Sunday, February 10, 2019

A Week in Writing #233

Okay, I'm writing this and I am a little nervous. Not because of this blog but I finally sent my first query letter off regarding Broken People. I know it's something that I've been talking about for weeks but I finally pulled the plug and sent one off. And I know I need and will do more but sending off query letters is a little like riding a horse, when you get bucked off (or rejected as might be the case) you have to get back on and send out more query letters.

The agent I sent mine to is one that I had met or rather heard at the Writer's Digest Novel Writing Conference last October. I really had the book pretty much completed then but had to hem and haw my way to sending it out. There is always a good reason not to send a query but I knew this day would come. I will, of course, update here as the process continues. I don't and won't name names, as that's not the way we roll at 1000 Words a Day, but this would be my dream agent at this point. But then again, any agent that would take me on as a client would be my dream agent, let's be real.

Already got a response, though it's a form email. I've had it be where I've spent hours to hone the query letter to a particular agent only to have them reject me in a matter of minutes so my first thought was not a positive one when I got the email so quickly. Rejection is never far from my thoughts when it comes to query writing.

Did a little more work on The Runaway as well. I wrote myself into a possible corner but managed to think of a solution before the trail got stale. I'm a little short of 35,500 words into the rewrite. I have a general idea where this is all going it's the getting there that still needs to be worked out.

No new word on Familiar Stranger and I truly doubt the editor reads this blog but we're coming up on almost a year now. I don't know if he's immortal but I'm not and time's a-wasting. I'd like to get this done sooner than later. I will have to follow up and I will let you know what, if anything, I hear back.

Published a review of the short The Balloonatic on Saturday on Trophy Unlocked. Part of our salute to shorts during the shortest month of the year. I've watched and written a review for next week of Making a Living (1914), Chaplin's first short for Mack Sennett's Keystone studio. Look for that next week.

There is also a review I wanted to point you to on that blog, The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part was reviewed by Trevor after we all went to see it on Saturday afternoon. He was the best one to review it as the rest of us sort of blipped out from time to time if that's any indication on how good the movie really is.

This week in Powers Squared, we finished Issue #9 which is pretty exciting. Since we've just submitted Issues 6 and 7 to Comixology it may be quite a while before 8 and 9 are published.

Speaking of 6 and 7, I've reached out to the websites that had provided us with reviews, interviews, and previews for issues 3-5 and only one, First Comic News, has responded. We're hoping their reviewer will do one for the new issues. I sent them to him this morning after emailing the editor-in-chief. Hopefully, we'll get a positive response.

Our poll questions have taken an uptick in the past few weeks and I have to thank our fans in Singapore and San Mateo for getting those numbers up. 11 responses last week and 9 this week is nice. It makes you feel that you're not just writing in a void. I've asked them to perhaps watch the videos as well.

Paul and I do a Vlog every Sunday with whatever is new with the comic book. The last several, despite pushing them on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and Pinterest have garnered zero views. We keep hoping that trend will reverse itself. It hurts, people, it hurts.

We're still working out the details for the Kickstarter that I want desperately to do. Trying to see if our artist is willing to do something by hand that could be used as a tier reward and maybe be used as well on t-shirts and maybe even an alternative cover.

A fellow comic book creator is trying to start an Instagram Pod to support each other. I'm all for it but he wants me to do more than just publicize the videos which I need to do. I went through the last two issues and pulled out all of the sound effects so I might be posting them for a while.

Well, that about wraps up another Week in Writing. Please check back next week and I'll update you on queries and reviews. Until then, keep writing, cause you know, you gotta.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

A Week in Writing #232

I'm sitting down to write this while watching the Super Bowl since I don't have a pony in the race to mix my sports metaphors and thinking back on the past week.

Still making some progress on The Runaway though I didn't have the burst I had last week. Still, I got about 5600 words further into the book, which surprises even me. Some of the writing is rewriting I will admit that. I'm trying to use as much as I can from the previous version. There is nothing better to find a passage or chapter that can be placed somewhere else and with some tweaks can be reused elsewhere in the story.

