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News & Events for C. Dennis Moore

HISTORY OF THE MARVEL UNIVERSE, PART 1: FANTASTIC FOUR #1

Posted 5/27/2017

While the Marvel Universe “officially” began with the publication of Fantastic Four #1 in November 1961, that wasn’t the first title Marvel Comics published. In fact, they’d been in business 30 years already at that point, publishing titles like All-Winners Comics, Journey Into Mystery, and even a title called Marvel Comics. There’s a ton of history there already, but for the sake of this feature, I decided, after much debate and inner soul searching, to only focus on the Marvel Universe from it’s official starting point. So let’s dive into Fantastic Four #1 published November 8, 1961, written by Stan Lee with art back Jack Kirby.

In the skies over Central City (immediately I’m surprised in the Central City tag, since Marvel comics are famous for taking place in the “real world”, with most of their titles set in New York City and its surrounding boroughs), a blazing signal is ignited. It reads THE FANTASTIC FOUR. Seeing this signal Susan Storm turns invisible and leaves the society lunch she was attending. Still unseen, she hops into a cab until she reaches her destination--all unbeknownst to the cab driver who was merely cruising around looking for a fare. Before she gets out, she tries to pay the cabbie, but all he sees is a dollar bill floating in the air and a disembodied voice thanking him for the ride. Ben Grimm notices the signal while trying to buy clothes from a men’s clothing store and, taking off his coat and hat, bursts through the doorway (he was able to fit into the store just fine, but upon leaving determines the doorway is too small and he has to break through it?). When the police spot the “thing” in the street, they immediately open fire, so, in order to meet the rest of his team, Ben escapes underground into the sewers, emerging through the street again several blocks later.

As the police ponder the strange signal in the sky, Johnny Storm is in his second favorite place, doing his second favorite thing, working on his car. Until he notices the words in the sky have merged into the number 4. At that, he bursts into flame and flies out through a melted hole in the roof of his hot rod. Dude, just open the door and step out.

Fearing the flaming man in the sky, the mayor of Central City orders an Air Force attack, but the Human Torch dispatches the planes with ease as the pilots all parachute to safety. Then, just as an atomic missile is closing in on him, a pair of arms reach up into the sky, grab the missile, and hurl it into the water where it explodes without doing any harm. There are so many things wrong with this section. First off, that’s an incredibly fast response team. Johnny’s just flying across town, but in what can’t be more than a few minutes the Air Force is on scene. And they’re firing atomic missiles? Over the city? And I know Reed’s body can stretch, but how can he maintain any sort of accuracy and control when he’s stretching from the ground, up high enough to grab a missile and fling it into the ocean?

The Torch loses control of his flame and begins to plummet to the ground, but he’s grabbed by the rubbery arms of Reed Richards who brings Johnny to an apartment where the other members of The Fantastic Four are waiting.

Just as Reed is about to tell the others why he summoned them, we flash back to the origin of the team.

Fearful the COMMIES will beat them into space, Reed Richards and Ben Grimm are determined to test their new rocket ship before the full effects of cosmic rays can be studied and understood. And tagging along is Reed’s fiancée Susan Storm and her younger brother Johnny. As the four blast off, the mission seems to be a success until a barrage of cosmic rays forces Ben to lose control of the rocket. Luckily the automatic pilot takes over and they land safely. But they’re not the same people who took off in that ship. They each now possess strange abilities. Johnny is able to burst into flame and take to the skies. Susan turns invisible. Reed’s body is able to stretch like rubber now. And Ben Grimm, the unluckiest of them all, discovers his body is now covered in a hard, orange, rock-like substance. Dubbing themselves The Human Torch, Invisible Girl, Mister Fantastic, and The Thing, they all vow to use these new abilities to help mankind.

I actually love this entire story, so far, and think this needs to be the Fantastic Four movie. Don’t start with the origin, let us have a little mystery and THEN tell the origin. We don’t need to see them get their powers upfront. The FF are like Spider-Man and Batman, we KNOW the origin, there’s no need to open with it.

And this brings us back to the present and the reason for Reed’s summons. It appears atomic plants the world over are being targeted by some unknown force which emerges from underground, destroys the plants, and then retreats once more back into the earth. Just then, Reed gets notice that another attack is imminent and, “by studying the cave-ins carefully,” Reed has located their point of origin on the mysterious Monster Isle. Also, I just need to note that, when he left the clothing store, the Thing tore off his coat and hat, neither of which he had with him when he was fighting off the cops and retreating into the sewers, both of which are back on in Reed’s apartment.

Intent on keeping their vow to help mankind, the four fly to the Monster Isle to investigate. There they run afoul of not only the island’s defenders, but also its king: the Mole Man.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Mole Man explains how he came to Monster Isle and built his underground kingdom, then reveals his plan to destroy all atomic plants across the globe. And once that’s done, it’s time for his creatures to attack!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Luckily, the four are powerful enough to beat back the Mole Man’s creatures long enough for the heat from the Human Torch’s flame to seal shut the entrance to the underground world just as the rest of the team escapes and flees in the jet they arrived on, leaving the Mole Man and his monsters trapped forever, away from the world.

