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. 

Jaws

My five year old has been obsessed with Jaws the past few months. I have You Tube to thank for that one. I have to take some of the blame, too. The movie has been on a regular rotation on Showtime and whenever I catch it, I leave it on until he realizes that it's Jaws. He constantly freaks out and laughs at me. The kid taunts me, telling me that he's watching the movie. 

Jaws is a true classic. The father of the summer blockbuster and a true thriller. I've studied the dynamics of this movie since I was a young lad, watching it regularly on WPIX. Whether it was planned, or because the shark never truly worked, hiding the shark was an act of genius. If you want a lesson in how to captivate your audience by letting their imagination fun wild, watch what Jaws does. The shark appears at key moments, disappearing for some time. Sometimes it returns a ruins someone's day. Other times it doesn't. You need to stay on your toes. That alone makes this movie fiercely frightening (quality alliteration). 

The thing you need to remember when studying Jaws is the dynamic of the cast. If you just look at the shark, you're only looking at one aspect of the film. It's a big aspect of the movie, and it definitely makes you stand on the edge of your seat wondering what is going to happen. The thing is, as I sit here thinking about this, I realize that the shark isn't necessarily what makes this movie great. 

Think about the cast of characters presented in this movie. We have the head of the police who has one mission, keep the town and tourists safe throughout the summer season. The way the shark consumes him is mesmerizing. He becomes obsessed with this creature in a way many might consider unhealthy. As he studies sharks, he learns how vicious they could be, and he fights a hopeless battle against the town mayor. By the time you get to the fourth movie, you learn the severity of this obsession. 

The mayor is another great character. His goal is simple, keep the tourists flowing so the residents can survive for another year. The townsfolk depend on the few summer months to keep their businesses afloat. It's unreasonable to close the one thing that these tourists come to this small island for. Being a resident of an island with many beach communities, I get it. He's painted as a villain, but always acts in the best interests of the town. 

Then you have a scientist who arrives because of the news of the shark. This guy is amazing. He is a voice of reason. Although that reason comes off as an, "I told you so," type of phrase. He seems to be able to predict the actions of the shark. You might take him as arrogant, but he just knows more about this creature than anyone else in the town. As far as character development goes, he seems to change the least from his introduction until the end. However, he does give a ton of respect to the crazy fisherman. 

Speaking of the crazy fisherman. Isn't he the best character in the film. He's the only one capable of truly killing the beast that will eventually destroy the town. Of course, he won't be doing that for free. When you think about how much he wants in order to kill the shark ... let's just say I'd laugh him out of the building too. The fisherman is the mentor to our hero. He is vital to getting the main players to understand the world of shark hunting. Like a true mentor, he has to leave us before the hero can save the day. Oh, what a killer death it was too. 

The shark is a captivating element in Jaws. He's a terrifying villain that scared me out of the water as a kid. Something that sticks with me to this day. I truly believe the shark doesn't keep people coming back to this movie all these years later. It's the characters that we can all relate to. 

As for my 5 year old. He'll watch this movie one day. I honestly can't wait to sit with him and watch the movie. I don't want to scare him out of the water yet. 

On an entirely separate note, I only found out this movie was rated PG a few months ago. Who knew opening with a skinny dipping scene and ripping bodies into a bloody mess only earned you a PG. 

Until next time.

Wizard World Philly

Somehow I began to think about my first every comic con experience. I'm not talking about he local church conventions my dad took me to. The ones that were filled with local comic shop venders looking to sell some books. Those were fun, but I think they are geared more toward a different blog. I'm talking about my first true comic convention. A convention aimed for you to spend a boatload of money while meeting the industries hottest artists and writers. I'm talking Wizard World Philly. 

The year was 2005 and comic conventions were't as big as they are today. Instead of finding a decent con every weekend with the larger conventions popping up every few months, a decent con popped up every few months. San Diego Comic Con was growing. I believe San Diego and Wizard World Chicago were the two busiest cons in the country at that time. This was about a year before New York Comic Con's first show. I didn't realize it then, but the industry was changing.

I was writing regularly, but only just beginning to hone my craft. I'd developed the next big series (like all new writers) and was going to pitch my story to all the publishers. We would be getting to work right away on this great concept. Anyone who knows anything about writing knows that that didn't happen. One person read my package and gave me advice. I still talk to that artist to this day on social media. Funny thing, I almost got a story green lit that had nothing to do with this package. Sadly, I was young and green. I put too much pressure on the publisher and he nicely told me the story wasn't going to happen. I'll share that story one day. It would have been cool to get that first story published, but I was far from ready. 

