Monday, September 29, 2014

The Unofficial Sequart Author Bootcamp: Trend Setting

Maybe you have an aversion to being “trendy.” I don’t blame you. But there are certain compromises we all have to make. One of those is to become journalists.

I’m a Christian, so I’m all too familiar with the word “relevancy.” It’s a buzz word, the kind that becomes filler after so long. Every church is trying to be “relevant,” or express their willingness to be in tune with current events and cultural trends of the here-and-now. Journalism is the same way. As the saying goes, “there’s no news like bad news.”

Our aversion to being relevant shouldn’t deter us from being in tune with what is going on in the modern comic book world. I’m not a fan of the New 52 initiative put on by DC, but now three years old, the whole thing has become old hat. How can we write better articles when we aren’t willing to interact with the content being distributed by the “big two,” the industry figureheads? By now these companies represent contemporary art history, so they demand our attention. Consequently, our disenchantment with the current trends can also lead us, constructively, towards the burgeoning indie movement going on under our very noses. Companies like Archaia are producing some of the best creator owned comics this side of the millennium and none seem to be the wiser. So, boning up on our journalism can help capture these trends.

Trying to tackle relevant properties will help you succeed as a writer. It doesn’t matter if you are happy with your day job. That doesn’t disqualify your from having a hobby, or an exhilarating off-the-clock dream job. The great thing about most franchises now, in the comics world, is that they are creator owned. Each title is a small island of a devoted fanbase. Writing about a comic, or interviewing a creator on his latest piece will expose you to these communities. This will garner favor, prestige, and maybe even a few new fans. I try to make it a habit of committing to one trade paperback release per month in an effort to support what is going on in the here and now. Occasionally I am moved to write something about what I’ve read, which can only help and keep my portfolio balanced. Keep in mind also that these creators are eager to talk and discuss their ideas.

In the interest of being brief, I will conclude with a final tidbit that will help you, writers of Sequart, to keep momentum and push on with solid content. In your reading, your interaction with the comic market, or your own cultivation of your skillsets, always remember to keep an open mind. The iconic “big break” that is always referred to in journalism never falls in your lap.  It is usually the product of weeks of email correspondence, or a chance occurrence conversation at a Convention. I can’t tell you to how to pursue leads, but I can suggest that being open to reading a particular comic that you might otherwise would not have read can mean the difference between a good article and a great one.

I should also mention the importance of sharing on social networks, but that escapes the scope of our conversation currently. Suffice to say, read what is current. Comment on what is current. Pursue what is worth pursuing, in the moment. You will succeed at Sequart if you tackle your work like this.

For Realz.



SW

Friday, September 26, 2014

Photorealism

I never understood photographs until I was older.

When you are a kid, the world flies by. Time doesn't seem to matter; it just comes and goes. I remember seeing some of the photographs that I see now in my hands. They used to sit on the mantle at my first house, where my brother was born, where I grew up. Over the years these photos disappear. They went into hiding so time couldn't ravage those memories.

I doubt that scrapbooking will endure. My mother’s photobook spanning my entire childhood is a rarity for people in my generation. I think that’s because she got the stuff from her mother, who scrapbooked when photos were the equivalent of social networks. I was given a scrapbook as a wedding present, something to use between me and my wife. I didn't even know what I was holding! It was so surreal. My generation has no value for memories. They are so fluid and fragmented by social upheaval that the best a photo can do is conjure pain, nostalgia, or regret.

One of my favorite shows, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex contains an episode that had Motoko Kusanagi visit a sort of kinesthetic storage facility, a place where cyborgs could store a variety of tangible, physical mementos that proved they had existed. Without a body that aged and changed, a cyborg’s concept of time quickly vanished. The idea of Self vanished. Sometimes I feel like photobooks serve the purpose of reminding us who we are, where we came from, where we are going.

As digital film corrodes, negatives burn watermarks.Hidden, out of sight, but safeguarding the soul.


SW  

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Snow Fall, Frost Water: The Bane of Thengill

Thengill remembered the words of his father.

“Mountains do not move. They do not breathe the air, or ask for food. As guardians of watchful eye, all things pass under them, fortuitous and calamitous. It is a good thing to be a mountain, for they are never alone and their feet spread out over all creation, giving life to all. Nothing can hurt a Mountain, whose hides are rich in iron. For ages past and ages on no ill will come to them”

Face covered in coal and ferrite, Thengill raised his arm, giving the signal. Light flared in the distance, then thunder. Thengill held his ears, buckling under the blast, turning his face away from the snowy peaks in the distance and into his chest. Then the ringing began, a cacophony warped, oscillating between his ears.   

