Thursday, January 31, 2013

7-Horsing Around

Giddy on the prospect of escape, drunk on the new wine of freedom, they belted out a raucous tune along the narrow alley.  It echoed off the walls and deep within their being where the thrill of the day could not abate this new life. Yet the farther down the impasse they wandered, the darker and more claustrophobic it got. A chilly breeze zipped through, the wind picked up and the laughter died down. The barn door banged a steady, uneasy rhythm one not in time with their frivolity.
The boys got skittish. 
Ogethan toed the door open slowly, stealthily, as if afraid something were going to sneak out and chaw him. Sunlight filtered in through the windows which would have been comforting under normal circumstances. Motes of dust danced, but it was one of doom. 
Barry told many a story, though those about the beast were well known across campus. Though Fallon House consisted of but a few buildings, word of the abomination’s machinations were of legend. It was as if it had been bred to be befuddling. Part of its nature one supposed.  The animal housed in the recesses of the stables had seen to a decidedly unwelcoming feeling.   Stalls lined the walls, empty all, save the last in the back.

Star Wars: Magic of Myth

Books With Your Barista
by Jared A. Conti
Fanboy’s dreams come true

The old familiar yellow words crawling amid the vast emptiness of space hit me every time:
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…

It’s not like I haven’t seen the movies a ga-jillion times. It’s not like I have deep-seated issues concerning the prequels or (God forbid) get the angry shakes when I see Hayden Christensen primly seated next to Obi-Wan and Yoda. Blasphemy, I tell you.

I know every time I watch what I’m about to experience, I know what they say. And now, thanks to Mary Henderson’s Star Wars: The Magic ofMyth, I’ve a better understanding of what it’s all about.

Originally conceived as a companion volume to the exhibition at the National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institution, curator Henderson delves deep into the roots of the original Star Wars trilogy. These films take cues from all walks of classic and modern mythology, the battle that is forever taking place between good and evil. There’s also plenty of another of my favorites, the time-honored traditions of Joseph Campbell’s Hero with a Thousand Faces.

The book, alongside the exhibit, follows the path of the hero’s journey that many myths and fairy tales tend to follow consciously or unconsciously. It shows through words and pictures why these stories affect us on such deep, personal levels. In one way or another, we can all relate.

I’ve seen a Star Wars science exhibit in Boston with life-size wookies and ship replicas, so I can only imagine what this presentation would have been like to a story writer and lover.  The book itself is packed with quotes from creator George Lucas and Joseph Campbell among others. Movie stills and production and concept art round out the book’s sense of purpose, alongside Lucas’s ideas as to why he made the choices for including certain bits of history.

All in all, this book reinforces why Star Wars is one of the generations best film series. With its engaging storyline which comes hardwired into each and every one of our psyches, it’s no wonder that it all feels so real. A wonderful companion piece for personal discovery and learning with others.

This was originally printed in the Lock Haven Express, 01/31/13

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Interview III


So, as I've mentioned before, whenever I get stuck I tend to get a little goofy.  Can't be sure when this interview took place, but definitely the last quarter of 2012.  

Again, it's me, interviewing me.  It's a little dated as well, and I'm making progress on this steampunk comic.  More to come, I'm sure.

You're getting easier to find.

You could say that.  I'd like to think it's partly because I'm standing still for a moment or two so that you can actually see me for the time being.  Don't worry, it won't last long.

You only let yourself free for interviews (so far) when you're stuck.  What's gumming up the works now?

Can't ever be 100% sure, but I think I'm going through a bit too much personally at this point.  Not to mention there's writing going on from a couple of different sources with Traveling Tales and a super-secret project I'm hesitant to talk about at this early stage in the game.

How come?

Well, I've never written, let alone thought in this genre before, though I suppose there's a bit of Traveling Tales somewhere floating around.  When isn't there, really?

It's freelance work, too, which lends itself to compensation, which lends itself to quality work and deadlines and such.  Adding fuel to the fire, so to speak.

And you don't want to talk about it?  Would you do it for a Scooby Snack?

Since you put it that way...

There's this itty-bitty company called Shot in the Dark that have been courting me for the last couple of months.  I answered a Craig's List ad for writers awhile ago, and Facebook has connected us again.

They need some help getting their ideas out on paper and a bunch of stories, just no one to write them.  I picked the one I did because it sort of gelled with me and had the barest minimum of backstory to trip me up.

I'm definitely taking my liberties with the subject matter, so we'll see how the boss takes to it.

But what's it about, man?!

