Monday, June 30, 2014

Tips on Writing Comics

I've learned a lot about writing comics on my graphic novel project that is currently underway. I learn by doing, so I did. Below are some tidbits about comic writing. Perhaps this will become a series, perhaps not. Let see how I do...

  • Comic writing is an activity that centers around re-writing. Characters grow and change in ways unlike normal novels. In a traditional novel, characters undertake the "Hero's Journey," which is an archetypal path that develops the protagonist through a sequence of challenges, mental or physical. I'm convinced that graphic novels, comic books, and sequential animation operates outside of this preconceived norm. A character in a comic book undergoes multiple cycles of the Hero's Journey, therefore making the character layered. Catalysts for change need to be staggered and implemented intelligently, reflecting how the character grows. Therefore tasks are introduced as the character matures. This takes a lot of work to coordinate, so revisiting your characters is imperative. A novel depicts a static character changing in response to events. A comic depicts a dynamic character experiencing static events and developing in maturity in tandem. 
  • Structurally, I've had success with crudely thumbnailing my scripts before writing them. It helps me understand how the action takes place. Characters shouldn't be siting in one frame and standing in the next one. The thumbnail allows for the movement of a character to be captured in the scene. I've learned this by watching bad movies, which often make mistakes concerning the flow of action. Be conscious of what all your characters are doing in every scene, bottom line.
  • Comics concern lots of world building. That goes without saying. In fact, some of the best comics are so successful, because of the worlds that they boast. When I create worlds, my primary goal is making them completely cohesive. Worlds, here or otherwise, must be replete with customized jargon, locales, creatures, and physics. Consider a comic that takes place on another planet. Would a character say, "Hold on a sec!'" or "Wait a minute?" Probably not. A minute is a measure of time based on our heliocentric orbit around our particular sun. The words and expressions are embedded in cultural and society. Why would an alien civilization posses our exact measurement of time? These are the things that must be considered when building worlds. As Morpheus said in the Matrix, "You think that's air you're breathing now?"
These are but three things to consider when writing a comic. I think I'll revisit this next week and begin a series on it. If you enjoyed it, please, let me know!


Friday, June 27, 2014


Two weeks of the day job under my belt and I'm back to whatever is "normal." At least I feel like I am normal. I can drink beer, eat meat, and work on a production floor without feeling like I am dying. That's a plus. The little things in life like going to the bathroom or having a lax diet are never missed until they are gone it seems.

Life, where mine is going in particular, has occupied my thoughts recently. Last week I told you all about my talk with my boss at Sequart. Since then I have mentally prepared myself for the road ahead. I think we all expect to lose the day job, but when that day doesn't come, it causes heartache, stress, and paranoia. We get under these spells. We think, "I need this now," "I am ready, really," and "If I do this, then I will be successful." And that's just not true. Sequart is 18 years old, still growing, still changing, but we all want success overnight.

I would consider that most understand this in principal; it takes time to grow and train one's craft. But, with all things, there are gradations to success and failure. I firmly believe that it's possible to be good at something, maybe even the best, but still lack what I would coin as "affirmation" in the trade in question. Affirmation just means a reciprocal recognition of value and skill. To me, in my opinion, the lack of affirmation represents the core problem in pursuing a calling. One can be an editor of a magazine, a manager of content, but feel called to be a content creator. Likewise, a construction worker can be a fabricator, but really want to be a planner, like an engineer, or an architect. The opposite is true as well. There was a while when I wanted to pursue publishing as a career but found content creating far more stimulating. Understanding this, I could report to my publishing activities informed that the path at hand was not my ends to meet. Recognize that calling must be appreciated by the person carrying it out and others.

So now that I am at a place where I have this new outlook, the prospects are looking better. I am less stressed and more stable. It's better to recognize that I am traveling a path that is good, but not the one that I was meant to ultimately end on. Everything is a stepping stone to some place greater.

Next week will be better. I hope that I can get things done. As always, I will report updates on my end. The graphic novel is getting thumbed out right now which is exciting. Also, my book is soon to be scouted by some heavy hitters. I am hopeful that I can get some much needed traction from a good acquisitions editor.

Fingers crossed!


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Climbing to Surface Worlds

Continued from last week.

Our world is luxurious. 

