Deconstructing the Novel, Part 1 – The Shattered Visage Lies

BRIAN SAYS:

Okay, after an intermission, we’re back. Let’s just blame the small hiatus on vacations, shall we? Anyway, if you can’t tell by this installment’s title, we’re going to start going behind the scenes of our first published novel, The Shattered Visage Lies, including answering the most asked question we’ve been receiving about the book – what does the title mean? Don’t worry, we’ll tell you what it means. Well, what we think it means, anyway. In case you haven’t read it yet, feel free to take a moment to grab yourself a copy, or an eVersion to peruse. It’s okay. We’ll wait. Have it? Read it? Good. Let’s move on.

When it comes to the great debate of Marvel vs. DC, I find myself on the Marvel side. I won’t bore you with ALL of the details as to why, just one: how the denizens of their respective universes react to super-heroes. Up until recently, the citizens of DC’s United   States love their super heroes. The general populace of Marvel’s United   States does not. How do you think we, as a nation, would really react to those with super powers? How would you react to a real life Super Man?

One of the ideas we wanted to explore was the classic, “What would you do if you had super powers?” Don’t forget – you can’t choose which one(s) you get. You get them, now deal with it! You might even be a half-animal / half-human mutation. Would you tell anyone that you have them? Heck no! Would you put on a mask and fight crime? Doubtful. I think most people would be afraid of them at first, then try to figure out how to use them to their advantage.

I’d like to think of myself as a good person. (Okay, I’ll give you a moment to laugh.) I certainly don’t think I’d become villainous or create an evil lair or have henchmen if I had some kind of super power. But I do know I would try to find ways to make money from it! Telekinesis? Vegas, baby! I’d get that roulette ball to make me a millionaire! Telepathy? Still Vegas, just at the poker tables. Mind Control? Yep, same place – the Vegas poker tables. Super speed? Lucrative sports contract! Super strength? Same lucrative sports contract, just different sport. But, that’s just me.

I’ve always found origin stories fascinating, because it’s usually an ordinary person in an extraordinary circumstance. And it would always make me mad when, in the comic books, a character’s origin story is told within a few pages. Inevitably, they would always jump into a set of tights and don a coordinated mask and either fight crime or cause it. But why? The motivation behind their actions was what I was more interested in. That was one of the themes we wanted to explore in this book. We didn’t limit the demographic of power receivers to pretty faced teenagers, either. We gave them to the young, the old, the rich, the poor, the religious, the apathetic. Of course, it wouldn’t be a super-powers book without bringing these characters together!

Okay, we decided to write the book to see what happens to a person’s id, ego and super-ego when given super abilities. So, where did we get the title, The Shattered Visage Lies? Well, I’ll let Chris explain that one….

CHRIS SAYS:

Hello! So Brian covered the topic of super powers and in so doing put his on display: an unconscionable belief in Freud. Sad. But that’s not why you’re here, is it? Of course not. Where did we come up with the title of the book? What was the underlying theme that we hoped readers would pick up on? Well, I’m glad I asked….

In the case of The Shattered Visage Lies, many of you are likely familiar with Percy Bysshe Shelley’s sonnet, “Ozymandias” and have correctly guessed that this is the origin of our novel’s title. It’s a favorite of both Brian and I and we wanted to pay a little bit of a tribute to some historical literature, but that’s the boring part of the story. “Ozymandias” has a sister poem. Shelley and his friend, Horace Smith, wrote dueling sonnets with the same title, both incorporating similar base themes. Smith’s poem is a bit more circular, suggesting that the future and the past are related and never as far from each other’s view as we might hope. A horribly understudied poem, Smith later renamed it and, alas, many have forgotten the poem’s origin.

In the case of Shelley’s sonnet, however, not much need be said about the poem’s power of longevity. Whimsically enough, this is the poem’s central point – that the endurance of art outshines the works of leaders and empires. It is here that we find the true reason for the name of our book. It is a message Brian and I agree is crucial to our continuance as a functional society…a message we would be wise to share with politicians and kings alike for it is the nature of rulers to be granted power, which causes them to seek more. According to John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton, first Baron Acton, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” Hubris is the stepping stone to inhumanity and we all benefit from its departure.

Now that we’ve discussed the title, let’s move on to the major theme of the book and how that relates to the title. In essence, it’s about deconstructing personality. Science can map every person’s physical being, breaking a body up into its most basic components. But what about personality? Is there a way to unravel a person’s personality and examine it in a fractured state to understand our thoughts and emotions or are we simply too filled with interwoven pieces to allow for our personality to be untangled and examined? “The mirror never lies” unless it’s broken, so if you’re looking at a shattered visage in a mirror, are you really looking at yourself? If we add this component or remove that one, do we stay the “same person” or is a new persona created? It’s intriguing…intriguing enough that it inspired us to write a book about it.

