Florida stinks

Yeah, so don’t go getting your panties in a wad before you let me explain. This isn’t a stab at the University of Florida Gators. If you’re a regular reader of my irregular blog, then you already know we visited The Swamp last October and had a grand time (even though my Hogs got beat). I still don’t want to lose to the Gators, but their fans were dang nice to us.

And this isn’t about how hot it is here. I got that a bunch when I moved here…but that question just revealed to me that the question-asker didn’t know much about Mississippi. It’s “hotter” there. The actual temperature may be a little higher here, but the humidity is higher in Mississippi—or at least it feels like it. But that might have to do with the fact that it’s nearly always windy here in Orlando, but in Mississippi, when it’s a hunert degrees and the wind ain’t blowin’—it’s dang hot. Much hotter than anything I’ve felt here.

And it isn’t about the crowds and traffic. It’s crowded here and there’s a lot of rudeness going on. I blame it on the over-saturation of rude Yankees but I have no scientific (census) data to back that up. Could be that there’s just so many people on vacation and they’re all worked up and in a hurry to get to their next touristy spot. It reminds me a lot of Los Angeles here in that the population is spread out and not tall, like, say, a New York City. I definitely do not like the traffic. I do my very best to avoid it at all costs. So, while anyone who knows me knows that I’m definitely not a fan of either, it’s not those things.

No, what I mean is that there is an actual stinky smell here. It’s not all over, but in patches. I notice it every now and again when driving. My initial reaction when passing these spots is that I’m passing the poopy-lakes…but I’m not convinced that is the case. After more than a single nostril-full whiff, it’s stinky, but not sewage stinky.

My theory—at this point—is that because this central Florida area is the home of thousands of tiny bodies of water (they call a lot of them “lakes” when we’d call them “ponds” back home) and those bodies of water are often filled with stale water…sometimes that stale water gets to smelling a bit rancid…and so…it stinks.

That’s my theory and I’m sticking to it…unless someone gives me a better explanation.

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No Cellphone? Yeah, what of it?

I do not own a cellphone.

There, I said it.

I realize that puts me in the overwhelming minority of Americans, but I’m really okay with that. I can’t tell you, though, the number of shocked and surprised looks I get when this information comes forward. Many react like I’ve told them I don’t own shoes and they simply can’t comprehend what I’ve just said. Of course, it isn’t unusual that folks can’t comprehend what I say. “I” sometimes can’t comprehend what I say.

It’s not that I’ve never had one, I have. Twice.

The first time I owned a cellphone I enjoyed it. It was during those brief months when I worked selling academic furniture (yeah, I know—long story THERE, too!) and traveled the states of Tennessee, Kentucky and Arkansas. I wasn’t usually gone for more than a couple of days, but I spend considerable time on the road and it was good to have to speak with university representatives, my bosses, and—of course—my family.

This was in the days before the smartphones (that’s one word, right?) and so my biggest concern was actually getting a signal. The “can you hear me now” commercial often applied to my experience. This would have been 2005, nearly ten years ago now.

After that job disappeared, the phone went with it. No, “I” paid for it—but I didn’t see a need for it once I stopped traveling.

Fast forward to 2011 when I took a job in Orlando, Fl., but still owned a home (and a family!) in Oxford, Ms. So, I got another one so that I could keep my family posted during my drive/commute and while I was away. The first year of my employment saw me a week here, week there, etc., so there was a lot of driving. On top of that, eldest child reaches the age where “everybody else has a cellphone, I should too,” wah wah wah. And when she started driving, the idea sounded a lot better.

Fast forward once again just slightly to 2012 when the entire family decides to get on “a plan.” Yep, they sold it to us that way. So, we all got smartphones except for the youngest. Except, this time, I didn’t really see a need for it. We kept them for several months until the entire family finally joined me in Orlando and the provider we had did not(and still does not, I think) service the area. So we got out. But the family wanted a new “plan” in Orlando.

Except I opted out.

Yep. S’true. While I found the smartphone a fun gadget, I didn’t really “need” it (what I needed was to sell my house in Oxford—but that’s another story!) and so I was having a real hard time justifying the expense.

The only time I really regret the decision is when wifey sends me to the grocery store and I find myself staring at product labels. Only then would I really like to have a phone.

Maybe I should try to get one of those Obama phone?

