Monday, December 5, 2011

Where I write

My buddy and fellow Stonecoaster, Zachary Jernigan, does an occasional feature on his blog called "Where I Write." Today he posted my contribution. It's not as glamorous as one might think. You can read it by clicking here.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Her particular flavor of hate

I hate to write about politics here on the blog... Oh, who am I kidding?

Go here to watch a video which shows Michelle Bachmann being questioned by a young lady, the leader of her school's gay student alliance. When asked about what she would do to protect the LGBT community, Bachmann answers that as Americans, we all have the same rights (which was the first time I thought the top of my head was going to come off while watching this video, but something even better was coming down the pike). The young lady presses her and asks why gays and lesbians can't marry. Bachmann's cutesie answer? "They can, but they have to abide by the same laws as everyone else." Basically, she says that gays and lesbians can marry, but only members of the opposite sex. Oh, that Michelle Backmann! What a card.

One is forced to draw one of two conclusions from this: 1) Michelle Bachmann doesn't understand that the very law which restricts marriage to different sex couples is biased and tantamount to institutionalized discrimination. If that's true, then she's an idiot. 2) That she understands this but doesn't care, in which case she's a monster. I'm going with #2.

I can't wait to see the door of history slammed on her. I think that the early primaries are going to show -- despite the yahoos on the video who clap every time she says something small-minded -- that the Republicans aren't buying her particular flavor of hate. Maybe I should say I hope that'll be the case.

This, by the way, is not the video in question:

Monday, November 14, 2011

Guest Grok: Dana Haynes

I've known Dana Haynes since he was a wee reporter, toddling up to the Oregon State Capitol to grill some politician or other. And now he's all grown up and writing thrillers! He's an excellent and passionate writer  and a hell of a nice guy. Dana was nice enough to write the first ever guest post in a (I think) monthly series of same. I'll let Dana take it from here and come back at the end to wrap up.

Adam Gallardo asked me to be today’s designated hitter for this blog, and the timing was perfect. I’m working on a lecture for the Portland chapter of Sisters in Crime and this will give me an opportunity to mull some of the thoughts I want to share with the “Sissies” (as the members call themselves). 
First, some brief background. I am, by training, a journalist. Twenty years in Oregon newspaper newsrooms, split evenly between weeklies and dailies. I am very proud of this background. 

Second, I published three mystery novels from Bantam Books and Severn House in the 1980s and early 1990s, then experienced a … shall we say, “dry spell.” A really, really dry spell. I couldn’t get any traction on anything, either novels or screenplays, for close to 15 years. Then Minotaur, the mystery and thriller arm of St. Martin’s Press, picked up my novel “Crashers.” That was published in 2010. The sequel, “Breaking Point,” hit stands this month. Minotaur has asked for two more thrillers, the first due in early 2012. 

OK, that’s me. 

So: topic. 

Here’s one of the things I’m going to tell the Sissies: When thinking about the characters in a scene, remember that “important” is not the same as “essential.”

Always ask yourself: “who should be in this scene?” And keep in mind The Embassy Rule. 

Which is this: 

During most times, the most important person in a foreign embassy is the ambassador. The ambassador is charged with speaking for his or her country, and for the head of state. The ambassador reaches out to indigenous leaders. The ambassador paves the way for the business community back home, and for tourists. The ambassador serves as a mini head-of-state for a tiny, often walled-off bit of real estate that serves as a slim slice of his or her sovereign country. 

In your novel, your protagonist is your ambassador: the most important person, and the one who is charged with carrying the message (the story). 

But if there is a suspected bomb in an embassy, or if there is a maddened mob tearing at the gate, or if the military is about to knock down the walls, then the U.S. State Department can make the decision to evacuate all non-essential personnel. 

And that usually includes the ambassador. 

The ambassador is the most important person in an embassy but, in an emergency, also is a non-essential person. It’s not his or her job to defuse the military or the mob or the bomb. A chargĂ© d’affaires might have that task, or a representative of the State Department, or a military expeditionary force, or the CIA. But not the ambassador. 

