Patience

Patience is a virtue. That’s the old saying. It was literally just put to the test too. I logged on and had to wait a little longer than normal for the pages to boot up. For some reason the internet is slow. Oh, well. That’s the way the wifi rumbles, right?

In all seriousness. I’ve learned so much over the years when it comes to making comics. The hardest lesson is the most obvious. You need to be patient.

To truly understand my mindset, you need to go back a ways. In college, I took a reading class. This class was a real pain. It involved reading a ton of children’s book to prepare for my future career. Apparently, I had to know all the books and become an expert in each genre. That’s what they thought. Fools.

One good thing did come from this class. There was a few options for the culminating project. I chose to create a children’s book. This was well before I thought I could be a writer. I finished the book and the teacher loved it. I realized I was onto something and wanted to seek out book publishers and begin submitting this story.

One of my family friends told me about a book I could buy at Borders. It listed all the book publishers and the best ways to submit to them. This was way before the internet opened the door for us to find that information. I picked up the book and began looking for a publisher.

This book was brilliant. It didn’t just name the publishers. It named the genres they preferred and what they were looking for in a submission package. I didn’t know any of this. I figured I could just mail them copies of my book. Then I saw the biggest negative. Most publishers listed a two year turn around for a book to go through the various stages before publication. This was unacceptable. I couldn’t wait two years. And I didn’t. That particular book never go published. It was never submitted because I was discouraged by the amount of time it would take to make it to the bookshelf.

I’ve made many mistakes over the years. That was one of them. I’ve approached editors at conventions. Some of these editors were very receptive of my ideas. I remember repeatedly emailing a guy about one of my concepts. He finally got tired of hearing from me and pulled the project from moving forward. All because I wasn’t patient.

My growing patience didn’t happen over night. I remember when my earliest works got published. They were short stories that I was able to write within a few days. They went off to the editor and I forgot about them. I moved on to the next thing. I just kept writing, forgetting about that upcoming story. This turned out to be a great thing. I knew the project was going to come out. It was only a matter of when.

This happened for quite some time. Then I started publishing with an independent, small press publisher. Most of my books have been published with this publisher and none of them move quickly.

The thing is, everybody has a day job. Most of us are not making a career writing comics. Not yet, at least. So, I write scripts. Some I forget about. Others I’m more passionate about. I move forward with one thing. I say this to the publisher and think he wonders how crazy I am.

“The book will either make it to publication, or it won’t. Either way, I’m writing it.”

That’s pretty much become my motto writing comics. I develop stories and send them off. Or they sit in a file on my drive. I need to write. It’s that simple. The artist needs the time he needs. Some artists move fast, but the book moves slow. I have about three complete stories finished. They are waiting for the other stories to get finished. One day they’ll be published. That’s the way it goes.

I think about all the stories that sit in limbo. I think about the two years I’ve waited for a twenty-two page comic to get completed. I think about how little I care about the amount of time it takes. Then I wander back to when two years was too long to wait and laugh. I’ve come a long way, people.

Till next time.

Marvel's Epic

My mind is a funny place sometimes. The other day I drove by a post office and thought about a clerk who helped me almost twenty years ago. The only reason this was memorable was because I was mailing a concept to Marvel Comics for their new Epic line. She looked at the address and wished me luck. It made me smile.

Marvel’s Epic line was an interesting idea. It was the only time I can remember them opening their doors to blind submissions. I wasn’t going to let that opportunity slip by. When this opportunity knocked, I was so green. I was only learning how to write scripts and barely reading books on the writer’s craft. But, like many new writers, I knew everything. I was going to be the next hot writer on the block and this was my way into the industry. If you’re a creator, you had those same thoughts. Admit it.

I had been working on Wildchild at this time. I had character bios, an issue written, and a whole bunch of other prep work ready to go. I loved that concept then and still think it is phenomenal. I documented the story of Wildchild before. I’m sure you can find it in the archives if you want to know why that book will never see the light of day. Needless to say, Wildchild was perfect for this submission process.

I tuned it up to the best of my ability. That in itself is an interesting statement. At the time, I thought I knew everything. I thought I knew how to craft a story. I definitely had a knack for storytelling back then, but I had so much to learn. Fortunately, I refused to stop writing. That is also documented in the archives.

I put my package together, sent it out, and waited for the green light to start writing my story. This was my big break. I just had to wait. Again, if you’ve ever submitted to a publisher, you know how long you might be waiting for a response. That’s assuming you even get a response. Marvel was great. They sent their response.

I saw the envelope with my hand writing and raced to my room. I had to send a self-addressed, stamped envelope with my submission package. When I opened the envelope, I saw what looked like a standard form letter. It gave me some feedback about learning more about story structure when writing.

Since it looked like a form letter, I thought my story wasn’t even read. I didn’t believe they really said no. In fact, I was so certain that Wildchild hadn’t been opened. Remember how green I said I was? I thought the best course of action was to send the same pitch back to Marvel. I received the same form letter as a response. Same feedback and everything.

The funny thing, after two attempts, I sent the package again. Same response. I probably sent the pitch out two more times before they stopped responding. Thinking back, this is hysterical. I was dumb enough to believe that I was going to get a different response if I continued sending the same submission. Ladies and gentlemen, this does not work. Just throwing that out there.

Here’s what I wasn’t paying attention to. The letter may have been a form letter but it had some actual feedback. Review story structure. I didn’t realize it at that point.

I was able to give the package to a comic professional who was kind enough to read through it. I didn’t understand how rare that was at that point, but I knew he was being really nice. He emailed me and gave me some feedback. This was huge. He told me to work on my story structure. AND THERE’S THE RUB!!! Marvel’s form letter might not have been a form letter at all. Again, it’s funny to think back on this now.

The comic professional didn’t just give me the same advice. He went a step further. He recommended some books for me to read that would help me learn the craft. I refused to ignore his advice. I picked up a book and started learning. Then I wrote. I read more books and studied the craft. Then I wrote some more. I’ve been following this path ever since. If you know a good book on the writer’s craft, let me know. I will happily read it. I’m still learning. I’m still studying. I’m still writing.

I have no idea what came from the Marvel Epic line. I heard some rumors that the line was solely created for Mark Millar. I couldn’t tell you if that was true or not. I can tell you the only book I remember with the Epic logo on it was written by Millar. You may remember it. It was Trouble.

Till next week.

Reading is Fundamental

As I’ve documented here over the last few weeks, I’ve been world building. The other day, I had two separate pitches open on my computer while I revised, reworked, shortened, and tried to up the overall excitement of each. The whole book’s potential publication rides on the single page synopsis that I’m working on. No pressure.

Today’s lesson is directly inspired by one of those stories. Back at NYCC I spoke with an editor. I’ve known this editor for some time and he is always happy to talk with me. He’s looked over my work and invited me to pitch for his main anthology. Naturally, I was excited.

I actual invite came about six months ago. Knowing what rides on that invite, I refused to rush the pitch. I needed to make sure I had the perfect story. That’s the hard part. I purposely waited until I saw him again at Comic Con to chat some more before I started fleshing out what I wanted to write. This was my strategy. Whether I’m write or wrong here is irrelevant. I needed to make sure I was comfortable with what I presented to the publisher.

After a few good conversations at the show, I made sure I picked up a copy of the book I’d be pitching for. This is the lesson of the day, folks. I hadn’t read the book or ordered a copy. There’s nothing wrong with buying the book in front of the editor. He knows I’m going to do my homework. If I don’t, the odds of me getting a nod to write were slim.

I went home and thumbed through the book. I knew this anthology was a mishmash of stories and writing styles. It wasn’t just comics, which I knew. What I didn’t know was the stories that were being published. If I just sent in a random story, it would be denied. Especially if it didn’t fit the overall theme of the book.

When I opened the book, I was blown away. It was beyond my expectations. I didn’t read the entire, massive anthology. I looked at the stories presented and started spinning my wheels for a story that would fit this theme.

That was almost two months ago. A few weeks back, the story hit me. I realized that I wanted to tell a somewhat non-fiction tale that could lead to other adventures. It had to be set in the real world while having elements of exaggerated fantasy in there. I knew what I wanted and needed to think of the best way to exhibit that.

That’s when it hit me. I worked in a supermarket for nearly a decade. My best friend and I always reminisce about those days. We were young and stupid. When those two elements combine, some wacky things happen. While working there, I had this idea for a super hero that never amounted to anything.

While talking with my friend about one of our many stories, it occurred to me that these stories were the core to the tale I wanted to tell for this book. A story from the heart never goes wrong. These stories, with some exaggeration were perfect for this book. They are easy to write while challenging my ability to touch on my own emotional turmoil.