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An update ala a Blog Hop

So I hope you’re new here as part of the blog hop. If you’re a long-time visitor, thanks for your continued support. A blog hop is when bloggers encourage their readership to visit other bloggers, as I will do at the bottom of this entry. I haven’t participated in many blog hops mostly because I don’t really think I get a lot of new readers and so those who come here pretty much know the usual info in a blog hop. So I’m mostly doing this one because a)Kayla asked me to participate (you should go visit her blog since she was kind enough to send some of you my way—AND, she said really nice things about me!); b)I still needed an entry for this week—I skipped last week…was busy grading—yuck!; c)the hop is different from most of those I’ve seen cross my path.

So, without further adieu, the hop questions are:

What am I working on?

I’m working on several things at the same time. I’m one of those who tends to keep a lot of irons burning just because you never know when a project will collapse, fall through, etc. And I’ve had my fair share of projects to disappear. At the top of my list are a couple of projects I’ve already blogged about: Beah and Citizens. Follow the links to read more about them. I’ve also got other comic projects in various stages getting ready for pitch: The Rejects (with JC Grande), Cat & Mouse (with Henry Martinez), Demon’s Tails V2 (with Patrick Rolo); Unnamed with Kevin Tuma (we’re still in the “talking about the story” phase); an unnamed with Gabriella Rossetti (just wait until you SEE this one!). I’ve just finished a Graphic Novel adaptation of a horror film which is slated for a September release. Oh—Four of the projects now have FB pages. Go LIKE them here: Beah, Citizens, Cat & Mouse, The Rejects.

On the prose side, I haven’t done as much to work on my current novel. My agent is still pushing The Interns…but I’m about to toss in the towel on that one. Yeah, I know, I’m sad, too.

I thought I had a little web-series that was going to happen—even assembled a tiny writing team—but it looks like that might not happen either. Was exciting to think about that, though. So, for the meantime, I’ll continue to focus on comics…just because I’m so dang excited about them.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Gee, that’s tricky, isn’t it? There are some things that I would consider as “personalities” of my work…and that combination makes it uniquely me. I tend to write strong female characters, stories set in the South (my beloved homeland!), stories about individualism and about individuals overcoming tyranny, oppression, etc. I try to infuse my faith into my work without it being overbearing and/or annoying…but I think that’s important to my work.

The problem with my answer to this question is that most of my work is in comics, but “comics” isn’t a genre, it’s a medium.

Why do I write what I do?

I write because I enjoy writing. I write comics/graphic novels because I absolutely love the medium and what it can do. We have an unlimited special effects budget and are limited only by our imaginations. Comics/Graphic novels is also a visual medium in which the reader controls their experience. When you watch tv or a movie, your experience is determined by the director. The reader controls their own reading experience when reading a graphic novel. And I find that very cool.

How does my writing process work?

I don’t know that I have only one process, but the one that tends to work for me is starting from a concept; moving to a character and giving them an attainable goal; putting them in a world; tossing obstacles at them; building an outline…and THEN sitting down to write.

Who’s next in my Writing Process Blog Hop?

I’m happy to push you to a couple of writers I like. First, go take a peek at my pal Sid Williams’s blog. I’ve known Sid for a looooong time (since the late 1980s for those of you really keeping track), and he’s got the write-stuff! Check out SidIsAlive…and tell him I sent ya there! I’d also like to web-direct you to the web home of Wes Locher. Wes is just days away from earning his Creative Writing degree from Full Sail but has already published a bunch o’stuff. I’ve read much of it (tempted to say “all,” but that might not be true) and he’s going places! You wanna get in on the ground floor of an up and coming writer, start watching his site here.

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Momma was a Mann

It’s not unusual to hear that line when you attend a Mann family reunion. After all, the married females who were born Mann change their last name and so when their descendants attend the reunion, everyone wants to know where in the tree they fit in. Mom and Dad work hard on making family tree charts and it’s very interesting to look at all the branches on the tree (ie., the cousins). Our reunions have been the descendants of John Wesley Mann, who was my gggrandfather (John Wesley->Robert Earl->Walden Bill->Billy Richard->me!).

I’ve always gotten a lot of mileage out of my last name. I mean, kids always poke fun of names (as well as a lot of other things) and it was always something that I just embraced. It isn’t unusual that I’ve heard “What’s up, Man? Get it? Mann.” It’s one of those things I’ve heard so much it’s always funnier to the speaker than to me. My first name has also been the source of my fun-poking. I’ve heard the theme song to Rawhide all my life, but the best one was probably when my gradeschool pal Kendall Jones sang the Rolo theme song for me. My nickname in that group of friends was, of course, “Rolo.”

