NaNoWriMo 2015

I’m doing it again.

I don’t know why. I’ve only successfully finished an entry one time (in 2011, which gave the world GRAVE DANGER). I’m not an especially fast writer. Hell, I’ve been clawing at One Fate For Failure for close to two years now, in various forms.

That said I want to push myself. I want to write. I always do. I always am, so why not give myself a deadline and some sort of motivation. Conquer what has always been a challenge and reap the rewards. At least that’s how I’m looking at it.

As such I’m setting some goals for myself this year;

  1. Write in an unfamiliar genre.
    • I’m not tied to any one genre nowadays. I’ve done fantasy (The Song Before Nightfall), horror/mystery (Grave Danger) and thriller (One Fate For Failure). I suppose I could write a romance this time around, although I don’t think anyone wants to read that sort of thing from me. There are people who are far better suited to writing in that world than I am. So instead I’ve decided to write a western. A genre that I love in film but haven’t ever written in or even read extensively in. There is a general prevailing thought that you shouldn’t write in a genre you haven’t read ad nauseum, but I am hoping that by not catering to convention I can present something different for that particular category of fiction.
  2. Write with careful attention to tone and voice
    • I spent a lot of time inside Maddie’s head for One Fate For Failure and while I loved her as a character it also meant that the way I told the story was shaped by her perception. There were words that Maddie just wouldn’t use if I wanted her voice to feel authentic. With this project I am hoping to give the narrator a full range of verbiage by making him omniscient and all-knowing. It should allow me to stretch literary muscles I haven’t exercised in a long time.
  3. Finish on a strict deadline
    • This is pretty self explanatory. I don’t write particularly fast and I just want to see if I can meet a deadline again. In order to do this I’m doing a couple of things. Mostly I’m going to do an ungodly amount of pre-writing. I’m outlining and doing character analysis up front so that when it comes time to do the nitty gritty of writing I am not slowed down.

So if you’re a fellow writer looking to buddy up feel free to check out my NaNoWriMo profile and send me a message. I’m looking forward to a hectic and productive November.


One Fate For Failure Peer Review – Velvet by Ed Brubaker & Steve Epting


In October of 2013, I posted this review of Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting’s new series Velvet on my website Comics Con Queso;

Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting are a powerhouse team. Their work on Captain America is the best the character is likely ever going to see for the foreseeable future. You can thank Ed Brubaker personally for revitalizing the character to the point where he wasn’t a joke to the majority of the comic buying public. It is also a testament to his work that the next film will be drawing largely from his lore. The reason his Marvel work resonated so much is because Ed Brubaker knows how to play with convention and genre tropes, respectfully, while turning them on their ear and defying expectations.

Brubaker’s work with Velvet is more of what we have come to expect from him. Character work and atmosphere. Plot and mood. Much like his other creator-owned work, such as Fatale, Incognito, orCriminal, the world that we are dropped into feels fully realized and developed. Like stories have been being told about these characters for years and the blood and sweat has been spilled over them before we ever crack the page. It doesn’t come off as inaccessible, because we fill in gaps in our knowledge fairly quickly with pertinent details of the who and general back-story, but the book feels very much like the middle of a longer story with fully realized characters and that works very much to its advantage.

Velvet is a period piece, set in the 1970s with flashbacks to the sixties and all of it feels like a James Bond novel filtered through the lens of a grungy late-seventies film renaissance aesthetic. Like if Coppola directed You Only Live Twice. Steve Epting’s art is vibrant while being simultaneously moody and portrays the eras of the narrative with equal distinction and clarity.

Personally, I think this is his best work since he launched Criminal a few years ago. It is a well plotted, tightly-paced, impeccably drawn espionage genre yarn that resembles nothing else on the rack. Brubaker knows how to write a spy thriller, he did it quite well on his Captain America run, but freed from the reigns of Marvel’s editorial hands, he can truly let loose and keep us guessing from month to month. The only guess we can be confident in making is that each issue will be better than the last.

In the lead-up to writing One Fate For Failure, I decided to engage myself in an attempt to read and watch different entries in the spy genre to help see what sort of story I truly wanted to craft. One of the things I did was revisit Velvet, still in publication at Image Comics. The story is still ongoing but I pulled the first two collected editions off of the shelf to see what I could learn from a more accomplished storyteller working in the genre I had chosen.

Ed Brubaker knows how to put together one hell of a potboiler. I can’t think of many other writers working in the comics industry who have as firm a command of interlocking and complex narrative construction as he does. Looking at his work on things like Sleeper, Fatale, and even his run on Captain America, it is easy to see that Brubaker knows how to work with and around the tropes of the genre he is dealing with to present a story that is equal parts familiar and refreshing. He does it with the noir tale in his latest series The Fade Out, but that’s an entirely different conversation.