When writing your novel, there is a tendency to put your protagonist in ever scene. She is your most important person, right? But if you’ve written a scene and something seems wrong, or “fat” or somehow crowded, ask yourself: Do I need my protagonist in this scene? Could the scene move the plot forward, or serve to develop character, without her? 

If the answer is “yes,” get her out of there. 

Same for other characters. If you have a scene with five characters, ask yourself: Would it have worked with four? With three? 

If they don’t serve a person, think about nixing them. 

(This, obviously, assumes you write in the third-person and not in the first-person. If you do write first-person … well, you’re screwed, mate. We the readers cannot know anything your protagonist doesn’t know. And any scene in which she’s told about something that happened in her absence, that’s just crap writing. That’s telling-not-showing. David Mamet rightly reminds us that any time you write a scene in which Character A and Character B are talking about Character C, that’s bullshit. Rewrite it.) 

OK, that’s my thought for today. Thank you to Adam for this opportunity to test drive one of my themes for the Sisters in Crime speech. 


You should check out Dana's web site here, and then go here to look at and buy his books -- Crashers is now out in paperback and his new novel, Breaking Point is out in hard cover today!

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Lonely Spaceman tease

I've been receiving art from my collaborator on The Lonely Spaceman, Matthew Hope. I'm so happy with what I'm getting that I wanted to share some here. There's no text or titles here, I didn't want to muddy up Matthew's art with my words. And here you go:

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

My kind of prayer

This was sent my way by my mentor, the incomparable Scott Wolven (it's true, he cannot be compared!). It comes from writer Chuck Wendig's blog and it's called The Writer's Prayer II:

I am a writer, and I am done fucking around.
That which has prevented me lingers no longer. I am wind and storm and lightning and I shall huff and I shall puff and I shall blow all the barriers down. Then I will drink whisky made from the fear-urine of my loudest detractors and find power in their disbelief.
I don’t have time. I make time. I reach into the universe’s clockwork brain and I take whatever time I jolly well need. I cobble time out of sticks and mud and the finger-bones of naysayers. I am a motherfucking time wizard and with a wave of my pen shall create universes to conquer. Pockets of possibility. Born of my desire to have them made.
Fuck doubt. Doubt is a goblin on my back. I will reach for him with my ink-stained hands and grab his greasy head and fling him into the infinite nothing. His screams will thrill me. The resultant word-boner shall be mighty, and with this tremendous oaken stalk I shall swipe it left and swing it right and sweep all the road-blocks and brick-walls out of my way.
My distractions whimper and plead, their backs pressed against the wall, but I am no creature of mercy. Triple-Tap. Mozambique Drill. Two in the chest and one in the head. I laugh as they fall because their death clears the way and gives me purpose.
I will put myself on the page. I’m all in, with every card face up on the table. I am my stories and my stories are me. I do not merely write what I know: I write who I am. I’ll reach into my own chest and pluck out my still-beating heart and milk its juices like an overripe grapefruit. Squish.
That’s my blood on the page. The helix-spirals of my DNA wound around every word, every character, every plot point and page number. If CSI came here right now with one of those UV lights, you’d see the spatters and stains of my many penmonkey fluids because I can and will no longer contain my seed. You’lltake my inky seed and you’ll like my inky seed. It is a delightful moisturizer.
I do what needs doing. I ride the Loch Ness Monster through the gates of Carthage. I learn forbidden power words from the Undead Shamans of the Tulsa Underground. I kung-fu-kick a hole in the fabric of space and time and stick my head through to see what exists on the other side. I eat planets. I drink oceans. I piss rivers and I shit mountain lions. No task exists that I cannot accomplish on the page.
I write from a place of honesty. My stories are lies that speak truth.
Nobody tells me who I am or what I can’t do. I tell stories. I write characters. I make true shit up out of thin air. And nothing is more perfect than that.
My doubt is dead.
The dream is no longer a dream.
My desires are made manifest.
This is my reality now.
It’s time to load the guns, brew the ink, and go to work.
Because I am a writer, and I am done fucking around.
A cursory look around his blog reveals that there are many things worth looking at. Which I would do if I weren't busy writing. 

