Fifty Word Fantasy: Wolf

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Text is Copyright © 2017 by Jason H. Abbott, All Rights Reserved. Art elements are original, open source, or in the public domain.

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Throwback Thursday: H.P. Lovecraft’s Color Out of Space (1927)

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The Colour Out of Space, by Mihail Bila. Click here for more of the artist’s work!

Great and dreadful Cthulhu is without doubt Lovecraft’s most recognized creation, and many who are only casually aware of his work may think he’s the end-all and be-all of his work. I’d even personally go so far as to say that Cthulhu in the present day is overexposed, his shadow obscuring many of H.P.’s other fascinating creatures and stories. So on this Throwback Thursday, I’m casting a light on one of his lesser know creations before they… or I… scurry off into the darkness.

It all began, old Ammi said, with the meteorite. Before that time there had been no wild legends at all since the witch trials, and even then these western woods were not feared half so much as the small island in the Miskatonic where the devil held court beside a curious stone altar older than the Indians. These were not haunted woods, and their fantastic dusk was never terrible till the strange days. Then there had come that white noontide cloud, that string of explosions in the air, and that pillar of smoke from the valley far in the wood. And by night all Arkham had heard of the great rock that fell out of the sky and bedded itself in the ground beside the well at the Nahum Gardner place. That was the house which had stood where the blasted heath was to come—the trim white Nahum Gardner house amidst its fertile gardens and orchards.

H.P. Lovecraft, The Colour Out of Space.

The Colour Out of Space was written in the early spring of 1927 and was first published in September of that year by the groundbreaking science fiction magazine Amazing Stories. It’s widely acclaimed as one of Lovecraft’s best stories, and in addition to being popular it was also the author’s personal favorite among all his writings.

Lovecraft strove to create something truly alien in this story, and he succeeds.

His motif of an indescribable color adds to the unknowable nature of whatever the “Colour Out of Space” is. His use of the term “colour” is analogous, as the eponymous color is seemingly foreign to any other comparison that is humanly known. HP makes no attempt to describe it, which places the gap of the unknown front and center in the story and leaves much to the reader’s imagination. I feel this strengthens the tale and is a wise and intentional move on the author’s part.

As you can tell from the extract above, “The Colour” fell to earth in the form of a meteorite that lands beside the well at the Nahum Gardner farm. The story is told in first person from the perspective of an unnamed surveyor piecing together the events of the “strange days” that followed over forty years ago after its arrival in 1882.

Initially, the meteorite is examined as a fantastic but benign scientific curiosity. Besides its indescribable color (found only via analysis and within globules inside the meteorite), it has many unusual physical properties such as continually emitting heat and slowly shrinking. Ultimately, the meteorite diminishes away to nothingness in only a few days… And with nothing left to examine and with no questions answered, the scientists and professors of Miskatonic University accept the loss and leave empty handed.

But that, of course is only the beginning. A feeling of unease begins to settle over the Gardner farm, and in the spring of the next year strange things begin to grow and flower. Flora and fauna become twisted, and the area glows faintly at night as things get ever worse for the Gardner family and their now cursed homestead and lands.

What “The Colour” is, specifically, is debatable. Lovecraft certainly didn’t go out of his way to answer the question, as its mystery is the key to its fear. There are augments that it’s a chemical reaction or toxin, or a form of energy that came “from beyond, whar things ain’t like they be here”.

It’s quite obvious through the events of the story that its presence has many detrimental effects on earthly life, but I side with most in saying that “The Colour” seems to be a form of life. Very alien life, and life following rules that aren’t the same as we find in our world. However, even knowing that, its motives and intents —if it even has any— are a complete mystery.

Is it malevolent? Or is it lost and marooned, seeking to escape a world it finds as bizarre and unknowable as we find it? Does it even comprehend that we and the living other things around it are “alive”, in its perception of the term?

There is no answer. There is only the tragedy it leaves in its wake.

The Colour Out Of Space, by Travis Anthony. Click here for more of the artist’s work!

