Friday, March 27, 2009

Rambling as only I can… history, comics, getting published, SPI, and what it all means…

I’ve talked with several friends over the last few months about this mysterious comic book world I’m trying to crack into, so I thought I’d share some insight as to what’s going on in my head…

Back when I a little kid, around six years old, I was introduced to books like the Chronicles of Narnia, the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings series, Lloyd Alexander’s books, etc… Thought I did read the typical books of kids that age as well, the fantasy stories my mother purchased for me really struck a chord in me. I can remember back in elementary school, probably 3rd or 4th grade, having some school project that I ended up making a book out of, drawing pictures of dragons and heroes fighting them. I’m not sure of the details because I don’t have that kind of memory, but I know I won some sort of competition and the school asked to put my “book” in their library. I really wish I had that now so I could see what I did back then.

Anyway, fast-forward a few years… When I was a child, I did everything from read voracious amounts of science fiction and fantasy (hundreds and hundreds of novels) to comic books to watch anything my parents would let me get away with (and often things they wouldn’t). Add to that my mother and her ever-evolving list of new age, occult, spiritual, etc studies she picked up along the way and showed me and also a healthy dose of the life only a military brat can bring and I was quickly developing into, well, an odd kid. At an early age I was also exposed to D&D, which along with those other experiences, definitely helped to pave the way for the prolific creativity which I’m plagued by now (don’t mean to make it sound like a bad thing, because it’s not).

In high school, my creativity hit a new stride. My best friend at the time and I were really into music, wrote tons of songs, and had aspirations to start a band. Unfortunately, neither of us could play guitar and I was terrified to sing around anyone but him when we were goofing around. Now there was a dream easily side-tracked. Also in high school, I hooked up with a group of friends who were already playing Star Frontiers (old TSR game) and after discussing, we ended up delving into the realm of D&D together. We bounced around various campaign settings but seemed to like Spelljammer the most because you could go literally anywhere and we did. Dan, THE ultimate DM ~ by far the best I’ve ever known, created vast worlds, unique creatures, and let us run through and mess it all up. During that time I started to really get a good grasp on character development. The trick is to find something within yourself, no matter how small, to put into the character and run with it. We all have light and dark sides, normal and strange, extremely intelligent and downright stupid, etc, so you find the grain, flush it out, and everyone, when it comes down to it, is an aspect of you ~ even the whackos! Same applies now when I create characters… I have a couple of villains that I think “Where did that come from?” but I’m sure it’s somewhere in my psyche.

Along the way I delved into DM’ing campaigns myself, filling notebooks with details of the worlds, characters, spells, classes, etc, striving to make the “perfect” world for the characters to run around in, planning for every scenario. In the end, I was annoyed because the PC’s, instead of doing something logical, decided that it would be more fun to kill everything. I can imagine video game developers must be annoyed when they roll such a nice plot into a game like Fallout 3 and people decide that rather than talking to people and, even if it goes poorly, go through the dialogue, they skip the dialogue and put a bullet in their head. That was more or less what happened. Worlds of intrigue were reduced to bloodbaths and my notebooks filled with notes ended up collecting dust in a box somewhere. The skill I picked up during this time, however, is world building. Despite the fact that PC’s tend to do the unexpected, when you create a world and characters meant for that world, they tend to go along a path or one of the paths you created for them (where else are they going to go?). It was quite a while before I assimilated that knowledge into my writing, but it was in there.

During the years that I played D&D, but after high school, I was working at a book store, reading tons and tons of books (I rode the bus so I had time). I decided it was time to create my own. Using my own methodology, I created the world, created the characters, came up with situations, and dropped the characters in. My early attempts to write said book, I can look back on now and laugh at, but the foundation is still there in the fantasy novel I’m writing now. I filled notebooks with ideas, characters, bits of plot, etc… When I switched to a corporate job, my time to write shrank ~ I had a car, so no bus time to write, I had responsibilities, so no time to daydream, etc… Eventually, I stopped writing on my book and another set of notebooks ended up collecting dust in a box someplace. I switched over to guitar and writing songs since I had some work friends in bands. After a while of fumbling with that, everything stopped except writing poetry and songs. Relationships from the time provided perfect fodder for both the bad (previous relationships) and good (meeting my wife, falling in love, and getting married) writing.

