The last time I blogged here was... January?!!!
What can I say, it's been a busy year so far. Instead of blogging, I've been doing an art stream most days on Twitch and YouTube, and that has worked wonders for my productivity. I'm improving my art skills enormously and getting regular gigs now!
A little over a week ago, I had an incredible opportunity to get in on the first annual Upstate Pop Expo, produced (most assuredly the wrong word) by Richard's Comics and Collectables. I had just seen Richard at Soda City Comic Con and given him a copy of SoulBound 1: Adrift, which he liked, and he offered to let me come to his shop and do a signing.
I did not expect to be offered a book signing event.
Richard also suggested that I ask Mia, the artist, to come and sign books as well. She agreed and we set the date for October 19th (more on this later).
At the time, Richard was also gearing up for putting on a comic con of his own in Greenville. It was the first I'd heard of it and I'm pretty sure all his booth spaces were full.
The week of his comic con, the Upstate Pop Expo, he emailed me and said that he'd had a cancellation on an artist table, and would I want to fill it?
Well of course I would! The first year is the best time to get in a comic con. You get to see all the potential coming to life. It was too short of notice for Mia to make it, but I brought comics and cosplay accessories to fill a table.
Richard put me between Gregbo Watson and Tracy Yardley, who were very nice table neighbors and much more established in the comics industry than me. I am drastically understating this in the interest of moving back on topic.
I mentioned the Upstate Pop Expo in the newsletter but I'm only just now answering the question I've been asked several times now:
HOW WAS THE SHOW?
The Upstate Pop Expo was, for a first-time show, excellent. The only comic con I have been a vendor at that comes close to the level of preparation, organization, and all around thoughtfulness is the Electric City Comic Con, which was put on by librarians. If you did not attend this comic con, you missed out.
This con was a hidden gem. Despite Richard making every effort to promote it, attendance was on the low side. Even so, I did pretty well for the weekend, I think. I don't have very good metrics yet for gauging that since I'm now concentrating on selling comics and reaching readers rather than facepainting and cosplay accessories.
But, for selling comics and talking about my story, this was an excellent con. I could talk to everyone who came by and strive to make a connection with them, and quite a few people took a chance on SoulBound #1: Adrift! What really melted me was that several came back, either later in the day or the next day, to tell me that they had already read it and loved it! A Mystique cosplayer came back and bought extra copies for her friends, and another, cosplaying as Shoto Todoroki, returned to buy the comic and a hatchable dragon egg kit, and we chatted a long time about writing. The fact that this con was less noisy and rushed than others made this possible. I sold double the comics I had at Soda City, even though Soda City is a bigger and more established con.
The only trouble with selling to cosplayers is that I already have trouble recognizing people I don't know very well, and I am at such a disadvantage now if I see them again at another con. I meet the best people and I can hardly ever tell who I've met before!
I think that the only thing the Upstate Pop Expo needed was more attendance. Maybe bigger signs out front and on the corner, too. The Shrine Club center is right across from a nice little park (full of Pokestops), and not hard to find if you know what you're looking for.
Next year, when awareness of this fun and incredibly well-organized event has had time to percolate through Greenville, I expect the Upstate Pop Expo to be even better and at least twice as big. As soon as I know when it'll be, I'll make sure to post about it.
See you in the OtherRealm,
I'm writing this a little bit ahead and scheduling it to post automatically, because I don't want to forget about it and I ought to be gearing up for the SC ComiCon in March. Also, I'm waiting on some news and it probably won't be a good idea to dash off my first thoughts about it when it arrives. So this post is about being an indie creator – not just comics, but any kind of creative endeavor, and still being in that space between isolation and finding an audience. Usually, this is a bit of an expensive space, either in terms of time or money, and it's tempting to look around at other people who are getting all kinds of support from lots of people even if they haven't actually created anything yet.
“If somebody would just give me a chance,” you may be thinking, “I could make something just as good, or even better!”
But you'd be wrong.