I'm finding that I'm making a lot of changes in the story, killing off a character sooner than I had previously. I think it's making it a better story but we'll see. I mean, I'm a little prejudiced but if I don't like it there's no point in writing it.

For Trophy Unlocked, published a review of Tit for Tat (1935) as part of our salute to Shorts during February, the shortest month. Managed to also write one for Buster Keaton's The Balloonatic (1923) which should appear next week.

This week in Powers Squared, there was a lot of progress on Issue #10. Rachel sent us the first 8 pages inked just before the end of January as well as thumbnails for the next 8 pages. Nina has the first 8 pages for this month.

Started to work on a final review of Issue #9. There are a couple of changes we need to make to some of the dialogue but it's really nothing major. At least, that's what I've found, Paul still needs to give it a once over before we give it to Trevor for any fixes.

Paul and I finished our next A Week in Powers Squared video just before the Super Bowl. This week we went over a little bit of Issue #2 as well as discussed the progress that's been made since our last video. You can watch it here. While you're there, please feel free to subscribe and ring the bell.

Last week, we posted a video to Instagram about making the video. This week, we actually added it to our story, so we'll see if that gets as many views as our video did last week.

Big shout out to our best fans, who happen to live in Singapore, who actually heard the call and answered our poll question on the website. Maybe those votes help spur others on since when I last checked, we had 6 votes. I'm not a mathematician but that's a whole lot more than the zeroes we've been getting the last few weeks.

We're still working out some of the details for our Kickstarter tiers. Hopefully, we'll get those ironed out this week, hopefully being the key word there.

Going to be reaching out to some of the websites that helped us with our last release to see if they're interested in doing something with the new releases.

Whatever happens, I'll be letting you know here next week.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

A Week in Writing #231

This has been a pretty good week for Powers Squared. Paul and I submitted, some might say finally, Issues 6 and 7 to comiXology. Later in the week, we received notification that they had been accepted. Honestly, I'm not sure what sort of criteria they have for submissions, it's obviously not a guarantee to sell, but it is a hurdle that has to be crossed. Bottom line, Issues 6 and 7, aka Kirby Good and Evil, will be out soon.

As a result, I'm going to be reaching out to those who had helped promote Issues 3 - 5 to see if they'll help with the new ones as well. Fingers crossed that they'll say "yes." We've asked the creative team to do whatever they can to promote it and we were very pleased to see Rachel's tweet on Friday.

Rachel is continuing to work on Issue #10. She's sent us pencils for pages 1-8 and it is really looking good. I like that she's taken the script and is making some smart changes to make it better. It's not that what we write is written in concrete and her choices have made the story better.

In other news, we received the final pages and the cover for Issue #9 from Nina, our colorist, which we've sent on to our letterer, Trevor. When he's done, we'll be done with that story arc. Those issues are also known as Mathemagical and introduces a new villain, but we'll wait to get into that closer to its publication.

We're also having a motion comic trailer made for the new issues as well as for our planned Kickstarter. Paul and I discussed various tiers and rewards for crowdfunding. I plan to show it to some other people to get their feedback before we set up the project.

Our efforts to grow our social media presence are still slow. Votes on our weekly poll have been few and far between and views of our YouTube channel have definitely been low. We would really appreciate it if you read this that you would also take a look at our other social media platforms.

This past Saturday, I had a real breakout with The Runaway. As a writer, it's really great when things sort of come together and you can get on a roll. That happened yesterday morning when I was able to write a little over 3500 words in several writing sessions during the morning and early afternoon. I felt like I suddenly got over a hump and was able to keep the momentum going. Feels really good. That said,  I know there is a lot of work still to be done.

I'll just mention it here as a formality, no word still about Familiar Stranger. I guess I'll have to try to reach out, yet again, to my editor to see if anything has happened. I really try not to overly harass people but I don't understand the radio silence that has been going on for months now. Anyone have any suggestions?