Career changed, priorities changed, and suddenly I found time to write again, though it take me a while to take advantage of it. I commute on the train a couple of hours per day, leaving me dedicated time in my own little world. First thing I started doing was re-writing the novel I had started and stopped years prior. I couldn’t find my old notebooks at the time, so all I had to go on were a handful of old computer files with character information and some gods. Lucky for me! I started writing like mad, quickly tallying up over 200 pages of straight text ~ hand written, of course, because that’s how I was the most comfortable at the time. As the pages were cranking out, however, other ideas started popping in my head that wouldn’t go away, so I started jotting down notes on them, setting them aside, and eventually putting them in files on a pen drive. I didn’t know what I was going to do with them, but there they were. Inspiration struck when one particular idea really seemed like a good idea for a comic book. I had been reading comics for almost 25 years seriously, so it just kind of made sense. As soon as I started to dabble in script writing, I realized my style translated very well to script writing. This was confirmed as soon as the first artist I worked with got ahold of my scripts and was able to create about exactly what I had in my head on paper. I was onto something, I realized!

Soon, my novel was set aside for a time and I started pouring all of my spare moments into writing my opus, a detective story based on a character I had created as a joke at work years before, cranking out a TON of script pages before I even stopped to catch my breath. I was passionate about it, and decided this is what I HAD to be doing, even if only freelance ~ I wanted to be published, I wanted to be able to say, “I’m a writer” without it being a hobby. My creative mind and my professional mind talked, came to an agreement, and I started to push forward, unscathed, undeterred by the horror stories of people trying to get published. Soon, I had around 16 ideas on my pen drive, hundreds of pages of scripts, multiple artists working on various projects and then I landed in Small Press Idol. Feedback from my peers in the small press world confirmed that I’m not just “trying” to write, I’m actually doing it and doing it well.

Milestones – not in order of importance…
- Finishing my first mini-series… The project I’m working with Denman Rooke on I finished writing about two months ago and can’t wait to get it out there. It was an amazing feeling, though, going from original concept to getting it completed in the four issues (my target number).
- Writing over 180 pages (as of today) of my detective story and being close to having a submission package ready to ship out. Sachin Nagar, the artist I’m working with on the project has amazed me with his ability to take what’s in my head and on paper and translate it perfectly.
- Making it through Small Press Idol Round 1… We may win, we may not win. I’ll tell you this, though, we DO have a good shot. Obviously I can’t share details, but my story is amazing, my characters breathe, and KT’s art is organic and beautiful. Round 2 will show that, but take my word for it, this series can literally go on forever without becoming a cliché.
- Red Handed Studios… The fact that Cary has a good idea of what I can do based on what he’s seen and a few conversations leading him to offer me a spot on his team for Dynagirl is awesome. He’s a great writer and has created a world with some solid heroes and plenty of room to go to town, so I look forward to digging in.
- Small Press Community… From Doc to Ian to the judges at Small Press Idol to the countless others who frequent the DimeStoreProductions site, I have come to value their input, their banter, and their insight into a world I didn’t understand or really know about before starting this comic book journey.

Whether the comics I write will lead me to the “big leagues” or not is anyone’s guess and it doesn’t bother me. Success, as I’ve defined it in previous posts, is what you determine. As far as I’m concerned, I’ve almost achieved it, so anything above that is just icing on the cake. “Big League” publishers ~ I’m here, prolific, and have a billion ideas. I’m not going to forget, though, who has helped me over the last few months no matter where I end up.

Anyway, that’s it for now… I just thought I might try to organize some of the chaos in my brain to share with people… By the way, I DID eventually find those old dusty notebooks taped in boxes… My writing when I first started my book? Not so good. Ha ha ha…

P.S. – Dan, my old DM and best friend… we still need to co-write something together. I’m not letting you off the hook yet.

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