Sunday, July 30, 2017

A Week in Writing #153

The week after Comic-Con is always a little odd. Let's face it, reality sort of sucks after immersion into such a fantastical (and exhausting) circumstance. But there is also an excitement about getting back to the work of writing armed with some of the teachings I learned from panels run by Maxwell Alexander Drake. I did manage to edit about 40 pages and over 7000 words between other projects. One of the things I learned in his panel about Point of View was showing more rather than telling; something I've tried not to do, but going back and editing with "fresh" eyes made me do a lot of rewriting. I know, I'm already re-editing it, but as Bullwinkle would always say, "This time for sure."

Also excited about getting back to Powers Squared, but things are not quite moving as fast as I would have hoped. The artist we talked to at Comic-Con, who told us to contact him through his website, hasn't returned my email yet. I waited a couple of days to let him recover as well, but I kind of hoped there would be a more immediate response. The cover would be one of the last things we need to get the issue squared away, so I'm a little disappointed that there hasn't been a response, but my anxiety doesn't necessarily translate to him. I'll follow up in a week or so while trying to put the other final touches on the issue, but if it's radio silence we may have to go to a plan B.

Don't know how well things are going sales wise with Powers Squared Issues # 1 and 2, now that they're available for purchase. If anyone has read them, would love to hear your comments, either here or on the website.

Our colorist is now idle, she finished the pages she had and made some corrections for us, but we're now, once again, waiting on our artist. Typically, things started out pretty quickly as he sent us layouts for three pages right away and sent us the fourth page soon after. Then this past week, we got pencils for a couple of the pages, but then the faucet stopped and once again we're coming up on two weeks and no completed pages. Long term, this is not sustainable.

Managed to complete the review for Kingsman: The Secret Service, which was posted as our weekly Saturday Morning Review. Also wrote a review for Dunkirk, the new Christopher Nolan movie and posted that on Sunday morning. While neither has really broken any page view records, Trophy Unlocked's page views are up to over 50,000 for the past month. It's hard not to take a little pride in that. I give a lot of credit to my sons Paul and Trevor; Paul started the blog and he and Trevor did most of the writing in the beginning. Without them, there would be no blog.

So a pretty full week as far as writing goes. Never feel like I get as much done as I want to, but that's part of the balancing act between writing and real life. Had an anniversary this weekend and a Metallica concert on the plus-side, but also had car trouble and a busted pipe to contend with as well. It's as if life works with you sometimes and works against you at others.

But I'll keep writing.

Monday, July 24, 2017

A Week in Writing #152 - Report From the Front - Comic-Con 2017

Back from San Diego and ready to report. I'm taking a recovery day to sort out things from the trip and to get caught up with some other things in my life, like paying bills, reviewing pages sent while we were away and doing this post. I sort of feel like I missed my deadline, but I did write last week that this might happen. Not quite as impressive as Nostradamus, but perhaps less ambiguous with the prediction.

Let's get the rest of the week out of the way since there isn't much to talk about from Monday and Tuesday as everything was about Comic-Con prep. I did manage to get a Saturday movie review ready and schedule it to post without me pulling the trigger so to speak; He Ran All The Way (1951)Very pleased to see it got 20 page views without any prompting.

As mentioned before, pages as in layouts for the last four pages of Issue #4 and colors for pages 13 through 16 came in while we were gone. My apologies to both artists, but we never got out our laptops while we were down there. Reviewing them on our phones didn't seem right either so those are two things that will be addressed today.

Wednesday did mark the release of Powers Squared #2 on comiXology, which is one reason we met with the head of content on Thursday, but more on that later.

Now on to the main point of this post, San Diego Comic-Con, which started on Wednesday. I'm going to break it down to the Good, the Bad and the Meh.

We've been going now for 11 out of the past 12 years and over that time, SDCC has gone for us from being an overwhelming spectacle to an overwhelming spectacle with exclusives to an overwhelming spectacle with exclusives and panels to an overwhelming spectacle with exclusives and panels that help with craft, whether it be writing in the case of Paul and myself or art for Trevor. More about the panels later, but our attitude about attending has changed over the years is really what I want to say.

