Sunday, August 9, 2020

A Week in Writing #311


Let me start off this blog with a couple of updates. A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that I had reached out to someone I had seen on a Comic-Con@home video who claimed to be a marketer for comic books. Well, two weeks and counting and no response. Not sure if that speaks to their lack of interest or their lack of business acumen. I will do what they don't want you to do when looking for an agent and nudge. If after that there's no response, I will count this as a minor misadventure.

Speaking of looking for agents, I did do some more research, but no queries. Researching possible agents is very time-consuming and a little soul-crushing. You read everything they're looking for and you start to doubt yourself. I'm not talking so much about the work but the little things agents seem to be looking for, things I'm sure they think will make the work stand out to a publisher, which is, of course, their goal as well as mine. However, it sometimes feels like I'm trying to fit my square peg in their round hole. I'm guessing that theirs is a moving target as well, as in what they're looking for now is not what they'll be looking for next week or next month. You can't write for the agent, you have to write for yourself and hope they'll somehow match.

I did do some more work on my latest idea. I think I have the setup, but I'm trying to figure out what case I would use. I originally thought about blackmail but I've used that before. Now I'm leaning to using a tontine as the plot device. I've had the idea for a while and it just occurred to me this week to try it.

In other writing, I did complete two reviews this week, one for Kindergarten Cop (1990) and one for Dance, Girl, Dance (1940). The former was spurred by the fact a showing of the film in Oregon was canceled because it was deemed controversial and compared to Birth of a Nation and Gone with the Wind. It should appear next Saturday on Trophy Unlocked. Dance, Girl, Dance was a result of our weekly drain the DVR. Not sure when that will be published.

What was published was a week-long survey of the Final Fantasy VII franchise, including games and a feature based on the game, written by Paul. On Saturday, it was the 20th anniversary of Buzz Lightyear of Star Command: The Adventure Begins written by Trevor. The two of them have been very busy during the pandemic with writing reviews.

For Powers Squared it was the usual week of a Podcast on Friday, a YouTube video on Sunday, and a newsletter to our subscribers. This week's podcast, On the Air with Powers Squared, featured a guest for the first time, our artist Rachel Wells. Our colorist, Julia Canon, had us set up a Discord account for the comic book and it allows us to do videos, which, using OBS, we were able to broadcast on Twitch and then, using Audacity, pulled the audio from the video.

Keeping with the creative team, this week's YouTube video was a Google Hangout with both Rachel and Julia, the first time we had ever spoken to both of them at the same time. We also posted an unboxing video, featuring an anthology Artithmeric is trying to get distributed, which would serialize 10 of their books, including Powers Squared.

We also did what I hope is the final run-through of the Pilot script for our proposed animated series. I've got a few notes but I think we're pretty much there. Next, we can hopefully finish up the Pitch Packet for it.

There always feels like there is something else to do with the book. We're always trying to figure out how to grow our audience. If you have any ideas, please feel free to share in the comments. I mean that.

Well, that about does it for this week. Keep writing and I'll see you next week.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

A Week in Writing #310 - Tough Getting Back to Reality


It's always tough coming back to reality after attending Comic-Con, even a virtual one, like last week's Comic-Con@Home. This year it was a little easier, obviously, but it always makes me want to be doing something more than I'm doing. Something, you know, more visible. I still have that desire to be on a panel someday.

I approached my print-on-demand provider about the idea of working on a table/booth with them. They had mentioned the desire to do more Cons and there is nothing like the present to think about next year. I'm hopeful they'll want to do something and we can tag on that. Plan B, which we may have to start before they do, is to try and get a table in Artist Alley. Writer and letterer are categories,  so I'm hopeful if we all go for one, we'll maybe get one.

Every weekend, I write the newsletter for Powers Squared. The first of the month is sort of our Illustrated Supplement, with more photos and more features. We have been on the outlook for Creative Twins and when we don't get volunteers we have to find them on the internet, which is more work. And, every first of the month, I have to come up with a new poll question for the website. I'd love it if it weren't for naught, so I encourage you, dear reader, to check it out at https://powerssquaredcomicbook.com/poll and vote.

