Being the “New” Someone

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I’ve read a book by a guy named Brian Keene, and on the back cover he was heralded as “the new Stephen King”.  Or was it “the next Stephen King”?  Whichever.  The point is, this author is being held up to Stephen King as a successor.

I found that sort of interesting.  I’d think, in order for him to be the successor to King, King would have to be either retired or dead.  Instead, he’s still actively writing and doing book promotional things.  His website has a lively forum, in which he seldom if ever participates, but still, it’s lively.  He has a weekly newsletter.  He still does interviews for the media.  Heck, a few years ago he even did a couple of spots for ESPN.

That doesn’t much sound like a guy who’s calling it a career, or a life for that matter.  So, how can there be a “next” or “new” one if he’s still out there doing what Stephen King does?

I’ll admit, I was skeptical at the title.  The implication is, I think, Mr. Keene’s work is horror fiction on the order of Stephen King’s work.  At least, Stephen King’s early works, which set the tone and tenor for the genre in the mid-70s and forward.  To say I was disappointed would be an understatement.  I don’t intend to bash Mr. Keene’s work here; I’m sure he writes just fine and someone thought enough of his work to compare him to what many consider the master of the horror genre.  I disagree, but that’s an opinion.

I started to wonder, though, what it would be like to be compared to an icon.  How would one live up to that standard?  How can you be “the next Stephen King” and not disappoint those loyalists who have adored every jot and tittle which dropped from King’s keyboard?  How would you ever measure up to a man who can write 2000 words a day and thinks 180K words is a “goodish” book length?

The idea of being the “next” anything also carries with it some ramifications.  Does that leave one room to be oneself?  Can you be the next Stephen King and still be you?  How does one who writes with one’s own voice become compared to someone else?

I write with standards in mind.  Some of you might think my standards lax and unacceptable.  Others find my standards harsh and demanding.  But I write to try and improve, to strive for betterment with every piece, with every work.  In my mind, I am not the equal in prose mastery of a Stephen King, but when I am, I’m not sure I want to be considered “the new” or “the next” Stephen King.  I’d like to be considered the only me, and valued and appreciated (or scorned and hated) for who I am as a writer.

I don’t think Brian Keene writes as well as Stephen King.  I wouldn’t consider him the successor to that throne.  I don’t know if anyone ever will be, the same way there will never be a “new” H. P. Lovecraft, or Edgar Allan Poe, or Bram Stoker, or Mary Shelley.  I think each of us, as artist, creators, or just individuals, wants to achieve greatness in what we do without having to mimic the path and parcel of someone else.  While I’d love to have King’s talent, ability, notoriety, distribution and most of all, MONEY, I don’t know if I want to be “the next Stephen King”.  As much as I admire the man, I’d like to be in his league as myself, my own person, and free to write what I want to write in my way, whichever way that ends up being.

How about you?  Do you know of someone who’s “the new” or “the next”?  Is it you, maybe?  Does that label help or hurt?

-JDT-

The Blog Post Dilemma

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At first, I was going to blog about the passing of Farrah Fawcett, Michael Jackson and earlier this week, Ed McMahon.  I was going to talk about how each of those celebrities had a place in my stages of development to different degrees and the memories they all invoked.  But that’s been done by now, I’m sure, and honestly, I have little to say.  I’ve never been pursuant of popular culture in any significant way, so why start now?  I decided to pass.

Then I was going to blog about H. P. Lovecraft, often heralded as one of the greatest creators in horror and speculative fiction despite not being an overly capable writer.  He had a strong and cultic following, and a significant number of stories credited to him were actually ideas sent to him for authoring by his fans, or stories said fans asked him to re-work/re-write, which he did.  Some of them came from his students, as well, and so I’m currently reading a book called The Horror in the Museum in which Lovecraft’s pen was put to a large collection of stories not original to him.  They have all the common Lovecraft tropes, of course: elder gods, tentacle-laden amphibious monsters from times before the Earth cooled, and men who faint.  Lots of deus ex machina, too; can’t forget that.  Wouldn’t be Lovecraft’s work without that.  But I decided against it, because I’m not an expert or even very knowledgeable about Lovecraft and his work, and what would I say anyway?  Nah.  Pass.

Then I thought I’d talk about movies again, but I’ve already spoken about my newfound love for (good) westerns, and any horror movies I’ve seen recently have been more than disappointing.  I’ve already mentioned those worth mentioning anyway.  So again, rather than beat a dead horse, I figured it’s time to look for something else to talk about.

I still don’t have work so I thought I might just talk about how that’s affected me and my family.  But again, been there, done that, bought the T-shirt.  No, time to let that alone until I actually have something to say … if ever.

