Monthly Archives: September 2014

Story Shots: Police

Story Shots

We’ve all had some sort of interaction with the police. Sometimes it’s as simple as getting pulled over and getting a ticket or, especially with the news as of late, seeing police misconduct on television. When our writers were asked to use the word police as their inspiration for this month’s Story Shots post, a vast array of interaction came forth ranging from childhood memories to America’s interaction with ISIS.

Our relationship started out with a lie. He taught me some truths, too. He knew the most effective way to tell a lie was to paint it with little flecks of truth.

“Marijuana is a dangerous drug, children. It’ll get you addicted. It’s a gateway drug that leads to harder drugs. If you think pot is okay now, later you’ll be doing cocaine. It’s a fact.” He’d tell us in D.A.R.E. class in sixth grade.

I learned to lie back. He caught me on the streets after curfew when I was 13.

“Where are you going?” he asked as he flashed a light over my face.

“Home.” Here came that lie. It rolled off of my tongue so easily. I wasn’t intimidated by him, nor by his flashlight.

“Where do you live?”

I looked up at the street sign. “Right here. On Homer Street. I got into a fight with my friend at a sleepover.” I looked sad. Sad was easy to fake.

“Alright, do you need a ride to your door?” He followed up.

“No, I’m less than a block that way.” I smiled.

He let me go.

I ran into him a year later when I was ditching class. I was never a good kid in grade school or in junior high, and I continued my bad habits into high school. I was a freshman ditching class. He caught my friends and I on some railroad tracks that ran under a freeway by the Westminster mall, back behind what used to be a Super Best Buy. He chased us. We ran.

I fell into some bushes. I cut up my leg pretty badly but I sat there, silently, hoping to not be caught. He passed right by me.

The next time I saw him, he fucked me. I ran into him at a bar when I was 22. He had a clean-shaven head and piercing blue eyes. He was tall and muscular. I’m sure he was the spitting image of a thousand romance novel fantasies, and he was mine that night.

We went back to his place. There was no pretense of coffee. There was no awkward moment at the door. We went straight into his bedroom and he pinned me against his door the moment it clicked shut. His lips pressed against mine. They were hungry.

We stripped each other and got into bed. He pulled a condom from his nightstand.

His whole body was hard. His chest was rippling. His abs were well defined and glistening with the sweat from the labors of our passion. He ass was perfectly sculpted with little dimples above where his cheeks met his thighs.

The sex was violent and angry. He wielded a weapon at work with an air of authority and he did the same in bed. I was thrown around. I was held down. I was going to be sore for days. It was fantastic.

He has a violent streak. We all have it, but he has the chance to wield it, and wield it often. He makes the news for it. He terrorizes low-income communities with it. He protects the wealthy and affluent with it. He keeps the status quo in order and doles out a corrupt justice that sometimes goes mad.

He pulled a gun on me once. I was driving and he thought I was someone else. I’d never had a gun drawn on me before. I’d been stabbed on accident, by a classmate with a pen. I’d been cut with glass. I’d been punched. I’d been kicked in the chest in a mosh pit. But a gun was a new thing to me. It was scary. He wanted me to pay attention and I did. I was. He let me go. He never apologized.

He’s never been there for me, except for that one night he fucked me. When I called him to find the drunk driver who hit me at the age of 28, he did nothing. He filed some paperwork. He never followed up. When my car was sideswiped by a semi-truck at the age of 29, it took him 45 minutes to help me get off the side of the road. He never bothered to look for that semi.

Our relationship is strained. What else can a relationship be when it’s started on lies? The man and I, we’ve known each other for a long time. And I don’t trust him.