I'm still working on the query letter for Broken People. Lying in bed this morning, I had an idea which I got up and wrote out. I'm going to sit on it for a day or so and come back to see if I still like it. Right now I do. I'm not sure if other writers go through this but I sometimes find it hard to put the work out there. I know that rejection is part of the process but that doesn't mean I like it.

This week, finished my review of Cabin in the Sky and published it on Trophy Unlocked as the Saturday Morning Review. Not sure what the next review will be as we rewatched a film we'd already reviewed on Friday, Big Hero 6. I have a couple in reserve so I'm sure there will be something next Saturday as well.

Next week promises to be busy. I need to get going on reaching out to people on behalf of Powers Squared and Broken People while also keeping moving forward on everything else.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

A Week in Writing #230

As I sit down to write this, I'm wondering how much writing I've done this week. This is the sort of thoughts I go through every week when I put together this blog. In some ways, it hasn't been my best week, though I do think I got some things done.

This week with Powers Squared, we did receive pencils for the first four pages of Issue #10. There's always the feeling that things are getting real when you start to see the image of what it will look like. Pretty good stuff, though we asked for a couple of minor fixes. The promise of the next four pages is hanging out there so it should be any day now.

No pages from the colorist so far but she has billed me which is usually a sign we're getting close. She's got a lot going on this month. Her own crowdfunding project to send out, a convention in March to prep for, her own Etsy store and our comic book, so I know she's busy. But right now, no pages means no pages for Trevor to letter and Issue 9 remains incomplete.

Now that we've registered Issues 5 and 6 for copyright, the next step is to submit them to comiXology in hopes someone will purchase them. I don' t know why this step is so hard, I mean with done it before but every time I get a little nervous and any excuse not to seems good enough. In looking at the pages for images to add to the website, I did find an error, similar to the one we found in Issue #10 but this time we missed it. I blame myself but you want it to be as perfect as it can be. I won't point it out here so if you find it let me know.

I did spend some time working on a couple of pet projects, trying to get the comic book ready for possible print on request and kickstarting or crowdfunding Issue #10. I worked on the back cover and on the various levels of contributions. I need to get feedback but trying to keep those moving forward as well.

Paul and I continue to do our weekly vlog A Week in Powers Squared on YouTube. It can be somewhat demeaning to have 0 views, which we've had for the past two weeks but I guess we're gluttons for futility as we keep doing them. If you take pity and actually watch one, let us know what you think about it, either here or in the comments on YouTube.

This week, no new review for me on Trophy Unlocked but there were two from the other writers. Trevor reviewed Dragon Ball Z: Broly – The Legendary Super Saiyan (1993) and Paul reviewed the new film Dragon Ball Super: Broly which is out in theaters now. It seemed right that review should be our Saturday Morning Review.

I did work on one review this week, I'm about 2500 words into one for Cabin in the Sky (1943) for future publication. I've got more work to do on it but it should be ready soon.

On Runaway, my latest novel, I've written another chapter though I wish I had done more. I'm working my way through a new section so it is a little more than rewriting as simply writing. It's not that I have writer's block but more writer's weary. This past week had been filled with long commutes thanks to rain and that can really take it out of you.

Next week, there will be a slight hiccup, as we're all going to a concert on Tuesday night so that's one day lost for sure. With writing, it's always something.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

A Week in Writing #229

This week I continued my work on what I'll need for sending out queries, the most important of which is the actual query letter for Broken People. Of course, there's a template and I don't think I'll be breaking much new ground here: the hook, the book, and the cook. These mean take a paragraph to tell them why they should read it, two paragraphs to tell them what they would be reading (i.e. a brief synopsis, as well as genre and word count) and a paragraph to tell them about yourself. There are, of course, variations on this last part. Some just want to know who you are, others want to know what qualifies you to write this book and, still, others want you to use your marketing degree (you do have one, don't you?) to tell them what you would do to market your book. (This latter bit really scares me, since I, oops, don't have a marketing degree.)

