Tag Archives: UNA

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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2013 that was

I hope everyone had a very merry Christmas!

The years keep rolling around like The Flash and I’m looking back on one again. Yeah, I’ll look forward next week! J

Like most years, 2013 was filled with highs and lows. It was twelve years ago that BJ and I calculated it out and figured out 2013 would be the year Brittany graduated from high school and start college. We just didn’t think it’d happen so fast. But, it did and our baby girl is now a high school graduate and a college freshman.

I began the year with the intentions of attending the San Diego Comic Con (SDCC) again for the first time in a decade. MY how things have changed. While they graciously supplied me with a guest badge, I couldn’t even pay to get BJ and the kids in—we were going to make it a summer trip, a sort of post-graduation trip for Brittany (I promise, it’s what she wanted!). So that did happen. What did happen, though, was MegaCon in Orlando invited me as a comics guest and then let me bring both Brittany and Brett to help man the tables. While both had been to shows before, this was by far the biggest for both of them. I’m still not sure Brett was impressed.

In May I returned to Spalding University in Louisville, KY., my alma mater (one of them) where I was honored to get to get to give a talk on comic writing. A brief technological glitch got me off to a slow start…but after few minutes, I regained my composure…I mean, after all, I was talking about graphic novels! Pretty cool, if I do say so myself!

Brittany made a late decision to attend Full Sail after we thought she was going to go to UNA. What changed her mind was touring the campus! We did our best not to try to persuade her one way or the other, but were overjoyed she decided to go to Full Sail.

Late in the summer, after having the house on the market for well over a year, some renters entered the picture and wanted to occupy immediately so that their kids could start school and not have to change in the middle—or a few weeks in to a school year. Completely unprepared for renters, but totally recognizing it as a God-thing, we scrounged to vacate. Fortunately, we had the help of Hank Addy and the Dabbs family and we moved out on a Sunday, they moved in on the next day.

We then spent two months crammed on top of each other in a one bedroom efficiency. BJ called it “glamping,” but that didn’t amuse Brittany and Brett much. The housing market shocked us—and we still haven’t found a house, but we ended up in an apartment in Oviedo and at least the kids have their own personal space now.

Job wise, I moved back in to the classroom as the campus version of my writing for comics and animation class kicked in. While I’m not real fond of the scheduling at Full Sail, I definitely like my class AND being back in the classroom. While I’ve had movement with my writing, I’ll talk about that next week when I look ahead to 2014! See ya next year!

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In the Spirit of Thankfulness part 2

My thankful missive was longer than I expected, so here is the second—but no less important—half of the 30 days of thankfulness. I’m thankful for…

14 my sister. Even though I was pretty mean to her when we were kids, I’m thankful to have a beautiful and smart sister who loves me despite that fact. How the heck SHE ended up a computer geek is beyond me. I’m pretty sure she did it just to SPITE me. 😉 (she gets to head this week because she just had a birthday and STILL hasn’t caught me! Happy birthday, sis!)

13 the year and a half I got to live in Piggott. Piggott is that place that’s always been a home away from home for me. I’m kin to about 1/3 of the people there simply because my family has been in that are for 150+ years. Though the job situation (meaning mostly—the boss) was less than desirable, I’m glad to have gotten the chance to live and work there for a brief time. What made it even better was that most of the residents seemed to appreciate the work I did there AND seemed to enjoy my writing. I’ll never forget the first words from Mayor Gerald Morris when I told him who my family was (he knew them all): “Welcome home.”

12 good bosses. Having a bad boss (see #13) reminds you to be thankful for the good bosses you have (BJ can attest to that also!), and I’ve had some good ones in my time. I’ll mention by name: Noelani Cornell (my current boss at Full Sail University), Chris Ulm (the EIC during my time at Malibu), and the late Dr. Bill Foster (Department Chair at UNA where I taught).

11 Malibu Comics. Yeah, I know the company is long dead (shut down in 96), but it—and the people associated with it—hold a very dear place in my heart. Like some of the other entries here, there are far too many people to name. But I always think of Malibu as the four principle partners: Scott Rosenberg, Chris Ulm, Dave Olbrich, and Tom Mason. These guys took in the young writer from Mississippi and quickly made me a part of the family. I’m also forever grateful to Tom—I’m sure he knows—for opening up his home to me and BJ after the ’94 Northridge earthquake made us homeless.

10 my beloved Southland. I know that about half of you won’t get it, but MY country is the South not the USA, which forces our relationship at the end of a gun barrel (or a drone, these days). And for those one or two idjits who stop by here because google led you to the word “southland,” the whole Dixie thing is not about race for most (yes, there are some idiots of all creeds and colors and yes, states)…but I once tried to explain it all by saying I’ve got a lot more in common with the black guy who lives on the street in front of me than the white guy who lives up north. Truth!

