Tag Archives: Writing

Valar Morghulis and What Makes Good Storytelling

Warning: Massive Game of Thrones spoilers here. Don’t read unless you’re all caught up!  So my first premise here is that I haven’t read the books. I’ve got to get that out of the way. I’m a novelist myself. I’m a big reader, but fantasy isn’t really my genre, and I don’t have a lot of time to tackle Martin’s Westeros tomes. But I’m also a huge television fan, and from everything I’ve heard, I’m very happy to be on the show-train as my first experience. Sometimes film does it better, sometimes just differently.

(Edit: I also want to clarify that many folks who have responded to my opinion present the argument that the big problem here that I worry over is all good because it’s “the way it was in the books!” And so I’m referring to D&D and Martin as “Martin and Co.” because, though it’s “canon”, the story can still go down a problematic route, no matter whether it’s a show decision or a book decision. I’m not taking issue with the show. I’m taking issue with the story)

Anyway though, I love the narrative. I love the way it’s honed very directly. It’s good tight storytelling. But that’s what I want to talk about today: storytelling. Screen Shot 2015-06-24 at 12.34.41 PM A week ago, I watched Jon Snow die before the credits rolled on the season five finale of Game of Thrones. GoT is a show fraught with controversy and the occasional misstep, but I love it. I think it’s rich and meaningful and smart. But the death of Jon Snow gave me some serious pause. If I were to look deeper, I’d probably realize I went through all the grief stages in about a week or something.

My first reaction was denial. Nope, I thought, he’s coming back. Right? He has to. He can’t be dead. I mean, nope. Just no. Then I read an interview with Kit Harrington that filled me with dread. Both Kit and the creators insist Snow is dead. Dead is dead.

In the week that has followed, a million posts have come to light calling for the resurrection of Jon Snow and the various clues that point toward it. From Lady Melissandre to the White Walkers to.. well, this whole article, really. But I want to approach this from a different angle.

Freaking out on Twitter, I announced that this was the first Game of Thrones death that (if it stands and there is no resurrection) makes me wonder if Thrones has finally lost the plot in favor of meaningless shocks. All the deaths before this, even the most shocking ones, were trimming the fat and honing the story. When you hone the story, you’re focusing in on the heart of the work: what’s moving toward the big end-game. It wasn’t Ned. It wasn’t Robb. It wasn’t Robert or Joffrey or Tywin. When I posted this, I was met with agreement, but also some jaded Thrones viewers who were now used to losing anyone and everyone on the show (“All GoT is about is Martin just killing off our favorites”), and some jaded Thrones readers who’d been chewing on this information for a year now (“…maybe Jon wasn’t as important as we thought”).

They defended it that, you know, one of the big Themes of GoT has been that people die. It’s a sort of a reality-based, dark world, where the hero doesn’t ride in on a white horse and save the day. There are few heroes, and many, many deaths. Just like real life, people don’t always reach their dreams, they don’t always fulfill the expectations people have for their lives. They make mistakes, and mistakes big enough to lead to coups.

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For the Watch!

And that’s a valid point. The deconstructionist in me wants to love it. The fantasy genre is filled with hero-stories about saving the day. It’s a defining characteristic of the genre, even. While there’s always exceptions to the rule, how cool that Martin and co. are subverting this tradition in such a shocking, public, and moving way? Build someone up, strip them down, remind them that life is a bitch.

Good theme. A cool way of illustrating it.. but… it still doesn’t sit right with me.

And that’s when I started to look at the value of art and storytelling. Here, we have this story, the Song of Ice and Fire. Fan theories have abounded, but in the same way as a writer, I feel around in the dark until I feel that one plot point that makes me say “holy shit, that’s it. That feels right. That looks right. That fits right. That’s what’s supposed to happen!” The R+L=J theory had that effect on me. It fit the story too perfectly. It gave weight and a central nature to the story. As half Stark (Winter) and half Targaryen (Fire), Jon Snow was literally the embodiment of the Song of Ice and Fire. The series is about winter meeting dragons, coming together in an epic clash amidst which people are both desperately trying to survive or take the Throne (or take their revenge, I suppose). So we’ve got these light and dark themes constantly shifting, constantly graying, amidst a very polarized backdrop. Maybe I’m biased because I love watching the themes of a story interplay and shift, but this theme, so intricately connected to the plot (I mean, it’s in the name), this is the story of Ice and Fire. It’s not the story of real world shocks. And Jon Snow, as the literal embodiment of this theme, I’d decided, was the main character. It’s a song about him as much as it’s a song about Whites and Dragons. It’s an intermixing of those themes in the characters and their decisions, which is crucial to this story because it’s so character driven at its heart.

And so we have two directions stemming from the end of season/book five. Jon Snow is dead, or Jon Snow will come back. If he’s dead… great? I guess that’s the priority theme. Pulling the rug out from under people. Screen Shot 2015-06-24 at 12.35.05 PM But there’s something about storytelling that I balk at here. And that’s that I live in the real world. I know people die when it’s least expected/preferred. I know nobody really grows up to be the hero. I know that real life is flat and bland and only as romantic as we restructure our perspective on it. And yeah, there’s Literature that’s all about these themes. It’s all about taking whatever your angle is (depressing or otherwise) on the Real World and putting that into a painful artistic fiction. And I know that that’s sort of the defining characteristic of the Literature genre so upheld by academics over “genre” fiction. But that’s not really what I think Thrones is about. This show has always been about the conclusion. Whether happy or sad or triumphant or a letdown, it’s telling one complete story that has a beginning, middle, and (hopefully epic) end.