This con had it all. I believe it was Aspen Comics first time on the east coast. I only just learned that this year at NYCC too. I didn't know who they were, but the first thing you saw when you entered the show floor was their enormous booth. They interacted with every fan who came up to the desk. I got to speak with Michael Turner very candidly. Again, I was really green and probably asked him a question that he didn't need to hear. Yup ... I was that idiot at the con. Cool thing, Michael smiled and answered my question with total sincerity. I still tell that story today. He made a fan for life that day. Aspen also had their artists around the table drawing free sketches for anyone who stopped by. I still have my Aspen Matthews sketch drawn by Marcus To. A great company that still treats their fans the same way all these years later. 

I did my research before the show and got plenty of autographs from artists and writers. I hung out at the DC booth and spoke with Dan Didio and Jim Lee. That may have been the year I met Geoff Johns there too. Bob Wayne talked to me a lot too. It was cool. I started to think that all I needed to do was work for one of these companies and I would be set in the comics industry. Remember when I said how green I was. Yeah ... that guy ... right here. Funny thing, you can't talk to any of those guys at a show today without a special wristband. It's a pretty cool memory to have. 

The highlight of the show was the DC panel. I didn't know that these panels were all the same. It was my first big show. I sat around and listened to them hype their books in their presentation. I ended up getting really excited for some not-so-hot books that were coming out. And did they disappoint too. They told us about a wristband that I had to get the next day. 

The next day, we got to the show early, and picked our wristbands. The crew that was there agreed to ask for blue bands. We did. The DC staffer looked at us, thinking for a second. He had orange in his hand, shrugged his shoulders, and let us know that we had to get orange because that's what he had. We all laughed and went about the day. Later, we all ended up going to the DC panel to find out what we won. We won a free copy of the super rare (not anymore) sketch cover of Superman 204. That was cool. Not as cool as the prize the blue wristbands got. Nope. The blue wristbands got put on a bus and taken to a local IMAX theater to see an exclusive screening of Batman Begins. The room exploded and the movie didn't disappoint. 

The show was insane. I had to go back. I did too. I went to Philly a few years in a row but, like everything, once it got too expensive, I stopped. I've been to every NYCC since it's establishment. I've been to a few local, smaller shows. My favorite was the trip to Boston for Wizard World. It was only their once and my wife will never forget it. I'll tell that story in it's entirety one day. The best part was when I spoke with Bob Wayne. I talked to him about the show and brought up how I was at Wizard World Philly. He looked at me, smiling, and said, "Not all shows are like that one." Boy was he right. 

Till next time.  

I came back to add a PS to this story. Tricia Helfer of Battlestar Galactica fame was at the show. My buddy and I saw her and raced to buy a picture, which she autographed. Very cool moment. This was the first time my friend and I discovered how easy it is to avoid a line at a show. There would be plenty more to come too. 

DownTime

I finished a script about a month or two ago and had a weird feeling. For the first time in a long time, I didn't have another story to write. This never happens. One of the reasons for that is I'm always thinking of the next story to write, while working on the present piece. This time was no exception. The difference was, all my ongoing titles are still in development. I didn't want to start issue three until two had some progress. I can put my time into a new project. The problem was, I didn't have a new project. 

That feeling drives me crazy. Personally, I feel that if I'm not writing, I'm failing. I start to get into my own head and think I"m not good enough, or I don't have enough ideas to maintain this over the long run. These are never good things to have run through your mind as a writer. It's bad enough that, while working on a story, it never feels good enough. Self-doubt is a normal feeling. For me, they always end the same way ... with triumph. After the headaches and aggravation, I'm typically happy with the finished script. You kind of get used to the self-doubt and don't let it consume you while your working. 

But what happens when you don't have a project to work on? That's where you can really start to psyche yourself out. When this happens, it's time for a distraction. Suddenly, that giant pile of comics starts to get read. I had the pleasure to sit and read a novel. The thing is, I needed to keep my writing muscles going too. Reading is great. You can learn a lot by reading. But writing ... that's what I want to do. I found myself world-building a story just for fun. This may never amount to anything. It may. Either way, it's okay. Without realizing it, I found a new story to write. 