When Thengill could raise his head again, he saw the mountain falling. Like a rift, cutting through a great valley, what once stood before him some kilometers away had vanished into a scalding rift. In his hands he expanded a chambered monocular and raised it to his eye. He squinted, then smiled.
“Well boys,” he said over the rabble behind him. He turned around and looked into the eyes of the miner assembly before him. “Grab your shovels, lifters, and picks! We found it.”

The mob cried out in victory before him and charged down the narrow road along the fjord. A sea of men and women charged over the blast shield sectioning off the ruined highway. Many took their gear, strapped to them in packs slung over their shoulders. It would be a long trek. Now, he could think. Thengill looked back to his office, perched on the hill. 

“I’m sorry,” he said, wiping the sweat from his forehead.

Thengill’s mobile lab stunk of sulfur. Bubbling cauldrons of acid and bases were sequestered off within a fume hood. The paint was curled away, disturbed by corrosion and chemical scarring. A neatly organized desk was situated in the middle of the room, covered with blueprints and quotes. A lump of gold ore, the size of his head, lay elevated on a construct display pad, floating placidly in the soft pink light that emanated from the disk. It was his payment for desecrating a mountain.

He plopped down in his desk like a heap of linens. Paralyzed with fatigue, Thengill searched with his eyes around the room trying his best not to move his head.

Thengill’s hand stirred, inching towards a red intercom switch on his office chair. Pressing it, a chime rung out behind his ears from the embedded speakers.

“Where’s Beda?”

A pause stilled the room, interrupted intermittently by crackling squawks.

“Beda?” a disembodied voice echoed in his head. “He left early this morning.”

“Oh,” Thengill replied, dejected. “His patron gone too?”

Thengill’s finger stayed on the switch, a moment. He released it when he heard no reply. Thengill rose up in a huff, pounding his hands on the desk.

“Fine!” he cried out in frustration. “More Iridium for me! Prick...” Thengill shook his head, disappointed. “I’m fine. It was worth it. I’m rich…”

Before him, a pink window lifted from the surface of his desk, hardened light twinkling like a constellation. It’s borders flashed magenta, interlaced with red stripes.

“Incoming transmission,” read the alert.

Thengill walked around his desk towards the fume hood. The beakers percolated softly, casting off vaporous fumes that swirled upwards like petals caught in an updraft.  Thengill programmed the console on the fume hood and raised the heat threshold. The alert behind him grew lounder.

“Yeah? Whaddya want?” Thengill answered, turning back to his desk. A crudely constructed mesh stared back at him, a woman made of polygons and tubes.

“Beda’s gone,” she said.

“I heard,” Thengill replied, folding his arms.  

“And he paid?”

Thengill walked through the projection and stood before the gold piece. He reached out and picked up the soft stone. It was heavy in his hand, at least 2 kilograms. His thumb pressed against a patch of dirt, and watched it crumble away. Underneath was a saphire fused into the side of the ore.

“Did he pay?” the voice entreated.

“Yeah,” Thengill replied, raising his voice, “paid like a champ. Why do you want to know?"

“Just curious,” the woman said, reemerging from the wall. Her form flickered and sputtered, a choking AI.

“No you're not Kay,” said Thengill. His eyes fixed to the ore in his hand, he pulled out his chair and took a seat.

“What do you- ”

“Beda is one of those cloistered bastards,” Thengill began, setting down the ore on the corner of his desk. “He’s a ghost from the old world, from the Order of Sacred Refutation. They like to make you betray what you love to teach a lesson about yourself. I guess I learned I was greedy.”  Thengill kicked his feet up, and reclined in his chair. Turning his body, Thengill lifted one leg and kicked the ore onto the ground in frustration.

“Yeah,” he said morosely, “I betrayed by father’s legacy for gold. ‘Been worse things I’ve done. So why do I feel so rotten?”

Thengill heaved a hard sigh, shaking his head.

“Wherever he is… I hope he dies. Yeah…”


Monday, September 22, 2014

The Unofficial Sequart Author Bootcamp: Flow and Time Management

Most of us writers at Sequart have a day job. I can attest to the difficulty of being able to keep up with the workload of posting content on a regular basis, especially working 40 hours a week. Even as we speak I am writing this blog after finishing one article and beginning another that is due to post this Thursday. It’s 7:23pm, Monday. I haven’t eaten yet, and I plan on going to bed at around 9pm so I can wake up at 4:10am tomorrow and start it all over again. How do I do it? How do we contribute to the cause without dying?

