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.
Hi everybody! The biggest, most exciting project of my life is live now – the Heroes Unleashed Kickstarter!
This is a massive universe of superhero stories, told as a collection of interconnected novel series from different authors following their own characters in the same world. Cameos and crossovers will abound! Silver Empire Press is planning on releasing a novel a month so there will be plenty of stories for you binge readers out there. To make them all easy to find, even though each series has a different author, all the Heroes Unleashed stories will share a co-author: Thomas Plutarch, who lives in-universe and has his own superpower, the power of perfect recall.
Silver Empire is running Kickstarter campaigns to launch five series at a time. They are changing print and distribution services so that they get better quality books, but the downside is that the new place takes 90 days to pay royalties. Silver Empire wants to treat their authors well and pay them as soon as possible. So the Kickstarter acts as a preorder system so the authors can start getting paid for their books a lot sooner. This whole project has some meticulous and brilliant planning behind it!
The first series starts with Heroes Fall by Morgan Newquist, and two of my characters have a cameo in it! A young hero must solve the mystery of the tragedy that left one of the great heroes of Serenity City dead and another out of his mind and imprisoned while their former friend is the last remaining of the famous Triumvirate that once protected the city.
The next series is Gemini Warrior by J.D. Cowan. Two men are joined by the power of the Gemini Bracelets and are thrown into another world where magic exists. They must work together to save two worlds that want them both dead.
Then Hugo Award and Dragon Award nominee Kai Wai Cheah has a huge series planned, starting with Hollow City about a superhero police officer forced to turn vigilante. It's a grittier story but his writing is so good!
The Phoenix Ring by Jon Mollison follows a superspy as he takes down a massive conspiracy in this world of superheroes and mayhem.
Atlantean Archons: Apprentice by Richard Watts is about the last Knight of Atlantis, who has guarded the world against unimaginable horrors for thousands of years, and is now dying. But he and his unready apprentice have uncovered a plot to rouse a sleeping chaos god...
All this is just Phase 1 to make sure the first five series get a proper sendoff. At this point in the campaign, any pledge – even just a dollar – gets you the first chapter of almost every novel, right away. But the other pledge rewards include bundles of ebooks, signed paperbacks, and even signed special Kickstarter edition hardbacks. Check it out!
And guess what is most exciting for me personally – I get to be in Phase 2! My superhero novel series about Pen and Kail will get in a Kickstarter just like this, because my book got accepted as part of Heroes Unleashed too! I can't wait until I find out who else is in with me.
Come back tomorrow for my post on how that happened!
Do you notice anything about this book cover - aside from the fact that it's cool, I like the floaty girl and the epic skyline and the sunlight glinting just right emphasize the airy, hopeful, surreal feeling of the piece - look just under the title, where the authors are listed?
I've read a few of these authors, and I can't recommend them highly enough... and what on Earth is my name doing there?
I keep checking, and it's still there.
My story, "A Soldier Out of the Desert," was selected for this awesome anthology of hopeful and heroic superhero stories! Yes really!
What's even more exciting than my story getting chosen is the fact that this anthology exists. I can't tell you how many times I've bought an anthology to explore new authors and ended up hating half the stories for being depressing and perverse in the name of being literary or edgy or preachy or whatever the authors thought was more important than telling a good story. Having read and followed the submission guidelines myself, I can guarantee you that these stories will not be a complex, navel-gazing, depressing read.
Paragons was intended from the start to be a "superversive" collection of stories. Superversive is a new genre that is "inspired from above" as in higher ideals, higher purpose, higher morality and yes, even spiritual and religious themes are allowed, which is kind of unusual in science fiction. So it isn't all explicitly "Christian" stories - I know that because mine isn't - but the worldview is that good exists, and that good fights against evil, and that good ultimately wins.
Soldier Out of the Desert is not hugely action-oriented, but there is tension and some action and danger involved. It's a bit of a character study of Pen and Kail, where I also abuse my position as author to tease them mercilessly and set them up for all kinds of crossed wires. It's told from Kail's perspective and essentially asks, "You can take the soldier out of the desert, but can you take the desert out of the soldier?"
I hope you enjoy it! If you're excited to read this anthology, leave me a comment and tell me if you'd also write a review for it, and I can see about getting you a copy for free!
I have so much I want to write and no time to write it! I still have the other week's worth of posts for the Real Artists Don't Starve book to do and I really want to just sit down and knock out the whole Penance Copper story for once and all - but I've had a sudden upsurge in commissions this past couple weeks, too.
I'm really happy about that, but why is everything happening at once? Right when I go and undertake a massive daily blogging challenge... right before I need to do inventory for the EC3 comic con at the Anderson County Library (happening August 5th!) ... and right when I happen across an awesome new thing to try making!
Okay, that last one happens every week. But every week it's irresistible!
The giveaway for the book is still ongoing, just leave a comment on any blog post that mentions Real Artists Don't Starve to enter. At the end of the blog series, I'll draw a name and email the winner.
And I will finish the the blog series, because I have a lot to say about how I'm working through each chapter. So leave a comment, and check back! I don't have much left to finish up before I can get back to it.
