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This is actually Jeff Shank working on a striking puppet for The Howling, which I absolutely yanked from this fabulous collectionof behind-the-scenes pics.

So, what’s up with Wattpad? It’s a hellscape. It really is just awful. Imagine a place with potentially millions of readers, with no way to promote your story to those readers outside the Wattpad People choosing your story and putting it on the main page (which doesn’t seem to change for months at a time). This wouldn’t me too terrible if they didn’t use an algorithm to choose what they promote, and if they weren’t deliberately catering to teenagers (who love “Werewolf Romance,” among other problematic things, which loosely translates to “Sadistic Beastiality” — not kidding, teenagers nowadays are fucking weird and I don’t think they understand how this looks). The only promotional resource they had that you could control was posting once a week (per story) on their forums. The problem with that is that readers rarely went to the forums — it’s full of writers. If you’re serious about your writing, you have two choices — you can do everything you can to get readers to read your writing, or you can content yourself with other writers reading your writing, which means you have to read their writing, and you can tell each other how great it is, and maybe even exchange ideas about how to promote your writing, but let’s face it, with all your reading and writing and backslapping, who’s got time to do much of anything else? That’s what’s called a Circle Jerk. Minus the super jacuzzi (and if there’s no super jacuzzi, I’m out).

And, no offense, other writers: I have a lot of books. A lot. I read them. I have at least three books going at all times, and I will never run out of books I want to read because something about them made me want to read them (including doing research for my own writing). I literally haven’t two minutes to read books I am obligated to read because someone said they’d read my book. In that case, I don’t want you to read my book — I want you to write and promote your book. I will do the same.

Anyway, it doesn’t matter now because they actually shut down the forums because — and I can’t stop laughing at this — a number of ultra-woke teens kept politicizing every other conversation on there, generally polluting and creating a toxic environment for everyone (which, was really a blessing, because being forced to spend any time on an Internet forum with teenagers at this point in my life, is just so very bad). But since the Great Forum Cataclysm (the kids were really upset), there’s been zero place to just throw up anything that simply says, “Hey, I got a thing. It’s about this. Come take a look.”

So, screw it. I’m going to be transferring stuff over from there to here. I’ve been hiesitant to so it because, well, it was a bunch of work to get drafts up to post there, and it’ll be a bunch of work to do that here (but at least here I can actually schedule posts, so I don’t need to do it manually). I’ll make a separate page tab for each book, and put up a clickable Table of Contents. It was totally my bad putting it up there in the first place — it just seemed like a convenient publishing platform when, at the time, I didn’t have this blog up and running again. But, now this is here, why bother over there?

Starting Monday, I will be posting “chapters” (they’re not chapters — the book is in four parts, but that’s too long to post) of my Robert Louis Stevenson werewolf book, The Beast of Gévaudan. Here’s the blurb…

Robert Louis Stevenson treks through the French highlands hoping to heal his recently broken heart — prompted by the loss of one Mrs. Fanny Osbourne — and to gather notes for a new travelogue, “Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes.” Along with the fickle Modestine, his pack donkey, Stevenson journeys 120 miles through villages and valleys, encountering innkeepers and fellow travelers, a monk-filled monastery, a violent, angry mob, and more superstitious locals than one could adequately poke with a donkey goad. These things he’d expected, but not the mysterious figure trailing him, the murder, nor, above all, a confrontation with the notorious Beast of Gévaudan of 18th-century legend. Hunted, heart-sick, questioning his own sanity and senses, Stevenson forms unlikely alliances as he is forced to face an entire region of werewolves — and possibly worse — in order to reach his destination and desire, Alès and a long-for letter from his estranged love.

I’ll post new bits every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. And, once I get a few things ironed out here, I will move ‘Florida Man’ and ‘Dread Confluence’ over here as well.

BWOldCoroner

Therapists all over the world, when hey throw up the word “underrated” in their word association tests — which they surely do, right? — the top response must certainly be “Coroner.” And then the patient wipes away a single tear to move stoically onto the next word, though he or she is broken inside. Which is why they are there in the first place. But I digress.