When I got married and started to contemplate names for my kids, I wanted to embrace the name and make it work for my kids. We opted to be surprised at the sex of our first baby so we had to come up with names for both male and female. For a girl, I tried to convince BJ to go with WonderWo. You see? WonderWo Mann?

Yeah, it was a bit of a stretch and Brittany tells us that she is thankful today NOT to be named that.

When Brett was born, we knew his sex before he arrived. It was a lot easier, I thought, to come up with a name that worked for a boy. So I pushed pretty hard. I thought “Batt Mann” or “Spyder Mann” would make great names for a kid! Can’t you just see it now when he’s in 7th grade; “Mrs. Johnson, can you send Batt Mann to the office?” How cool would that have been? When I tell Brett this, he doesn’t get all gung-ho about it, but he’s not as vocally opposed to it as Brittany is to WonderWo.

So the Mann reunion was a fun time and we got to meet and chat with many cousins; some we’ve never met before and some we see only every reunion. And for those whose last name is not Mann, they often say “Momma was a Mann,” which is kinda funny…yes, even to us.

While I’m trying to talk Dad into backing up one more generation to John Wesley’s father, we haven’t done that yet. We did, however, have a cemetery dedication for William Montgomery Mann, a private in Co. E, 5th Arkansas Infantry CSA. My dad worked hard to get this done, and I was very happy to see it done. It’s something I’ve wanted since around 1987, when I first joined the SCV (Sons of Confederate Veterans). Here’s a link to a video I made of the service if you’re interested.

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House = SOLD!

Yes, you read that right = we’ve finally sold the house. After more than a year on the market, we’re no longer paying for a home we don’t live in! And the timing is perfect—all on God’s time, of course—but we’d reached that point where we just couldn’t scrape the money together for two homes and had paid our last note. I wish I could tell you I was independently wealthy enough to afford a home here and a “Mississippi summer home!” ha.

121008-1311-itsbeginnin1.jpg 121008-1311-itsbeginnin2.jpgBut, all with most new chapters in life, there are positives and negatives moving on. We have a lot of really great memories in the home in Oxford. We were there for five good years: Brittany was in the 7th grade and Brett was 2nd grade when we moved in: Brittany had graduated and Brett was starting 8th by the time we moved. Man…talk about changes (just look at the pictures).051713_1825_Youaretheon2.jpg

Brett7thgradeWe went there knowing only the person who hired BJ at the University—which is what took us there. We leave with a host of people we know and love (even those who have the misfortune to cheer for the Mississippi school UpNorth)—and it’s really them we’ll miss the most. Fortunately we live in a day and age of Facebook and Twitter and whatever else, so we’re expecting to stay virtually in touch.

We watched the Hogs rise…and then fall in the sports programs, particularly when it came to playing Ole Maid. Heck, prior to moving there, the football team had won 7 of the last 10 games. While we lived there, we only won 2 out of 5 against the mascot-ly confused Black Bears. Many of the other sports were in similar reversals (all but the Track team—which continued to dominate on a national level). I’m hoping now that I’m gone and can’t watch them live, they’ll start winning again!

060111_0437_Gradumicate4.jpgI started—and finished!—my MFA while there. Was part of a great MFA program at Spalding University and made a lot of very cool writer pals who are doing great writer things today! The novel that was my thesis is making rounds with an agent and I’ve had good comments from those few who’ve read it.

We all witnessed our largest snow ever—a full 10 inches! I know, I know, you folks in the northern climes laugh at that, but for us it was pretty cool (see what I did there?).

Anyway, it’s nice to have closure on the home…and I’m looking forward to the next chapter of memories to create! And, of course, I’ll put a good bunch of them here. As always, thanks for reading.

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Hemingway in the Spring

Longtime visitors here will recall my association with the Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum and Education Center located in Piggott, Arkansas. The Pfeiffer home is where Hemingway lived for a short time while married to Pauline Pfeiffer and where he wrote parts of A Farewell to Arms. I have a great affection for the place not just because they invite me there, but because it’s in Piggott, my second home of sorts.

