Writing With Pictures Instead of Words

This blog is mostly about my new foray into drawing. But first, a couple quick writing plugs…

MY SHORT STORY “Every Third Wednesday” made the Long List in the Bath Flash Fiction Awards. As such, it will be included in a year-end anthology. It was one of 50 stories selected for the Long List out of 1,222 entries by writers in 40 different countries. More of the book details will come out closer to the end of the year, so stay tuned.

MY NOVEL “Voodoo Hideaway” (buy it here and here and here) has a new review on the Manhattan Book Review site and received 5 out of 5 stars (yay!).

The reviewer writes: “Voodoo Hideaway shines as an absorbing mystery/sci-fi tale from the outset…Vance Cariaga has written a clever story in which the action is as ceaseless as the plotting, with danger lurking around every corner.”

You can read the full review here.

Also, in honor of the review and today’s visual arts theme, here’s the drawing I made recently of my book cover, such as it is….

I PREVIOUSLY blogged about wanting to develop another creative outlet in addition to writing, and then later blogged about taking up drawing to fill that void. I draw pretty regularly now, at least once a week. I’ve been doing it for a few months now, and have made about 30 drawings since then.

I started out drawing what was right in front of me here at home – the corner dresser, the desk lamp, the bathroom, a chair, a shelf with books. Then I moved onto drawing photographs. Lately I’ve been drawing other drawings that I found on the web.

I am in the early stages of this new adventure, so it’s mostly about figuring out the basics: how to draw rudimentary lines, shapes, and figures, and then form them into a whole picture. I’ve read books on drawing, watched videos about it. It’s still very much a work in progress. I’m not that great at it. I’ll never be great at it.

But I’m not bad. I find that I can create drawings that would not make you double over in hysterical laughter. You might look at them and say, “Hmmmmm. Not too bad. Not too bad at all.” The way you might tell your Uncle Gabriel that his attempt at making paella was not bad, not bad at all.

More importantly, I find that I enjoy drawing. Sure, there are times when the lines go all askew and I have to erase and erase and retry and retry and I’m all like, “What the f**k?!! It’s just a line! Focus!”

But it’s a nice way to pass a half hour or so, which is what I typically devote to most of my drawings. You know the great thing about drawing? You start out just sketching little lines, circles, ovals, squares. You look at it in the beginning and think: “This really doesn’t seem to be going anywhere good.”

But you keep at it, following the general pattern. You erase and redraw, then get back to the pattern. And at the end, it turns into something not bad, not bad at all.

I don’t worry too much if it’s not as good as I’d like it to be. I’m just happy to have completed a work in under an hour, which is something that never happens when writing fiction. I’m usually pretty happy with what I draw. They are never as spectacular as I envision them beforehand, but they are almost always better than I thought I could pull off.

I show my drawings to my family after I’m done. Lately, we’ve begun building stories around them. Our daughters started the process. With my most recent series of drawings, I have tried to envision them as part of a larger story.

Here is one series I recently completed. I had in mind a big, bad city, filled with mysterious goings on and sketchy characters. A trumpet makes an appearance. I’m not exactly sure why. I just really dig trumpets.

Now to the story, pieced together from different ideas provided by my wife, our two daughters, and myself:

It was a normal day in the city, at least until the boat showed up near the bridge. You don’t see that much around these parts. This ain’t exactly the kind of place you take a pleasure cruise out on the water. Way up in one of the tall buildings was an interested party, a man with binoculars, watching the boat make its way closer to the docks, which hadn’t been used for anything important in years.

The man had a suitcase full of money on his desk – money that came through ill-gotten gains. He couldn’t see inside the boat, but he had an idea what was in there. A trumpet, filled with something other than music. The money was for the trumpet. He grabbed the suitcase and took the elevator down to the street, where a car was waiting. Funny thing about that car. Its license plate was blank. Not a good sign.

Here is the second series of drawings. I still wanted to inject some mystery into it, but change the setting to something more rural and suburban. The idea I had when drawing it was fairly benign. But then our family started injecting all kinds of menace into it.

And here’s the story, once again pieced together from different family ideas:

I drove like someone in a hurry – because I was. I took the corner faster than I should have and nearly clipped a tree. I slowed down once I hit the neighborhood, making sure I found the right house. There it was, up ahead. Your typical home in the ‘burbs with the garage and fence and pretty lawn. As average and as harmless as you please.

I parked a block away and made my way to the house, casual like, so nobody would suspect anything. When I got to the front door I was careful to turn the doorknob slowly, quietly. I eased my way inside, closed the door behind me, and saw it: a cat on the floor, its ears perked up, giving me the eye. A moment later the door opened again. I dashed behind the sofa and glanced up to see the silhouette of a man in the doorway. The man was young, maybe early 20s. After he stepped inside he strolled over to the cat and hugged it. The man was looking at the cat.

But the cat was looking at me, smiling.

Now let me just say: I drew this series with the idea that potential danger was at play – a car speeding down the road, a hand turning a doorknob, a cat with her ears perked up, a shadowy figure in the doorway – before boom! It’s just a nice picture of a man hugging his cat after arriving home. My idea was that what might look dangerous could actually turn into something cute and cuddly.

Our daughters added the element of heightened menace, and I couldn’t be prouder. And it must be said: There is something really creepy about that cat’s smile……

Also, nobody recognized the doorknob at first glance. So, I need to work on my doorknobs.


    1. Hmmmmm……interesting idea. But only if our oldest daughter illustrates it. Her drawing and art talent is already light years ahead of mine. But really, one of the reasons I took up drawing is to be able to sketch out a comic story if I wanted to and then hire an actual artist to illustrate it.

      Liked by 1 person

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