Archive for the ‘Ruminations’ Category

Before I get to my next bit of fiction (probably the next chapter of “The Gathering Storm”), I thought I’d pop in here with another post for my “Ruminations” category. Or maybe it’s a “General Announcement.” Hell, let’s just say it’s both and move on.

Clearly, things get a little dark around here. I mean, Janus is a psychopathic asshole with a girlfriend who not only is criminally insane but makes other people insane, too, when she feels like it. And then there’s Tooth Fairy, whom my 21-year-old son said a year or so ago was one of the scariest characters in this world of mine, and he’s not exactly some milquetoast lightweight young man. Query, while a hero who cracks sarcastic and witty at times, is a brooding guy, not unlike Batman. Ladykiller is a vigilante who doesn’t have any problem slashing men to ribbons for an act of sexual assault. Many of the stories here deal with dark themes.

At the same time, there’s obviously levity in many of these stories and in the various chapters of “The Gathering Storm,” which will clearly be of sizable novel length by the time I finish it.

Well, I’m obviously feeling at least a tiny bit lighthearted tonight, as I’ve decided, thanks to a strange inspiration yesterday and a typo in a tweet tonight, to introduce two new characters soon, at least in passing: Plain Jane and Amateur Knight. At some point in the more distant future will come a duo of also silly inspiration (OMG and BFF…I’m pretty sure OMG will be the lead in the duo with BFF as the sidekick; it only makes sense, right?).

With stories like “Wolfman and Sparrow,” “Mild-Mannered,” “The Rule of Opposites,” “Curiosity Thrills the Cat” and others, it’s clear I have my playful side. Hell, I introduced a character (not yet fully fleshed out) in “The Gathering Storm” named the Vegan Manhunter (who is a nod to DC’s Martian Manhunter, my son’s decision to go ovo-lacto veg a couple years ago, and the vegan power guy in the film Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.)

So, what can I say about Amateur Knight and Plain Jane right now? Not much. They’re still forming in my head.

But Amateur Knight will live up to the first part of his name and be a pain in the ass for the hero community because of it, and Plain Jane will somehow dovetail with Crazy Jane because it just makes sense.

As for OMG and BFF…I’m probably going to go full-out silly on that one when I finally decide to tackle that duo, whom I’m willing to bet spend a lot of time on Twitter, Tumblr and Pinterest.

See you in the (slightly) funny papers, folks…

Group Dynamics

Posted: January 12, 2013 in Ruminations

Been a while since my last fiction post, but wanted you all to know I’m starting on the next chapter of “The Gathering Storm” and have a ton of ideas for various one-off stories. In the meantime, realizing I also haven’t posted anything for the “Ruminations” category around here for a while, let me talk a bit about groups.

Super-powered groups.

There are really only three stable teams of heroic transhumans in the United States, which have been alluded to at various times though not yet seen or named. Eventually, the Whethermen will be formed (at some point near the end of “The Gathering Storm”), bringing that total to four. One could argue that the Guardian Corps is a viable fifth for the title of team, but really, much like the Guardian Angels of our world and street gangs (to which the structure of the Guardian Angels very much resembles), I’d call it more of a tribe with a mission. When I think of super-teams, I’m thinking something with some foundation of decent resources and an ability to respond on demand to a crisis. The Guardian Corps is more about being a place where (mostly) young transhumans can learn to use their powers and kick ass without getting in trouble for it. The Guardian Corps patrols neighborhoods looking for trouble and often picking off the low-lying fruit when it comes to crime, whereas a true super-team is trying to take down bigger operations and be on call for the authorities and various organizations and individuals who might call on their aid.

You won’t ever see many of those in my Whethermen universe. Some teams will form and fairly quickly dissolve, much like many small businesses, as they begin with a dream and then fracture under the stresses of day-to-day operations. Part of that is not realizing how much it costs (time-wise, money-wise and otherwise) and not being able to sustain things. But the other part is the psyche of transhumans, which makes them not play together all that well most of the time.

You’ll see duos fairly often, maybe even trios that get together to patrol, but rarely will you see a bunch of heroes being able to sustain an amicable, productive team environment for very long.

Yet you will see a decent number of villain or mercenary teams as time goes on in my stories, that stay together with minimal member changes.