The Real World doesn’t have an End — capital E — Where we all look around at eachother and nod with satisfaction and go sit in a room for the rest of eternity because We’ve Done It. We’ve ended. That’s death, and as we’ve already established, death in the real world is random and painful and rarely tied up with a bow.

And so I worry that if the Real World is Martin and co.’s theme here, the ending that’s been such a direction for this entire series won’t really be an ending. In fact, if the Real World really is a theme, well, let’s Simpsons and Soap Opera this shit up, let’s let Thrones run for thirty seasons, because life will always go on past each end.

But I take a step back. I have to question myself. I’ve trusted Martin and co. this far, why not trust them some more? Frankly: I do. I’m gonna still hit season six with excitement and curiosity, but a wariness now.

Another step back: it’s Martin’s story. He’s not under any obligation to write it how I want — how I think it should go. The same way he’s not my bitch, I’m also not entitled to a Great Story That I Like. I’m only entitled to the story that he is writing.

But, as a reader, I am entitled to an opinion about whether or not it’s any good. That’s where the buck stops with writers, is that readers get the final say. As a writer myself, I’ve accepted that. I might think my first novel is the best thing I’ll ever write, and it may never get more than the 15 amazon reviews it’s got. I accept that. That’s what sharing your art is. So, I’ve got to say, if Jon Snow is dead (like, dead dead), I’m not sure that was the best move. Maybe it works out. Maybe it’s brilliant and satisfying…

Just a totally misleading photo so you can share this  post without being burned alive for spoilers.

Just a totally misleading photo so you can share this post without being murdered for spoilers.

But, in the wake of all the resurrection brainstorms from people, we’ve got two options really: resurrection by White Walkers, or resurrection by Lady Melissandre. Which is to say, resurrection by fire or ice. And holy shit, how brilliant! Suddenly I’ve come around to this death plot point because THEMES! Kill the boy, let the man be born! Jon is already Ice and Fire, but holy shit, if he’s resurrected by one of the two (or both?), he’s even further the LITERAL manifestation of these themes. How does that carry out? Is he some leader of the Whites? Is he corrupted by them or the Lord of Light? (shoot, even corruption is better than death. Though I’d miss good-hearted Jon Snow, this is a show about grays between good and evil, and it’s Jon’s story… just let him have a story). All of these questions, as they directly pertain to fire and/or ice are a seriously richly thematic sandbox to work with. And it’s a sandbox that is furthering the plot in a possibly BIG way toward the final showdown between the ice and fire that we’re all so excited about in season 7! (or eight I guess, but please no more than that, HBO!) And having a character embody those themes rather than just having characters caught up in those themes… well that’s good writing.

But the alternative? The real world sucks. Just go and enjoy Dani and Tyrion while you’ve got a chance. Maybe Arya and Bran will do something cool. Maybe they won’t. The world’s a crummy place, after all.

That’s our big overarching narrative theme? That’s depressing (and this coming from a guy who LOVES depressing — seriously, The Road, amazing piece of literature).

But I want a good meaty story. Unhappy ending? Sure. Kill Dany and Jon and Tyrion as they reach the throne. Put a White Walker on it. Or zombie Joffrey. I don’t care. Just get our people where they need to go, or better yet, crop your story to the right people’s stories. Tell those stories. Don’t blue ball us at the expense of great theme. Play with those themes in big, character-driven ways, as you have to this point. Bring it together and then end it how you like. But… I mean, actually bring it together.

Jon killed at the end of season five as the Walkers descend, by his own grouchy Night’s Watch, and poof. That’s that? Our Theme Personified made a misstep and now he’s done? Somebody else takes up the mantle of White Walker Herald and things just go on? Just, no…

We need our big crazy titular themes. We need our heroic face of Winter.

Our Winter needs Snow.

Karl Pfeiffer is a novelist, photographer, and ghost hunter. He’s the author of the novel Hallowtide, the short story collection Into a Sky Below, Forever, and the forthcoming Amarricages. He won the first season of Ghost Hunters Academy, went on to work with the GHI team, and now lectures across America and leads the weekend ghost hunts at the Stanley Hotel. He’s also a portrait photographer and conceputal artist based in Northern Colorado. Follow him on Twitter: @KarlPfeiffer

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Dear HBO: Keep GoT to 7 seasons.

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Last night, the first episode of Game of Thrones, Season 5, premiered in London. Chatter about the end-date for Game of Thrones, mixed with premiere reviews discussing the way season 5 feels like it’s moving the wheels toward an endgame has me wanting a soapbox.

Now, it’ll be very, very interesting to see what this show does in terms of telling a complete story. I think much of we’ve seen from the broadcast renaissance is reaching its pinnacle in Game of Thrones, specifically in terms of narrative and storytelling.

TV in the 80s, 90s, and much of the early aughts has been transitioning from procedural, episodic, killer/monster-of-the-week plots to overarching, narrative-heavy, serial dramas. That’s a transition. Network executives love to cash in on a prize show for as long as possible. In the days of the procedural, this was easy enough, because the more minor overarching story arcs could be manipulated and dragged out for ten seasons or more. Look at CSI (and the various spinoffs, since it’s the same show), Law and Order, NCIS, etc.