Your ability to create isn't in question. Probably, maybe even likely, you could create something just as good or better than the best efforts of whatever current creator is getting resources simply donated to the project. Perhaps even better than what's currently available from major corporate outlets. If you're passionate about your vision and you have the work ethic to create it to a solid, consistent standard, that's going to show.
No, where you're wrong is the part about somebody “giving you a chance.”
Nobody gives chances.
Those aren't free.
Whatever chance you get from someone is a very precious thing, and it's on loan to you. If you don't pay back this loan of the reader's time, attention, or money with interest, you will not be getting another. Whatever you create must be worthwhile and do what you advertised it to do.
If you are so lucky as to get a chance from a reader, your work should repay that reader above and beyond what they paid in. More entertainment, more value, more art than they expected to get. Make your characters compelling so they can capture your reader's imagination. Make your plots tight so they're good on the re-read. Make your setting immersive and intriguing so your reader isn't bored or thrown out of the story.
Treasure the reader who loans you a chance. Some aren't going to think it was a good investment for them, and that's okay. If you advertise exactly what you're offering, and then deliver higher quality than they hoped for, you'll get more readers who will be glad they offered you that chance. Those are the ones who'll give you another, and you can keep creating for them.
At this point, you may be wondering how you can make anything without a chance to get you started. That's another post, and I'll try to get it written up next.
My big goal for 2018 was to learn animation, so let's see how I did. I bought a good, comprehensive textbook on animation, I read it over the summer, I poked around a bit with Clip Studio Paint's animation features, I downloaded the new update to Clip Studio Paint with enhanced animation features... and on December 27th I finally had time to try to animate something.
And I hated everything I did!
I erased and started over about four times, trying simpler forms each time. Finally I just mapped the path I wanted my creature to take with just a dot that represented its head. Once I got the dot to move through space attractively, I put a spine on it. Hated how that turned out. I couldn't get the entire thing to follow believably from one frame to the next. So I went back and erased that, replacing it with a shorter, straight spine for the neck to the limbs. I thought about the placement of the limbs in relation to the path and motion of my creature, and ended up with... kind of a short-stemmed flying lollipop.
But that actually looked fairly decent. It moved in space, growing as it came closer, shrinking as it moved farther, dipping down as the wings came up, and appearing to be propelled up and forward as the wings came down.
Now, adding detail so that it actually looks like the thing I want it to look like... I am so far off model. I've missed something terribly important but I misplaced my animation textbook over the holidays. I'm considering changing my logo to the flying lollipop. I need to make it slow down at three key points, but I think I've reached the limit to the number of cels I can add to my timeline. So I have a few separate problems to solve – I think the off-model thing isn't so terrible, since I can redraw each cel and fix that, and besides, things do get a little stretchy when they move. But the slowing down and pausing needs more cels, and I'm not quite sure how to get the program to add them in for me.
All this and I haven't even tried to export or upload anything. Uploading can't happen quite yet anyway, but any day now the contractors will come out and finish connecting the fiber optic. I am beyond excited for this. I'm going to have to get over my nervousness about being on camera so I can actually make and upload videos.
So I'm going to keep plugging away at it and once it's possible to upload video without timing out, I'll post my logo intro on YouTube and link it here.
Hey everybody! 2018 was quite a year here in the OtherRealm. I was quite busy writing a new superhero novel, which was picked up by Silver Empire Press to be part of their Heroes Unleashed novelverse. It's scheduled for publication this year and you should be able to preorder it in a couple months!
Also, even though there weren't as many comic cons over the summer, I was still able to save up enough to contract Mia to finish the line art for the first issue of SoulBound! I had also been practicing my digital art skills and was able to color and letter the issue myself. So it's complete! I can hardly believe it.