Right.  It's a steampunk story set in a post-apocalyptic future.  Lots of cloud over and the like--really halted the production of eats and water.

There're three women (who I'm making into sisters) at the forefront of the story searching from some guy called The Rainmaker.

Was all I had to go on, but I'm really fleshing things out.

Things seem like they're going okay.  So what's the real issue here?

(Did'ja realize how long it took me to come up with this answer?  The television on has little to do with it...)
(Then I'm answering this with another question.  I'm in a rough spot.)

I could go into it, I really could.  And I might as well, considering the time.

I'm worried that a company is depending on me, no matter how small.  At the same time, how'm I ever going to know what the biz is like?

I'm worried about the genre [steampunk] because I've delved very little into the subject matter.  The more I look into it, I don't want to throw gears onto some cutesy outfits and call it steampunk.  I don't want to throw it into a story without some sort of reason.  It's the story that sells, not the fluff.

I don't want to sully my own stuff, either.  I'd like to say that Traveling Tales is my magnum opus or whatever, but it's definitely that which God's granted me to do with my time on Earth.  All a question of when it's all going to get done.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Plan of Attack

Right before bed, I bring up some silly story idea about a faerie magician who has a monkey wrench blasting rod.  I've not gotten any further than an object and a short paragraph detailing just how said object was being contrived by one whom would be unable to wield such a weapon, due to his fae nature.  This had been discussed previously today with a colleague, I'd have a lot of  explaining to do: the logistics simply weren't there.

Enter wife.  After going on about this at length after prayers (and doing a horrible job of reiterating what my intentions were for the character and said weapon) she says to me:

"May I make a suggestion?"

"Of course." I say, knowing full well she's going to tell me not to listen to this writer-friend of mine, to just go with whatever idea it is that makes it my story.

"I think you should set yourself a deadline for the book."

I'm flabbergasted, to say the least.  That she didn't take the route she normally would, of course; what's worse, she offered something so preposterous that would lead to things like goals.  Time management.  Maybe even...sacrifice.

We bat back and forth the idea of having something ready to send out to a publisher (?!) by Christmas.  At the very least, I can have a nice gift to give this year.  She doesn't fail to point out that this was indeed the goal I've been setting for myself the last two years in a row.

Knowing I'm a bit of a numbers guy, she conned me into my birthday on 08/18.  I tried to jockey for more time.  08/18/18 would be so much better.  For hating math, I'm a little nutty when it comes to repetition [insert weird sounding math term here.]

"Absolutely not," she states, "that would be another five years."

I mumble something about Stan Lee not getting his start until 40, but to no avail.

I suggest we pray about it, but give the stipulation that she be the one to do the praying.  It was her idea.  I try for the impossible, knowing full well that she's not an "out loud" prayer.  We're quiet: I empty my head to listen to my wife, to God and His direction and will for my life.

But I really hear her.  I almost can't believe it because even though were close, she's got this cold--enough so that this is the first time in five months of marriage that I've seen her prop her head up to sleep--and the humidifier is turned up full blast.

It's faint, but boy-howdy she's whispering a prayer somewhere under her breath, I can hear it.

I'm filled with the Spirit for this woman, for this book, for my God.


What's seven months, give or take a couple of days?

Monday, January 28, 2013

Mental Conditioning

No, there's nothing wrong with your screen.  I just call 'em like I see 'em.

p.s.  Bats has nothing to do with this post.

Mental Conditioning

not for the first time
why I can spot
a commercial 
for erectile dysfunction 
within seconds
upon first glance.

Would that mean
I'm functioing 
above par, or
just overly sensitive?

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Christmas 209

Okay, Christmas is over, but definitely something you can celebrate all year long, right?  

Read this poem at church Christmas Eve because we were in the throes of a funding campaign to buy the building Avenue 209 Coffee House is housed in.  The Common Place raised $10,000+ smackers towards the building and renovation fund in less than a month!

A little history on the poem:  

1.  I rarely EVER write poems that rhyme.  Rhyming is for songwriting.
2.  I wrote this our first Christmas Eve in the shop, while we were still renovating the main storefront.  It was cold and barely lit with candles on a stepladder.

Anyhow, amazing that it holds much more love in it today than it did then!

