Sunday, July 29, 2018

A Week in Writing #205

Well, as sort of predicted, this was a low energy low creativity week for me. I really don't know why but the week post SDCC is always hard. I've read other writers, who attended, complain about the same thing so I guess I'm in good company.

Sadly, did very little writing this week, finally towards the end picking up the script to a future Powers Squared issue. It occurred to me, sort of out of the blue, that no one is ever held accountable for some people dying in the story arc and that just didn't seem right for a superhero story. When I went back in to fix that, I started rereading and rewriting from the start. I'm sure what I do isn't unique but when I read something I've written I try to read it not so much as it is on the page, but as how it should sound. That leads to other changes and I'm still going through that process.

One of the things I was looking at, was trying to improve my panel descriptions, because of the panel I took last week. I'm trying to do some work on them but when we talked this week to our artist Rachel Wells, she indicated that she likes the descriptions to be somewhat vague because it gives her more leeway. So I guess I'm trying to find a balance since I find I'm using "Continuation of Action" too much.

While we want to continue to have an active YouTube presence, we still want to do a similar video with our colorist, Nina Gaillard, Paul wants to do something different from them all being interviews. It's a good idea, it's just how to do that we're discussing. Perhaps some sort of trailer for the comic book. Stay tuned.

On the creative-side, Nina delivered the last four pages of Issue #7 as well as the cover. Those were forwarded to Trevor for lettering. Rachel delivered inks for the first eight pages of Issue #8, gulp, so that's moving forward as well. Really appreciate all of their hard work on the book.

No new reviews from me this week. Trophy Unlocked's Saturday Morning Review went to Trevor's re-review of M. Night Shyamalan's The Last Airbender. It's a good thing to have multiple reviewers sharing the responsibilities.

Still, no word from my editor on Familiar Stranger and I've been derelict lately on re-reading the ending of Paperback Detective. I have been playing with an idea for a new J.D. Barrister story, though I think there are older ones that still need work. I don't know yet where I'm going but I will, of course, update you here.

On the subject of writing, I had lunch on Friday with a couple of women who used to work for me at Sony Pictures. It was something that was long overdue and I'm glad we were able to reconnect. One of them, like me, is a writer, though she writes in a different genre, YA. We briefly touched on the unpleasant side of writing, the query process. Like me, she doesn't want to self-publish so we have to go the traditional route and get an agent who will represent us to a publisher. It is a very tricky and, more times than not, unfulfilling activity. Everyone has their own war stories, so to speak, and it was nice to commiserate a little bit about that with another writer.

Whenever Familiar Stranger gets worked out, I'll be going through that process myself. I view it as a necessary evil thing you have to go through if you want to make it. And we all want to make it.

Well, I'm hoping to get back on track this next week. Until then, keep writing.

Monday, July 23, 2018

A Week in Writing #204 - Report From the Front SDCC 2018

Well, the big push this week and the subject of most of this Report From the Front is San Diego Comic Con 2018.

The report is about my experience at Comic-Con and not a wrap up of the celebrity sightings or the parties. I'm not a big photographer of Cosplayers, either. Even though there may be some really interesting and provocative characters running around on the floor, I'm too consistently worried about my phone battery running down to spend too much time documenting.

I did personally see a couple of strange sights that I can relate. Both Funimation and Viz had problems in their booths, though I think Funimation's was caused by over-anxious fans and Viz brought it on themselves. For Funimation. it was the Funko exclusives for Dragon Ball Z that they were selling. Apparently, there were three incidents on Preview night, before I got to the floor, that caused them to be shut down for a couple of days. In one, a man and his child were knocked to the ground.

On Saturday morning, Viz had My Hero Academia's creator, Kohei Horikoshi, in for a signing. However, the booth didn't handle the ticket distribution very well. You had to show up first thing on Saturday to get one for that day's signing. However, they refused to tell anyone where this distribution was going to happen so by 9:30, the allotted time, there were hundreds of people in the booth and spilling out onto the floor, blocking one of the walkways.

In order to disperse the crowd, a Viz spokesperson said that the San Diego Fire Marshall was threatening to shut down Comic-Con if they didn't leave the booth. Not sure how true that was, but it could easily have been a PR nightmare for Viz. I don't think anyone would want to be known as the company that closed down the Con.