I had an idea for a short that would fit my friend's book. He agreed and I wrote that. Since it's going to set up a larger crossover that is in the works, this was an important story. Then back to reading comics. Suddenly, someone asks me what I would do with a title he thought of. I rattle a few ideas. Now, not only am I world-building for this title, I'm writing my first prose story. Talk about an undertaking. (I admit, I"m excited for this one). Then, another short story is proposed and another. Now, I'm shoulder deep in stories to write. 

That's how this works. The lesson here, prepare for that down time. Have something to keep you mind off the self-doubt. It'll be there. For me it was reading (something I won't be able to do for a little while). The work will come. Ironically, I'm better because of the break. I had the opportunity to study some work and now I can apply this into a new story. I also had a chance to breathe, to get away from the computer for a little while. I didn't think that was important, but it helped. Writing isn't my main source of income so financially, I was never in danger. However, if this is going to be your career, you need to make sure you have you finances in order for those inevitable breaks. I'm sure any professional can attest to the pain of looking for freelance work. 

Okay, peeps. I need to get back to my writing. 

Until next time. 

Perspective

It looks like the holidays stepped in and got in the way of my weekly updates. I'm paraphrasing Dirk Manning when I say that there's no excuse. I should have made the time to get here. Eh, nothing I can do about that now. 

I have very weird thoughts from time-to-time. I can't think of a creative mind that doesn't go off on tangents. And by tangents I mean odd places that can't be explained because it's the way our minds work. 

I was recently thinking about the old lady that lived across the street from my parents when I was growing up. This was the nicest woman you would ever meet. She was warm and welcoming. Her house was always open to my family. If my mom needed someone to watch us for a short amount of time, she was there. I never met her husband so I assume that he passed away before I had the chance to meet him. Bottom line, she was the nicest woman. 

One day, she was driving her car. This is not abnormal in any way. I don't remember the model car. I clearly remember it's metallic brown color and, to my young mind, it was a boat. My room was in front of my house so I'd often see this woman pull out of her driveway and leave. 

To fully understand this story, you must also understand the habits of another one of my friends. I had a friend growing up who was very athletic. He was an All American wrestler and trained daily. As a kid, I never understood why his father made him and his brother run. I'm not talking about sprints or around the block. They probably ran 5 miles a day. You could set your watch to them. You knew when they would pass your house. I bet my friend still runs, today. Something in me says this was instilled in him. Good for them. 

Back to the old lady. I'll never forget the day my mom told me that she hit someone while driving. She didn't kill him, but changed his life. This woman was guilt-ridden for the rest of her life, too. I saw this guilt and felt bad for her. I thought the same thing you are ... she shouldn't have been driving. I know that. You know that. But when will either of us be able to tell when we should stop driving our car. I'm sure that day will come, but how will we find out. Anyway, if you hadn't guessed it by now, this woman ran over my friends dad, changing his life forever. 

My senior year of high school, my friend and I shared a class. I believe that was the year this woman died. I mentioned to my friend about her death and his reply was very curt, "Good riddance." I was shocked. How can someone feel this was about this woman? Then he elaborated about how the accident had change his father's life. To him this woman was the devil. The ultimate evil. It never occurred to me that this one action could make this woman evil. It was just an accident, right? 

That, right there, is the lesson folks. How do you create a good villain? It's all about perspective. True evil is not evil. That person, or people, mean well. They want to do right, but might end up doing wrong in the process. From a certain point of view, the villain is really good. Another person might consider that person a hero. Perspective is a powerful tool. It is something that can put a wedge in the best of friendships without either party understanding what the disagreement was about. I guess it's why having empathy is so important. Alas, that's a discussion for another time. 

Till next time. 

Newsies

I recently took my kids to see Aladdin on Broadway. This was their first show and, like many people, had a blast. I think we all do the same thing when we leave a show, we endlessly play the music to relive the magic. Good times. 

Once I had enough, I decided to introduce my kids to Newsies on Broadway. My oldest was really into the music from Aladdin and, since Alan Menken was a huge contributor to both musicals, I knew this would be a big hit. It was. 

Anyone who knows me knows that I'm a huge Newsies fan. I mean, who else would dedicate an entire post to that show. I'm not talking about the Broadway show either. I'm talking about the twelve-year-old boy who saw the movie. That's right. I was hooked from the moment Christian Bale sang Santa Fe on the big screen. 