I had the core of the idea and built the world I knew for a decade. I immediately fell in love with the concept and story. I have to get it published. That’s how much I love it. Now, everything rides on the upcoming pitch. Can I get the publisher to see the same gold that I’m looking at? That’s the real question. Time will tell.

What’s the lesson here? If you are going to pitch to a book, study that book. You don’t know what’s going on and you need to. If your story is not on par with the book’s standard, it will be rejected. So, read, read, read. You never know what stories will come from that. This one is gold. I’ll let you know when it’s published.

Until next week.

Stan Lee

The other day, Stan Lee passed away. I wish I could say this was unexpected, but it really wasn’t. That doesn’t mean that his passing wasn’t upsetting. The comic book community really did lose one of its pioneers. This man was an innovator of the medium. Without him, who knows what comics would be like today. I was fortunate enough to meet Stan Lee one time and it made for one memorable story that I have only told a handful of times. I figure I should document it here for all you true readers. Here we go.

I have attended every New York Comic Con since it’s inception. I have seen this particular show go from the earliest days when artist alley was right next to the main floor to the year the fire marshal shut down a hall. I was there when they put the artists in a little alcove on the second floor to when they finally learned to heard all the people into one room like cattle being led to their slaughter. Thankfully, I’ve almost always gone to this show with a pro pass, allowing me to miss much of the hysterics that come with going to that show.

One year, I’m not sure exactly which one, I grabbed my copy of Amazing Spider-Man 42. For those of you wondering, this was the first appearance of Mary Jane. My copy is pretty beat up, but it’s my copy. Anyway, I grabbed this book from it’s box hoping to get on line to meet Stan “The Man” Lee. Little did I know, the line to meet him would be virtually impossible to get on.

The autograph didn’t matter that much to me. I also wasn’t worried if I didn’t manage to get my thirty seconds with him. I’m not one to mark out over the talent. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve “fanned out” before. It just happened that, at this time, I’d learned to compose myself and not worry about meeting talent. I’ve always gone to these shows to network.

This show had a Stan Lee Spotlight hosted by Joe Quesada. Joe was Editor-in-Chief at that time and knew a thing or two about hosting. I’m sure he and Stan had put this show on more times than I knew as well. I decided hearing him talk about his experiences would be perfect. I hopped into the panel and found a seat toward the front and side of the stage. I sat back and listened to Stan tell the stories I’d read in books and on line. It was nice to hear them first hand.

SIDEBAR

Okay. Before I continue, I need to explain a few things. If you go to the Don and Ray books, you will see some of the most fantastic stories that stem from my observations at these cons. They’re real, to an extent. One of the common running gags is my ability to cut lines. I have no real idea where I learned to do this. I recall a soccer convention where I managed to cut in front of a horde of people when I was a kid. I remember cutting an entire line at the DMV so I could take my road test. I remember cutting, or finding alternate routes, to get around entire masses of people at various cons. Ironically, I still do this today. Don’t ask. It’s magic.

NYCC has come a long way with its security. However, if you know what you’re looking for, you can get around much of it. Of course, that's all within reason. To this day, I manage to simply walk on the floor when I get to the building. It doesn’t seem to matter how early I get there. That’s today. Back when I met Stan, security was very different. It was far less stringent.

BACK TO THE STORY

Remember, I was sitting toward the front of the main stage in a row to the right. The main stage hasn’t moved. It’s the room that has a legitimate stage like you would find for a play. It’s the largest room and it’s dedicated to major speakers that go to Javits for any event. At some point, while I’m listening to Stan, I start to do what many writers do … I survey my surrounding.

Stan continues telling his story and I notice a set of doors on one side of the stage. This was odd. They weren’t on the other side. Well, I couldn’t see them anyway. I also knew there was a hallway on that side of the stage. I was intrigued.

Then Joe lets everyone know that there’s only about five minutes left for the panel and they start thanking people. That’s when a young kid stands up, holding a handmade sign. I couldn’t tell you what the sign says, but I notice someone, from the side of the stage, point to the doors that were right in front of me. I thought they invited the kid backstage. That had to be backstage. I had to make my move.

When Joe and Stan thanked the crowd, I saw the kid and his family move to the side door. Everyone else in the room began flooding toward the back where the exit was. I looked forward. The kid was approaching the open door. I didn’t have anything to lose. I walked forward and went through the open door. I acted like I belonged. That’s when I looked up to see Stan Lee walked toward me.

I went for it. I said hi and asked him to sign my copy of ASM 42. He graciously said yes. I thanked him and told him he reminded me of my grandfather who had passed away not to long before that show. I couldn’t tell you why he reminded me of him. They both had the same style glasses and that mustache. They also dressed a like. It’s one of those things. Without realizing it, I began to choke up. I couldn’t tell you why. Without missing a beat, Stan told me my grandfather must have been a very special guy. He smiled and went about his day. I thanked Joe Quesada for putting together a book for schools to use in education and watched them leave.

Every now and again I saw Stan Lee at the con, but I didn’t go out of my way to meet him. This story was too perfect to try and top. I have to say, I’m happy that my knack of finding a way to get things done led me to an encounter with one of comics all time greats. It’s a story that I can smile about.

EPILOGUE

Even though NYCC has improved their security. There is still many ways to meet these celebrities. You just need to observe your surroundings and know what to look for. Tara Strong and Ralph Macchio were both within an arms reach of me. Those are stories for another day.

Until next time. Excelsior.

Artists

This weekend I attended a local con and had tons of fun. I expected it to be much smaller than it was, and I was glad to be wrong. I had the pleasure of meeting old and new fans. I also sold a lot of books. Sadly, I also found myself discussing the future of Saturn and Orion Book Two with a few guests.

Let’s start with Saturn and Orion Book One. This book is one of my proudest accomplishments. Seeing the world I thought of come to fruition, succeed on Kickstarter, and constantly draw patrons’ attention at my table is not something to scoff at.

When I was writing Book One, I planned five issues. That would make a nice collected edition if I was every lucky enough to make it to issue five. Thankfully, one of my good friends gave me some sage advice. Do not write this book with a major cliffhanger ending. Basically, the advice was do not assume the second book will come out in a timely manner. Any reader you have who is eager for the second book will eventually get mad and not return for the future. It’s about reliability.

With that advice, Saturn and Orion Book One has a solid ending with a hint toward issue two. Anyone who picks it up is absolutely satisfied with the story. They can see that issue two is in the works, but the major conflict is resolved.

So what happened to the second book. Artists … this one’s for you. After agreeing to work on the book, the artist took the deposit and disappeared. That’s bad form on any artists part. Now, I’m explaining to people who want a second issue what happened. I have an artist who I will never trust or work with again. I’m also out a decent amount of money for the book. It’s bad form on so many levels.

Here’s the thing. I’m not innocent in this. Neither the publisher or I properly vetted this artist. He seemed like a nice guy who was interested in the story and eager to work. The boxes were all checked off. Looking back, there was a red flag that went up, which we ignored. The publisher trusted the artist and I trusted the publisher. That’s my fault.

This also doesn’t mean the book is gone forever. It just means I need to get more money together for an artist and start the vetting process all over again. It’s not the end of everything, but once you get burned, there’s a sour taste as you move forward.

Here’s the effect of the whole thing. I’m currently working with an artist and I’m a little hesitant to send money. i’ve seen plenty of art, but the artwork is not finished. Some has been scanned and emailed, but not all of it. One red flag went up and I didn’t ignore it. I had to talk to the artist and make a statement detailing exactly what needed to be done before any more money was sent his way. Then I had to stick to that statement.

Bottom line, I learned a big lesson with Saturn and Orion and I hope you learned from this post. Don’t be afraid to go out there and meet people. Make sure that they are trustworthy before you start moving forward. Saturn and Orion Book Two will come out. It’s just a matter of finding the right artist.

Till next week.

Inspiration

Here we are again. Last week I kept this update short. I’m in the world building and pitching mode. I’m not sure how long this post will be. I’m making headway with one of the worlds I need to build. There’s another one that is poking at my brain. It needs to get out. Then there’s the one that needs to happen and I can’t seem to think of a quality idea. Why? It’s the most likely to get published. Naturally.

That brings me to the idea of inspiration. Where do all these ideas come from. That’s the question every writer, pro or not, is faced with. Inspiration, or for the purpose of this blog, my ideas, involve a peak into my brain.