The X-Files was one of the earlier shows to try on a bigger narrative thread, and it was the first to be met with criticism for lasting far too long beyond its run. The creator’s plan for the show was a five season arc with three movies to wrap up the story. Instead we got five seasons, a movie, a renewal, four more tired seasons, a tired movie, and perpetual chatter of a third movie and possibly a reboot (both of which I think are needed, as despite the #9SeasonsAnd2Movies run, the story is yet unfinished.

But the X-Files didn’t teach network execs much Supernatural, for instance, went for five perfectly good seasons, blending monster-of-the-week procedural with a BIG story arc that became the show’s driving powerhouse for its final two seasons… Well, I say final, because after they wrapped the end of the world apocalypse plot, the creator left, his original five-season-arc being told… and CW renewed the show because fifth season was so successful. And then they renewed it again. And again. And now we’re in season, what? Eleven? Though the fanbase is strong, I’m sorry to say the story has been told.

Lost was a crucial transition to present-day TV as we know it. Lost set the perfect balance of episodic problems in the midst of a huge overarching narrative that continued to promise and promise (all on JJ Abrams now-exhausted Mystery Box theory) that the writers knew where the show was going. Though the show went maybe a season too long, and despite now hearing too many suggestions that the writers never had a plan past season 2, Lost set an end date (and one long before some whimpering season 12 finish) and the network went for it (even on a powerhouse network show like Lost) and it was a HUGE success. Sure, not everyone liked it. Sure, a lot of people completely misunderstood the end. But the show was a success. ABC treated the finale as a network event, and the finale saw ratings better than it had seen in two seasons.

It paved the way for creator control over when to end a show in a landscape of serial television that’s now cropping up everywhere, from cable to network. Breaking Bad is one of the perfect examples of such a show, which may have meandered for a season or two before finding its groove, but once the writers saw their story arc clearly, it was full steam ahead to either an epic finale, or, well, Meth-Selling, the soap-opera.

And now we have Game of Thrones. The series whose end is mentioned in just about every article written about it. Largely due to whether or not the show will surpass the book series before it’s completed by Mr. Martin. But Game of Thrones is a show that’s been based on a book series that will be finished at some point, and it’s always been a show that asks “Who Will Win?” Fans are foaming at the mouth to know who will take the iron throne before we Cut to Black.

Right now, it’s a show that’s been telling a tight story. Political intrigue, betrayal, amassing armies on a (semi) realistic scale that takes time to do. But it’s too easily a show that could get lost within itself. With no promise of the end that’s so needed, we just watch old enemies form alliances, and then new friends betray each other, over and over, until the numbers have dwindled so far that the network finally cuts the life support. And Game of Thrones has never been a show that’s wanted to do that.

So when Weiss and Benioff start talking about how they see seven seasons (and maybe a movie) to wrap up their show, I’m over here fist-pumping like a champ! Let’s do it. Let’s wreck shit. Let’s see who winds up on that throne and what it’s all going toward.

Certainly everyone brings their own perspectives to a post like this. Many fans just love spending time every week with their characters, like friends on the screen, and every episode is going to provide the needed escapes week to week.

But what I lobby for is good, powerful, tight storytelling. A story with a beginning, a middle, and a fucking crescendo of an end. Kill everybody, I don’t care. Just follow through on the promises the show has made through its run, rather than stringing what once was a good story with big promises into a soap opera of old situations between different characters.

And then there’s the network execs, who say, “Well, gosh, I love this show! The fans love this show! And as a fan I don’t want it to end! I’d love to see ten seasons or more of such a great work of art!”

Which leads me to two retorts, the first being that dragging a good story on for too long (like a bad joke or a, well, bad story that a friend may be subjecting you to) stops it being a great work of art. And the second being that it’s a bit scary to start reading between the lines of the HBO executives comments, who, even in text online, appear to be saying one thing with a forced smile while making murderous hand gestures. Says HBO President of Programming Michael Lombardo, “We’ll have an honest conversation that explores all possible avenues. If they weren’t comfortable going beyond seven seasons, I trust them implicitly and trust that’s the right decision—as horrifying as that is to me. What I’m not going to do is have a show continue past where the creators believe where they feel they’ve finished with the story.”

So, sure, on paper, he respects the creators knowing when a show is going to end! But when a person who has “President” in their title at the network your show airs on uses the word “horrifying” to describe ending the show at seven seasons, and suggests having an “honest conversation to explore all possible avenues,” that hair on the back of your neck has gotta be standing up at this point.

I can only hope it’s seven or eight seasons. I can hope that Weiss and Benioff stand their ground and pull this thing together in a spectacle of awesome. And I just really, really, do not want to see this thing go for ten to twelve seasons.

Nobody wants to see a rusty iron throne by the time some old, bored, actor/actress gets there.

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Karl Pfeiffer is a novelist, photographer, and ghost hunter. He’s the author of the novel Hallowtide and the book, Into a Sky Below, Forever. He won the first season of Ghost Hunters Academy, worked briefly with the Ghost Hunters International team and now travels the world lecturing about approaches to paranormal research. He’s also a portrait photographer based out of Colorado. 

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AHS: Freak Show – Monsters Among Us Review

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After months of speculation, fan-made promos, teasers, and hauntingly beautiful official promos, we’re finally met with the premiere of the fourth season of the anthology juggernaut, American Horror Story, this year in the Freak Show.

