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Posted: June 1, 2014 in Uncategorized
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Capes is a collection of short fiction where the unreal lives of superheroes become all too real. West crafts a world where the most powerful man on Earth is the Assistant Manager at a fast food restaurant, a lonely boy learns there is more to his useless powers than he imagined, the possible corruption of a city’s heroes has a young costume on the run, and secret identities and vigilante justice have vicious consequences. Explore the universe of the masked arbiters of justice in ways you haven’t seen them before in this exciting collection.


My short story “Code” is free on Amazon until 5/23. Click Here to get it now!

I once ate an entire bag of Oreos… buy my book.


Aside  —  Posted: May 19, 2014 in Uncategorized

CAPES: Six Uncanny Tales, Now on Sale!

Image  —  Posted: May 18, 2014 in Uncategorized

While Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has had a slow start, it seems to be coming into its own. It’s got a cast and group of writers that are finding the characters, and I really hope it gets a second season. It all comes down to trust for me. I trust the creative team behind this series. If we had trusted Dollhouse a little more we would have been treated to a really good surprise. Instead, we got the abbreviated version in an outstanding final episode, and a great comic miniseries. Also, Deathlok. C’mon. That’s just cool.Image

I’ve often said that logic 101 should be a required high school course throughout the land. If you spend any considerable amount of time with other bags of mostly water, and/or mentioned politics, firearms, or whether the poor should be set to drift on ice flows, you have probably noticed that while people may be passionate, they suck at arguing. If you’re familiar with Monty Python (who are reuniting, if you didn’t know), you are well aware that an argument is not just contradiction, it’s a connected series of statements to establish a definite proposition …. an intellectual process.

And, while I think being able to make and identify good arguments is an important life skill, I also think it’s an important writing skill. A story, no matter its genre, is really just a (hopefully) clever argument presented by character, setting and plot (you think I’m going to believe the Overlook Hotel is haunted unless Mr. King makes a darn good argument with his writing that this is a world where haunted hotels can exist?)

Argument, like story, has to make logical connections from beginning to end. Like this: Premise A has to equal B, but B also has to equal C. In real life, those premises have to be true and logically follow one another, in writing they only have to logically follow one another. For instance, if I said that Beyonce killed JFK, that is neither true nor is it logical (because she wasn’t born until 1981). It’s an easily refuted argument in the real world. But what if the argument my fictional story makes is that a genius (but Beyonce obsessed) scientist created technology that made time travel possible, and hijinks ensue which eventually gives Beyonce access to a time machine where she is sent back in time and accidentally responsible for the President’s assassination. Although in need of quite a bit of turd polishing, that’s an acceptably logical story premise. Why? Because, you can’t just put a boy and a lion in a boat without explaining how they got there. Just give me a world in which it’s plausible that Beyonce could have killed JFK, along with proper explanation of how she got to that point (A equaling B equaling C), and your story argument is on its way to a place of validity where I can begin to abandon my disbelief.

As readers, we will accept that anything can happen if you, as the writer, argue the point well enough. But if you let story logic slip, you lose the reading trance you had me in and I begin to ask myself whether I should be reading something else. For example, if I argued that vampires could attack Bayside High, you would think I’d been huffing my 90’s era Saved By the Smell cologne, (it’s not a thing, but it should have been). But if I had said that vampires could attack Sunnydale High, you’d only roll your eyes at the obvious nature of my statement. Why? They’re both high schools. They’re both even high schools where it could be argued that supernatural things are known to happen (Zack stops time and talks to the voyeuristic outside people all the time.) So, why is it so hard to accept that, one fateful Prom night, a band of roving bloodsuckers might savagely murder the cast (how excited are you now, Jessie Spano?), except Zack, who would obviously stop time to escape, and Kelly Kapowski, because she would obviously be turned and promptly become their vampire queen (duh). The problem is the premise doesn’t match the conclusion you’ve made. Despite Zack’s time manipulating abilities, we are led to believe for seventeen bajillion seasons that this is your average high school. Such a twist would betray what had come before; feel tacked on. (It’s why people despised the fact that the blue-collar family of Rosanne won the lottery. …How’s that for a current example? I gots my fingers on the pulse of today’s youth!) So, the next time you make an argument about wages at Wal-Mart or werewolves in the walls, just make sure it doesn’t suck.