I still have work to get it ready for print, and I have to somehow get the funds to do the remaining nine issues, because once I start the series run, I really ought to publish it on a regular schedule. I'm looking into crowdfunding it but I have to work out the logistics first – it's not hard to figure out my budget for production and print, but then there's shipping and fees to take care of. I kind of want to get some customized goodies to put in – custom pens are a standard item, but I've also seen some really neat stuff like keychain compass/whistle combos, lip balm, hand sanitizer spray (which would be awesome for comic cons) and even journals and hats. But I want to be sure I can pull it off before I get too deep in the catalogs of nifty items – so, logistics. I'd love to hear from you about what kind of nifty custom thing you'd like from OtherRealm Studio.
Another huge step this year has been getting into book cover illustration and more digital painting, which has been a lot of fun. I'm looking forward to doing more of these. I love how my new digital paintings are turning out, and I'm now one of Booklocker's recommended freelance illustrators.
Finally, something I've been waiting for a long time – fiber optic cable! Technically... I'm still waiting. There's yet another set of contractors who need to come out and actually connect the cable. But once they do, I am finally going to be able to upload video, and art, and updates, and all sorts of good stuff. I'm going to get to do art streams and podcasts and everything! I don't know what to do first! Any suggestions?
Yeah, it's a bit past Christmas. I've been kinda busy. How about you? I hope you've all had a great holiday.
I have news!
The first issue of SoulBound is complete!
Not finished, but all the pieces are there and assembled. 20 full-color pages of art and story to get you into a world of sorcery and secrets with our hero Becca, and the introduction of the captive warrior Torrin. It's going to be awesome.
But just to make sure it's awesome, I'd really love for a few experienced comic creators to look it over and give me some feedback on how it can be improved before I declare it fit for print. So I'm looking into that.
It's been a long process, and it seems like the more I work on it, the more there is to do! I want to figure out how to make it easy for stores to sell and how to get it distributed to stores. A bar code would probably be useful for that. I don't want to get an ISBN unless I absolutely have to. Those are expensive and a bit much for an issue of a comic. And probably at least a few people quit reading at the second sentence of this paragraph and said, “Oh, I know how to do that! Just get it listed with Diamond!” Yeah... I've been thinking that over and weighing the pros and cons there. The farther I get in, the farther there is to go....
Related to that, I have some questions for you. If you are reading this, please sound off! I need to get a big sample and everyone counts. (You can answer in comments here, or if you want checkboxes, click here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/VK662KS
1. Are you interested in my comic miniseries SoulBound (a Fantasy Adventure with Beauty and the Beast tropes that takes place in another world)?
2. Do you shop at comic stores? If not, what store do you shop at that you'd buy comics from?
3. Do you buy comics online?
4. Would you rather buy digital or print comics?
Feel free to detail why or why not for any or all of these questions, and please help share the survey! If you are interested in my soon-to-be-released miniseries and you're not signed up for my newsletter, please sign up here!
If you aren't interested, no hard feelings! It's not everyone's genre or media. Maybe you know somebody who would be interested, though, and I would appreciate it very much if you would share this survey with them. I'm doing all I can to create a great, fun story packed with action, adventure, romance, mythology, and a twisting, turning rollercoaster of a story arc – but getting it in the hands of readers who will love it is the real tricky part.
I need to know how many readers and where they are so I can have it there waiting for them.
After this first issue, I should be able to go faster on producing the rest of the series. I've learned a lot, but there's more to go.
Are we all okay after the hurricane?
This week has tried to kill me, but it didn't have much to do with that. Hurricane Florence didn't blow in far enough to get us, at least not more than a few rainy, gusty days. I did attempt to do facepainting for the 4H art fundraiser at a local fair, which turned out okay considering that I (and Alicia, one of the other 4H moms) just painted as fast as we could before the rain moved in, while getting pelted with acorns and small branches blowing loose from the trees above us and holding down our supplies and tablecloth every few minutes. We lasted until about 11:30 and then had to pack it up when we were spending more time holding the setup together than we were painting.
I brought home a tiny cocoon one of the other ladies found that had blown down. Miss Chaos has been asking for a pet that's easy to care for, and apparently pet rocks are not “legitimate” pets.