I'm always tired at Comic-Con and it started the first day we were here, even before the day started. The night before as I was trying to add some spreadsheets to my new Chromebook, which I was taking with me, the damned thing kicked me out and wanted me to log in using a Gmail account Google forced me to set up in order to shoot the Google Hangout video with Rachel last week. Very aggravating when your devices try to take over. Thanks to Paul, I think we've put them down for the time being.

For the first time ever, and we've attended 12 out of the last 13 years, all of us didn't get badges for all of the same days. While my sons and I got all four days and preview night, my wife only got Sunday. We were able to share badges and get her down on the floor every day, but it was not the same with just the three of us doing it.

Comic-Con never fails to both amaze and disappoint. Everything is either free or at or above MSRP if you're buying anything from one of the booths. There is always too much to do and decisions have to be made all the time between fun things to do and programs or panels that will educate you.

Something to keep in mind if you ever get to do a signing: look up and engage the reader/fan. I got my Beatles fix by buying the graphic novel someone made from their film Yellow Submarine, which I went back to the booth to get signed the next day. These guys just signed the book and passed it to the next person. No eye contact, no conversation, no "Thank you for buying my book", no recognition that I'm another human being. Bad form. I don't think I would ever go out of my way to buy another book from these writers/artists. The ones who engage you make you want to come back again and again. There are several artists who seem to genuinely remember my sons from past cons and ones who even remember me. Those are the type of people you want to continue to support.

While walking on the floor, recognized Ivan Salazar from photographs Chip Mosher has posted from time to time. Ivan was part of the PR push for Powers Squared Issues 3-5, so we stopped by to say thank you and introduce ourselves. Turns out he was talking with Pamela Mullin Horvath who was handling the heavy PR lifting and who's 4th of July vacation I sort of interrupted, so we got to thank her in person as well. I would have taken David Sedaris's advice, that I heard during one of his shows, to write a letter to everyone involved but some of these companies do all they can to mask a physical address on the internet so the next best thing, at least I hope so, is to thank them in person.

Favorite things heard in passing on the floor "There are only comics down that way..." "Aquaman is not that great..." and a teenage boy talking to another teenage boy, "When I grow up I want to get one costume..."

Oh, and for anyone tracking miles, per my Fitbit, I walked 6.06 miles on Wednesday, 6.18 miles on Thursday, 9.92 miles on Friday, 5.98 miles on Saturday and 6.4 miles on Sunday, most steps taken at what I like to think is a chain gang shuffle through the floor at the San Diego Convention Center.

Now to the panels and the free advice I'm passing on.

On the first night of the show, attended Comics PR and Marketing 101, led for apparently the 9th or 10th year by Chip Mosher from comiXology. I think I've been to the last four or so. Every year there are different panelists and different advice. This year all panelists were creators attached to the new ComiXology Originals initiative.

Got some good advice that I will pass on here:

1) Handle your social media professionally. Don't get political or use as a personal vendetta. Keep shit talk to a minimum. Stick to your work.

2) Look into local avenues for promotion: newspapers, etc., so we'll see if we can interest anyone from the Times or the Daily News in our story. It's things like that that will make my mother, an old-school PR person, happy to hear.

3) Don't expect people to find you. Even if you're good, you have to keep telling people what you've done.

4) Be shameless

5) Do PR for yourself as creator. You're your own brand.

6) Find out what makes your book different and market to that.

7) Pays to advertise. As an example, on Facebook. But remember not to spend what you can't afford.

8) Look for people who are writing about comic books and ask them if you can add them to your press list.

9) Ask people to retweet/like/share.

10) Their advice was to build a fanbase before going out on Kickstarter. (Contradictory advice will come in a later panel).

11) If you want to use Kickstarter, be active on Kickstarter before. Support other projects.

On Friday, I attended How to Create, Market, & Crowdfund Indy Comics. This was presented by Brian Pulido, who successfully funded I believe 17 Kickstarters for over $1.3 million. It may also help that Brian was a creator in comics for over two decades and has a bit of a built-in fanbase that others might not. However, his advice is worth listening to as well:

1) Study what Kickstarter has to offer in their "Creator Handbook." Learn the language of crowdfunding.

2) When people back your project, remember they arrive when they arrive. Be sure to welcome them no matter when they do. This may involve telling them your story from the beginning, but you have to be willing to do that.

3) He suggested having a person dedicated to answering questions when you're doing a Kickstarter. I know easier said than done, but he repeatedly stressed the need to provide good customer service, which includes answering questions quickly.

