My Old Pal!

For most people, friends from childhood are distant memories and/or simply pictures in a school annual. Facebook and other social media has changed that some, now they’re pictures on the computer. Prior to my joining Facebook in 2009, I hadn’t seen or heard from most of the people I went to high school with since my 20 year reunion a few years earlier. And prior to my reunion, it’d been 20 years since I’d last seen or talked to the overwhelming majority of them.

Me with Thomas Florimonte and Barry Gregory, co-owners of Ka-Blam!

Me with Thomas Florimonte and Barry Gregory, co-owners of Ka-Blam!

There are a couple of people, though with whom I have kept occasional contact from way back when. The earliest friend I still speak with every few months is Duane Holland, a friend from my elementary years. Duane and I were comic book geeks together. He was the only one in my school who could talk comics with me…and yes, we’d occasionally trade comics: he liked the Fantastic Four while I was an Avengers fan. He’d probably strangle me if he knew I was going to tell all of you about the time we camped out in a tent behind my house and sang goofy superhero songs thanks to Mad Magazine. Weirdly enough, I can still hear those tunes in my head.

Barry Gregory, however, is probably the oldest pal that I kept any sort of regular contact with. My friendship with Barry goes back to the 6th grade when I was the new kid in class after transfer-induced move. One or the other of us found out we liked comics and we immediately hit it off.

As 7th graders, Barry and I created our own group of superheroes; we mostly liked the same stuff and so mostly dug each other’s creations. I can’t recall who was first, but it was probably Barry who showed me a few pages of a comic he was drawing (and often tracing. We did that in a bunch of the comics we produced) and I was doing the same.

L-R: Barry, Tony Fortenberry, me, Mark McElroy. The Four Horsemen!

L-R: Barry, Tony Fortenberry, me, Mark McElroy. The Four Horsemen!

But, because we did like the same sort of stuff, we ended up doing a “crossover,” inspired very much by the then-recent Avengers/Defenders crossover. We divvied up the chapters and stories and chores and the story line hopped from my comic to his—just like the Avengers/Defenders story.

I still have much of that work in my possession. In deference to Barry (and since he knows nothing about this post), I won’t put any of his artwork here—and I’m not going to put MUCH of mine here; keep in mind I was in middle school when I did this, so don’t be hatin’! Many of the characters I created way back then live still, if in changed form. The least changed character still around is the Demon character from the Cat & Mouse series.

We kept going to comics one way or another and tried a couple of times to do different things. We were writers in perpetual search of artists. After a few false starts, I stumbled across a few and we tried again. When we pitched Cat & Mouse, we also pitched SilverStorm (written by Thomas Fortenberry) and something we called Hero Task Force (the name taken from several years of RPG sessions). Regrettably, the publisher only wanted C&M and SilverStorm and HTF never came to be.

This is the cover to the first full comic I ever did...back around 1976.

This is the cover to the first full comic I ever did…back around 1976.

Barry, of course, continued to work not only as a writer but as a color guide colorist (created guides that computer colorist would then use to color in photoshop) and I was able to hire him some when I was an editor.

Barry is the same one I mentioned a few months back who introduced me to the comic shop and back issues. He’s now not only a comic creator, but the co-owner in the premier POD (Print on Demand) comic printer in the industry. And while I don’t talk to him as much as I probably should, we remain friends to this day. Facebook or not!

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Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children

MPHPCGraphicNovelCoverI can’t read any title that has “home for X children” in it and not think of Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted Children. I get these kind of schools/stories have been around before the X-Men, but I always think they’ve swiped the idea from the X-Men comics.

That said, when I saw the graphic novel, I was drawn to the slightly manga-influenced art…and the fact that it was something different. I didn’t realize until I had it home that it was an adaptation of a novel. Had I known that, I probably wouldn’t have bought it, because…

…the graphic novel was terrible. Avoid it.

Okay, the “photographs” of the peculiar children were very cool…but you can probably find those online somewhere (just guessing, I have no idea if they were photoshopped specifically for the novel or what).

I’ve since heard the novel itself—the one without the pictures—is pretty good. It may very well be, but that’s not what I’m talking about here. And, keep in mind I’m going into this without having read the novel.