Every person has quirks. Creative people tend to put their quirks out there for the world to see. Think about the weird things that you do. You might not think they’re weird, but everyone around you does. I definitely have a few. My biggest one comes in the form of conversations. When I’m talking to people, I tend to look around the room. My eyes can be on that person, but typically they are not. It’s not a rude thing. This person has my undivided attention. I just can’t help but observe my surroundings. I need to look for my kids, students, or some random person talking. This does get catalogued in my brain but doesn’t interfere with my conversation.

Then there’s the conversations itself. I have this amazing knack of having multiple conversations at one time. It’s especially quirky when I have two conversations with the same person. It’s less weird than you think. My mind jumps to something that I was thinking, and I begin talking about that. After a statement or two, I will immediately go back to whatever I was talking about before that thought. Seems weird. I think Im’m just good at multitasking. :)

Believe it or not, these quirks help me juggle my writing. Right now, I’m building two worlds from scratch and just sent out a fresh pitch. I’m organizing Kickstarter data so backers can get rewards and updating this blog. I’m jotting down ideas to develop into later stories. It’s a writers life. Sometimes there are no ideas, while other times there’s a ton. This is the later.

So where do those ideas come from? The simple answer is everywhere. When I’m talking to someone, I catalogue the background. Sometimes these random events become part of my stories. Sometimes the random people fit in and become parts of characters. A lot of times, I will sit and read a book. It’s not okay to copy a story. Don’t ever do that. However, when reading, ideas come from these stories. A good book gets you thinking. There’s nothing wrong with using those thoughts in your own writing.

Here’s a fun one. I decided to write a children’s book. I’ve done this before. They are always fun. This one is very special to me. Not because I’ve never had a children’s book published. A book is a book. I’m confident I can write anything. The inspiration for this book came from my six year-old. He and I were playing with his dinosaurs on the floor. This kid loves dinosaurs. I decided to grab the triceratops and start walking around the room. This dinosaur started to talk to the other dinosaurs. He kept referring to himself as a T-Rex. At first, my son laughed. He kept telling me that I had a triceratops. Of course he was right, but my toy thought he was a T-Rex. My son started freaking out (in a good way). This went on for a while. My son was always engaged, laughing and yelling at the same time. I knew I was onto something. My children’s book was born.

Inspiration comes from your life. Go out. Do things. Read. Generate an opinion. Use that to create something that you love. Trust me. If you love what you’re creating, others will too. Well … get going.

Till next week.

World Building Again...

Okay people. At times I don’t have a lot to write. Those slow times I tend to lean into this page and write wonderful blog posts. Then there are times like today. I find myself swamped with writing. I will never complain about that. When my mind opens up and the ideas start to flow, that’s a great thing. Unfortunately, this blog gets neglected. I refuse to let a week go by without a post so here I am.

Let’s take a quick look at what I’m swamped with. Here’s a tiny peek behind the curtain.

I’m currently building two worlds from scratch. This is not an easy thing to do. These stories will go into a pitch for a company. This will probably end in a rejection and I’ll look at another avenue to get them published. That’s how this works. However, they are really good and may get the nod of approval.

I’m working on a pitch for a children’s book. This gets sent to a publisher next week for consideration. I feel really good about this one.

I really need to get a short pitch together for an anthology. This one needs to be great because the book is great. It’s also a possibility that this pitch can open a few other doors.

Then there’s the pitch for a project that is an absurd long shot. Some might call this a dream project. That’s getting done.

There’s the story that I’m working on for Kurt. That keeps getting pushed back because of all those things that appear above this line.

That single page sequel to Kipland is getting done. That dialogue is tough to get right.

That’s all I can think of right now. I guess that makes this list the important one. So forgive the crazy and short post. It’s how my brain is working right now.

Till next time.

What Makes a Writer?

This past weekend was New York Comic Con. I love this show. It’s as if the comic book world converges on New York City. I get to see tons of friends in the industry, editors I’ve gotten to know over the years, and see all the cool stuff coming down the pipe. This year I actually got to sign a few books I contributed to. It was a good year.

Every year, I debate whether or not I should have a table at the show. I’m not going to go into the pros and cons of tabling at this show. There are numerous reasons on both sides of that coin. Here’s the thing, while talking to a friend, he pointed out how I have books with multiple publishers. He tells me that makes me a “writer.”

The rest of the day, I debated this title. What makes a person a writer? Technically, I’m writing now. That makes me a writer. This is a simple way to look at the title. The thing is, I never looked at myself as a writer. I consider myself a teacher.

Why a teacher? Teaching is my day job. That is my career and what I do to earn money for my family. If I get paid to write, awesome. If I complete a book to hang on my wall, sweet. The money is not the driving force behind my writing. That’s why I teach.

Since writing is not a career, am I really a writer? It’s an interesting conundrum. Alas, while pondering this thought, I looked at my works. I’m constantly sitting with a computer in front of me. I’m always thinking of ideas for a story. I refuse to let a publisher’s rejection stop me from moving forward with my latest idea. I simply work on another one or look to another publisher. Does this make me a writer?

I realized that I’ve been published by multiple publishers and written plenty of different genres. I’ve developed a style over the years that I can call my own. I’ve applied my talents to children’s books, short prose, short and long form comics, and this blog. Does that make me a writer?

The easy answer is yeah, sure. If you’re ever sitting in front of a piece of paper, writing words or telling a story, you are a writer. That seems basic, but it’s the reality. When you stop crafting stories, you are no longer a writer. I truly believe it is that simple. When I started writing, I would tell everyone that I didn’t need to get published. I just needed to write. Even then, I was a writer.

I guess that little bit of self-reflection made me smile. That’s where my moniker comes from: Teacher by day, writer by night.

Till next time.

Comic Book's Civil War

You read that right. You may not know it, but there is a civil war going on in the comic book industry. Somehow, yours truly and the team at Pilot Studios managed to get involved in an unconventional way.

Let’s start at the beginning. I need to explain this from my point of view. That’s the only way I can get this across to those of you who don’t know the whole story. It’s certainly a bit confusing, depending on when you were introduced to the ongoings of battle. If I’m mistaken, feel free to email me. Also, I’m going to avoid names of people and factions involved. No need to add credibility to this movement by naming the parties involved. Subsequently, some people would prefer their name stay out of any press. For them, I am going to hint to the people. If you’re that bent on finding it out, do a little research and your mind will be blown by the slew of information you can find.

Like many wars, things started quietly. Certain creators were being attacked on social media because they were ruining comics. Probably not by coincidence, these were creators of color, female, transgender, LBGTQ … you get the idea. This group claimed they were saving comics by pointing out how these people were ruining the industry. There is even one instance, that I can think of, where a creator’s book was buried by a company and he was quietly removed. However, it must also be noted that the reason for the removal was sound.

About a year ago, a group of editors posted a picture on social media. They were having milkshakes to honor a fallen comrade. Alas, the hounds attacked in force. That seems to be when this movement blew up in a bad way. It seemed like if they got under someone’s skin, they kept up the pressure of their anonymous attacks.

My social media feed continued to pop up with instances of this particular group harassing people in the industry. Slowly, I started noticing my friends getting singled out. It was growing in a negative way. People fought against this group on social media and blocked those harassers when it was necessary.

NOTE: There’s a ton of instances that I’m leaving out. I can’t write about everything. There’s plenty of information out there if you need to know more.

A few months ago, Ben Ferrari and I decided the most effective way to get Always Punch Nazis (APN) out to a mass market was through Kickstarter. A few days before the launch, I started building hype for the book. I recall one response specifically questioning the title of the book. I was smart enough to ignore the post. As Dirk Manning would say, “Don’t fight on the internet.”

The thing you need to understand about APN is that this book was written in response to the events in Charlottesville. Silas Dixon approached Ben. He felt like we had to do something to fight against racism. That’s how APN was born. The title is phenomenal and enough to draw your attention to the book. That’s how you sell this stuff, right?

That leads us to the launch of the Kickstarter. APN launches to a relatively decent start. It had a very low goal because the real goal was to get the book in as many hands as possible. We didn’t need to make money. That was never the purpose. Ben and I decided that meeting the Kickstarter goal was irrelevant. I would have made the goal a single dollar if I could have. The one hundred dollar goal was met within an hour of our launch.

That’s when I found myself, along with Pilot Studios, wrapped up in the comic book civil war. This group of attackers were mysteriously offended by the title of this book. Without understanding the content, they attacked. Let that sink in. The title of the book, Always Punch NAZIS, offended a group of people without any knowledge of the content. You figure out why.

I think they realized quickly that this attack helped more people find the Kickstarter and back the project because they moved on after a few days. Before they moved on, their leader, and at least one other person, recorded a video on YouTube “critiquing” the book or campaign. They claimed that this book was promoting violence. What comic doesn't promote violence? Just sayin.