This is a fun issue and a good enough start to the Marvel Universe. The way I heard it, Stan Lee was fed up with comics and wanted to quit. Deciding he should go out in a blaze of glory, his wife suggested he finally write the kind of story he wanted to write, and this was the result. Which turned out to not only be a huge success, but was also the basis for an entire universe and a legacy that has gone down in history. No other creator in the history of comics can be said to be THIS responsible for the creation of an entire universe. Even the DC heroes, those were a bunch of separate characters created by separate creators that just happened to inhabit the same universe. But Stan Lee started here and built off what he did with this first issue and now over 50 years later Marvel is one of the biggest names in the entertainment industry.

There are plenty of options for reading this book, tons of reprints (good luck getting a copy of the original), but it's also available digitally on Marvel Unlimited ($9.99 a month and all the Marvel Comics you can stand), or you can borrow it with a Comixology Unlimited membership.

 

Next in the History of Marvel Universe: Tale of Suspense #24, (December 1961)

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LOOT CRATE MAY 2017: GUARDIANS

Posted 5/24/2017

The new Loot Crate came yesterday.  I know, I know, I'm not waiting almost a month to post it this time.  The theme this month was Guardians, and it was a slim crate, but had a couple of really good things in it.  And one I don't need and will be getting rid of.  Here's the haul:

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First up was a new Q-Fig of Rocket and Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, which you pretty much need to see as soon as possible.

The shirt is one I'm anxious to wear this weekend, an exclusive Goonies shirt!

Item #3 is the one I won't be keeping, this 3-pack of Destiny Patches, from a game?  If you want them, they're yours, I have them listed on eBay.  Just click here and buy them.

And finally, a Loot Crate edition of the Star Wars coloring book, which I've handed off to my daughter's girlfriend, who is a big Star Wars fan.  It also came with a box of 6 colored pencils and a sharpener.

And that's all that came in this month's crate.  Like I said, pretty slim.  But the good stuff is really good.  And it's much better than a lot of the other crates I've received.  Hopefully they keep it up next month.

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MY INTERVIEW WITH CALEB STRAUS FROM SNOUT PRODUCTIONS

Posted 5/21/2017

An interview with Caleb Straus, from Snout Productions:

 

CDM: You and your business partner Dustin released several movies through your company Snout before taking an extended hiatus. Now you're back. What was the impetus for Snout going back into business?

 

CS: Too much left undone, and a genuine fire in my belly to revisit it all, I guess. Not that I would've seen that coming. When Dustin died, I vowed to finish "It's Over: Nephilim", as well as the EMZY ENZY album we had going on, but once I did, I just didn't have it in me anymore. I needed to walk away. Absence brings clarity I guess. I did a few small things. I did an EP with another musical outfit called Disgruntled Embryo that I had lying dormant for years. I did a short film with my wife and some cohorts called "Black and White", but other than that I was honestly just licking my wounds.

Then the whole Snout thing came calling again. But I knew if I got back into it, I couldn't be doing it as a tribute to my dead friend. It had to be a genuine artistic fire, or it would just be unhealthy. So I started looking at "It's Over: Tribulations" the graphic novel we were working on, and decided to take the art work that was complete and turn it into a novel with illustrations. That got me comfortable enough to revisit the It's Over Universe. The whole thing was meant to be transmedia, but we kind of abandoned a lot of that when we got into making "Nephilim" because we wanted to focus on making the best film we could. Now that the film is ended, it seems like a good time to revisit that. There are a few things coming down the pipeline in that Universe.

That being said, I plan to operate under Snout as more of a "brand", rather than a full fledged company. Funny enough, doing the small projects I did in the downtime still felt like Snout. I was working with all the same people, and it had the same fire. It made me realize Snout was too big for me to kill.

 

CDM: And speaking of Dustin, I see he's still listed on the Snout website as an official member. I assume that's going to stay.

 

CS: Yeah he will always be up there. Though he was humble about it, Snout was his baby in the beginning. I adopted a lot of responsibility in terms of daily operations, and I took it into the multimedia realm in terms of Snout being an entity that does a lot of different things. It became a shared vision. But it started with Dustin. It's his nose in the logo for God's sake. (laughs)

 

CDM: I assume an operation like this requires more than one hand, with all the different forms of media you're working in. Who else is working with Snout now?

 

CS: It does. The only other official member is my resident Director of Photography, Antonio Garcia. He DP'd "Nephilim", and he's great. Other than that, Snout is really kind of an umbrella for whatever project I take on and whoever I choose to collaborate with. I don't know if you're familiar with the band Pigface, but it's kind of like that. The line up changes from project to project. Anyone can come and go and be a part of Snout. In the press release about the return, one of the things I said was that Snout is more than a company. It's an event. When it happens, it just feels like Snout.

 

CDM: I'm more familiar with Nine Inch Nails than Pigface, but I get the idea. Scanning my CD shelves, desperately looking for another correlation, coming up with nothing, and moving on: So the three It's Over movies are done,and you're currently(?) in the middle of writing the graphic novel as a prose novel. What's else is coming up from Snout?