Simple: Money.

Mercenaries charge for their services; villains commit crimes. Heroes find it hard to generate income. So, much like rock bands stick together long after all the members realize they hate each other because they want to keep bringing in the money that they combined skills generate, so too will mercs and bad guys. There will still be a tendency for things not to last but the stability of such teams will tend to be greater because of the payoff and thus there will always be more villain teams than there will be hero teams.

Maybe it’s reflective of a basically cynical attitude toward humanity, but in my defense, transhumans also don’t behave like much of the rest of us do, so if they’re a little more messed-up at times, there’s a reason of sort. Also, it’s my artistic license to ensure that heroes always have more to deal with than they really can deal with.

As y’all await the next bit of fiction (the next chapter of “The Gathering Storm” methinks…) I thought I’d toss up a quick little writing rumination to hold you over.

I realized a few days ago that many of my Whethermen characters lack the towering nobility of many classic superheroes, like Green Lantern, Superman, Wonder Woman…well, basically, a lot of the DC Comics characters; Marvel’s characters have often tended to be a little effed up on some level.

I’m not bothered or dismayed by this. Quite the contrary, I think it’s a good thing. I don’t want my heroes and vigilantes to be too neat and tidy and morally strict. Because, to be honest, humans in general rarely are, and you put some into costumes and give them superhuman powers, and I can only imagine that would be magnified.

So it ends up that one of my key characters here, Query, bears a strong resemblance to Batman. However, even though Batman is one of DC’s more hard-edged characters, Query is still more ruthless. Batman is anti-gun and anti-killing, so despite his mission to strike terror into the hearts of villains, he still holds back. Query, on the other hand, while no Frank Castle (Marvel’s Punisher), is willing to kill at times, though not usually as a first course of action. He’s willing to blackmail some people and he’s willing to manipulate people and situations for his own plans. He’s a good guy, but he doesn’t always act with 100% noble intentions.

I think perhaps the only character who is more or less “noble” in my mythos so far is Mad Dash; ironic, given that he’s supposedly “crazy.” He’s the sweetest and least violence-prone character; even so, though, he doesn’t judge others on their violence, so even he has a strong gray area in his morality.

Others are more overt in their violence, including Dash’s girlfriend Ladykiller, but I like to think she’s still a likable and accessible character.

My villains, too, I don’t paint in black and white usually. Underworld is evil in many ways, but not lacking in humanity or compassion at times. Janus is a bit more uniformly evil, but even he has a certain appeal, I think, at least on a charismatic basis at times.

It’s something I may have to explore more directly within the fiction around here, but I’d welcome your thoughts. Do the character so far seem like real and complete humans, or have I painted them as something counter to what you’d think they should be?

My Own Personal Gotham

Posted: May 10, 2012 in Ruminations
Tags: ,

Apologies to Depeche Mode…I really shouldn’t abscond with and alter a lyric from their very fine song “Personal Jesus” just to make a catchy headline. And with respect to New York City…no, you’re not the Gotham I’m referring to.

As most of you reading this probably know (or likely you wouldn’t be at a blog full of superhero-related fiction), Gotham City is a fictional metropolis in the DC Comics universe whose most notable hero is Batman (though many other heroes and many more villains also roam its streets). It’s a city with a host of problems, not the least of which is very high crime rate and lots of corruption. As some folks have noted in the past, “Why would anyone even want to live in Gotham City?”

To that, I can only say, “Why at various times in recent history has anyone been willing to live in Detroit, Oakland or a host of other cities on hard times with lots of rough people in it?”

Some of you might wonder if my own fictional city of New Judah (in Connecticut, just across the Long Island Sound from New York) might be my own spin on Gotham City.


While admittedly there is some significant crime and some whack-jobs every bit as violently insane as anyone from Batman’s rogue’s gallery and a very Batman-inspired hero (Query), I wouldn’t say that New Judah is a depressing and inherently hostile place. I see it as a pretty prosperous city that also has some warts and just happens to attract a lot of transhumans to its environs. If anything, I would say New Judah is more like a mash-up of Chicago and New York City than anything else.

However, I do have my own personal Gotham, as it happens.


