Following the journey of award winning author, Alex Azar, as he travels the publishing world and all things interesting. To reproduce or publish any material found within this blog, please contact me at

Monday, March 31, 2014

What I'm Reading Now 3/31/14: UPDATED

There's a strange dichotomy within me.  I'm very much a fan of Stephen King, however I haven't read many of his novels.  My fandom of his exists almost entirely with his short stories, (a large influence of my own style) however there are actually only a handful of his novels that I've already read.  Of course my opinion of the bard has been influenced by the plethora of movies/tv specials based on his storied career, but I'm just now making the conscious effort to read the novels based on his legendary works like It, and The Shining.

First up in this effort is Salem's Lot.  I'm a little ashamed to admit that not only have I not read this novel, I haven't seen either of the television miniseries based on it. Although, I have read the two short stories that take place within the same world as Salem's Lot but after the events of the novel; Jerusalem's lot and One for the Road.

Going into the novel I only have two established thoughts. First, I like the idea of Stephen King writing a horror story about vampires, especially since he's been quoted on more than one occasion that this is his favorite novel he's written. And second, if the title and nickname of the town is derived from "Jerusalem" aren't we all pronouncing it wrong?


I'll be the first to admit, I'm not the biggest fan of vampires, and the recent hollywood over indulgence of them, has soured me even more.  With that said...

This book took me a month to finish all 631 pages, and that was time well spent.  Stephen King spent roughly 300 pages building the town, with no real elements of horror but it had a two fold purpose, 1) you got to know the characters and the town around them, and 2) it built suspense forcing you to fear for these people's lives since you know it won't end well for at least some of them.

Although this was only King's second novel, it was crafted to such expert timing that you engaged from the very beginning.  The writing is raw and emotional, much more so than the more polished King of recent books (still good in their own rite).

My two recommendations for those interested in reading this book are 1) don't let the fact it's about vampires turn you away, and 2) don't let the impressive page count intimidate you.  Pick it up, and just try to put it down with out wanting to know more.

On to the obligatory rating...

Multiple Reads.

It may have taken me longer than it should have to read this book, but I'll be sure to pick it up again when I want that brand of suspense that only Stephen King can supply.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Free Thoughts 3/24/14

I recently went to a concert at the Stanhope House.  It's basically a large bar that has a stage.  Apparently, it's mostly a Jazz/Blues venue, but I went with my brother to see Pharoahe Monch, a rapper.  And because he's a rapper, the opening acts were also hip-hop... all of them.  There was 8 opening acts, each performed 3-4 quick raps and were gone.  I would have much rather had 2-3 opening acts with longer sets, but as it was there was a good variety, by which I mean more white rappers in a single room than the 8 Mile movie auditions.

The M.C. of the night was also the first emcee of the night, an overweight Irish rapper with a vibrant red beard... and he was impressively good.  There was also an angry ICP (look it up) reject with red and white face paint on.  Even more interesting was his hype man was garbed in all black and wore a chromed out baby mask.  His hype man wore a mask and couldn't say anything! Not sure they understand the point of a hype man, but I will say he provided the comedy for the night when he turned his back to the crowd so he could lift up his mask and drink from his beer while Face Paint continued with the show.

My real reason for writing about this night is to acknowledge how hard it must be to get on stage and perform your art like that.  I was watching as one particularly bad performer was on stage, and despite not having a good flow or even decent lyrics, he worked the mic like he owned it with a confidence that's needed in this world of music.  No matter what type of music or the size of the venue, these musicians (whether good or bad) are putting themselves on display in a way other artists typically don't have to.

Authors, we write privately, edit our own work, then facelessly submit our work online to a publisher we'll likely never meet, who accepts or rejects us in an email, usually in what's called a 'form letter', which means they basically copy and paste the same rejection they gave the previous author.  Then we, as authors, make some adjustments and send it on to the publisher.  Rejection for an author is a faceless infraction that usually results in a better piece after more editing.

Musicians on the other hand, have to preform face to face and look their audience in the eyes as they either cheer or boo.  Even their practice rounds have to be live for feedback on whether or not their getting better or not.  I practice on a sheet of paper, and if I'm not happy with it, I can crumble it up and throw it away (sorry recycle).

All this to say, I'll always respect musicians for performing regardless of quality while I sit here behind my pad and a pen.

