Oops I did it again=My Writing Process Blog Tour and The Remaining

If you’re here because of Jim Miller’s link to the blog tour, thank you for stopping by to visit. Hopefully you’ll find some posts here you enjoy. Unfortunately, I already participated in this very blog a few months ago but didn’t realize it was the same one. If you’re interested my responses to those writing process questions, pop over here to read them. If you’re one of my regulars (thank you, of course, for your regular visits!), please pop on over to Jim’s site and show him some Ramblin’ love! Jim is my colleague at Full Sail. Thanks for inviting me to participate, Jim!

Serves me right, I guess. I was feeling guilty for participating in this because I just declined a blog tour two weeks ago. Apologies offered to the asker (she knows who she is). I though, however, this one was different from those I’d done in the past and it looked like something I could do relatively quickly…The first one I remember as “what are you working on,” while this one was “my writing process.”

SO, since I’ve covered the process part, let me catch you up on the what I’m working on part!

FIRST, I’m happy to report that THE REMAINING should be out. Check it out here:

Wait, don’t just “check it out,” BUY a copy! I’ll sign it for you—for FREE—the next time I see you! What a deal, huh?

I’ve been working on some comic pitches of late and have even built facebook pages for them. I’d sure appreciate it if y’all’d go and click the “like” button for each of them (link on the logo of each title).

The first one making the rounds is Beah. With art supplied by the talented Tim Holtrop! We’ve received one “no,” (but I got some nice feedback and he said he’d take a peek at other proposals from me, which is very nice) but remain optimistic. My good friend Emily Y. Kanalz—from way back in the Malibu days—is supplying the color for this. Y’all, I’m telling you, this project looks fantastic. I’m just hoping the “words” can keep up with the art!

The next one to make the rounds is Cat & Mouse. I’m teaming up with Henry Martinez who is producing some really cool pitch pages (you have to go like the C&M page to see what we’ve got so far!). The original run of C&M was in b&w and I tend to think of it that way, but I’d like to pitch it either way—and I don’t have someone coloring this one yet. If you a fan of the first volume, this isn’t the exact same characters; they’ll be different, but the mood and spirit will be the same.

The next two are mostly ready, but it’s mostly on me to get it ready now.

Citizens is a project with the entire art package supplied by Joe Badon. Joe’s art style is so unique that I really anticipate he’s going places once the right people see his work—maybe it’ll just take the right story to have him noticed. I’m hoping that story is Citizens. I think it’s different from most anything I’ve done. While I’ve worked on science fiction stories before, I think of this one as sort of a futuristic post-Vietnam story. So, it’s not a “war story,” but a post-war story.

Then there’s Rejects with artist JC Grande and colorist Jesse Heagy, both of whom really deliver on some pitch pages you can see on the facebook page. It’s probably the more mainstream of the projects. It’s superheroes, with a twist: It’s a team of heroes who’ve been rejected by all the “A-list” teams. Just learning their names will tip you off to why they have issues with success.

I’ve got a couple others in the very early development phase…but I see I’m way over the limit, so I’ll save those for a future post. But I’ll go write it now so I promise it’ll just be a few weeks!

Thanks for listening to me ramble a bit. See ya next week!

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Organizing my bookshelves

I’ve blogged before about the trials of moving…and while we’re going through a certain amount of those things again, I won’t retread old ground and rehash those trials again. Instead I’ll talk about moving books.

Every time I move, which seems to be far too often, I swear that I’m going to get rid of most of my comics and books. If you’ve ever moved boxes and boxes of books, you know what I’m talking about. At one point in time, I had close to 10,000 comics. Over the last decade, I’ve gotten rid of a bunch of them, replaced some of them with compilations, etc., so that I’m less than that now, though I don’t know exactly how many. It’s still a whole bunch.

As for books, I also can’t give an accurate number except to say that I fill up about five bookshelves, all packed pretty tightly. Comics and books are different in that which comics I had were always pretty important: I mean, it was a big deal that I had a near entire run of the original run of Avengers—yes, I was an Avengers fan before most of the world knew who they were. Books, on the other hand, I just kinda got what I liked or what was recommended to me.

How do I organize them?

That’s a question I only get from other writers. I can’t recall anyone not a writer asking me that—well, maybe some bookstore employees (side note: one job I had during college was working at BOOKLAND, a job I mostly really enjoyed. It was the job I had at graduation and continued to work at until I was getting enough freelance work to quit). As you know, bookstores have meticulous shelving systems…some of my madness may stem from my time there.

