Category Archives: writing

I talk about the craft of writing

Catch-up con report

Brittany, Chris Ulm, and me at SDCC2017

I haven’t done a con report since MegaCon, and that was back in June. So this will be a catch-up Con report!

In July I did the Orlando Collect-A-Con in Altemonte Springs. It was a fun show and I’m already planning a return there for next year! Also in July, I went out to San Diego Comic Con for the second year in a row (thanks to my buddies at Ka-Blam!). I got to see many old pals, including my former boss and Malibu Editor-in-Chief, Chris Ulm!

Steven Butler, Barry Gregory, me, John Crowther

I was no sooner back from SDCC when my other old pal, Steven Butler was in town for a convention in Tampa. I rode out there with old pal Barry Gregory and we were joined by new pal John Crowther for a fun dinner and lively chat!

In early August, Jeff Whiting and I made the long trip up to Pikeville, KY for the inaugural Pikeville ComicCon. We had a blast. What an awesome first show it was. Got the chance to meet a lot of new people there. Got my fingers crossed for an invite back to the second one—yes, it was that cool of a show!

Stephen Rosys, Jeff Whiting, Cody Barker, Todd Goodman, Mike W. Belcher, Me, Aiden Belcher

In late August, I went to the Orlando Infinity Con. This was my second time to be there and this is one of the closest ones to my home, so it’s very easy to do.

I had planned to do the Lake Collect-A-Con in October, a show I’ve done before and look forward to doing again, but my band chaperone mishap the day before (you can read about it here if you missed it) kept me from attending. Yes, I basically laid around the house and moaned all day. If you don’t believe me, ask BJ. I’ve been to LCAC twice, and I’m looking forward to making the third one next year.

I had help a few weeks later, though, as Brett supplied the muscle to get me in the door at Emerald City Comic Fest, another inaugural show. This one, too, was very good. One thing I really liked about it was that admission was free! Not sure how the show managed to pull that off, but the free admission got a whole host of folks in, some comic fans and some just curious to see what all the noise was about. Met some new folks, but had the chance to catch up with Dave again, who always brings me something to sign when he comes to a show I’m at. I think I’ve signed more books for Dave than any other single person. He brings me books I’ve forgotten I worked on!

Barry Gregory, John Crowther, me!

Another fun thing about ECCF is that The Geeky Mom set up right beside me! (that’s BJ, for those of you with raised eyebrows right now!)

Central Florida is a great place to be if you like comics, comic conventions, and meeting comic creators!

Coming up, I’ll be at Smashcon on November 18th and unless I can work out a show for early December (trying to, but it may not happen), that’ll be my last show for the year.

 

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Thoughts on Fan Fiction

Not long ago, I had a spirited conversation about the “merits” of fan fiction with a small body of students. For those of you who don’t know or have never heard of fan fiction—don’t worry, you’re not really missing much. I’d encourage you to google the meaning for yourself because ultimately the discussion came down to a disagreement as to the definition of fan fiction. But I will confess that the “spirited” nature of the conversation surprised me…for a couple of reasons.

First and foremost is that I’ve been a working writer for the better part of 25 years. Because of that fact, I know a whole boatload of working writer/editor types. It’s not because I’m special or anything of the such, it just happens to be the circles I walk in. Much like musicians seem to hang around and pal around other musicians, it’s just the way it is.

That said, most of the professionals I know don’t read fan fic…nor do they really even give it a second thought. Period. While I’ve never done a poll or seen the results of one, I’ve always felt the general consensus was that the overwhelming majority of fan fiction is simply “fans” exploring their geeky fantasies. Not writers. Fans.

I sat on a panel once called “Playing in other people’s sandboxes” (catchy title, not mine) in which the writers talked about what it was like to write licensed properties (for those who don’t know the score, I’ve done a handful, including Planet of the Apes, Battletech and The Remaining, a recent GN adaptation of a horror flick). One writer, who shall remain nameless because I didn’t run this by him first, who writes for Star Wars said that his contract required him to sign that he agrees to not read any fan fiction at all. It’s a legal thing to protect him and the company. But the point is that “not reading fanfic” is actually being added to writing contracts!