Monday, March 17, 2014

A History Of Comics From One Fan's Eyes: Part 3

Marvel Comics and the creators behind these legendary characters that populate their universe did an amazing job crafting fantastic heroes that are somehow still relatable. Stan Lee, Archie Goodwin, John Byrne, David Michelinie and countless other authors found a way for me to relate to this character that should otherwise not work. What was the quote from the Avengers movie? Without the suit of armor, Tony Stark is still a “genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist” four things that, despite how wise I may think I am, I'm about as far from being as possible.

So, what was it that at such a young age I was able to relate to? A large part of it was that I had no idea what was really going on in these issues aside from the action. The other factor was that I envied Tony Stark's ability to overcome his setbacks, but also turn those setbacks into an advantage; all the while being a an 'ordinary' human, well as ordinary as a comic superhero could be.

Tony Stark's greatest inspiration is taking a life threatening injury and turning it into a career as a super hero.

It's those similar qualities that I look up to Batman as well. His career as a hero very similarly mimics that of Iron Man. These two beyond human, yet still human, heroes give readers the understanding that we can accomplish so much more than what's already before us; and the tragedy of the Stark's and Wayne's shows us we can overcome any tragedy that befalls us. Whether it's a personal injury or a death in the family we learn that nothing can hold us back if we dedicate what resources we have at our hands, even if we don't have multi-billion dollar international corporations at our disposal. We need to learn to rely on ourselves at times of crisis.

At the time of his creation Iron Man used transistors in his armor which were the height of technology. In his first issue, Batman used a grappling hook to get around. As the world advanced technologically so have these characters, ushering the advancement of other heroes in their worlds as well. The gadgets Iron Man has used both in his comics as well as in his blockbuster movies are on the trend of where our real world applications are heading. The first time I remember seeing a portable computer was in an issue of Batman, and although it wasn't called a tablet it's easy to imagine the developers of the tech that has taken over our lives, this 2-in-1 laptop/tablet combo I'm writing this on for instance, were inspired by the fictional adventures of characters like Iron Man and Batman.

Just as the technology within comic worlds evolve, so do the characters and creators along with them. The biggest factor that has contributed to the longevity of this medium filled with masks, tights, and capes is that the people behind the pages refuse to limit themselves or their imaginations. If the public feels Superman has gotten stale and too predictable, kill him. Sure, he was brought back no too long after, but there isn't a person alive that considers themselves a comic fan that doesn't have the black bagged death of Superman issue. Readers that grew up with Peter Parker from the day he was bit by a radio active spider, began to feel that while their lives moved on, the hero they loved hadn't. What does Marvel do? Amazing Spider-Man Giant Sized Annual #21, the marriage of Spider-Man and his long time love interest Mary-Jane Watson. This issue came at a time when many of the readers that followed Spider-Man as kids were now getting married themselves. Again, similar to Superman coming back to life, the Spider-Marriage was wiped from history several years ago.

Two milestone issues that display the ever evolving medium of comics

This all goes to show that while constantly evolving to updating characters to better fit the times, as well as the technology we read today's comics with, simultaneously things stay the same. Dick Grayson, Otto Octavious, James Rhodes, John Walker (the character not the whiskey), John Stewart (the marine not the comedian), Carol Danvers, Wally West or Eric Masterson; all of these characters took over the mantle of an established hero in an effort to evolve the character, some with a substantial career and fan-base of their own (Wally for Flash, anyone?). Although each of these stars relinquished the title to the original person behind the mask (soon in the case of Otto as Spider-Man) they each went on to carry their own long lasting careers.   

Whether you prefer Eric Masterson as Thor or Thunderstirke, or if your Green Lantern is Hal Jordan, Guy Gardener, John Stewart, Kyle Rayner, or Simon Baz comics have something for everyone. Both young and old, new reader, lapsed fan, or devoted weekly shopper, male or female, straight, gay, bi, or unsure, there is a comic out there for you. Hollywood and TV knows this and as long as this remains true, we'll all have more comics than we can handle, but just maybe not as much as we want. 

 Whether you read the funny pages or watch them in the theaters, always remember to enjoy it and come back for more.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Intro 9: The Statue Garden

One thing I've learned as an author, and have confirmed with others in this profession, is that ideas never die.  It may take some time for them to resurface but they always do.  Some story ideas should probably stay buried like that time I thought people wanted to read about an Arab teen's fictional reimagining of the hip-hop East coast - West coast situation at the time of Biggie's and 2Pac's deaths.  Other ideas just need the proper time to germinate.  Such is the case of "The Statue Garden".