If it’s not already abundantly clear, I’m a huge fan of this show. But because of that, I hold it to a very high standard. First season was excellent. Smart, well-filmed, challenging, and stylized. Second season started to lose me in the near-mess of horror tropes thrown at the audience. But it regained my trust in the final few episodes, which, while to some fell a too-rapid shift in tone, for me it brought together the themes the season played upon in an elegant and subtle way. The aliens were stand ins for divinity and the achievements of science, the asylum stood as a sad pinnacle of religious corruption and our lack of progress at the time. Together, binaries were fuzed and meshed and reversed and the entire season came off a huge artistic success.

Then, of course, season three hit. True to form for third-season-ruts (see: Supernatural), Ryan Murphy and co. decided to lighten the show’s tone after Coven, which I was fine with. The shots were still beautiful. The eeriness blended well with the synth-heavy musical score, given a fresh, modern feel on the witches genre. It worked. Until it didn’t. The first episode gave us a taste of what could have been to come: female empowerment, reversal of race issues, sexuality (as always), the struggle against mortality. It was trimmed down from Asylum, sleek… and then it just stopped. Halfway through, the season became witches being bitches, and the race dialogue was lost in throwing away our black characters because the plot ran out. It tried to pull an Asylum and save it in the final episode, but the big themes were pushed aside. Literally, too little, too late.

Now, I know, some were fans, and some were not. Indeed, that’s my first point going into this review of Freak Show today. Horror is a tricky genre because everyone approaches horror with different tastes and expectations. What scares one person won’t phase another. Some want to simply be scared and entertained. Some want to be intellectually challenged.

So before going into Freak Show, I want to set my expectations of the show. After seeing how smart a show it could be from the moment I hit first season, and the moment Asylum floored me, I knew this show was brilliant. The very premise, even, that in the horror genre, yes there are frightening monsters, but the most frightening issues are the societal ones. Boom. That’s it. There’s our one-sentence show pitch.

But along the way, AHS picked up some brilliant cinematography and editing. The show is a breath of fresh air compared to much of television in its uniqueness of style. The acting was great, with Jessica Lange perennially stealing the show. And the scares, well, like I said, everyone has different triggers. But compared against most of TV? It’s happily in the horror genre.

SO: Freak Show.

If my rambling prologue there wasn’t indication enough, the first episode is usually strong. The show has history with getting rough as it gets going. So the first episode review should only be taken as far as you can throw it.

That said, I mostly totally dug it.

The cinematography was still gorgeous. I love the wide angle shots that have become staples. And the twilight carnival shots with the lights… well that hits me right in the feel goods. That’s my sandbox right there.

The acting, of course, is always exciting to see how the actors mold to new characters, and it was done well. Good to see Jessica Lange staying steady as the manipulative matriarch with some well-buried brokenness.

Twisty the Clown was trending all Wednesday night on Twitter, and I can see why. web_ins_gallery_detail_series_dsktp_ahs_01

He’s probably the scariest clown I’ve ever seen. I’m not scared of clowns, myself, so perhaps some folks would disagree, but he’s creepy as hell. Perhaps overdone? But dirty, dark, gritty, murderous, and with secrets yet to be revealed, I like it.

I thought it was a curious decision, but one that I wound up liking, to reveal Twisty first in daylight. It seems to me that this speaks to the team’s confidence in their creation sustaining scares no matter what the time of day. It worked for me. The creepy Louisiana (okay, “Florida”) wilderness tied to a violent illustration of just how dark humanity can be was very reminiscent of HBO’s True Detective, which I was very okay with. In the end, yes, the folks who don’t like clowns aren’t gonna like Twisty, and he’s dark enough that he could literally scare some away, but I’ve never gotten the impression AHS cares too much.

The real heart of the show though is the themes. And AHS has seemed to strip this season down to, literally, just freaks. What makes someone a freak. What physical deformity means socially. How freaky are human beings in general. What’s the appropriate response to social marginalism.

Of course, some won’t have it. Some will. And likely there’s gray space in between where the show is actually operating. I watched headlines before the premiere about what a terrible show it is to exploit the disabled as horrific. I just read a Buzzfeed article about how AHS isn’t as progressive as we think. And it goes on.

For the ones who won’t have it: AHS, as I said above, is about reversing many illustrations of what’s monstrous. There’s always extremes (usually the big bad murderer) for the scares, but the heart is in reframing what should be scary. If it fails, a la Coven, and winds up reinforcing these social issues, then yeah, it should be held to that. But I think the intentions are here, it’s a matter of the skills of the writers, and so far, given the pilot episode, we have a lot to work with. The deformities are played upon, but that’s of course the AHS style. It’s always right in your face.

Ariane Lange’s Buzzfeed piece was accurate. If AHS is as progressive as we think/want, it needs to do more than normalize the inner human of the disabled, and instead examine them as abnormal, but abnormal because of society’s treatment and their experiences due to that treatment and to the disability.

To which I say, A) give it a chance. we still have 12 episodes yet to see if Murphy and co. will move beyond the “they’re just people too” theme. But also… B) I think it’s already going beyond that. If we want to examine the true ways that “freaks” are abnormal, which is to say, who they’ve become because of marginalization and efforts in a world that doesn’t provide for them, then this is an excellent space for it. Right off the bat, we have two murders by the “freaks” (three more if you count Twisty), and an instant questioning of where those murders fall on the morality line. I think that by reframing “freaks” as “normal” so quickly that we can jump right into looking at the moral nuances that their situation provides, AHS is already being relatively progressive. I very much don’t expect to find the conclusion of the season being that freaks are freaks and normal people are normal.