Holy shit, do I love me some Coroner. “Underrated” is too mild a word. That they did not continue past Grin is a crime against humanity. Though we can be thankful that they reunited for fest tours and whatnot, felt out the environs, and have moved on to the “new album” phase. It was announced quite some time ago, but as of April of this year, they’ve assured us via social media (written in stone) that this year’s the year of recording. Which is about as close to “good news” as we’re going to get here in 2020, the Year That Isn’t.

BWNewCoroner

And yes, it’s minus Marky Edelmann, but everyone seems to be at peace with that, most of all him, so we can accept that. In addition to drumming, though, he was not only the graphic mastermind behind the band, he was the lyrical composer. In 1993, Joe Mackett of Riff Raff commented on the absence of “lyrical sexism,” to which Edelmann replied:

We hated the cliched things. We tried to go a different way, even in the covers. I don’t like just telling a story. It leaves it more open for the listener.

In 2012, when asked about his lyrical approach, he had this to say:

It was a simplicity I was looking for. English is not my mother tongue. It was odd for me to try to find the right words. I wanted to express in few words what I wanted to say. At the beginning, you have a book, at the end, twenty words: that’s actually what I was trying to do.

For someone who likes to write stories based on other peoples’ songs (heh…) this is just perfect. It’s true, Coroner’s lyrics, while entirely sufficient on their own and for their purposes, absolutely leaves things open for the listener, and the writer. And it’s safe to say that Coroner’s lyrics frequently read — and this is a positive in my book — as they they may not have been written by a native English speaker. That’s not to say they are “incorrect,” as that’s not the case. But it is to say that Edelmann’s use of the English language is quirky in a way that, to the English-speaking ear, sounds strange, though if you spend another 3 seconds on it, you’ll find that not having English as your primary language gives one a certain amount of creative freedom that does not come off as a bad writer abusing a thesaurus (and that is always refreshing).

Take “Divine Step,” from Mental Vortex, for instance:

This is the last hit
Your heart will beat
Into this world…
This is the first step
Your soul will take
Up to the sky…
No time to pray ‘cos you
Can’t stay where words
Like that would count…
Face the moment
That you feared and
Glide outside your brain…

This is the last hit your heart will beat into this world. This is the first step your soul will take up to the sky. No time to pray ‘cos you can’t stay where words like that would count. Face the moment that you feared and glide outside your brain.

Just in terms of assonance and consonance, there’s a lot going on there, inside a single line, but also bleeding from one into the next, or skipping — you have to take the block as a whole prior to the chorus. Also, each line ends, not with a rhyme, which would be the obvious thing to do, but with words that act as a kind of sonic punctuation, either sharp (sky & count), or blunt (world & brain) — and I’ll venture to say that Ron Broder’s delivery accentuates this point. Then, there are the words associated with actions of the heart — hit and beat. Both are synonymous verbs for a violent act, which makes this (the very moment of death, no matter the cause) seem violent in and of itself. “Hit” is rarely, if ever, used in association with a heartbeat, and here the use is jarring and new, thus intriguing. The “beat” refers to the heartbeat, but is used as a verb. “Into this world” gives it an agency which, under the circumstances, is a little disconcerting. And juxtaposing the idea of facing a moment of fear (that sounds stressful) with simply gliding outside one’s brain (that actually sounds relaxing). Well, you know when one has resorted the using “juxtapose” in the critique, the critique has worn out its welcome, though I could add more here.

MentalVortex Cassette

And all of this follows through the rest of the song, and although I’m fascinated by it, I know that, in terms of writing a story to “Divine Step,” these linguistic tricks are harder to sustain in 1) a longer work of prose (without becoming too poetic), and 2) to really capture the resonance of the song itself. It’s just harder, if not impossible, to work out. I can use a few turns of phrase, to draw a line from song to story, so it will largely be between me and myself. I know this is a niche thing I’m doing.