Now, if you’ve read my page briefly outlining my Whethermen universe (here) you’ve heard of Marksburgh. The city has shown up briefly in this blog in the actual fiction, initially with “Hush-a-Bye and GoodKnight” but also in a few recent chapters of “The Gathering Storm” that featured the eponymous characters of that initial story.

I will eventually get more into the borders of the fictional city of Marksburgh, which is the darkest and deepest hellhole in all of Pennsylvania, in some future stories…perhaps even a future series once I bring “The Gathering Storm” to a conclusion at some point. No doubt I will need to show you why people stay in such places, because I suspect it might end up making Gotham City look good.

At the very least, it’s going to make Erie look fantastic by comparison (since the Erie of the Whethermen universe isn’t much different than the Erie of the real world).

More fiction to come soon. Still recovering from a hellishly nasty series of deadlines for work.

Numbers Game

Posted: April 2, 2012 in Ruminations

I’ve had to rethink various things in the Whethermen universe as I’ve gone along. For example, I’ve had to revise Query’s age slightly and his entrance onto the scene (historically speaking) in New Judah for things to make more sense. Also, I’ve gone back and altered just how long he’s been without sleep to have things seem more logical…at least as logical as they can be in a world of superheroes and supervillains.

Also, I’ve softened my stance on powers that are “impossible” and have either identified creative ways they might be made more plausible or have decided that as with so many things, there will always be exceptions to the rule. It’s just there won’t be very many and those who are the exceptions might never be known to be so to anyone else, meaning the world will continue to think such powers impossible.

But one thing that continues to haunt me is whether I have too many transhumans in the world. Or perhaps, more accurately, do I have too many with highly significant levels of power or overdone power sets (i.e. too many different kinds of powers)?

Given that I have most of my action take place in the fictional Connecticut city of New Judah just across the Long Island Sound from New York City (with occasional stops in fictional Marksburgh, PA; the very real Philadelphia, PA; and eventually fictional Gryphon, NV…and probably New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles someday), we’ll start there and use its 5 million residents as a starting point.

I’ve posited in the info pages on this blog that perhaps 10% of humans have active transhuman genes. By the way, the correlation with that number and the traditionally held opinion of the percentage of humans who are gay/lesbian is no accident. Nor is it an accident that it’s not much smaller than the percentage of the U.S. population that is black. To some extent, my stories are allegorical and metaphorical.

Anyway, if that number is accurate, then some 500,000 people are transhuman in New Judah alone. Now, that doesn’t mean much yet. Transhuman powers could be as slight as being a Morph who can only change his or her hair color or a Brute who just has slightly more strength than would be expected for a person of his or her height/weight/build.

Let’s just say that 10% of those transhumans have reasonably significant powers. So, 50,000 folks that might have one or two transhuman power sets, but still nothing extreme. People who could fly under the radar easily and still live normal lives, and who wouldn’t be suited to being superheroes or supervillains even if they wanted to do so. Some of them might use their powers such, if they had other training or skills, but the vast majority wouldn’t.

Now let’s drill down again, using 10% again as an arbitrary but reasonably conservative benchmark. Maybe 10% of those 50,000 have some serious powers, whether that just means several of them or a very potent one or two powers, or even several very potent powers. That’s 5,000. Of those, many would likely use their powers for gain, but not necessarily in an evil way or even a heroic one. Some would, of course. It probably would be easy to imagine somewhere between 800 and 2,500 of that group being police, thugs, military folks or highly placed consultants (among other possible roles), depending on their powers.

And what of the 10% of that 5,000? We’ll call these people the extreme cases. High levels of power, which likely would also mean more prominent psychological differences as is seen among transhumans. That’s 500 people who would be very drawn to be flamboyant and in the public eye (or creeping the shadows at night as vigilantes) and who could really do some damage (literally or figuratively) as well as elude police and/or escape imprisonment fairly easily. Would all of them give in the lure to put on a costume or otherwise put their powers to extreme use?


But I could see between 20% and 30% of them easily doing so. Add to their ranks some of the less powerful but more ambitious or deranged people from the previous group of 5,000 and I’d say that even if I ended up with 200 or 300 really committed costumed folks (even if they didn’t spend a lot of their time in costume), I wouldn’t be out of the realm of reality.