Christmas 209

through the cajoling Christmas crowd
among the hustle and bustle and holiday cheer
long seeking the star of David
treacherous journey brought us here

our own little stable
calling out through the night
humble, main street storefront
guides us here by His light

we looked for awhile
to find the right place
voted down for the variance
should've seen the look on my face

but council wanted us in
still we waited awhile
now know we're on God's time
remembering, with a smile

busted-up, taped-up windows
and the walls bowing in
plastic bags stuffed up there
where an air conditioner once had been

witnessing new beginnings
like Christ in the manger
there's a King in my coffee
what could be stranger?

the wise men could make it
bringing gifts, so can we
grunt work, management, design
slinging espresso, writing poetry

but all the gifts we can give
they can't match His grace
how to hear "job well done"
see that look on His face

the x in x-mas
stands for the cross that he bore
and we need mas Christ muy rapido
because in Spanish mas means more

commit your plans to the Lord
I learned yesterday evening
pray with me on Christ's birthday
to bring Him into this building

Saturday, January 26, 2013

PSA #2

So, two in two weeks.  Makes you think, don't it?

I'd originally written this out in the woods after hearing a good friend of mine fell of the wagon again.  Can't help but wonder sometimes whether or not our presence means enough to others, but once they're gone, that's it.

Love 'em, hold 'em tight, let 'em know you love 'em.

This is a song at some point, but we'll see.  I'm going to have to learn to play.

(sketch credit: Justin Gleghorn)

tell me, where does the time go
when you're busy wasting time
I swear I meant to call you
but I got to feeling fine
looks like I took you for granted
said some things I didn't mean
I long to have you back my friend
you're the best there's ever been

time takes us by the hand
and in mine I'm taking time
such a spinning, circling dance we lead
and I'm all punch-drunk on the rhyme
guess I forgot what this was for
thought, I didn't need you anymore
so when you're feeling down and out
all you have to do is shout
I'll be here forever more

haven't seen you in awhile
can't help but wonder where you've been
wander too far, you might get lost
with the state of affairs you're in
you've been running through my mind all day
your legs must be pretty tired
caught up in the quicksand of this world
in all the mud and muck and mire

oh, I'm waiting for the day
when I can do no wrong
someone let me know when I get there
Lord, I hope it won't be long
jumping down from this here fence
it's greener on the other side
not sure what to do with this time lent
'cept count me along for the ride

time takes us by the hand
and in mine I'm taking time
such a spinning, circling dance we lead
and I'm all punch-drunk on the rhyme
guess I forgot what this was for
thought, I didn't need you anymore
so when you're feeling down and out
all you have to do is shout
I'll be here forever more

Friday, January 25, 2013

Something beautiful from Ugli Studios

It's always a pleasure when someone in comics seeks you out.  Someone, no matter how small-time they are, still big enough to believe in themselves and do the leg-work to get you their stuff.  I know the internet can be a huge, daunting place, but I'm sure it wasn't easy singling this guy out.

Oh, who'm I kidding.  Free comics make the beard bristle.

So, I'm sorry I've not gotten this out sooner, but writer/illustrator shouldn't have a problem getting fans to stop by his table at artist's alley, or wherever it is he happens to hold up cons or shops.  I read a review he posted by folks that have been doing this much longer than I have who panned the whole issue and I didn't want my review to be burdened in any way.

All in all, I'm still impressed he was emboldened enough to plop their review on his site.

Without further ado, here's the skinny:

Ugli Studios

Through the Eyes of Grizmelda

Story: Jason Lenox & David Paul
Pencils & Inks: Jason Lenox
Colors: Dani Kaulakis
Lettering: David Paul
Map: Joseph Freistuhler

The issue opens with nice map of the land of Xendria and the age-old story of a land in turmoil.  We get a very brief history of the upheaval and some backdrop of the necromancer Amon Kadeshi.  There's also a little backstory of the necromancer's familiar Grizmelda and a mention of The Great Beast.  But we'll get to that.

What can I say, I'm not a cat guy.  Your cat people will love it, and I loved it because this is how I feel about all manner of cats: there's just something evil about them.  Cats, not cat people.  Though cat people (humanoids) would be pretty creepy, too.

The art is great and panels really define the story here.  Very interesting to see the "bad guy" necromancer be your protagonist, but everyone has to fight for something, right?  Ends quite well, and creepy as hell, with that damn cat in his lap

Nice addition of some pin-ups at the end.

The Great Vermin

Story: Jason Lenox & David Paul
Pencils & Inks: Jason Lenox
Colors: Dani Kaulakis
Lettering: David Paul

In only six short pages, Vermin really gets into a deep place in our psyche as to the differences between good and evil and our place in them.  Again, great art and panel work is amazing.  Page 3, Panel 2 is an amazing shot of flowers jutting up from a blasted corpse.  Feels like the 60s all over again.