So, in no particular order, here are my “sections:”

*Superhero fiction (alpha by author)

*Sci-fi (alpha by author, anthologies at the end. I include Fantasy here because I really don’t read that much fantasy)

*Li-fi (as far as I know, this is my own term, created because—at the time—I felt that the term “sci-fi” was a slam on the genre. It’s now cool to say “sci-fi.” I use Li-fi in reference to Literary Fiction. Alpha by author)

*Southern/Civil War fiction (alpha by author)

*Christian fiction (alpha by author)

*Reference (no particular order)

*Teaching (these are books that I either have because I thought they’d help me as a teacher, or because I got them as a student—books like Norton’s Anthology or any of the number of “readers” out there. Technically they could go in Li-fi…but I keep them separate.)

*Southern culture (no particular order)

*History (chronologically. Generally, I have three main sections: Civil War, WW2, Early American (which emphasizes heavily on Native Americans). Anything that falls outside of these three get shelved chronologically in the group)

*Religious stuff (no particular order. Wide range of stuff in this section, ranging from books on creationism to CS Lewis to angels (Billy Graham has an EXCELLENT book on angels!) to eternity, etc.

*Non-fiction (okay, I know that “history” is non-fiction, but this is stuff that doesn’t exactly fall into MY history section. It includes bios and autobios as well as some odds and ends like a really good book on New Orleans and a good one on the Yakuza.)

*Stuff I don’t know what to do with (yeah, I do have that section. Often it’s books I get as part of an “author-swap” [you know, when a fellow-writer—or myself, for that matter—says “hey, let’s swap books. Here’s mine, let me have yours.”], or when I pick up something a friend as done as a way of support and it falls outside all my other categories. Yeah, this is where it goes.

No, I do NOT have a poetry section. I’m sorry if that offends you.

So there you go…a tiny peek into the madness that is me.

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Listen to radio much?

I’ve never really been one to listen to the radio. Oh, sure, as a kid in the 70s I listened to the transistor as much as any other kid then—it was the time…it was what we did. But I found they played songs I couldn’t stand and wouldn’t play the songs I liked enough… So even way back then I was pulling out the portable cassette player, cuing up a tape to the blank spot, and placing it next to the radio ready to hit the record button.

And while the nature of radio has changed a bit with internet and satellite, I’m still not a big radio listener.

Some of that, I think, has been that I’ve never really cared what anyone else likes. You like Prince? Good on ya—I can’t stand the dude’s music. You like Stink—I mean, Sting, good on ya—I can’t stand his voice (I DID, however, like Eddie Murphy’s version of Roxanne far better than Sting’s!). I don’t care who you like, but my tastes in music are my own; Meaning, you listen to what you want and I’ll listen to what I want.

Some of that, I think, has been because I don’t really want some DJ—or some corporate board—to determine what I listen to. In the late 70s, Jackson, MS. Got an “album rock” station that I would listen to as opposed to all the pop or top 40 statios. Mostly I’d listen to the station because they played entire albums rather than just the hit from it. I first heard all of Pink Floyd’s The Wall that way. Still, if they put on a Phil Collins album (I don’t understand how people think what he plays is “rock.” Really?) or a Bruce Springsteen album, I was stuck listening to them for forty minutes.

This is part of the reason we haven’t had Satellite or Cable TV for over a decade: I don’t like the companies telling me which stations I get via packages. Whenever I get the solicitation calls, I immediately stop them and ask if I can choose my channels. The answer—you know this, of course—is that I can choose “packages.” But, of course, that isn’t the same thing…and why on earth would I want to buy a package with Home Shopping Network? Seriously? No, once they give me a checklist of channels I can choose, we’ll talk. I get that some channels may cost more than others, but that’s a decision I’ll have to make at the time. But not until then.

Enter Spotify. Yes, I know there are other services out there that do a similar thing, but Spotify is the one that I found (probably through directed marketing via Facebook—but whatever). On Spotify you can pick the artists you’d like to hear…and hear them. You can even choose individual songs and create your own playlists. I’ve got a Christmas playlist that has a bunch of rock Christmas songs…then I have a Theocracy playlist that has ALL their songs (mostly because I only recently discovered them and am still on a “listen to everything by them” kick), and then I have the generic “I’m writing so play all these songs” playlist.

Not sure why this struck me today—probably because the ONE radio station that I’ve been listening to here in Orlando just moved spots on the dial—and now I can’t pick them up.

Ah well—back to the MP3 player channeled through my cassette deck.

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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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