I considered telling you all how close I was to buying a pair of cowboy boots, or maybe a cowboy hat, right up until I got a look at the prices.  So that went out the window.  And who cares?  Maybe I should just talk about my time in the shower or bathroom, or maybe when I cut my toenails.

In the end, I decided to blog about all the things I might’ve blogged about today, the things I may yet have to blog about as blog material becomes scarce, and let you all know I hope you have a great weekend and how much I appreciate you stopping by here and letting me know you’re reading my blog, sharing my thoughts and discussing these things with me.

Thanks, one and all.

God bless.

-JDT-

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General Updates

August Derleth, probably in the 1930s. Derleth...
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Sorry, gang, I have nothing to say today.  Not that I know of, anyway.  So, for some general life updates.

I haven’t had the success with my new resume I hoped for.  Big surprise there.  I’m still hopeful and optimistic and all that crap, but not only is this discouraging it’s getting frightening.  Time is of the essence and I can’t seem to generate a nibble.  Keep a good thought or if you’re the praying kind, please remember us in prayer.  It’s all we’ve got right now.

I’ve been outlining a continuation of the novella (novelette? short story?) The Strange Case of Benny Rogers.  I have no idea why.  It was a really fun project to write, and I’ve provided a rough outline for about five more parts to it.  If I can keep all the parts the same general word count (the first story was 16,500, roughly), then I have about five, maybe six more parts.  That translates to about 82K before editing.  Figure I can get that down to inside 80K pretty easily, not much work there.  Cut out the draggy parts, maybe clean up the language (though I’m wont to do that; I like the grittiness and street-level feel of the story and character), and I’ll have no problem getting the thing down to slim manuscript size.  Problem is, I don’t want to dive into yet another project; I’d rather just … finish what I’ve started.  But I’m not doing that so … eh, dilemma.  Such is life, right?

Let’s see … I’m not making anywhere near satisfactory progress on my reading expedition.  I have a ton of books and haven’t even finished the first one.  It’s a collection of stories by someone being passed off as H. P. Lovecraft, but it’s not him.  It’s a man named August Derleth, a literary student and friend of Lovecraft, who wrote the stories from scraps and notes left by H. P. when he kicked the bucket.  The book itself is great; it’s like Lovecraft with better storytelling technique.  The style is so similar I didn’t pick up it wasn’t Lovecraft until I realized he was doing some show-not-tell, a sure sign you’re not reading Lovecraft, and the dialog was decent – a dead giveaway you’re not reading Lovecraft.  So overall, I like the book.  It’s the shortest book I got from the library and it’s taken more than a week for me to get near the end.  I dunno.  I used to read so much faster.  *Sigh*

My beloved told you we replaced our cable/DVR unit, right?  She did.  Having the remote actually do something – and being able to actually watch a show on it – is just heaven.  Ahh … sigh of relief!

Nothing else to say, really.

Maybe no post tomorrow, and I’ll fire up the Cast o’ Characters next week.

God bless.
-JDT-

I Want to Hear Your Stories

cartoonyghostsAs I listen to people talk about themselves and their lives, I’ve noticed something I didn’t pay much attention to before.

Almost everyone either has, or knows someone who has, a ghost story of some kind.  You know – ghosts in the attic which appear as ethereal, period-dressed Victorian actors, or voices in the basement where no one has been in decades, or perhaps a shadow, silhouette at the top of the stairs.  Creaking floors, opening and closing doors or cabinets, flying pots and pans, flipping pictures and portraits … you know the thing I’m talking about here.

It’s some seeming supernatural or paranormal event they can’t explain, that they related with wide eyes and ominous or hushed tones.  I don’t think I’ve come across someone yet who didn’t have one to share, and the level of creepiness varies from tale to tale.

Some folks have gotten quite good at relating their story, and if told by firelight or low-wicked lamps, would make H. P. Lovecraft or Mary Shelley shudder.  Others recount the story – or in some cases, stories – as casually as they would describe their conversation over lunch of tuna on rye with coleslaw.  Some are impacted deeply, others not so much.

I’m working on a new story idea lately, and the thought of ghost stories is hovering in my mind, at the fore.  I’m comparing battle scars with my wife, who has a few chilling tales of her own to share, and I don’t come close in the creepy factor.  But that’s a narrow slice, a tiny cross-section, of things I’ve heard before.  (Most of them elude me, though.)

What about you, blogosphere?  I want to hear from you.  If you’re willing, take a few minutes in the comments section and tell me your ghost story … or stories.  No cheating – no UFOs, no demonic possessions – just good ol’ fashioned ghost stories.  You know you have one – or you know one from someone close to you.  Share it with me.  Who knows?  I might even use the events (not the people of course) in my new book … if I ever write it, that is.

Sound off, y’all.

God bless,
-JDT-

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