Monday, November 7, 2011

Mazel Todd!

My friend and collaborator on 100 Girls, Todd Demong, got married this past weekend. He and his bride chose to have a destination wedding in Mexico and school work, finances and family obligations conspired to keep me from attend. I am sick, SICK, that I couldn't be there. Maybe they'll let me join them on their honeymoon...

The accompanying photo is of Todd and me at my wedding reception five years ago.

Congratulations to Todd and Marta!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Things to read and watch 11/04/11

William Gibson, The Art of Fiction No. 211
Here is the full text of the long interview The Paris Review conducted with William Gibson. Tuck in, kids!

Why Science Fiction Writers are Like Porn Stars
Last weekend, Glen Duncan wrote a trollish piece in the New York Times comparing genre writers to, well, porn stars. Charlie Jane Anders at i09 has some questions for Mr. Duncan. The piece includes portraits by SF writer, Richard Kadrey (whose books you should be reading, by the way).

The Decemberists Played on Austin City Limits 
And I missed it. Their album, The King is Dead, is one of my favorites of the year so far. The fact that I can watch this episode on-line makes me very happy.

Here's their video for "The Calamity Song." Enjoy.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Thing to read, listen to 10/10/11

The Broadcast of Comics
Warren Ellis has a new, long think-piece about digital comics and web comics. This is relevant to my interests, of course.

Ian Fleming interviews Raymond Chanlder
Via the very fine, comes this 24-minute long interview featuring two masters of their craft.
The transcript of this talk may be found here.

Modern Horror Defined by Edgy Realism of the 1970s
FInally, from come this nice piece about the current state of the horror genre. The article also includes a link to an excerpt of Shock Value which is a book that I think I'll have to put on my to-read list.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Talking with Richard Stevens

This is the first in a very occasional series of interviews I plan to do. These first posts will concentrate on my new-found obsession: Web comics. ® R Stevens
If you're reading this, that means you're on the Internet and if you're on the Internet, then you probably already know who Richard Stevens is. For those out of the loop, Stevens is the creator of the wildly popular And Diesel Sweeties is among the first generation of web comics. It's been in existence for eleven years now. It's stood the test of time and the fickle tastes of a media-saturated audience. And it's funny, too. Can't forget that.

Stevens was nice enough to answer some questions about how he goes about making his web comic and how he balances it with the business that it has inspired. (Short answer: He doesn't).

I'd like to thank him very much for taking the time to speak to me.

AG: What led you to pursue web comics versus print comics?

RS: I never saw any kind of divide between the two. When I started (eleven years ago!) there wasn’t much in the way of a professional web comics scene. The plan was to try out comic concepts online and get feedback before going to print. I just wound up never leaving.

AG: And what was the inspiration behind creating Diesel Sweeties?

RS: I wanted to write about relationships and thought that robots would make a good stand-in for clueless men. It spiraled out of control and into more of an ensemble cast gag strip and I was powerless to stop it.

AG: You did a syndicated version of Diesel Sweeties for a time, but then stopped. Can you talk about that experience and why you decided to cease the syndicated strip? The old paradigm of comics seems like it was you tried as hard as you could to get into syndication and then you did everything you could to maintain it.

RS: I did the syndicated version as an experiment when I was approached by an acquisitions editor for a now-dead major syndicate. I never planned to or wanted to be in newspapers, but I figured I’d be stupid to turn down those guaranteed riches! The joke was on me when I found out that newspaper comics sections were shrinking and fairly calcified. I got out of my contract as soon as legally possible, thanks to a clause about a minimum level of income that I was nowhere near earning.

AG: Can you talk, in general terms, about the merchandise you sell on the site? It seems that most web comics make money off of the things they sell. Was that part of your strategy going into the field, or was it something that developed over time?