Until next time!

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Deconstructing the Stories: Part 1

BRIAN SAYS:

Welcome back! Chris and I hope you’re enjoying our blog so far. As we mentioned in our very first post, we wanted to do a segment called “Deconstructing the Stories” where we’ll be going behind the scenes of some of our short-stories that we’ve had published. Well, here we go!

For “Deconstructing the Stories” Part 1, let’s take a look at “Drunken Comic Book Monkeys in: Scary Tales of Scariness”. For those of you who might be unfamiliar with this work – it’s a collection of short stories where Chris and I wrote ourselves in as characters of horror stories. If you’d like to familiarize yourselves with this book before we continue, you can order a hardcopy here at the Fortress Site and you can order an eVersion here (Smashwords) or here (Amazon) or here (B&N). Okay, so now that you’ve familiarized yourselves with the book, the first question you might have is how we came up with the idea in the first place.

As with most ideas that Chris and I have, we ultimately found inspiration at the bottom of a beer pitcher. But there were a couple things that happened before that.

As Chris and I were creating Fortress Publishing, Inc., we attended a few conventions to gather intel and generate some ideas. One convention in particular was the Pittsburgh Comicon and one particular comic book that we picked up was “Living With Zombies” where, as you may have guessed, the creators wrote and drew themselves as characters surviving the zombie apocalypse.

A few months later, Chris and I were at our monthly shareholders meeting (yes, Fortress Publishing, Inc. is REALLY a corporation) at Hooters. Much to the chagrin of the waitresses, our meetings would last 6+ hours and would deteriorate into silly debates, often loud and slurred. This one happened to be: Zombies, Pro or Con.

I find zombies little more than moving scenery while Chris believes that they represent man’s inherent fear of blah blah blah blah blah. During a particularly heated part of the debate (and for those of you who don’t know us, “heated” really means we entered the “giggle like a couple of preteen girls” stage of our drunkenness), Chris blurted, “I’m gonna write a zombie story with us as characters!” I replied, all too loudly as well, “Oh yeah? Well, I’m gonna write a vampire story with us as characters! And they’re gonna be the new, hip, sexy kind who wear black leather and listen to techno music!” We then paused in our bickering, ignoring the looks of indignation being cast at us by the waitresses and other patrons, and let the concept of writing ourselves as characters into stories percolate in our alcohol addled minds. We then looked at each other and asked, “Do we really want to do this?”

CHRIS SAYS:

Do we really want to order more beer? Duh! Oh, wait…Do we really want to work on this project that, in a more sober frame of mind, would likely be less appealing than shouting “all in” while holding a deuce and a seven, unsuited? We assessed our current situation as publishers. At that point, to date, we were the proud publishers of a few slick looking magazines and a graphic novel. A few nice beginner projects, but hardly the stuff of publishing legend. Brian and I both love short story anthologies and hoped that eventually the magazine arm of Fortress Publishing, Inc., would lead us down the path to publishing a few of them. From that aspect we were pretty darn amped about giving this project a shot.

As writers, we had a few short stories and some poems published, but we clearly wanted to get some more writing experience. We had no large writing projects looming so as we began to flesh out this project, we decided that this was a great opportunity to attempt to write in a few different styles, work with an outside editor (potentially), work with deadlines (shudder), find an illustrator, practice re-writes, find a printer we liked, and assemble a novel-length piece into a computer file that the printer would accept. All in all, this was a more daunting task than merely writing a few stories, and a few more pitchers later we found that we were pretty excited about the whole project and the experience we would get out of it.

While the creative coals were still hot, Brian and I started throwing out story names and suggestions at each other. Some of them made us cringe. Others made us cackle in a manner worthy of the forcing the employees to ask us to leave. But that didn’t happen. Instead, one of us got the bright idea that we should be capturing these ideas for future reference (the other argued…because, hey, it’s what we do). Fortunately, we not only write down our ideas, but somehow managed to stow the notes in a place where we actually came across them the next day.

Now, in all truth, Brian and I took far different approaches to the potential selection process. We both loved the ideas that made us titter uncontrollably, but Brian really focused on his past movie experiences, while I delved into the literary vault of my mind and dug out some of my favorite Gothic reads. Brian was noting themes and tropes, while I was methodically examining very specific works that focused on a specific atmosphere or style. In the end we wound up with a nice blend of horror that we thought we could poke fun at through unique twists, while maintaining a sense of respect for the original ideas.

Tune in next time when we deconstruct our novel “The Shattered Visage Lies”…

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The Journey

BRIAN SAYS:

We’re back!