The next day when I went to put up my chickens, I noted the misty rain and the slick steps, and told myself, “Self, be careful and don't slip!” Yeah, it didn't help and I landed hard on the bottom of the steps. And the bottom of me. It took a minute of feeling really stupid before I got up again and staggered out to finish putting away chickens for the night.
And just the night before last, I noticed the chickens were acting strange – Gertrude has been molting and brooding and sulking in the nesting box, but this time she was at the bottom of the ramp that led inside, like she wanted to go in but something was stopping her. So I had that much warning before I eased the lid of the nesting box open...
CONTINUED FROM NEWSLETTER
And found a huge black snake!!! It was over four feet long.
Joe clipped his flashlight in the nesting box to spotlight the snake and I stayed out to keep an eye on it while he went to find whatever equipment would be appropriate to deal with it. Unfortunately, my chickens were attracted to the light and wanted to go in the coop! So I had to catch each one – in the dark, by then – while checking to make sure the snake didn't move – and find somewhere to put them. I ended up kind of stuffing them in the upstairs of Oreo McFurry's bunny hutch. Fortunately there was just enough room for four chickens to fit. After we got rid of the snake, I found out they had decided this was their new home and they all complained when I had to drag them back out and put them in their own coop. Oreo McFurry had no comment.
Other than that, the chickens are fine, the bunny is fine, we're fine, and even Pepper the evil cat is fine, though she misses our long walks around the yard. I've been sitting at my desk too much, writing and drawing, and the weather and spiders make it a bit tricky to find a good time to walk.
Until next time,
See you in the OtherRealm.
The kickstarter ends - a new era begins!
The end is drawing near for the Heroes Unleashed campaign - the first of many epic launches for new novel series set in a massive universe of heroes, villains, action, and adventure. These are stories that bring back heroism - times may be hard but they won't be depressing, and the heroes strive to be their best instead of coasting on their reputations.
Soon, the special editions and exclusive first releases will be gone, so check out the campaign today. Even one dollar gets you immediate access to the first chapter of each of the first five novels getting launched! This is especially great if you want to get a look at the different approaches each author takes with their series.
Let me talk to you purely as a reader for a little bit.
I believe in this project. I know the authors are all excellent, and I'm excited to read about new heroes who I can really get to know and journey with, the way that's only really possible with novels. You know what it's like, when you settle in with a book and visit a whole other world for a little while. You know how hard it can be to find a world worth visiting and characters you're excited to meet and grow with. You know how frustrating it is to start getting into a book and then find yourself disliking the people you found there - the cynical "heroes," the golden winners who never struggle, the bland villains, the too-stupid-to-live idiots who stumble through plot hole after plot hole - and you wish for books that make you think, instead of stories best enjoyed if you don't examine them too closely. You want more from your reading than a few hours of forgettable entertainment.
As a reader, I am telling you that there is more here. Give Heroes Unleashed a shot.
The good news keeps coming! Comic cons and art gigs have been... well, not steady, but enough for my needs. So goes the life of the freelance artist. And this year I was determined to save up enough to give my artist, Mia Pearce, the rest of Soulbound to finish at once instead of a bit at a time. Goal achieved – I've gotten back in touch with Mia and we're going to finish issue 1 at last!
I'm so excited to be working with her again. Her style is dynamic and fun, and I think it fits perfectly with my portal fantasy adventure “isekai” story.
I recently got into watching Inuyasha, which is apparently the granddaddy of this genre. Who knew? I love the Japanese mythology and the world-hopping, monster-fighting fun. I think my comic is going to be a little like that, but with more classical mythology from the Western side, and I don't think it'll be quite that episodic. I'll need to finish out a limited series fairly quickly. Also, Torrin's tortured-hero inner conflicts are a bit different and I'm certainly not treating him like a puppy!
