Thursday, October 27, 2011

Zombies and Psychos and Ghosts, Oh My! Ten Comics Fit for Halloween Reading

I've stopped by YA Cafe many times before, but this time when the book club topic of scary reading was announced, I was like “Heck yeah! I’m doing this.” (Despite having confessed to being a big wimp.) I just so happened to have some graphic novels that met this criteria out from the library.

Since I opted to go the comics route, I read a few titles instead of just one…and then because I got carried away I decided to extend the list to some of my favorite scary graphic novels that I’ve read over the past couple of years. (And okay, some aren’t so much “scary” as “funny” but they’re about creatures of the night and such, so I figure it counts.)

Before I get on to my picks, a few words on comics and YA. While some comics publishers print a suggested age on the back of their books, I feel there isn’t as clear a line between adult and YA comics as there is with traditional books, where YA gets its own section in bookstores. Many folks who don’t read comics assume, erroneously, that just because it’s a comic it's kid’s stuff. So very not true. So so sooooo very not true. Some of these comics I wouldn’t want my mom reading, let alone a fourteen-year-old. Sometimes the only way to know the age appropriateness of a comic is to read it.

All this is to say that the graphic novels I chose aren’t specifically YA, but they aren’t specifically not YA either. For my additional list of “spooky” reads, though, I tried to stick with titles that could be considered YA.

Anyways, let’s get on to…

The Reading I Dun:

(Click on the pics of the books for the descriptions.)

Blackest Night by Ceoff Johns (writer), Ivan Reiss, Oclair Albert, and Joe Prado

Oh, yeah. Zombie superheroes. That's what I'm talking about. I had bunches of fun reading this one and it even managed to have some creepy moments in there. I mean, an undead Elongated Man i.e. a zombie with super stretch powers? That’s just all kinds of wrong.

Unlike some mainstream superhero graphic novels, I’d consider this story accessible to people who haven’t been reading DC comics from their first day out the womb. I’m not super familiar with the DC universe but never felt lost reading Blackest Night. If you’ve watched the occasional episode of a DC animated series, that helps. If not, there’s a quick conversation at the beginning that fills you in on the people-slash-history you need to know, and then it’s on to the undead superheroes. What I really appreciated about this book is that it takes the often-abused device of dead superheroes never staying dead and spins a story around it to explain exactly why that it so. Good times!

Locke and Key – Vol.1: Welcome to Lovecraft by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez

After losing their father, three siblings move into the old, New England family mansion. The mansion is in a town called Lovecraft. Yeah…this is going to work out well for them. On top of that, the psychopath who killed their father is very interested in unlocking the secrets of their new home.

So this one is definitely NOT for our younger YA readers due to the tendency toward bloody murders and a certain *ahem* adult situation/conversation. (Yeah, yeah. I know teens know all about everything concerning violence and sex and all that, but some parents probably still want a heads up about these things). The beginning was a little confusing because the time jumps and flashback weren’t clearly conveyed, but the ending left me intrigued. I look forward to continuing this series.

Tenken by Yumiko Shirai

A big giant snake looking for wifey in a post-apocalyptic Japan.

Of the three graphic novels I read, this one most successfully and consistently conveyed a dark, creepy tone throughout. Though there were unfortunately a lot of typos and it was sometimes confusing (both because of the differences in some of the ways the Japanese do comics and because of the way information is unveiled in the story), I still liked this. I just had to read the ending twice to understand what had happened. But that’s okay. Some things are meant to be read twice.

Some Favorite Past “Scary” Reads (click on pics for descriptions):


Children of the Sea by Daisuke Igarashi

As far as I’m concerned, the ocean is scary anyway. I really had no business reading a series that sets out to make the ocean even more of a strange and mysterious place. I think I’m still traumatized from the events of one of these volumes. (I won't sat which one.)

Elk’s Run by Joshua Hale Failkov

This graphic novel made me feel claustrophobic at times. But you just know there are people like the man character’s dad out there, and that’s what earns this book a place in the creepy section of this list.


Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol

I loved Anya as a character. She came across as a real teenaged girl, not a hero or a saint, often selfish and surly, but also funny and smart.

Courtney Crumrin series and associated titles by Ted Naifeh

All ages can enjoy this one. What I love about it is that things don’t always turn out as you'd expect. Not everyone gets to have a happy ending.


Hipsters vs. Vampires by Adrian von Baur

It’s about dagone time somebody put these two together. Click hier to read this webcomic from the beginning. Hilarity ensues.

Life Sucks by Jessica Abel, Gabe Soria and Warren Pleece

I’ll admit. The ending was kinda anti-climatic, but the rest of the book made me laugh so much I don’t even care. I love this graphic novel. As a matter of fact, I'ma go read it now.

Death Jr. by Gary Whitta and Ted Naifeh

He may be the son of the Grim Reaper, but that doesn't stop him from having an optimistic outlook and a go-getter attitude.

Thursday, October 6, 2011


Here’s what I think about novel writing. You can read about it, you can talk about it, and you can think about it, and all that helps. Especially if you’re in a dialogue with other writers (whether in person or across the interwebs). But it’s the doing it that really teaches you how to make it happen.

Even writing and workshopping short stories, while educational when it comes to learning many of the mechanics of storytelling, doesn’t fully prepare you for the monumental undertaking of completing a novel. At least this has been my experience.

Chapters are one of those things I had to learn by doing. As I made my first attempts at writing a book, questions cluttered my head. What are chapters really? How long should they be? How much should happen in them? How do I know when I’ve done enough to end the chapter? None of these questions have one answer. If I pick up five books from my shelf at random, I’d find five different approaches to building chapters.

And that’s why we have to learn by doing. It’s the only real way to figure out what works for each of us and what works for each of the many stories we all have in us to tell.

With my SUPER AWESOME BIG TIME REWRITE, I’m approaching my chapters with a brand new philosophy. My previous approach was to keep putting stuff in until it looked like I had enough stuff in there to close that chapter, leaving enough stuff unresolved to warrant starting a new chapter. I didn’t always think about chapter goals or what I was accomplishing. The only rule I held myself accountable to was keeping in mind that it had to lead somewhere.

It was very scientific, and I even think that method worked pretty okay (for a first draft if nothing else).

This time around, just to shake things up, I'm thinking about each chapter as encapsulating a specific idea, concern or event and the actions and reactions surrounding that element. Interestingly, doing things this way has made for longer chapters with several section breaks in each and less chapters in the manuscript as a whole.

I’m really liking doing it this way. It’s put me in the mindset of not dragging things out for the sake of dragging things out, which maybe I might have perhaps have been guilty of once or possibly twice. That was back when I associated dragging things out with infusing a story with tension.

I’m not saying that there aren’t times when it’s necessary to delay gratification or a big climax. But it’s important to remember that by going ahead and throwing that big thing at your characters, it gives you the opportunity to raise the stakes, escalate the action, and throw your characters into an even bigger, more crazy climax that you might have never thought of otherwise.

So I guess what I’m saying is that my SUPER AWESOME BIG TIME REWRITE is going awesome (even though progress has slowed to a crawl these past few weeks because I’ve had to sluggishly and painfully chisel out these last few chapters with an ice pick) and I’m learning stuff from the process.

Yea, learning!

I’m curious. How do vous approach putting a chapter together and how did vous come to doing it that way?