And that’s just in New Judah…

If we extrapolated that out to the entire nation of the United States alone, you’d have maybe 14,000 or 15,000 costumed (or plainly clad and adventurous) characters, I guess. Not sure if that’s excessive or not. A good chunk of them would probably be jailed for one reason or another, without any good way to escape. Also, having several hundred at least in a big city might be more a function of bigger cities attracting such individuals, so the overall national numbers might not match city numbers.

Even beyond the costume factor in places where there is a tradition of comics books and/or action shows with superheroes before the emergence of transhumanity visibly in the 1970s, I think we could see where certain nations (non-Caucasian ones where the trend toward transhuman powers is more pronounced) might be considered potential threats for being able to potentially field transhuman battalions or small armies of them.

I don’t know…what do you think?

I know I ruminated and even fretted slightly in this recent post about whether my characters might be too derivative of other iconic or even obscure comic book characters. (You know, I just realized Mad Dash is perhaps a kind of a mash-up of the Flash and the Creeper).

Today, I wanted to talk about real-world influences.

That is, people in my actual life, directly or peripherally, who influence my characters in the world of the Whethermen.

The first appearance of Query was something my son Rory (@yomilo on Twitter) immediately realized was an homage to him. First, Query is somewhat Batman-like, and that is Rory’s favorite comic hero. Second, the first name we see associated with Query is Milo Phillips. Milo is the name Rory took on at Twitter and as his hip-hop performing monicker (based on the boy who is the main character in The Phantom Tollbooth). Phillips is derived both from one of his middle names as well as the first name of his biological dad. Query’s real name is Alan Millos and the Alan part is Rory’s other middle name, with Millos clearly pulling from Milo again. Even the seldom-mentioned Nigel Roy identity for Query was a kind of in-joke—Sir Nigel Calabash having been an Ultima Online character we dreamed up and Roy being the most common way people screw up Rory’s first name.

But even beyond the name-game, certain of Query’s personality traits owe to my son. Query has musical interests and performs hip-hop in underground and local circles, like Rory does. He literally never sleeps (and Rory has a talent for going to bed very late, whereas I take that up a notch by staying up late and still getting up early-ish). He can be very introverted but also fiercely loyal to true friends. His private thoughts are sometimes a significant source of pain, as well as motivation.

At the same time, Query has some of me in him. Middle-aged and willing to throw down hard when pushed to the wall, sarcastic and somehow both cynical and hopeful. Also, I think I have a knack for sorting out complex situations and figuring out people’s motivations, but for me it takes days or sometimes weeks, and Query’s much quicker than that.

The character Cole Alderman, who now has a codename finally (Quantum) is based in part on one of Rory’s friends, Alexander Kollman (@S_afari_Al on Twitter). Again, there’s a pretty obvious name twist going on, but I also based some of Cole’s history loosely on the early life of Alex. Early on, having been inspired by the web site that Rory and several friends started (The Whethermen’s Union, which sadly has apparently gone into perhaps a permanent hiatus), I had hoped to integrate some of his buddies into the “Tales of the Whethermen” mythos.

Only one person really came forward to give me some insight into himself, and that was Alex. I don’t know that Cole much resembles Alex as he is now (I don’t know him well enough), but even so, working in some of the feelings and struggles Alex had in high school and even before gave me a rich start for Cole’s backstory.

Zoe Dawson is based on my six-year-old daughter and my wife, in certain respects. First, Zoe was one of the top three names on our short list for her when she was born (though it didn’t make the final cut). But also, Zoe has an incessant need to confront people and to be the one who’s “right,” which is something about my six-year-old that I both respect and get irritated by. Zoe’s tendency to push her rage and irritation inward is something I remember all too well from my wife’s younger years. But also, Zoe is someone who stands strong and tries to solve her own problems, which I very much respect in my wife. Also, my wife had locs (some call them dreadlocks) for several years, and that was an inspiration for Zoe’s hairdo.

Finally, there is Janus, whom I think may be my evil twin. He is significantly smarter than me and vastly more ambitious, but we share a similar temperament. Most who know me well would, I think, characterize me as largely unflappable even in the face of extreme stress. I just don’t tend to get anxious or worked up, though I can be pretty irritated at problems that won’t go away. However, I think those same people would admit that if you put me in a situation where multiple things are going to hell-in-a-handbasket or someone I love is at risk in some way from another person, my anger can peak to some scary levels.