It's weird how this movie ended up on my radar, too. One day my mom brings it up. She tells me that some of the dancers at my sister's dance school are going to dance as extras in the movie. As a kid, this was the coolest thing. I loved the movies. I still remember the Christmas where all I asked for was movies. My parents didn't get it. I never said what movies. I just wanted movies. Perplexed, they got me Batman (89) and Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Talk about a giant win for me. Anyway, I digress. People from my area of the world were going to be in a movie. That's freakin awesome. 

Then I saw the coming attractions. To many of my friends that's the turn off. A musical is lame, right? Wrong. You're talking to the kid who could sing all the songs from The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin (it came out later that year but you get my point). I was no stranger to musicals and, although I didn't know it then, the guy putting together the music to all these movies was the same genius. Can't go wrong their. 

I admit, watching the movie today is a poor decision. What do you expect from a movie from the early 90's. It's not bad, but it doesn't hold up. Knowing this, I refused to show the movie to my kids. Instead, I played up the Broadway angle. 

Newsies on Broadway is a masterpiece. The songs are genius. The changes are brilliant to the key songs. The addition songs that are needed to fill out the show are definitely suspect, but they fit. Knowing that the show is on Netflix was a perfect way to introduce this to my oldest. I knew if I played the soundtrack in the car, she would love it. Then we can enjoy the Broadway show on television. 

What I didn't realize was how much this show would impact me. The songs are catchy, but they are inspiring too. I started to get chills when the first chords of Santa Fe roll through the speakers. I feel the power of Kings of New York and the power the Seize the Day invokes in me is surreal. I realized that I looked here for inspiration in my own writing. The music speaks to me and has since I was a kid. 

As a writer, it's hard to say when I began studying film. I wasn't a big reader as a kid. I hated it. Sometime in my early twenties I started picking up novels and shortly after that I began writing. Then I discovered I needed to learn a lot of stuff about writing so I started studying the craft. I'm funny like that. Hey, it's working out for me. Don't judge. 

Here's what I learned when I started learning about story structure and the craft of writing, I've been studying this stuff my whole life. Sure, I wasn't a reader, but structure isn't limited to books. The movies I loved as a kid, the ones I watched religiously happened to follow the same structure. Once I started learning what elements I was looking at I was able to apply that to my writing. 

I'm digressing again. 

Back to Newsies. This is one of those structures. The three act play breaks down perfectly. I learned, later in life, that there was a booklet given out to all Disney writers that laid out a formulaic structure that the writers were pretty much told to follow. Who knew? Much of my writing follows the same format. This is not by chance. 

The thing the format doesn't teach is how to get a story to impact the audience the way Newsies does for me. That's my goal. I want to write a story the will impact one person the way Newsies does for me. One person who can pick up one of my books over thirty years after I publish it and get chills.

That's why I focus my writing on characters. If the format of these stories is the same, the only differentiation is the characters. There's the lesson here folks. When writing aim for compelling characters that your audience can relate to. Jack inspires me as he goes on his adventure. I feel his pain when he loses Crutchy. I want to stand up and high-five him when he wins. I want to be a Newsie working with him. 

After all this time, I don't think I will ever fall out of love with Newsies. For me, it's timeless. Now, it's time I got to work on my next set of compelling characters. 

Till next time. 

Rejection

Last time I wrote about pitching. It's only fitting that I write about rejection this go around. It's a part of the gig. If you're going to pitch in an attempt to write a property that you don't own, prepare for rejection. What you need to remember is that rejection is normal. Expect it. Be shocked when you don't get rejected. One day, you'll get accepted enough times that the rejection letters will slow and you'll be more surprised when you're rejected. 

I recently sent out a pitch. It was rejected within a very short amount of time. Those who are close to me know how much time I spent developing this particular story. They were a little upset. I laughed. I took a few minutes to explain to them that I spent all this time on the pitch knowing that the rejection was coming. I told them that I would be surprised if the pitch was even read. I knew that I didn't have a shot with this particular property, but I wrote the pitch anyway. I made sure I put in the work. Why waste my time? 

That's the rub. It's not a waste of time. The real question is, what did I gain? I spent a few weeks developing a story for a property I had no business writing for. In my humble opinion, it's a damn good story. It's a story I'd be proud to write. I proved to myself that given this opportunity, I would be able to step up to the plate. That's a confidence booster. 

What else did I gain? Well, I found out that I had the ability to draft an idea for a four issue series and sell it in one paragraph. This is a big deal. I told the complete story, cutting out all the bells and whistles. I generated all the exciting moments that would get someone interested in the story and fit the complete synopsis in one paragraph. If you've ever tried to write a pitch, that's tough to do. Since editors don't want to read four, two page summaries for each issue, you need to be good at this. I impressed myself and was proud of this accomplishment. I'm starting to thing there may be a place for me with the big boys. 