9 little league organizations (all of them, not any one in particular). My dad coached me for several years when I was in high school and it was one of those things that helped bring us together when I was such a rotten teen. It gave us some common ground stuff to talk about…and it didn’t hurt that he was a darn good coach—we went 25-0 when I was a senior. I’ve been able to coach both of my kids for a number of years and I love that part about coaching … I really missed it last year and that’s probably what put it on my mind to make me so thankful.

8 my friends in law enforcement. Like the other entries, there’s too many to name—but I’ll still shout out to a couple for ridealongs and other such cool info I couldn’t have gotten anywhere else: Bobby Joe Killen and Dave Cullison!

7 my writing skills. You’re welcome to laugh—and that won’t offend me…but at whatever level I have them, I’m thankful for them. Like any writer, I hope my writing brings joy and pleasure to others…but it really is something I very much enjoy and I’m thankful for whatever skills I may have.

6 my students (most of them—ha). I’ve often said that teaching is a lot like editing: a very thankless job. An editor is (in general) good if they are “invisible” to the projects they work on, bringing out the best in the creators they’re working with, allowing them to shine. It’s an awesome feeling when a student drops you a private message or publicly thanks you for instruction/advice/encouragement.

5 my extended family. They’re a bunch of nuts, but they’re mine. (see the facebook entry#23 as a sidenote for this one, too)

4 my earthquake desk. BJ hates it. I bought it for $25 back around 1988. My dad knew this place (I don’t remember how) and we picked up this huge metal desk. It’s HEAVY. I started calling it earthquake desk in California because if the big one came (again), we could just jump under it and we’d be okay. The thing is STURDY. Every time we move BJ tries to talk me into getting rid of it and getting something “nicer.” You watch—she’ll do it again once we sell this house!

3 Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. No, I’m not going to get into the debate as to who did what. But they were an amazing team and helped me develop a love for reading when I was but a wee lad.

2 YOU, dear reader. You continue to visit my blog and read my ramblings when I know that is exactly what they are. Many of you offer you own comments and much encouragement…and you are highly treasured by me!

1 my salvation. Okay, yeah, I DID intentionally leave this one for the #1 spot (and because the first of November also happens to be my birthday!) I’m thankful that a loving God forgives me of the sins I commit daily (oh-stop! Y’ain’t so perfect yerself) and that I live in a country that I’m free to express that (mostly).

So there…if you read this far, thanks for hanging with me. Lots to be thankful for…I could probably go on, but I won’t. THANKFULLY for you, November only has 30 days!

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Controlling Your Writer’s Cave

During my recent trip to Chicago to lead writing workshops at Karitos, I had the opportunity to talk to the mom of a young writer. Seems young writer had enjoyed one of my workshops (yea, me!) and had said as much to mom…and mom was simply offering a very kind thank you. She bumped in to me in the parking lot of the hotel where I’d just returned from having dinner with my long-lost (well, sorta. I’m pretty sure he always knew where he was) pal John Metych, whose last name I now pronounce correctly! For those one or two of you who don’t know, John is the writer of the very cool comic series Sniper and Rook. You should check it out!

But anyway, it was fun to talk to the mom with her writer-daughter there because I was able to tell them both things that I think (hope?) will aid their relationship as the young writer grows.

One of the things we talked about was writing environment and getting into the groove while writing…and breaking that groove. A writer’s cave…or back porch or wherever you write…should be set up in such a way as to get UNINTERUPTED creative time. I strongly stress uninterrupted because sometimes when a writer gets in a groove, when the fingers are flying on the keyboard almost faster than the writer can think (not a difficult task for me!), it’s very hard to get that groove back.

I told her the story of me working on my first novel and trying to get BJ to understand that. You see, that’s one of the things I tried to explain to writer-daughter’s mom and writer-daughter herself: people who aren’t writers will NEVER “get” writers. Try though they may and good-hearted though they may be, it just won’t happen.

So when we lived in Loretto, TN, I was teaching at UNA and BJ had quit her job to stay home with the kids. Her being home was a new adjustment for us and she worked hard at it. After a few polite interruptions, I had to tell her no interruptions, period. Wouldn’t you know it, not long after (not in the same day, silly!), I’m on a writing tear and she pops her head in and says “I’m not interrupting; I just wanted to know if you needed anything.”

Now, only a thick-skulled Yankee would not see she was, in her mind, being just as sweet as she could be—even whispering the words. To her, it was a thoughtful thing to do (to me, too, but bear with me). But it was an interruption, sweet though it may have been, and jolted me out of the world that exists only in my head and that I was trying desperately to get onto paper (well, computer file).

It’s a bit like those stop signs (or lights) they put on the highways. You’re rockin’ along at 65 miles per hour (because that is the speed limit!) and out of nowhere a stop sign pops up. You have to stop. Yes, you get going again, but you start from a dead stop and it takes time to pick up speed again, time that you might not have during that sitting.