So, why “Divine Step,” then? Two reasons: First, it’s the moment of death. The entire song is basically a six-and-a-half minute cliffhanger. And you’re left hanging. You will find out if your heaven is colored black and you will find out if your suffering will find an end…but not here, not anywhere in this song (the tunnel footage in this video is obviously a draw on the well-established tunnel-and-bright-light metaphor for the near-death experience or the straight-up afterlife, but as you are about to emerge, it simply goes bright and you have no idea what’s on the other end). I like the open-mindedness of it (death is the classic, eternal cliffhanger), but also that, ultimately, it is literally a six-and-a-half minute song about a moment in time, perhaps only a second or two, between life/what you know, and death/what you don’t know (and thus fear).

What takes place in that instant? What is the thought? Is there one? And as the song goes, what is sin? And who is God?

Second, the musical structure of the song. I didn’t think too much about the structure of Carcass’s “Heartwork” for Dark Foul Light. There was a lot to work with linguistically so that’s where I gravitated. Though I’m (obviously — I am a huge nerd) taken with the lyrical content here, though for different reasons, the real draw here is how the song unfolds musically.

I am not a musician, so time signatures are like math to me — I’m not going to sit here and discuss it without my lawyer (that’s how bad my math is). But, obviously — being the Rush fans Vetterli and Broder were, there’s some wacky stuff going on here (it’s Coroner, this is not unusual). Odd signatures aside, I’m drawn to the varying speeds throughout — galloping and fast, like stream of consciousness, then circular, and then it slows and becomes dreamlike, only to gear back up to another gallop, and so on…

That’s attractive to a writer. How to use language, story, sentence structure and length (paragraphs as well) to impart the sensation of fast or slow, straight or curved. Well, I imagine it’s a lot like the way you do with with music, only the instruments are different. So, that’s my challenge here and why this song out of so (so) many brilliant Coroner songs to choose from. This is a band I’ll likely return to in the future for story mining — they’re just so, so good.

To finish up here, I’ll say this about Coroner — I don’t care when the new album comes out, as long as it eventually does. And I am entirely open to the band’s new sound/content/incarnation, because they have always been underrated. They’d been gone for so long, and they were such a tremendous band, frankly, that the world gets anything new from Coroner, at this point — we’re just lucky, and we should be open to whatever it is they want to give us at this stage in their trajectory. And the fact is, as far as I’m concerned, if it doesn’t push all of my buttons (because we all have our own subjective pleasure buttons — I hope they name the album that: Subjective Pleasure Buttons. Coroner, that’s free for you to use), I doubt my enthusiasm could be dampened. I just love that they’re back, they exist as an entity, and as individuals, they’ve decided to take this on, move forward, and see what happens.

I look forward to mining the new album, whenever it comes out, for story fixin’s.

FloridaNightClub

Key West’s 20-year-old Orion Breese Jones was arrested following a foot chase with club security and being stun-gunned twice by police for resisting arrest after whizzing on a waitress from the balcony of said club. As of 2019, he is the founder of Share Your Drop on Instagram, an account where he posts DJ drop clips. According to his private profile, he likes Svdden Death, Bassnectar, RL Grime, Eric Prydz, and appears to be a Pittsburgh Steelers fan. Listening to dubstep has yet to be made a crime, and we hope he followed through when he told police in the Monroe County jail that he had a “desire to seek help for his alcohol problem.”

Moran, Lee. “Florida Man Arrested for Urinating on Waitress at Nightclub.” New York Daily News. Tribune Publishing Company. January 28, 2015. www.nydailynews.com/news/crime/florida-man-arrested-urinating-waitress-nightclub-article-1.2094717

CLICK HERE to read Florida Man: Battle of the Five Meth Labs: A Love Story for free on Wattpad!

Liverpool_Blitz_D_5983

Continuing from last week…so, how did I come up with the story itself, what with the song being pretty vague? I always start with place and setting. Carcass is from Liverpool, so there we are. We’re in Liverpool. I have been to the UK numerous times, but I have never been to Liverpool. My closest connection to Liverpool is my third-great-grandfather , from Holyhead, Wales, having left from Liverpool to get to Canada. That’s it.