4) Be completely authentic throughout. Be honest and aspirational.

5) You must have a video for a Kickstarter and it must be good.

6) You can use Kickstarter without an established fan base. Relate yourself as a content creator.

7) Make a budget and make a budget for stretch goals.

8) Take postage into account. Postage can kill you if you don't account for it. Take a prototype of everything to the Post Office and find out how much it will be to ship. Add postage to your price. Buy shipping supplies wholesale.

The main take away is that advice varies from panel to panel. Not sure if you have to have a fan base to start a successful Kickstarter, but I do know that we need to grow our base. To that end, I updated the website to include a Mailing List and would appreciate it, if interested, you could sign up on the site.

The final panel I attended, on Sunday, was How to Write Better Panel Descriptions led by Andy Schmidt from With him on stage was another writer, Mike Costa, and artists Phillip Sevy and Reilly Brown.

1) Good news, it apparently doesn't matter if you write the descriptions or the dialogue first in your script. Schmidt and Costa do the opposite of each other and both have been published.

2) Panel descriptions are not really a description of what its supposed to look like, but more of what the writer wants the artist to do.

3) There should only be one action per panel. Tell the artist what the action is and move on.

4) Not every panel has action. Sometimes its more about emotional throughlines. Tell the artist what you emotionally want to accomplish in the panel. "Phillip is angry" was the example given.

5) Secondary action in the panel must be inconsequential.

6) Credited to Frank Miller: No more than five actions per page.

7) Use active voice. Describe the action as they happen. Use Present tense. Try to inspire your artist.

8) Okay to have silent panels.

9) Try to be terse in your descriptions. Get to the point.

10) Try to excite your artist.

11) Organize your panel descriptions with the most important information first and the rest in the order of importance.

12) Set up what's going on in the story. If a character is supposed to have a gun, show them having it prior to using it.

13) Establishing shots are the exceptions and may have longer descriptions.

Like all advice, some of it is common sense and you may already be doing it now. In some ways, that's the best kind of advice, do what you're doing as long as it is working.

Did have the revelation while we were there that Powers Squared does already have its own Cosplayers. Paul and Trevor are walking versions of Marty and Eli Powers. Posted this photo on Instagram as proof.

Trevor and Paul as their alternate personas, Eli and Marty.

The more I post, the more I realize I don't know about social media. I didn't hashtag the photo as Powers Squared or SDCC 2018. I'm not used to thinking of such things and sometimes in the heat of the moment forget to do what others may find natural.

Even though we were gone, work continued on the comic book. Nina, our colorist, delivered her final pages in the Dropbox and Rachel, our artist, sent pencils for Pages 5 - 8. Haven't, as of this writing, had a chance to look at either. We did manage to send Nina a copy of the script for the next story arc.

Trophy Unlocked continues to post a Saturday morning review, even when we're not around. Attack of the 50 Foot Woman seemed the most appropriate considering where we were. Hope you had a chance to look at it.

Radio silence continues with my editor on Familiar Stranger and I didn't get too far past completing the rewrite on Paperback Detective. I think the latter still needs work, but I ran out of time before leaving.

This week, I'm hoping to get my land legs and get back to things. Only don't expect too much. Always good to set expectations low on post SDCC weeks.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

A Week in Writing #203

This was sort of down week for me, energy-wise and creatively. I'm not sure if it was going back to work after nine days off but it was really tiring and I had low energy at night. That means less of everything, including a week off of Instagram, etc.

Most of the work on Powers Squared seemed to revolve around the AMAfeed we were doing. It ended this past Friday after a week. We had, if my counting is correct, 32 questions. Some of the questions weren't directed at me, which was fine and how it should be, though I had to make sure every question got answered. Hopefully, this will be something people will continue to look at and that it will drive interest in the book. You can read the Q & A here.

I opened the questions to our artist and colorist, though only Rachel wrote any answers. There were some directed towards the artists or related to their work as much as ours. I really want to see them get involved in publicizing Powers Squared, too. Up until now, the issues that have been published have been mostly the work of others but from Issue 6 on the visuals are theirs.

To that end, we did a Google Hangout with Rachel, which was almost the first time we'd ever spoke with her. That was supposed to be the plan, but we had issues with getting it going so I had to call her before, a couple of times, as a matter of fact, to try to work through it. The process is not intuitive despite what we'd been told. Rachel had to put us in her "circle", whatever that is, to get the video feed to work.

