Writing Progress – Project Gluttony

This is by far the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to write. The apt name Project Gluttony is a working title for a horror novel which will be part of a heptalogy loosely correlated to the seven deadly sins. It’s not exactly a series, but I’m treating it like one for the sake of progress. The books are barely related to each other, and might not even have the same publisher.
I feel like Gluttony will not be the most difficult of the seven, but it’s veering damn close, so perhaps it is better I’m getting it over with this year. Project Gluttony and Project Envy are the most pressing because they are the most developed – Envy has been much easier, since it’s basically a full-length adaptation of a short story I’d already written. (It wasn’t so short either, topping out at about forty pages.) Envy is also nearing completion, which means I’m allowed to take a break on it.

Gluttony, however, deals with more tender subjects that I have to be more careful with handling – namely abuse based in religion, and it is for the most part completely freestyle, since only a half-draft of the first two chapters existed, and I’ve since had to rewrite from scratch because they were terrible. I originally began the novel for an open call for pieces of horror fiction, which I’ve since forgotten the initial point of and is possibly long over. Continue reading “Writing Progress – Project Gluttony”

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Writing Progress – Seven Sins Heptalogy

My book blogging unrelated to my own work is going on a soft hiatus throughout the summer. Reviews won’t halt, just slow to a crawl because this project will and is starting to eat up my already scarce reading time. Due to recent unforeseen upheavals in my life and this heptalogy, I won’t have as much opportunity to curtail the reviews, and would rather not update than risk posting something that was notably low-quality. Not a huge deal, this is just so you won’t be surprised when there’s more list reviews and re-reviews than previously unexplored books.

Anyway, what the seven sins heptalogy is, is not exactly a “series”. It is seven books that are tenuously related at best – I think some might be set in the same universe but with little-to-no overlap in settings and characters – but are labelled by their general theme. Project Envy, Project Gluttony, etcetera.

I have a lot of difficulty focusing on specific projects to finish, so decided to pull ten major ones that I cared about most from my list and complete them all before I allow myself to start anything new. I figure that if I can finish these works of fiction, I will be able to consider myself a true success as a writer, even if they don’t come out immediately after they’re done. Future works will flow out with far less distress. Continue reading “Writing Progress – Seven Sins Heptalogy”

Book Review – Hallaj by Husayn ibn Mansur Hallaj

★★★★★ 4.5 Stars

Full Title: Hallaj: Poems of a Sufi Martyr
Genre: Classical Poetry / Religion
Publication Date: July 15th, 2018
Publisher: Northwestern University Press

The meat of these poems is rich and laden with subtle veins that give it a deep sense of intimacy. They pulse at the edges with emotion. Hallaj’s poems began addressed to the ideas of lovers, as many poets do, and they graduated as they evolved to more ambitious and intense heights of pain, joy and faith.

To paint a bit of backdrop behind this collection, Husayn ibn Mansur Hallaj (also known as Mansur al-Hallaj) was a Persian poet and teacher of Sufism, a religion related to Islam, well known for his writings and preachings in the 9th century until his execution in the midst of political discord around the year 922. All of his poems, save for the early quarter in the beginning, revolve and intertwine heavily with spirituality and his relationship with God.

The sheer amount of work that went into both the original poems, their translation and compilation is visibly astounding – Hallaj is heavy in detail, reference, and artfulness with its change from Arabic to English. The translator leaves extensive notes regarding what had to be changed and what could not be changed in the linguistics, considering how distinct the two languages are from each other. It’s also an exhaustive and endlessly fascinating study of the intricacies of Sufism.

The only thing I considered to detract from it – more in design than in quality – are the interpretations and histories given to introduce each poem, when I feel it would leave more to the imagination if they came afterwards, letting the reader make what they will of it before knowing more about the piece.

It is otherwise a flawless book, whether you are more interested in it for religion, history or poetry. It has a depth you don’t see nearly often enough in inspirational writing.

Quotes

  • “You lit two fires within me, one in my ribs and the other in my guts. And I have never turned to quench my thirst without seeing your reflection in the water. That fire cools my heart like ice, and a sword blow is softer than separation from my love.”
  • “When a youth reaches perfection from desire, and loses the remembered one in memory’s pride, he witnesses truth when desire attests to him that lovers’ perfection is infidelity.”
  • “While love remains secret, it’s dangerous, and ultimate safety meant to lower one’s guard. The most beautiful love is the one that gossip betrays, just as fire is useless when it remains in the stone.”
  • “Your spirit was mixed in my spirit, just like wine and clear water. If something touches you, it touches me, for you are I in every state.”

 

[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]

Seven Devils II – Designing Sloth

[Creation notes and ruminations I took while designing the ink piece “Apathy of an Idol”, part of a horror mini-series. Read the previous entry here.]

Sloth is simultaneously the most difficult to personify and the most personally incensing of the seven sins. It’s a broader term than the others, for one, encompassing apathy, laziness, ingratitude and wastefulness, all of which are equally “Sloth” but different acts entirely.

Arguably, Sloth could be the worst of the whole lot, as an immeasurable amount of evil has been gotten away with due only to apathy. The idea of evil and misfortune always being “someone else’s problem” is a corrupting one, indeed. I suppose it’s more than fitting, then, that Sloth be an aggravating and slow-going ink piece with little inspiration to run on, isn’t it?

Sloth has no natural expression – you can’t really sense an apathetic or lazy nature on a person’s face, nor does it have the sinister or obsessive shine of the eye that greed or does, or the definitive flame-red of wrath. I guess at best you might get a sense of emptiness from somebody, or a lack of humanity at Sloth’s strongest – a mechanism that functions like a human but just only.

