have ever done well enough from writing to pay the bills and keep the debt collectors away and the lights on and the table supplied with food. It was never easy to do for anyone and I've always had to maintain a day job, even in the years when I did relatively well with writing.

And now it's even more difficult than before.

After selling scores of short stories to dozens of markets and hundreds of pages of scripts to many comic book publishers and a number of novels to several book companies, I knew that I'd likely never make the transition to full-time writer. Only a very few folk make that kind of dough from their prose.

But standing in those shops and peering over the thousands of titles always makes me wonder again what kind of writer I need to be. Should I continue to pursue the path of pulp fiction? Should I change direction and pen mainstream work? Or do I toss fiction aside and work on non-fiction? All of these thoughts have occurred to me.

Likely, I'll stick with the weird fantasies and hard-boiled fictions that have always fascinated me and spurred me to action. I'll continue to gravitate to the sections of the bookshop shelves that hold such volumes.

But, man, I am going to miss the bookstores when they're gone.

Like the glaciers, they're melting away.

And soon they'll be a fading memory...