RS: I can’t speak for other cartoonists, but I really enjoy merchandise. I’ve always bought t-shirts and books and dumb little awesome things, so offering them to people seemed like a natural fit for me. This doesn’t work for everyone. My theory is that you really have to like what you’re selling to sell it. Like everything else about my early business plan, the only plan was that there was no plan. (it didn’t hurt that I had a job at the time.)

AG: Were there strips you attempted before you tried Diesel Sweeties?

RS: Nothing major, notable or archived. I did minicomics in college, but they are long gone.

AG: While there are recurring characters and plot lines that develop over time, Diesel Sweeties feels like a gag strip. Have you ever considered doing something with more of a narrative arc?

RS: It feels like a gag strip because that’s what I’m aiming for. My goal has always been to write as close to Peanuts as I can but with characters who have sex. I’ve written and pitched some longer works. Nothing’s come to fruition yet, but it’s certainly something I see myself doing.

AG: As a follow up, It feels like most successful web comics are gag strips. Do you think it would be possible for a narrative strip to catch on in the same way as gag strips?

RS: I guess it depends on your definition of “catch on”. Story comics are harder to merchandise, but I imagine they could more easily sell books. (or sell book rights to publishers) We live in a world of apps and ebooks nowadays. There’s no reason a narrative comic couldn’t be fabulously successful.

AG: When was the moment you knew that you were going to succeed? Did you go into the web comics business with a definable end goal, or was it more organic?

RS: I started with no goal and hopefully will never feel like I’ve succeeded. Even now, I still wonder how much longer I can survive as an independent artist. Hopefully a little longer!

AG: Do you follow a routine throughout the day? If so, can you describe it?

RS: I tend to do “office work” in daylight and creative work at night. My drawing and writing time is generally from about 9pm to midnight. My days are filled with t-shirt folding and mailing and designing and every other one of the billion tasks that pay the bills. Most days, I don’t know what I’ll be doing until I’ve done it.

AG: How do you balance the creative and business aspects of Diesel Sweeties?

RS: I daresay I don’t have any balance in any aspect of my work life. I never miss deadline and never give up that window of comics time at the end of the day. That’s the closest I can think of.

AG: And how does social media fit into the mix? You seem particularly active on Twitter. Is this part of an overall strategy to drive traffic to the site, or are you just blowing off steam?

RS: Twitter feels like it was designed for me. I used to throw silly away messages on my IM and screw around on message boards. Nowadays, I get to do my goofy short writing for a large audience. I see it as a combination of communication and a second comic strip. It cracks me up when people following me have no idea I draw a comic but stick around for my puns.

AG: Do you see yourself continuing with Diesel Sweeties forever, or do you think you might end it someday to pursue other creative ventures?

RS: Couldn’t say. I think if I thought about the end, I’d lose interest. I am mentally committed to hitting 3,000 comics and will give it some thought then. That’ll be somewhere around twelve years of work!

AG: Is there any parting advice you'd give to someone considering starting up a web comic?

RS: Don’t be one of those jerks who posts an update schedule on your site only to constantly apologize for missing deadlines. Just be who you are and work at the best pace you can. Never apologize for anything. Do your work and get better every day.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Some things to read 10/3/11

When Warren Ellis thinks about comics, I generally pay attention. If you're interested in the medium, too, so should you. This time he's thinking about rhetorical comics.

Did you know that Google publish a quarterly ezine? Well, they do, and it's packed full of interesting looking articles.

ICv2 has an interesting piece about the possible effects of DC's exclusivity deal Amazon. Long story short: Sorry, comics retailers!

One of my favorite cartoonists, Kate Beaton, is getting a lot of attention because of her new book, Hark! A Vagrant (which is also the name of her website). This makes me happy.

I love Lawrence Block's writing. Matt Scudder, the creation of Mr. Block is probably my favorite recurring character in fiction. Mr. Block has been toying with self-publishing a short story here and there for the Nook and Kindle for a year or so. Now he's decided to go big: He's self-publishing a collection of Matt Scudder stories. He's doing it in both electronic and meat-world formats. Good luck to him, and for anyone who's never read the Scudder series, this would be a great place to start. And for just $2.99, too.

