Despite my recent blog inactivity, things have been moving along (albiet slowly)
As evidenced above, the cover for my upcoming re-release of The Ways of Khrem has evolved. The sky is now more natural and striking, and the added element of the tarantula hiding behind the title is sort of symbolic of the way Talanturos lurks in the background of the story's events. Even though he is only an active character in the first part of the book, he's always in the background...lurking.
At the moment, I'm sort of jumping back and forth between two projects. The first is trying to get The Ways of Khrem reformatted and the cover art finished so it can be released early next year. And the other is trying to move forward on my current novel project, Nightwalk, in hopes of having a first draft ready to edit by the time the kid's get out for summer break. I'm about 43,000 words into it so far.
This is the story of a man trying to get his stepdaughter to safety as his upper middle-class neighborhood goes dark and transforms into a monster-infested nightmare around him. The cover art above is "candidate one" although there were actually other ideas tried. This is just the first one I could actually live with. I'm sure I will try other variations after the manuscript is actually finished. But since this is a horror novel, the cover is formatted more in line with my other horror novels as opposed to the fantasy novel above.
I've learned that the real trick to making cover art is not to get to eager and go with my first idea. Sometimes it's better to set it aside and let things evolve a little. But always hang on to your unused artwork because you never know when it might provide an element you can use later.
Ah well,...as I said, things progress. Due to it being Christmas, there are plenty of other things that demand my attention but I am moving forward.
So here's hoping you all have a Merry Christmas/Happy Hanukkah out there! See you next year!
Last night, in a rite of passage of sorts, I celebrated the
Halloween season by sitting down with my son and watching a horror movie. After carefully weeding through the
possibilities to eliminate the ones with nudity and other sexual content that
us parents object to, I finally settled on John Carpenter’s, The Thing.
It’s an unusual movie in that it is actually scary, yet
doesn’t contain a single female character (which means none of that
aforementioned nudity). There’s blood and gore, but most young buys are more
than capable of dealing with that. The language is a little rough, but if you’re
going to watch a horror movie with your kid you have to make some concessions
at some point. This ain’t Disney, after all.
Anyway, we both enjoyed the film and had a high old time
pointing things out and eating popcorn.
But while I watched the film, I also found myself comparing
it to the “prequel” that had been made only a year or two ago. That one hadn’t
been too bad, (actually, it was better than I expected it to be) but this one
was so much better. And as I realized that, I watched the film closer and tried
to work out why.
Both movies were competently acted. And I will give the
prequel credit for doing things to set up what was found in Carpenter’s movie
with only a couple of objectionable exceptions.
Personally, I think if you are going to go that direction then it’s the
writer’s duty to go ahead and nail it without leaving ANY big things that don’t
fit. It wouldn’t have been that hard. But that was a personal quibble on my
part and I don’t think it’s what made the “prequel” an inferior movie.
In the end, I think it all came back to the CGI. Now (full
disclosure) I’m not a fan of CGI in most horror movies in the first place, but
I’m not totally sure the CGI itself was the total problem here. The only VISUAL
drawback I noticed with the CGI was that in comparison with the monster in
Carpenter’s movie, the one in the prequel simply wasn’t as wet and slimy. There
was also that feeling of “not really there” that I sometimes get with CGI as
well, even when it is seamlessly done.
But the real problem wasn’t so much the CGI as the decisions
it led the movie makers into making. CGI allowed them to have the monster
rampaging through hallways and stalking people through rooms…therefore that’s
what they did, and I think that was their mistake.
There are two types of monsters in monster movies. There are
“monsters of the shadows,” that only appear from time to time out of the
darkness or from offscreen (or in this case out of a person) and then do their
thing and vanish…and then there are rampaging monsters who once they appear
throw mystery to wind and go howling after their victims. (like the dinosaurs
of Jurassic Park, for instance).
So when the makers of The Thing chose to use their newfound
ability to release the monster and have it storm through the station, they
changed its very nature. Sure, it was still grisly and doing disgusting acts of
morphology with the human body, but now it was a monster of the shadows that
was out of its element. Now it was out in the open and having to keep topping its
last act of being scary and disgusting, while being cast in role of a velociraptor
The end result were scenes that weren't a total failure
because they had at least been competently done, but were nowhere near as
effective as the scenes in Carpenter’s move simply because they had the monster
doing something it was never really intended to do. It was acting against type.