Meet Your Queen

Meet Your Queen

Write it down.

Posted: November 22, 2013 in Uncategorized

I try to keep a tiny notebook with me wherever I go. I’m far from a luddite, but as awesome as technology is, you just can’ t carry an ipad with you everywhere. And, even if you did, there are too many steps between having an idea and opening the right app to get that idea down for it to be as useful as a simple pad and paper. Don’t get me wrong, I think technology’s getting there, and–someday–I’ll be able to map story ideas with technology somehow tied to my thoughts, but we’re just not there yet. And my great ideas are so few and far between that I need to get the down as soon as I can. It’s not about the technology. It’s not about how you get the idea down at all. It’s that you get the idea down. It’s that you share your individual insight with the world. It will most likely be the same insight we’ve heard a billion times before, but we need to keep hearing those insights. We are a people who need to hear the same truths over and over and over and over again. Because we forget. It’s not even that newer generations are born into ignorance. No, give us a decade or a day and we’ll misplace some principle that, only a few years (or hours) before, defined us in some way. So, it’s important, this thing we do–creation. Even art without a direct message often reminds us, if nothing else, to smile. And that’s enough. So, write it down.

Because of it being Halloween and all, I’ve been thinking a lot about horror. Every year, we pay millions of dollars to be frightened in some way; to be made uncomfortable. I mean, otherwise, our entire American existence is based around safety and comfort–from remote controls to gated communities–to the point that it’s often ridiculous. (I’m looking at you, Snuggie.) Yet we stand in line for hours to ride roller coasters, pay money to go on ghost tours, go skydiving and, yes, we devour gobs of scary books and movies.

Life is fragile, and it’s short. We spend a lot of time coming up with ways not to have to think about that, but we are all too aware this is true. To top it off, there’s at least a bazillion ways to die (actual number may vary), and there’s not enough money, booze or sex to stop that train. We’re powerless. What do we do with such a psychological dilemma? We’ve already said facing that existential issue head on is out of the question for most people, but it’s there and its not going away. So, we do what humans do best: we try to deal with it without actually having to deal with it. And that’s what I think horror is all about.

Someone, somewhere, with too much time and a government grant on their hands, said that there are seventeen negative news stories for every kitten found to have Cancer-curing meow story. Some have said that’s because we’re bastards, but I think it’s a form of catharsis. Part of us despises hearing bad news, because, as fellow human beings, we empathize. But another part of us is fascinated by it. Not because we’re bastards, but because we are curious. Death is ubiquitous and isn’t known for making appointments. So, it enthralls us. And when we hear that this monster, so silent in our own lives, has spoken, we want to hear. We want to see the path of destruction it left behind so that we can better understand it. Because, part of us feels like that if we can understand it, we can control it.

I think it’s for the same reasons that we love horror. We get to sit down for an hour and a half and watch death do his thing (the scary part) then get made a fool of by someone in the end (the therapeutic part). While I don’t think these are the best ways to deal with such issues, I think stories can have a therapeutic effect. Chesterton said, “Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” Through horror, we can–within the relative safety of our own homes–explore our greatest fears. We get a peek into that mysterious realm without having to, well, die to do so.

Horror not only lets us wrap our minds around these ideas, it gives us a sense that there is hope. Every time the mask-wearing, hatchet-toting enemy is defeated, we pump our fists in celebration, not so much because the protagonist was such a well-defined and relatable character that we didn’t want to see them die (one of the short-comings of the genre, to be certain), but simply because certain death was overcome by someone as human as us.