The funniest thing was when a certain website wrote an article against the book. This is a pretty famous site, which I refuse to promote on my site. Sorry guys. Fortunately, your promotion of Pilot Studios’s book helped us a lot. So, thanks. We were famous. Again, for this website to be offended by a title of a book … you get my point.

I’m happy to say that the argumentative and offended folks moved on from our book, but the damage was done. They became offended by a book title and promoted it exponentially more than we could have on our own.

Almost immediately after they moved on from us, they began harassing the widow of a comic book creator. Personally, I believe the decisions they began to make after they became offended by a certain book’s title (a book that has nothing to do with them) began showing the world their true colors. After the widow spoke out against the group, many more creators began doing the same.

Now, I think this group is collapsing in front of our eyes and I think APN had a little part in that. Believe me, it’s a small blip, but I think people quickly learned there is really only one group of people who would be offended by the title of this book and they were defeated over seventy years ago.

Till next time.

I'm Back!!!!

Okay. I haven’t exactly been slacking. I so this hiatus coming. The truth is, once summer hits my kids stop dancing. Dance is the place where I dedicate a little time to updating this site. With dance ending for summer, I had a funny feeling that things were going to slow down on the website front. Things did not slow down on the writing front.

Well, dance is back. I’m back in a rhythm. Updates will be occurring with some regularity starting today.

I always state how amazing a “foot-in-the-mouth” comment can go. At the beginning of summer, I had a table at a local comic convention. This was a really good show. The people who showed up were really interested in purchasing from us indie creators. Two big things happened at this show.

The first one, Always Punch Nazis proved to be a hit. I’m not going to go deep into this. That’ll be next weeks post. When one of my books gets released, I try to get a bunch of copies for my table. APN went to print in April and I ordered a bunch for this show. (I’m fighting hard not to go off on a tangent here. Next week) The title alone catches peoples’ attention. It was definitely a conversation starter. From there, I get to short pitch the book. Standing at a table, trying to sell someone a new property, will tell you if you’re good at the elevator pitch. I felt confident at this show.

Once I saw genuine excitement for this book, I knew we had to do something. I spoke with Ben Ferrari, head of Pilot Studios, and told him about my experience. We were trying to figure out the best way to launch this book. Our goal was to get a large amount of money together for a charitable donation. We had to get a ton of eyes on this book. After the con, I knew it would generate a lot of support. I was right. Not only was the Kickstarter a massive success, there were some unexpected twists that came with the launch. There’s your cliffhanger for next week.

The second big thing is spectacular. If you’re following me on social media, you would’ve seen me posting some random script shots from Attack on Cookie. This Sesame Street/Attack on Titan parody is close to my heart and it never would’ve happened if I didn’t go to this show and run my mouth.

I have a knack for saying things, putting myself in a corner, and either backing up my words or failing in spectacular fashion. I have quite a few stories about this. I’m sure I’ll share more in the future.

This one, I was talking with a bunch of friends, waiting for a few guys to clean up so we could leave. I look at Fat Guy Inc’s banner and there is this phenomenal print. It’s basically the Attack on Titan season one poster, but it’s Cookie Monster instead of the giant. Mid conversation I simple say to a random guy, “I’m going to write a script for that and send it to you. If you want to draw it, great. If not, I’m writing it anyway.” Another guy responds, “Then you better send it to me since it’s my print.” Insert foot in mouth.

We got to talking and Attack on Cookie was born. I cranked out the script while at a dance competition for the girls. We had my son who wants nothing to do with a casino or dance. He hung out in the room while I wrote.

At this point in time, Peat Vazquez has the preview ready for NYCC. If you’re there, stop by Fat Guy Inc and get a copy. I’ll be around the floor signing when I can. He’s hard at work drawing the issue. I can’t wait to show you guys what we put together. It’s interesting to say the least.

Till next week.

Things Not to Do: Part IV

I changed the title of this run because Things Not to Do is more fitting. 

Before I begin, I want to let you know that I generally update this blog while my daughters are in dance class. With summer upon us, dance is over and my updates will be a little less frequent. Sorry, folks. Stay tuned and follow my twitter to hear about new posts. I'll be updating on a more regular basis in September. 

This blog is a direct response to my mess up this past weekend at Cradle-Con. It was an excellent show and I can't wait to go back next year. The crowd was spectacular and purchased a lot of books. I learned two things while manning a table this weekend. One is what to do and the other what not to do. Let me share. 

I learned that I am really good at the quick pitch (AKA the elevator pitch). This is vital. For those of you who don't know, the quick pitch is let me explain. If you ever meet an editor and want to pitch a story, there's a chance they will allow you to do so in the conversation. At that point, you have one to two sentences to sell them on your concept. That is the quick pitch. It's super important. Based on that one sentence, you may be asked to send in a written pitch. 

The elevator pitch is also the first thing an editor will read in your written pitch. Most editors do not have the time to read an entire pitch from writers they don't know. In my opinion, you have one to two sentences to sell them on your book. Once they get past the quick pitch section, they may simply hit delete. They may not. 

What I learned this weekend was how to use the elevator pitch to sell a book at my table. It was an interesting dynamic. I would watch people light up at the concept. I had people laughing based on a quick sentence. Some bought the book. Others left because the book wasn't for them. There wasn't a single person who didn't understand the concept of the story, though.

What really impressed me was watching my table partner, who is an indy wrestler not a writer, try to sell the same books. He listened to my pitch, understood it, and tried to deliver unsuccessfully. This is not his fault. He is not the writer. I would deliver the same pitch, almost immediately after he finished, and the reaction would be entirely different. I admit, I impressed myself. 

Here's what not to do. I had the pleasure of being interviewed by the local comic press. This was a first for me. I'm not shy with a mic in my face, and I know how to answer questions. I'd been doing that all weekend.

The interview went really well. I had the camera crew and interviewer laughing. Impressed looks popped up on their faces at key points. I even pointed out the reason for a book after the interview was over that sparked a quick follow up because it was just that important. Ever since the camera crew left my table, I've been beating myself up over it. 

WHY AM I BEATING MYSELF UP over a great interview?!?!

I broke the simple rule. I didn't name drop. Throughout the interview I didn't make the point to give credit to my art team. That is a huge mistake on my part and something you should never, e-e-e-ever, do. (Thanks Jericho) When you are speaking about your books, you need to make sure credit goes where it needs to. Sell yourself second. Sell your art team first. Remember, you will get nowhere without them. 

That means that when I'm talking about Divebomb, a mailman with a jetpack, make sure you mention this is the brainchild of KURT BELCHER. Sorry Kurt, I failed you. 

Alas, this is my formal apology to Kurt Belcher, Luis Rivera, Jason Kimble, Micah Meyers, Shelby Robertson, Jim O'Reilly, Jeff Johnson, and Ben Ferrari. I name dropped you guys all weekend, but didn't make it the priority of my interview. 

I can only do better next time. 

On the brighter side, Always Punch Nazis had a great response. I can't wait for the Kickstarter to launch. I made sure I told everyone who would listen, including the interviewer, how Ben Ferrari approached the Pilot Studios squad to create this fundraiser anthology. 

Till next time. 

Breaking In? Part 3 (AKA: Mistakes I've Made)

I was sitting here, staring at the title of this article, and I thought for a few seconds that I might need to change the title. I'm not sure this is actually about breaking into the comics world. As I've previously stated, I'm not exactly sure I've broken in. I have a decent resumé of books published, but I'm not writing a book per month. The more I think about this article, the more I believe it's less about breaking in and more about what not to do as you try to break in. Maybe a more appropriate title would be, "Mistakes I've Made." Hence the sub-title. Oh, well. I'm digressing again. On with this week's story. 

When I first started going to comic conventions, I enjoyed waiting on line to get books signed. Like many of you, I'd sit there for a while, waiting with my books in hand. I'd try to think of something witty to say to the writer or artist. I travel to a lot of these cons by myself. One of my favorite things to do would be to ask a stranger to hold my spot in line while I walked the convention floor. This was when cons were small, but growing. I don't think I could get away with that today. Funny thing, it's rare that I wait to get an autograph from a creator. Now, I'm more likely to walk to the front of the line, without books to say hi and chat. Let's keep in mind, this only works in artist's alley. If you're thinking about talking to a big name creator at, say, the Marvel booth, that's probably not going to happen. 

I'm not special and have little to no business walking to the front of a line. I've spent years saying hi and starting up small talk with a few creators that I admire. After many conversations, I like to think they know who I am and don't mind my presence. Of course, if I'm disrupting their sales, I would be making a mistake. I'm also very likely to buy something from them. Support your friends and they will support you. That's a big deal. 