Rule #1: Have a plan.

I try to keep my work/life ratio balanced. What I mean by that is, in order to burn the candle at both ends, there needs to be a healthy mix of recreation and work in your life. I have a wife. We go to the gym together. I play turn based strategy games when I can and read comic books to pass the time. There was a time in my life when I didn’t schedule any down time at all and I nearly ran myself into the ground as a result. This is key guys. Always have a plan. We can work hard, but we need to play hard to stay alive.

Rule #2: Schedule your work.

I operate on a strict schedule. I meet deadlines every week, but I still find time to breathe because my work is neatly planned out. Pick a day per week to write articles or work on personal material. I prefer this method just because I know that I prefer to write in large spurts. Another way to schedule work is to tackle large projects in small bite-sized chunks. If you try to do it this way, always remember to complete your work in quantifiable benchmarks. For instance, if you are writing a book, make sure that you leave off at the end of a narrative section/scene/thought. Resuming where you left off in a piece without ending on a defined break-off point can be infuriating, primarily because your state of mind is not what it was when you were in the middle of your last thought. Resuming “cold” will result in a different/inconsistent tone.

Rule #3: Quality not quantity.

Lastly, I’ll remind you all that quality is key when writing professionally. People can tell when you are phoning it in and writing out of obligation. I won’t pretend though that this particular rule is one of the hardest rules for a writer to keep. Writers need to keep contributing content in order to stay relevant. If you aren’t consistently offering content it’s easy to be forgotten. So how do we keep writing, but stay focused on delivering the goods? My best advice is always write with heart. Write because you believe in what you are doing. Paul Gilbert is one of my favorite guitarists because, even though he shreds and noodles on guitar, I know that he means every single note. You can tell they guy loves to play! So do the same with your writing. Write because you want to. Sometimes that means you might only write one article in a whole month, but that one article will stick around and become one of your portfolio pieces. Mean every word when you write. Don’t write a bunch of bull you don’t mean.

That’s all I got for tonight guys. I hope all is well. Keep up the good work out there!




SW

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Saturday Night Simpsons

Saturday night, what is there to do?

I’ve been catching up on my Simpsons for a bit now. I stopped watching the show shortly after the writer’s strike way back when. I was in high school and the Colbert Report had just popped on the air. I took it as a sign. I had to grow up. There was more relevant satire to be had.

The Simpsons today makes a far different impression upon me today than all those years ago. The jokes are better, the humor more poignant, and the subtlety  of Homer’s honorable integrity comes out with zen-like power. I find myself the butt of the majority of the jokes on the Simpsons as a Christian, which I don’t mind. The purpose of satire is to critique, and while I find many of The Simpsons’ assertions baseless, I take them seriously. The show, named one of the most important television programs of the 20th century, was a cultural phenomenon. It influenced popular culture. It taught people that Christians are really like this.

For me, I enjoy the candid window into things outside of my counterculture. It also keeps me more accountable to what I believe. Ned Flanders is a caricature of Christians, as is Reverend Lovejoy and his mean-spirited wife. In my life I’ve known people like these two that hide behind masks of sincerity and sanctimony. This should reflect poorly on us Christians. History shows some good that we did when it was illegal to be Christian, but that is another subject altogether.

The humor of The Simpsons, masterminded by John Swartzwelder, continues to bemuse and mesmerize me. It’s sublime at times. I wonder to myself why I am laughing when I see a sight gag. Am I laughing at myself, society, or the obliviousness of the characters to perceive their own wretchedness? Swartzwelder, according to commentary, envisioned Homer as a dog with simple needs. Dogs are eager to please. Some are loyal, some indomitable. Homer is all these things. Is that why he is so charmingly simple? We have seen him love his two daughters is some episodes with such ferocity that even the childless would envy his touching relationships with them. The episode when Homer leaves his job at the bowling alley to go back and work at the power plant, Mr. Burns breaks Homer’s spirits as revenge for Homer’s earlier departure. A plaque is placed over his work console that says:



Homer is asked at the end of the episode where the pictures of Maggie are in the photo album that they are looking through. The episode closes with this picture:




Great show. What a great show.

That is all.