I've made a couple of versions so far but I know I'm not through trying to come up with the final version. Then there are the extra add-ons which seem to vary from the first 500 words up to the first 25 pages, depending on the agent/agency. This is where you need to look at the agency's website before you query them (again, I'm not breaking new ground here but it might help to read it again.) Some even want you to write a complete, though short synopsis of your book before you query them, so I've got that to look forward to as well.

I don't mean to burst your bubble if you think you just write a novel and then send it out to an agent but this is what it takes and after all that, it is still a crap shoot. Keep writing.

As a result, I didn't get all that much done on The Runaway, sorry to say. Remember the goal is 1000 Words a Day, it is not always the reality.

I did write two reviews this week for Trophy Unlocked, one for the Laurel and Hardy short, Tit for Tat (1935) and, staying in the 1930s, a review for Smart Money (1931). These will appear later. This week on the blog, our Saturday review was Stan & Ollie, which is in theaters now. This was a film we saw last week and wanted to share how much we liked it.

This week in Powers Squared was surprisingly slow. Last Sunday, Paul and I went through the thumbnails Rachel sent us for the first eight pages of Issue #10. Usually, we hear back from her in a few days with a compilation of what they would look like but so far no word. This is becoming more of the norm so we're not too worried about it.

Our colorist asked us if there would be more issues after #9, which she is still working on. We did receive pages 13-16 from her and she should have the rest of the pages and the cover for us by the end of the month, so she's back on schedule. We hadn't sent her the script, which we did this week and as long as we can work around her other projects, we should be good to go.

Still wanting to Kickstart Issue #10. Part of that is figuring out what to give away to donators. Since we're a digital comic, there really isn't anything physical to give away, which makes it easy but does limit what we can do. Hopefully, in the next couple of weeks, we can come up with a plan.

Did get some feedback on the back cover (inside and out) for actually doing a publish-on-demand version of the book. There is still some work to do to pull that together but the good news is that there was progress.

This weekend, Paul and I sent in the registration to copyright Issues #6 and 7. The progress is pretty easy though we ran into a hiccup when trying to upload the second issue. Not sure what the issue was or how exactly I got around it but I managed to do it. The time frame to hear back is literally months and I don't know what effect the government shutdown will have on that.

Paul and I did our weekly vlog on YouTube, which we would really hope you'll watch and while you're there subscribe to our channel. This week, we touch on a couple of the things I do here, but we also talk about a couple of new characters, villains, Dr. Brubaker and Dr. Reynolds. You'll need to watch the video and/or read the book to know who we're talking out. Please check it out.

And later this week, Paul and I will go through the process of uploading them on comiXology so that we can get those published. Hope you'll buy them when they are. To quote John Lennon, "It'll be the usual rubbish, but it won't cost much."

Will update here next week.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

A Week in Writing #228

Writing is a business, even though sometimes it feels like a non-profit. Nearly everyone who sits down at a computer to write poetry, screenplays, novels or whatever wants to do it for a living. I'm no different than anyone else when it comes to that. For many, like myself, the first step is to find an agent and that's what I'm in the process of doing for Broken People.

Of course, the first step is to finish the novel, which I've done. For fiction, I cannot emphasize enough how important that is. I have a friend who writes mostly non-fiction, who shared with me his desire to write a fiction novel. He talked about knowing some agents and thought he could write a few chapters and see if they would represent him. I tried to tell him then, and I'm saying it here again, that you need to complete the work first and not only complete it but rewrite/edit/tighten, etc., before he submits it. It may seem like an arduous undertaking, but it's something you have to do to be taken seriously.

I know there are other steps like writing a good query letter and a synopsis but I wanted to put together the agent list, which I felt would be a time-consuming activity. If you decide to go this route, I would suggest a spreadsheet to track your submissions. I've done this in the past, so I was already planning on doing one this time as well. An advantage I found was that I could use the VLookUp function in Excel to see if I had already queried a particular agent or agency about Killer Blog, which you may remember is another version of the story.