The museum holds three annual retreats. Writing retreats are different from writing conferences in that the object for the writers (most of them) is to get away and just write. At a conference, the writers play more of a student role and sit in on lectures and presentations. While there are fun writing exercises for the writers at the HPMEC retreats, the goal is to WRITE! My function as mentor is to lead them in the short exercises, provide feedback and comments to them on their writing, and to generally encourage them to get’er done! I very much enjoy reading the work and offering the encouraging feedback. Writing is work, yes, but it should also be fun!

HemingwaySpring2014 copy*Pictured: Bethany Mallett Stephens, Linda Wyss, Anne Winchester, Barbara Taylor, me (in all my bearded glory!), Susan Hemingway, Ethan Baker, Doug Hemingway, Fay Guin. Yes, we did have a couple who shared Ernie’s last name and Doug even looked the part of Ernest!

I’m not sure exactly when the retreats started, probably 2002, because 2008 was the 6th Annual. Initially they were weeklong summer retreats led by Dr. Rob Lamm from Arkansas State University. I learned about the retreat when I was editor of The Piggott Times in 2007. The very next year, 2008, one of the mentors couldn’t make it and they asked me to step in to to help out, which I gladly did!! The retreats had become so popular that they decided to begin an annual Fall retreat and I was asked to lead the first one. It was an abbreviated version (three days), but was no less packed with writing! In April of 2011, I was then asked to lead the first ever Spring retreat, a near-mirror image of the Fall version (meaning, it’s just a little shorter).

During my association there, I’ve worked with three different directors, but it’s a testament to them and the staff there—who are fantastic!—that the retreats continue to grow and flourish. Last week, five of the nine retreating writers had never been to any of the retreats before (and I specifically mean the HPMEC retreats, not retreats in general…because I don’t know the answer to that).

Writers come from all over, but mostly from the Arkansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Tennessee area. I understand there was a New York writer there this past fall.

If you’re a writer and you’ve never been to a retreat, the Hemingway Writers Retreats are excellent ones to attend. They’d take great care of you and you can write where Hemingway did—maybe even channel some Hemingway in your writing.

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WIP = BEAH

The story of BEAH goes back to the late 90s for me. After Marvel fired about 400 people, me being one of them, I set about to writing full steam again. I also decided to become a full-fledged indy publisher and get away from Corporate Comics. I did just that for about five years, losing a ton of money because I was acting like a big company and yet it was just me flying solo (well, I mean that for the business/marketing/money end—I worked with some really talented creators). Essentially, I tried to do too much.

Anyhow, it was while watching multiple episodes of Winnie the Pooh with my kids that the inspiration of Beah hit me. Drawing my inspiration from the great indy title, Cerebus, I figured I’d start off with a parody of WIP. Wasn’t long till I figured that was doomed to failure…and so I started thinking, well, what if the toys grew up? Long story short, I eventually got around to the idea that what if the kid just leaves the toys? What would happen? Toy lawlessness would run amuck, right? For those who wonder, yeah, there’s some Toy Story inspiration behind it, too. But that’s a good thing, right?

But over time, Beah became completely its own thing. Oh, I did go through the Cerebus spoof stage, but not in publication–mine was all on paper only read by (mostly) just me.

My good friend John Drury was initially slated to do the project back in the late 90s. But life took him–and us, elsewhere and we simply stopped pursuing it.

Fast forward to 2012 when I spotted Tim Holtrop’s art online and was immediately taken by his style. That and the fact that he–like me– had ties to Caliber Press in the early 90s made me want to talk to him. Well, that and his voiced faith. Tim and I share a common faith and we hit it off immediately. I was happy to have found a new friend even if we never went anywhere with a project. As luck would have it, I pitched the Beah concept to Tim, and over time, I think he, too, has developed an affinity for the stuffed animals.

Tim set out to do the design work and MAN, it would take an entire publication just to show you all the cool designs he did for both the characters and the setting. I present you with just a tiny smattering of those here, but I think you’ll agree how wonderful those are.

And, to top it off, fantastic colors have been provided by Emily Y. Kanalz. I worked with Emily back in the day at Malibu/Marvel. I know you don’t get to see them here much (and truthfully, I’m not sure whether the book will BE in color–but I sure hope so!), but WOW! She’s knocked it out of the park!

No, Beah doesn’t have a home yet, but we’re hoping to find one soon! In the meantime, don’t forget to find us on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/beahcomic) and LIKE the page! We need more likes, so go now! We’ll be posting update there for you to get some sneak peeks and keep you posted as we search for a publishing home for Beah.

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