Neat futuristic-looking pin-up by Joseph Freistuhler at the end really rounds things out.

All in all a great first issue one.  Would like to have not read it digitally, but I'm sure this guy has plenty this weekend at Setsucon, January 26-27 at the Penn Stater in State College, PA.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

These Things Are Mine

In keeping with the output, I figured I'd give you a glimpse of Traveling Tales that I've been working on since time out of mind.  I handed this in for workshop a few years ago and had my arch-nemesis read it, BOTH to a wonky array of critiques.
Again, this is very beginning of my creative life (though new) and I'd have trouble giving up this piece, word-for-word.  I have since added more, clipped more, and have a bit of a different take than I had previously.  Even stuff here is making its way to the end, but maybe more on that later.

                He knelt at the fireplace, however briefly, jittery in anticipation of the day—if not for the need to make pee before he wet himself.  He poked absently at the snuggling fire coals with their white-ash night caps, transfixed by the glowering glowing warmth as they came to life, almost angry for being woken from their ember sleep.  Struggling in the hearth, they sputtered and spit in their irritation, voicing their concern for the morning chill.  Reds and yellows played across his face as he peered into the widening gyre of the hearth’s hellish depths.  Throwing one final log into position kicked sparks up the chimney, winking towards finality as the wind sucked them outward into the early morning sky.
                He took the stewpot from its fireplace hook, making his way through basement quarters to the garden to fill the pot from the rainwater gutterbucket.  Like a ghost, he glided silently along the rows, crops tickling the tops of his feet with dew.  He’d been out here mere hours ago, trying to go, staring up between the branches next to the tree where he marked his territory.  He hadn’t done a thing, though, shaking his head as he shook the few little dribbles he’d managed to squeeze out.  Back through the yard, eyes to the stars, a near-silent night offering up a near silent prayer to God up there.  Barry waited for an answer, not really expecting to hear one.  The stars twinkled and shone, heaven’s angels silently laughing at him in the multitude of the expansive night.
                Barry Carlson thought about this as he made water.  He was not a praying man.  He paid his respects in church, silent saint amid the motions—sit down, stand up, kneel, ad nauseum—the repetition boring him, taking him farther from what he believed church could give him.  He was tired of giving and sacrificing, and now he wanted a little back for his time and effort offered.  He knew that wasn’t how it worked, and he believed, truly he did, but why in this wide world wasn’t there a place for him?
                It had been a dry spring thus far, but there would be more than enough water to get his pappy along until harvest, should the caravan not be back by then.  Stewpot filled to the brim, Barry hefted it and waddled back inside to replace it above the fire that had caught.  What little heat it was making would be plenty to get the shower water hot.  In the meantime, Barry would nap, if just for a little bit;   knowing full well there was no chance that sleep could overtake him with such little time left to go, he lay down just the same, excitement veiling the threat of oversleep to keep him stranded in this town for another summer.
                It wasn’t that he loathed the place, far from it.  Truth be told, Barry loved Haven, and it had grown on him the way no other city in the county.  Except…like a toenail gone rogue, the whole of Clint had been poking and prodding just below the surface of the skin.  Like the infestation that it always proved itself to be, that pesky little bugger hurt like the dickens—and sent him home packing, limping back along the path.
                But sleep he did, or so he believed, restless as it was.  Caught between waking dreams and nightmares putting up another gruesome stand at the forefront of his mind, fireworks whistled and howled their incoherencies at he and his pappy, watching from the porch.  The cacophony city-side lit up the sky and echoed down the Sus’kenny River Valley.  It was a song Barry longed to hear, leaping from his sitting place and racing to the road, following in short bursts as each barrage of the spectacle reached the heavens.  The farther he made it from the house, however, the more intermittent the display of lights became.  He knew the road well, even in the dead of night, but now, as the dark assaulted his senses, enveloping him, crashing down around him and bringing him to his knees. 
                This is the exact moment in time which something on the horizon has been waiting, the formless and empty darkness chooses to release Barry from his kneeling posture.  The glorious rays grasping at the treeline, inching above the mountaintops as the dawn pokes its head for what may very well be the first time ever.  Barry tries to look upon the colors radiating from the corona, the crown of the sun bleeding out another victory, shouting from the rooftop across the morning sky.  The brief testament that proved to be the fireworks’ finale stands in only for another beginning.  The calamity which has ensued, awoken the light, and the tendrils of night dissipate as a silent fog from around the boy’s heart, and in a still, small voice weaving its way into his head
                “Barry.  Hey, Barry…”  The voice of the big man upstairs shook the foundations in Barry’s bedroom, snatching him from dreams that proved to be as out of place as he was.  Harsh sunlight coursed through the garden doorway, displacing Barry some two hours later than when he lay his head, patient, waiting.  The clock chimed upon an ominous eight-fifteen, gears grinding as his brain pondered this, squinting in incomprehension.  Calculations muddled his thoughts, making miscalculations, and then righting themselves with the realization he was going to be late.
                Lack of sleep and the abruptness of his call to being awoken had left him with one big headache, pain making its good ol’ time from the base of his skull where it met bunching at the neck, up over the top of his head to his eyeballs.  Along with this came the smells of breakfast, easing their way towards him, Barry’s stomach queased in emptiness of belly and the uncertainty of the day to come.  He doffed  his clothes, grabbed at the warm water waiting and streaked outside to the shower.
                As water cascaded about him, Barry was glad for what little rest he managed.  The haste of his lateness spurred him into action, making it farther in a shorter time than he would have made had he stayed awake, puttering around.  The urgency the shower placed upon his shoulders also made him more than grateful for the last warm shower he might have in a while.  Either way, it was over sooner than he had hoped, dragging his bucket and soap, dripping inside.
                Barry got caught up in his pants, trying to maneuver two legs into one of the homespun wool slacks, falling to the floor.  Yet in his fumblings, he located his missing moccasin that would prove invaluable for the trip; now he wouldn’t have to buy a new pair.  Leather jerkin topped things off, bone buttons undone, knowing full well the heat of the morning would be coming on quick.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Artist's Way: A Travel Guide