I started with a list off of Query Tracker, which I've used in the past. I remember scrapping the data to have been easier in the past, and it might be easier if I was a paid or premium member of the site. So, I began by filtering on agents that handle the mystery genre, copying and pasting what I could from that list into Excel and going from there. Something that I couldn't stop from copying, which I decided to keep, was the country of the agent, which is represented by a flag. While I don't have anything against Canada or the UK, I imagine agencies in those countries are more interested in helping writers from those countries, so I didn't delete them but put them into a different ranking.

So my list started with 327 agents. I'm in the process of ranking them from 1 to 6. Since there may be more than one agent at an agency, I figured I might have 1 through 3 that I might consider querying. I'm thinking in the case of an agent who is also the head of the agency I might consider querying another agent there. This sorting is still in progress. For the those who might be a good fit but are in other countries, I'd rank 4. Now there are 17 who are either in the UK or Canada.

If I've previously queried an agent I ranked them as 5. I'm thinking of also including those who only accept mailed queries. These would be second-tiered as they are sort of behind the times.

Those ranked 6 would be those who are not currently open to queries or who don't list mysteries in their online bios or in the genres that the agent/agency accepts. For 6, there are 175 agents so you can see the original list is quickly decreasing. I did add in one agent from the Writer's Digest Novel Writing Conference who wasn't in the Query Tracker's list but handles Mysteries, so that's one going the other way.

I'll continue with this list and update you as I do but I think I'm going to have a final starting list of between 80 and 90 agents/agencies. Then there'll be the harder work of coming up with a good query letter and a good synopsis. I'm thinking some of that can be used from the Killer Blog querying.

As far as actual writing, I did some more work on revising The Runaway. I'm up to page 100 and about 17,459 words. A little less than a 1000 words a day, but not too bad really.

This week in Powers Squared, there was more progress on Issues #9 and 10. Our artist sent us some more character sketches as well as thumbnails for pages 1-8. Rachel had some good ideas that we hadn't thought about. That's one thing that I enjoy about the collaboration is the sharing of ideas from both her and Nina. The goal is to make the comic book better so we're open to any ideas.

Nina sent us pages 13-16 from Issue #9 and Trevor sent us some updates for Issue #8, though I think we might not be done. Again we're all going back and forth to make sure we're happy with the end result.

Paul and I did our weekly vlog on our now rechristened YouTube page, Powers Squared Comic. This week, we talked about all the above as well as the origins of villains Dr. Horatio Atlas and Instructor Agnes Miller, who were first introduced in the first two issues. You can watch our latest post here. While you're there, please feel free to subscribe and ring the bell; your support is always appreciated.

This past week's poll on Powers Squared received its most votes, four. That might not seem like much but it is a huge improvement over 0 and 1 which have been more of the norm. This week's question, "Who would you rather be friends with Kirby, Steve or Don?" has received three votes, but the week is still early. You can vote, too, on the website.

All of the other things I wrote last week that I wanted to work on didn't happen so that's what goals are for.

With the end of the Christmas season, I went through all the social media platforms and updated the avatars and homepage images that had once been adorned with Marty and Eli in Santa Hats back to just Marty and Eli. For some reason, I had issues with changing Tumblr and went around and around trying to update the image. I followed all the steps but when I hit Save, the image would revert back to Santa Hats. I even wrote to Tumblr help to find out what I was doing wrong. After that, I asked Paul if he would let me show him what I was doing. Same steps but this time the image updated, so in case Tumblr is seeing this, I no longer need your help, but thanks.

Last, but not forgotten, completed and posted a review for Way Out West for Trophy Unlocked. We watched this film a week ago in prep for watching Stan & Ollie, which came out late last year. We saw the film just this morning so there will most likely be a review next week.

So plenty to work on in the week of writing ahead. See you next week.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

A Week in Writing #227

This is supposed to be one of those weeks when you take a look back at what you've done and look forward to what you want to get accomplished. I'm going to resist the temptation to look back at 52 weekly posts to come up with this year-end post.