I don't think I answered the big question yet. If I knew that the chances were through the roof that this editor wasn't even going to open the pitch, why waste my time? Great question. Forget the practice that I got. Forget the confidence that I have. Let's look at one simple thing, he told me to pitch him last time I saw him. 

Okay. That's an interesting line. Let it sink in. He told me to pitch him. Yet I keep saying that I didn't think he'd actually read it. All this is accurate. He never told me which property to pitch for. He probably doesn't have an opening on any of those titles. Did he want an original property from me? Maybe. These are things I don't know. The logical thing would be to ask, right? WRONG!

Asking is a great way to hear the editor say he doesn't have an opening on any of his titles. That's easy. You're done. Now if you pitch, you know you've wasted your time. You never had a chance. Let me repeat, YOU NEVER HAD A CHANCE. 

See, if you don't ask, you just send in a pitch. He may choose to read it. He may decide that it's worth a quick glance and he may be impressed. He doesn't need to do that, but he could. Drafting a pitch also shows the editor that you are putting in the work. It shows initiative. He doesn't have to read it. That's his choice. A sorry, I don't have any openings response is pretty simple for him to send. No sweat. It probably takes all of a minute. Maybe two. 

Let's look at the positives for a second. He responds. Many editors don't do that. Many will ignore the email. This editor took the one or two minutes to say he didn't have any openings. You may not realize it right now, but how many editors ignore inquiry emails? Some do. Some don't. It depends on the editor and what you're asking. It might also depend on how many times you've talked to him. A response, to me, is a pretty big deal. 

What other positives do we have to talk about? In the email, I included some of my published work. People love free comics. Go to my published work and read some of the stories. It's a wonderful catalogue of my writing growth. Then buy some books. (Cheap. I know) Now, this editor has my writing. Maybe he'll like what he reads. Wait a second. If he likes the comics, is there a slim chance he'll remember I sent a pitch his way? Maybe. Is there a chance he'll ask me to pitch again? Maybe. 

Finally, this email opens a dialogue. It shows I'm serious about working with him. With my work in his inbox, I can email him again asking what he thinks about my writing. I may get some useful critiques. Remember, mom will always hang your work on the fridge. Mr. Editor will rip it off the fridge and tell you why it doesn't belong there. It may be painful, but that's an important thing to hear and learn to accept. 

So there you have it. With my work in hand, this editor may look through this website. He may chance upon this blog and realize a few things. 1. Grammar on these posts is suspect at best. 2. This guy has passion and the ability to understand this industry. 3. Maybe I need to give him another shot. 

Nothing but positives come from rejections. Think about what you can do differently. Realize what you did well. Don't be afraid to take the chance. Above all, when the opportunity is put in front of you, GRAB IT!

Till next time. 

The Pitch

I decided to take a break from the pitch I'm working on to write this little post. So it's only fitting to talk about pitching. 

I've spent many years getting to know various editors and publishers. On occasion, they have given me the opportunity to talk about their books with them. Inevitably, that leads to a short pitch and a fun conversation. I must say, I never expect much to come from that. Personally, I prefer to just write whatever story comes to mind, which I have done for many years. That's been fun and a great way to hone my craft. 

Then there's the written pitch. These can be grueling and stressful, depending on the company I'm pitching for. Before I write the one paragraph pitch, I sit down and write down the story. Not the script. That's silly because you never know what will and won't be accepted. What I mean is I will sit down and detail four issues of the story. Think of this like writing the ideas in a notebook. The only thing is, it's more organized than that. from there, I will figure out the major story beats and theme and all that jazz. To me, it makes the pitch more solid. Unfortunately, then I have to tackle the unenviable task of making that one paragraph that's exciting enough to make an editor say yes to publishing it. At least, if I get the yes, I have all four issues roughly laid out. 

Then there's the pitch that gets created for an original concept. This is by and far the biggest gamble. It's very time consuming. Before I sit down and approach the issues, like I would for a previously existing property, I build a world. I create characters, towns, planets, cults, gods, and whatever else the story requires. Then I'll organize the issues. From there, cut it down into a paragraph pitch. This can take months to build and as I sit there and write, I fall in love with the characters that I create. To me, I'm so attached to the concept that I need to see the story get published. 