– Amanda Riggle

Great, it’s that time again. Look, I’m not ignorant to police brutality. How can I with the footage I have been presented with? Beatings by baton, pepper spraying peaceful protests, murdering the mentality disabled… I am not ignorant. But I wish the same could be said for the opposing side. My dad is a retired deputy sheriff. In order to spend more time with his only step-daughter, me, he decided to take night shifts and work in the jails. Every night he went to work, I knew that could he could be injured… or worse. And every day he came home, the bags under his eyes were heavier and he was exhausted. I have always been proud of my dad, and always appreciative of the work he does. But not every is. I have been told that my dad was a pig, that I should go fuck myself, that they intended to harm him. I often lost friends and became a target of ridicule, but I never stopped being proud of my dad. My dad did not beat inmates, he did his best to treat them like the people they are. My dad never pepper-sprayed anyone, he always tried to talk things out calmly. And my dad has never killed anyone because he has never had to draw his firearm. I wish more policemen were like him, that more people would realize the good policemen try to enforce, that people would stop being derogative towards all cops. And I in no way feel that we should stop having discussions about police brutality because it does exist. But maybe the news could strike a balance between the injustices committed and the righteousness upheld? Maybe the media could accept responsibility for the general hatred they have cultivated in the masses? Maybe we can stop saying “Fuck the police. Fuck them ALL!” Maybe. But probably not.

– Nicole Neitzke


Author Spotlight: Grady Hendrix

Grady Hendrix is a writer and journalist and one of the founders of the New York Asian Film Festival. A former film critic for the New York Sun, Grady has written for Slate, theVillage Voice, Time Out New York, Playboy, and Variety.

The Poetics Project: Describe your book in ten words or less.

Buy the book here:

Grady Hendrix: Horrorstör is about a haunted Ikea.

TPP: What inspired you to write Horrorstör?

GH: I spent a long time working for a non-profit that studied paranormal phenomena and I was fascinated by the research on haunted houses. They’re a lot more interesting in real life than they are in the movies, and there’s some interesting, although hardly conclusive, research about hauntings being physical phenomena involving architecture and geologic anomalies. I always thought there was room to update the haunted house story, and when I was talking to my editor he threw out the idea of a haunted big box retail store, and we both instantly realized that we had stumbled across fried gold.

TPP: What inspired the format of your book? It is very reminiscent of a certain store’s catalog.

GH: That’s all Quirk. They design books that you want to own, and the idea of making Horrorstör look like an Ikea catalogue was their stroke of genius. I insisted on writing all the copy myself (including the fine print on the order form) partly because I’m a control freak but mostly because I’ve written marketing copy like that before for a living and it was fun to blast it with weird radiation and watch it mutate. Ultimately Horrorstör is a gorgeous object that I think solves the whole eBook vs. physical book problem: want people to buy a physical book? Then design an awesome one.

TPP: Were there any fun moments in creating Horrorstör? Any difficult moments?

GH: The whole thing was a blast. I’ve had real jobs before and compared to those the most difficult moment writing a book is like a sitting on a beach with trained monkeys bringing your mai tais on a silver platter whenever you snap your fingers. And, actually, snapping your fingers is too much work so you have a monkey specifically trained to snap its fingers whenever want. When I hear writers talk about how hard it is to write a book I wonder if they’ve ever changed the oil in a deep fat fryer or sold fake jewelry over the phone or hung sheetrock.

That said, I did get a mental hangnail trying to keep the geography of Orsk straight in my head. Today, I could draw you a map from memory, but trying to memorize every twist and turn of an imaginary location did require some mental effort. So shed a tiny teardrop for the effort that took me.

TPP: What advice can you give aspiring authors? What advice do you wish you would have been given?

GH: I don’t think you can give people advice. They never listen. But I will say, if you want to write books, then start writing books and publishing them yourself. Use your second book to fix the mistakes in your first. Keep working. Be lucky. And don’t expect to get anywhere much before you’re 30.

TPP: Name 2-3 songs that would be on a soundtrack to your book?

GH: SUSPIRIA by Goblin – Italian prog rockers doing the score to Dario Argento’s witchy fairy tale, it sounds like an entire symphony orchestra thrown down a flight of concrete stairs while crazy old women crouch on your shoulder screaming, “Witch!” into your ears. Once you stop flinching, it’s great music to write to.