So I think writer-daughter’s mom walked away with a bit more understanding of her weird writer-daughter.

I told writer-daughter she still has to listen to mom; she’s 14, after all!

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Is it all worked out?

Shortly after the University of North Alabama downsized me, BJ and I were offered a tag-team type of job selling collegiate furniture. It was an interesting job, to say the least. I didn’t really know the first thing about furniture, but we believe it was really BJ and her very long list of contacts they mostly wanted anyway. For the most part, I enjoyed it.

However, it was during this time that I spent a lot of time on the road traveling from University to University, in the tri-state area of Kentucky, Tennessee and Arkansas. My travel partner was one of the VPs of the company; a man younger than me who knew a lot about the furniture. As so much of the time was spent traveling, we spent a great deal of time in conversation. He was a devout member of the Church of Christ, and I was fresh off a religious conversion in 2000 (Southern Baptist for those of you with a scorecard).

Now I happen to be one of those who think that most of the folks who call themselves “Christian,” aren’t. [I think it was Billy Graham that said 80% of the people in churches are unsaved] And I don’t get too terribly worked up about the different flavors. Yeah, I think it’s silly the Church of Christ won’t have musical instruments in their churches (but they’ll turn that radio on quickly!), but I don’t think that’s a deal-breaker with God.

I DO think there are some deal-breakers; a core set of beliefs that all those under the “Christian” umbrella should believe. Things like Mary being a virgin, Jesus physically dying AND rising again, etc. Most of the “Christian” religions believe these things.

I don’t, however, think it really matters if a Christian is a pre-trib, post-trib, during-trib…I just don’t think it matters that much. One of the things that I have a tendency to believe that my fellow “Christians” don’t is the idea of predestination: that God picked out everyone who’s going to heaven in the beginning. Yes, I realize that most Southern Baptists don’t believe this—but I’m okay with that—it doesn’t fall on that list of “core” ideas.

But my Church of Christ employer couldn’t grasp the concept of my belief. It wasn’t just that he didn’t agree with it, it didn’t make sense to him how “I” could believe. His major concern, as I recall it, was why do Pre-destiners even bother with sharing the Word and attempting to spread the Gospel. If God has them all picked out, why waste my time talking about it.

To me, however, the answer is simple: Because God told us to do so. Just because I think God’s got it all worked out doesn’t mean I can simply stop doing what He says. It seemed—and still seems—like a no-brainer to me: God says it, so I do it (or at least attempt to do it)…pretty cut and dried.

He never did understand what I was trying to say…but we had many very good looooong conversations about it all and I very much enjoyed them!

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Teaching ESL

Many of you are aware that I taught English at the University level when the family lived in Florence, Alabama. Much of that time was spent teaching ESL (English as a Second Language) at UNA (University of North Alabama). It started as an adjunct position in 2002, a position I held (some of that time also teaching adjunct at another school) until hired full time in January 2004.

The main reason I applied for the ESL job to begin with was it paid considerably more than the non-ESL classes. As I’d just finished grad school, I was very attracted to the income. To be honest, I didn’t really know what to expect in the program.

I found that I really enjoyed it. Now don’t get me wrong, I liked teaching composition (ENG 101) as well—I just like teaching writing to be totally honest. In my “American” classes, however, I found that out of 25 students (a full class), about 5 would do really well, 5 would do horrible, and the rest fell somewhere in-between.

With ESL classes, however, we were getting the brightest of the bright from foreign countries. It was (probably still is) very difficult to get into the USA and take classes. This wasn’t a hard and fast rule, of course, but in general, the students we got were very smart and very motivated.

They just didn’t speak English.

At the time, UNA had been courting a Japanese organization and they brought in hundreds of kids. This is primarily why I was employed. I learned over the course of time, however, that we have big misconceptions about schools abroad. Often we hear how “good” public schools are as compared to the US. I found that to be completely untrue based on the international students and conversations with them about it.

Americans are lacking in geographical knowledge, however. Many Americans couldn’t find Japan on a map if you asked them. My theory is that the US is so big, that Americans have enough “geography” to worry about in our own country.

That’s my theory, anyway.

This is on my mind because many of the students who came into the US in 2003 and whom I taught are graduating today. Tomorrow, many of them will leave the US for good (well, some of them make pit stops in places like Disney World—ha). It’s my hope that I touched them in some way not just as an English teacher (you can ask them—the most common phrase heard from me their first year was “speak English!”), but as a positive influence in their lives somehow. I dunno how, but it’s my hope. They certainly touched my life.

On that note, I leave you with this clip from the local news channel. They interviewed me and one of the students about the growing ESL program at UNA.

And, if any of my former students happen to read this—Congratulations on graduation! I wish you the very best in life!

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