One of our weekly features is a peek-of-the-week, an image from an upcoming issue. When looking for one in Issue #10, I found a coloring error that Paul and I had missed. Luckily, Julia, our new colorist, was willing to take on fixing it for us.

If you're ever curious about the newsletter, please sign up at https://mailchi.mp/9ac7714b0aaa/powerssquaredcomicbook.

In other writing, work continues on the rewrite of The Runaway. I'm in the final stretch with I think less than 50 pages to go. I am a little disappointed that the word count hasn't really gone up, that was part of the reason for the write. I'm still just below 90,000 words. I think after that, I'm going to put it away for a while and get back in earnest with trying to query Broken People.

I did have an idea that I played around with this weekend and did what would amount to the first 1800 words or so. I'm trying to think about setting the next J.D. Barrister book post-pandemic since I don't see a private investigator getting much work during a pandemic, or how he could do the job without taking a great risk of illness and/or death. So, this bit would be his going back to his office for the first time in months and finding that his next-door neighbor wants to hire him. I haven't gotten into the particulars of what the case would be, just introducing the new character and the situation.

Worked a little with Paul brainstorming some ideas about a script he was writing. It's always nice to give back and I hope I helped him.

Spent some time this week trying to prep for a slew of reviews that are scheduled over the next few weeks on Trophy Unlocked. I usually post about new reviews on Facebook and Twitter but also post them on Pinterest as well. This is something I try to squeeze in between walking in the morning and getting ready for work. The less I have to do in the mornings, especially looking up metadata and photos, the better, so I think I'm squared away for now.

I wrote two reviews this weekend, one for the Woody Allen film we watched on Friday, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, but also one for The Girl From Missouri (1934), a Jean Harlow film that we watched during our drain the DVR Saturday night. However, no new reviews for me on the blog. On Wednesday, it was Star Fox Adventures, a video game reviewed by Trevor and Saturday was Hey Arnold! The Jungle Movie, a TV movie also reviewed by Trevor. I'm not sure when I'll be back on the blog, but I've got all five Saturdays in October leading up to and including Halloween, the event not the movie.

Well, that about does it for me. Keep writing and I'll see you again next week.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

A Week in Writing #309 - Report from the Home Front


If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you'll no doubt remember that when I attend a con, I try to give you a report detailing what I've learned, as a Report from the Front. With COVID-19 spreading, San Diego Comic-Con went virtual this year, so while I attended, I never did leave my couch.

Usually, I make an effort to attend as many how-to programs and panels, but this year there were far fewer of those types and even fewer that really interested me. So my report this time will be somewhat limited. We, as a family, attended several panels via YouTube, which was the only way for the Comic-Con sponsored ones. (Adult Swim, as an example, had their own panels via Twitch). I would say that we spent a lot of time attending panels that were sponsored by Warner Bros, either the Archive or HBO Max, the latter of which seems to be where all the new Cartoon Network-produced programming is going. We have a lot of favorites, such as Summer Camp Island and Adventure Time, which were part of several panels, including one about Storyboarding, which was very interesting.

There was also a Phineas and Ferb panel, this one from Disney+ about the Candace Against the Universe movie that is coming out on that streaming service later in the summer. We've been watching the series pretty much every weekday at lunch, and I think we're all looking forward to the movie, even though we currently don't subscribe to the streaming service.

Warner Bros sponsored two panels, one about the 80th Anniversary of Bugs Bunny, which was a long infomercial for a set they're releasing later this year. And Warner Archives sponsored one about the Secret Origin of Saturday Morning Cartoons, even though the secret is that the original cartoons were reruns of theatrically released cartoons. Both were interesting but not really how-to presentations.

Even though we have a colorist, Paul and I were interested in How To Color a Comic Book, sponsored by Hi-Fi, a coloring service that walked through their process and gave some tips on what they do versus what others do. Fairly informative though I'm still happy with the colorist we have and the work she does.