A pill can be taken to forget things. 

Forget the heartache, embrace forever.

I watched the signs flicker in the cavernous underbelly of my home, New Austin. Twenty years ago my family arrived in the first ruckus hall, a space dedicated to debauchery and escape. Now the hall was only a memory. Forty square miles of caves construct our haven from above, where the poor are. In the candle lit halls I have wondered if the surface still knows we are here. Could they have forgotten so quickly?

Cory Callaway was walking towards me. He's a sweet boy, sex starved but sweet. When I became a woman he no longer wanted my friendship. It made me sad to think that so much would change. But he's still sweet, most of the time.

"Hey there, did you find anything you like in the Mature Room?"

My eyes glanced to the side, avoiding his hungry stare.

"Nothin' I wanted to know now," I said noncommittally. "'Sides, the room is all talk anyhow. Just a bunch'a geezers and old folk."

"You're lying darlin'," he replied. He shoved his hands into his pockets and began to walk away. I followed him. What else was I to do? I was curious. "I heard the truth long before any fancy doodads done told me. Hell, my mamma told me soon as I could walk."

"You're fibbin'," I heckled.

"Cross my heart..."

He walked me home, said goodbye. I said goodbye.

My mother was at the round table in the kitchen chopping up vegetables from the solar garden. Pa hadn't come home yet, as usual. He was working swing with the rest of the miners, digging and drilling our freedom further into the Earth. Being a miner was a tough job with long hours and many troubles, but they saw the stars, or were allowed to. Miners were the only kinds of employees that could go topside, solely for survey work. Sometimes they came back smelling funny, wearing strange clothes. But none said a word of it.

Be brought me a picture of the sunset once. I didn't know it then. He just told me it was a lamp he saw.

"Home already Susan?"

My mother peeked her head out from behind the refrigeration unit.

"So? What did you think?"

I took a seat across from her and sat quietly a moment. Words formed then disappeared. I was anxious, embarrassed, everything in between. But my words came to, and found their way.

"You lied to me," I said sullenly. "Why?"

She stared back at me, concerned and fearful. She huffed and puffed defensively.

"I told you what every ma and pa tells their children. What am I supposed to say, Suz'? I can't teach you to know what you ain't never heard of."

My head bobbed thoughtfully. I heard her speak, but I wasn't listening.

"You folk were so scared of the Blacks and the Mexicans that you dug a hole in the sand?"

"Catch your tongue young lady," my mother recoiled shrilly. "I ain't above beating you, no matter how old you are! You are making plenty o' accusations that you don't know heads or tails of."

"So why, then?"

She went silent. Taking a towel and laying it across her shoulders, she walked around the bar, around me, and sat on the sofa behind me. Turning around I saw her in the dim, dank darkness, staring back at me, like a cat in the under alleys.

"Listen," she began.

"Humor me," I replied.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Strong Female Protagonist?

Over the past few weeks I've been introduced to the growing conspiracy that all men hate women in literature, or at least suck at depicting them. (See Bechdel Test) Frankly, I don't think men understand women. So when men over history have dominated popular literature, I think this is a crime of circumstance. Don't get me wrong, there are a lot of poor representations of women in fiction over the years, I just think that the whole thing is a poorly constructed debate.

That said, the "Strong Female Protagonist," a purely pejorative term, has been on my mind. Can a man write a good woman, without becoming an effeminate weirdo? I think so. (I will preface my use of "effeminate" as a qualifying term is purely jocular.)

Writing a good female character I think is possible indeed. It stems from knowing women, understanding how they feel, what they are passionate about, etc. Really, what I am saying is that the Other has to be familiarized. Orientalism depicts Asians, middle easterners, and Indian culture using stereotypes and particular tropes that emphasize the exotic quality of the subject matter. Are women depicted in the same way? Is nagging, talking about shoes, and being vulnerable in threatening situations a derivative of feminine orientalism? The idea is compelling.

I am married. After two years of being married I have yet to understand my wife. Talking to older married men about this yields grim futures with little advancement sadly. Still, I have learned a lot about my wife, and much of my interactions with her have made it into my books, short stories, and articles. I don't imagine that many comic book artists/writers or novelists were savvy with the women-folk in their early years, or maybe they were? Yet, I find that growing closer to women and trying to relate with their struggles can help make female characters more dynamic.