My sister and her husband own a statue business, that consists of a statue garden.  Now as an adult (at least in age) the scope of the plot of land isn't as impressive as it once was when I was a child, when I truly believed I could be lost in the 'maze' of statues for days.

A few years ago, after having dinner at my sister's place and seeing the statues at night, I knew there was a story there. I'm the type to sit on ideas and let them naturally develop as I work on other pieces.  During this time, I stumbled upon notes I had written nearly 20 years ago (that'd make me around 11) and front and center on a scrap of paper was "The Statue Maze, a boy gets lost in a maze of statues and years later awakes from a nightmare still in that maze".  As you'll notice a few things have changed, such as the character's gender, but those seeds were planted long ago.

Read on...

 “Steph, I can’t believe your uncle is letting us have the rave at his place. This is going to be the best Halloween ever!”
I know Kerrie. He said his business is doing pretty bad, so he’s not worried about any of the statues getting broken, except for the religious ones.”
Stephanie’s uncle, Don Hoskin, was like a surrogate father while growing up since her real father left her mom while she was pregnant with Stephanie. Don owns the third largest statue garden in New Jersey. However, despite early success in sales, he’s struggling to stay in business during this recession.
Don has owned Hoskin’s Marble Maze since before Stephanie was born, and some of her earliest memories are from the garden. She had her first kiss in a corner of the maze dedicated to birds; she would sneak to a section of children statues to write in her diary under the warm sun. But all of this was in stark contrast to her feelings of the garden at night while growing up.
The summer when she was five Stephanie’s grandfather, who was living with Uncle Don, passed away from a heart attack. Out of fear Stephanie ran into the maze to lose herself. Unfortunately, because of the commotion inside no one noticed that she was missing until seven hours later while they were at the hospital. Having fallen asleep beneath an angelic themed granite bench with wings for a back support, Stephanie was woken up by her mother’s voice. Waking up in the now lightless night put a fright in her that she wasn’t able to shake for some time.
After weeks of resistance Uncle Don finally convinced Stephanie to enter the maze. Although she was only willing to walk a few feet before running out, it was the first step towards getting her to traverse the entire maze. By Christmas time Stephanie knew every turn and dead end in the maze and was once again comfortable entering alone. Several weeks later she was even willing to go in at night, but she never recaptured the joy she once felt at her uncle’s statue garden.
It’s because of the lingering fears that Stephanie has subdued that Uncle Don was surprised of her request to have the party there. The truth of the matter is that Kerrie and her boyfriend persuaded her to do so.
Attempting to ease her best friend’s fears Kerrie tells Stephanie “I’ll make sure you’re never alone the whole night.”
Responding to her friend over the phone, Stephanie says “The only rule my uncle gave me was that we had to stay away from the religious section, which he’s going to section off anyway.”
Seriously Steph, this is going to be the best rave ever. I wonder what kind of costume I should wear.”
Not fully embracing her friend’s optimism, Stephanie cautions “We only have a month to plan a rave for two hundred people. We’ll need a DJ, lights, and enough ecstasy for everyone.”
Don’t worry about the ‘X’, James can take care of that.”
Even more cautious, Stephanie begins to question “How is your boyfriend able to… I’d rather not know, do I?”
With a playful “Nope” Kerrie ends the conversation.
The day before the rave Stephanie is setting up the orange string lights throughout the maze, with the aid of Kerrie, James, and Luis, a friend that she’s oblivious of his feelings for her.
Rubbing his arms to warm up, James complains “For years Halloween has been t-shirt weather, now I’m freezing my ass off.” He throws down a bundle of lights before continuing “Why are we even doing this shit now?”
Because you’re girlfriend told the DJ everything will be ready before he gets here tomorrow.” Stephanie replies curtly.
Well I hope it warms up by then.”
The typically shy Luis wanting to feel like he’s part of the conversation chimes in, “Not likely, forecast calls for more of the same. But once the music starts and the drugs take affect it shouldn’t matter anyway.”
Stop being such a nerd Lois, and finish these lights, me and Kerrie got to blaze.”
Defending her friend, Stephanie angrily corrects James, “You know his name is Luis, and he’s not a nerd for knowing tomorrow’s weather, asshole.”
You’re right; he’s a nerd because he still reads comics.” Being the only one who finds himself amusing, James walks away laughing at his own comments.