SW     

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Snow Fall, Frost Water: Leiknarr's Burden

The high squeal of the motor disturbed him. Leiknarr looked over his shoulder and glanced at it. Smoke was evaporating off the metal chassis. The motor needed oil. He knew because he had planned on stopping by the market in Orn to scavenge some for himself. It was the downside to owning something so urbane, so unrefined, as a diesel motor. But there was power in it, burning the dead. He observed the heft of the haul against the gentle waters. It reminded him of his youth and the storms he fought, when he sailed to the Nordsjø and back.

One call had brought him out, rousing him in the morning.  A boisterous voice echoed from the withered receiver saying he needed transport to the south county. Leiknarr obliged with a surplus rate, but the man on the other end didn’t seem to mind.

Navigating his rudder, Leiknarr saw a rugged man bent over his traveling sack, seated on a round stone in the deep waters, not a hundred paces from the shore. He pulled the ship in. As he did, the man pulled his head out of the sack and began to wave. This was the best part, Leiknarr knew. He would find out whether or not the man was intent on killing him, or actually needing a ride.

“Hallo there!” Leiknarr called out, keeping his hand near a construct rifle hidden away under netting and ropes beside him. “Are you the one called ‘Beda?’”

“Aye, tis I,” Beda answered getting to his feet. He slid down the face of the standing rock until his feet broke the surface of the freezing waters. He stumbled back and forth, nearly losing his balance, until he centered himself back on the rock with a steady hand. Leiknarr smiled and backed his hand away from the construct rifle satisfied.

“Before you get in,” Leiknarr said, reaching for the motor and cutting it, “The pay, please.”

Leiknarr’s boat floated gradually towards Beda.

Beda held up a hand apologetically and, with his free hand, rummaged inside his traveling bag.

“Apologies, ferryman. I have your coin here… somewhere. Ah, yes!”

He pulled out a white pouch and lobbed it forward to Leiknarr, who extended a net on a handle out over the boat to catch it. Pulling it back into the boat, Leiknarr felt the heft of the sack. Inside the bag was the agreed price and a warm feeling of victory washed over him. It was a beginning to look like a good day.

He helped Beda into the boat, setting his things aside at the front. Leiknarr sat at the back, keeping a watchful eye on his passenger. Without introduction Beda’s eyes roamed around him. He bent over the side of the boat and scooped a handful of water into his hand. He drank some, much to Leiknarr’s distaste, and spat it back out. Beda nodded with approval, curiously.

“Something in the water, friend?” Leiknarr asked as he started up the motor. Their bodies lurched backward, feeling the weight of the propellers dig into the current. Beda held his arms out, maintaining his balance.

“Helps me relax, you see,” Beda replied. “Not much of a traveler.”

“You accent says otherwise,” said Leiknarr over the squeal of the motor. “Where are you from? Breton? Southern Nordheim, across the frozen sea?”

The patron snapped his fingers in delight and pointed at Leiknarr enthusiastically.

“Breton,” Beda chimed. “I’m from Breton. I’m on a journey, the kind you write home about, though you could say I lost my ‘quill.’”

Leiknarr let his eyes look toward the frosted sky, vaulted and clear for miles. His breath spilled from his mouth like a geyser. He wondered to himself when the last time he remembered seeing a Breton.

“Didn’t think the lands across the sea bore many Bretons. I heard they were wiped out,” Leiknarr pondered aloud. He looked Beda in the eye, filled with morbid intrigue. Beda mouthed a reply, but found no words. He shrunk with befuddlement and ran his fingers through his knotted brown hair.

“Aye, you could say that,” the Breton finally replied. “Not many of us full blood’d chaps left in the world. Nothing but half-breeds and charlatans. I sought greener pasture across the wayside.”

“You did?”

“’The Northman, he knows how to live.’ I was told this by a quaint traveler I saw in the Orkney, south of the lunatics that aren’t kind to us ‘enlightened’ folk. So up I went. Thought it best, with the fair climes and no war ragin’.”

Leiknarr nodded thoughtfully in approval. Leaning forward in the boat, Leiknarr opened a chest before him. Inside it were steaks of smoked salmon. He picked one out and held it up to Beda.

“That’s not what I think it is,” said Beda, taking the piece in his hand. “Is it? No… No, it can’t be.”

“They are natural here,” Leiknarr replied, grabbing one for himself.  “These are Fjord Salmon.”

“Attributed, no doubt, to the downfall of man, king, and country.”

Beda took a large bite from the steak and chewed slowly, mesmerized.

“Father be praised,” he exclaimed. “This is bloody marvelous. I chose right by you.”

Leiknarr raised his hand.