I firmly believe that there will always be a disconnect to a certain extent. There are some things that men just cannot experience, and this experience deprives them of true understanding. So I would diagnose the "Strong Female Protagonist" problem as a relational one, and that we ought to broach subjects and come to common understandings on life, sex, and agency in order for there to be reconciliation.

But, then again, I reserve the right to be wrong.


Friday, June 20, 2014


I may actually receive, for the first time in a long while, payment for doing something that I love doing, that I am passionate about. This has been a long time coming, but I'm learned by now that progressing toward one's dreams involves the grunt work and exhibition of skill without modest pay.

Actually, since returning to my day job, the pressure has been off considerably. It's probably the meds. The need to do everything, every menial task, has lifted from my shoulders. Despite not feeling incredibly bent on going about my day with extreme intensity, I actually still keep up my work very well. For the first time in my life I'm not "freaking out." I'm actually able to do more work in less time than before when I was focused and trained on my tasks. Incredible the things drugs can do.

I had a recent chat with my boss at Sequart. It was one of those "good" conversations. For the first time in a long while I feel like the cloudy mess that is life is clearing ever so slightly. The future is uncertain, only discernible by God, but he's given me a thumbs up, sorta...

Building a career is important. I don't think people do that very much anymore. Most of the time, someone graduates from college, or matures beyond adolescence, gets a job, and then stays at that job for an indeterminate amount of time. Maybe another job looms and weaves into their path, but the individual swerves between careers with little direction. Sure, there is some kind of hindsight clarity that reminds us why we make certain decisions when one does, but I don't think the actions that result have any true foresight.

But Julian Darius told me the other day that the saying is true,

"Harvard graduates don't find jobs, they make their own."

Cue the lifebulb above my head!

So things are good, better than before. I came up with a cool story that I'm going to start running on Wednesdays, so keep your eyes peeled for that. Also, the book and graphic novels coalesce. Finally now, maybe, I can start creating content again. Good content!

I hope you all enjoy it.


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Underneath the World

"Can you hear them, Clarence?"

"No. No I can't..."


I was born into a world that was different than my parents. According to them, I came on the cusp of change. Great furvor swept me away, wrapped in cotton swaddling. And I saw my last sunrise long before I could have remembered it.

The world didn't end. I know this now. It kept on going. We stayed because we were afraid.

Time to time, when I was a child I would walk to the final hatch. My hands pressed against the wheel crank, and the coldness of it's steel numbed my ear. I listened for the world above. But I never heard anything.

Once, I visited the archives. In the large, stately corridors, lined with books and culture I saw a limp flag hanging. Perched high up, exalted in the house of learning, the lifeless cloth communicated nothing to me. It was a burial shroud, meant for a nation. Beneath the flag was a rotund glass display. Inside, a dim colorless monitor, hazed and silent, played a video on continuous loop. Scenes of havok and liberalism crowded the CRT monitor. And I gathered that we had left because the world was no longer safe. When I was older, my mother let me come back with access codes to the Mature Room: where grown-ups learn and remember.

By then I had become a woman. I stood tall and awakened. Some desired me, others paid no attention. Before me, a man with a long silver mustache handed me a copy of Hours Magazine and smiled mischievously, muttering seditious things.

In a comfy arm chair lined with green felt, I sat. Current events, a war, pop culture icons, spanned the interior pages. An article in particular stood out, the one that I was searching for:

Underneath the World: Beating the Heat and Living Free.

Excerpts caught my eye:

"... ordinary for a burgeoning city. Texas delegates highly discouraged the act, decrying it as a bizarre return to Jim Crow era society."

"Clarence Dunsmorre, acting chairman of Dallas chamber of commerce and self made entrepreneur, is funding the digging, already boasting a rapidly expanding investment base."

"... folks don't want to triffle with the poor, the needy. It's time to find some breathing room and peace of mind for us middle class individuals."

I held the magazine, its edges crinkling in my hands. An entire world removed from me, at my fingertips. I asked myself, "why?" but knew the answer. It set me free.

To be Continued.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Firefly and Ensemble Casts

Today me and the wife finally finished Joss Whedon's Firefly show.