The Good

Things started out pretty well on Thursday, Day One. Over the last few years at various cons, Bot-, Wonder- and Comic-, we've run into the same editor from one of the major publishers not named Marvel or DC. (Note: I try not to name names in this blog.) He's always been or at least acted happy to see us, and after a few years, we actually introduced ourselves formally. We've never brokered that we were working on a comic-book, but now that it's published, wanted to share. Now I came prepared with a thumb drive with the two issues on it and I was also prepared for him to politely reject our offer. But instead, he seemed very interested and enthusiastic about it. When you get that reception from someone that you respect it sort of makes your day.

Later that morning, we had our meeting with our publisher in the comiXology booth. To say it was short would not be an exaggeration. Our contact wasn't even aware the books had been published, telling us we should have let him know, which seemed a little odd. The point was we had never got the support we had been expecting since our meeting at Wonder-Con in the spring. To make a short meeting even shorter, he promised to make the big push for us with the third issue and told us not to submit it until we had a meeting with him first to discuss the marketing. That sounds promising, as he said, you only get one bite at the apple unless it catches on.

All the panels we attended this year were of the How-To variety. That wasn't necessarily the intent, but that is how it worked out. Our meeting at comiXology meant there were several we couldn't attend, like How-To: Dynamic Story Creation in Plain English; or How To Get News Coverage and there were others that we could have attended, but didn't for whatever reason, but I did attend five in all: Comics PR and Marketing 101; How-To: Point of View, What's the Point?; Taking Comics from Web to Print; How-To: Show Your Story, Don't Tell It; and How-To: Making Magic Believable. Three of those panels/classes were led by Maxwell Alexander Drake, a fantasy writer who really knows his craft. I found those classes very useful and I think that I'll be using what I learned in my own writing. It wasn't my intention to be taking so many classes from Drake, in fact, I hadn't planned on taking the last one or even was aware he was the moderator, but I'm glad I did.

The least informative panel for me was Taking Comics from Web to Print, mostly because I had different expectations for it. I was hoping to see a way to bring Powers Squared to print, but instead it focused on two artists, both of which seemed to be more on the fringes and no pathway was really discussed, though I did see the cold reality that one of the two, even though she was on a panel as an expert, doesn't make a living from her work. This is a situation much more common than you might imagine.

One of my goals for SDCC was to speak to an artist we like to see if they might do a cover for Powers Squared. We have a cover for Issue #3, but not one that seems quite right. If we're getting our big push with Issue #3, I want to be as big as we can get it. We know this artist through his teaching Trevor in one of his post-graduate seminars and have met him at a small showing at a Burbank comic shop and at Wonder-Con. In the meantime, his fame seems to have blossomed. While at WonderCon we could walk up to him; at Comic-Con there was a long line ala Katie Cook of people waiting to meet and buy from him. We put off trying to talk to him until Sunday morning and while there was another long line, he did come back through it and we were able to at least tell him we were interested in doing a commission with him. No details. I will follow up later this week with an email as he suggested.

The Bad

Comic-Con is an overcrowded mess with people scurrying around, some more willy-nilly than others. At about ten minutes before our meeting, Paul and I were about half a floor away and had to hurry to make it. On the way, some woman moving diagonally across the flow of traffic stepped squarely on the ball of my foot as she hurried to whatever exhibit she had to get to. I write that as an example of the sort of things that go on.

With time of the essence, I had to navigate through a crowd mostly going in the opposite direction and had to maneuver through openings that might have been a tad too small. I wasn't running, mind you, as that is not allowed, but sometimes you can't help but run into people, even when you're not in a hurry, it is the nature of the beast.

I've been raised to say "You're welcome" when I hear the words "Thank You." It's an instinct, really. As we were maneuvering through the crowd, I heard someone say "Thank You" and I said the appropriate response. I must admit, I don't know who was saying it or why, but it just came out. I took a few steps before I felt the backpack on my back being forcibly tugged backward.

I first thought it was my son, who was trailing me, trying to catch up, but instead, it was a larger and angry man. "What did you say?" he asked. "You're welcome," I replied. He proceeded to tell me that I should have said "Sorry" and then made some vague threat to knock all of my teeth out before storming away. I honestly don't remember what the guy looked like only that he was bigger and younger than I was. I'm not small mind you and I wasn't really afraid of him, I had other things to worry about, but his reaction seemed a little over the top.