Follow my thinking here: Liverpool’s industrial history reminded me of Pittsburgh’s (where I live), and when I think Pittsburgh & painting, no, I do not think Andy Warhol, though I know you probably do. No, I think of the murals of Maksimilijan “Maxo” Vanka in St. Nicholas Catholic church in Millvale.

MaxoVanka

He was a Croation-American artist who painted these 25 murals in 1937 and in 1941, which are considered his most important works.

Vanka1946

Maxo Vanka

There is also a story of a phantom priest associated with St. Nicholas. Take a little bit of all of this and you have a Liverpudlian painter haunted by a ghost while he refurbishes a church’s murals. So, now, to relocate the church in Liverpool…this was easy.

St. Luke’s — aka, “The Bombed-Out Church” — really stood out. It’s bombing, along with the Vanka murals, gave me my time period, in addition to a key plot point. The Liverpool Blitz began in August 1940 and ended in January 1942. St. Luke’s was hit by an incendiary bomb on May 5, 1941. Vanka may well have been working on one of his murals the moment St. Luke’s was hit. It was gutted, but the stone structure still stands as a memorial.

St. Luke’s was more ornate woodwork and stained glass than murals. If you go here, on the left you’ll find pictures — count down to the sixth pair. These are of the main altar, and I don’t know if the designs here are painted, or tile work, but I used them to model Geoffrey’s painting:

Another pause, and Geoffrey only stared at the segment of mural directly above his head, the IHS of Christ’s name, the frame around it, the crown it wore, repeating all around him. Its curved plan invited an almost serpentine quality that seemed to slither over the arris of the vault and down between the large stained-glass panes.

Oh, names. Two characters, Geoffrey the painter (Jeff Walker — bass, vocals) and Bill Geoffrey Steer — guitar) and the priest, Father Owen (Ken Owen — drummer when Heartwork was recorded).  Easy-peasy.

Then it’s just a matter of reviewing a few historical sites about Liverpool and studying maps — make sure, especially after a few years of bombing, that you’re looking at a map contemporary with the events, or you’ll end up with streets that exist today, but didn’t then. I have no idea who the hell would catch this, but, you know…nice to be as accurate as possible about a place and time you’ve never been to or experienced. You’re bound to screw up, misinterpret, or miss something altogether, so at least try to minimize it.

Take these elements, hammer them together, and create an outline. Put the song on in the background on loop, and then ignore it, because you’re writing now and you’re in the zone.

Metal songs don’t necessarily have to translate directly into a crazy story full of typical metal tropes, though it’s fine, really, if that’s what the writer wants to do (I’ve really enjoyed some of those…😆). After that stint editing Despumation with open submissions, I can tell you, the vast majority of stories derived from metal songs tend to be exactly that — literally derivative. And that gets really old, really quick. Also, when you fall back on just being as metal as you possibly can, the prose tends to suffer (I don’t know why, because there’s really no reason, but that’s what I was seeing, repeatedly) — there’s little attention paid to language, which, considering the lyrics are a huge part of this whole process, losing sight of the language is kind of inexcusable. And it doesn’t matter how intelligent or, frankly, meat-headed the lyrics are — when you start looking at ways to interpret them as a fully fleshed out story, once you enter the creative process, there’s always something you can do with it to set the story apart and above.

HologramAlien

An unnamed 53-year-old Marin County man—still wielding a baseball bat upon the arrival of authorities—claimed “the men” had absconded with his wife/girlfriend using “holograms to project signals on the walls to get him to do what they wanted and to communicate with each other.” His lady friend was drunk at the man’s aunt’s mobile home several lots away and confirmed that she had been chased there by the hologram-armed men. The aunt said no one had chased her, but that she “was seeing people and animals at her trailer that were not there.” According to the trailer’s owner, this is not the first time police had been called, citing another instance previously when the man and woman were in the road—he with a gun, and she “digging for gold.” As of February 2014, they were soon-to-be evicted.

CLICK HERE to read Florida Man: Battle of the Five Meth Labs: A Love Story for free on Wattpad!

 

RLSBournemouth

Again, it’s Wednesday and I’ve got nothing in particular to blog about, but also a thousand things to get done.