We’re not in AHS’s sandbox until we’re questioning everyone and watching the plot unravel because American culture is really, really good at being freakish and horrific. That will again and again be the attempt of the theme of this show.

Now, of course I’m worried that there’s not going to be enough to chew on to stretch this out for a season. Already in episode one we’ve had emphasis on society’s sad treatment of the “freaks”, we’ve had illustrations of their experiences and humanity, and we’ve got the classic AHS plays on what’s freaky, what’s justified freaky, what’s extreme freaky, what’s human, and how much of the horror is in our nature.

All those things I want to see twisted and reversed and changed and explored further, but I worry it’ll be tired by January.

But also, I hope. I hope that with all that time, Murphy and Co. will address those issues that Lange points out, and progress a good, dark, Asylum-level dark (but smart) story.

That’s one that time will tell. But there’s more than enough here at the start to keep me on board and happy… even if they always start that way.

Karl Pfeiffer is a novelist, photographer, and ghost hunter. He won the first season of Ghost Hunters Academy, went on to work with the GHI team. He’s the author of Hallowtide, and Into a Sky Below, Forever. He contributes to the TAPS Paramagazine, leads the weekend ghost hunts and the Stanley Hotel, and shoots conceptual and portrait photography in Colorado. More can be found at http://www.KarlPfeiffer.com

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Cyber Monday Pfeiffer Store

Welcome to KarlPfeiffer.com’s Cyber Monday hotspot! If you remember from last year, I tend to run Cyber Monday deals for a couple of weeks to give you plenty of time to pick them up for yourself. This year’s special is making autographed copies dirt cheap as well as introducing some new products that won’t be widely available until later in 2014. (Digital copies of my work are always cheap. Just boogie over to Amazon.com and search for me. They’re only a buck right now).

So grab yourself some Egg Nog, kick back, scroll the post here, click the pictures of the items you’d like, and they’ll take you to a nice PayPal page to place your order.

Disclaimers:

1. I want to note first that you pay for shipping on each item individually. It’s five dollars each (except the posters, those are three). The two-book special is considered a single item, and though I may have to ship both individually, you only pay for it as one item. So browse smart. 

2. Also, if you’d like your book made out to someone specifically, please leave that information where prompted, in a special message to me with that information. Otherwise you’ll just get a note and my vandalism. 

3. Be sure to leave your shipping information! I don’t want to have to track you down all over the interwebz.

4. I can’t guarantee any orders arrivals before Christmas, but I can guarantee that I’ll try my damndest. Shipping is often fast, and I’ll be sure to rush the shipments on the back end. But we are only three weeks out, so be sure to place your order as quickly as you can on your end too.

Autographed Books:

An autographed copy of my first novel, Hallowtide: a 500-page psychological thriller with heavy mystical overtones, following one man’s descent into Hell. I’ve knocked off 25%, so this guy is going for 15$ plus shipping. 
Hallowtide-3D-Book-2An autographed copy of my second book, Into A Sky Below, Forever. Blending short work of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry, this book explores the boundaries between what’s real and what’s artifice, as well as studying cycles and the way life comes back around as we’re born, grow up, fall in love, fall out of love, have babies, die, and are born again. Same as Hallowtide, this guy is also at 15$ plus shipping.

Into-a-Sky-Below-3D-2The third and final book package is the two book special. You get a copy of both Hallowtide as well as Into a Sky Below, Forever, with even more money knocked off for buying them both. Where normally they run $40.00 before shipping, you can buy both these babies for $25.00 plus shipping.

2-Book-Deal11×17 Posters

These are 11×17 poster prints that I used to promote Hallowtide and Into a Sky Below. The first is the iconic Hell-O’Lantern cover of the first novel. The second is the Pig-Man print of the entity witnessed at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado, as explored in Into a Sky Below. 

Each poster is five dollars, and come signed. If you do not want vandalism, leave a message with the paypal payment.

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Pig-Man-ColorAnd if you’d like both posters, they’re discounted to only be $8.00 with additional shipping.

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Photography Prints

And finally, last but not least is our bigger ticket item. I’m starting to segue into selling photo prints, and I wanted to get something up early before Christmas for you guys. I’m selling two different prints of the Chapel on the Rock in Allenspark, Colorado, which survived a fire in 2011 and a mudslide in September of 2013. It now sits above a desolated site. The imagery still moves me, religious or otherwise, and these are two of my most favorite photos I’ve ever taken.

I’m selling two different prints of the Blasted Church series, one in black and white and the other in color, taken the day before. Each will be 15×10 and will cost $40.00 plus $5.00 in shipping. Because of print speeds, there will be about a week delay in shipping, so if you’re interested in receiving either of these prints for Christmas, be sure to place the order as soon as possible, and I’ll do everything I can for you on this end.

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As always, I’m not a big business and I don’t sell to so many people that I can’t speak to you one on one. So if you have any questions or concerns about the products or the shipping, do please drop me a line through Facebook, my website, or email — or even in the comments down below if it’s general enough.