Let's go back to the days I used to wait in line. Before the con, I'd make a list of creators I needed to see. It was typically the hottest writers or artists at that point in time. That could dramatically change within a year too. While looking over the guest list, I would go through my comics and grab some books to get signed. It was fun to do. 

This didn't last long. Sometimes, when I got to the creator's line, I would walk away because everyone was there to see that person. I didn't want to wait an hour or more for my books to get scribbled on. Other times, I'd wait the hour. Ironically, I aways had a knack for getting to the front of a line without waiting. It's an odd talent. 

I'm going back a long time here, but my favorite moments happened when a creator was sitting at his booth, bored. This used to happen a lot. I'm not talking their artist alley booth. I'm talking Marvel, DC, and Image. It didn't matter. A creator I admired, who was mildly popular, would be sitting at his scheduled signing, bored. These were my favorite moments because I got to pick his brain. 

Remember before when I said I liked to think of some witty comment? Yeah. That's not always the way to go. Sometimes the talent would laugh, which is good. I always try to lighten up their monotonous day. Some of the things I ask people to write on the item being signed is simply hysterical. Other times, the creator is not in the mood to hear the comments. 

One time, I was reading the hottest book of the year and I brought the book to get signed. The thing is, just because this was the hottest book of the year doesn't mean it was a good book to read. Like many people I bought the book based on the hype. It was a twelve issue maxi-series with a character I was never to fond of. However, if this character is written well, he is phenomenal. Unfortunately, most of the time, he's not written to my liking. Not a big deal. It's a taste thing. 

The hype got the better of me. I picked up issue one and thought it was pretty good. The writer had a solid grasp and was about to tell a story that fell into my wheelhouse. It was very character driven and wasn't going to be the typical fisticuffs that never really worked. It just got old. With issue one, I was hooked. 

Issue two fell off a little. Issue three fell off a little more. I believe issue four was a turning point. This wasn't the book I signed up for. Everything changed. Here's the thing. That change was very dramatic and it didn't seem to fit the narrative the writer was trying to tell. It seemed like he was trying to tell one story, but was being forced in a different direction. I was really upset because I saw the potential in the story, but it wasn't coming out in the work. Something wasn't right. 

Then came the day I got to meet the writer. It was one of those no line situations. The writer was twirling his Sharpie between his fingers, waiting for an eager fan to come up to his booth. I saw an opportunity to pick his brain and decided to take it. DISCLAIMER!!!!! This is exactly what you should not do in this situation. I thought I was being witty. I saw what he was attempting, but realized there was push back from within. Again, DON'T DO THIS!!!! I walked up to him, had him sign my book, then asked my question. I asked him if that was the story he was trying to tell. BIG MISTAKE.

The black Sharpie instantly twirled from his fingers through the air, bouncing on the table in front of him. He politely asked what I meant. You'd think I would've gotten the hint. I didn't. I explained what I saw at the beginning of the maxi-series and how it took a dramatic change. I proudly stated that it looked like he was trying to do something and he was being forced in a different direction. Like he wanted to tell one story and he wasn't allowed. 

This is wrong on so many levels, but I didn't realize it. The creator was nothing but professional. I could tell how mad he was, but he didn't let it show. He kindly explained to me how, even though he may want to go in one direction, there is a force, an editor, who may not agree with his take. That person might require he make revisions to the work before it goes to print. I thanked him, beaming. He recommended I read another piece of his work that came out exactly like he envisioned. Not only did I read that book, I regularly pick up his work today. 

I may have been right with my assessment of his story, but I was so wrong in the way I handled the situation. Without saying anything, I basically told him the story was a piece of junk. It didn't matter how I tried to sugarcoat it. I was rude. It would have been better to not go up to him or thank him for my autograph. I doubt he remembers the moment, but I will never forget it. One day, I'll be in his position and I will need to make sure I remain as professional as him. 

Even though I handled the situation poorly, I realize there was some good in this. I was beginning to analyze text. I was looking at what was working and what was not. This is a big deal for creators. You need to be able to judge what is working and what is not. That's the only way to adjust your own writing, making it better. 

Till next time. 

Breaking In? Part 2

Last week I established that the term "breaking in" is very relative. I'm still not sure what it means to actually break in. I'm very happy simply writing stories. Whether or not they get published is different. It's a lot of fun to see your work in print, but, as I stated last week, that's not what drives me to write. 

The one thing that I came to terms with last week is the notion that, regardless of the plethora of information out there to learn from, I simply don't listen. That's the basis for the next fews posts. At least until I run out of stories. 

I know I joke about all the mistakes that I've made throughout the years, saying the answers are out there and I ignored them, but that's not entirely true. Today, you can read blogs, books, Google search, or go to company sites to find all kinds of information to help you avoid some of these mistakes. And even with all that reading and advice, you might find out it doesn't work for your specific situation. I decided to start writing before it was super easy to find that information. I honestly think I discovered all my mistakes by accident about a year ago when someone was talking about things not to do and I began a mental checklist of all the things I had already done. Some of them are real doozies too. 

I'm probably going to mix up a few stories while I tell you this one. I hope I don't butcher it too much. Let's start with why I actually started writing. I remember, after high school I had to choose what to do with my life. I loved movies and wanted to make them, but it's such an insecure industry. I thought I could become a teacher and write on the side. It's worked really well for me too. Now, before I decided to take a stab at writing, I needed something to spark my ability. 

I never thought I had any real ideas. To be honest, I still think my ideas are subpar. Remember, at this time I wanted to make movies, not write. I was okay thinking someone else would write and I would film or something. It was around this time that I started to slowly get back into comics. This is around the time Brian Bendis started writing Ultimate Spider-Man. I've always credited this series for teaching me a ton about building stories over a longer form. I can't credit them for creating that spark inside that made me need to start writing. 

At the time of Ultimate Spider-Man, the comics industry had just begun to rebound from the late 90's collapse. I'm not going to go into the boom and collapse of the 90's. Feel free to Google it. Ultimate Spider-Man made me go back to a comic shop and start spending money again on issues. Like many comic enthusiasts, I started scanning the shelves and expanding my weekly books. I didn't quite commit to a pull-list at that point, but it was coming. 

At the same time, Smallville was doing phenomenal things on the WB. I loved this show and couldn't figure out why DC didn't start incorporating some of the show's elements into their books. This is an argument I still think about with the success all the movies are having today. I would have loved to read Superman written with some of Smallville's characters and themes bleeding across those pages. Perhaps a maxi-series. I think the one element I wanted to see explored was the relationship between Clark and Lana. That's what made the show for me. I also loved the Lex/Clark dynamic. I couldn't figure out why it wasn't in the comics. 

It was around that time that I saw a four part, weekly mini-series that brought Lana back into Clark's life. I don't remember much about the series. Remember, this is before the big boom at DC Comics right around the time Ultimate Spider-Man was taking off. When I saw this comic, I thought it was exactly what I was looking for. The cross between the show and comic-verse was happening. 

Man, was I wrong. This series crossed over all the Superman books and it was written by different writers. I remember hating the first and last parts, but the middle two were really strong. It felt like they were trying to bring the Smallville audience over to the comics by bringing Lana back for a short time, while not trying to change anything. Lana appears and Clark says hi. Lana leaves. Nothing happens. This wasn't what I wanted. 

It was exactly what I needed. 

That was the moment I said I could write something better. I was determined to write a story that incorporated the elements of the show into the comic. I was going to tell a story that used flashbacks to Clark's childhood where the elements of Smallville would play out while wreaking havoc with his modern day self. 

My plan was to put Clark in a place where he was going to meet with someone. This caused him to reminisce about his childhood, remembering his first love. It told the story about Lex losing his hair during the meteor shower that brought Clark to Earth. It had Pete Rose and Chloe Sullivan hanging with Clark while he pined over Lana. After rehashing all those feeling (even though he and Lois were together) I would reveal the person meeting Clark was Lana. 

Honestly, thinking about this concept right now makes me think about how good the idea was then and it holds up now. My first comic script had been written. I was now a writer. 

It's time to go with the mistakes. One more time, it's easy for you to find out what not to do today. I needed to learn what not to do first hand. 

I wrote issue one. I mapped out my 12 issue maxi-series and had a pretty solid plan where to go. I was going to wreak havoc with Clark's heart, drive a wedge between him and Lois, and then, when all hope was lost, I planned to kill Lana Lang. That's right folks. This brand new, never published writer, was going to make you adore Lana and then kill her. 