“I am a ferryman, nothing more,” he assured Beda. “I suit best when I listen and make the best of poor weather, poor people.”

“Here! Here!” Beda exclaimed.

Leiknarr moved his hand over the throttle handle behind him and cranked the lever slowly until it opened up. The boat picked up speed, propping the nose of the boat into the air. The southern country was near the coast, out on the open waters. It would take a few hours he suspected. Above him snow banks shifted in the sky. Leiknarr held his breath. He wasn’t prepared for a blizzard.

The first hour of the journey proved civil; the second contained spotty conversation. Nearly four hours past, Beda lay sound asleep in the boat, covered by thick furs and warm seal skin gloves. The bitter cold nipped Leiknarr’s cheeks as the snow began to fall over the fjord, and it reminded him of Fjellheim: His father tightly holds an old-world rifle, pushing him along the trail. Softly, his father kneels in the path. Powder crunches under his knee, packing it deeper into the ice below it. “Watch me,” he says. “There is a troll around here. It will eat you.”

His father believed in strength. Leiknarr believed in something else. The hole in his heart was proof enough that he had yet to discover what that was exactly. His mother screaming, his father shouting, these and other memories surged into him, savagely overriding his conscience.

Beda slept.

 Leiknarr took two pills, both hidden deep within his breast pocket, and made the visions go away.
Prodding him, Leiknarr roused Beda when the boat pulled into the harbor of Berg. People were friendly there, and it was far enough south for the stranger seeking new life. Taking a good look at the place, Beda cautiously approved. 

“Mmm, you are a good boatman,” Beda said. His voice was full of appreciation and thanksgiving. “My best to your kinsmen. I go to seek mine, wherever they are.”

The thought of such an idea repulsed Leiknarr, but he smiled nonetheless. That was the right thing to do. As he watched Beda disappear into the crowds, Leiknarr observed the people. He was no stranger to Berg; he knew them. But he wasn’t ready.

“Not yet,” Leiknarr murmured. He pushed the boat back out into the frosted sea.


“Not yet.”

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Unofficial Sequart Author Bootcamp: "70/30" Rule

Following my new workload rules that I’ve set for myself, I regret that I wasn’t able to get this article up yesterday. It’s the way it is now, my ambrosia to avoiding panic attacks.

Remember book reports?

I did lots of book reports when I was a kid. My teachers would have me pick out a book, and I would give a little presentation on what I read. I would tell them my favorite part, wait for my peers to clap, and then I would go sit down. It didn’t dawn on me until now that these projects laid the foundations required to understand essays and other forms of high level writing that I would encounter later on in my schooling. Sequart writers aren’t the only ones that benefited from their reading assignments. All students, professionals, or politicians use these foundations.

Without needlessly complicating this, I will refer to my “70/30” rule. This rule dictates the proportion of commentary to summary any one piece should have, and it all can be derived from our primitive intellectual pursuits, what we learned from them in particular. Imagine yourself standing in front of your peers at school. You hold out a pastel red piece of cardboard covered with hasty scrawls. It’s shaped like an apple, because in the story you read, the caterpillar finds a new home, inside of the apple. (The green sticking out of the apple, that’s supposed to be the worm.)  You announce to the class that this is what the story is about and then move on to what you liked about the story. It was a nice story, with cool pictures, and the caterpillar gets a new home, which you think is nice for the caterpillar. It’s your favorite story you’ve read so far from Ms. Peterson’s bookshelf. When you’re done, you answer some questions and go sit down. What this little story demonstrates is the importance of interpretation.

As a child, you’re bound to be very limited when it comes to your power of interpretation. Whether or not a child can even “interpret” is still out with the jury. But were I to ask my son or daughter, “So, what did you think about the movie/book/show?” Their response would be an interpretive one. Consider interpretation in your pieces at Sequart. Do you follow the 70/30 Rule? Everyone that reads your article has a limited awareness of comic books. (One must assume that they understand the story of the comic you’re writing about as well.) So pushing out that summary of the basic gist of the comic, while important for establishing the premise that drives your piece, I would limit to only 30% of your paper. People generally aren’t interested in your summary of the comic book. They want to know how you felt about it. Rodger Ebert would describe in his reviews a basic outline of the plot, but he would also critically assess the story. He would isolate its strengths and weaknesses. 70% of your piece should discuss your thoughts on the work, and your thoughts should be backed by evidence and examples. Returning to our elementary school tale, I would point out that when the caterpillar found his way to the thorn patch, he was able to get away from the sparrow because he was real smart and thought that the thorns would protect him. I would say, “The caterpillar liked the thorns because they made him feel safe.” That’s a critical assessment. These kinds of observations are the ones that drive your work.