We decided to start off with the first installment of our series of articles called “The Journey.” For those who are not familiar – when Chris and I began our illustrious careers as writers, we had a syndicated internet column called “The Drunken Comic Book Monkeys” where we babbled on about comic books and the world of entertainment in general. “The Journey” is a series of articles detailing some of our exploits into the world of micro-press publishing. We thought it might be interesting to reprint them. So, here is the first installment. Let us know what you think!

The Journey

“Origin”

by

Brian Koscienski
&
Chris Pisano

Are you tired of the rejection letters? Have you thought about self-publishing? Did you ever wish that you could read about a couple of knuckleheads trying to start their own publishing company to see what’s really involved? Well, you’re in luck. We’re those knuckleheads.

As with any set of characters involved in comics, we have origins as well; reasons for our actions and motivations to elicit a sympathetic reaction from the reader. I’m Brian, the self-appointed mouthpiece of the group. Chris and I have been friends for well over a decade, but we had to muddle through the first seven years of friendship before we realized that we both shared dreams of becoming writers. “Why’d it take seven years?” you may ask. Well, we’re men and we share our feelings as often as Sally Struthers shares a sandwich with third-world children. And to be up front with you right now, expect “because we’re men” to be used as an excuse for many of the dumb things we’ll do during this arduous journey.

Just so you can truly understand the characters better, let’s just say that I’m the type of guy who would talk Chris into wearing capes and climbing to the roof of a two-story house, convinced we can fly. Chris is the type of guy who would talk me into trying it from the second floor balcony instead. I’m the type of guy who would then push Chris off the balcony to see if the whole flying experiment will work. Now, I’m not mean-spirited, mind you, just very driven, very zealous and often very misguided. Chris’ job is to fix these things.

Upon discovery of our shared desire to write, we decided to partner up and write a novel. As with any great idea, it was hatched after a few brews at the local bar. During a surprise moment of clarity, we decided to write a fantasy novel (the swords and horses, dragons and wizards kind) and quickly came up with settings, plots, characters and the dream cast of who should star in the movie version. Things were going very smoothly for us. I would write a few pages, inadvertently place the characters in precarious situations, then send the script to Chris and say, “Your turn.” This process worked, and worked well for over eight chapters, until one fateful day when my wife gave me too much free time, allowing me an opportunity to stroll to the “back issue” section of the local comic book store.

Forgive us, but to continue we must briefly revisit the Dark Age of comic books. Yes, the nineties. Marvel had all their “X” titles do a seventeen part cross-over three times a year; the Avengers were fighting whole wars underwater, in space, and through time; most of the other titles struggled to remain comprehensible (seriously, did anyone really understand the whole “She-Thing” idea?) all finally culminating to the Onslaught fiasco. What was going on over at DC? Superman died, Batman broke his back, Robin laid an egg while the bat-mobile lost its wheel and Joker got away. Independents weren’t much better with their plotless stories of T & A cloned “heroines” and heroes so large they’d make a Mr. Olympia contest look like a junior high chess club. Like some of you, the industry let us down and wore us down, giving us no other alternative to stopping all subscriptions and pray that one day the industry would refocus on writing. Well, as we found out, some prayers can be answered.

I never truly walked away, though. Thanks to eBay, I was able to feed the addiction of collecting, needing only a cursory glance through random issues to remember why I stopped reading them. Thusly, I only needed to visit the local comic store for bags and boards. One day, I had two hours to spare before I had to meet my wife for something. Two hours is a long time for a person all too willing to don a blanket-style cape and jump from a roof to fly. Curiosity pulled me past the “supplies” section of the store, right to the letter “A” of the back issue section. There it was – my radioactive spider, my gamma bomb – Alias #1.

Within minutes of finishing that issue, I went on-line and ordered the complete series. With a Galactus sized hunger, I went back to the comic shop and devoured every Max title I could find. So enamoured with the imprint, I went to Marvel’s website to learn more, however, only one word caught my eye – Epic.

Like so many aspiring writers out there, I couldn’t help but find, and click on, the menu option labeled “submission guidelines.” Can you see where this is going? Yep, my brain flooded with so many ideas that it would have given Charles Xavier an aneurysm, and immediately called Chris to convince him to veer off the novel path onto the road of comic books. Having learned there is very little difference between a jump from the roof and a push from a balcony, Chris quickly agreed. In fact, he kind of liked the idea.

Then came Gabe and Jac (pronounced Jake). Since the idea behind Epic was to submit ideas from a preformed team, we needed artists. Chris brought in Gabe while I brought in Jac, each with a unique style. Holding up our end of the bargain, we penned three scripts, one for a Ghost Rider idea, a Guardians of the Galaxy idea and a Moon Knight idea. Both Gabe and Jac fell in love with the Ghost Rider idea with such vigor that we had to write a second script to keep the artists from fisticuffs. All of us were proud of the scripts and had high hopes for the future. Unfortunately, reality has as habit of taking good feelings away from non-established writers.