There were a couple of panels about the Narrative in Videogames, which I think Paul understood better than the rest of us. I've always thought there is a videogame in Powers Squared and watching the panel did get me to thinking about story branches and alternative endings, though I profess not to know a thing about scripting one. It is interesting to hear terms like "Bark", "Cinematic" and "V.O." being used.

We did watch a panel that promised to discuss the science behind Back to the Future, but which really discussed science in comic books and science fiction. This is one of the issues with panels is that they sometimes don't get to point they were supposed to. I was hoping to hear something about hoverboards and instead saw a brief demonstration of a robotic skirt that one of the panelists designed.

Watched a panel about networking. These panels are never really about how-to but more the benefits of having done so in nature. There was a panelist who does marketing for comic books, so I did contact her after the panel. Too soon to have heard back and I don't want to get ahead of myself and commit to hiring her, though I would like to hear what she could do for us and Issue #10, which is coming out soon. I will, of course, let you know if anything comes of this.

Two more panels on Sunday had some useful information. There was a panel on The Writer's Journey: Developing a Producer's Mentality. This was more about working on your own IPs rather than someone else's. And while you may have to be willing to make some changes to get it published or produced, there has to be a line that you're not willing to cross; and if you walk away, you have to really walk away.

The other panel, and our last one of the Con, The Grind NEVER Stops, not even during a quarantine led by Bryan "Kaiser" Tillman. He led another panel that we attended last year and is really a very inspirational speaker. His point was that creatives should use the time during a pandemic to get things done, rather than play videogames and watching Netflix. His advice was 1) Time Management: Plan out your day and then you'll see how much time you actually have; 2) Study: Look at the work of others and see why it is effective; 3) Practice: Work on the areas that you need to improve; 4) Development: The first draft is not going to be your best. You need to work on it to make it better; and, 5) Network: Find groups of like people on social media and share with them and comment on their work as well. While I think Kaiser's intended audience is artists, much of what he said is applicable to writers as well.

Since all the panels were pre-recorded and available on YouTube, it's probably not too late to watch them. You can go to https://www.comic-con.org/cciathome/2020/programming-schedule and see what you might have missed.

I did manage to get some writing done this week and during the downtimes between "Panels". One of the advantages of Comic-Con@Home is that you're not trapped there and can do other things while you wait.

This week, I finished the pencil and paper editing on The Runaway and began to type up those changes. I think I was hoping that the edits would not only make the book better but might have a few more words. I think I was hoping for at least 1000, but I've only added a couple of 100 words and I'm about 25% of the way through the book this time around, or version 9 if you're keeping track.

I also finished the two reviews I started last weekend, The Bribe and Top Gun. They'll be coming out sometime in the future. This week, we continued the trend of publishing a videogame review on Wednesdays with Trevor's review of Spec Ops: The Line for PS3. In keeping with the spirit of Comic-Con, my review of Batman: The Killing Joke went up on Saturday. A bit of coincidence that was also the 4th anniversary of its release in theaters.

We even managed to review some inks from Rachel for Powers Squared and work a little bit on getting a Discord group up and running. Our colorist, Julia Canon, is the spearhead behind that and it promises to make the communication and sharing easier.

We also had the time to write and send the latest newsletter on Powers Squared, The Bark, which you can subscribe to here.

So, to wrap this up, while I enjoyed the extra time and extra money that Comic-Con@Home provided me, I really missed the actual event itself. With all the hassles and people, there is really nothing like it and missing it for a year makes me more excited about going next year.

Keep writing and I'll see you back here next week.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

A Week in Writing #308 - Knee Deep in Rewrites


Hope everyone is well and staying safe!

Am I alone but I really like the editing process, especially on my own stuff. This past week, I've been printing 25 to 30 pages at a time, trying to end at the end of a chapter of The Runaway and, with whatever available time, I've been reading and editing those pages. I'm old fashioned at this stage, paper and pencil, but for me, it's the only way to do it. I find myself carrying a larger and larger stack of papers with me when I do, as I like to keep all the previous pages with me, in case I want to look for something written before. It's interesting to me that 400 pages printed seem to be taller than 500 pages in the ream it came from.