Thank you for browsing, I do hope you can support a starving artist by picking something up, but I appreciate your time regardless! Happy Holidays to you and yours,

-K.

www.KarlPfeiffer.com

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Into a Sky Below, Forever Official Release Day!

Sky-Below-1The day has officially arrived! My second book, Into a Sky Below, Forever arrives at stores across the web today.

Here’s the cover description:

Moving. Disturbing. In Denver, a young woman grows up terrorized by something massive and unnatural that watches her while she sleeps. In west Texas, a boy’s world unravels as his brother relates an encounter with a strange figure in the woods. Struggling with insomnia and depression, a man named Mitch begins speaking to a creature of folklore in the trees behind his house. And along the plains of the Rocky Mountains, two college students discover a house that should not exist.

These stories and more make up Karl Pfeiffer’s first collection following his debut novel, Hallowtide. Ranging from fiction to non-fiction, from the poetic to the profane, Into a Sky Below, Forever examines the thin places, where the wild leaks into the refined, the supernatural bleeds into the physical, reality blends with fiction, and where the only things left holding the world together are the things that truly matter the most.

This is a book about birth and rebirth: it’s a study of cycles, sex, and ouroboric processes; it’s an examination of the ways we grow up, grow strong, grow together, and grow apart; an autopsy of the ways we love and rage and reproduce and repeat again.

As always, it’s about finding light amidst the darkness.

On Twitter, three weeks ago, I posted a call to arms for my followers to buy the book today, Monday, if at all possible. With the lack of a presale option for indie-published authors, we’re immediately put at a severe disadvantage compared to the traditional approach, despite all Amazon does to support indies. The only reason pre-sales are well-loved is because they take three month’s worth of early sales and put them through on the same day, shot-gunning a book to rapid-seller, and most-popular lists in an instant.

So I ask that, if you are interested in this book at all, if you might buy it one day, you drop $.99 on a Kindle copy today. Hell, even if you don’t have a Kindle, support the book! It’s the price of a coffee size-upgrade.

But if Kindle’s not your thing, there are other places to pick the book up too. There are sites that will be carrying the book, but because of various approval processes, this could be the difference of hours or days. However, each format is available somewhere on the web. I’ll list them below as they stand now, on the release-day morning.

Kindle is available on Amazon. (The hard copy will be there whenever Amazon’s robots decide they should push their button)

The hard copy is available right now through the Createspace e-store. (in the interest of full disclosure, shipping is kinda expensive on this option, for whatever reason).

Nook is available through Barnes and Noble.

The iTunes epub file may not be going up on the iTunes Store at all (because iTunes is the biggest nightmare to work with in the world), but you can download the epub file from Smashwords. (Or you can download the Nook file, and it should look and function the same).

I’ll keep you updated as to when Amazon starts pushing the hard copy.

Otherwise… buy, read, and I do so hope you enjoy it.

-Karl

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12-Year Floods

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The things I’ll remember: the flies.

The smell of sea salt on the air as the rain started falling. This was Tuesday night: the tenth. This was after beers with a buddy. This was the start of the storm, and we couldn’t help but wonder aloud why the fuck it smelled so much like the ocean.

I’ll remember how on Wednesday I sat in a coffeeshop and watched the rain come down, remembering how, twelve years ago, September the 11th wasn’t like this; it was crisp as an autumn morning, the sky as blue as summer, and it was clear enough that we could hear the towers fall from 1800 miles away.

I’ll remember how on Friday, the sea smell was everywhere on my clothes and body when I walked inside from shooting it all. The sun had come out, and I’d ran with sweat as I climbed down the rocks toward the mud and water. I’ll remember how I didn’t know if the salt and smell was me.

I’ll remember:

Most of the rocks were still solid and didn’t wiggle under my feet, even the ones that rested between the base of the concrete overpass and the rushing waters; two sapling trees lasted much longer than the logs that swept downstream; I didn’t notice that the footbridge was gone until my mom pointed it out. Only then did the previously ineffable space the water covered make sense; On the ground, it’s rushing water. From the sky, it’s mostly puddles; This afternoon, children ran and played in the greenbelt behind our house and they seemed totally oblivious, the way our dog seemed totally oblivious–the way I seemed totally oblivious almost twelve years ago to the day.

I remember how September 11th gave my seventh-grade heart a thrill. I remember laughing at my friend for making up stories about planes and bombs and New York. I remember watching teachers staring at a television screen through the glass front window to the office. I remember how I started to realize his laughter wasn’t because he was pulling a fast-one. I remember rushing home with hopes of breaking the news to my folks, as if they didn’t already know. I remember almost rooting for the towers to fall because it would mean something had finally changed, something else had happened: the stasis had broken, something, anything but those towers and the smoke chugging into the air, and the questions and the insecurity and obscurity and the unsurity of the anchors on TV: my blue balls of adolescent need: the attention deficit in being twelve.

I’ll remember, today, people gathered along the rivers and flooded intersections with cameras below the humid sky and a sun that hadn’t been seen in days; they stretched their legs by revelling in the awesome destruction. They feel alive by being alive, where saying “wow” is at once as superficial as cameraphone photos and as resonant as a yawp.

I’ll remember sitting on the couch watching nightly news anchors, the same way that I remember, twelve years ago, standing from the couch to leave the room at eight in the evening because I couldn’t stand watching those goddamn talking heads plaster cameraphone photos and try to say “wow” in every way except “wow.”