The bottom line is that people don’t want to hear about the story. They already know a good deal about it. Readers care about what the story discusses and, by extension, what you think about it. So focus your pieces on the critical assessments. Look at how Superman reacts when he is presented with a problematic choice, or how Batman uses his intelligence to find the most expedient way to solve a puzzle. Why are these details important? If you ask those questions and really dig in to them, you will understand why the 70/30 Rule works.     




SW

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Third Pass

Another week has passed. I grow older, fatter, wiser, etc...

If you didn’t notice I’ve started to write some shorts taking place within the Spirit of Orn universe. Going back has been challenging. I’ve moved on conceptually, so every attempt to revisit my world is like stepping into a dusty house. My book has over 204,000 words in it. That’s a lot of words! And those words create characters, situations, environments. It’s charming to go back and read your own work. After all, after so much time the writing quality changes, not from bad to good, but from one style to another.

When I started writing Spirit of Orn, I intended certain characters to represent particular factions or individuals. After a while, I just saw myself grappling with particular characters. I was demanding answers to difficult questions, looking to my characters to answer them. I see people write like that occasionally, though I’m not sure how “professional” that approach is. My biggest worry was that I might come off as heavy handed in my work, and for a while it was. I performed three major edits to counteract the older style approach. My first two passes dealt with updating the descriptive portions and wielding appropriate philosophy. The third and final pass was all about dialogue, which was the most glaringly antiquated. That was a bullet I’m glad I dodged.

Confidentiality bars me from giving away my most recent activities, but let’s just say, come Monday, I can share with you all what’s been on my plate for the last few weeks.

Beyond this, today I can finally resume work on my graphic novel. The past few weeks have been completely crazy. Today though… It’s looking good for scripting.

See you in a few days.




SW

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Lifters

Tófi lifted his arm over his face. The Sun was high over them and it was only morning. It wasn’t a hot sun. The air was cool against his skin. This did not change that the sun was in his eyes. A stream of sweat rolled down his temple, slithering across his cheek. It was a hard going repair. He glanced down, standing in between the operator cavity, his legs split apart on the shoulders. He kept balance and glanced behind him.

“Mjǫll?”

A little girl peeked her head out of her own lifter, pink cheeked, with mousy black hair. Her eyes were green, like her mother’s and she wore a stained eggshell white apron, matted with splotches of grease and oil.

“Yes, papa?” She squeaked.

“Hand me the star wrench, dear,” asked Tófi. “It’s the one in the third drawer down.”

Mjǫll pulled herself up, out of the cavity, and plopped down to the ground. Pulling up her shawl, she hustled toward an upright toolbox. Tófi watched her little hands rummage through the third drawer until she found it: a small ratchet wrench with six teeth etched into the head piece. Taking it to him, Tófi leaned out of the operator cavity, and grabbed it from Mjǫll below.

“Good work,” he said satisfied.

He lowered himself down into the operator cavity, then located the indicator panel, and began to extract it.

“Papa,” he heard. Tófi put down the wrench, and stood up again. His head peeked out above the chassis, and he saw her standing there, one hand anxiously grabbing the hem of her skirt.

“My lifter won’t move,” she said helplessly. “It’s frozen.”

The little lifter was low to the ground, a model meant for dwarfs; fine enough for a child. That’s why he bought it in the first place. The resplendent rainbow glow had faded from its synthetic fiber hull. He glanced between the lifter and his daughter.

“What do you think happened?” he asked. He smiled when Mjǫll pursed her lips together, vexed.

“The resonator isn’t working. I can’t re-mi-ti-mize.” She mumbled.

Re-vitalize,” corrected Tófi. “Only the touch from a beautiful little girl can make it whole again.”

Mjǫll shrunk away embarrassed, looking away.

“Daaaaaad,” she exclaimed, lifting her arms up. “You’re silly!”

Tófi had heard enough. He climbed out of the operator cavity and jumped to the ground. His landing was soft. Tufts of grass crumpled under his feet padding the stony soil. He put away his tool, stowing it under his belt and beckoned her to follow him to the small lifter, bent and squat in the tall grass. Leaning against the hull, he pretended to listen to its heart, while his daughter watched in awe. Kinetic alloy absorbed energy from many sources, including body heat. Millions of resin tendrils on microscopic tundras reached out for him, responding to his caress. No power was yielded.