I also did a rewrite on the pilot script for Powers Squared using notes from the table read. Paul has it for review and more editing. That was something that was on my plate for too long, as I really want to get through that and the pitch packet before summer ends. I would say before the coronavirus ends but I think we'll probably beat that.

Speaking of Powers Squared, I had an idea mid-week about doing more with the college setting of the story. If you've read any of the issues (and thank you for that) you'll know it's set at San Romero Community College. We even have t-shirts with the college crest on them for purchase. I had the idea that when we publish the next issue (#10) later this year that instead of hyping the next book we hype the school. I managed to do a preliminary mockup of the page, but my version of PhotoShop doesn't allow me to do everything I want.

That got me thinking that instead of encouraging people to Join, we should encourage them to enroll and provide them with a page to do that. The idea would be to make it look like a College Catalog with a brief history of the school, a story about the mascot, a way to sign up for the school paper, The Hound Dogs' Howl, and to use various means to have visitors hopefully hit up the shop for issues, websites of the creatives through course listings and staff listings and to provide glimpses of college life at dear old SRCC. I managed to put that page together as well this week, though we're still waiting for feedback from our colorist before launching.

Finished the review I was working on from last week, Scene of the Crime, and started two new ones: Top Gun and The Bribe for Trophy Unlocked. The reviews this week were both by Trevor this week, Wednesday it was Devolverland Expo and on Saturday it was Chicken Little.

Next week will be an abbreviated one as on Wednesday we're going to Comic-Con, though this year it will be a virtual @home experience. The Con will still run for five days with panels online and the Exhibit Hall, Small Press, and Artist Alley going virtual as well. There will be a lot to explore but without the walking and hustle and bustle.

After these sorts of events, I usually do a Report from the Front about what I may have learned about writing. Not sure how much I'll get to this time around as a lot of the instructional panels are either ones I've already attended in person or ones that I'm not interested in attending at all. But we'll see because, as they say, you never know.

Well, that about does it for me. Keep writing, wear your mask, and I'll see you next week.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

A Week in Writing #307 - Let the Rewrites Begin!


Hope everyone is well and staying safe!

This week, some real progress made on several fronts, including as the title suggests, rewrites. I know I'm supposed to be querying Broken People but instead, I started, in earnest, editing The Runaway. This is the part of writing I think I like the most. I will print out 25 or so pages at a time and then sit down with a pencil and read those pages out loud (softly to myself) and mark them up. Hearing the words has a big effect on the writing, at least for me.

It is through this that I find places where I've missed a word, like leaving out "not" which has a real impact on the meaning; or where the dialogue doesn't sound right. Speaking it makes it more real and I find I'm adding words and phrases that would be said that I hadn't written the first time through. Sometimes, I'll even extend the conversation or even a description, sometimes writing on the back of pages as I go. I try to make a concentrated effort to spell things out, as I know that my handwriting is barely legible as human communications. That along with a stubby pencil and words become graphite and smeared blobs on the pages if I'm not careful.

I'm also making notes, like "have I said this before?" or "does this get repeated later?" I know, really behind the scenes stuff. But the goal is always to make it better and this is the best way I can think of to do it. As an example, I mentioned a woman's perfume scent, without describing it. Then I gave it a memorable smell, that reminded my protagonist of his boyhood so that when he smells it again, later in the book, he'll be able to identify the woman wearing it based on that. I like little details like that and this is where they get inserted if they weren't there before.

This week, I've gone through about 200 pages, which is roughly forty percent of the book. It will probably take a week or two to get all the way through, if indeed that's all I work on this week. But alas, it probably won't be. There is another rewrite that I need to turn my attention to as well.

That would be the proposed pilot script for the Powers Squared animated show we want to pitch. This past week, we finally had a family table read, with my wife bowing out due to being under the weather (not COVID). So the boys and I read all the parts and I got Paul's notes. So that rewrite will start next week as well.