One of the arguments tossed at me what the success of Fifty Shades of Grey, a work I have not read nor do I intend to. It’s a “fan fiction” of Twilight, an original work that I don’t really hold in high esteem. I’ve read reviews of Fifty Shades from sources I trust and the consensus was pretty much “bad writing.” Yes, but it sold incredibly well. That is a fact that is tough to argue. But here’s the thing: hardly any (if any at all!) of the people in my writing/editing circle of friends/colleagues have any respect for that work. Yes, it sold well, but it’s not very good.

And therein lies the real issue with fanfiction. Do I think that all fan fiction is bad? Of course not. There’s so much of it out there that ONE of them has to be worth reading. But the overwhelming majority of it is crap. And, if you’re a writer who hopes to one day make money writing, why would you intentionally put yourself in that category? Why would you purposely do that knowing that publishers don’t have much respect for it?

As a rule, I don’t read fanfic. Just not interested in it. Are attitudes changing and will it change? Obviously, I don’t know, but if I were to guess, I’d say yes. I think as younger editors who have been raised with the internet always at their fingertips are in charge of more and more, I think it won’t matter so much to them.

I dunno, though. What do you think?

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Just Do It!

Boy, Nike’s marketing team really hit something when they landed on this phrase, didn’t they? You can really apply the “just do it” slogan to many parts of life—and many do. And it works!

I’m going to do the same today because of something a student recently said to me.

We were talking about some opportunities that had arisen for the student and they said “as soon as I graduate, I’m going to submit my work.”

I was immediately taken aback and simply asked, “why wait?”

It was the student’s turn to be taken aback and I could see it on his face. After some discussion, I got the idea that he felt he had to wait until then.

But writing is not like that.

So before I go on, let me say that I’m a big believer in education. I grew up in Mississippi, traditionally near the bottom in education. It was something that bothered me in high school… and it was also beat into my head from my parents that I was going to college. I don’t think higher education is for everyone, but I do believe it should available to everyone—but that’s a different blog post.

Selling your work as a writer requires no degree at all. No magazine or agent/editor is going to require a degree before they publish you. When I was an editor I never-EVER- asked someone about a degree. Quite simply, it didn’t matter. If they could tell a story and had a command of the language, that was all that mattered. It remains so today.

Now, I think education is good for the writer. Today’s young writers are in particular need of it because they read so very little. Most writers I worked with professionally were well-read. They don’t all read the same thing, but they read—and that was what mattered. Many of my students today tell me “I don’t read,” to which I respond “be prepared to fail, then.” (Not my class so much as fail as a writer)

When I set out to do my thesis, my director told me to think about it as if participating in a conversation: I’m going to contribute to that conversation, thus I need to know what has been said. My thesis should add something new to the conversation, not retread old ground. Fiction writing SHOULD be the same; you’ve got to know what’s come before so that you can add something to it.

This is partly where the education comes in.

Education forces you (or should) to do those things that equip you to participate in the conversation of your chosen field. I mean, how can you expect to be a science-fiction writer if you haven’t read Dune, or if you aren’t at least familiar with Star Trek. You don’t have to be a fan of either, but you must know them and why they’re important to the conversation.

Traditional publishing was always a pretty good gatekeeper for those who could command the language and tell a story, education or not. Publishing is so easy today that a lot of crap is published.

Of course, we should aspire to be better.

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Really, it’s nearly August?

Been a while since I’ve been here. The good news is that I’ve been busy doing cool stuff! So I’ll try to give you the readers digest version here, and then longer later.

CitizensProfilePicFacebook

Citizens by Roland Mann and Joe Badon

So I’m happy to announce that Wizard World Conventions have added me to five—yes, that right, FIVE of their upcoming shows. They are: Nashville on September 25-27, Ft. Lauderdale on Oct 2-4, Greenville on July 15-17 2016, Raleigh NC TBD 2016, and Orlando Aug 5-7 2016. Yes, I’m very excited about these shows. I’ve never done a comic show in any of those cities except Orlando.