I have been following Alterna Comics for awhile now because they are taking a retro-practical approach to comics. Limited series of creator-owned comics, printed on newsprint, sold for $1.50 each, and the owner is unfailingly polite to everyone and constantly pushing to get Alterna Comics in all kinds of stores. I would love for them to publish SoulBound, but as of right now, I'm not quite sure how many issues the first limited series will have or how soon I can get them out. That would be pretty crucial information to include if I submit to them. But even if my series comes out more slowly than ideal or has more issues than they can accommodate, Alterna has been sounding out the idea of offering printer setup services so that other creators can have their comics on newsprint as well. I could do that.
The only possible wrinkle is that newsprint is said to be a bit more finicky to color for than the high-gloss fancy-pants archival-quality paper mainstream comics are printed on. On the upside, I haven't gotten settled into a coloring style yet and so I'm free to learn to specialize in colors for newsprint. I've already configured my Clip Studio Paint EX program. If anybody else is following along and wants to color for newsprint:
I had a great time at Soda City Comic Con, as always! My booth may have been at the best location yet - lunch service never could find us but everyone else did!
For the first time, everyone really saw and noticed my Hatchable Dragon Eggs and several people bought kits with coin jars so their new little dragons could have a lovely hoard. Those are going to be collectible, because I can't keep casting resin lids like I've been doing. That's just too much time to spend on lids when I could be making more dragons. Pop is working on a solution for better lids for me.
I have a pegboard now - we happened to go by a BI-LO that was going out of business and got a terrific deal on it. Now I don't have to worry nearly so much about table space. I've been experimenting with packaging and making backer cards, so with the help of a hole punch, I can get most things hung up nicely. Not only that, but with the magazine rack attached to the bottom, I can display and sell comics! I bought a big stack of Alterna Comics' all-ages and young adult comics to fill it. I sold out of Lilith Dark, that was a fun series.
I finally made those nice new aviator hats I've been planning forever! They are brown faux-leather vinyl with snap-in removable faux sheepskin liners, and pockets! The larger size I made already sold, so I'd better make a couple more like it.
I got to meet most of the fabulous Amazing Age team - their comic is one of Alterna's biggest series, and I had their comic series on the rack too.
I like Alterna's newsprint idea and the tireless efforts of the owner, Peter Simeti, who pushes relentlessly to get his comics into more stores and who thanks each and every person who @'s Alterna on Twitter with the news that they bought one (or more!) of Alterna's comics. So I'd love to either publish SoulBound with them or else have them help me get it printed. Like I said in a previous post, I don't care what kind of paper my stories are on - it's getting to readers that's important! And these comics can be printed so cheap, they retail for only $1.50!
And that reminds me about the news regarding that... but that's another post.
This has been an incredible year! I've been crazy busy and the Bloggery has been neglected. On the upside, there is a lot to write about!
Way, way, way back in the day, I called my blog From Slush to Pulp because I was submitting stories to the “slush pile” and hoping to get published, and “pulp” is what the old sci-fi/fantasy/adventure/weird stories were called because they were printed on cheap paper and churned out for thousands of eager readers. Well, I didn't care what kind of paper my stories made it to! The story is the important part, and the readers are what matters!
I brought back my blog title because I still feel that way. I'd quit using it in the first place because I felt awful about not trying to get my stories out anymore. There was a long period of time when I lost hope and life was just too complicated to ever have time to sit down and write fun stories just for myself.
Every now and then, I'd come across a magazine or an anthology that sounded interesting and like my stories would fit in there, and I'd write and polish and submit. And I got some very nice rejections in response. Several asked me to keep submitting to them, but I was writing so rarely that I hardly ever did.
I was not very nice to myself in those days. I was taking care of my family, but not myself. I let myself get anxious and worked up over every little detail both in my control and out of it. I had awful brain fog and was easily distracted. I couldn't get in the zone to save my life.
Gradually, I worked my way out of it. A big part of that was getting published in the Paragons anthology by Silver Empire Press. I'd been returning to Pen and Kail's story in my mind so often, they were like friends. It was such a thrill to see more people get to meet them that I asked the publisher if they were interested in the rest of their story. And they said yes, send it in when it's ready!