Monday, October 3, 2011

How pencils are made

As you may have guessed from the series of print porn videos I've posted here, I'm fascinated by how things are made. In that tradition, here's a video of the production process used to make pencils. My apologies for the pun that closes out this video. Hey, I didn't write it!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Gear School short: The local angle

The short film based on my comics series, Gear School: Plug and Play has played in festivals all over the US and Europe, a fact that blows me away. But I am humbled by the fact that it has been selected as to screen at my hometown's film fest, The Salem Film Festival. Salem's festival has been named one of the top ten small film fests in the country by, so you know it's legit.

At the moment, I'm not sure when it will be screened, but I'll update the blog as more information becomes available.

And if you want to see a teaser trailer, I've posted it to this blog before.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Why a web comic now?

 Since 2008, all comics sales – single issue and graphic novels – have been in steady decline according to The one bright spot is that for the first half of 2011, graphic novel sales are up while single-issue sales continue to fall. (An aside: DC's rebot of their universe has given single-issue comics a bump, but there's no telling how long that bump will last and, once it fades, I don't think that DC can reboot its universe again.End of aside) The decline in sales of single-issue comics is significant because comics publishers have traditionally used these as a loss leader for graphic novels, toys and other merchandise. The Weekly Standard pointed out this practice in article, The Crash of 1993:

This might sound like an industry marching toward oblivion, yet in 2009, Disney paid $4 billion to acquire Marvel (DC was already owned by Time-Warner). The reason for this gaudy valuation is that the comic books themselves are no longer important to the comic- book industry. They’re loss leaders. The real money is in the comic-book properties, which power toy and merchandise sales, theme parks, and above all else movie franchises. Since
1997, 26 comic book adaptations have gone on to gross more than $100 million at the box office. Twelve of these grossed more than $200 million. More—many more—are coming soon to a theater near you.

 Italics are mine in that quote, by the way.

Increasingly, publishers are interested only in titles they believe can be exploited across other media, and they are less and less likely to take a chance on unknown properties.
Publishing first to the web, and gaining a following, seems to be a way to sidestep all of this. Penny Arcade  was among the first web comics to garner enough of a fan base to warrant a print edition (Dark Horse Comics published their books starting in 2006 and Del Rey stole them away from Dark Horse in 2010), but it's not the only one to see this sort of success. Publishers are also using webcomics in place of the traditional single-issue monthlies to build an audience. Avatar Press had great success with Warren Ellis's FreakAngels. Even first second, the comics imprint of traditional publisher, Macmillan, launched a webcomic, Mark Siegel's Sailor Twain.

And if one wants to eschew traditional publishers, webcomics are a way to attract an audience and self-publish. There are many examples of artists doing just this – Richard Steven's DieselSweeties (which also enjoyed a run as a print comic in several weekly newspapers based on its success online), Steve LeCouilliard's Much the Miller'sSon, and Ben Costa's ShiLong Pang, The Wandering Shaolin Monk are recent standouts. The lesson here seems to be that an audience will follow you from one medium to the next and, more importantly, support you financially if you can gain their loyalty.

Personally, I am leaning toward self-publishing once The Lonely Spaceman is completed, and there are a few different ways to gain funding for such a project. One is to apply for a Xeric Grant. The Xeric Grants were founded in 1992 by Kevin Eastman, of Teen-Age Mutant Turtle fame, with the express goal of helping independent creators pay for the production of their self-published comics. Tens of thousands of dollars are awarded every quarter.

Another means of funding your comic is to use a crowd-sourcing website like Kickstarter allows artists to post their projects on their site and ask complete strangers to pledge money toward their creation. Artists are only given the money of their projects are fully funded, but Kickstarter has a great track record of helping to produce comics. According to Publishers Weekly Kickstarter funds roughly as many projects as DC's Vertigo imprint. And it could be considered the third largest publisher of independent graphic novels in the US, behind only Dark Horse Comics and IDW. With the right pitch, a comics project has a decent chance of being successfully funded.