Graham Plowman – The Colour Out of Space

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I discovered Graham Plowman‘s absolutely fantastic and haunting music inspired by the works of H.P. Lovecraft looking for resources and material for short short story I’m currently writing that also is based off Lovecraft’s ideas. After hearing only a few tracks, I knew that I had to download all three of his albums. They have proven to be a major asset as my writing soundtrack for the new story, and I’m thrilled to share this particular selection with you today!

Plowman has an impressive understanding of the thematics of Lovecraft’s stories, crafting musical scores that fit them so well… I would dearly love to hear them accompany film versions of H.P.’s stories. These are soundtracks awaiting movies to be worthy of them.

WIP-it Wednesday: October 11th, 2017

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Time for a new weekly writer’s roundup of my works-in-progress and those ready to read!

This weekend was half catch-up and half writing. The catch-up part was directly related to the non-writing weekend I had last week. It started off with my wife and I spending most of Saturday working on or researching details related to establishing my author’s “brand” and self-publishing.

On her own, my wife Kim continues to be a diligent web-mistress in designing and building my author’s site and the peripherals related to it. I’m blessed to have her in my life regardless of her talents with web-design. However, I’d be lying not to say that having her skills as a proofreader, typesetter and graphic designer at my side isn’t a godsend for a man seeking to publish his own books.

Together, we dove into the specifics of obtaining fully documented copyright protections and ISBNs for my work on Saturday. It turns out that getting official US copyright certificates is really easy: You can do so online for an affordable $35 per written manuscript.

Obtaining ISBNs, on the other hand, are pricey: Just one in the United States costs $125!

They do offer a package of 10 ISBN numbers for $250. Getting ten for the price of two is a no-brainer choice, but still

My initial shock in discovering the costs of the ISBNs was greater than it should have been, however. That’s because I thought that every eBook I want to put out would need one. As I plan to be putting up many of my short stories —most for free or $.99 to build an archive of my work and some visibility rather than a rush for profits at this point— getting an ISBN for each would become a prohibitively expensive money sink.

But guess what? At least on Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, eBooks don’t require ISBNs!

Only printed works require ISBNs at this point, and I’ve only got two hardcopy books planned and in the works currently.  One is the print-on-demand version of Vivian’s Last Cigarette (via Amazon’s CreateSpace), and the second is the illustrated compilation of stories in my setting of Burus to be released sometime after Viv’s.

As I said earlier, the goal with the electronic-only short stories and novelettes isn’t about profits to start. I’ll be sinking money into the endeavor, and I expect long-term returns on that investment someday. But in the short term, my goal is to build an audience and a network of threads enabling people to discover my work on Amazon ahead of my first novel release.

Not having to deal with purchasing ISBNs for the electronic shorts is a welcome and significant reduction to my production costs. Now most of my budget for each short is going towards professionally done cover art to make the books really pop!

I’ve been working with friend and artist Kate Whitmore since 2015 on illustrating my aforementioned story compilation. Although that project is on the back-burner currently because of Viv’s, we’ve never stopped talking and planning. And Kate’s more than willing to offer her services for my shorter releases, in addition to continuing illustration work on the pieces of the compilation.

Art by Kate Whitmore. Click here for more of her work!

She’s putting the finishing touches on a wonderful cover for The Brynesmark. And her art for my novelette A Contract in Azure and Indigo is downright gorgeous even a few revisions away from done. Both of these stories have long been intended to be part of the story compilation and have standalone $.99 electronic releases. The eBook version of the compilation will offer all five of the independent stories, PLUS an exclusive short story and novella, for a deal of around $5.

I’ll be commissioning more artwork from Kate in the months to come. Lots more. Corresponding with her on these and other projects was another focus of my Saturday.

After all that, Sunday was a far simpler: I just wrote all day! ;-)

Before I cover my writing progress for this week however, I’m going to backtrack and relay some news I couldn’t squeeze into my previous WIP-it Wednesday: Although my last weekend was packed with non-writing stuff, on Friday I finished editing the entirety of my novelette Cretaceous Queen into a fifth draft after receiving some really helpful critique on it from my friend Brooke.