“if u cAn dR3Am – pRinc3ss3s” by GR†LLGR†LL – the most exciting horror today is in music, specifically witch house, which is basically hipster goth electro. Full of sonic damage, samples, tape hiss, static snarls, and some kind of deep Casio beat over the sound of distant screaming, it’s music that’s designed to get your skin crawling and your eyeballs vibrating with fear.

“De Natura Sonoris No. 1” by Krzysztof Penserecki – want to destroy your soul, one second of sonic insanity at a time? Penserecki’s got you covered. Anything by him is capable of causing your bones to melt from pure anxiety and tension, but “De Natura Sonoris” is the one that really punches me in the fear gland.

Joseph Campbell Meets The Hobbits

Joseph Campbell was a prolific comparative mythology writer and lecturer of the twentieth century. Some of his works include The Hero with a Thousand Faces, The Masks of God, Historical Atlas of World Mythology, and The Power of Myth.

What I’m going to focus on in this article is often referred to as The Hero’s Journey and it comes from Campbell’s first venture into writing, The Hero with a Thousand Faces. The book, in essence, looks at the underlying structure of myth that has been pervasive in cultures around the world for thousands of years. In his studies, he found parallel structure and breaks the hero’s journey down into steps that the hero takes and the options he has along the way.

Here’s a simple representation of the Hero’s Journey

What is surprising is how many of our modern day literary and movie heroes follow much of the same structure. Take, for example, Bilbo and Frodo from The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings series by J.R.R. Tolkien. These two heroes follow much of the hero’s journey Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces laid out. (more…)

Hobbit Week Repost: 5 Reasons Why I’m Excited for J.R.R. Tolkien’s Translation of Beowulf

J.R.R. Tolkien, noted author of The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy, has a new book coming out this May, eighty-eight years after he wrote it. Also, I should probably mention, the book itself is a story written between 975-1025 AD. Yes, I know those numbers can be confusing, but they are accurate. In 1926, Tolkien finished a work of passion—a translation of Beowulf, the oldest Anglo-Saxon poem still in existence and the earliest example of English literature we have.

For those of you who wish to own it, you can buy it here.

Translations aren’t an easy gig—the subtleties of language and the nuances of meaning leave a lot of room for differences between translated texts. Don’t believe me? Play with Google Translate for a few minutes, and you’ll get what I mean. Enter in a phrase and run it through a few languages, then back to English, and you’ll see how meaning can change.

Anglo-Saxon wasn't an option, but you get the gist. It's a subtle change, but subtly is a big part of story telling.
Anglo-Saxon wasn’t an option, but you get the gist. It’s a subtle change, but subtly is a big part of story telling.

All that being said, J.R.R. Tolkien’s version of Beowulf has me excited, and I’ll tell you why, in no particular order.


Hobbit Week Repost: What’s in a Name?

While Juliet from Romeo and Juliet felt that names weren’t as important as character, when it comes a story, names give away a lot about the characters. While Juliet asks the following question:

What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet

The playwright, Shakespeare, has fair Verona divided between two feuding households—making name loyalty and the power behind influential names a theme within the play itself. Indeed, it is the young lover’s last names that keep them apart and their struggle to overcome their names to be together which leads to the character’s deaths. So, Juliet, a name is a very important thing.

J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, named her characters carefully so that the character names reflected the personalities of the characters themselves. This may be more obvious with her characters that have Latin and Greek-based names, like Severus, Latin for stern or Sirius—a Greek name associated with the Sirius dog star Alpha Canis Major. Even the more simple names in the series, like Harry, have carefully selected meanings. Harry is an English name that means army ruler and is a diminutive form of Harold or Henry, former kings of England.

The power of names can stretch across series and authors as well. A good example of this is the name Sam. In J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series, George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones series, as well as Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse novels, characters named Sam share many characteristics.


Literary Paraphernalia: Tolkien-Inspired Tattoos

Today you folks get a double dose of Literary Paraphernalia, because we couldn’t get enough of Tolkien. (And also, because I’m itching to get some new ink—and I’ll take any excuse to look at some more literature-inspired tattoos.)