Speaking of editing, the next three issues of Powers Squared are edited as well, so we're ready to go with the next story arc, Mocha and Raven. A three-part story that will most likely take us into next year as far as production goes. We're trying to keep ahead of our artist, Rachel Wells.

Speaking of Rachel, we had a Google Hangout with her a couple of weeks ago, which we posted on Sunday on our YouTube channel. Curious about her or what it's like to work on Powers Squared? Well, here's your chance.

We've also had several pages come through in various states, from pencils from Rachel for Issue #15 to colors from Julia on Issue #14 to Trevor doing lettering, also on Issue #14. So, Paul and I have been busy with that as well. We used the opportunity to review Julia's work for our Friday podcast, On the Air with Powers Squared, though I'm sure it was probably better on Twitch. If you're curious about that process, you can check out the ways to listen and watch at https://powerssquaredcomicbook.com/join.

I did start a new review, last night as a matter of fact, for Scene of the Crime (1949) as part of our Drain the DVR Saturday nights. No telling how long we've had that movie, but I think it dates back to the last time TCM had a Summer of Darkness, so it's probably been a few years. I hope to finish it later today or tomorrow, but no telling when it will appear on Trophy Unlocked. This past week, the Wednesday game review was Little Nightmares: Secrets of the Maw (DLC), written by Trevor, and the Saturday Morning Review was Cowboy Bebop: The Movie, written by Paul.

Well, that about does it for me. Keep writing and we'll see you back here next week.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

A Week in Writing #306 - Treading Water


Some weeks are more productive than they seem on the surface. I'd like to think this past week was one of those.

There was a lot of work on Powers Squared this past week. Our artist sent us thumbnails like she does at the beginning of the month for the next 8 pages of the story. Paul and I went through those and did our usual this from column A and this from column B and sent it back to her. She then sent us 5 revised pages to look at, which we did. I know that doesn't sound like much but it's all part of the process.

We also did a Google Hangout on Friday morning with our artist, Rachel Wells, and colorist, Julia Canon, the first we've had like that in over two years. It was in 2018 that we started doing A Week in Powers Squared videos, which have become more varied over time. As an example, for the next few weeks, we'll be showcasing Google Hangouts starting today with the one we did with Andrew Copeland, the co-founder of Artithmeric last Sunday. After that, it's some individual Hangouts with our artist and our colorist, then we have a couple of more Character Profiles and then the Google Hangout we shot on Friday.

Paul and I sat down on Friday and brainstormed some ideas for our weekly Podcast, On the Air with Powers Squared. We came up with about 20 topics to discuss. One that we had explored with our creative team was doing another Ask Me Anything, which we had done two years ago with Trevor and Rachel participating. However, when I went to research that website, I found that site was gone. We had a link to it on our website, too. I was able to recreate the questions and answers from that session and made a downloadable file out of them. But that doesn't really help with producing new content.

In addition to that, there is the newsletter, The Hound Dog's Howl. We have been trying to feature creative twins once a month. We're open for candidates but few have taken us up on our offer. When that happens, we've had to look for creative twins to write about. Last month it was the Winner Twins, sisters that write science fiction together. This month, it was a write up about Masashi and Seishi Kishimoto, mangakas from Japan. Naruto and 666 Satan respectively. This required a little bit of research on my part.

Speaking of research, I didn't make much headway with the agent search this week. I wasn't avoiding it but I was trying to help out Paul by reading a pilot script he had to write for a writer's program he was applying for. We even did a table read as a family so we could all hear it as well. I think it was time better spent, as the query disappointment will always be there but he had a July 1 deadline to meet.

I did manage to keep working on my rewrite of The Runaway, even going so far as to actually finish the draft last night. I did make it slightly longer though it's still shy of 90,000 words. There is still more for me to do as I think I need to add some pieces here and there, including introducing a character much earlier than they currently appear.