I’ll remember how, before, it was a creek: a river at its best. And I’ll remember how, in the night, from our house, we could for the first time hear the water rushing.

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Into a Sky Below, Forever Cover Release!

Kicking off August and the late summer, the cover for my next book, Into a Sky Below, Forever — a collection of short stories, non-fiction, and poems — is finally here!

Into-a-Sky-Below-3D-2The back cover description (subject to change):

“In Denver, a young woman grows up terrorized by something unnatural that watches her while she sleeps. In West Texas, a boy’s world unravels as his brother relates an encounter with a strange figure in the woods. In a small suburban neighborhood, a man named Mitch begins speaking to a creature of folklore in the trees behind his house. Along the plains of the Rocky Mountains, two college students discover a house that should not exist. And on the Oregon coast, one young man comes to terms with the inevitability of all things. 

These and other stories make up Karl Pfeiffer’s first collection following his debut novel, Hallowtide. Ranging from fiction to non-fiction, from poetry to the profane, Into A Sky Below, Forever again brings us to Pfeiffer’s territory of the thin places: Thin places where the wild leaks into the refined and the supernatural bleeds into the physical; Places where reality appears in fiction, and where fiction disturbs the delicate fabric of reality; Places where it’s only poetry that can grasp at what it is that’s beyond us, where the only things left holding the world together are the things that truly matter the most.

This is a book about birth and rebirth. It’s a book about cycles and it’s a book about sex. It’s infancy and childhood and relationships and divorce and death and spirit, and the way these things repeat in time. As always, it’s about finding light in the darkness.” 

September 16. 2013.

 

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Game of Thrones, Mindless Television, and RISK

Wanted to write a quick blog inspired by a twitter conversation (because I need to blog more and this is exactly the kind of thing that should be blogged).

And so it’s going to be in TWO PARTS!

Part One: I hate you because you’re BRILLIANT.

I was perusing the glorious re-tweets of the twitter account @RedWeddingTears. If you’ve been living under a rock the past few days, Game of Thrones penultimate episode of season 3 rocked the minds and hearts of its fan base with a shocking death. (I suspect its not much of a spoiler to point out that all the hubub revolved around a death).

And though many of the tweets are quite hilarious,

Screen Shot 2013-06-06 at 3.40.51 PMOthers are quite saddening.

Screen Shot 2013-06-06 at 3.40.05 PMOf course, I’m instantly reminded of FilmCritHulk’s recent column about spoilers and the different ways of consuming media. Which (spoiler) essentially breaks down as such: There are four types of movie-goer: the ones who go for a good experience, the ones who go for an EPIC experience, the ones who appreciate the thematic and symbolic nuances, and the ones who appreciate the craft and making of the film itself.

I like to think I’m firmly in the third category, with a healthy appreciation of the other three. While I think that a tremendous amount of weight falls into this third category (I’ve had intellectual engagement with films that falls on a level far more profound than a purely emotional one), a tremendous amount of weight falls upon the first two.

And I find it equal parts hilarious and tragic when people say that a show should be cancelled (or that they’re going to stop watching television altogether) because they’ve had such a profound reaction.

To say, through tears, that Game of Thrones is “treacherously written” is laughably ironic.

And not simply for the sake of the unintended “treacherously” (I suspect “terribly” to be more the idea). Eliminating treacherous writing would eliminate all sense of tension at all.

But that in a lot of ways is George R. R. Martin’s whole point. We’re far too used to watching our heroes with the expectation that they’re going to succeed. He’s flipping our traditional notions entirely on their heads. Is that his only trick? I’m not sure that’s the case, but with good writing, it’s a fine single trick to have.

See, the great irony of these tweets is that if writing can force you into a reaction that profound and gut-wrenching, that’s incredible writing. The hardest jobs of a writer is to address the main two categories of consumer: the ones who want to be emotionally moved, and the ones who want to be intellectually moved. Game of Thrones is doing both right now. Emotional, political, and loosely social themes contextualized by painful and wild plot twists? That’s an achievement.

And if you’re watching to not be moved to the edge of your seat, it means that you either want a story that’s predictable and banal, or that the writing has failed in making you care. Right now, Game of Thrones is neither banal nor un-sympathetic.

My twitter conversation then moved into the idea that if such people are threatening to stop watching television entirely, perhaps that’s a good thing.

Which leads me to Part Two: Is television still an evil that’s sucking our brains? 

We’re in what I like to call the second golden age of television right now. Which is to say, despite the advent of reality television and the cut-throat nature of network primetime mostly-procedural television, cable networks have risen and given intellectual, broad-scoping, serial television a place to thrive. This began by their trust in their audience, and the shows that they invite. Breaking Bad is debatably the greatest show on television right now. But Breaking Bad would not have gotten to the place that it is now without having to fight its way through the first three seasons. I only watched Breaking Bad because I wanted to watch the bumbling figure of Walter White in his first season transform into the face on the season four DVD cover.

Breaking-Bad-Season-4-posterA show like that (regardless of the clash in formats) would never make it that long on network television. And yet, here it’s the best on all of TV.

Because of this uprising in cable shows, we’re having this second golden age in television. We’re realizing again what TV can be. And it’s not what we thought it was. Though TV has been reinventing itself for longer than I’ve been alive (even since my birth, we’ve watched the rise of both episodic crime television and reality television), we’ve hit a new age in the intellectual and emotional capacity TV can hold. Game of Thrones is shocking audiences across the world. Mad Men, Walking Dead, Breaking Bad, American Horror Story and others are doing things unheard of and reaping the rewards of smart audiences flocking.

