Friday, October 29, 2010

All Hallow's Read

Writer Neil Gaiman is trying to start a new tradition that I really want to get behind: All Hallow's Read. The idea is a simple one, on Halloween, or during the week of Halloween, give someone a scary book. That's it. Any chance to give and receive books is okay by me. Here's a link to the All Hallow's Read FAQ.

This reminds me of some conversations I've had with my Gear School partner, Nuria Peris. Apparently in Barcelona, their version of Valentine's day, The Day of Saint George, is observed by men giving women flowers and women giving men books. As soon as I heard that, I started looking into how to move to Spain.

For a number of reasons, I'd love to see this tradition catch on. Chief among them is my love of books. And I have a vested interest in passing that love onto others. For instance, my son, and other future readers.

Okay, who has some good scary book recommendations?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Today I sent off my second packet of stories that will be workshopped at the Stonecoast residency in January. Stonecoast being the MFA in creative writing program I am attending. I am completing? Which has taken over my life? One of those is the correct usage, I'm not sure which.

This time around, I submitted a short prose story and a script for a short film. Both of them feature the same protagonist. That means something, but what exactly scares me. I'm three-quarters of the way through the novel I'm writing (give or take) and some part of my brain keeps telling me that this character will be the main character of the next one that I write. I keep telling my brain to shut up and let me finish the book in front of me, but it doesn't listen.

Anyway, I'm surprised by how much more confident I feel about my writing after just a few months in the program. Whether or not that confidence is earned I can't say. But I know that six months ago when I submitted my first ;packet for workshop, I was a nervous wreck. I convinced myself that I was deluded if I thought my pieces, the first two chapters from my novel, were up to snuff. I don't have any of those fears now. Not that I'm convinced I'm the second coming of Ernest Hemingway or anything. I just think I've written solid stories that will become better once they've been workshopped. Feeling confident about my writing is a new feeling for me. It's one I could get used to.

Another reason for me to be excited this residency is that I get to workshop with two amazing writers, Mike Kimball and James Patrick Kelly. Mike is my advisor/mentor this semester so I know that his comments will be thorough (I restrained myself from typing "brutal") and helpful in the extreme. I've never worked with or met James, but I've read some of his short fiction, which I liked, and I know he teaches at Clarion, so I'm expecting great things.

Reading over this, I realize I should probably write more about both the MFA program and about the novel. I won't do that tonight, but I will soon. Can you stand the suspense?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

What sort of day was it?

It was the sort of day where only one thing will make me feel better: looking at photos of female cosplayers!*

You are welcome.

If memory serves, the contents of this site are safe for work.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

For your edification

I found two very cool things on Warren Ellis's blog today. If you are at all interested in media, whether it be print, television, film or comics (which, yes, I know are printed), then you should be checking in on this blog. Ellis has an interesting take on things and the items he chooses to post are always thought-provoking. Cases in point:

Here is part one of an essay on the occult written by comics writer Alan Moore. Mr Moore, in addition to being one of the finest writers to have ever worked in comics, is a practicing magician. His insights into the subject are required reading for anyone with an interest in magic.

And here is a thread from Ellis's message board, White Chapel. I'd suggest you read the thing in it's entirety, but for those in a hurry, here's a summary: comics artist Steve Lieber found out that the entire run of one of his miniseries had been scanned and put up on 4chan's comics channel. Rather than demand that it be taken down, Lieber went on 4chan and talked with interacted with them, answered their questions and generally played nicer than I think I would have. The upshot? A big surge in sales of his books through his Etsy page. This is very interesting to me because of my new interest in publishing to the web.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Gear School + FaceBook

The folks at Bamf! have created a presence for the Gear School short film on FaceBook. It's in Spanish, but for those of you who went to public school and can only read one language (like me!) there is some non-language-specific content up there including a peek behind the scenes at the making of the film and some production photos. It's all pretty neat. If you're on the FaceBook, which I hear is popular with the kids, then you should "like" it.

That is all.

Sunday, October 17, 2010


Inspiration is strange and, to me at least, unfathomable.