Velvet feels very much like a love letter to sixties spy-drama. It oozes the careful intricacy of a John LeCarre novel with the sense of adventure that comes from the world of the James Bond films. Epting’s depictions of the characters and the action is not overly saturated lending a quality of articulated realism to the proceedings. Brubaker’s choice to craft a fictional spy service with the X-operatives of the Arc-1 office gives the reader a hint that he is telling a story on an heightened level of reality, allowing for him to operate with a different set of rules than other writers working in the genre.

As a character, Velvet Templeton is uniformly interesting because we see her at various stages in her life as we flash back to her time as an active field agent in the fifties apart from the goings-on in the A plot. The idea of the veteran agent is an interesting one, especially the way that it is presented here with her story kicking off after spending years behind a desk. The idea of the seasoned agent is one that is ripe for examination but one that I have not personally encountered often, mainly because the narratives these stories tend to follow require the abilities of a younger protagonist.

The narrative here is one that relies on a common trope of the spy genre, that of the internal mole. It was the driving force of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and a myriad of other entries in the spy thriller oeuvre. The key to making it work so well here is getting the reader invested in the characters and Brubaker’s careful peeling back of the layers in the mystery, each time giving us deeper insight into the people that populate the world he has created, does exactly that.

I do not hesitate to recommend the series because as hopeful as I was upon reading the first issue, subsequent chapters have more than exceeded my expectations.

Associated Links:

Velvet_12Buy Velvet vol. 1 on Amazon
Buy Velvet vol. 2 on Amazon
Velvet on Comixology

Review – Thor #1 (2014)

Review – Thor #1 (2014)


Allow me to be blunt. This is a comic book where on the second page the words “Activating Attack Sharks” is uttered with not a single hint of irony. Yes, in this issue of Thor, a deep ocean sea-lab run by the Roxxon corporation features a defense system consisting of what appear to be technologically enhanced super-sharks, who eventually engage in underwater combat with an army of invading Frost Giants from Jotunheim.

So, in short, it’s pretty much par for the course when it comes to a Thor comic.

The big hullabaloo about this issue has been that the fellow we have come to know and love as Thor is no longer going to be the titular character of the series. In the wake of the crossover eventOriginal Sin, He is unworthy to wield mighty Mjolnir, the hammer that serves as the symbol of his power. Fans fearing that Thor would simply be discarded to make way for a new character will be relieved however, as this first issue in a new series spends a good majority of its time with Thor Classic.

New Thor does not show her face until the final page of the issue. In many ways, the storytelling structure of this issue of Thor is the polar opposite of something like Ms. Marvel # 1. While that issue and series has been a huge success for Marvel, the baseline of the narrative utilized by writer G. Willow Wilson would not suit the type of story that Jason Aaron is attempting to tell here. By the time the first issue of Ms. Marvel came around, the namesake had been vacant for a while as Carol Danvers had transitioned into being Captain Marvel for a bit by that point. The story was able to focus on Kamala Khan taking up the mantle and the circumstances that surrounded her beginning the hero’s journey. With Thor, Aaron seems to be setting up a dual track that will focus on the way that Thor Classic deals with his fall as much as the exploits of whoever it is that takes up the hammer now.

So, does the issue work?

I would say that overall it is a very interesting Thor book. However, I will also admit that I have no connection to the new “Thor” because no attempt has been made to make her anything more than a mystery at this point. At the end of the first issue in this series, ostensibly her series, she is no more fleshed out than she was before the series hit stands. There is no change in my view of her as a concept. As a debut issue in that regard, the book falls short. The book should have given me a reason to stay on board. It should have made a connection between the reader and our new protagonist. If the series is to succeed based on the merit of this new character, shouldn’t we get some inkling of who this new character is as a person? If this book is supposed to center around her, and we are to accept her as our new Thor, making her a side element in the first issue of her own series is not the boldest move to take. Perhaps taking the time to do more setup in the previous volume or even giving the issue the double-sized treatment might have solved some of these problems.

The book is worth a read if you’re a Thor fan. If you were hoping to find something akin to Ms. Marvel, with a fleshed out new female character that sticks the landing on its first issue, this might not be your best bet. For that reason I’m grading it on two separate scales. For longtime Thor fans, this is a solid 8/10. It plays with the lore, we get familiar faces and the best elements of a Thor book are there. For Marvel fans looking to jump on board, it falls closer to a 5/10. The artwork and writing are excellent but the enjoyment you get out of it is qualified by how intrigued you are by Thor and his mythos.

Here’s to hoping issue number two makes significant strides with regards to setting up the titular character.