Others shows I’ll be at: Mt. Dora on Sept 19, Daytona Beach ComicCon on Dec 6, and of course, I’ll be presenting at the Florida Writers Conference on Oct 15-18. SO, mark those dates on your calendar and come see me.

AND, depending on how quickly we can get them done, hopefully there will be some new projects to show you. First and foremost, I’m … just … moments … away … from launching a kickstarter campaign for the CITIZENS graphic novel I’m working on with super talented artist Joe Badon. Oh, trust me, you’ll hear about it here when it happens. I’m told I have to “media blitz” when it’s happening…so, don’t hate me when it happens. Heck, I’m going to depend on YOU to help me.

Panel from an upcoming graphic novel with artist Deonna Herrold.

Panel from an upcoming graphic novel with artist Deonna Herrold.

In a really wild story of how they met, I started working with up and coming artist Deonna Herrold on a graphic novel. I’ll tell you that story later, but here’s a peek at one panel from a page she’s done. She’s all high-tech on the computer, but it’s been very cool to watch her process.

I’m also excited to tell you that I have two new graphic novels now available in either print OR digital.

KreyGN cover

Krey Graphic Novel

Krey collects the five issue mini-series published by Caliber Press, and

DemonsTailsGNCOVER

Demon’s Tails Graphic Novel

Demon’s Tails collects the four issue mini-series published by Adventure. So what are you waiting on? Click the links and go buy a copy!

I’m also working with a couple of other artists that I don’t want to mention yet for fear of jinxing the projects…it’s way early anyway, but I’m still pretty excited about the prospects!

Oh…and I joined a writers group again. First time in a long time, but I’m pretty stoked about it.

Okay, there’s the update. Until next time!

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The Old is…Published: The SadoMannequin

SadoCoversmallOne of the interesting things about creating as a writer is that projects are dead…until they’re not. The one I’ll tell you about today is one of those.

Available now (that’s a hint to you to go click on the link and purchase a copy!) is THE SADOMANNEQUIN. Now, don’t let the sexy image fool you, it’s NOT an “adult” comic. In fact, the story is a very Twilight-Zone kind of story. In a nutshell, a new security guard starts his job at a warehouse and is warned to stay out of the warehouse. Of course, weird things happen and he discovers the moonlight brings mannequins to life. Of course, he’s a dude so he doesn’t just choose any mannequins. He was, after all, warned!

The story is not an original one by me but an adaptation of the short film SadoMannequin by the now defunct PopGunProductions. PopGun was Jim Torres and Corey Hannah, two guys that I met while we were living in Florence, Alabama. The weird thing was Corey was working at the also-now-defunct Blockbuster Video when I first met him. Then, when I met PopGun thanks to Terry Pace, I put two-and-two together (and y’all know that’s tough for me to do).

After I saw some of their work, I immediately saw the talent of the two filmmakers and when they mentioned comic adaptation, I jumped all over it. They were already talking about feature length films and making it relevant to the local area and I was all about that.

Time is too far removed for me to remember the exact details, but my recollection is that they had someone who was about to invest in them, and part of what they were going to do with that money was print the comics. The idea was, of course, to package the comics with a DVD to get some bonus material. There was also to be a short story by a young writer named Mark (something—I can’t remember his last name now). Truthfully, I don’t recall whether Mark ever completed the story or not, but I printed an Ashcan version in 2001—it’s a real collector’s item now!

sadoSTILL3

This is a still from the film

But for some reason the money never materialized and the book sat finished but only existing in ashcan format. It stayed in my files until recently the realization came to me that with advances in technology and the whole digital revolution, there was nothing stopping me from getting this to press.

So that’s how it happened.

The story is adapted by me with pencils by Kris Hsieh (who’s now a lawyer with his own firm!), inks by Chuck Bordell, letters by Mike Belcher with the cover (the art you see) by Dave Roberts colored by Shawn Murphy (who I have no idea where he is now).

Go buy it. Digital or print! It’s a fun read.

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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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