These factors, tradtional publishers embrace of webcomics and outside sources of funds for self-publishers, make me confident that a web comics project could actually be a viable commercial endevour. All one needs is a solid comics project.

Is The Lonely Spaceman such a project? I guess we're going to find out.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Something you should read, weekend edition

The Big Sexy Problem with Superheroines and Their "Liberated Sexuality."
A couple of days ago, Laura Hudson wrote a great piece over at Comics Alliance about the way mainstream comics represent female sexuality. It really deserves to be read by everyone with an interest in the comics medium

This is something I think a lot about since I like to write female characters. I don't think I'm guilty of any of the offenses mentioned in the essay -- I hope I'm now -- but it's always good to be mindful, right?

Friday, September 23, 2011

What is The Lonely Spaceman?

The basics: The Lonely Spaceman is a full-color, 128-page comic written by me and illustrated by Matt Hope. It will be published to the web at (site currently under construction) at the rate of 3 pages per week -- a page will publish every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. It will go live in mid-November and run for nearly a year.

So, what's the story? Well, it's sort of a SF fable. I also remember Joss Whedon mentioning about some episodes of Buffy that the metaphor was very thin. You could say that The Lonely Spaceman is a very thin metaphor It's about an astronaut who returns to Earth after a 200-year long mission to find the planet changed beyond recognition. The only way he can deal with it is to wear his pressure suit, his protective shell, everywhere he goes. The story is about how he learns to live without his protective covering. It has space pirates, romance, and a character based on Christina Hendricks in the Broken Bells music video "The Ghost Inside." So it's got that going for it.

Broken Bells "The Ghost Inside" from Jacob Gentry on Vimeo.

I found references to The Lonely Spaceman in various notebooks going back at least two years. The story hasn't changed much in that time, except that it used to be darker (and that it used to be called The Loneliest Spaceman). I decided to make it more whimsical because I thought that would be more palatable, and because I thought it would be more fun to write. I think everything I write starts out darker than it ends up in the final version. I am working on my issues, thank you very much...

As we get closer to the web site's actual go-live date, I'll be posting reminders. Many, many reminders, so you can check out the final product for yourself.

Next time: Why a web comic now?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Some things you should read

My Instapaper page is overflowing with good stuff lately. Here are a few examples. I think I may try and do a more regular links feature...

[A]n orgy of art for its own sake.
I'm lucky to know the graphic novelist, Craig Thompson, and I was very pleased to see his new book, Habibi, reviewed so well in The Guardian.

Embed a Comic Book on any Facebook Page.

Frankly, this just seems sort of neat.

Slave Labor... has decided to go digital-only with their periodicals.
This is a reflection of how terrible the comics market is at the moment. And a damn smart move on Slave Labor's part.

An interesting read, though I admit to being a bit self-serving since I hope to someday be a successful genre writer.

Ellen Ripley Is Clearly the Best Female Character in Scifi Film, and That's a Problem

John Scalzi speaks truth.

So, there's that done

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Lonely Spaceman

I want to write a short series of posts about the new comic series I find myself working on. I hope this will prove interesting to someone other than me. Today's installment is pretty much just setting the stage and introducing the players.

Two, maybe three years ago, I stood on the stage at a Salem Ignite event and I told the audience how much I loved the Internet as a method of distributing... well, everything. I concentrated on comics and I closed with the promise that the next comics project I did would be published to the web.

It looks like I'm keeping that promise. I just didn't expect it to take this long.

I made several half-hearted attempts at getting a web comic up and running, but there were a couple of things that slowed down the process. The first is that a lot of people still see working in web comics as less prestigious than working in print comics. The second is that not a lot of artists want to work for no money up front with no guarantee of money on the back end. And, once I put it in those terms, it's not hard to see why they aren't beating down my door to work on such a project. I would definitely need to find just the right artist for this.