The camera is only on her throughout, I'm guessing people have tired of seeing me or the boys talking. I think I monologue too much this time and don't let Paul talk but we're working on the bugs. The most important thing was to get Rachel involved. You can see her speak here on the Powers Squared Channel on YouTube.

We really appreciate her work on the comic book and her taking the time to talk to us. I would also like to do something similar with Nina in the near future.

There was progress made on the artwork this week. Rachel did pencils for the first four pages and made some minor changes Paul and I wanted her to make. It's always exciting to see things taking shape.

Trevor made the updates to Issue #6 that Paul and I requested. Really looks good. Now we can take the issue with us to Comic-Con next week. There are a few people we can show it down there. There are also some panels I'm looking forward to taking while I'm there, including one about writing better panel descriptions, which is something I can improve on. I will be writing more about Comic-Con next week. As a reminder, the next post will take place on Monday, rather than Sunday.

As far as other writing goes, I did work on two reviews this past week and completed one for Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, which will be going up next Saturday. I think its kind of fitting for the occasion. The other one, Dumbo, still needs some finishing touches.

Big week for Trophy Unlocked and Trevor as we published three of his posts this week. On Saturday we published Trevor's review of G.I. Joe: Resolute, a telefilm compiled from short episodes of a television series. The day before, he published a Review Hub in honor of the Metal Gear video games on the anniversary of the first game's release. And the day before that, his review of Moss, a VR game.

No word yet from my editor on Familiar Stranger and I did manage to work through the ending of Paperback Detective, though it's still pencil edits. I'm hoping to finish it up before we head south.

Hope next week goes smoothly for us and for you as well.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

A Week in Writing #202

Now that the dust has settled and I can take a step back, I realize that some of the stories that were published about Powers Squared at the time contained some factual errors, mostly revolving around the colorist on issues #3-5. For some reason, the colorist on Issues 1-2, Lisa Richards, is given credit in a couple of places as the colorist on the more recent issues. This isn't information that we provided and I want to go on record here with my apologies to Paige Cambern for being overlooked in those articles. Everyone deserves credit for their own work. In the euphoria of the moment, I didn't notice this error.

Another "ugly" reality is that you don't control the press. Besides the errors above, which I assume were innocent mistakes, the reviews that we were waiting for came with comments about the lettering being cut off on a couple of issues. This was shocking to hear as we believe the review was based on .pdfs that we sent, not what was on comiXology's website. However, hearing that sort of comment might keep someone curious from buying it. comiXology did confirm that there were no issues with the comic on their site and Paul and I confirmed that there was no issue with the .pdfs. Fortunately, the PR firm contacted the publisher and he took down the comment on one review. I contacted him, in between painting a bathroom, and he took the comment off the other review. Hopefully, not too much damage was done. I really wonder what happened.

While we're still publicizing Issues 1-5, work continues on Issue #8. Spent part of Tuesday night looking over thumbnails for the first 8 pages. Our artist sends us two versions and Paul and I select some panels from one version and some panels from another, sort of like ordering on a Chinese restaurant menu. Instead of moo goo gai pan and shrimp toast, its panel 1 from the A version and panel 2 through 5 from B. Later in the week, she sent us the rough layouts based on our panel choices.

She also provided us with a final character study of our newest villain, Professor Theorem, so it's interesting to see things taking shape.

A little note about copyrights, which are a very good thing but also quite slow. Last summer, June 11, 2017, as a matter of fact, we applied for copyrights on the first two issue of Powers Squared, both script and visuals. (The script had already been copyrighted.) Well, it took until this past week to get the notices from the Copyright Office. That's a little over a year. There was an issue about the work-for-hire but that, I believe, was in the original application. Just wanted to let you know that the wheels of government can turn very slowly.
I was approached this week to do an AMAfeed about Powers Squared. Didn't want to miss out on the exposure, so I agreed to do it. Sort of threw it up on their site sort of quickly and it shows. The headline I wrote contains the word anything after AMA. They also wanted a proof photo and at the time I was painting a bathroom and hadn't shaven in a couple of days; let's just say, not a pretty picture. I used a photo I had around but when it was displayed on their site, it really looks blurry. (Tip, headlines and photos are two things you can't go back and change. I know because I tried.)