Suddenly, my writing was not a selfish thing that I did only for myself that took away from every little thing that I “ought” to be doing (that I worried I was failing at and was the very opposite of fun). My writing was wanted somewhere, even a tenuous, tiny bit. And I had just promised these people I'd have a novel, or nearly a novel, ready by spring. My little story about the lives of two people trying to overcome horrible childhood circumstances to become heroes, whether it was likely or not, had at least one reader who believed in it and wanted more.
It was like a switch flipped and channeled my nervous energy into something productive, and more importantly, fun. I was worried it wouldn't be enough to really be a whole novel because in the past, I edited as I wrote and pared things down to nearly nothing. But now, getting the thing finished was more important than making it realistic. I went for reasonably plausible and occasionally outrageously crazy instead, which is perfect for a superhero novel anyway. Any idea I had while writing that made me laugh got in. Any idea that made me cry – yes, there really were some scenes that I cried for – got in. Whatever made my heart pound got in. I had no time to worry about hypothetical other people maybe thinking a piece of my story – my heart – was stupid. The rest of the writing was just flow and making sure it made sense as it went.
There was a lot more there than I first thought in my story. So much that I had to break it in the middle and write an ending that I hadn't planned on being the ending, just so I could end on a note that resolved the first page's problem. There's a whole other book or two to go before Pen and Kail are done!
I finished book one and sent it on, I think, the last day of spring. Or at least close. I hope so, so that I technically kept my promise!
I went on a lot of long, argumentative walks with myself during the wait to hear back. I told myself that I'd given it an honest shot and that it was a solid story, not perfect, but once the rejection came back I could use my savings to hire an editor and try self-publishing it. I designed a whole backup plan, picked out my first and second choice freelance editors, knew what self-pub company I would go with, finished drawing my cover art and got started on the colors.
And then, Silver Empire sent me an email saying they liked my story but... they had a very big superhero novel project called Heroes Unleashed they were working on that they wanted my story for, and since that wasn't the traditional standalone novel deal, they wanted to know if I was interested in that.
Now listen. I am essentially nobody, due to my rare story subs, and at the time I was actually getting more paying gigs as an artist. I'm far below anybody's radar. And they want me to join their biggest project, with the most push they can get behind it, to launch a whole series, alongside their best, better known authors who will also be launching series and cross-promoting mine too and eventually working together to do crossovers.
Oh and by the way, my story was practically complete and ready to go, nice work, just need to tidy up the pacing in the last half and bring in a bit more foreshadowing early on (side effect of just going with fun stuff as it occurred to me), maybe a couple more things to help continuity in the universe. It should be next in the queue after the initial set of series is launched.
Are you kidding me. I thought I'd sent in a solid story, yes, but SO MUCH was in it that was just what I personally had fun with. Maybe my sense of “fun” wasn't weird and defective. Maybe it was worth something. I'd been trying to make myself believe that for awhile, but now that I really acted like I believed it and actually put it in the story, things happened.
During those long walks arguing with myself, I'd already worked through how sad I'd be if my novel was rejected by my first choice publisher. I'd resigned myself to a long and expensive slog of figuring out what I'd missed in my edits and how to get my book self-published and promoting it all by myself. And now I don't even need that plan because the first plan had come through and it was even better than I'd thought? Of course I was interested! Yes!!! It's like my series will have cousins to play with!
Here is the Kickstarter link for the first set of series getting launched - http://kck.st/2weqnbH
My characters have a cameo in the first book, Heroes Fall by Morgon Newquist!
I'm so excited to see everyone involved in this project succeed. We are going to bring a massive new universe of incredible heroes to read. Best of all, this is not a depressing anti-hero project. Superhero stories are where the good guys struggle but in the end, they win. That's hope. We all need that.
Artist, writer, creator of stuff. I just want to build worlds for you to escape to.