She was extremely positive and enthusiastic about the piece! Initially only going to read the first two chapters early Wednesday morning, Brooke enjoyed it so much that she continued reading and finished the entire novelette in one sitting, staying up well beyond her bedtime. That’s great feedback on if my cliffhangers and story hooks are effective in engaging the reader, in and of itself. ;-)

At the moment, I’m simply waiting to hear back from her on a few remaining points and then I’ll have that draft complete.

And now on to this weekend: Although I’d done a little editing on it Saturday night, Sunday was the day that I settled back into writing Shadow of the Black Tower. It went well, and I almost doubled its length to reach 3,200 words. Among other things, I tweaked the opening a bit and added a few paragraphs to improve characterization and foreshadowing. Then I wrote new material, which became a challenge as I tried to allude to Lovecraft’s descriptive style while keeping it brief enough for contemporary tastes.

So far I think I’ve gotten that to work, although I’m more proud of the slowly building tension and sense of foreboding I’ve been able to maintain thus far.

I’m still trying to have Shadow done by Halloween, although I’m discarding the 5,000 word limit as maintaining an entry length for a contest is no longer a concern. Neither Lovecraft nor Howard wrote much under 10,000 words, generally working in novelette length instead. So in honoring their styles and mixing in my own I wouldn’t be surprised if the word-count finishes higher than 5,000.

That said, I really don’t want it to get near 10,000 words if I can help it.

As a fun aside about this project, I’ll pass on that I’ve compiled a list of words favored by Lovecraft in his works. I’ve been enjoying myself as I slowly work them into the prose, generally only once, to give it a bit more of his verbal “feel”. ;-)

I can’t do the same with Howard, as it’s the style and roll of his narrative that define his work more than his vocabulary. Fortunately, I’ve learned a lot my narrative skills through his example, so putting in dips of his style are equally fun to do as using the word “squamous”. ;-)

Alright, time for me to stop blogging and get back to writing some more fiction! Take care!

Mid-Week Muses: “But There She Was”

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mwm_pngA weekly compilation of collected microfictions composed by yours truly. If your time is short, these are shorter!

Copyright © 2017 by Jason H. Abbott, All Rights Reserved.

Art-Tastic Tuesday: Grandpa Spider, by Darko Vucenik

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Grandpa Spider, by Darko Vucenik. Click here for more of the artist’s work!

Click the picture above for full-size. On Art-Tastic Tuesdays I feature a selected piece of visual art that I have come across. These are pieces that have inspired my writing or beautifully frame some concept or another that I have already written or want to write about. I present them without commentary so they may inspire you without the burden of my perspective, and pictures have links to the artists’ blog or website if at all possible.

If you are ever curious as to why a particular piece is special to me, or use it for a writing prompt and want to share, please drop a comment!

Epic Music Monday: Fractal Dreamers – Fortuna Redux

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I love epic music! For me it is a perfect combination of the classic orchestral scoring, chorales and electronica music that I have enjoyed for decades. This stuff inspires me, and is a great companion as I write away on an exiting piece of fiction. Therefore, on Mondays I share a new piece by various artists on the blog… Epic Music Mondays!

Photo Finish Friday: Milky Way at Acadia’s Monument Cove, by Colin Zwirner

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Milky Way at Acadia’s Monument Cove, by Colin Zwirner. Click here for more of the photographer’s work!

Click the picture above for full-size. On Photo Finish Fridays, I feature a selected piece of landscape photography that I have come across. I find that real-world photography can be just as inspirational to my imagination for crafting story settings as any piece of fantastic artwork that I might share on a Tuesday. I present these without commentary so they may inspire you without the burden of my perspective, and pictures have links to the artists’ blog or website if at all possible.

If you are ever curious as to why a particular piece is special to me, or use it for a writing prompt and want to share, please drop a comment!