It was a grueling affair, one that I will not soon forget. The show wasn't half bad, especially considering that I'm not a fan of his work in general. Ensemble casts are always dubious for their scale. Most often shows with too many characters, or superheroes (if we are referring to the marvel megaverse), are tough to scale. Conversations are reduced to shouts or guffaws without any risk or allure. But Firefly seems to be all accounted for, featuring fleshed out characters that are believable.

It's important to write books, stories, whatever you may fancy, with deep believable characters. That's not really advice, I guess. I would hope that that is the norm. Still, I think that the knee jerk reaction is to pen a plot with an ensemble cast that hasn't been fleshed out properly. So start slow and venture out with a single character, or maybe a dynamic duo. You'd be surprised at the results.


Saturday, June 14, 2014


I apologize for my erratic scheduling of these blogs this week. I must be off my game, literally; the game of life that is.

I got Thief the other day, not the old one, the new one. It's pretty good. Single player experiences are my new bag, which I prefer over the mindless repetition of online multiplayer. Thief's single player experience is very good, committed to tried-and-true formulas that worked well in the previous game. Some complained that the larger scope of the world was minimized by the patchy, stitched up loading segments, hiding the awful, horrible truth that it wasn't made with the Far Cry engine. I'm okay with most of this though. As long as I can thieve in the dark I am fully satisfied.

I had a meeting with my pastor the other day, one that I felt had been a long time coming. Lately, I haven't been myself (for obvious reasons). My mind has drifted from it's point of origination, and I have forgotten the core of my spirit. You see, maybe I can confess this, that I haven't been writing because I love to write. It's been quite the chore for the past year or so. But that's the product of deeper nefarious flaws on my part. You see, the objective I aim for, to love Jesus has been missed. He is my hope and my strength. Life changes, careers go south, people die, but Jesus doesn't change. As a christian, my hope, but also my joy, comes from Jesus. He's the only thing that make me truly happy. And that resulting happiness is what compels me to write. My writing is an act of worship.

So, suffice to say, I've been gone, mentally, for some time. It's all catching up to me, the stress, the anger, the existential woes, etc. Rather than say that it's over, I'd say that it's all beginning. Maybe now I can get over myself, my pride, my ambition, and focus on the Lord. He's always been marvelous at giving me great ideas. Writing has always been my outlet for worshiping.

Next week I do plan of sticking to the schedule, though I may be change up my posting times. I feel convicted that I ought to post while I'm not on my break at work. So expect my posts in the evening from now on. It's for the best I think.

See you then.


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Carpenter's Gift

Not all things in fairy tales are bad. Not every story punishes the hapless and strong. No, there are some stories with happy endings. This is one of them.

Johann was a carpenter, known little among his peers. His father was a skilled craftsman, the kind that would be featured at the big arts fair every summer's end in the capital. Johann was not. He was quite average, and his father knew it. Despite this, Bjorn, Johann's gentle father, taught his boy nevertheless. And every time Johann made a mistake, Bjorn would laugh in his rich, full voice and say, "A good man isn't one who finishes best, but finishes well, little Johann."

When Bjorn died one day, his famous shop, filled with every species of exotic woods, became Johann's.

Everyone knew that Johann was not the man his father was. Still, Johann was always busy. No one trusted him to build a chair, or a table, but Johann became known for fixing the things the people brought to him. No job was ever too daunting for Johann, and the people trusted him.

One evening, Johann was coming out of his shop and a woman approached him. He looked into her silver eyes, so lovely and calm, and he wondered why such a beautiful woman would be walking around in the middle of the night. Into his hands she pressed a small object wrapped in cloth without a word and turned away.

"Wait," cried Johann, lifting his hand in the air, "Who are you?"

But she was gone.

Confused, holding the small parcel in his hands, Johann shook his head and decided best that he should walk home.

After setting down his pack and things along the table in his kitchen, Johann sat in his father's chair. It was a large oak chair, filled with burls and knots. His father had won many medals from this particular piece, and, to Johann, it was his father's legacy. Johann placed the small parcel the woman had given him in his lap and opened it. Inside the fine silk was a small block of wood. It was black and silver, hard and brittle. The wood was unlike anything he had seen before. He wrapped his knuckles on the piece and felt it resonate in his hands powerfully.