I didn't actually see what if anything I had done, I was focusing on trying to get where I had to get. I do know I didn't squash a baby or knock anyone down, I wasn't really bullying my way through. More than likely my backpack had hit him as we passed, I've been told it was something sticking out the top that hit him in the chest, a rather common occurrence in these crowds. It has happened to me many times and it is one of the "risks" you take. Trust me, he wasn't any worse for wear and never said exactly what I had done to him.

So "You're Welcome" was the wrong word choice, I'm not sure what I could have said that would have been the right choice. Even saying nothing would have been wrong. I'm sure even if I had said "Sorry" that would not have been enough. Since this was less than two hours into Day One of the Con, this didn't bode well for how he would react when the next guy or gal got in his way. You have to let things like this roll off your back. You're not at Comic-Con to teach people manners, especially with your fists.

The Meh

There are many attractions around the Con which are also available to non-ticket holders as well. This year was no exception with a Laika Experience pop-up store, an Interactive Zone and Adult Swim On the Green as examples. We tried to attend all three, but those experiences were disappointing.

The Laika Experience had a line longer than the store could handle. We're not the type to want to spend an hour or more in line and that would have been the case either of the two times we walked there. It bodes well for the popularity of Laika, but it proved to be a disappointment for us.

Also a disappointment was the Interactive Zone, which we went to twice. One of the big draws was supposed to be free food, but Wikia’s Fandom food truck with Pepsi was shut down as a threat to public health and the Blizzard attraction Lich King's Ice Cream Citadel was giving out a scoop of something for those who braved the long wait to get in.

When is a VIP pass not a VIP pass; when everyone takes advantage of the offer, as was the case with Adult Swim's On The Green carnival. We had passes that were supposed to get us in ahead of the crowd, but so did hundreds, if not thousands of other people on the day we went down there. We were killing time before a panel to start and we would have spent most if not all of that time in line to get in.

All were disappointing in their own way for us, though they were all popular attractions.


I will admit to being sad as we left Comic-Con. After all the planning, like Christmas, it is all over way too soon. I think we all had a lot of fun and are looking forward to next year. But for now, it's back to reality.

Until next week, keep writing.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

A Week in Writing #151

Well as promised, this was a week for getting ready for San Diego Comic-Con. This for better or worse is our annual family vacation. We've been attending for 11 of the past 12 years. It's only been the last six or so that we've been going with any connection to Powers Squared. And for the first time, we're going in with a published work to our credit.

After several years in the making, the first issue of Powers Squared was published on comiXology this past Wednesday. To be honest, it was a little anti-climatic. A published work is something I've been after for most of my adult life and when it finally happened, I wasn't really sure how I felt. Not that I was expecting it, but my life really didn't change. I had no expectations that I was going to be carried about on someone's shoulders in celebration, but there was very little actual feedback from most people if they acknowledged this milestone in my life at all.

That is not to say everyone reacted that way. There were a few who did the sort of things you'd hope they'd do, like post something on their Facebook about it, or at least like my post about the publication. For those people, I am very grateful. Their continued support means a lot.

Now that Issue #1 has been published, the marketing of it can begin in earnest. We have a meeting at Comic-Con with comiXology to discuss. I'm really not sure what I should do and what, if anything, they will be doing. I've got a lot more riding on this than they do, so I'm willing to carry my own water, I just need guidance on where I'm supposed to be carrying it.

I also found out this past week that Issue #2 is being published on Wednesday the 19th, only a week after Issue #1, so expect to see Facebook and Twitter posts from me on that as we get closer.

The work of the comic book continued throughout the week. We finally got three of the four pages from our artist that we've been expecting. The whole process stops when there are no new pages.
Our colorist, who has been otherwise idle, did a cover for us, but it wasn't until Sunday night that we had more pages to send her.

I know this sounds like a broken record, but I wasn't able to work on Familiar Stranger this week, but I really didn't expect to. Still, I'm a little disappointed about letting it sit for so long.