What are the mistakes with this? One, I would learn that you need to start small. It doesn't matter how good the concept is, if you're not established, getting a 12 issue commitment is not going to happen. Two, nobody's letting you kill a primary character at a major publisher when you are a new writer. 

Don't worry. I made plenty more mistakes right here. This script was awesome. It really wasn't. This was the first script I had ever written. I'm sure if I read it now, I would be able to figure out exactly how horrible it really was and still is. The odds of getting your first ever script published ... that's slim. 

To continue with the mistakes. Emails were not easy to come by. They existed, but the majority of my life was through snail mail. I proudly emailed this script, cover letter, entire 12 issue synopsis to many people at DC Comics. Yup. I have no idea if they read it or not. 

However, there was a big mistake that was about to hit. I really believed in this script. A lot. Through happenstance, I learned I had a connection at DC Comics. (This is an entirely different story that I will detail every mistake that came with this contact one day soon.) This contact read my script. I was not surprised when he told me how much he liked it. Before he read it, he offered to forward it to one of the editors he knew, but only after I made sure I was happy with everything in the story. 

I remember revising the script, tightening it up, and sending it off. It was a 23 page story (they only published 22 at that time). I don't know why I had 23 in my head. Big mistake. It showed right away that I wasn't ready. After a while, the editor read it and replied. He ripped this story to shreds. It was harsh. Remember, this was my first script. Every piece of criticism he said was spot on.

Thankfully, I didn't have his email. I was livid when I read his reply. Like a typical immature newbie, I blasted the editor to my connection. Look who keeps making mistake after mistake. I was fortunate that my connection didn't forward my reply.

The one thing I remember was that the editor understood what I was going for. He did not like the incorporation of the show. He thought it was too derivative and didn't have it's own voice. He was spot on (I say now). It dawned on me that even though he didn't like the story, he got it. I was able to tell the story exactly the way I wanted and it came across perfectly.

That was a win. I had the ability to tell a story. That's my mind at work for you. All these mistakes, someone hating my story, and I find the positive grain in that mess. I was able to take that grain and write another story. My connection was unable to get me published, but I look back now and understand how green I was. I would have messed it up. I had no published work and thought I was one of the best writers. I thought I was good enough to work at the big two. Maybe I was. Maybe I am. The thing is, without any published work, I didn't have the proof that they needed. 

I was going to tell another story, but I'll save that one for next week. 

On a side note, I remember meeting this editor a few years after the Superman incident and thanked him for reading my script. I let him know that I appreciated his time and critique (which I have since learned how to handle). I honestly don't think he remembered anything beyond me telling him who my connection was. He smiled and shook my hand. 

Till next time. 

Breaking In? Part 1

I'm not sure I can walk around saying that I broke into the comics industry. I have some books published and plenty more in the works. Project wise, I have a definite cycle of books on the horizon. I don't work for the big two, and can say that I haven't made a dime on any of the stories you can read. Many of them are free on this site. Clearly, I'm not in this for the money. Although, it would be nice. Feel free to toss me some dough any time. The saying goes, you don't realize you broke in. You just keep working. (I'm sure that's not a saying at all, but I said it so deal with it.) 

I've been trying to "break in" for many years. Today, I was reminiscing about my earliest experiences with comics pros. I never went to a con without something to show and share. Many times, this was a script or concept that I was sure was the next big thing. While remembering these experiences, I thought I should start sharing them here. Let's keep in mind, I probably have plenty of stories to keep this idea going for a few weeks. So sit back and enjoy the ride. 

It's funny when you go to comic panels at conventions. You sit there and listen to the stories and advice from the pros. Like many of you, I'd sit there and listen to their stories, and like clockwork, someone would say something like, "What worked for me will not work for you." The door into the comic book world closes after someone enters through that door. You need to find another one. I always kept that in mind when I sat down to learn from these pros. That's probably why I constantly made the same mistakes they made. 

As I said earlier, I went to cons with scripts. No matter how many people tell you publisher don't want to read non-published work, they can't mean it, right? Wrong. I can be a very interesting and stubborn person. When I started writing, I was content with writing a script and never getting it published. These stories were for my friends and me. I was also convinced that I would constantly submit any script or pitch regardless of however many times I heard the word no. This makes for an interesting bit of insight into my thought process. 

Let's start with my content to write a story. If these stories never saw the light of day, I still wrote them. I was happy to have a completed work. I didn't think it was a bad thing. I could write whatever I want without limit. If the world never saw it, I did. It was for me. This attitude, unbeknownst to me, was a quality necessary to my writing. First of all, I kept writing. I didn't get discouraged and did not stop. I didn't realize that I was honing my craft. I was developing a style based on the writing books I studied, stories I studied, and ideas I had. Bottom line, I was writing. 

The other thing I had going for me was not listening to advice. Now, this is weird and not entirely a good thing. When someone said, "No," it didn't register for me. I was going to move forward even though they didn't want to help me. I'll never forget talking to Keith Giffin when he was doing his "Don't Quite Your Day Job" panel. I told him my aspirations and he conveyed the same message. He was telling me how hard it is to make a living in comics. He's not wrong and has been making a living as a writer for a long time. He's got to be write. Young me hears, "Don't try to work in comics." That doesn't register. 

This industry is one of those primarily no industries. You're going to hear that word more than you hear yes. If that's going to upset you, move along to something else. I have a knack of moving forward and working on something else and trying again. It's the way I'm wired and that's a good thing. It's why I have anything published. 

Now, to the negative of the word no. Sometimes the word no is vital and should be listened to. When you hear horror stories about breaking in and mistakes that people made, you should listen. I heard things like, "That no didn't work for you, but it will work for me." So why not cold email Joe Quesada and convince him in an email to hire you as a writer. Well, because he won't and if you're not careful, he will remember your name as a negative. You always hear how the comics world is small and everybody knows everybody. You never know who's going to be talking about you. 

I'm going to end with another time I heard the word no and it paid off. I was told that you should not just blindly hand people scripts. Okay. After a few years, it's time to listen. I write a story and ask my friend to draw an ashcan of this book. Check out to Hell and Back for the results. The words I hear are don't hand out shoddy art to publishers. It will hurt your chances of getting published. Okay, that's the word no. You can't do this. Too late it's in my bag. 

After hearing the word no about that book, I'm second guessing myself. Then my brain takes over. This book is exactly what I want. The shoddy art is what I was going for. The writing will shine through. Whoever the pro was that said I should not hand this out was wrong. On a side note, the pros know what they're talking about and you should listen to them. Thankfully, I already had the book in my hand and couldn't go back on my plan for that show. It turned out this one time, the pro was wrong. 

To Hell and Back was the write call because I ran into the Grayhaven Comics booth and the editor who saw that book loved it. He was able to get me into his next anthology and I was published. Everything changes from that point on. Once you get work published, there's no turning back. You get addicted and need to get something else published. Then something else. Then something else. At some point that something else turns into the point where you broke in. 

Bottom line to this story, you need to figure this out for yourself. If you have the drive and desire, nothing will stop you. Some people will give you stellar advice and you will ignore it. Other people will give you horrible advice and you might try it for yourself. When all is said and done, you will find your own path. Just keep moving forward. 

I can't wait to see which story I share next week. 

Till then. 

Cinema's Impact

I love when Facebook comes to the rescue. I have to thank Kurt for posting a simple question the other day. The paraphrased question was simple. What movie most impacted you cinematically? 

That's one tough question, which immediately became the subject for this week's post. There is no simple answer for this. I listed four movies that had a major impact on me when I was younger. But it's unfair to list this to just four movies without explanation. So much of my favorite movies aren't impacted by the movie itself. Instead, they are impacted by the circumstances surrounding that movie. 

One of my most impactful movies was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990). I grew up in the 80's and love TMNT. I wasn't a big reader. Sure, I'd go to 7-11 and pick a comic off the spinner rack and thumb through it. I'd read books on tape and the comics that came with my He-Man figures. Much of what I did was look at the pictures, but I had a book in my hand so it counts. I had no idea how dark this movie was. Raph saying, "Damn," was a big deal. Since he could say it, I could too, right? Sure. If you say so. The fights, the storytelling, the dark nature of the movie compared to the show, and the seriousness of the material for the time are all very impactful for me. But that's not the reason I would put this on the list as one of the most impactful movies of my life. 

Much of the movie going experience is subjective to your life. I have a vivid memory of this movie. I remember when my dad took me to see this movie. It was a big deal because my brother was going with us. My brother is a few years older than me and wasn't the biggest turtle fan. At this point, he was beyond playing with toys and found the cartoon too childish for his taste. He didn't want to see this movie. Looking back, I don't blame him. But my dad knew how much I needed to see this in the theater and he dragged my brother. This is the first movie that I remember going to where I got to pick the movie even though my brother (possibly my father too) didn't want to see it. It's the first time I remember winning the battle over what to see. 