All of the tattoos below were inspired by Tolkien and his work. Do you have a favorite? Do you have your own Tolkien-esque ink you’d like to share? Tell us below!








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C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien – Bros?

Many readers will be familiar with the two authors I am going to talk about in this blog post. C.S. Lewis is beloved author of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe along with other books based in the magical/Christian land of Narnia such as Prince Caspian and The Magicians Nephew. J.R.R. Tolkien penned such classics as The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

But these two authors weren’t just contemporary artists of the 1950’s who wrote in the same era. They were, in fact, colleagues. Both Lewis and Tolkien taught at Oxford college. In 1926 Tolkien founded a reading group called the “Coalbiters,” which Lewis became a part of. Later, they were part of the same writing group called The Inklings. Together, and with other members of their writing group, they would share drafts of their work. Both men had a great interest in literature and a flare for fictional writing.

Tolkien dedicated his book Lord of the Rings to the writing group The Inklings while C.S. Lewis dedicated his book, The Screwtape Letters, directly to Tolkien.

(Image Source: MentalFloss.Com)

Lewis’s Narnia novels were reflective of his Christian beliefs, but Lewis wasn’t Christian until later in his life. There are some who believe that it was actually Tolkien’s influence which caused Lewis to convert from a nonbeliever into a Christian.

Lewis and Tolkien had a close friendship, so much so that Lewis’s wife was said to be jealous of Tolkien. But not all friendships are smooth and easy going. Lewis’s and Tolkien’s certainly was not.

One conflict the pair had was over Lewis’s book The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.

Hobbit Week Repost: J.R.R. Tolkien’s Legacy

In 1937, a professor at Oxford University had published a book based in Norse mythology which touched on the classic Norse myth of a magic ring called Draupnir. Of course, this professor didn’t call his ring Draupnir nor did his story rest on the shoulders of Norse mythology alone. This professor, named J.R.R. Tolkien, had created a rich world of his own called Middle Earth and little creatures of his own called Hobbits.

In the following years, J.R.R. Tolkien wrote three other books besides The Hobbit called The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King. And, as I’m sure almost everyone reading this blog post knows, these books have found their way into the hearts of millions of readers and have been turned into movies that millions around the world get to enjoy.

While the creation of these movies certainly contribute to J.R.R. Tolkien’s legacy, I feel that the actual phrases and ideas embodied in the text itself speaks volumes to the philosophy of the man and what he wanted his readers to carry with them always.

So, to pay homage to this great author, I would like to share some of my favorite quotes from his novels with the wishes that they touch you in the same ways they have touched me throughout reading and enjoying his works.

Quotes from The Hobbit
Quotes from The Hobbit

“Where there’s life there’s hope.”

“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”

“There are no safe paths in this part of the world. Remember you are over the Edge of the Wild now, and in for all sorts of fun wherever you go.”

“You certainly usually find something, if you look, but it is not always quite the something you were after.”

“Don’t tell us about dreams – dream dinners aren’t any good and we can’t share them.”


From Amora to Zatanna: September


werthampicwithcriminalOh, hello there comic fans! Now, I know I promised a blog dedicated to the wonders that is the Hawkeye Initiative, but I would be remiss if I didn’t write a blog related to Banned Books Week, which (as luck would have it) is this week. So allow me a moment to briefly relay some comic history, and I promise some levity at Hawkeye’s expense (or benefit?) can proceed next month.

I don’t think comic fans are at all foreign to the tired argument that comics are not literature. However, what many fans may be unaware of is the recent push by English scholars across the country to change this perception. Libraries (both public and private university) are dedicating shelf space to comics and graphic novels, while folklorists are recognizing the legitimacy of comics as an American cultural artifact. Heck, teachers are even assigning them in classrooms now because they believe comics engage students on a more sophisticated level by illustrating words in conjunction with visuals elements. With such a dramatic changes taking place in the academic field, one begins to wonder why comics were written off in the first place. And I believe I might have an answer.