 

CS: Well, there is of course the adaptation of your story, Maggie Andrews Gets the Facts that I'm working on. I'll have Tony DP'ing that, and I'll be directing, as well as scoring and acting once again with my wife Angela. Very excited about that one. Most I can say about it right now is it's sort of "Lynchian" for lack of a better word. Just in terms of what I'm doing with it in terms of texture and visuals.

There is another short called CUBED that a friend of mine, Gabriel Itzcoatl Luera has adapted from one of his ten minute plays. He's having a great run as an actor and playwright in San Antonio, TX and we are going to collaborate to bring that one to the screen. It's more a psychological thriller about dissociative identity disorder, and it's got some great power behind it.
Beyond that, I'm taking a step back from feature filmmaking in future Snout projects, and I'm more interested in using film as a means to an end than doing it traditionally right now. Oddly enough, being a filmmaker was never in the grand plan. It happened by accident. In the past few years I've gotten better at it and I've learned how to do it the "right" way. Distant future, there is an album I want to make as a cinematic experience. Basically, it'll be an album set to picture, in film format. But I'm not releasing the album as an album. This is the only way you'll get it.

I'm also currently recording a full-length PLUS record with Aldous Michael Benavidas, who scored "Nephilim". That was something Dustin and I always talked about doing but never got around to. I'm singing and programming and Michael is playing guitar and bass. It'll feature revamped versions of the songs in the films and a host of new ones. But instead of writing the lyrics as "Zane Enzo", I'm writing them as myself and drawing parallels between my life and Zane's journey through the films, especially the final one. There aren't a lot of honest, from-the-heart, kick ass rock records coming out right now, at least not from new bands, so I'm hoping to fill that void a little bit, and make it a real piece of art, as opposed to just a marketing novelty. I'm also re-cutting the first two "It's Over" films for an exclusive boxed set coming down the pipeline.

 

CDM: That's a ton of projects, and I'm honored to have something of mine listed among them. When I first thought of trying to get one of my short stories made into a short film, "Maggie Andrews" was one of the first ones that came to mind, and I immediately saw you and Angela in the main roles. But What was it about Maggie Andrews that attracted YOU to the story?

 

CS: That's flattering, thank you. We are certainly thrilled to be chosen to do this.

It's the questioning in it. It's the wonder of the reader up until the crucial reveal as to whether Harris is crazy (and thus, in fact, the true villain), or if he's telling the truth. As an actor, especially, I'm really interested in Harris. He's a little socially awkward, and in some ways socially inappropriate, but he's on this mission to reveal to the world that he has the devil captive, and he wants to destroy him. That makes a lot of things like social graces and human interaction secondary, tertiary, or non-existent in terms of priorities. The way he approaches Maggie in the bar is a little sleazy at first, but then you get to know the guy and you realize that, at least in his own mind, he has a really noble pursuit that has taken over his life - to destroy evil. If only we could, right?

As a director, I love the dream-like qualities of the story. I love the defying of logic, time and space. There are a lot of really interesting things I feel you can do with that, visually. It's simultaneously a great box to work in, and a very freeing situation, because I feel like nothing is too absurd, in many ways.

 

CDM: And it was the dream-like aspects of the story, coupled with what you'd done with the It's Over films, that told me you were the guy to approach. Now ... about that PLUS album.That sounds super interesting. Tell me more...

 

CS: Dustin and I came from music. We were in a band long before we were filmmakers. In fact, Snout Productions was originally Snout Recordings. We started the band EMZY ENZY in High School. We also started Disgruntled Embryo together. We grew up on stuff like Nine Inch Nails, which you mentioned, White Zombie, Pantera, Tool, Mr. Bungle and Faith No More, as well as Mike Patton's other projects...bands that were heavy, aggressive, and little stranger than the usual fare, but also very catchy and accessible. Or even less aggressive bands like Radiohead. Or Bowie. I could go on and on, but artists that strike a really intriguing balance between pop-structured tunes, and sonic experimentation or aggression. Bands like that could blow up once upon a time, but wouldn't stand a chance now. So when we were conceptualizing Plus for the films, we wanted to produce an ode to all the cool, inventive music that was more mainstream then, that eventually led us to listening to more obscure and extreme stuff.

It started with a conversation about a rock band that played the last concert ever played on Earth. Biggest band in the world, fronted by this character that was the son of both God and the Devil. What would that band sound like? Our other band EMZY ENZY was much more extreme, industrial, noisy kind of stuff. So that element is still in Plus, but with EE, there weren't necessarily a lot of boundaries. So with Plus, we created some rules. The lead singer is the perfect balance between good and evil, order and chaos, so the music should reflect that. We also need to believe that this band could erupt into a household name. So we decided to make music that was equal parts melodic and heavy. Further, it had to sound like a four piece rock band. Those elements are there, but at its' heart, it needed to be vocals, guitar, bass, drums. We started writing songs with those limitations in mind, and to our surprise, it was a lot of fun. We were ignited by the challenge of writing songs that were catchier, without it becoming overtly sugary. To our delight, people that saw the first It's Over film were sold. People actually came up to me and said, "That band at the end was really good! Where did you find those guys?" Score!