I did publish a new review, One Mysterious Night, on Saturday and prepped another, He Ran All the Way, for the Saturday we'll be gone. I also started work on a new one for Kingsman: The Secret Service, which I'd love to finish before we leave, but don't hold me to that. Trophy Unlocked is actually doing very well as far as page views go. We're up to about 41,000+ for the past month. I get a certain satisfaction to see those numbers. It makes me feel that someone out there appreciates what we've been doing.

Just as a note, my weekly blog may be delayed next week, depending on when we get home.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

A Week in Writing #150

Okay, this is a week in writing that never really happened. As I've written in last week's blog post, the death of my step-father and his burial this past week were the main event. Even though I don't like the idea of taking a break from writing, sometimes events outweigh things. My family and I spent the better part of the past week in Dallas and while I had my computer, it never seemed like the right time to try to write.

I did learn a lot about him at the memorial service, with one of the speakers pointing out that he made a living writing, which is a really cool thing to realize. It's also a fact I'm a little jealous of since this has been my goal all along.

That is not to say that nothing happened. Powers Squared seems to move forward even if I'm not mentally locked into it at the time. Our artist managed to send pencils of the same pages he had done layouts for last week. While that sounds like progress, we should have four inked pages, if not eight, by now. I honestly never know what the hold up is with him. Our colorist, as I predicted, did catch him when she submitted the last pages she had to do.

But the big news for us was that comiXology informed us that Powers Squared Issue #1 will be published on July 12, 2017. There will be posts on Twitter and Facebook on that day. Your patronage will be appreciated.

To wrap up the week, we did still publish a Saturday Morning Review on Trophy Unlocked: Journey Into Fear (1943). I know my step-father, who was a newspaperman all his life, would approve of publishing a review even the week of his funeral.

Next week doesn't frankly hold much promise either. We're T-minus 10 days and counting before Comic-Con, so we're going to be spending some time figuring out that convention and prepping a review for the Saturday review. Not sure what other writing I'll be able to get to. I know that sounds like I'm throwing in the towel, but I'm just trying to be realistic.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

A Week in Writing #149

If last week was derailed, this week the entire train came off the track. My step-father, who had helped raise me since I was five, died this past Tuesday after a rather long illness. Easy to say that dominated most of the week as we had to plan for going back to Dallas for the funeral. That is not to say that nothing else happened, but that it definitely put a pall over most of the week. He was a great man and a great father-figure to me. He is irreplaceable in my heart.

There is a line in the Twenty One Pilots song Heavydirtysoul which I think sums up how I sometimes feel about writing and trying to be creative: Death inspires me like a dog inspires a rabbit.  There is no time to waste in this life and to that end, even though there has been a tragedy in my life, I still feel that I have to keep trying, though in a more limited way.

While I didn't really do much rewriting on Familiar Stranger, there was still some progress on Powers Squared; the artist did send four pages of layouts. No pencils yet, but I guess he thinks we gave him an out when we said we were going out of town for a week. Our colorist sent us pages 5 through 8 on issue number four on Sunday and she's about to catch the artist if he doesn't turn up the volume.

We did have a review session on Issue #3 with the letterer, going over some possible revisions. But since he's on the same trip, I'm not sure how much progress there will be on that this coming week.

Last word on Powers Squared, we tentatively have a meeting with ComiXology on Comic-Con Thursday. I say tentative since he suggested the meeting and the time, but didn't reply affirmative to our acceptance when we tried to confirm where we would meet. I keep telling myself he's a busy guy.

While I didn't send any new queries, something I was actually hoping to do this holiday, I did receive a rejection; from a query I sent over two years ago. I had to admit it was truly out of the blue. Nicely worded, quasi-personalized but a form-rejection nevertheless. Once again, not enough to go on to launch a complete rewrite of Past Present, sort of a vague I'm not connecting with the character enough. I'll have to put that on my back burner to take a look at some day.

In anticipation of being out of town, I posted two reviews and published one of them, The Bride Came C.O.D. (1941). The other, Journey Into Fear, will publish next Saturday, though we should be back in LA by then, but I wanted to be prepared just in case.

So next week will be slow, but hopefully we'll get back on track just in time to get off it again with Comic-Con just around the corner to disrupt things again.