Three rejection letters later, Epic folded before we could come up with any more ideas. However, we didn’t need to – our own thoughts and ideas took over. Completing script after script, original ideas were popping up faster than mutants in the Marvel Universe. Unfortunately, so was the phrase, “We are not currently looking for writing submissions at this time” on every publisher’s website. Finally, we had it. We couldn’t take it any more. We had another great epiphany, again hatched over a few more brews at the local bar. We’re going to start our own damn publishing company.

Fear not, intrepid reader, for we will certainly keep you abreast of our situation. Every folly and foible shall be well documented for your information, or amusement for those of you sadistic enough to enjoy watching the turmoil of a butterfly attempting to escape a spider-web. If all goes well, then hopefully other aspiring writers will take something from our example to blaze their own trail. If we fail, then at least a few lovable losers from Pennsylvania will show you in great detail what not to do…

Next Issue: “Assemble!”

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Be kind to us… It’s our first blog entry!

BRIAN SAYS:

Imbroglio.
Noun.
1. A perplexing state.
2. An overly complicated and/or difficult situation.
3. Confusion.
4. Anything that Brian Koscienski & Chris Pisano are involved with.

Welcome to our first blog post! After reading the definition of the word “imbroglio”, it should be easy to understand why we named our blog “Imbloglio.” Of course, it’s only funny if you mispronounce “imbroglio” as im-brog-lee-o. (The proper pronunciation is im-brohl-yo) But since the English language mugged and pilfered a dozen other languages for most of its words, I have zero issues of picking the pronunciation pocket of one lone word for my own selfish purposes. Anyway….

For those of you who don’t know us, Chris and I are writers as well as owners of the micro-press publishing company, Fortress Publishing, Inc. Pretty much everything we’ve ever done can be found at http://www.fortresspublishinginc.com. Go ahead, check it out. We’ll wait.

As writers, we’ll use this space to keep you posted about new releases and projects whenever they occur. And we’ll also try to give you a behind the scenes look of our works. In future posts, we will deconstruct our books for you. For our “Drunken Comic Book Monkeys” series (collections of short stories where Chris and I are actually the protagonists), we’ll review some of the stories and give insight to where we came up with the ideas and how we went about bringing them to life. For our novel “The Shattered Visage Lies” (a sci-fi tale about people waking up with super powers), we’ll examine the characters and plot and themes. One of the questions we hear the most is, “What does the title mean?” Keep coming back, and we’ll tell you!

As publishers, we’ll tell you the story of how we started Fortress Publishing, Inc. as well as share some of the ups and downs that come with owning your own publishing company. We have two lines of magazines – “The Realm Beyond” and “Cemetery Moon” – that we edit and we’ll post suggestions and advice for aspiring writers who may want to submit to us.

Well, that’s all for now. We hope this blog will be informative and entertaining. If nothing else, there’s a good chance that you will learn what NOT to do!!

CHRIS SAYS:

Welcome to our first blog. It occurred to us when we decided to give this blogging process a go that neither Brian, nor I, have any clue how or what to do here. But then neither of us knew the first thing about editing, publishing, starting a business, running said business, creating books, dealing with printers, making friends, smiling…well you get the idea, right?…but look at us NOW! Ok, bad example. My point, I think (sometimes these obscure little demons evade me), is that doing is the process of learning, and we can all do this together as we go. And perhaps some of you will be mildly amused along the way. Particularly if I trip at some point. Or Brian gets poison oak. Lest I digress….

While we’re on this little adventure together, hopefully we can make this an interactive event. We love to hear from people (especially those who agree with us!) and neither Brian, nor me, is particularly skilled at monologue, so we’d love to try to make this as much like a running dialogue as possible. We’ll attempt to answer as many questions as quickly as we can, or just offer reasonably intelligent responses to comments (disclaimer: we reserve the right to take out a digital ad to find intelligent responses, as needed).

Oh, yeah, there’s also the potential that we could need material for this blog in the future, because, despite the fact that we’re both fairly loquacious, we’ve been known to be distracted by various and sundry events and items. Consequently, we miss important episodes of television programs, good movies, new blockbuster fiction, cool releases from the metal music world, etc. That being said it’s entirely possible that we may turn to the readers to see what topic you think we missed out on. Keep an eye out for those events. And keep checking back to see what’s new. Or at least make bets with your friends about how much we can underachieve on this effort and come back to determine the winner. Whatever motivates you, we hope to see you back here again. Ciao!

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