So for the record, I knew Michael was the guy to tap. He and I have had a mutual respect for one another for years, and after his score for "Nephilim", that solidified the choice. We listen to a lot of the same stuff, and we share the same musical instincts. And rather than the type of thing where the album had pictures of the "fake band" all over it and it was just a novel media tie-in, we decided to make a legitimate rock record as ourselves, but write the songs in a way that could be Zane talking. As a writer, I revisited the Nephilim script from a more retrospective point of view and I found that Zane's whole struggle with duality, and the choice of who to be, and what to be, really mirrored things I've been going through, and was going through at the time of writing the script. I think it was more subconscious, but that was my angle. It's a true musical collaboration, but it follows the same rules Dustin and I set up for Plus in the beginning, and it's just a really great, immediate, but also challenging and layered rock record. At least, that's the hope.

 

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FIRST APPEARANCE HAUL, #2.

Posted 5/18/2017

Continuing with my collection of Marvel and DC first appearances, a few weeks ago I got these in the mail:

 First up is Marvel Premiere #35, with the first appearance of 3-D Man.  From April 1977, this story is written by Roy Thomas, with art from Jim Craig.

Graded a 7.5 on MyComicShop.com, I only paid $2.80 for this issue, and it's in excellent shape.  If the cover and pages were just a tad more white, I might believe this was a current issue of something with a retro cover on it to make it look older.

But, no, as far as I can tell, it's the genuine article from 1977.

I dig this cover a lot, it's in the traditional Marvel style, has lots of action and a bold first appearance from strange new hero, bursting through a comic book page while guns are being fired at him.  That's a great first impression.

Now, I haven't read this issue yet, so can't vouch for the story, but I'm sure that, when I do get to it, with Roy Thomas at the helm, I'll be perfectly satisfied.

 

 

And speaking of 3-D man...there's another one, apparently, making the rounds in the Marvel Universe.  Or, rather, there was.  I have no idea where he is now of it he's still adventuring at all.  But it turned out I already had his first appearance, when he went by his original name of Triathlon and turned up in Avengers #8:

 

 With writing by Kurt Busiek and art by George Perez, it doesn't get much better than this run.  Now, I don't have his first appearance as the new 3-D man, but this was the issue that was listed as his first appearance anyway.  And I already had it on my shelves, because I collected this title in September 1998 when this book came out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 My DC pick for this week is DC Special #4, which is the first appearance of Abel, from the July/September 1969 issue.

All of the stories are reprints, but the wraparound, which introduces readers to Abel, is new.

I paid $12 for this, and it's graded a low 3.5.  The spine is pretty worn, but all of the pages are intact and there are no rips or tears.  It's just an old book, and it's showing its age.  Personally I'm surprised to have found a copy in this condition so cheap.  But I'm not complaining.

I'm really enjoying these older issues.  I think the covers are beautiful and they make for great nostalgia pieces in my collection.

Now if only I could afford some of the more expensive books out there.  But I'm patient.  I'll fill in this first appearance collection the same way I do everything, one step at a time.

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LOOT CRATE APRIL: INVESTIGATE

Posted 5/16/2017

I am REALLY getting behind on these.  The April Loot Crate came a couple of weeks ago, and it was a pretty good one.  The theme this time was INVESTIGATE.  Here's what I got:

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 First off, this awesome color changing mug by Zak! Designs.  Gave this one to my son, the Batman fanatic.

 Next up, an exclusive Jessica Jones Q-Fig character, which currently rests on a shelf with all the other Q-Figs I've collected from various subscription boxes.

This is probably my favorite Loot Crate shirt currently, an exclusive Stranger Things shirt made my Loot Crate.

And finally, these X-Files pencils made my A Crowded Coop, which famous lines from the show, like "I Want to Believe", "That's Why They Put the 'I' in F.B.I.", "The Truth is Out There", and "Trust No One".  I gave these to my daughter for art.

And finally, the box itself reverses to make this cool crime scene kit:  This was a good Loot Crate month, I think they earned their money this time.

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ATTACK OF THE BAGUA!!!

Posted 5/15/2017

Let’s get organized.

There’s only one office tip I want to give out before we move to the desk, but it’s an important tip and will help not only your productivity, but your mindset as well.

DO NOT set your desk so your back is to the door. This will make you feel like everything is happening “behind your back” and your work won’t get your full concentration. You have to be able to see people coming into the office at you. If your space is just too small and you don’t have a choice, put a mirror over the desk so you can see behind you.

Now on to the desk.

I spent a lot of years working in and around offices and I’ve seen a LOT of peoples’ desks and how they personalize and organize them. I’ve also seen a lot of writers’ desks and sometimes it’s a wonder they get anything done. Although, to be fair, I’ve also heard it said several times that a messy desk can be more creative. So there’s that.

But if you have a hard time working through the clutter, here are a few tips that can help you set up your desk for maximum productivity.

One: Sit in the command position. This goes back to desk placement. You don’t have to face the door directly--in fact, it’s a good idea if you don’t. If you want to follow feng shui guidelines, “you will receive the full force of enrgy coming into the room and you may feel confused or agitated.” From my experience, it’s just as much a distraction as having the door at your back. Every little creak or cough, you’re going to be looking up to make sure nothing is coming at you. You want to sit where you have command of the room. So sit either facing the room, but with the door not directly in front of you, or sit facing the wall with the door off to the side--again, not facing you. You don’t want that energy coming directly at you.