Again, this is something you sense – it’s incredibly challenging to convey the same thing in an artwork. My initial but admittedly boring idea for Sloth was to give the central character and their surroundings an overwhelming sense of sleep and melt, something akin to the dripping clocks of Dali, but with a more grotesque unkemptness fitting with the mini-series’ theme. Strewn garbage and moldy residue would’ve oozed from the world, which sounds fittingly disturbing, but was too similar to the sketch I already had finished for “Gluttony of a Beast”. I feared that the point might be missed if it was as gross as that one, or else they might be confused for each other. Why should the Sloth piece necessarily be an unhygienic wasteland, when you can find apathy even in paradise?

So… after consideration and a full remix of the early sketch, the idea of melt and rot changed into a dystopian atmosphere of luxury – the focal character became an idol or figurehead of such overblown (and totally ambiguous) importance that they no longer are obligated to move their own limbs, as others stand by, ready to do it for them.

I chose a female figure for this piece, as she fit the “idol” tone more, and it evened out the gender disparity with the other pieces (most at the time had ended up being male or androgynous leaning towards male; the only other female one was Envy). I wanted this piece to convey abused privilege and really drive home the evil of such an atmosphere, as the central figure is surrounded by doll-like helpers who in reality may not be there by choice – handmaids in name only. As bad as Sloth is, its worst facet by far is turning a blind eye towards the oppression of others, if not outright condoning it for the sake of laziness. While probably the lightest piece in appearance (especially if it gets a colour version) “Apathy of an Idol” is the darkest in meaning.

See some of my current art on DeviantArt.

Help out my work on Patreon or Ko-fi.

Seven Devils Series I – Designing Gluttony

[Creation notes and ruminations I took while designing the ink piece, “Gluttony of a Beast”, part of a horror mini-series.]

Gluttony – the most animal yet the most self-destructive of the traditional sins, usually causing more harm to the practicioner than the practiced upon. I say usually, but when gluttony writhes out of its boundaries, it has no mercy to those who stand in its path. It’s a rabid and perpetually starving behemoth.

Gluttony when it applies to food is arguably on a moral level beyond simply “good” or “evil”, as animals who have a moral sense completely foreign to and far more instinctual than humans still can be gluttonous if the opportunity is there. Stranger still, opinions on gluttony vary so drastically, it could easily be taken as a virtue.

I don’t personally believe gluttony toward food can be considered “evil” exactly, as delicious food is quite the temptress and easy to give into, though it can be incredibly harmful to the self. It’s more understandable that it was considered to be a worse action back when they first began to write about the seven sins, as food was much more scarce for far more people.

Gluttony is strange. Inherently a dark feeling, though it’s separate from greed and definitely not obsession. It might cause apathy, but it’s not apathy. Nor is it an emotion, but it’s like an instinct that has gone cancerous and mad. Whether this yields bad, good, or neither, it is always too much and always taken too far.

With “Gluttony of a Beast”, I wanted to turn it onto an inhuman and fully grotesque edge that you might get a hint of once in a lifetime, but never, ever see in another. The Beast calls for a lot of grimy residual textures, like rice that congealed to a bowl over a week ago, as well as meaty textures. Meat textures are notoriously difficult to draw or paint, being a paradoxical combination of rough, spongy and greasy at once.

A notable inspiration was the monster No-Face from the film Spirited Away, who showcases a similarly odd, slimy texture. I also was adamant about including cannibalistic or hyper-carnivorous themes, to add to the feeling of unnatural rawness. We’ll see how this looks when it’s done, it might even get a colour version if it’s polite to me.

See some of my current art on DeviantArt.

Help out my work on Patreon or Ko-fi.

Book Review – The Little Book of Witchcraft by Astrid Carvel

★★★ 3.5 Stars

Genre: History / Spirituality
Publication Date: March 20th, 2018
Publisher: Andrews McMeel

I’m not honestly very knowledgeable about Wicca or Paganism, nor do I practice either, but I respect both as belief systems, namely their omnipresent respect for nature, something we could all learn from. Their history is fascinating as well, which is largely why I picked it up from NetGalley.

Wicca and Paganism are still shamefully misunderstood and continue to catch a bad rap in media and culture, but as the author says, like any belief there are positive, healthy ways to convey it (like those described in the book), and there are ways that perpetuate evil, often under the guise of being more “true” to the religion’s roots (which they aren’t).

From Carvel’s descriptions, in a nutshell – true Wicca is not cursing people, selling your soul, transfiguring people into animals, luring in humans with gingerbread houses or anything else media and witch hunts would have you think. As she explains it, it’s essentially a strong focus on the power of the mind and the power of plantlife and things existing in nature, and combining them to yield positive results in your life or someone else’s. It’s never to be used for malice, as all malice comes with vicious consequences for daring to want such things.

I didn’t have much interest in the spellbook half, personally, but the history half was nothing short of intriguing. A few facts that stood out:

  • The “Witchcraft Acts”, laws set in place to punish accused witches or practitioners of magic in England and Scotland, were introduced to largely unnecessary harm and hysteria in the 1500’s, but not fully repealed until the 1950’s.
  • Witches’ marks, ancient symbols of protection, have been found at the birthplace of William Shakespeare, as well as the Tower of London.
  • The earliest artistic depiction of witchcraft is believed to be a cave painting (circa 12,000 BC, possibly older) in what is now France, depicting a horned god and a pregnant woman standing in a circle with others.

I love the decorations and style of this book, and I think its information is useful and would make a great gift book.

[I received a copy of this from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]

Further Reading:

On the Witchcraft Acts (Wikipedia)
History and Information on Paganism (BBC)
History and Information on Wicca (Wicca.com)