About that: It always helps to know people. In this case it helped a great deal to know Devon Devereaux. Devon is sort of a nexus of cool people (Malcolm Gladwell would call him a "maven") and when I told him that I wanted to work on a web comic, he immediately thought of someone I should contact – his buddy, Matthew Hope. Matt is a designer and he does illustrations for concert posters and other things. Devon sent me the link to his web site, Poor Man's Bread, and after poking around for just a minute, I knew I wanted to work with Matt. And I know on which project I wanted us to join forces. A lot of Matt's work has a SF feel to it and I've had a SF idea kicking around for several years. One piece in particular caught my eye and it's the piece that starts this blog entry. Often when I contact an artist about working together, I send them several ideas and let them choose which one most appeals to them. This time I sent just one idea: The Lonely Spaceman.

Next: What is The Lonely Spaceman?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Like a scene from a (lesser) Tennessee Williams play

As O and I were walking today, we strolled past the following scene:

A YOUNG MAN and YOUNG WOMAN stood on the sidewalk in front of a house. An OLDER MAN stood on the porch.

OLDER MAN: I have rules.

YOUNG MAN: I respect that, sir.


YOUNG MAN: Yes, sir.

OLDER MAN: I don't -- I don't want to be running a whore house.

YOUNG MAN (earnest): No, sir!

And then, thankfully, we were out of ear shot.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Someone on twitter quoted part of this. I liked it so much, I looked up the entire thing. I think it's sort of a lovely sentiment:

"But who prays for Satan? Who in eighteen centuries, has had the common humanity to pray for the one sinner that needed it most, our one fellow and brother who most needed a friend yet had not a single one, the one sinner among us all who had the highest and clearest right to every Christian's daily and nightly prayers, for the plain and unassailable reason that his was the first and greatest need, he being among sinners the supremest?" -Mark Twain

Also, hello, again, Blogger.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Words, words, words

I've really had my head down lately in an attempt to get some stuff done before Baby 2.0 arrives at the end of June/beginning of July. Let's see, there's homework to be done (two papers to write, a bunch of books to read for the next residency); I've started to meet with a friend whom I hope will be the producer of the short film I plan to make next semester, and I've been trying to get a lot done on the web comic I'm trying to get off the ground. The novel I started working on is going to sit and marinate for a while. Something had to give way and that seemed like the easiest thing to set aside.

The web comic is really taking shape on paper. I've never worked this quickly on a comics project. Last week I wrote a pitch document that included character descriptions, a description of the world and the general shape of the story. I also plotted out and scripted the first chapter of the book (26 pages!) and got all of that to the artist. Best of all, he likes what I've written and didn't ask for any changes. This is a rare and magical occurrence. Over the last two days I've worked out a very basic plot of the rest of the first book (in a perfect world this will be a story told in three volumes). I wanted to work far ahead on this project because come the arrival of the baby, I'll probably have to set it aside for a while. I want the artist to have lots of material to work with while I settle into my new life. Also, the more material there is, the easier it will be for me to hit the ground running when I get back to the project. I think I'm at a place where I can leave it alone for a while and concentrate on homework.

Thanks for indulging me and my sporadic updates. As a reward, have a video of Jenny Owen Youngs performing one of my favorite of her songs live. Take it away, Jenny.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Tidbits 5/23

This makes me both sad and joyful: An archive of mugshots of Freedom Riders.

This seems like a worthy Kickstarter project to back: A book of interviews and articles all about a subject near and dear to my heart, comics. If you don't know about Kickstarter, please do yourself a favor and go to their homepage and read about them. There are many fine and worthy projects that could use your financial support.

I've recently subscribed to Rolling Stone magazine ( had a special offer), and today the subscription paid for itself by introducing me to the band The Head and the Heart. The video below sealed the deal, but really, I knew I wanted to buy their album after reading the following quote from singer/guitarist Josiah Johnson, "If there's such a thing as a neo-folk movement happening right now, it's simply a reflection of the fact that music has become so negative, bands decided to go in a different direction. We are shamelessly happy."