Second: Get a solid desk. No glass tops. Again, if you want the feng shui principle, a glass top allows the creative energy to flow down and disappear. From a realistic standpoint, they’re just fragile. They require too much cleaning, they scratch too easily, and they break a lot easier than a solid wood-top desk. So stop thinking you’re fancy with your all metal and glass desk, and get a grown-up’s desk.

Third: Get a supportive chair. If you’re going to make a living sitting down all day, you have to be comfortable doing it. And if you’re like me and you work a lot of late nights and you’re going to occasionally doze off at your desk, you might as well be comfortable doing it.

Fourth: Remember the 50-/50 rule. Your desktop should be made up for 50% work and personal materials (computer, papers, files, family pictures, personal knick knacks, etc), and 50% clean desk top. Obviously, when you’re in the middle of a project, your desk is going to get messy. Especially if you have one of those comfortable chairs. God, it’s SO MUCH EASIER to just set things aside and let them pile up. There’s nothing wrong with this at all. Goes back to a messy desk being more creative. But at the very least, clean your desk off before you start a new project. What I’ve been doing, since things tend to pile up on my desk every day or two, BEFORE I EVEN SIT DOWN FOR THE DAY, I clean it off, put away the papers or books or Cds that have begun to pile up. I clean it off before I’ve even gotta comfortable, otherwise it’s just not going to happen that day.

Fifth, and this is the most interesting part, I think: when setting up your desk, use the key areas of the bagua. What the WHAT, you’re saying!

A bagua is “one of the main tools used in feng shui to analyze the energy of any given space, be it home, office or garden. Basically, bagua is the feng shui energy map of your space that shows you which areas of your home or office are connected to specific areas of your life.”

The bagua is laid out generally in a grid much like the Brady Bunch opening with these key areas:

Wealth          Fame          Love
Family                            Children
Knowledge   Career       Helpful People

The center of the desk closest to your chair is the career spot. This is, generally, where you put your computer to do your work. You’ll fill the other areas of the bagua with things that bring that specific area to mind. For example the Love and Children area of my desk holds pictures of my kids. Unfortunately, my desk is offset, so the open area where I sit is to the left, in the knowledge area, while the right side of the desk is drawers. So while I can’t use the bagua the way it’s laid out to set up my own desk, I can adapt the parts of it that I CAN reach. The knowledge area is also where my phone goes when I’m writing. The Fame area is where I keep a few important books: The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (which I WILL get around to reading one day, I swear), "642 Things to Write About", the Writer's Workbook I published last year, and "Good Advice on Writing". My desk faces a wall--with the door to my office to my right, on the same wall--so the wall in front of me, the family and wealth area, is plastered with more pictures of my kids, as well as my lists for what projects are coming up, and a “heart, horror, spectacle” reminder taped to the top. If and when I ever get a new desk, I’ll be looking for one with the career area in the middle, but for now, I spent so much money on this desk and I’ve only had it three years, I can’t justify getting rid of it just now. Plus, I love this desk. It’s got a ton of storage and allows me to decorate it with things that are personal to me, like my Carrie White and Regan McNeil figures, my Hellboy piggy bank, my plush Leatherface, my Garden Rain candle, and the Bane figure my son got me years ago. It actually used to be a lot more cluttered, but I’ve pared down greatly and now only keep things on my desk that inspire me.



There’s a ton more information out there for proper feng shui desk set up. If you want more help in this area, just hit that contact link above and I’ll be happy to help.

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TAKING TIME TO MAKE TIME, SCHEDULING YOUR YEAR IN REVERSE.

Posted 5/12/2017

I want to talk about scheduling. Why it’s important, and how to do it right.

First, why it’s important. Because we’re all busy people with full lives, things to do, and people who will try to distract you and knock you off your game. Even if they don’t mean to, they will. Things come up, family obligations or you lose an entire day of writing because you have a flat tire and have to get it replaced so you can make it to work that night. Stuff happens, and when it does it can be hard getting back into the groove and the routine once that routine is broken. And I’m a person who thrives on routine. I have little enough time in the day, what with spending 9-10 of those hours packing hot dogs 6 days a week, to waste it on NOT doing the things I want to do. And my first year at this job, I spent so much time trying to acclimate myself to the new schedule--I hadn’t worked a night job in 15 years--that I didn’t finish anything the first 6 or 7 months I worked there. I wrote stuff, I just never finished it. I’d get the first draft out and then move on and never come back to it.

So I made a decision at the end of 2014. In 2015, I was going to publish one title a month all year. I knew that making this plan--and stating it publicly so I had accountability--would get me off my ass and WRITING. But first I had to have a plan, and schedule the titles so I knew when I was writing what and allowed myself enough time to finish them.

When you make a plan this big, that covers an entire year, you have to start BIG and work your way backward. So I started with 2015. Okay, one year, 12 months, 12 titles to publish.

That means I publish one new title every month. So that gives me 4 weeks every month to get the next title ready to go.