Similarly, Janus tends to be outwardly unfazed (and inwardly, too, for the most part) by crap going on around him. The twist, though, is that my calm is more Zen-like and constructive, whereas Janus plots insidious things calmly. And when his anger flares on those rare occasions he is pushed beyond his tolerance point, he’s likely to get medieval on some asses in a Spanish Inquisition kind of way, which isn’t really my style.

So, for what’s it’s worth, there you have it: How the real people around me inform the people I create out of thin air.

Next chapter of “The Gathering Storm” will likely post tomorrow. Certainly no later than Saturday.

Love in the Air

Posted: March 13, 2012 in Ruminations

Just a little bit of chatter about the writing process to fill a little space until the next chapter of “The Gathering Storm” arrives in a day or two.

Romance in the lives of superheroes isn’t anything new. The always sultry Scarlet Witch married Vision, an emotionless android. Cyclops and Marvel Girl/Phoenix were a longstanding item, with Wolverine stirring up the dynamics. There’s always been a little something going on under the surface of Batman’s interactions with Catwoman. For a long time, Peter Parker (Spider-Man) was involved with Mary Jane. Superman and Lois Lane always had a vibe, and eventually she fell in love with the hero’s secret identity, Clark Kent. The list goes on, of course.

It makes sense, of course, because you can’t have every panel of a comic book be about fighting bad guys. Eventually, you need to see the heroes in their more vulnerable moments and in their day-to-day lives dealing with the same crap that you and I do (though rarely do they ever deal with the big question of how heroes pay their bills. I mean, if you have to hold down a job and be patrolling the city so often, how…)

…but, as usual, I digress.

Of course romantic relationships were going to crop up around here. I make a point of spending a lot of time on transhumans as people with issues of one sort or another, just like the rest of humanity.

Given the amount of time that’s been spent on the unlikely match-up of Mad Dash and Ladykiller, naturally that plot development was part of my plans all along. Right?

…uh…well…actually, no.

Frankly, I never saw it coming. In fact, I’m as surprised as anyone that these two characters would hook up. Just another example of the story sometimes guiding me instead of the other way around.

Ladykiller was never even intended to be part of the series “The Gathering Storm.” I had a sense she might show up in passing, much like a multitude of other characters, but I didn’t see her as a key player. In fact, I’m amazed that after writing the origin story for her (“Prison of Wishes“) on Nov. 29, 2010, she showed up in “The Gathering Storm” in chapter 6 only 10 days later, on Dec. 9, when I posted that chapter here.

I mean, the story “Prison of Wishes” was itself a fluke. Listening to Kurt Elling’s rendition of the song “Nightmoves” in the car one day, a specific line from his lyrics really struck me: “Starring you and me | The hero is struggling to say, that his lady is far away | In her prison of wishes …”

The phrase “prison of wishes” lodged in my head, and I tried to imagine what such a thing might be. From that simple beginning formed the very grim story that is Sarah Gagnon and her imprisonment, ultimate escape from her captor, and perhaps another kind of self-imprisonment wrapped up with self-discovery and self-empowerment along with post-traumatic stress and a largely unfulfilled desire for vengeance and redemption. That story was only supposed to be about the reason why she went from a person with powers who wanted nothing to do with them to the violent vigilante known as Ladykiller; it wasn’t meant to be a prelude.

So, I had an origin story, with a character I didn’t have any particular plans to revisit any time soon. I felt the story was enough on its own, and if Ladykiller never actually showed up in a story, that was fine. “Prison of Wishes” was meant to show a struggle and a partial resolution, not to pave the way for something more.

And then, a week later, give or take, I’m writing a scene in which Mad Dash comes across Ladykiller in the midst of dealing out her version of justice.

A character with no specifically planned future thrusts herself into my larger ensemble story.

And then what does Mad Dash do after seeing she has disemboweled a rapist?

He asks her to join him for a meal. After all, he burns a lot of calories running. And who wants to eat alone all the time?

What I didn’t figure on…nor Mad Dash, I guess…is that his innocent invitation would lead to an odd-couple pairing of the romantic sort. Doubt Ladykiller saw it coming either. But that’s what she gets for being all assertive and jumping into my narrative.