The AMA went live on Friday and so far we've had about 20 questions. If you have a question about Powers Squared, then please ask away here. It'll be open through next Friday, June 13th. We've also invited our artists to submit answers as well. I'll write more about this experience next week.

On Saturday, thanks to Paul's editing, we posted a new video of me with my sons, the first time we've all sat down together on camera. We were answering the questions given to us by FreakSugar for their interview. You can view it on our YouTube channel here. You can also read the actual  FreakSugar interview here. It was our first interview and we wanted to commemorate the occasion.

Related to the comic-book, this week the program schedule for San Diego Comic-Con was released and we went through them looking for both educational as well as entertaining panels to attend. The trip will be discussed in greater detail in the post Report from the Front, the following Monday.

Also wrote a short review for Ant-Man and the Wasp for Trophy Unlocked. Thanks to the holiday we were able to see the film on Friday morning and put up a review that evening. It's rare we get one up the day a film is released. The Saturday Morning Review was Paul's about Bayonetta 2, as last week's was about Bayonetta.

I did call my editor about Familiar Stranger. The main thing is he's still alive and well. This is not unusual to have long gaps between hearing from him. Not that I like it, but it's not unusual. He's doing me a favor and I understand that. But it was good to talk to him and get an update.

I'm still working on finishing the rewrite for Paperback Detective. I'm into the final main chapter, trying to preserve as much as I can from the original but changing the location where it takes place from a car in a downtown parking garage to the house where a murder took place. I always knew I needed to change that and I think it will work a lot better.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

A Week in Writing #201

Well as weeks go, this was a big one for us at Powers Squared. Not everything we had thought would happen did, but there was a lot that did. The week started with Adventures in Poor Taste's [EXCLUSIVE] Comixology Preview: Powers Squared #3 on Monday. This was a really nice write up about the three issues that were going to be released on Wednesday.

Then there was the actual publication on Wednesday of the next three issues of the book, a story arc we called WITH GREAT POWERS COME SOMETHING, SOMETHING, SOMETHING... on Comixology. All three issues are available for purchase, time to shill: Issue #3, Issue #4 and Issue #5.

Comixology wrote up a very nice piece about us on Tumblr NEW SERIES Debut Powers Squared, which prompted us to open our own account on Tumblr.

Thursday saw the release of our interview on THE CREATORS OF POWERS SQUARED ON FAMILIAL AUTONOMY & TEAMWORK which was our first not self-driven interview. I encourage everyone to read it.

On Friday, we published the third part of the interview of Paul and Trevor talking about their involvement with the development of Powers Squared. You can find that video on our YouTube channel. Next week, we're planning on releasing another video, our answering of FreakSugar's questions before we submitted our final answers. And after that, we're planning on doing a Google hangout with our artist, the Friday after that, so there's something to look forward to.

We're still waiting for some reviews that we were told were in the works. Not really sure what became of them. Our PR contact went radio silent on us, so I don't know if they're still going to happen or not. The contact they were using was also one I had cultivated so I may not wait for them if there is no response on Monday. I hate to make a pest of myself, but I really really hate it when people suddenly stop communicating.

We've also been approached about doing an Ask Me Anything session. Not sure if that will come to fruition but I will let you know if that comes to fruition. It sounds sort of exciting and scary at the same time.

Our Instagram following is growing, which seems to be the best reception we've had on social media. That has been a very accepting place for us to be and it allows us to also update other platforms at the same time. So it's a win-win for us.

Our colorist delivered pages 13-16 for Issue #7 this weekend, so her work on that issue should wrap up in July. Looking forward to seeing what our artist does with Issue #8 as we're now starting on the next story arc. Always trying to stay ahead of ourselves.

On to other writing, still no word from my editor on Familiar Stranger, whom I'll be calling next week to make sure he's still alive. Again, radio silence. I've been working on my other book, Paperback Detective. I'm going through the edits I made in prep for the rewrite of the ending, which sorely needs it. That's not to say its bad, but I think that it takes place at the wrong location in the story, so I'm hoping to fix that.

Worked on a review this weekend, about 2000+ words on the film Captured! (1933), a film that I had recorded from an earlier showing on TCM. That will wait for a future time. This past Saturday, we published a review of the Switch version of Bayonetta written by Paul.

So, besides calling my editor and following up on reviews I'm looking forward, trying to finish the rewrites on Paperback Detective and seeing Ant-Man and The Wasp later in the week.