So, starting August 18th — after I’ve finished publishing Dread Confluence — I will start publishing The Beast of Gévaudan, for which I used RLS’s Travels with a Donkey in the Cèvennes as a template. This morning I cam across this swell list of his reading during the time he spent in Bournemouth (Skerryvore, 1884-1887) — this is where he wrote and published Jekyll & Hyde, this is where Sargent painted his Stevenson (and Fanny) portraits, and this is where the above picture was taken (which is my favorite). This was among the books listed:

Joseph Pennell and Elizabeth Robins Pennell, A Canterbury Pilgrimage, Ridden, Written, and Ilustrated by J. and E. R. P. (1885)
a tandem tricycle journey from London to Canterbury; volume dedication to Stevenson: ‘To Mr. Robert Louis Stevenson, We, who are unknown to him, dedicate this record of one of our short journeys on a Tricycle, in gratitude for the happy hours we have spent travelling with him and his Donkey’; RLS replied with thanks in July 1885: ‘when I received the Pilgrimage, I was in a state (not at all common with me) of depression, and the pleasant testimony that my work had not all been in vain did much to set me up again.’ (L5, p.121).

I just thought this dedication was cute, his response sweet, and I wondered what he’d think about his (clearly) non-fiction travelogue being turned into a murder mystery with werewolves. I like to think he’d be okay with it, and hopefully, he’d at least think the writing was passable.

BoG - LHO Cover

The shame about this book is that, because it’s a “werewolf book,” folks who know anything about Stevenson might be less inclined to check it out, and thus very few people might eventually read it and really appreciate the source material. Such is life.

**********************

For the record, this is also my favorite picture of Stevenson:

RLSEquator

RLS on the bowsprit of the Equator.

Dark Foul Light Cover

In April of 1941, Geoffrey is a Liverpool painter still healing from wounds incurred from a recent German bombing raid, and haunted by the memory of one of the many who didn’t survive. Since then, the colors he uses seem dull and lifeless. In an effort to reclaim his former artistic drive, he takes a job refurbishing the ceiling mural of St. Luke’s Cathedral. But something is with him, always, and, high upon the scaffolding, he unwittingly straddles the veil between the living and the dead.

This is the blurb for a short story I wrote a while ago — approximately 5700 words — based on the lyrics of “Heartwork” by Carcass. You can read it here.

I guess the first thing I do is give a good, thorough reading of the lyrics. Early on, Carcass was known for their (Jeff Walker’s) fifty-cent forensic vocabulary, which absolutely worked with what they were doing, but as the albums unfolded, so did Walker’s scope. The fact is, if you look back — even all the way back to Reek of Putrifaction, you will find that Jeff Walker has a refreshing (in the world of grind core) grasp of language and how to use it for effect in a literary sense (though it becomes more apparent with Symphonies of Sickness and more refined as one moves up their discography).

What I like about the “Heartwork” lyrics is that they are both concrete, but ultimately indefinable. That’s not to say it’s vague – there are adjectives galore, which gives a very strong sensory experience of the words, but the fact is that the most concrete we’re going to get is “work of art,” and most nouns support that theme. But, it’s not specific in fact. Just extremely specific in feeling. I also appreciate the word play and the variance of phrasing, though not entirely, keeping some of it intact, within the repetition. It’s a great way to retain a recognizable song structure (with the reiteration of verses and choruses) while also shaking it up.

So, all in all, it’s not so specific that the story writes itself, or that your story is going to end up being just a heavily fleshed version of the song. Not a lot of room for creativity when that’s the case, though, I wouldn’t knock it. Sometimes the story of a song is interesting enough to fill it out and see what’s lying deeper within. Here, though, there’s a lot of room to move around. Explore the space.

In this post, you’ve got a link to the story to read in its entirety (which, I suggest before reading the rest of this post), a link to the video so you can have a listen, and a link to the lyrics (shit spelling notwithstanding). So, all I’m going to do now is just show you how I used the lyrics, just in terms of the words themselves.