"I could make this into a whistle," he thought. A whistle was all he knew how to make, and the wood was not quite large enough to make a recorder either. That night, he set to it, and when he was finished, he set the whistle down and went to bed.

When Johann awoke, he stretched his arms and rolled out of bed, still exhausted from the night before. Slowly he rose, put on his pants, splashed cold water onto his face, and walked into the kitchen to make himself some food. That's when he saw on the table something he had not expected. There, next to the whistle and some shavings, was another block of wood, only this time it was slightly larger. "That's certainly big enough for a recorder," thought Johann to himself.

Johann left his home to go to work, and when he came back the wood was still on the counter. He had thought about the wood all day and sat down immediately and went to work on the wood. This time, after a few nights, the recorder was finished and Johann played an old song he remembered from when he was a boy, and each note was more beautiful than he could have ever dreamed. He was less surprised to find, like before, another piece of wood lying on his kitchen table when he woke the following morning. It was nearly twice the size as the last one, and this time big enough to make a clarinet.

So, every night Johann continued his work when he would come home, building greater and better instruments until his home was quite full of them. When he decided to begin selling them, Johann discovered that they were quite popular and soon he was very rich.

Just like Bjorn, Johann became known across the land for his talents and began to win medals just like his father had.

And Johann was happy.

Even though Johann was known for his instruments, he would still, from time to time, work on old pieces of furniture that the people would bring him. He would glue them back together with resin and return them good as new. One day, after many years, Johann received a special piece from an unknown patron. It was boxed up in a wooden crate on his doorstep. When he brought in the crate, he opened it and found inside an ebony chair missing a leg. It was a fine chair, similar in make to his father's work. Attached to the arm rest was a small note written in silver.

"Please repair the leg. Payment in full on completion."

Johann grimaced. He never appreciated pushy customers, but still, a job was a job, and he set to work.

To repair the leg, Johann needed a special wood. So he went back into the rear room of his father's shop and found the private reserves, special woods that he had collected over the years from all over the continent. When he had found the wood, he pulled it from the wall only to find behind it a small door. Johann had never recalled seeing a door in the shop, let alone one hidden away. Setting aside the wood he entered the small room inside and lit it with an oil lamp. And there, in the center of the room, was a large chair surrounded with shavings. Beside it was a large block of wood.

Johann was speechless, marveling at what he imagined was his father's greatest work. He walked around the piece, feeling it's rounded corners and flawless surface. A workbench was situated behind the chair, lined with his father's tools, a letter and a small painting pushed to the rear of the table. He read the letter, written to his father from his mother, who had died long before Johann could remember. The letter was one of her last, entrusted to Bjorn with a final project and a painting of her that she had entrusted to him as a keepsake. He eyed the painting then and blew away the dust from the weathered face and saw her staring back at him: his mother.

She had silver, beautiful eyes.

Later that evening, bewildered and baffled, Johann was locking up his shop. When he turned to leave the woman was standing there before him, his mother, arrayed in a platinum gown that sparkled in the light of the full moon.

Johann's eyes became wet with tears.

"Who are you really?" He asked, very distraught. "If you are my mother, why did you leave?"

The woman approached him, putting her hand on his shoulder. The touch of her calmed his soul completely, so quickly that he nearly forgot why he was crying.

"Your father," the woman began in a smooth, breathy voice, as soft as velvet and as cool as a breeze, "he was a strong man. I fell in love with him when he was lost in the deep wood long ago. Our love was not meant to be, but I knew he could not bear to be apart from me without a treasure to remember me by. So, when you were born, I left you to him to raise and I blessed him for it with prosperity and talent. But now you are older, and you are free to return if you wish. All you need is ask."

Johann was speechless and could not decide what to do. But, did he go with his mother to the distant realms? We do not know this. That is not ours to say.

What do you think?

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Self Examination and Writing

Well, I'm back from a long weekend.

The tradition of this blog is beginning to wear thin as I continue writing it. I've covered a lot of material in the past two years and, at the risk of repeating myself, I'm thinking about changing up the formula. What that looks like I haven't figured out yet.

Today though, or rather what I should have posted yesterday, I wanted to talk about work load management. Since my stress related problems began I've had to considerably rethink the way I approach work. I've learned that writing procedurally is something to be avoided. I used to think that one could do three projects at once. Now I've downgraded to simply one, OR two at half pace. Three projects at once is a foolish thing to pursue. Even I can admit that now.