Netflix, in the best decision they’ve ever made, recognized the long-term audience in their publication of old television serials that hook audiences for weeks at a time as well as the success of serial narrative-driven cable television, and they dove headlong into House of Cards, which in my opinion easily rivals the brilliance of Breaking Bad. Of course, Hemlock Grove and the revival of Arrested Development have only driven their success further. 

The point here being that though we’re engaging different parts of our brains, though we look like automatons when our glazed over eyes watch endlessly the dancing images on the boob toob,

tumblr_m7javtQmec1qzguyto1_r1_500there is finally a genuine intellectual and emotional work being done through the medium of television.

Is it a healthy stand-in for reading? Perhaps not as much. But is it finally an intellectually engaging one, challenging us on moral, social, and thematic issues? Absolutely.

And, I’d beg to suggest, if you can’t handle those emotions, or having those things you fall in love with be torn from you, or having the things you take confidence in believing suddenly subverted, I’d stick to reality shows. But if you want to step up and finally engage in something profound, that could change your life, these types of stories are becoming more and more available.

I can only hope that purely reactionary viewers realize that, and that the cable networks don’t become so flogged with competition for viewers’ eyes that they forget that good art takes time.

As a viewer, that’s not always fun. And as a network, it’s not always safe. But that’s risk. And risk is crucial.

Karl Pfeiffer won the first season of Ghost Hunters Academy and went on to work with the Ghost Hunters International team. He’s the author of the novel Hallowtide, writes for the TAPS Paramagazine and Paranormal Pop Culture Blog, works with investigative teams across Colorado, lectures across America, and leads the public ghost hunts at the Stanley Hotel. More can be found at www.KarlPfeiffer.com

 

 

 

 

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Into A Sky Below, Forever

As I mentioned last night on Paranormal Happy Hour over at LiveParanormal.com, I’m planning on releasing my next book early this fall.

It’s going to be called Into A Sky Below, Forever.

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From the cover:

“In Denver, a young woman grows up terrorized by something unnatural that watches her while she sleeps. In West Texas, a boy’s world unravels as his brother relates an encounter with a strange figure in the woods. In a small suburban neighborhood, a man named Mitch begins speaking to a creature of folklore in the trees behind his house. Along the plains of the Rocky Mountains, two college students discover a house that should not exist. And on the Oregon coast, one young man comes to terms with the inevitability of all things. 

These and other stories make up Karl Pfeiffer’s first collection following his debut novel, Hallowtide. Ranging from fiction to non-fiction, from poetry to the profane, Into A Sky Below, Forever again brings us to Pfeiffer’s territory of the thin places: Thin places where the wild leaks into the refined and the supernatural bleeds into the physical; Places where reality appears in fiction, and where fiction disturbs the delicate fabric of reality; Places where it’s only poetry that can grasp at what it is that’s beyond us, where the only things left holding the world together are the things that truly matter the most.”

Into A Sky Below, Forever is set to be released in September.

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FREE PDF of HALLOWTIDE

I self-published my first novel, Hallowtide, this past October. It’s March now and I want to give it away for free. I put seven years into this book, writing revision after revision, enlisted the help of a number of brilliant editors, and worked on the book’s design for six months before its publication. There’s always errors and more to fix, but I wouldn’t release something I’m not proud of, and there’s nothing I’ve done yet in life that I’m more proud of than this novel.

To go to a free PDF of the novel Hallowtide, go ahead and click this link: Hallowtide Free PDF

or click the photo below.

A self-published debut novel is a hard sell. I get that. There’s a lot of crap out there. I also get that free is the way of the future. It’s more important to me to have my work spread first, and trust that it’s good enough to help support me later. Writing is one of my two greatest passions, and it’s the dream to be able to support myself financially while working on the next project.

The only thing I ask in return is your time to read it and chew on it a bit and, if you feel so moved, to maybe toss a review on amazon to help generate more interest. Of course, digital and hard copies are also available through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iTunes if you’d like something fancier.

Thanks all! I hope it moves you the way it has moved me for the past seven years.

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Hallowtide is the story of one young man and a journey to Hell. Thought he can’t remember it, Will Andrews was a victim of a high school shooting in 2001. They found Will, bleeding out beside the gunman, pistol in his hand, apparently having saved what could have been hundreds of lives. Now, five years later, he’s crippled by nightmares of Hell.

These nightmares, his therapist  believes, are likely one half of himself desperately trying to communicate with the other. But the deeper Will digs at both the dreams and the shooting, the more the lines between reality and fiction are blurred, and he finds himself in a place where nightmare bleeds into memory, the spiritual leaks into the physical, and the world as he knows it threatens to dissolve entirely. 

Both heart-wrenchingly beautiful, and deeply harrowing, Hallowtide combines Jungian theory with echoes of classic descent narratives, deconstructing western philosophy, depression, religion, and the 21st century sense of the self, while following one young man’s fall into Stygian wasteland and the journey that will change him forever. 

Again, you can click the graphic above to read the free PDF,

You can always find more at HallowtideNovel.com

And you can always find me at www.KarlPfeiffer.com and on twitter @KarlPfeiffer

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