TSA broke my stuff!

Y’know, I get that TSA has to check bags regularly and randomly as part of their work keeping the skies safe from terrorists. I get it. Really, I do. But right now, they are one of my least favorite organizations.

After I left full time comic work, I rarely flew. From about 2000 until 2010, I could probably count the number of times I flew on one hand. When I started work at Full Sail in 2011, I flew very regularly until 2013 when the family joined me in Orlando. I probably averaged flying every third week for that year and a half. Not once…not ONE single time did I ever receive a notice that my bags had been examined.

When I went to The Geek Gathering in The Shoals area of Alabama recently, I arrived there to find a note that my bag had been examined. Not a big deal, it was mostly full of the work I’d written so that I could have it available at the show. I noticed, however, that the plastic sign that I normally put my name on, or sometimes put a comic in it, and display on my table had a chip and a crack. While it upset me a little, the sign is over ten years old and had probably seen it’s better years.

So I sighed and went on…and didn’t think another thing about it.

Until I returned home…and opened my suitcase to find another note from TSA that they’d pilfered through my bags on the return trip, too. In their repacking of this sudden invasion of my “stuff,” they failed to repack it the way I had it, causing a different plastic display to break and lose part of the back that holds it up: it won’t stand up—it won’t “display” anymore. And this one is a brand spanking new display—it had been used all of ONCE!

Now, here’s the problem I have. I still don’t really have a problem with them looking. I’ve got nothing to hide and so I really don’t care. However, I take a LOT of time packing my breakables very carefully, surrounding those things with my table cloth and with socks and tee-shirts. I take meticulous care because I know the airline doesn’t handle my bags with the same care that I do. I get it. It’s part of flying.

But when you open my dang bag and pilfer through it as part of your job, take the time, care and consideration to pack it back the way you found it. I’m not asking you to add padding, just put it back like it was. If you can’t do that, then keep your hands out of the bag and go find a real bomb or something more dangerous than the comics and novels I write.

The item is worth about $45 bucks, which, granted, is not a lot of money in the overall scheme of things. But it’s my $45 bucks, and it’s a big deal to me. I’ve either got to find a way to fix it (without using duct tape, the Southern answer to everything broken, because of how that would look) or go buy another one.

Grrrrrrrr.

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Artist Ignition—Tomorrow! Plus a Geek Gathering report

Ignition   For all of you in the Central Florida area, get on over to Longwood between 12noon and 8pm tomorrow. Come during halftime of your favorite college game if you have to, but come. It’s going to be geeky rockin! There’ll be artists, cosplay and writers…and a Mario Kart tournament. The event is hosted by the really cool comic shop, Acme Superstore, who will be running sales on merchandise all during the event. That alone is reason enough to come, right?

Last weekend’s Geek GathGeekGatheringMEering was a big hit. I was both amazed and a little surprised to see so many geeks come out to support the two day show (which I didn’t realize was a two day show until just a few weeks beforehand, d’oh!). I kid you not, there moments when it was all a person could do to get through the aisles.

Barry, Leia, and me

I had the opportunity to make some new writer pals in Barry Reese, Amanda Porter, Leia Barrett Durham (who was named after Princess Leia AND I discovered is the main squeeze of writer Martin Powell, with whom I used to work!) and a cool artist who calls himself Float—but I can’t find the cards he gave me so I can’t remember his real name nor can I point you anywhere. Barry, Leia and I did a panel together (see the pic in which Leia is mentally charging those in attendance to go buy our books!) which was a lot of fun.

Zombie Mike Koske and me

On Friday I got to enjoy a very nice meal in downtown Florence with con organizers John and Cori Alsbrooks along with Zombie Mike Koske, who was also an incredibly nice guy. I don’t know a whole lot of actors, but he’s definitely one of the coolest (those of you up on things will remember I edited one a long time ago…and that was quite the challenge!). I haven’t watched a lot of The Walking Dead, but hanging out with Koske a little means I’ve got to go watch some and look for him now!

John and Cori Alsbrooks and their crew did an outstanding job. You wouldn’t have known this to have only been their second show! I know, right? This show featured everything geek shows in the south need: comics, actors, games, cosplay and a nice dealers room!