Throwback Thursday: H.P. Lovecraft’s Deep Ones (1931)

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Great and dreadful Cthulhu is without doubt Lovecraft’s most recognized creation, and many who are only casually aware of his work may think he’s the end-all and be-all of his work. I’d even personally go so far as to say that Cthulhu in the present day is overexposed, his shadow obscuring many of H.P.’s other fascinating creatures and stories. So on this Throwback Thursday, I’m casting a light on one of his lesser know creations before they… or I… scurry off into the darkness.

The Deep Ones first appeared in Lovecraft’s novella The Shadow over Innsmouth, which he wrote at the end of 1931. HP himself was never fully satisfied with the piece, being unhappy and critical of his ability to describe the action within the story. It was rejected for publication in Weird Tales in 1933, but ultimately became the only work of Lovecraft’s to be published as a book in his lifetime. He was very displeased with the edition, however, calling its quality and production lousy and slovenly… and rightfully pointed to many typographical errors in the text. But he did like the illustrations.

The book had a small print run of under 200 copies, and they sold very poorly even at the bargain price of one dollar in November of 1936. Lovecraft was diagnosed with cancer just a few months later, and died in mid-March 1937… barely four months after its publication.

I find it very sad that HP wouldn’t know in life that The Shadow over Innsmouth would go on to become one of his most well-regarded stories, perhaps only surpassed by his famed Call of Cthulhu. It’s a great tale, and I think Lovecraft was entirely too hard on himself about its quality.

So, who are the Deep Ones? They are a race of humanoid beings that spend the majority of their time deep under the sea, from which they have gained their name. However, they are amphibious and fully capable of movement and activity on land, although it seems apparent that they are much more adept in the water. HP described them thusly in Shadow over Innsmouth:

And yet I saw them in a limitless stream—flopping, hopping, croaking, bleating—urging inhumanly through the spectral moonlight in a grotesque, malignant saraband of fantastic nightmare. And some of them had tall tiaras of that nameless whitish-gold metal . . . and some were strangely robed . . . and one, who led the way, was clad in a ghoulishly humped black coat and striped trousers, and had a man’s felt hat perched on the shapeless thing that answered for a head.

I think their predominant colour was a greyish-green, though they had white bellies. They were mostly shiny and slippery, but the ridges of their backs were scaly. Their forms vaguely suggested the anthropoid, while their heads were the heads of fish, with prodigious bulging eyes that never closed. At the sides of their necks were palpitating gills, and their long paws were webbed. They hopped irregularly, sometimes on two legs and sometimes on four. I was somehow glad that they had no more than four limbs. Their croaking, baying voices, clearly used for articulate speech, held all the dark shades of expression which their staring faces lacked.

H.P. Lovecraft, The Shadow Over Innsmouth.

Unlike many other Lovecraft creations, it isn’t made clear if the Deep Ones are extraterrestrials that have been living on Earth for long aeons before man, or a native species that predates us on the planet. They poses intellects at least on-par with human beings, although their expressed technological skill seems a bit behind.

The typical Deep One’s knowledge of occult matters, however, far exceeds that of most humans. As a race, they serve a pair of elder Deep Ones that have grown massive and godlike with age: Father Dagon, and Mother Hydra. And they worship the dreaded Great Old One Cthulhu as well.

Deep One biology allows for breeding with humans, and doing so is important enough that they will form secret pacts with coastal communities to secure easy arrangement to do so: The Deep Ones provide treasures and good fishing in exchange for human sacrifices and the freedom to conceive hybrids with members of the community.

These hybrids are born appearing human, but after adulthood will begin to transform over a period of years or decades into full Deep Ones. The process usually begins with the onset of middle age, and the hybrids will pass along this trait to any children they have with normal humans. Thus, whole family lines and generations completely unaware of their heritage can fall afoul of the family “curse”.

It’s unclear in Lovecraft’s writing if the metamorphosis prompts mental changes along with the physical, or if shock and dread encourages insanity which is then reflected in aberrant behavior and a compulsion to return to the ocean. Either way, becoming a Deep One does come with some perks… a major one being effective immortality. Deep Ones don’t age in the sense of growing weak, but can be killed by violence and accidental physical trauma.

Deep One Rising, by Pasi Juhola. Click here for more of the artist’s work!