Sunday, March 27, 2016

A Moment of Truth

It's snowing on Easter here on the eastern edge of the west. This isn't unusual though the forecast is for 3" - 5" which IS unusual. I mention the weather every update here because it affects us more than maybe we ever want to acknowledge. And maybe we affect the weather more than we realize. That's something that I believe needs to be on all our minds.

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Last Sunday I got some unexpected and devastating news. The next day I got some great advice on how to deal with it. Yesterday I made the decision about how to proceed.

It's important to creative types to hear honest feedback. I have always asked for it. It matters to me because I want to be better at telling stories. I've tried songwriting, playing in bands, making comics by writing and drawing them and also by submitting to the big companies. I have been working at the writing of stories in comics and prose for over seventeen years. I thought that I was getting pretty good at this.

My feelings didn't matter though. An honest editor gave me some seriously disappointing notes that I will be forever grateful for. It was a hard reality check that felt an awful lot like a knife to the heart. Her intention wasn't that at all, she encouraged me to keep at it because the story wasn't bad at all just the execution. And not all of it but some big, big parts of it.

I've been working on The Cold Distance since November 2011, I'm deeply invested in the story. Deeply. I had plans for at least five novels to tell the story of Jugee & the Duchess, I've been talking here for the last few months about it and off and on over the last four and a half years.

So hearing that it wasn't anywhere near where it should be could have broken me. It did for a couple of days. I was so far down that first couple of days that I sent an email to two of my biggest cheerleaders and I got a response that resonated. There were options, one of which I'm still considering because I've put so much work into it. But the big thing was that it would be okay to move on, try something new.

That was the knife being pulled out of my chest. It took a couple more days to stitch myself up and bandage the wound but there are so many stories in my head (and notes on my hard drives) that it made sense to consider them. One story, one that has been percolating for fifteen years, popped up and did a Horshack until I paid attention to it.

Which brings me to my next steps. It's time to move on, work with new characters in new settings. So I'm putting The Cold Distance aside in favor of working hard on something new. Distance is not my masterpiece, that book is still marinating in my head. I had built it up in my head into something it's clearly not. I want to put out the best book I can, follow all the steps that need to be followed and live up to my own advice. The Cold Distance is not that book and it may never be.

So it might be worthwhile to share what there is here as an object lesson for others and as a reminder to me that all that work has taught me something that needs to be applied elsewhere.

We'll see.

All my gratitude to Rhonda and to Kevin for their honesty and integrity and their expressions of support. Moving forward on a new project is exciting. I hope you'll follow the journey.

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I'll have a short story coming out later this spring and hopefully the final Evolver book will drop sooner than later. I'm working on the second Agent of DANGER installment too. Stay tuned for details as I get them.

Also I will be at Planet Comicon in May where I'll have the aforementioned Evolver and Agent of DANGER books. You'll also be able to commission a Velocity Story from me, which is a quick micro fiction on a con-exclusive card. I hope to see you all there. Ask me how the new book is going too.

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We're watching the first season of BOSCH on Amazon this week. My wife and I are fans of Titus Welliver from his days on Deadwood and every so often we chuckle and have to say "Fuckin' ADAMS" which seems to add to our enjoyment.

The first season has one hell of a good villain, though, and the characters are great. There's a lot of good dialogue that moves things forward. Subplots abound and it's all engrossing. I've never read the books so I can't speak to how accurate it is, but we're really digging this show. Good thing season 2 is  already available.

I wandered into Elite Comics this week looking for interesting science fiction comics. William, the owner, turned me on to a great title by Jeff LeMire and Dustin Ngyuen called Descender. It's a tale of robots and humanity and invasions. The art reminds me strongly of the best of Jon J. Muth and Enki Bilal and I heartily recommend you check it out if you like science fiction. I'll be buying the next volume and the collected editions as they come out.