The story starts off with Jacob remembering stories of monsters told him by his grandfather. Then he finds his grandfather has just been attacked by something…and he dies. But before his does, his grandfather says all sorts of confusing stuff. So Jacob just writes it off as the ramblings of a crazy old man.

Until he thinks he’s starting to see monsters.

MGkidsThen he goes to some island near England with his dad, finds a home stuck in a timeloop, in a day from WW2 in the 1940s that just keeps repeating. Oh. And he develops a crush on his grandfather’s old girlfriend. And then a bunch of confusing stuff happens and then…oh, guess what? It’s CONTINUED?

Seriously?

I spend $20 and 400 pages for a continued story?

I’ve GOT to do better research before buying stuff like this.

The art is not terrible, but the story is very hard to follow. We rarely know where we are—the transitions are terrible and confusing. One thing that helps is that the modern day scenes are in black and white while the 1940s scenes are in color. Seems a bit backwards to me, but whatever.

Eh. If you’ve felt inclined to read this story, spend your money on the novel and not the graphic novel. From what I’ve been told, you might actually understand the novel.

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Florida Writers Conference 2014 report

While I’ve been to dozens of writers conferences in the past, this is the first time for me to attend the Florida Writers Conference. Had it not been so local, I’m not sure I would have attended this year.

But I’m glad I did. Of course, I have my Full Sail colleague Jennie Jarvis to thank for that.

fwc1Wow, but what a cool conference. It’s already clear to me that many of the attendees there feel and think of each other as family as many of the conversations I heard sounded like those from a family reunion. There were tears shed for those who were no longer able to join the conference or who had passed on. I didn’t know them, of course, but you could tell by the shared emotions of the group that they were talking about a family member.

It’s the kind of group that you want to be a part of because writers are an odd sort. And I mean that in the most affectionate way. They’re (and when I say “they,” they includes me) just weird and nobody understands them but other writers. It’s just the way it is.

I made new friends and some potentially cool contacts as well (maybe they’re both and the same, who knows?). I even discovered there are a few writers groups nearby—and they quickly invited me to be a part of the group.

fwc2I spoke twice on writing comics, once to the main part of the conference and the other time to the young writers conference. The young writers asked some pretty cool questions, too! The good news (for me, that is) is that portion seemed to go over well and I’m already talking with them about next year! Yes, that’s very exciting to me.

I also sat on a transmedia panel with some talented folks (including my Full Sail colleagues Julie Anne Wight, Dr. Tof Eklund moderated by the talented Allen Gorney!) where we talked about taking stories to different formats. It’s cool to hear so much interest in graphic novels.

On a more writing related note, got the first rejection to the C&M reboot. Sigh. Shall soldier on. Nothing more on BEAH, but am about to lick the stamp for CITIZENS. Cross your fingers!

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Florida Writers Conference; This Weekend! Be There!

Yeah, okay, so it’s been a couple of weeks since I posted here. It seems it has been all I can do just to catch my breath. BJ has been out of town with Brittany while Brittany is acting in the film Colors of Emily (That’s a link to the Facebook page, btw, so go like it! It’s also on IMDB, so check it out here), so I’ve been “single parenting” at home with Brett. We’ve had a lot of frozen pizzas!

So anyway, starting today, in the Lake Mary area of Orlando, will be the Florida Writers Conference. It officially kicks off this evening with the opening ceremonies, but the big days are tomorrow and Saturday. There are also activities on SunFloWritConfday, but it’s an abbreviated day so everyone can get home. There will be a ton of fantastic speakers/presenters/faculty covering just about every topic/genre/medium a writer could hope for. Not only that, it’s a great opportunity to network with other writers. If you’ve already registered, see you there. If you haven’t, it’s not too late—just show up and bring your notepad…er laptop.

In other news, I don’t have much. I’ve pitched Cat & Mouse to a publisher, one that I really like, but it may not be the right fit/right time. I’m hoping to hear back in the next week or so.

Same with Beah—I’ve pitched it, but I haven’t had any sort of response –are we getting spoiled to our communication technology where we can tell if someone has seen our message or read our post? I think we are!

I’m working to finish the Citizens pitch and send it to the same person who first said no to Beah because they mentioned they’d be interested in seeing more. Joe’s work is so unique, it’s bound to find a home in someone’s publishing schedule.

That’s all for this week. Come see me—and a host of other writers, editors and agents at the Florida Writers Conference!

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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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