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Beautiful Machines

Sometimes I get sad thinking there will never be a photo of me working in front of my typewriter. Then I think, "Fuck it. Faulkner probably wasn't sad that there'd never be a photo of him writing in cuneiform on a clay tablet."

The photo of Faulkner comes from a gallery of authors and their beautiful machines at Dangerous Minds.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Update 4/20

One of the things that thrills me, and frustrates me, about writing is how things I am making up -- things coming out of my own head and which I should know very well -- can so completely surprise me. Case in point: Tonight I began a chapter featuring a new character. A character that I wasn't expecting to show up for several more chapters. A character who isn't even in the outline I wrote out for several more chapters! And yet, there she is, in a scene I never outlined but that seems to make total sense. And is a much better introduction than my outline gives her, too, by the way. Why did I even bother with an outline? I guess I'm more of a "making it up as I go along" type writer...

I hope I continue to be surprised.

Here are tonight's numbers:
Daily word count: 1,129
Monthly word count:6,265
Novel word count: 6,265

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Writing! New numbers!

Lots of writing-related stuff going on at the moment, which is probably how it should be. I guess. Zomburbia is currently with three new readers, and its first reader thinks that I'm a polish away from being able to send it to an agent and then to publishers. My fingers are crossed. I'm working on what looks like will be another novel, numbers for which you will find at the bottom of this post. I've joined a new writing group. Actually, I am the founding member of a brand new writing group which is comprised of me and one other writer (hi, Kate!), but it's gonna blow up, I can tell. On top of all of that, I currently have, what, four comics things in various stages of development. Three of those are with a co-writer (hi, Phil!) and one that I'm writing my self.

That feels like a lot. Probably more than I can reasonably handle. We'll see.

And here are today's numbers:
Daily word count: 1,018
Monthly word count: 5,136
Novel word count: 5,136

I'm well into chapter two and things are developing nicely. I like the main character and I'm having fun developing the world. So that's all good.

Thanks for your kind attention.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Hello, Blogger. I've missed you.

Speaking with Greig Means this weekend (editor and publisher of the excellent Tugboat Press, about which I need to write, I think) it occurred to me that I hadn't been updating this blog much lately. This is for a variety of reasons, none of which need to be gone into here despite the fact that this is a blog and that's usually exactly the kind of thing that is gone into.

Anyway, it occurred to me what I useful tool this blog was when I was writing my novel. I posted my progress every day and if I had no progress, I posted that, too. The knowledge that people were keeping track of those slowly mounting numbers helped to motivate me. I bring this all up because I seem to find myself writing another novel. What I think will become another novel, at least. (My wife's declaration to this bit of news was something like, "Why would you do that?" Indeed.)

I didn't come up with the idea of publicly tracking my progress. In the grand tradition of writers everywhere, I stole the idea from someone more talented and more intelligent than me. Cherie Priest, writer of scary stories and, lately, steampunk novels does just this. I've also noted that just lately, in the last couple of days, Warren Ellis (Ellis's site is very often NSFW) is also tracking his novel-in-progress's growing word count. So I'm in good company, I suppose.

So let me recap, very quickly, my progress so far, starting with the fact that my goal is to write 1,000 words a day.

On Friday, I wrote 1,026 words. Saturday yielded 1,092. On Sunday I had a full day with Oscar up in Portland and I only managed 317 words, but I made up for that by writing 1,683 words tonight which is 2,000 exactly for the last two days. That makes a grand total of 4,118. There. Starting tomorrow, I'll start having a running total at the bottom of each post until I get to end of the first draft.

I suppose I should write just a bit about the first novel, Zomburbia. I finished the second draft and sent it off to three readers. My first reader is going to give it another once-over and two new victims volunteers are also reading it. Soon I will have even more corrections to make, I'm sure, and I'll be able start on a third draft. After that, who knows. Maybe it'll be time to start finding an agent. As much as I'm able, I'll document the whole process here.

Lucky you.