Me and Chris Roberts

I also got to see and hang out for a fraction of time my old pal Chris Roberts (see the pic!). It hardly seems believable that it had been ten years since I’d seen him. He hadn’t changed a bit…still as geeky and cool as ever. And still stuck on all that vinyl stuff (for those wondering, Chris is the lucky man who bought my old vinyl collection—every bit of it!).

I also ran into local filmmakers Corey Hannah and Jim Torres. We touched on an old project that I’m going to dusk off ASAP. More to come on that later.

So, come on out tomorrow to IGNITION at Acme Comics in Longwood…we’ll take our own pictures! Bring some books…better yet, bring a wad of cash and buy some art and some comics! Autographs are free…well, from me they are!

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Get Your Geek On!

This weekend (and next weekend—but that’s below) all of you who consider yourselves in the “geek” family (and that includes close cousins, the nerds) and live in the Shoals area in Northwest Alabama (which includes Northeast Mississippi and South Central Tennessee) should be at The Geek Gathering held in Sheffield, Alabama. While I’m pleased and honored to report that yours truly is an Author Guest at geekgatheringthe show, there are also an entire slate of guests you can see after you say hi to me (and buy a book—or get your copy signed!). If you’re a fan of The Walking Dead, this is the place for you to be as several actors from the show will be in attendance. Additionally, there will be other authors there with their work and a handful of artists with lots of cool art-type stuff. You can find out more about it at the website here: http://www.thegeekgathering.net/

Or if you’re a Facebook kind of person, you can go to their page and “like” the event!

https://www.facebook.com/TheGeekGathering

So, come out, say hi, buy a book, get an autograph, meet a famous actor (the first for me, the last for the actor), see some cool cosplay costumes. If you don’t know what that is, then you’ll want to show up to see it. It’ll be like a mini-San Diego Comic Con…only in the Shoals!

Next Saturday, then, all those in the Orlando area head over to Longwood to Ignition, an artist alley event at the IgnitionAcme Superstore (you know, the COMIC store!). Once again, I’ll be set up behind a table telling folks about the cool comics and graphic novels they can get from me…which come with free autographs, of course. There will also be a bunch of spectacular artists and even some cosplay there, too! It’s a one day only event, so set your calendars and clocks now. Doors open at 12 noon on Saturday (Sept 27) and will be open until 8pm. Ignition has a Facebook event—go join it now! https://www.facebook.com/events/633419250107106/

Invite your friends and make a fun day out of it.

And say hi to me when you’re there!

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The First Time

I can’t recall if I’ve ever told my “learning to read” story here. I’ll have to do some searching and if not, tell that story at another time. It’s probably clear to those who visit here that comic books played a vital role in my learning to read experience.

When I first started reading comics, I had to buy them off the spinner racks at the local Stop N Robs. When I was in 7th grade, however, a friend introduced me to something that would forever change my life: the comic back issue. For those unsure, a comic “back issue” is simply an old comic. It could be months or it could be years, but it simply isn’t “new” anymore.

One day while at my friend’s house (we didn’t live near—I’d stay at his house after school sometimes until my dad got off work and would come pick me up. Or I’d spend the night with him and go to school the next day and just ride my own bus back home), we walked several blocks to a sidewalk mall. There was a used bookstore there, and within the bookstore; there were a few boxes of comics. My first trip there, I spent all the money I had on me—which wasn’t very much, of course—but it caused me to want to earn more money so I could buy more back issues (this is what drove me to cut so much grass as a kid—but that’s another story!).

Within a few short months, I learned of the flea market that featured a few vendors there who carried more than just the 4 or 5 boxes at the used bookstore. Shortly after that—before I could drive—I learned of the comic shop and my mom would take me sometimes. Never as much as I wanted, but I did get to go. Once I was able to drive, the comic shop was a weekly destination.

You have to understand that in this pre-internet age, the newsstand dominated distribution and if you were unlucky enough to miss the issue (even of regular magazines!) while it was out, tough luck. I was a big Marvel fan in those days and they always had the editorial notes that pointed me to issues in the past, issues that I wanted because I wanted to know what had happened to the characters that I loved to read about. Discovering there was an outlet to actually find and purchase those back issues was a real revelation for me and changed my “reading” habit into a collecting one. It was at this used bookstore that I saw the first bagged comic (I don’t remember when I first saw backing boards, but I’m sure it was sometime considerably later) and realized that the better condition a book was in, the more value it had. Often I couldn’t afford those in the best condition, but I didn’t want those in poor condition either—I was going to READ it after all.