No new reviews this week. Our draining the DVR amounted to episode 1 of the new Perry Mason series on HBO. This won't be a real review, especially based on one episode, but this is a real example of IP fatigue. If you're too young to know, Perry Mason was the subject of a series of books by Erle Stanley Gardner begun in the 1930s and was the subject of a primetime series starring Raymond Burr which ran from 1957 to 1966. In all of those, Mason is a very successful defense attorney. However, in the new series, he is apparently a private detective. The series is set in the 1930s which is interesting but Mason comes off as a weak man and a failure waiting to happen. I'm not the one making the decisions at HBO, but I'm not sure the reason to bring him back and not have him be a lawyer.

Trophy Unlocked, though, wasn't devoid of reviews, with Trevor providing two for video games, Transformers: Devastation on Wednesday and SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom - Rehydrated (PS4) on Saturday.

Well, I guess that about does it for me. Keep writing and I'll see you here next week.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

A Week in Writing #305 - Pre-Query research


As promised, this week I began the sometimes arduous task of researching agents so that I might have the privilege of their rejection later. Of course, I hope this time I hit gold and find someone who will take an interest in my work, but I want to prepare myself for what has been the norm.

I began by using the site querytracker.com, which tracks agents and allows you to track your queries there as well, in an effort to make this a more communal process. They list agents by genres they handle, so using my previous spreadsheet, I added and subtracted from that to come out with a list of possible agents based on that criteria,

The next step, and this is where I am at present, is to do a deeper dive into these agents and their websites to see, for starters, if they actually mention handling or looking for books in that genre. While a majority of them are coming back positive, there are some that don't mention it or handle it for say Middle Grade and YA, not my target audience. I'm also noting what their position is at the firm. I'm not sure if it's better to hit the highest person on their food chain, say the owner, who no doubt is very good but also very busy, or to hit the lowest person, someone new and hoping to build their "list".

After that, I'll do a deeper dive on the ones I want to query to, who they handle and how to contact them. More and more of it appears to be going online with a form rather than an email. My guess is that forms are easier to ignore.

We'll see where it goes from there and I will, of course, be complaining informing you here as I go.

I am still working on my rewrites for The Runaway. I'm trying to fix things as I go, though I know I'll have to go back through it again later.

Oh, remember Familiar Stranger? And the editor who dropped off the face of the Earth after 30 pages? Well, my mother asked me out of the blue about that last week, and offered to call the man, since she's the one who originally introduced us and knew him previously. She, of course, left a message, since he didn't pick up her call either. She told me she left a message saying that it was about "David's novel". I would have played it differently, as I doubt she'll ever hear back from him. Personally, I've moved on without him but if she wants to go down that rabbit hole, so be it. I will let you know if anything ever changes on that front, so don't hold your breath waiting.

We did a new On the Air with Powers Squared on Friday talking about life outside the comic book. I made a point of mentioning this blog, so if anyone has followed up on that, welcome! Leave a comment.

We received new pages from our artist this week, inks to be exact. We still have four to review and will do that before the day is over, even if this might go out before that.

As far as future content is concerned, Paul and I had a Google Hangout with the co-founder of Artithmeric this morning (evening his time), Andrew Copeland. He runs a couple of ad agencies, a CBD consulting firm and Artithmeric. Next time I feel like I'm busy I'll try to remember all that he has on his plate. That video should be coming out next Sunday on our YouTube channel.

We also got back the audio for a couple of new Character profiles that will be going up later in July along with other Google Hangouts we did with our artist and colorist. You might want to subscribe and ring the bell to be sure to be notified when they go up.

I'm working on a new review for Trophy Unlocked, The Clay Pigeon, another from our Drain the DVR Saturday nights. I should have it done shortly but couldn't get it done before I did this. I did have a new post on the blog, Heat Lightning (1934), the last of my June Pre-Code Hollywood posts. Before that, on Wednesday, was another Transformers Game review from Trevor, Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark.

Well, I think that covers the bases for now. Keep writing and I'll see you next week.