Let's begin with Powers Squared. So much has happened and there is still so much to do. We began the year with a new creative team. Paul and I wanted to take the comic book in a new direction and we were happy to start working with Rachel Wells and Nina Gaillard on the comic book. Because of them, this has been a very productive year, which we will begin releasing in 2019. We've completed three issues and are about a month or so away from completing a fourth. (It previously took us two full years to get five done.)

The last three of the first five issues came out this year and despite some nice publicity, including an interview with FreakSugar, reviews in First Comic News, a nice write-up in Adventures in Poor Taste and an Ask Me Anything, I don't think we broke any sales records. In fact, I don't think we've sold enough to warrant getting paid by comiXology. (In fact, I think the lack of sales caused them to sort of turn their backs on us, so to speak.) It would be easy to give up, but I think the best stories are still to come.

I don't talk about the cost to produce the comic book (and I won't here, either) but let's just say it takes just about every extra penny we have and preventing us, as a family, from doing things like taking vacations, doing things to the house, to buying a new car. I'm hoping to change some of that by doing some crowdfunding in the coming year. I don't want you to cry for me Argentina, but we're hoping to get some help and, hopefully, more exposure for the comic.

We've tried to grow our social media presence with a website, a Facebook page, an Instagram account, Tumblr account, Twitter account, a YouTube Channel, and, lastly, a Pinterest account. That's not to say we've been successful on all fronts. You have to keep feeding these platforms and sometimes that's very difficult. I don't want to get too far ahead with revealing too much about future issues so that when they come out we have new images to share. At the same time, I wanted to promote the issues that came out last year, which sort of left our current Creative Team on the sidelines while we did that.

Now, we can concentrate on our new issues. I plan to submit Issues 6 and 7 early in the new year to comiXology but would also like to see if we can get some support from some of the media outlets that had supported us last time out.

Would also like to look into printing on demand. To that end, I spent some time this week coming up with back covers, both inside and out, for the issues. Now to get those reviewed and then we'll see where to go from there.

Work has already begun on Issue #10. We've submitted the script to Rachel, who has already begun to do some sketches for a new character we're introducing. She also seemed to really like the script which is a good thing as we're going to be living with this story arc for most of the coming year. This story arc is called What's in a Name? and will continue for three issues.

Trophy Unlocked celebrated its eighth anniversary and the 900th review post this past year. We're getting our end of the year posts ready and those will be out tomorrow, the 31st. This past week, we posted three new reviews. In addition to our usual Saturday Morning Review, What Price Hollywood?, we also published a review of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, which Trevor wrote. We also published one more from Paul for Ready Player One.

Every year, we spend the day after Christmas watching movies, which we call Movie Day (I know, really clever). As a result, we have a couple of reviews, including Ready Player One and one I wrote for Wonder Wheel. Not sure if we'll be writing reviews of the other films we watched that day or not. One of them, Incredibles 2, we've already written about.

While I wasn't sure last week about the rewrite for The Runaway, I did some work on Christmas Day and a couple of other days this past week. The stumbling block I thought I had sort of disappeared when I got back to it. So I'm about 12,000 words into that rewrite.

Still no word from my editor on Familiar Stranger. Despite his promises to the contrary, it has been radio-silence for most of this year. I did receive about 50 pages but that was literally months ago. I wish I didn't feel the pressure to get the work done but I do. And frankly, I have a hard time when other people don't feel the same urgency. But there isn't much I can do to light a fire under him.

I need to spend some time putting together a list of potential agents to try and sell Broken People. I've kept spreadsheets in the past but I think I'm going to start the process from scratch. There are a few agents from the Writer's Digest Novel Writing Conference that I'd like to query to as well.

So next year, I hope it's a breakout year for Powers Squared, with more eyes on Trophy Unlocked and I find an agent for my books. Tall order, but that's what dreams are made of.