I had the morning to write and I wanted to work on a piece for my next MFA residency. I knew that I wanted to write a short about a character I've been thinking about a lot lately (I almost wrote "a character that's been plaguing me lately" since that's what it feels like. I just can't get the guy out of my head). But knowing that, I had no idea what I wanted the story to be about. This seems to happen to me all the time and it's a major source of frustration.

One of the main influences for this character is Lawrence Block's "Scudder" books, which feature his private detective, Matthew Scudder. I decided to read a few Scudder short stories for inspiration. After I got to spent half an hour with a character I really like, I sat down and tried to map out a story for my own character.

About twenty minutes of staring at my fellow coffee shop patrons ensued before I actually got to writing. Starting with a blank page, I wrote down the first image in my head and just kept going. In bullet list style, I wrote out the broad action of the thing and some minor scraps of dialog. Then I moved on to flesh it out with an outline. (Yes, I outlined a short story. Why are you looking at me like that?)

When I was done, I had something that didn't look at all like a Scudder story, but I know, somehow, that the story I'd produced came about because I'd been thinking about Block's character and because I'd read those short stories before I began. I wish that my own creative process was a bit more transparent to me. I feel like my brain is a delicate engine, for which I never received an owner's manual. And I have to do everything I can to keep the damn thing working. I never know what will get the engine started, and I never know what will make it go completely haywire. It's very frustrating, my brain.

Regardless, I'm looking forward to now writing this story. And having it savaged in workshop...

The image, by the way, comes from Doug Savage's collection of sticky note cartoons.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Salem drama

Cast of Characters:
Lady (who will later become Crazy Lady)

Scene: The streets of downtown Salem

O and I walk down the street. I see an unassuming Lady standing on the corner. My assessment of her as unassuming is shaken when she starts to yell at someone across the street. O and I continue on our way with me keeping an eye on the Crazy Lady. She sees me looking at her and she turns to face us.

Crazy Lady (at the top of her lungs): And he has a child to protect him! As long as he has a child to shield him, he can do anything he wants and not take any responsibility, RIGHT?

O (cheerful): No-oh!

Crazy Lady looks confused and goes on her way.

And scene.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


The Moth Radio Hour, which features people telling true stories in front of an audience without any notes, has a podcast component. I ran across this story by Steve Burns. Burns used to be the host of Blue's Clues. For reasons I don't want to go into right now (I was a sad loser...) I used to watch this show a lot despite the fact that I was not eight-years-old at the time that it aired. Anyway, here Burns tells a story about parlaying his small bit of fame into dating a Playboy model/stripper. It's funny and poignant, like a lot of the best stories featured on the Moth.

Here's a link to where you can listen to the story.

Monday, October 11, 2010

My Playlist for the Melissa

Done just because.

We Used to Wait by Arcade Fire

Sometimes pop songs, despite their ephemeral nature, can really speak to me. This song, a love letter to writing letters to your love, grabbed both me and Melissa the first time we listened to it. Maybe it's just our generation's tendency to navel gaze, but lines like:

"So I never wrote a letter

I never took my true heart I never wrote it down

So when the lights cut out

I was left standing in the wilderness downtown"


"It seems strange to think

How we used to wait for letters to arrive

But what's stranger still

Is how something so small can keep you alive"

seem designed to invoke emotions in us that we forgot existed. Especially since we both used to be big time letter-writers.

Dance Me to the End of Love by Leonard Cohen

The first song that Melissa and I danced to at our wedding. A love song from Mr Cohen that is without irony or cynicism seems pretty specially.

Move the Earth by Dr Theopolis

Melissa knows why.

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Sunday, October 10, 2010

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Gear School news

I have just been informed that the short film based on my comic, Gear School, has been chosen to be screened at the Sitges International Film Festival. Wikipedia tells me that Sitges is "considered the world's foremost international film festival specializing in fantasy and horror movies". Sounds good. And it looks like the festival is underway even as I type this. Congratulations to everyone at Bamf! Productions who produced the film. I hope to hear a full report on the doings over there in Spain.