And I think that matters, not with just movies, but with
books as well. I think when we as authors write a monster book, we need to be
very clear with ourselves what type of monster we are creating. That way we can
be careful to use them to their best effect. Because as authors, we are faced
with the same quandary that has been the downfall of many horror movies that
have discovered the shiny new toy of CGI...
…just because we can do it, doesn’t necessarily mean we
At the moment, I’m kinda struggling with a novel I’m working
on. I have a basic idea of what’s going to happen, and I have some rather
potent and memorable scenes pictured. But at the same time, I’m having to stop
and rethink the whole thing because I haven’t truly figured out what the novel
is about. Knowing what the book is about goes a long way toward
helping me write it. And what I’m talking about isn’t the surface plot and
For instance, Spiderstalk has giant spiders, superhuman
mutants, and secret societies, but what it’s really about is a man who lost
nearly everything finding himself and a reason to live again. Adam has given
up, and only uses his brother’s disappearance as a crutch to keep going. His
fixation on rescuing Tucker is authentic, but also serves the selfish purpose
of motivating him forward. It’s only when he faces the Matriarch and truly has
to decide who he is, that he finally makes a defining non-selfish choice
that means he can now move forward with life as a better man.
Dead Stop has graveyard zombies surrounding a truckstop and
people fighting for their lives…but what it’s really about is Deke overcoming his
self-doubt and illusions of other people, Rachel overcoming her grief and
finding her way back to the things that made her strong, and Marisa finding the
ability to allow herself to trust and lean on somebody else.
Even Cargill from The Ways of Khrem has a character arc, as
he initially and shamelessly makes all his decisions based on his own self-interest,
but as the story unfolds he begins to get in touch with the past that hardened
him and uses that as motivation to act in a way to set things right. He will
always be cynical, sarcastic, and opportunistic, but at the same time he is
adding dimensions that allows him to act on better impulses…even if
reluctantly. (This novel should be republished this fall)
A novel is a story of
a character, and losing sight of that is the prelude to a novel in trouble. So
I’m backing up and rethinking my characters. It’s a delay, and may involve
going back and rewriting from an earlier
point in the novel, but that’s okay. In the end it’s about the finished
product, and giving the reader a journey that’s not only exciting, but has a
I have a neuropathy called Charcot Marie Tooth, or CMT.
I have lived with it for about ten years, as paralysis overtook my feet and lower legs. I had to learn to wear braces called AFO's which allowed me to walk on feet that had become useless. Over time, as it progressed, I first used canes to augment the braces and then graduated to a rolling walker. I usually didn't make a big deal out of it, although I often put off getting what I needed until the absolutely last moment...or probably should have had it for a while.
Unfortunately, the disease is now progressing in a way that is going to present challenges of several types as time moves forward. It has been in my hands for a while, and just like my feet, I adapted as they weakened. My wife became the jar opener of the house, and I've even had to ask my kids to help me with sticky doorknobs.
Yet, now the weakness in my hands is starting to progress into partial numbness and paralysis. The saving grace up till now has been that it takes very little strength to push the keys on a keyboard, but now my fingers are starting to completely lose their ability to move in certain directions. My index fingers will no longer move toward my thumb, making the G,H,T, and Y keys real adventures. My little fingers are losing lateral motion as well.
Needless to say, this development is going to present serious challenges to my writing career. I' probably should have looked into this sooner, but I guess it's time to start exploring options involving changing my typing style, or even looking into voice recognition software since mouseclicking is getting more difficult too. Sadly, hands are not like feet nd braces will not help them.
Right now, I hate this disease with an intensity that goes beyond words. I just remind myself that if it hadn't been for CMT, I would have never been forced to sit down and write in the first place. It offers some consolation. But now it threatens to take that career away. and if I'm going to continue I'll have to figure some things out.
I'm hoping to find a workable solution. I still have some stories to tell.
D. Nathan Hilliard lives in Spring, Texas with his veterinarian wife, two children, and two cats. He draws his inspiration from a childhood living in different small Texas towns, accented by teen years spent in western New Mexico. He has experienced life through a diverse collection of jobs ranging from meter reading and being an assistant manager at a convenience store, to working at cotton gins, window factories, and uranium mills. After coming down with Charcot Marie Tooth (CMT) at the turn of the century, Mr. Hilliard now happily settles for tending house, raising his kids, and exploring the field of writing.