With that in mind, I remember sneaking my naked splinter action figure into the theater in the inside coat pocket of my jean jacket. I remember going to the drug store (right next to the theater) to pick up candy so we could sneak it in. Sneaking candy into a movie is a staple every child needs to experience. We had to get on line, which went pretty far down the sidewalk. Then we waited to get in. We didn't have assigned seats or prepaid tickets. We waited on line. 

When the movie was over, I remember my dad asking my brother if he liked it. Fortunately, he did, which was cool. My dad gave him the old, "Aren't you glad you came," line that I'm sure I'll give my kids one day. This experience has nothing to do with the movie, but my love of cinema grows from it. 

Another impactful movie of mine is Sister Act. This is a hysterical movie, but I'm not sure how it holds up today. I haven't watched it in the longest time. It's not a movie I study for storytelling or character development. If you haven't figured out how this post is going, the impact of this movie has nothing to do with the quality of the movie itself. 

Sister Act is one of the few movies I remember going to with just my mom. I remember going in the theater and sitting on the left side of the aisle. My mom got us popcorn and a soda. We may have snuck in candy from the aforementioned drug store. To be totally honest, there isn't too much I remember about this movie. I have a vague image of Whoopie Goldberg dressing like a nun and singing. I believe she was a stripper or something. It's your typical fish-out-of-water movie situation. 

If I don't remember this movie, what was so impactful. It's simple. I will never forget how hard my mother laughed during this film. I'm pretty sure she and I were the only ones in the theater. For my mom, this must have been the funniest thing she's ever seen. She practically fell out of her chair any time a joke came across the screen. This wasn't just laughter either. It was deafening. It sticks with me to this day. 

The experience of the movie theater is one that can impact a person in so many different ways. So many bad movies are made better by the people you're with. I try to take my kids to any movie they want to see. To me, it doesn't matter how bad the movie is. There reactions will make it better for me. Monster's University was not a good movie. I wasn't fond of Cars 3 either. But, since I was there with my kids, I had a different reaction to them. I enjoyed them because they loved every second. It makes me think that my stories, good or bad, could have an impact on someone simply because they exist.

You never know who's going to react or how they're going to react. You may not understand why they react the way they do either. I have always written for myself. If you like what I present, that's fantastic. 

Till next time. 

Ideas and Inspiration

At times people ask where you come up with your ideas. This is a conversation I have with my students all the time. If you didn't know, I teach by day. My students love knowing I write and I love telling them stories about my experiences. 

The core idea of a story is not too difficult to create. These ideas come from everywhere. Lately, I've been reading headlines and tapping into the direction of the community and nation to develop something. Stories based on race and not trusting the police to a nation run by an unqualified figure who may be more interested in starting a war than saving the country. A woman running for office to the unearthing of an artifact that may lead to the discovery of aliens. The other day, I drove by an abandoned storefront. I read the name of the former store and noted that my friend used to word there. It hit me that that name is a phenomenal title for a story. Bam, my next creation was born. 

These are all core ideas for a story. I bet you're sitting there thinking, "That's not very original." I'm not reading your mind. You're right. Ironically, I would say that those references I made point to some very popular shows. Homeland, Black Lightning, and Stargate. I'm sure there are plenty more that can be applied to those ideas. Where does the original idea actually come from?

The core idea isn't a big thing to get. Inspiration is everywhere around you. Look at a bird flying above a tree. Is he hunting, protecting, house shopping? That's all up to you. The work starts when you decide to dedicate the weeks, months, or years developing that raw idea. This is what will end up making your idea unique and worthwhile. What makes the characters worth my time? How will the setting generate interest in the subject you where inspired by? What twist occurs making this different than Homeland? 

Let me give you an example. Since I'm sitting here thinking about a society split by race, I'm going to use that as my example. Anyone who pays attention to history knows that segregation was, and still is, a topical subject in the United States. Fighting  occurs based on race, gender choice, or sexual preference. Let's exercise with this concept for a few minutes. How do we make racism unique? We can call our team mutants who plan on taking over the Earth. Fortunately, there is a good set of mutants that plan to fight peacefully for change, but violently to stop the bad guys ... blah, blah, blah. You probably know who the X-Men are. 

Same concept as the X-Men. Now, we act on the mass fear of racism and the dominant race loses in the not to distant future. This race takes over and imprisons the same people that held them captive for generations. These same people who created laws to prevent them from succeeding in this world. Now, instead of both sides being human, we will have humans being suppressed by apes. Planet of the Apes is a pretty good movie. 

Ideas are everywhere if you are willing to explore them further. I tell my students that I will sit at a computer and write a bunch of gibberish about the silliest of concepts just to exercise my brain and get me writing. Once I begin to feel a flow and rhythm, a story begins to shape up. From there, I'll decide on characters, setting, major conflict, and everything else that I feel make the idea unique. That's the work. It's also where I get to have a lot of fun creating, manipulating, destroying, and saving whatever universe comes to mind. 

Until next time. 

Endings

Okay. So this is my second attempt at this post. I literally just deleted everything. I was at the end and everything. That bites, but I'm determined to get this out to you. So ... take 2. 

I was on Facebook earlier this week when I saw a question posed by one of my friends. It was an interesting question, and, even though I responded with a quick sentence answer, I realized this was a very complex situation. After thinking about this question for a few days, I decided to give an in-depth answer right here. 

The question, "Do you prefer a graphic novel to have a definitive ending?" That's paraphrased. I don't remember the exact wording, but that's the gist. 

As I said, the answer is a little more complex than you think. To truly understand, you have to understand a little bit about story structure. Every story needs to have a beginning, middle, and an end. That's standard grade school language. As far a graphic novels goes, everything depends on the type of graphic novel you are reading. Pride of Baghdad comes to mind. This book was designed to be to a single story without a sequel. If it didn't have a definitive ending, the reader would not have been satisfied and the book would have been considered a failure. That is true for many books that are collected in graphic novels. You can reference Watchmen when you talk about graphic novels with a definitive ending too. However, you should also look at how that book was created. 

Watchmen, like many graphic novels, was designed to be a monthly book. It's twelve issues are collected in a wonderful trade. That trade has a definitive ending. However, you need to go back and look at the individual issues when considering story telling. For me, Ultimate Spider-Man was a major influence on my story telling style. Again, this book is made up of individual, monthly issues aimed to create a larger story arc. When looking at the first arc of Ultimate Spider-Man, you need to think, Bendis wrote seven issues that made up a greater story. These seven issues were collected into volume one of the trade paperback collection. By the end of issue seven, the Green Goblin was defeated and everyone was happy. But there was an issue eight. So the question that needs to be addressed is, "What's going on here?"

Watchmen, Ultimate Spider-Man, and many other comics are written for a monthly release with trade collections in mind. Each trade has a definitive ending that leaves the reader satisfied. So does each monthly issue. Let's go back to story structure for a second. I gave you the grade school definition of structure, but I left out some key components. Each story needs to have a climax. This is a definitive ending that leaves the reader satisfied. This is true for monthly released and books that are collected. 

When you go to your local comic shop and pick up a random issue, you with notice a conflict that drives that issue forward. That conflict will be resolved by the end of the issue, leaving you satisfied with the story in your hand. You might not like the climax, but you will be satisfied. I'm starting to think of the loose issues of Identity Crisis here. Then there's a cliffhanger. Most new writers think that a cliffhanger is a cheap out. You don't need to solve the problem and end the story. Just toss in a cliffhanger and all is perfect. That's not how they work. 

I reiterate, every story needs a climax. The problem needs to be solved before the cliffhanger is presented. Let's look at Empire Strikes Back for a second. Luke has to go off and train to be a Jedi. He does this. While training, he learns that his friends are in trouble. They will die if he doesn't leave his training and save them. From there, he confronts Vader. He gets his butt kicked and learns that his enemy is his father. While he is fighting, most of his friends get away. He saved them. Nobody said he had to live. He had to save them, which he does. Well, most of them. Han didn't make it. After Luke loses the battle with his enemy, learning he has to learn a lot more before he is a Jedi, he manages to escape. When the movie ends, Luke has to come to terms with the reality that his father is his enemy and his best friend is lost. There's the cliffhanger. The viewer has a definitive, although aggravating, ending and they have a reason to come back for the next movie. 