He reasoned it to be the battery. Mjǫll stood by, peering under his arms, watching him with big curious eyes. Tófi patted her head and reached into the power module, locating the synapse drive. Acid had corroded the jumpers, explaining why the lifter was so affordable. Out of his work belt he extracted a fine gradient, and began to sand away at the jumper studs.

“Is he dead?” she asked, worry rising in her voice.

“No,” replied Tófi, “just sleeping. Sometimes they need to sleep when they are tired. I just need to tickle his heart.” He looked back down at Mjǫll who smiled back with hope.

“The battery is his heart,” she said.

Tófi nodded in agreement, but continued his work. Once the jumpers were clean, he re-fastened them to the battery. He could see it glow in the shadows, like a mauve ember, flickering.

“Alright, alright,” he said, as he pulled himself out of the machine. Bending down onto his knee he looked Mjǫll in the eyes and nodded towards the lifter. “Now kiss it and make it all better.”

She whooped, ecstatic, jumping up and down and bypassed him to hug the lifter. She placed one kiss onto the machine’s chest and watched it creak and squeal, shiver and tremble, standing up for the first time in hundreds of years. Immediately, she bolted into the lifter seat and powered on the strength suit, raising her hands, and moving her legs experimentally.

“Happy Birthday,” Tófi remarked proudly. “Go. Try it out now.”

Mjǫll leaped over him and bounced along the dirt path, back to Orn. Wiping his hands off with a dirty rag, Tófi began to walk back to town, following behind her large, concave footprints. He could hear the chickens squawk anxiously in the distance, which made him feel unnaturally happy. It was because she was happy, which warmed his soul to know it.


Monday, September 8, 2014

The Unofficial Sequart Author Bootcamp: Word Economy

So I mentioned yesterday that I would be doing something for the writers at Sequart. Before you is the first part of a multipart series on non-fiction writing.

Consider any news article you read. My first reaction is how short they are. I remember writing an op-ed for one of the many campus newspapers at UCSB and my limit was set at 800 words. That’s not a lot of words when you think about it. On Sequart we are analyzing comics and have to break down some pretty large concepts in as few words as possible. Right now, my official limit is 1000 words for op-ed, 1500 for medium sized pieces (character driven articles, reviews, etc), and 2500 words for the really intense articles that do heavy analysis on works, people, or events in the comic book community. Use your space wisely. That’s the big idea.

Striking a balance between accessible vocabulary and the high-brow, uppity college diction helps condense pieces while not sounding overtly pretentious. Consider the following sentence:

I remember writing an op-ed for one of the many campus newspapers at UCSB and my limit was set at 800 words.

That was one of my above sentences. I’m going to see if I can condense it. Here are some examples.

Professional: I had only 800 words once to rend asunder an unwitting college student. 
Low Brow: 800 words or less is pretty shitty. 
Concise: I recall penning an op-ed in which I was required to meet the 800 word limit.

Each style actually works, even the low brow approach. It all depends on how your words advance the thoughts being developed in the piece.

If you want to practice lowering your word count, but still getting your point across, just do what I did in the above example. Choose sentences from your articles at random so that you have to use your critical thinking. A shorter, more concise piece will always have power. Abuse this power! It will help your writing come across with greater conviction as well.




SW

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Working For My One Day Weekend

Sorry about the delay guys…

My day job had me working on Saturday this past weekend, so my bearings are a little off. I’m beginning to understand as I get older why my mom sometimes forgets things; important things, mind you. Life becomes steadily more complex as tasks pile up. Obligations are established. It kind of makes you want to have panic attacks. Am I right?

Anyways, life goes on.

My wife recently picked up some more hours at her publishing company, which means some extra scratch each month. It continues to justify me breaking away and starting my own thing. I’d like to continue publishing my graphic novel, but having a part time day job could help me be more proactive in developing the project. My artist and I were talking about the progression of the comic, and though we are a little behind in the production process, our content is still good. It seems like forever since I’ve been able to work on it. I’m almost done with issue five, with five more to complete the first act. The latter half deals with the supporting characters, particular individuals I’ve wanted to flesh out and discover for myself.