Shortly after the Golden Age of Comics and just prior to the Silver Age, comics underwent extensive scrutiny. German psychiatrist, Fredric Wertham, strongly believed that comics were harming the mental development of young children during the 1950s. He did not believe that the reading material did not provide enough stimulus, rather he felt it provided too much! In his book Seduction of the Innocent, released in 1954, he explains how comics promote violence, hyper-sexuality, homosexuality, and even pedophilia through subversive and subliminal means. The grotesque scenes depicted in the EC comic Tales From the Crypt, and the potentially homosexual and pedophiliac relationship between Batman and Robin was enough to throw considered parents in a tizzy.


Author Spotlight: Scott Westerfeld


Scott Westerfeld is the author of the Leviathan series, the first book of which was the winner of the 2010 Locus Award for Best Young Adult Fiction. His other novels include The Leviathan series, The Uglies series (which has over 4 million books in print and has been translated into 28 languages), The Last Days, Peeps, So Yesterday, and the Midnighters trilogy. AFTERWORLDS is his newest book.

The Poetics Project: Describe your novel in ten words or less.

Scott Westerfeld: One girl travels the afterworlds, another writes her story.

TPP: What inspired you to write AFTERWORLDS?

SW: I’ve had such a great time in the world of YA, I wanted to write something about this community. About touring, working on novels, and about the ways that we writers talk to each other when it’s just us in the room. And I didn’t think it was fair to write about a novelist without letting the reader know what she was working on, so I decided to include the complete text of her novel as well.

Buy the book here:

TPP: Was is difficult to write the novel from these two different perspectives/plots while still keeping it cohesive and easy to follow?

SW: The two threads interact, each giving you more information about the other. For example, when my writer character, Darcy, discovers something new, that knowledge works its way into the world of her novel. She gets her ideas from the same place all novelists do, the real world around her. So hopefully the two stories make each other easier to understand, rather than getting muddled up. To know the writer is to know her work.

TPP: What was the process like behind developing the cover art for your novel?

SW: When we shot the video, we took a lot of photos of the actors, thinking to use them on the cover. But nothing quite worked right, because it was hard to strike a balance between the fictional characters and the people in the “real world.” In the end, designer Regina Flath realized that tears played a very important role in both stories, so we went for something simpler—a teardrop and spilled ink.

Link to video:

TPP: If AFTERWORLDS was optioned for a film, who could you see cast as Darcy and Lizzie?

SW: It has been optioned, and partly cast, so I really shouldn’t say. But at least one of them should be an unknown.

TPP: Name three songs that could be on a soundtrack for AFTERWORLDS.

SW: “Dancing with Mister D” by the Rolling Stones, “Meet Me in the Sky” by Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, and “Party for the Fight to Write” by Atmosphere.

TPP: What advice can you give aspiring authors? What advice do you wish you had been given?

SW: Genius, honesty, and intelligence are all lovely things to have, but persistence is the only consistently rewarded virtue.

TPP: What do you get out of writing?

SW: I get to build worlds, and to destroy them. I get to commit terrible wrongs, and then right them. I get to watch people go through the most trying and exciting challenges of their lives, and then reach in and make it harder on them. In other words, I get to tell stories.

TPP: What’s your writing process like? Do you listen to music, have the TV on, or complete silence? Can you write anytime, anywhere or do you have to be alone?

SW: I write at the same time every day (right after caffeine) and in the same chair, so my butt knows that it’s writing time. Nothing will make your brain cooperate better than being trained that NOW is the time to write, and that it doesn’t get to do anything else. Make habits your ally.

TPP: What’s the most recent thing you’ve read?

SW:”What If?” by Randall Munroe. It’s a set of seriously scientific answers to really odd questions, like, “If all your DNA suddenly vanished, how long would you live?”

To learn more about Scott Westerfeld, visit his website where you can find links to his social media accounts and tour information as well as frequent updates and blog posts from the author himself!