And so, now, I find myself suddenly with a venue in which to explore a character I hadn’t expected to be so close to center stage, with all her conflicting insecurities, assertiveness, anger and affection. Not to mention exploring how a man so removed from normal perceptions of the world and friendly (if socially awkward) will grow along with such a woman.

Should be an interesting ride…

Casting Call!

Posted: March 6, 2012 in Ruminations

Given how phenomenally big a critical and commercial hit “The Watchmen” was as a comic book mini-series and graphic novel…and how long it took to get to the big screen…I certainly think I can expect that my Whethermen characters should see motion picture adaptation treatment in, oh, about 80 years.

Probably in an alternate-reality version of our own Earth.

But hey, a guy can dream, right?

So, in a totally frivolous fill-in while you wait for the next chapter of “The Gathering Storm,” how about we fantasize about who should play the various characters in my tales on the big screen.

Query: Played by Laurence Fishburne, acting like a 50/50 combination of the “traditional” stylings of Samuel L. Jackson and Forest Whitaker. Alternately, could be played by a moderately slimmed-down Forest Whitaker instructed to act around 50 or 60 percent like he thinks Samuel L. Jackson would in the role.

Underworld: Salma Hayek, instructed to channel quite a bit of Angelina Jolie, or Gina Torres.

Mad Dash: John Cho, though some slight digital de-aging might be required, given Mad Dash’s relative youth.

Loc-Down (Zoe Dawson): I like the idea of Zoe Saldana or possibly Rosario Dawson, though both are technically too old to convincingly play a college student, so the character and plot may have to be tweaked to make her an older character. I’m not familiar enough with young Afro-Latina actors to be able to come up with someone who could play a woman in her early 20s. Vanessa Hudgens might be able to pull it off. In any case, whomever has the role wouldn’t even have to loc her hair, as digital effects would be needed for those anyway, and for non-action sequences I’m sure a convincing wig could be produced.

Solstice: Brenda Song could probably do it if she were able to Goth herself up a bit.

Of course, those are just a few characters, but it’s a start.

Agree? Disagree? Ideas for other characters?

Well, then…hit that speech bubble button at the top of the post and comment. 😉

NOTE: I just realized Loc-Down’s civilian name is actually a mashup of the two actresses I picked to play her. Weird. I mean, I like Rosario Dawson, and that’s where I got that last name, but Zoe was picked because it was one of the names on the short list for my own daughter (though we didn’t choose that name, ultimately)

Homage or Garbage?

Posted: February 15, 2012 in Ruminations

Sometimes the lines between homage, inspiration and copy-catting are thin. As I write these stories, I sometimes wonder if there really are any new ideas or memes in the superhero and supervillain world.

Now, that may sound maudlin, I know. But I’m not really stressing about it. Just ruminating.

(Plus, I’ll be posting another chapter of The Gathering Storm tomorrow and I like to have at least one post in between new chapters so people who come straight to the main page don’t get confused and think the new chapter is actually the previous installment. Also, I need to write an article for money, but I’m not motivated yet, so I’ll ramble here instead.)

I’ve already mentioned in various places on this blog that the world of the Whethermen is strongly influenced by Alan Moore’s “Watchmen” comics as well as by such titles as the various X-Men, Doom Patrol and Justice League titles over the years. So, I recognize that there are influences from which I draw.

But sometimes, I look at my characters and wonder if they are unique enough. Are they truly my own creations, or simply spins on someone else’s?

Let’s take Query, for example. The name alone is a revealing factor, especially with a mostly featureless mask that doesn’t even show the hero’s eyes, much like…The Question. And at the same time, there are many elements of Query that are like Batman and even some like Rorschach. He has a loose affiliation with a freelance female operative named Cheshire. Is she simply a spin on Catwoman, but platonic and with the Invisible Woman’s powers tossed in?

Then there is Fortunato, who seems at times to me to be simply a Latino version of Ozymandias from “The Watchmen” with perhaps a bit of Tony Stark’s charm thrown into the assholery…minus the towering genius of either.

Is Mad Dash just the Wally West version of Flash with some slight mental imbalances? Is his girlfriend Ladykiller just Wolverine with breasts, minus a healing factor and working through rape survival PTSD?