It’s funny creating something, especially a world. There are so many details to consider. Each thread, the more you play with the narrative, is a unique piece of the fabric. One could say these characters literally live inside your head. They are your sentient creatures that submit to your direction. This resonates with me in a particular capacity because I am Christian. The way I look at my characters I imagine is the same way God looks at me. Some people inflict harm on their characters maliciously, others give them everything they want. My philosophy has always been to let them drive and see where they take the narrative themselves. It’s taken me almost 10 years I’d say to get to this point. *whew*

Starting tomorrow I am going to start a little column for the contributors of Sequart Research. Feel free to get in on the action and learn the fast track, no-holds-barred, life of freelance journalism. It’s, uhh, exciting. At least I think it is.
See you all then!




SW

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Barren Council

I ran through the forest, into hidden glades. Behind me a spirit chased me. I dared not face its evil, for it chokes me and strangles me.

I am an old man now.

You see, there are men like me. My wife knows me like her own wrinkled hands, but she does not know me underneath. Back when the land worshiped old gods, I was among the strongest of them. My clan were of the mountain people, and we were the power of the winter sun, when it would not set. When the seed of hate and blood gripped our hearts, I lost myself in pits of blackness among my brother. And I would awake not long after, my mouth filled with blood.

My first kill was when I was only a boy.

Our clan fought the river people and brought home prisoners. For the honor of our fathers, the young took daggers and slaughtered our broken foes. But my hand was weak; I could not kill like this. So, I ran, deep into the forest.

None came after me. But the mountain spirits pursued me. Ancient warriors of old, hounded upon my heels like hungry dogs. I shut my eyes, blindly running between knotted root and jagged rock, whispering. Closed inside my chest, I was gripped by a knot. I couldn’t breathe, and soon after I entered a dark sleep.

When I awoke, the old gods were there, sitting by dying firelight. Clad in golden armor and hammered leather, they spoke naught, their heads hung low. At their center, the All-Father was there, gaunt and thin. His weak, leathery arms hardly filled his garb. Out of the darkness, a cat eye glowed as the golden moon in summer, watching me.

“Before the world was,” High Father spoke in a frail voice. “I sat among the highest thrones. I commanded celestial armies, the likes of which not mortal can comprehend.”

Odin weakly laughed. His chuckles overcame him, causing him to cough in fits. He heaved dryly, lurching forward, covering his mouth with skeletal hands. Beside him, the bearer of Mjölnir raised his eyes, which dazzled like storms.

“Your people worship me? Us?” he said, his voice tinged with offence. “I was not worshiped when I was cast to Midgard. But our father played a con and sentenced us to share his burden. I was not meant…”

The High-Father raised his arm and shook his head with disapproval.

“Do not chide him my son. He has been marked. There is nothing we can do to him now.”

Then, looking back to me, the All-Father held out his hand bearing divine magic, so bright that I could not look directly at him.

“Our time is nearly finished here. Let us remain in the cave of the ancients to think upon our sins. Yours, however, has only begun…”   

I awoke in the glen, bruised and broken. My family’s cries called out to me in the early morning. In shame, I returned to them.


I met the people of Orn later, much later than this. My body was covered in scars, my flesh was torn and my bones were brittle. But their way was the way of peace, and so I have profited thus. The heathen council I remember still in my dreams, but I do not let my mind tarry upon them. They are forgotten, the spirits of the mountain folk. And I have come down from the pines to the fjords, where I may see the sun rise and fall as it may. This is the way it should be.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Writing Comics – The Last One About Arcs

I’ve been doing this series for a while now, come to think of it. The process of planning and creating this ongoing walkthrough on comicbooking has challenged me in many ways, especially on the days when I wasn’t really sure what I could pull out of my ass. Now, I think, it is time to put the series to bed as I gear up for my next series. I plan on using my time here to start mentoring Sequart Staff Writers so I’ll keep you all posted on the details regarding that.

One of the problematic things about writing a comic is that it has to end. How to get there is a challenge because I don’t think many people go into making comics with their end game factored into it. But it’s important to remember that all good things come to an end, including your comic.

I generally look at the progression of a comic from a classical perspective. I like the structure of acts, like a play, because the tried and true structure works.  Freytag’s take on the five act structure is my favorite, and probably what most of you are familiar with: Exposition, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Denouement. How your comic flows will be determined by these. In my comic, I go by volumes. Each volume (10 issues) is comprised of five acts. I have roughly 75 issues planed for my graphic novel, with 5 volumes making up the entire work. Having this approach is great because it gives me a broader perspective on where the comic could go, and how best to pace the narrative as it unfolds.

Unfortunately I can’t give you any examples right now. Maybe I’ll save that for another day? It’s been fun guys. But dinner is ready. I have to go. Best of luck and see you all next week for the new column!




SW