I looked back at the projects I had started and not finished in 2014 and saw I had a good 6 of them. So that’s half the year taken care of. But I didn’t want to publish all of them upfront and leave the latter half of the year blank. What if something came up? Something big. And anyway, how sure was I that I could write 6 new titles in 6 months, one after another? Not very.

So instead, I spread those 6 almost-ready titles throughout the year, with an empty month in between them. So, yeah, I still had to write 6 new titles that year, but instead of having only a month to do it, I actually had 7 weeks. Because these 6 almost-ready titles, the hard part was done. All I had to do was edit and polish, and they were ready to go. I could do that in a week. So that left the 3 weeks of that month, and 4 weeks of the next month, to write my next title. Plenty of time.

This is how I got through 2015. I’d spend a week revising and polishing a first draft, and at the end of that week, publish it. Then I had 7 weeks to write, revise, polish, and publish something new. Then I spent a week revising and polishing a first draft. I alternated back and forth and, at the end of 2015, I had 12 new titles on Amazon. I could never have done that without planning and scheduling.

I started big, 2015. Then worked my way back and scheduled January, then February, then March, and on and on to December.

From there, I scheduled the weeks. The first week of January, I revised and polished. Then the rest of January and all of February, I wrote something new, polished it, published it. Then the first week of March … you get the idea.

But from there I had to schedule even further, and even smaller. The days.

Sure, I had all week to revise and polish, but the formatting and publishing can take a while, so really I only had 4 days to do that, and the formatting and publishing--both ebook and print formats--would take up all of Friday. I wasn’t spending a lot of time in my office on the weekends; it was the only time I was home and I used it to catch up on all the things I didn’t get done throughout the week. And, again, if I hadn’t scheduled these things, if I’d just left the entire year up to chance with the only plan being publish a new title every month, there would have been chaos. I wouldn’t have finished 12 new titles, I would have done the 6 I had in first draft already--MAYBE--and possibly another 1 or 2 new ones throughout the year.

And this is why scheduling and planning is so important if you want to turn this writing thing you do in your off time into a career. You can’t go at it randomly. It’s a business. More than that, it’s a JOB. Your friends and family may not see it that way, but you HAVE TO. And you have to approach it like one. Your boss at your day job doesn’t let you just come in whenever you have time, get done whatever small amount you can accomplish in a couple hours, and then leave because something came up. God I wish mine did, though. That would be pretty sweet.

And if your boss won’t let you do that at one job, why should the boss--you--at the other job? I’m not going to go into scheduling your day so you have time to write every day. Not in this post anyway. Maybe in a later one. But you know your day, you know where you do and don’t have time. Writing is like anything else in life, if it’s important enough to you, you’ll find the time to do it. Hopefully this helped anyone out there struggling with time constraints and lack of motivation. If you have questions, or just need more advice, feel free to hit that CONTACT link above and I’d be happy to discuss it.

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FIX YO LIFE UP, A DISCUSSION ABOUT ORGANIZATION FOR WRITERS

Posted 5/2/2017

Let’s talk about organization. I’m a huge list maker. I love lists and systems. I make lists for everything. Right now I have four lists taped to the side of my desk. One is a blog schedule, so when I actually have time to blog on a regular basis, but have no idea what to blog about, this list gives me a guideline to follow (don’t bother checking previous entries; I did specify “when I have time” and most nights I pack corn dogs for 10 hours). Another list are the Superhero TV shows I want to watch, because there are so many I have to write them down so I don’t forget about any of them. I try to watch one every afternoon while I eat before I go to work. At first, I was binge-watching, but then realized I’m so far behind on some of them, why not just watch one episode every week. That’s what I have to do with the ones I watch live, and that’s what I’d be doing if these weren’t on Netflix. So right now, that list is “Arrow” (finished season 2), “Daredevil” (all caught up). “Agents of SHIELD” (finished season 2), “Flash” (current, watch live), “Gotham” (finished season 2), “Supergirl” (current, watch live), “Legends of Tomorrow” (current, watch live). As shows rotate in and out of season on Netflix, this list has become a bit outdated, but as I worked through it, I found I needed it less and less and was watching particular shows on particular days.

Another list reads only “Netflix, DVD, King”. This was my movie review list. I made this list a few years ago when I working noon to 8 and could get up at 4:00 and do some writing. This gave me time to write AND do movie reviews, which I’ve always loved doing. But there were so many options. I have collected hundreds of horror movies on DVD, but there’s also Netflix, and I’m also trying to work through the Stephen King movie library. So I made a list and rotated through it. Simple.

The last list is the longest. It’s the list of upcoming stories I’m going to write. It’s 15 titles long and the first two are crossed out. Again, it comes down to having so many to do and needing a way to sort them out.

I’ve just spent more of the last two mornings than I care to admit watching organizational skills for writers videos on YouTube, and holy crap! I don’t know how some people get anything done. They’re either too laser focused, to the point they’re obviously making their system more complicated than necessary as a means of wasting time so they can avoid actually WRITING, or their so disorganized and scatter-brained as they’re filming that there’s no way in hell I’d ever take their advice.