Of course, we know what my comic reading/collecting turned in to.

That friend who took me to the used bookstore that first time? Barry Gregory. My second oldest friend that I still keep in touch with (the oldest, Duane Holland, only has him beat by about two years) is now a comic creator in his own right and the co-owner of Ka-Blam, the premier POD service for comics! I’ll have to write up an entry about Barry and our budding comic career sometime in the future…but that was not today’s story.

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Unintentional Part 2

So last week I started off thinking I was participating in a blog tour that I’d accidentally already done, then shifted to the release of The Remaining, then started yakking about the projects currently in the works. Well, I got kinda excited talking about it but really ran out of space…so I wanted to finish talking about the other projects I’m working on that just aren’t quite as far along.

Trumps1.2-3  trumpslogoSo first up I’ll give you the Cliff Notes version on this first project. In the late 90s, I started working with artist Anthony Pereira, an artist I’d actually discovered while working at Malibu. We decided to do a project. He finished the first issue…and then promptly disappeared. Seriously. Well, fifteen years later, he’s now found—AND working on issue #2 as if no time had passed. It’s really kinda cool. But, the fact that the first issue of Trumps is completely penciled is the reason this one is listed first here.

I’m in the early stages of a Champion mini-series with artist Kevin Tuma. Kevin’s been around for a while and we’ve actually worked on a single issue before—but it was never published. Kevin drew issue #3 of the ill-fated Vortex mini-series published by Comico. While I haven’t asked, he’s probably still owed a chunk of money like the rest of us. Champion, for those of you who are paying attention, was a secondary character in Cat & Mouse vol. 1. He played a more pivotal role in SilverStorm vol 2. So there are some changes in store for the character, but I think you’ll like what’s going on with him.

BlogBeltThrough my old Malibu pal Kurtis Fujita, I “met” artist Gabriella Rosetti. On facebook (of all places, right?) Kurtis pointed out that one of his martial arts student was also a really talented artist. And because Kurtis is certainly one whose artistic “filter” I trust, I want to check out her work. I was blown away by her pencil work! We started chatting and she’s now working on the preliminary sketches while I flesh out a plot. I don’t have her permission to post this image—and while I should have asked first, I’ll risk reprimand because I didn’t plan ahead better and because I think you really need to see this so you can get excited, too! I know it’s just a peek, but I’m so excited to see what she comes up with. It’s a straight sci-fiction piece…and I’ll just leave it at that until we’ve got a little more.

EPSON MFP imageA few months ago I reconnected with another artist I worked with back in the Malibu days and we just swapped a handful of emails before it came up he was interested in doing more comic work. As I don’t have an editor’s budget anymore, I laid it out for him and he was still interested and so we’ve kicked around the idea of a second Demon’s Tails mini-series. Patrick Rolo has drawn a few sketches at this point, as I’m still fleshing out the plot for it as well. I love the way he handles Demon, though…so I hope you’ll be seeing much more here.

Last, but certainly not least, I’ve just started talking to an independent publisher about doing a series of graphic novels. While nothing’s set in stone yet, I’m very excited about the optimism and excitement displayed by the publisher. Yes, I’m intentionally being very vague because of that very thing. I don’t want to say too much. I will say this (so those of you really paying attention might actually figure out which project it is): the story started as a comic series then shifted to an illustrated novel. The novel is written. Finished. The content screams for images, though, and so I’m SOOO excited to be talking about turning it into a series of graphic novels. Yep, you’ll definitely hear more here when I can talk about it.

A few other things kinda cool—not quite as exciting as the new stuff, but still kinda cool. I’m working on graphic novel collections/compilations for some of my older work that is no longer available for whatever reasons. I’ve collected as much of the original art as I could find and am moving forward. First up will be Demon’s Tails (and it helps, I think, that I’m working on vol. 2!), followed by Krey. The only way these are currently available are as back issues—and likely in the reduced boxes. I know I pick them up from the reduced box when I can find them to take them to shows—but I’m tired of looking, so I’ll just print up the compilations and also try to make them available digitally!

Dang it, got long again. Thanks for hanging in with me!

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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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