Works of art, painted black

Magniloquent, bleeding dark

Monotonous palette, murky spectrum, grimly unlimited

Food for thought, so prolific

In contrasting shades, forcely fed

Abstraction, so choking, so provocative

  • monotonous, contrasting shades

“All the color rushed from Geoffrey’s world, and in its place, a monotonous shade enveloped his hearing, his taste and smell, his sight, and even numbed his nerves so that the crumbled brick around him felt only a buzz beneath his hands.”

  • palette, murky spectrum, grimly unlimited

“He watched them, then let his gaze trail up the bland buildings opposite his and to the grey sky—all seemed so drab, a tedious, lifeless palette, murky and grim.”

  • forcely fed

“He breathed deeply, feeding the air forcibly into his lungs, which seemed to contract further with every explosion, far and near.”

  • so choking

“He recalled the arch of broken cement overhead, what remained of the railroad bridge, pieces of stonework crumbling into his mouth. So close, too close. Choking.”

A Canvas to paint, to degenerate

Dark reflections – degeneration

A canvas to paint, to denigrate

Dark reflections, of dark foul light

  • A canvas to paint

“When he could carry his easel, canvas, and paint box to the docks with one hand on his cane, he sought to begin again.”

  • Dark reflections – degeneration

“Once he began on the ceiling above the altar, he was able to put most of the raid out of his mind, his eyes narrowing on the canvas above him, denigrated and degenerated with age. In the wet paint, he’d note the dark reflection of his own eyes looking back, creased and distorted with the shape of the dull smear.”

  • A canvas to paint, to denigrate

“Not an easel on the dock, not a denigrated canvas of faceless, failed portrait after portrait.”

  • Dark foul light

“Everything was there and everything was what it should have been, but the pieces, upon looking back through them, seemed fouled darkly, their hues corrupted, the light polluted.”

Also, here we have our title.

Profound, aesthetic beauty

Or shaded, sensory corruption

Perceptions, shattered, splintered, mirroring

In deft taints, diluted, tinted

Spelt out, in impaired color

Denigrating, going from paints to pain – not a pretty picture

  • Profound aesthetic beauty

“The grey light outside filtered through the massive stained-glass windows, each brilliant color diffusing profound beauty onto the pews and choral stalls.”

  • In deft taints, diluted, tinted

“He followed the lines, deftly respected the previous structure of the design, though the tint seemed tainted.”

  • Going to paints to pain

“He looked around himself, at the colorful glass figures posed in a variety of pious formations, the mural slithering between, pane to paint to pane.”

Works of heart, bleeding dark

Black, magniloquent art

Monotonous palette, murky spectrum, grimly unlimited

Prolific food for thought

Contrasting, fed with force

Abstraction, so choking, so provocative

Works of heart

“It’s not the most creative work, granted,” Father Owen continued. “It can be better described as a work of the heart…”

…and…

“Geoffrey’s heart worked double, triple, his chest pounding, the brush that stuck to it vibrating with each pulse.”

Bleeding works of art

Seething works so dark

Searing words from the heart

  • Searing words

“…someone whistling—or was it a bomb dropping?—searing ever closer to impact.”

Also, not so literal, the “bleeding” is here, without using the word:

“He moved his head slowly, up and around, taking vague note of the protecting arch above him, then directing his gaze all the way over to his right side, where a woman in a red silk blouse and a tweed skirt lay buried from the ribs up beneath some heavy-looking fragments of the bridge.

Again, no particular thought came to him, only hazy notions of certain details. There was not a single run in her stockings. She was missing one shoe. The blouse she’d put on that morning had not been red.”

Also, the last line in the poem by Michelangelo:

In front my skin grows loose and long; behind

By bending it becomes more taut and straight;

Crosswise I strain me like a Syrian bow:

Whence false and quaint, I know,

Must be the fruit of squinting brain and eye;

For ill can aim the gun that bends awry.

Come then, Giovanni, try

To succor my dead pictures and my fame;

Since foul I fare and painting is my shame.