And on the villain side, is Janus just a mashup of The Joker and Two-Face, and Crazy Jane is simply his Harley Quinn?

There are others who aren’t so easy to peg, of course, and this gives me hope that I’m not completely falling into traps of homage-turned-lack-of-creativity. Zoe Dawson, for example, who will eventually become Loc-Down, doesn’t remind me of anyone in any comics I’ve read. Nor does Underworld or Tooth Fairy. Epitaph is another one who seems to be cut from whole cloth and not from remainders and scraps left behind by more talented writers than I.

What do you think? What do you say? Does familiarity of themes resonate, or do you see too much of the original inspirations in my own characters? Is that good or bad? Have you even noticed or thought about it? Where do the missing socks in the dryer go to?

I mean, you don’t have to chime in, but it would be nice if you have a few minutes. The comments section is a lonely place at this blog.

There are many differences between good writers and great writers, and I think that one of the things that can really make the difference is this: Great writers are often willing to be murderers.

This is something I’m trying to keep in mind lately, and to which I am trying to reconcile myself. Not that I’m a great writer, mind you…or maybe I am and the world just doesn’t know it (if I can paraphrase the apostle Paul in Philippians 3:12, “I’m not saying I’ve attained the goal, but I’m sure working hard to strive for reaching it”). In any case, I’m not full of myself and declaring myself a full evolved fiction writer…but I see myself achieving now an important step along the path.

Oh, you’re still stuck on the “great writers need to be murderers” thing?

That’s probably for the best. It was my main point, after all, and I should get back to it.

If I want to be a great writer, there is a good chance I’m going to have to become a stone-cold killer.

Well, maybe not “stone-cold,” since there’s a good chance I’ll feel remorse. But I’m going to have to kill, I think. I don’t mean someone who deserves it, either. I mean that I am going to have to take the life of an innocent, or at the very least a good person who doesn’t deserve me snatching away his or her life.

The fact that the first of my victims…and those who may follow and mark my bloody path…will be fictional doesn’t really spare me from pain and guilt.

It may not seem like much to many of you that I will likely kill in my stories. Hell, I already have, many times. But what I’m talking about is looking a character in the eye with whom I have a strong connection, and likely readers do as well, and telling that person that he or she is done for.

But this isn’t an easy thing. Chances are, if I have a character in a novel or long-running serial whom I have spent time developing, I probably like that character, regardless of his or her moral compass. I might even love that character. And because I created that individual with love, there are probably readers who will have an investment in the character as well.

Still, I’ll have to kill some of these people. I will have to force myself not to save them when their times come. I will have to resist the urge to bring them back to life (unless it serves a specific plotline to do so, and how many plotlines of mine are realistically going to hinge on rising from the dead?). I will have to endure what might be a backlash from my own readers, whom I also love.

This is a hard thing.

But I’ve seen in novels and movies that the best writers do, from time to time, take a beloved character who deserves a happy ending…and they kill him or her. It’s happened more than once in the “A Song of Ice and Fire” series by George R.R. Martin, on which the cable series “Game of Thrones” is based. I saw anguished posting by people on Twitter when that series aired this past season and a noble character who had quickly grown on viewers got axed early, just like in the novels. I saw it in the movie “Serenity,” that sort of closed the Joss Whedon television series “Firefly” (which was cancelled way too early) and involved the death of a character I don’t think anyone would have expected…or wanted…to perish.

I know. All this drama, and I haven’t even done it yet. But in the on-hiatus novel-writing project I have over at my Holy Sh!+ blog and the stuff here, which will continue even after “The Gathering Storm” reaches its conclusion, there are characters I love who are going to die. Some I don’t know yet are going to die, and it will come as a shock to me first, and perhaps to you later. For other characters, some of them in my ongoing “Cleansed By Fire” novel and at least one here in the world of the Whethermen, I know that death is approaching.

But I have to be willing to kill. If I want my stories to matter and if I want my worlds to have meaning, not all characters’ stories can have happy endings. And for that I apologize, in advance.

To them and to you.

(This is one part of a kind of thematic dual-post. For the “other part,” click here and visit my Holy Sh!+ from Deacon Blue blog)