Books with Your Barista
Jared A. Conti   

This Way is not for the faint at heart

My copy is beaten up, broken down and a little toasty around the edges. By notations inside the book, I started a journey almost four years ago to the day, but there are life references that lead me to believe that I’ve worked through it at least once since. And this isn’t the first copy I’ve had the pleasure to own. I’ve started paging through my copy, though there’s one in the mail coming any day. I need to retire this one because I don’t want all my notes from past years bogging down my thought process.

The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron is not for the faint at heart. I’ve meandered along this 12-step creative recovery course a handful of times, and I still struggle and get caught up from time to time. Though you could classify this as a self-help book (what better way to start the new year?) at the same time, you’ve had all the help you’ve needed until this point.  The Artist’s Way helps you get through it all.

Labeled as a creative recovery, you don’t need to be a creative to make headway here, the book nudges you along. This program, to be done singly or in groups follows two simple tenets: morning pages and artist dates. There’s plenty of “homework” at the end of each chapter to keep you moving in the right direction.

Morning pages consist of three written longhand pages per day, which sounds harder than it is, but once you get grooving there’s no stopping you. Artist dates are meant to get you out and doing something, preferably alone, to get your brain moving about. Ms. Cameron makes you think of creativity like a well: pages dump out the stagnant water while the artist dates are there to fill the water back up with clean.

This book digs deep and tears open parts of you that were long forgotten. Sometimes you didn’t even know they were there. Old hurts are remembered, but with them comes healing. What you can do as a creative individual knows no bounds.  

Treat yourself to a real gift during this cold, dreary season.

This was originally published in the Lock Haven Express, 01/17/2013.

Saturday, January 12, 2013


Wrote this beauty a couple of years ago.  Performed a few times with The Echo & Sway, even to the point of being the first real performance piece I've ever used props for.  I've got another that I'll have to dig up, but this is enough for today.

I didn't want to write it then, and I certainly didn't want to publish it again, but I think a conversation needs to start.  I'm not sure what to say other than I'm tired of thinking about this crap.  

I know folks have it rougher than some, but seriously, The Beard is here for you.  
If you need someone to talk to because you've been affected by it, The Beard is here for you.  
If you're thinking about it, The Beard is here for you. 

Julie, Bob, and Roy, say it ain't so.

To Write:
Love in Her Arms

Your testament
is written here,
not for the cause
that I want to please you
but because I’m pleased
to want you.

Indelible ink
tattooed into my
veins, flooded
with the permanence of
your love

not to bring pain,
only the attention
to self, me
that I so greatly desire
above all things.

Unsure of which
direction to go,
sinews connecting the
horizontal and the

do not adjust your television set,
they must deem me crazy.

Slipping under
hot and cold
make no matter, either
way works just
as well.
It’s the sensitivity
to the pain
I’m losing

a cry for help
can’t say it
any other way.
God, how I plead
for an escape.