There was a lot to work with, so a lot of perfectly great words that could have worked anywhere, really, but I didn’t want to overdo it — I guess I didn’t want it to seem obvious or overbearing, but that seems silly now — as if the population at large is thoroughly versed in the lyrical content of any Carcass song, let alone this one in particular. I could have put it all in, but there it is.

Next Monday, I’ll talk about how the story itself came about. Cheers.

 

Race War

This week isn’t nearly as funny as a Klan member fighting Dame Edna, but the idiot level is pretty impressive.

Marcus Faella lead a group of ten members of the American Front—a hardcore white supremacist organization modeled after Britain’s National Front—who planned to “kill Jews, immigrants, and other minorities.” Their training facility was located eleven miles from Disney World. Faella was exploring how to manufacture ricin, a lethal biological substance, before he was arrested on an informant’s tip. Ultimately, thirteen were charged—ten had their charges dropped with no explanation. Faella was convicted on two counts of military training in 2014 and sentenced to six months in jail, with sixty-one days credit on time served, plus two years of community control. As of 2015, Faella wears a suit and has reworked his racist views to better blend in with the more contemporary Alt-Right model of academic hate and stupidity.

CLICK HERE to start reading Florida Man for free over on Wattpad! There’s a new installment up today!

Loréal Paris

Man, I got nothing for Wednesdays. I’m just going to post stupid metal memes until I can think of something interesting to say. I will say this, though: This is the difference between a punk pit and a metal pit — you either come out covered in someone else’s sweat, assaulted by BO, or…the head banging starts and it’s like walking through a flowery meadow. It’s one of my favorite things about metal shows — one minute you’re all RAAAAAAAAAH, and then the hats come off and everything smells great.

Several years ago, I published two collections called Despumation (they’re actually still available: Here No. 1 & here’s No. 2). I was hoping to take it further, but I vastly overestimated the number of competent writers who also listen to extreme metal. The submissions were…bleak, and I don’t mean that in a metal way. It was rough, so I shut it down. Though I did not contribute to these, I did write one story (with the intention of writing more, enough for a separate collection of just my own stuff), which you can find here (along with a bunch of other great metal-based stories), or you can just read my story up on Wattpad.

It’s called “Dark Foul Light” and it’s based on Carcass’s song (not the whole album), “Heartwork.”

I got a message from a reader on Wattpad who read it because it ranked well with the #Carcass hashtag, and they liked it, but they found the story wasn’t what they were expecting. And, I get it — they’re absolutely right. Though, if you’re very familiar with the song, you’ll find the lyrics throughout, which is where I started when I developed the story altogether.

Anyway, it occurred to me that perhaps I could blog about that process. A lot of the submissions I got for Despumation were attempts at a fairly literal interpretation of relatively concrete lyrics, which, with pretty limited metal tropes, tend to end up being about the same sort of things — murder, violence, satan, etc. Very little variety. I get that it seems like a pretty obvious way to approach this kind of endeavor: concrete lyrics, concrete story ideas, literal story. But I found that if you open the song pool up to more abstract, conceptual lyrics, 1) you have much more to work with, and 2) the places you can go with it expands tremendously.

And you will definitely end up with stories that your average headbanger wasn’t expecting — and may not even like, which is a shame. But, as a writer and a metal fan, it’s deeply satisfying, and frankly, it’s a better story. Start with the lyrics as a foundation, and then do a little research about the band to find your setting, character names, etc. That then directs you to peripheral information that, while having nothing to do with the song per se, captures the culture the band was operating from, among other things. Another thing you can do, if it works, is use the structure of the song to set the pace. That’s a challenge.

There’s a lot you can do with it, other than simply find a song that already tells a rather direct story (which, in metal — as with any genre, I’m sure — tends to be fairly limited). Not that there’s anything wrong with using a song that really tells a story already — one can always expand on it. But, I find it less satisfying and it keeps you boxed in, in terms of creativity.

So, next Metal Monday, I’ll tell you how I came up with the story of “Dark Foul Light,” and from there, I’ll tell you how I’m currently devising a story based on Coroner’sDivine Step” from the Mental Vortex album. Yes, I’m back on the metal-based story wagon — working on that collection again.