Being that my energy levels are pretty low right now I will keep the lesson like last week fairly straightforward and simple: examine why you write.

It is one thing to write because you enjoy it, and it's another thing entirely to write out of a sense of urgency. When I write because I must, my body releases cortisone into my blood stress (AKA, Stress). We need to change our perspective. I've had to teach myself that I should approach writing because I ultimately enjoy it. It sounds like a no-brainer, really. But I must implore you that it is a hard lesson learned. So take the time some time this week to analyze why you write. Really think it over. It could mean that you're in for a massive life change.



Monday, June 9, 2014


The thought just dawned on me that I missed today's posting.

For this, I apologize.

Come by tomorrow for content! I promise it will be great!



Friday, June 6, 2014


My adventures with panic and anxiety came to a climax last night at The Book of Mormon show that I saw at the San Diego Civic Center. If you were there and saw a guy reclining on a long red sofa, that was me.

I've always never liked crowds. I think that's why I stopped playing Left 4 Dead. No one believes me when I say that walking around Isla Vista late at night, or going to a theme park, makes me think of the madness of zombies, the mob rule. The fact that I've always wanted to live in San Francisco perhaps is proof that I am crazy.

The sensations that I feel are so bizarre when I''m around others. I certainly like being a part of large events; I've been to soccer games at school or walked the streets of Deltopia without a problem. Something about last night triggered a response from me however. Even writing about it doesn't really help much. I tend to relive past trauma as I recreate it in my head. The bio-physical manifestations of stress don't make these troubles any more bearable. Going to the doctor has taken on new meaning for me as, "that time when Stuart pays 20 dollars to someone to affirm how healthy he actually is." I can hope for good news, always, and yet I am disappointed when nothing of note is found wrong with me.

I guess there could be worse things.

In light of my stress issues I've taken two weeks off on medical leave. Thus far it's helped significantly. Whether or not I'm getting better, the jury is still out on that. I've interviewed many people who deal with stress and anxiety. All of my answers for when I can return to being a functioning member of society point to the near future, roughly 2-3 months, with minor episodes once or twice a year. Some are on medication, others aren't. I hope the share the fortunes of the latter.

As of right now, all of my projects are on hiatus until my return to work. I have a good feeling that I will need to ramp up back to my original fortitude. Physically, as I am a nut for staying active and health, I am trying to return to my routine. I went on a jog with minor success. I didn't die. Huzzah. Next Friday I will convene with you all and give you the update on my health. Cross your fingers for miraculous improvement.

Be Well.


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Panic Attack

White lights.

My heart races. Like a blind man striking the door, it comes uninvited.

Little people draw near and hurt me. Some come in, explore my body.

They are here to fix me. Make me feel well, again.

A sharp dressed gentleman helps me to my feet.

Orange sirens, yellow barriers, white beds, black wheel chairs.

He knows me. He knows who I am. Have I seen him before?

When I watched the world flow up river, he kept my heart from sinking.

I am in a room, padded with wood.

My jewel watches me. She watches the life flow out of me.

Brown waves wash over me. I am suffocated by laughter.

My cup is a well, and I nearly fall in. Until she catches me.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Getting Things Done, Without Dying.

This past weekend was a bit of a wild one for me.I had some medical troubles which have inspired me to write this little post for you. I'm trying to take it easy, so forgive it's brevity.

Take into account that writing is a "time-added" activity. What I mean is that in order to write something you have to have time to write it. You must give up something else in order to write, generally. This time that is given up can amount to food, social time, exercise, relaxation, or "obligations," meaning chores/duties in one's own life. Notice that I included "relaxation" in the list. Yes, writing is not the same as relaxing; it's taken me until this weekend to understand that. Writing still takes mental energy, physical stamina. Just because it is fun to engage in doesn't mean that the act of writing is stress free.

Take my advice today, and try to re-evaluate why you write. Then find ways to schedule in mindless downtime, like naps or videogames to help mediate the stress. I feel like the body stores up stress until a point at which we have to lift up our hands and say, "I give up." I hit that wall this weekend really hard, and I wouldn't wish that on anyone.  I hope that helps.