W.B.’s Book Report: Steve Ditko’s 160-Page Package

ditko

After the news of Steve Ditko’s death, I went in search of his later works, after having drifted away from comic books in general during the 1990s or so. I landed, more or less at random, on a 1999 collection called Steve Ditko’s 160-Page Package, which presents a group of short stories on some of Ditko’s most familiar themes – good, evil, choices, irony …

Some of the stories are OK, some are meh, and the same with the art. I have seen Ditko’s work look much more compelling, and I have seen it look much less. That’s not the point I took away. Continue reading →

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The elegant storyteller

jkrowling

The second time through Harry Potter and The Sorceror’s Stone, eight years after my first experience with J.K. Rowling’s magnificent prose and Jim Dale’s equally magnificent narration, it’s still clear what a marvelous storyteller Rowling is, full of whimsy and love and imagination. And knowing how the story develops, from finishing the seven books and reliving them through eight films, it’s interesting to note how many seeds are dropped here and there that will bear fruit in later books.

The world can never have too much whimsy, says I, nor too much love or too much imagination. The world needs more like the three friends Harry, Hermione and Ron, who have the courage to step up and take action when the authorities are too blind to a problem or too corrupt to do anything.

The heroes of the Potter universe do not accept the world at face value — they do not do as they’re told when something is obviously wrong. It’s a good thing to stand for what’s right, especially when the evil is not so easy to see.

I waited too long to ask the library to hold a copy of the second Potter book, and so it will be a few weeks before I can explore the Chamber of Secrets again, so in the meantime I took a friend’s advice and checked out the first book by Rowling’s detective story-writing alter ego Robert Galbraith. Seven or eight chapters into The Cuckoo’s Calling, I am as enchanted as I was by Harry. Just as she brought whimsy and love and imagination to her tales of wizards and witches, she brings a literary elegance to the hard-boiled detective novel — and yes, perhaps a bit of whimsy.

J.K. Rowling is the greatest author of our era.

Photo ©2015 Mary McCartney

 

Take your time

take your time

“I would write a book if I could find the time to write …”

“I love knitting/sewing/crafting and I wish I had time to do it.”

“I know I should exercise more, but I just don’t have time.”

The thing about time is it’s always available.

Time is not a thing that you “find.”

Time is a thing that you take.

I need to take the time to write.

I need to take the time to exercise.

I need to take the time to do the things that are important.

Maybe once I’ve done THOSE things, I can “find” the time to surf down rabbit holes or binge-watch TV shows.

Take time to do the important things first. Today.

Ditko Lives.

Ditko Lives

So. Steve Ditko.

I am privileged to have lived in those days before it got all big and corporate, when Marvel Comics was a secret shared by a relative handful of kids who had discovered there was more to comic books than Superman’s Pal getting turned into a giant sea turtle.

And in those days, there really was only one great debate: Continue reading →

I have been dying of thirst in the ocean for lack of strange wine

 

Strange Wine girl

Harlan Ellison died the other day, and the world grew more dull. I, of course, never met the man, but when I encountered his words I never failed to learn something, to be entertained, and/or to gain some insight into the human condition.

Oh, enough of that – the man was a hero to anyone who loves to see bullshit called out, grabbed by the throat and humiliated.

And he was, as the blurb on the cover to his collection Strange Wine, asserted, someone who “just could be the best short story writer alive today.” At least until Thursday. Continue reading →

Applying Sturgeon’s Law

pony dreamstime_s_17493455

“Ninety percent of everything is crap,” Theodore Sturgeon once famously said, or maybe he used a more colorful word.

One key, then, is to be prolific enough so that your 10 percent is a larger quantity. If you write 100 words, then only 10 words are gems, but if you write a million words, you might have a nice 100,000-word book in there.

Another key is to sift through all the crap and find your 10 percent. Or, to recall the old joke: Find the pony.

(This is 100 words – so which 10 words moved your mountains today?)

Every story is a mystery story

every story is a mystery story

Every story is a mystery story.

Every story has a mystery. Even a romance has the unfolding of understanding, a slow revelation of something to discover, and a moment of triumph when the puzzle is solved.

The story begins with the secret – the writer, who knows the answer to the riddle, builds layer upon layer over the secret, then goes back and sends the sleuth to peel back the layers in an adventure of discovery.

It can be a dangerous task, especially when people would rather not have the puzzle solved.

The delight is in the solving.