Ignore him.” Kerrie tries to assuage Luis, but seeing the look in his eyes, she tries a different approach. “Hey, why don’t you two go inside and get some food ready. James and I will finish with the lights.” Aware of Luis’ feelings for Stephanie, she hopes the alone time will help them bond.
Trying to take advantage of his opportunity, Luis puts a hand on Stephanie’s shoulder and says, “Kerrie told me that you’re uncomfortable among the statues at night, but don’t worry I’ll be here.”
Ignoring most of what was just said, Stephanie focuses on the word ‘uncomfortable’ and corrects Luis. “It’s not that I’m just uncomfortable in the maze, I have a genuine fear of it in the dark. Something happened when I was younger and I got lost in there. I wasn’t found until after I had fallen asleep and had this horrible nightmare.” She pauses, contemplating if she should tell Luis this nightmare that she’s kept to herself all these years. Deciding he’s safe, she continues, “I was only five at the time but in the nightmare I was an adult in this body, and one of the statues came to life. This stone man with an impossible flowing marble beard and shaggy hair had his way with me, and instantly I looked nine months pregnant. I knew the birth of the baby would mean the death of everyone I cared for, so I tried to kill it. This thing was just as powerful as its beady eyed father. Just when I was about to give birth to it, I awoke with a shriek that directed my family to me.”
Too captivated by Stephanie is Luis that he refuses to interrupt to interject his thoughts. Instead he motions for her to sit on a mushroom shaped bench that resembles something out of ‘Wonderland’ to the side of the entrance to the maze as she continues to confide in him.
I hadn’t even thought much of that dream in the twenty years since I’ve had it, but ever since we decided to have the party here I’ve been having the same nightmare. Every night I’d have it except with slight variations.”
Such as?” Luis asks as he inches closer to Stephanie on the already small bench.
Not even registering his advances Stephanie answers, “Well one night he had legs like a cat, and sometimes he had the head of a goat, kind of like a Minotaur.”
Forgetting his own timid-ness, Luis corrects “Actually, Minotaurs are half bull, not goat.”
I understand that, but that’s not the point. You know what I meant. You need to stop correcting people when it doesn’t matter. Anyway, more recently the stone man didn’t rape me.” Pausing for dramatic effect, she focuses on Luis’ eyes and continues, “I slept with him willingly.”
More than a little taken aback, Luis reasons, “Well that’s probably just because you’ve grown tired of fighting this guy every night.”
Appreciating Luis’ attempt to comfort her, “Thanks Luis, that’s sweet, but if I can resist advances in real life I could do the same in my dreams.” Gently patting his cheek she rises to her feet. “We should get the food ready.”
That night while trying to look up the forecast for the rave, Kerrie sees a news headline indicating that an inmate of a nearby insane asylum has recently escaped. “Holy shit Steph isn’t this place close to us?” turning her phone towards Luis sitting next to her.
Yea Hanover Township is like five minutes away.” Stephanie answers flippantly not too concerned with the news.
Luis looking at the picture jokes, “This guy looks like Charles Manson with a longer beard.” Mistaking Stephanie’s shock as a look of disbelief he supports his theory by showing her the phone, “Come on, you don’t think so?”
Looking up Stephanie sees the stone man that took advantage of her in her dream all those years ago, not only on the phone but also in the window directly behind Luis. Stephanie screams with all her might…
and wakes with a jolt heavily sweating and out of breath. Before she can even realize where she is Luis storms in the room with a baseball bat high overhead.
Seeing no one else in the room he asks, “What’s wrong Steph?”
Stammering for words Stephanie is interrupted by Kerrie and James walking in naked except for a blanket and sheet covering them. Their own sweat reveals they weren’t just sleeping in the nude.
James takes the bat from Luis hand, “Easy there Romeo, don’t touch that, it’s part of my Furies costume.” Seeing that it was nothing but a nightmare he leans towards Kerrie and whispers, “Come on, Sybil just had a bad dream, let’s go finish.” He receives a sturdy elbow to his gut.
With the departure of Kerrie and James, Stephanie asks Luis to stay in the room. “I don’t think I’ll be able to go back to sleep, actually I don’t even want to try. I’m scared I’ll have another nightmare.”
Exhausted from all of the day’s work, Luis forces the tire out of him for a chance to spend the night with Stephanie. “Sure thing, but you’ll have to keep me up.” Hoping she takes that as an invitation for something intimately physical.
Instead he hears, “I’ve got an idea, go change into your costume, I’ll change into mine, and we can model for each other.”
With his libido deflated Luis shuffles off after mustering a weak “Okay.”

