Thursday, August 16, 2018

Life is but a dream - the terrifying kind

Julie and Maxx by Dustin Weaver, because sometime I
feel like my life is split between reality and the Dreamtime.
Next week, I hope to be back to updating on projects previous, current and upcoming. I have a lot in the pipeline I need to write about, but it all feels secondary right now.

I mentioned the death of a family friend last week. I'm still reeling from the shock of everything, even as our own life has been consumed with car problems and unexpected bills. It's left a mess in the family budget and a hole in my life.

If anything, a sudden death brings into perspective the hollowness of one's own life. We get so caught up in the ephemeral, we fail to realize everything we truly have on this world. It's a shock to the system that we need to take care of the relationships we have around us, because we never know when they might end.

Honestly, I've been pretty terrible about maintaining friendships over the years. I've let friend after friend slip by the wayside as I focused on my career, my writing, my family or a billion other things. I realize now that may have been the greatest mistake of my adult life, but one not easily remedied. It's the fate of us all to live with some level of regret, but sometimes it's something that can be fixed, sometimes it is not. We will see.

And of course, I'm left with the questions of every solitary artist. Am I wasting my life? Is anything I do actually good? Would anyone even care if I stopped writing tomorrow?

I honestly don't know the answers to those questions, but I've talked about Amanda Palmer's concept of the fraud police before. I've got enough problems in my life without my own self-doubt pulling away the outlet I have to spew my own thoughts and ideas into the world.

I think it's important to remind you and everyone else, Dear Reader, that I like you, am simple a human being. We are all flawed and we all must make do with what God gave us. So be good to one another. Remember those that love you. And live your fullest life.

Even when it seems hard.

I'd love to hear about your hard times and how the creative process helped get you through.

Normal operations resume tomorrow.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Great art: Hulk by Ryan Ottley

It's been a hard week. I've alluded to it a bit on social media, but we've all lost a family friend this week. My grief doesn't compare to that of his family, but it makes it no less true. It's a hard truth that when we lose someone, especially someone far too young, we are left with so many questions and so many what-could-have-beens.

His favorite comic characters was the Hulk. One of the best modern superhero artists is Ryan Ottley. Enjoy, and make sure to look at the people in your life and let them know you love them, because you never quite know when you won't be able to do so again.

Monday, August 6, 2018

The conundrum: which story do you want to read?

Right now I'm developing two new novel projects along with the three series I've been talking about rather regularly on this page. My problem right now is to decide which one to move forward on as my next novel project. So I'm asking you, dear readers, which one you think will work best as the next entry in the wide world of the Quadrant Universe. Here's a short tease for both books. Let me know which one tickles your fancy more!

1. The Horror Universe

Monsters have lurked in the corners of mankind for decades. But as the thirties draws the world together in an impending war, the creatures that lurk in the corners start to awaken to threaten mankind. As two such creatures rise and war looms over Europe, can an intrepid young secret agent hope to save the world from not just the Axis war machine but blood-sucking creatures of the night and shambling corpses?

This Bruce Timm tribute piece to Hammer may feature a few hints at where I'd go with
The Horror Universe.
2. Manticore

He grew up on the streets, but he never was like anyone else. Born with a genius level I.Q. and a deadly super-power, his only choice to succeed were the gangs. But if he was going to commit crime, he planned to make sure he did it in ways smarter than anyone could ever imagine. He rose to power throughout the city... and when he saw his chance to take it all, he struck. This is the life story of his rise and fall as the most powerful crime boss in modern America.
I promise this Manticore will be much cooler than the highly
expendable Suicide Squad villain. (Image copyright: DC Comics.)
Both promise to be fun projects, but only one will get off the ground before the end of the year. So which one should it be? Let me know in the comments below or on any social media?

Friday, August 3, 2018

Cosplay Friday: BloodRayne

Because of stories in development, vampires have been on my mind a bit lately. So when I stumbled upon this BloodRayne cosplay by Magma Ichios, I figured I had a Cosplay Friday in place. She really brings the character of Rayne to life, all without the awful storyline or poor gameplay seemingly inherent in the franchise. But man, that design is sharp, right?

As always, you can check out a lot more great Cosplay pictures over on the Tumblr. And while you are admiring some great cosplay here, don’t forget to check out some of the other great stuff from yours truly this week!

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Superior writing: plotting and planning

Steve Ditko's final issue of Dr. Strange is also the
character's first time taking the cover spot alone.
Like his other work with Stan & company,
it was produced using the "Marvel style."
I've never been one to deal a ton with the concept of process in writing. It's probably because I spent so much time second guessing my own writing style for years. Every book on the subject of writing I read for the first 25 years of my life insisted full outlines and clear step by step plotting ahead of time was the only way to work.

I was pushing thirty by the time I said "screw it" and started to just write.

Over the years, I've bounced between plotting as I write and working from a (very) rough outline. I've joked before that I regularly write prose in the "Marvel style."

When Stan Lee wrote eight Marvel titles a month, he didn't have time to do the full scripts most comics worked on at the time (and these days as well). Instead he trusted his talented artists to do some of the heavy lifting. So he would write just a couple paragraphs that described the events he wanted to have happen in the story. His artists produced ten or twenty pages out of those paragraphs. Then Stan would come back and add dialogue to the pages.

Obviously I don't add all my dialogue at the very end, but I often build stories from just a starting point and a finish. This allows me to add and subtracts bits and pieces, flesh out subplots and throw in interesting bits and pieces as I go. Every chapter of Lightweight has been built with this system, though I sometimes pull out tighter plots for the end chapters of each story.

That's not the only comic concept I've used in my writing however. I'm also quite a fan of the Levitz Paradigm.

Paul Levitz designed the structure for his work writing Legion of Super-Heroes for years and years. Dennis O'Neil might have named it though as he covered it in the DC Comics Guide to Writing Comics. Here's his synopsis:
Basically, the procedure is this: The writer has two, three, or even four plots going at once. The main plot – call it Plot A – occupies most of the pages and the characters’ energies. The secondary plot – Plot B – functions as a subplot. Plot C and Plot D, if any, are given minimum space and attention – a few panels. As Plot A concludes, Plot B is “promoted”; it becomes Plot A, and Plot C becomes Plot B, and so forth. Thus, there is a constant upward plot progression; each plot develops in interest and complexity as the year’s issues appear.
So each issue (or chapter) would cover three to four plots generally. One dominates the chapter, one gets a few pages of space and the last one or two rarely take up more than a page or half page. Here's a sample of Levitz's paradigm from his run.

I used the Levitz Paradigm to design every individual chapter of Epsilon. If (more like when) I return to those characters, I will bring the Paradigm back to work. It found its way into F.O.R.C.E. as well and will likely influence upcoming Quadrant stories as well. So never let it be in doubt that it isn't a useful tool in prose as well, especially when you're building on multiple characters to juggle.

So there's a few hints on how I build on what I write from month to month and story to story. Feel free to share your own thoughts and ideas in the comments below!