Keeping it short this week. I hope you all have a wonderful coming week and that whatever your passion you find people who will help you enjoy it the most.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Process Bits

Welcome to the eastern edge of the west. It's been unseasonably warm here, to the point that we have really had no winter whatsoever. It bodes much ill for a hot summer and large, swarmy bugs. You're worried about the Zika virus? Maybe you should worry more that you can wear shorts and flip-flops for weeks in Kansas in February.

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Sometimes you're not ready. You think you are, your friends tell you are, but the reality is something else that's not been built up in your fevered imagination.

It happens to everyone.

There are gatekeepers in every venue, creative or not. These gatekeepers are meant to keep a certain standard. Sometimes one agrees with the standard and when the gatekeeper tells you you're not ready it can hurt. A deep wound that cuts to the bone, maybe even into the bone, but it's a wound that can heal if one allows it to. Those gatekeepers are not always the true arbiters of 'taste' such as it is but some can certainly put on airs.

When I've run into gatekeepers I always treat them with respect. They may not be willing to let me in right then but some day there may be a time when I could. And it's always nicer when you're remembered for good things than something not so nice. So I shake the gatekeeper's hand, acknowledge their authority and try to learn from the experience. While I may not agree with the gatekeeper's assessment it's best to not fight it. There are other ways, after all, to circumvent them and gain entry into a less exclusive club.

To be clear, editors fall into that gatekeeper role and authors are on the outside. Again to be clear, an editor is not trying to keep you out but rather making an effort to maintain the standard. If that standard is honesty and integrity, then I'm all for it. If it's something else, then that's another story.

Don't be hard on the gatekeepers unless you're absolutely sure they're the only way in. If there's a way around and your aesthetic doesn't match theirs but it matches those already inside, then find another way.

Clear as mud, I'll bet. But all life is interpretation.

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Marvel's THE CHAMPIONS was one of my favorite comics when I was a kid. It's the unlikeliest, even for Marvel, super-team ever: Hercules, Black Widow, Angel, Iceman and Ghost Rider? In L.A.? Ultimately that's why it didn't work, because it wasn't set in the rest of the Marvel Universe in 1975. Even we here on the plains thought it was weird.

But I liked it a lot. I liked the dynamic of the team and these heroes didn't have a regular mag. It was a LOT of fun and lived too short a life. The modern title that reminded me so much of The Champions was Warren Ellis' and Stuart Immonen's NEXTWAVE Agents of H.A.T.E. I was reminded of that this week so you get to go scuttling off in search of both. You'll be rewarded with excellent reads and terrific art.

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The perfect martini is dirty and made with vodka. Here's a recipe:

One part olive juice. (We like Merzetta's martini olives in vermouth. If I'm having a martini out I'll get blue cheese stuffed olives.)
Two parts dry vermouth (we use Noilly Prat)
Four parts Ketel One vodka

Combine the above in a shaker with two standard ice cubes. Put the lid on and shake until the sound of the ice cubes is greatly lessened or gone.

Put three olives on a skewer in your martini glass(es)

Pour your martini over the olives and enjoy.

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I'm reading Philip Jose Farmer's A FEAST UNKNOWN because I never could find a copy of it when I was a kid. Also I reread John Byrne's run on Fantastic Four, and Matt Wagner's MAGE The Hero Discovered. Are these three titles related? Maybe. Alan Moore certainly seems to have take Farmer's ideas to heart and maybe Byrne and Wagner have both integrated certain elements at different times. I don't know, I'm no scholar.

But I've enjoyed the hell out of all of them.

(And yes, I'm more than aware that Warren Ellis borrowed liberally from Farmer for a lot of Planetary, which is one of my top five all time favorite comics.)

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Finally I watched/binged on Marvel's Daredevil season 2 this weekend. Without spoiling it for anyone who wants to take their time with it, it's very good. Here's what I said on Twiter:

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Keeping it a bit short this week. I hope you've had a good weekend and the coming week has interesting things in store for you. For me, I'm ready for the new beginning that's Monday. Lots on the horizon folks.

Lots more to come.