Personally I think, as a writer, there are only two organizational tools you need: a piece of paper and a pen. If you can’t get your shit together using these two items, then you’ve got bigger problems. Some writers I know use apps to organize their lives, but, again, this is just making a bigger deal out of something than it needs to be. If you want to make a note about something, make a note. Simple. If you want to track sales, track sales. If you want to create a character, create a character. There is literally not one part of planning and organization a writer is going to have to do that can’t be done with pen and paper.

Some writers use notebooks, some are more haphazard and use whatever random scrap of paper they can find. I’ve been both of these people in my 26 years as a writer. I find notebooks are definitely the way to go. And, no, you don’t have to buy a fancy leather-bound one with gold leaf pages and a silk bookmark stitched in. Not saying you can’t, but you’ll take the exact same notes in a $1 spiral from the Dollar Store.

Lists and systems have helped more over the years than I think anything or anyone else has. And that’s no offense to the friends and mentors I’ve had over the years, their help is also very much appreciated. But the lists and systems keep it all straight.

As a beginning writer, I found, as I think most writers do, that I had more ideas than I had time to write them all. So what does a person do when they’re already in the middle of something but don’t want to lose this other idea?

I wrote it down. Usually the title, if there was one, but sometimes just a few words to give the general idea of the story. For example, my short story, “The Foodies of Mars” was nothing more than a note which read “DNA gene therapy”. For “The Envy of Falling Leaves”, it was “aging immortal”. I made a list I titled LIST in my word processor and eventually had pages and pages of story titles and ideas. That’s all well and good, but how do you know which one to work on next? I could always take the simple route and just work my way down the list. But that’s not what I did.

Instead I printed the list and cut up all the titles, so each idea was on a separate slip of paper. I put these into a small box and when it was time to write a new story, I’d give the box a shake and blindly draw the next title. That was the story I wrote next. I’ve always believed in chance being a big factor for me. Or rather faith. I had faith that, whatever story I was writing next was the story I was supposed to write next. And it always worked out.

Years later, as I collected a rather large pile of stories, finished and not finished, I had to develop another system to work through them. Enter the file holder and the rotation. I had one of these and used it to hold the files I kept my physical copies in. ALWAYS keep physical copies. What are you insane, relying on computers and electronics? Don’t you know those things die all the time? With my old word processor I once lost nearly 70 pages when my foot hit the cord and knocked it out of the wall one night. Always keep physical copies! Anyway, I used this to hold my files. I’d write a first draft and into the organizer it went. Then I’d pull another random title from another small box labeled “revisions”. I’d revise and edit that story, and into the organizer it would go. I’d do a new first draft and into the organizer. Then a revision. Then a first draft. Once it was full, I’d start at the front and work through them again. The first drafts would become revisions and move to the back of the organizer. The revisions would, hopefully, get to a point I thought they were publishable, and I’d submit them. This system worked for me for years. Eventually I dropped it, but not because it stopped working, I just stopped using it. But it worked so well because it forced me to give those brilliant first drafts that I thought were amazing when I finished them a chance to rest. And it made sure I didn’t leave those stories that were less than they could be in a file gathering dust somewhere. I know my penchant for moving on and leaving the old stories behind me and I had to find a way to overcome that. This system worked perfectly for that.

There are others. Christ, I’ve come up with systems for just about anything you can imagine. My entire day is scheduled to the hour (this is one of the many many many reasons I loathe my day job so much; we go in at the same time but we leave when we’re done. That’s too much either unscheduled time or too little and my brain doesn’t like that). I’ve got systems for what books I read next. Sometimes, if I’m feeling like I need some music, I’ve got systems for that. My daughter and I both have a system--we adopted the same exact system independently of each other--for what to wear the next day.

And in all that time, I’ve never needed anything more high-tech than a pen and a piece of paper.

If any writer tells you that you need this app or that app or this device or that gadget to organize your writing or your day, they’re an idiot, and you can tell them I said so.

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FIRST APPEARANCE HAUL, #1

Posted 4/27/2017

A couple of months ago, I finished off my New Universe collection.  I've got the whole set and, while I know most people couldn't care less and think the New Universe sucked, it was, basically, my introduction to comics on a large scale as it was one of the first lines where I collected every title.  I got in about a year into the books, and kept with them until they ended a year and a half later, picking up back issues I'd missed whenever I found them, even multiple copies because I just dug the books so much.  But now I have the full run of all those titles.  So my question became what next?  The books I love most, Legion of Super Heroes, Justice League, Avengers ... sure, I could start collecting full runs of those, but holy crap those books are expensive and there's little chance I'd get them before I died.  Or ever!  Finally, a couple of weeks ago, it hit me.  First appearances.  This is a great way to meet new characters, find valuable comics, and get some incredible back issues.  I went right to my Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe Vol. 1, and my Who's Who in the DC Universe Vol. 1, and started at the beginning.  Granted there were a few of those early characters whose first appearances I either couldn't find or couldn't afford right away.  But I'm pretty happy with the issues I got.  They came in the mail yesterday and I got to find them waiting for me when I got home from work last night.  Let's start with the one I was most excited about.  The first appearance of The Abomination, a Marvel character, and one of the chief Hulk villains:

Published in April 1967, this copy is rated a 4.0, which, if this is what's considered a 4.0, then I'm good.  It's obviously seen some hands over the years, but all the pages are intact and I can flip through it without fear.  Obviously, I won't be reading this copy, I'll read it digitally on Marvel Unlimited instead, but of course I had to take it out last night and look at it.  And that smell.  Man, there's nothing like the smell of real comics.