To find out what happens within the statue garden, read "The Statue Garden" in Cobwebs & Antiquities published by Static Movement.  You can purchase the book at and as always in the AzarRising mobile bookstore.

Monday, March 3, 2014

A History Of Comics From One Fan's Eyes: Part 2

I didn't know at the time, but choosing to buy that issue of Iron Man #133 not only started on the sexy path of comic collector (hey, maybe if enough people say it comics can be sexy), but also changed my life in a much more profound way.

The comic that started me on my path of constant near poverty, in other words, a comic collector

Coming from a large ethnic family, friends weren't something I could choose. I was born with a great group of siblings and cousins that I will always love and cherish. But what that meant as a kid growing up in the USA, I didn't have what my family called 'American' friends (regardless of their ethnicity). The first friends I was able to choose, were from comics, and that's why even in my 30's with a robust(ish) social life I'm proud to count Iron Man and Batman among my friends. Granted, I don't readily promote that fact about me (except right now with you, I'm still looking for that girlfriend that shares my passion for comics), but I do sport a painfully acquired tattoo of both Iron Man and Batman.

Pictures of the tattoo don't do it justice, but if you ask I'll be glad to drop my pants. (Did I mention the tattoo was on my thigh?)

It's that deep connection with comics that drove me to be an author, and although I've been writing them for as long as I can remember, I've yet to publish my first word bubble. On the other hand, I have found a modicum of success with my prose writing. To date I've been published in nearly a dozen different anthologies, and have several more planned for 2014, including a short comic in a horror anthology.

Coincidentally enough, around the same time I was drawn into the world of spandex and masks, I watched the first Nightmare on Elm St on tape when my family was asleep. I know I should have been terrified, but even at that age I must have already had that blackness in my heart that all horror authors share. It's a corruption that twists all ideas to the macabre, gory and demented. Thankfully, I'm able to satiate those thoughts with my writing and I'm the normal-ish person I appear to be.

If Iron Man was my gateway to comics, Freddy Krueger was the drug that got me hooked on horror

That unique combination during my upbringing of superheroes and slashers led to me creating Paranormal Detective James S. Peckman; a human living in a world where coworkers have healing abilities and villains work for ancient alien gods or suck your blood, if you're lucky. I've written ten of his cases so far, and even have the pleasure of having one published in an anthology of winter themed stories.

Attempting to widen my writing influence, I regularly update my blog, AzarRising, with any various writing news and interviews. I continue to post rejections letters I receive, in an attempt to encourage other struggling authors and show that a rejection letter doesn't mean what you've written isn't print worthy. In fact, almost every story that I have published received a rejection letter prior to seeing print.

However, to keep from being completely gloom and doom, I also post intros to the stories that have been printed as a showcase of my work, and hopefully also to serve as inspiration to the next writer reading my blog.

In another effort to spread my name, I've been going to conventions and trade-shows with stacks of my business cards and copies of my anthologies. I've met some wonderful people at these shows, and even made business connections that proved fruitful, leading to additional publications.

However, my greatest convention memory was pure fan-boy, and not as an author. Four years ago at New York Comic-Con while looking for a publisher to whore myself to, I found a little nook of a booth with no customers. But what he did have, was a display of dozens of classic golden age issues, including Tales of Suspense #39. For those of you not in the know, that issue contains the first appearance of Iron Man himself.

In 1963 you could have picked up the birth of a legend for only $0.12

Having not planned on buying any lofty purchases, I didn't have the necessary money on hand. I had convinced the dealer to give me time to go to an ATM and (following a call to my bank to confirm that I hadn't gone insane or lost my card) added to my ever growing collection the crown jewel of Iron Man comics.

At that point, I had already collected ever Iron Man series issue, and this addition gave me the new mission, of obtaining the entire run of ToS with Iron Man. I can say with much pride, and pain in my wallet, that I am nearly complete on this mission that began nearly 30 years ago with Iron Man #133. A comic where the hero, and my friend, nearly died at the hands of the Hulk.

Come back in two weeks for the third and final installment in this collector's comic history.