And you can go here to see the trailer for the short film.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Untergangsstimmung (UPDATED)

Found on Heidi MacDonald's twitter feed.

Bad news for those looking to be published in the world of comics. I'm looking online, trying to find the white paper referenced in this tweet. No luck so far. So I'm not sure if the report references single-issue comics and trade paperbacks, or just single-issues. Either way it's bad.

Let's look at the best-case scenarios, that the report is only talking about single-issues: I know thyat publishers use those floppies as loss-leaders for the trade paperback collections into which they will eventually be collected. If those monthly comics are no longer absorbing the cost of production and creative expenses, then it's going to be harder and harder to justify the cost of projects in the first place. Does that make sense?

I think this bolsters my argument that the way to go with regards to distributing comics is online. Put your comics up on the web, do it consistently, build a readership and show publishers that you have a built-in audience for a printed book. Or self-publish. Or create an electronic reader-friendly version of your material. (In that same series of tweets, Heidi MacDonald says that digital comics will make an estimated 6-8 million dollars this year.)

And all of this pertains to traditional comics publishing, ie, Marvel, DC and Dark Horse, etc. I have no clue how mainstream publishers handle things.

I still want to find that white paper. If anyone out there has an idea where it is, please let me know.

UPDATE: ICv2 gives us the lowdown on this (link via Publisher's Weekly). Apparently it sales of trade paperbacks (or, as they call them, graphic novels) that are down 20%. Sales of single-issue comics are up slightly. This is really bad news. For publishers. Trades are where publishers make their money and if they can't sell those... well, in the biz, we call that "shitty."

However, the article does note that digital sales will increase, etc. So, claim those domain names, kids, and learn how to push those pixels. Things are changing. Are you going to keep up?

Slowing down...

Mid-semester in the MFA and I'm starting to feel a little adrift. It doesn't help me to know that others are feeling the same way. In the first two months and change, I wrote between 70 and 80 thousand words (I could do the math, but, quite frankly, lack the energy). Now I'm having a hard time getting back into the book. I know that if I applied myself, hit it at the same pace I did the first two-thirds, I could be done with the first draft in something like a month. Or less. I've been told by a classmate that it's okay to slow down after writing so much so quickly, but I'm having a hard time coming to grips with it personally.

Maybe after this week, which is devoted to revising a short story, I'll be back in the mood to write again.

Also, I'm writing this for myself. Sorry if I've just bored you to tears. If you made it this far into the post, I guess you deserve a treat. Here, look at this:

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

I wish someone had told me this a long time ago...

Uncle Ira Glass reveals the ugly truth. If you are engaged in any kind of creative endeavor, then you will spend a lot of your time making shit. And you have to go through that shitty phase before you get to the point where you are creating good stuff. Stuff of which you can be proud. Ira will tell you the long version. This is worth listening to:

Saturday, October 2, 2010

How Ink is Made

This is a gorgeous little promo film produced by The Printing Ink Company. Their president and Chief Ink Maker, Peter Welfare, walks us through the steps required to produce printing ink.

This is basically porn for people interested in printing. You are welcome.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Writing by the numbers: September '10

For those who are interested, by which I mean "me", here's how I did with my writing last month:

I wrote 31,000 words and change. That translates to roughly 124 pages. I wrote two short stories of approximately 8,600 and 4,900 words respectively. So that means the remainder, 17,500 or so, were devoted to the book I'm writing.

About that book: I think I'm going to start calling it a novel as I reached 60,000 words on it and that qualifies it as a short novel. I would guess I have another 30,000 words to go before I have a completed first draft. But that's just a guess. I really have no idea how large it will bloat up to be by the time I'm done.

In addition to all of that, I also wrote a ten-page sample script that an artist friend and I hope to use as part of a book proposal.

All in all, I'm very happy with my progress as it was all done as I took care of my son, maintained my marriage and worked a part-time job. If you need me, I'll be over there patting myself on the back. On the back, I said.