The book has two stories, "To Be Beaten by Byrrah", a Sub-Mariner story written by Stan Lee with art by Bill Everett (and featuring the first appearance of Byrrah, so I have a first appearance two-fer.  The second story, "The Abomination", written by Stan Lee with Gil Kane on art this time, is the reason I bought the book, and I sort of wish it had been featured on the cover instead.  Sure, that cover will come in handy when I get to Byrrah and already have his first appearance, but I bought the book for Abomination, dammit, and I'd like that to be reflected in the cover.  Sheesh.

Anyway, this book is in great condition, and for $12.75, what I paid for it, that's a hell of a deal for 1967 comic in this shape and featuring TWO first appearances.  I'm digging it.

 

 

 

 

 

Next up, is a DC book, Wonder Woman #297, featuring the first appearance of Nikos Aegeus.

I have no idea who this guy is; he didn't last long (his last appearance was in issue  #307), but I'll take a 1982 comic in this condition for $7.60.  Add in a first appearance, and that sounds like a good deal to me.  I could be wrong.  Until I read the issue, I won't know how much screen time he gets, what his impact on the story is, or even if he's a worthwhile character.  Then again, this exercise isn't to only get the worthwhile characters, that's subjective.  One man's Deadpool is another man's Cannonball.  I just want the first appearances, it gives me something to strive for.  And it's a good thing my goal is so clear here, because a lot of times, a new character will appear in one issue but not have anything to do until a later issue and THAT, by rights, should be the important issue.  Not many people will remember Venom first appeared in Amazing Spider-Man #298, because it was issue #300 when he really made his mark.

This story, "Thunder on the Wind", was written by Dan Mishkin, with art by Gene Colan.  You ask me, the Colan art is worth the $7.60  This is a thicker issue than most, at 48 pages.  That's thanks to the back-up stories, "Fate is the Killer" by Paul Kupperberg and Curt Swan (a Masters of the Universe story, of all things!), and "Go Save the World", a Huntress story by Joey Cavalieri and Joe Staton.  Fans of the Arrow TV show who don't read comics, this isn't your Huntress.  Don't worry, though; she's an awesome character no matter which version you're reading.

I'll get around to reading this issue eventually, and given the age and condition, I'll probably just read the print copy.

That's it for this week's First Appearance Comic Haul.  I've already put in an order for the first appearance of DC's Abel, and Marvel's 3-D Man.  Hopefully I'll have another one of these next week.

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SKETCHBOX: MAY

Posted 4/25/2017

The new SketchBox came yesterday.  Looks like a pretty good one and I'm anxious to see what my daughter does with it.  This month included:

General's Kimberly Watercolor pencils ($12.95): This month is all about watercolor pencils!  Draw and paint at the same time with these unique water-soluble colored pencils.  We found this set to have rich blendable colors.  Try blending color with your new derwent brush or draw directly into washes.  You can dip the pencils into water for intense color, or make your own "dry pencil palette" by sketching and then lifting color with the same water brush.

Derwent Graphic H2O Brush ($7.99): This waterbrush is ideal for plein-air painting.  It features a leak-proof design and is easy to clean with a simple squeeze of the barrel to flush out the tip.  It can be refilled with water or ink (like the ink from your march box) for use as a brush pen.  The synthetic nylon brush head can hold 10ml of fluid.

Stabilo point 88 -- Turquoise and Black ($0.95 each): The .4 mm pens feature water-based ink in vibrant colors, formulated to sustain a long cap-off time.  The long-wearing tip is encased in metal to extend the pen's life and make it suitable for use with rulers which makes it pair well with an upcoming month...

Faber-Castell Art Grip Watercolor Pencils ($1.91 each): To balance out your kimberly set and to give you another basis for comparison we included 3 art grip watercolor pencils by Faber-Castell.  We found these pencils to have heavy color and lay down great on already wet paper.

 

And this month's inspiration piece is by Jill Tuttle, who says:

Life can be busy and complicated.  My artwork celebrates the intricate, beautiful, and precious moments in life; when you slow down to enjoy each moment.  I am originally from Nova Scotia and now live in Alberta, working as a High School Creative Arts teacher; my dream job.  My goal as an educator is to instill a passion in my students to live creative lives.  I model this lifestyle through my own artwork, photography and Bollywood dance!  I am best known for my detailed drawings and paintings on wood panels.  I use subject matter such ornate Victorian furniture, combined with images pulled from nature such as butterflies, birds, flowers and foliage.  I usually combine my slow and deliberate cross-hatching pen marks with the addition of colorful watercolor or acrylic paint.  I am so excited about the direction my recent work has taken, and look forward everyday to my next artistic endeavor!

For more of Jill's work check out:

www.julltuttle.com

www.instagram.com/jilltuttleart

www.facebook.com/artbyjilltuttle

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