Pitching is tough. I send them out expecting a no from the publisher. It's very common. The biggest challenge, you never know what they are looking for. Publishers have plans and small press companies have budgets. It's grueling but you can't get discouraged. It's an old adage, keep writing. Chip away and talk to editors. A pitch might not get picked up. That doesn't mean it's a bad idea or you're a bad writer. It just means that wasn't the write story at that time. 

That's enough mindless rambling for today. Time to get back to the pitch. Wish me luck. 

Divebomb: First Flight

My latest book was released a few weeks back and I just got my copy. Divebomb: First Flight is a spectacular anthology book. Kurt Belcher and Ben Ferrari created a phenomenal, jet pack wearing character.

Clint Tweedy used to be rich. Now, he has to make ends meet by delivering parcels via jetpack. Along with corporate espionage, Clint needs to fend off the world's governments who would literally kill to get their hands on his technology. 

There is such a rich backstory for this character too. I'm a big history guy. When I write, I try my best to root my characters' backstories in history in some way. That history may be tweaked and bent to my whim. I'm a writer after all. It's what we do. But at it's crux, the idea comes from history, or mythology, in some way. I always felt like it added much needed layers to the characters and opened up many possibilities. Alas, I digress. 

When I got a glimpse at Divebomb, I saw the history in the character. He's not the first generation Tweedy to wield a jetpack. That's where my idea came from. Clint has a daughter Haley who stands to inherit the jetpack. I thought it would be cute to look at an adventure from her point of view. Thus, Inheritance was born. 

This 8 page story was drawn by a future industry great, Luis Rivera. You need to see his work. The man's a genius at his craft. The detail that he added from my words made this adventure. This story about a little girl rescuing her goofy father from the clutches of a mysterious man wouldn't be half as good without his illustrious talent. 

I can ramble on and on about this book but I have a script to write and must move on. I need to leave you with a link because you really should buy this book. When I get more time, I'll add a Divebomb tab to the Published work section. For now, click the link below and buy the book. You might have to cut and paste it. Sorry. 

http://www.indyplanet.us/product/155647/ 

Till next time. 

New York Comic Con

And another New York Comic Con is in the books. Many people go to these cons to meet movie stars or pick up hard to find merchandise. I may do this from time-to-time but I mostly go to talk to various editors and artists. It's an interesting story and I've probably made every mistake in the book along the way. 

For years I would find editors and try to get them to hire me. Naturally, when you don't have a credit to your name, they aren't going to hire you. Yet, I made friends and continued talking and chipping away. The thing is, handing unpublished scripts to editors is not going to get you anywhere. 

At one point, I made a ridiculous comic call To Hell and Back. That's when I vowed not to go to a con without something new to hand to editors. I continued to network, but I had a book and wouldn't hand the same book out two years in a row. This lead to my first published work at Grayhaven Comics. 

Once my first published piece was released, I never missed a year without a new book. The quality improved too. That was a big deal. Now I had more professional work to hand to the editors I was slowly getting to know. I still had to introduce myself by name, but they were seeing me generate content. 

Year after year of the same or similar conversations. These editors got to know me. They understood I wanted to write for them. I would email them on occasion throughout the year to see if they had any openings, but I wouldn't go crazy emailing. I think that was a big deal. I was patient. And while I waited for them to reply or offer me work, I continued working on other stories. I never stopped. 

This year things seemed different. These people that I spoke to seemed to know me. I didn't have to introduce myself by name. I didn't need to hand them a business card, or take one of theirs. I simply said, "Hi," and began a conversation. Not a conversation about comics and jobs. That would come up in the conversation, but it wasn't the only reason I was sitting at the table. I spoke about the con, their time in the city, things they had planned, and just life in general. We smiled and laughed. It was a different feel entirely. 

Leaving the con, I felt good. I'll shoot some emails out in a few weeks. Maybe I'll get work. Maybe not. The doors are opening.

There's a lesson to be learned here. Patience. Don't come off desperate. I was that guy long ago. I lost a story because I was that guy. It's hard to understand, but if you go into these shows and show editors you're desperate for work, they may be turned off. If you go in and talk to them like humans, which I've always done (to a fault), they are going to be receptive. Just don't ask them how much they paid for their honeymoon. That ends poorly. 

Understand that this industry is small. It's a long game. Once you get published, it's addicting. Be patient and keep working. Find a way. 

That's it for this week. 

Under Construction

Sorry folks. I'm crazy busy getting ready for my trip to New York Comic Con in the morning. I'll be back next week.