There is an art form to telling a story across multiple issues. Now that we've established that there needs to be a definitive ending, how to you do that while telling a larger story across multiple issues. First, the major conflict may not need to be established right away. Issue one has it's own individual conflict. The main character will solve this by the end of the issue. The reader is satisfied. Hooray. Within that story, there is a subplot that also needs to be established. This is going to build as the story progresses. This may become the major conflict for the entire arc. Maybe it's a villain behind the villain. The big boss that controls things from behind the scenes. The hero may know he exists. He may not. At some point, they will have to meet and the major climax will be solved. 

NOTE TO THE OBSERVANT READER: THIS IS WHERE EVERYTHING WAS DELETED.

Let's keep in mind, everything I just said pertains to regularly released issues. If you're an indie writer like me, you need to be very strategic with your cliffhangers. Saturn and Orion was released last year through a successful Kickstarter campaign. Feel free to pick up a copy. Just click on the Saturn and Orion link under Published Work. (Cheep plug) When you write an indie book, think about how long it's going to take you to release issues two, or three, or four. I bring up Saturn and Orion because last year, when the book was released, issue two was written, and went off to the artist. At this point, book two is in limbo. One artist backed out and another is currently working on a few sample pages to see if he's a good fit. 

This is vital for indie writers. Your audience will not be happy if your book doesn't have a definitive ending and the second issue takes a long time to be released. It may never be released at all. That doesn't mean don't write with issue two in mind. It doesn't mean don't write with a larger story arc in mind. All I'm saying is make sure there is a solid ending to that issue. Feel free to embed hidden gems in the issue that seem unimportant when they appear. Saturn and Orion is littered with them. They seem relevant to the moment they appear and look like background filler for the artist. I promise you, they are all part of the bigger arc. If I never get to the issue when I reveal everything, oh well. It doesn't impact book one. Read it and see what you think. 

Okay. After deleting the first post and delivering a second, trimmed down version, I finally answered the Facebook question. I'm satisfied. If you have a question that you think I can answer, long-form, right here, shoot me an email, Facebook message, or tweet me. I'd love to incorporate more storytelling questions. 

Until next week. 

Star Wars

This is too easy of a topic to write about. Let's be real. Anyone who knows me knows how much I love Star Wars. I'm sure I could spend many, many blogs writing about this particular topic. Between the movies, television shows, books, and toys, this topic is the gift that keeps on giving. I'm not in the mood to take the easy road with Star Wars. Instead, I want to talk about the odd impact the original trilogy had on me as a kid. 

I honestly can't tell you where my love of Star Wars comes from. I can remember spending hours, with my brother, playing with the toys. Like most kids, we had a ton of figures and vehicles. And bases. Ewok village was the best. I'm digressing already though. Oh, and Jabba's chair thing that trapped figures. Anyway, I can remember sitting at the television any time the Fox anthem played waiting for the famous, "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away" to appear on the screen. The rage that appeared on my face was comical. 

What actually inspired this blog was dinner with my daughter. We were out, and on the television was a prequel. I believe it was Revenge of the Sith. She sat there, mesmerized by the movie. The girl has seen them all, but they don't end up on tv as background noise like they did for me when I was her age. This was a rarity. I watched her and started talking about the movies. It became a nice dinner conversation. 

It amazes me that I can say this, but, when I was her age (insert groan here) Star Wars would play on WPIX. The thing is, it wouldn't be on every day. Today, you turn on whatever channel has the rights to Star Wars and you can watch marathon after marathon. For me, and many of you, it was on around Thanksgiving weekend. That's the memory I get to share. It's one of my most amazing, clear memories from my childhood. 

I remember going to my grandparent's house, heading to the back room, and turning on Star Wars. Movie after movie played. It was the original marathon. If I wasn't at my grandparent's house, I would head to my room. I would sit with my uncle and he would quiz me on Star Wars. I began to learn actor names, lines, writers, and directors. It may have been my earliest exposure to learning the behind the scenes craft.

I didn't know it then, but I was studying structure. I didn't understand why Luke fought Vader in the tree cave, but it was himself. I couldn't figure out why Luke was allowed to roam around Cloud City. I certainly didn't understand why Empire ended the way it did. As a kid, I didn't need to understand this. It was an impact on me. I began learning how a hero stepped up to the fight. I learned how tragedy can drive a person to act. I learned that a flashlight makes a good lightsaber. 

These early Star Wars marathons were magical. They made Thanksgiving special. It gave me something to look forward to and helped me bond with my brother and uncle. Ironically, I the first movie I saw in theaters with my Dad was episode 7. That's an irrelevant piece of information that I'm sure will lead to another post one day. Best part about the once a year Star Wars marathon ... it got me out of watching the once a year airing of The Wizard of Oz. 

Till next time. Which will be next week. Promise. No seriously ... I mean it.  

Good News/Bad News

Well, here I am with my weekly diatribe. The good news is that I'm sitting here chomping at the bit to write a story. It's a challenging piece and I'm not sure how it's actually going to turn out. I won't say much more than that at this point. One day you'll hear all about it. 

The bad news is that the story that I'm chomping at the bit to write is consuming my mind. That means that I'm going to keep this little update super short. So that's it for this week. I didn't want you fine folks to feel neglected. Figured something short is better than nothing. 

Till next week. 

World Building

It's interesting when I'm deciding what to write. There's so much to talk about, yet, many times I sit here wondering what to post. Today is one of those days. I hate talking about projects that may never come to fruition. Usually, works in progress stay close to the vest. This keeps outside influences from swaying the direction of the story. I have a few close friends who I'll bounce ideas off of. It's silly not to. Generally, though, I'm quiet about a project until it's nearly done. When it comes to world building, very few people hear what I'm doing. 

I'm currently building three worlds. These stories may never come to fruition (that's another reason not to talk about them with people), but they need to be built. One I'm confident will lead to something since I was asked to build that world. Ironically, that's the one that I've put off for the others. The one that I'm prioritizing is the one that most likely won't see print. It's also the more topical of the concepts and the one that needs to be developed. 

It's you've never built a world, you won't understand the work that really goes into it. I want to do my best to lay this out for you. Imagine typing an essay for school. That's something everyone had to do. Like many of us, you stared at the blank page wondering what to write. Some people got going while others procrastinated. Some students didn't understand the question and had a hard time getting started. You know that pain. We all experienced that. The thing is, when you had trouble, there was a place to go. Someone was there to help clarify the question for you. If you had cool parents, they would even write the entire essay for you. 

When you're building a world, that blank page is endless and nobody is knocking on your door telling you to get it done. You can't run to a friend and say write this. However, you can bounce ideas off of people to see what sticks. That's always fun. When you're building a world, you write or you don't. Build the world or abandon the idea for something else. No pressure. 

So why bother trying? World building is such a rewarding process. Think about this, whether your idea is truly original or derivative, everything is your creature and the sky's the limit. You can create a concept grounded on Earth, inside Earth, on a planet you created, or whatever your imagination comes up with. The characters can do anything and say anything. They are from anywhere you conceive. You raise them from the nugget of electricity that fires in your brain. It's yours to do with as you will. 

Imagine the worst person you've ever met. The bully you knew in high school. The one you picked on. Think about how he treated others and made your life miserable just by looking at you from across the hall. Now imagine that guy with the ability to read your mind. That may make a great villain. From there, imagine what you would do to this guy if you could do anything to him without penalty. Oh, how could you torture that poor soul. Congratulations, you're building a world. Think about how rewarding it would be to torture the person you were too frightened to confront as a kid. That's why you build a world. That's why you write. 

World building can be a painstaking process. It takes a while to build every character. I like to write a brief (sometimes not brief at all) bio for each character. There are two theories on this. Some people will tell you that those bios are a waste of writing time. They aren't wrong. As a matter of fact, there's no wrong answers to this skill. I find that those bios lead to stories down the line. The bio gives me and the artist a solid understanding of each character. This adds to the foundation of the world and a solid foundation is essential to storytelling. 

Building the world is also something that you can consider. What is the environment like. If you're world is based in a future Earth, what might that be like? If it's in outer space, how do the people survive? Maybe the story takes place on a planet far away, or deep below the sea. The sky's the limit. Maybe literally. Anything you want. Go for it. 

If you're not interested in writing, you're probably not going to sit down and build a world. Although, you might end up having a conversation with someone and end up doing just that. 

World building is a tireless task that may lead nowhere. I'm sitting here, getting ready to go back to creating characters, knowing the subsequent pitch will most likely get declined. The important thing to remember is that nobody will build this world but me and the more worlds I build, the better writer I will be. The pitch may be decline, or not, but if I don't put it out there, I will never know. 

Now I'm just rambling. 

Till next time.