Oh boy, I'm in the money... section. After mindset and market, we are finally ready to approach money. Good, because creating is expensive in such a variety of ways.
I'm at an interesting little spot about charging for my work. I'd love to donate to some causes, but if I had the money, I'd be using it to invest in my business so that I could get rolling and be sustainable and be able to do better than a one-time five bucks and good luck. So occasionally, I might do some work for free.
For example, facepainting is up to half my income when I'm at a con. But in a few weeks, I'm going to an event and while my family is off having fun, I'll be spending a few hours painting probably a hundred or so kids for free. Because I want those kids to know that my church cares about them and their interests and what's fun for them.
My sister is starting a nonprofit to help her with the costs of rehabbing fawn – she's been doing this out of pocket for years. And I made her a logo and we're going to put it on fundraising items like t-shirts and coffee mugs. I don't have the money to just give to her (besides that would feel a bit weird) but this I can do.
I've also turned down a few things that I used to do for free to help someone get a start. Well, they're started now! I have my own projects I need to get rolling. I don't go around expecting artists and writers to create for me for nothing, or even for a promise of a “share of the profits” later, just because I want stuff made now.
Creating takes spoons*, y'all – that needs to be paid for or nothing else is getting done. Why, if I didn't have to worry about my family's multiple food allergies and sensitivities and regular old pickiness I'd have spoons enough to move mountains. I've grown to hate food-related minutiae so very much....
Ahem. Back to the book! My main takeaway from this chapter is a bit hard to choose, since there are so many good insights here.
But here's a quote: “Our best work comes from the tension of trying to serve our craft and meet the demands of the market.” - Jeff Goins, Real Artists Don't Starve
This makes sense. If you have no restrictions, no borders to work within, no rules to obey – then your work will lack form and focus. I've created some of my best art with a single calligraphy pen and black ink. Limitations force you to push to the edge of what's possible within them. And pushing to the edge is a key component of creating art.
Craft and market define one edge of a dimension that can shift an entire culture. Money can be not just a tool to create more art, but also an easily quantified metric by which to measure the impact your art is having.
Are you making money? If so, that means people are buying your work, which means they want it, which means you are delivering something that they previously didn't have, with a level of skill they consider worth paying for. That's awesome! Tell me about that in the comments.
If you aren't making money, I have this great book here that you might win if you leave me a comment.
*Reference to spoon theory - a useful analogy to describe rationing energy.
Here's one for all the shameless self-promotion shamers out there - “Promotion isn't something an artist avoids; it's an essential part of the job.” - Jeff Goins
I just recently read an article – actually a fisking of a blog post – in which Brian Niemeier corrects this guy who was spectacularly misinformed about whose job it is to publicize the work to those potential readers and who claimed that traditional publishing would be the pinnacle of success for himself as an author. Go read it yourself - some much-needed mythbusting going on over there.
The reality is this:
Having satisfied readers at the end of your story is the pinnacle of success for authors, and if they like your work they'll happily keep coming back and buying it.
All artists, in every media, whether the work is made available via the traditional gatekeepers or through the artists' own resources, are responsible for their own promotion.
The easy thing to do is just slap up a sign (or a tweet, or whatever) that proclaims, “Buy my book/art/adorable miniature hatchable dragon for your change jar here!” and be done. Unfortunately that doesn't work, no matter how cool your work is. It has to arrive before the inherent awesomeness can be appreciated, and before that, it has to be bought, and before that, people must be convinced that not only is your creation great and worth paying for, but that you also are worth paying.
Maybe traditional publishers and art galleries and retail stores were once the big social clue that you as a creator were worth paying for your creations, but they're all pushing so much garbage now that they've eroded their own status. Now, the idea of “mass-produced for the lowest common denominator” has lost its futuristic shine and the human desire to feel special is manifesting again in the demand for unique and custom-made everything.
So how do you prove you're worth paying and your work is worth paying for, if not by being vetted by gatekeepers of increasingly questionable tastes?
By practicing in public.
This blog, right now, is me practicing my writing in public. It's been really good for my mind, because I tend to go drifting on autopilot if I don't practice critical thinking and laying out my thoughts in order. Autopilot is bad, because I'll miss things like manipulation, hypocrisy, and headlines that boil down to “X said this about Y so today's gossip is Z!” I might've missed my opportunity to troll a ridiculously biased automated survey yesterday and gone about my day subconsciously freaking out that someone wanted to shut down the government and stop my parents' Social Security payments! Really. The options on that last question were either to increase government spending, or shut down the government which would stop Social Security checks. The stench of false equivalency was so strong I could smell it through the phone – but only because I was awake and listening.
Honestly, I paid good money for my education and it'd be a shame to just let it rot.
But, I don't just write. I'm also a visual artist, so I'll also be working on practicing that in public too. It's been working for Vane Flores, who posts her sketches and animation exercises on social media and has attracted commissions from famous YouTubers, had her work posted on Disney's Bambi FB page, and her Ren & Stimpy fanart has gotten a personal response (and maybe a job! Go Vane!) from the characters' creator, John K. If you are a fan of animation and character design, go check out her work. If you need some character design done, get her now while she's still open for commissions.
This has been a very linky post! Got anything to say about any of that? Leave me a comment and I'll throw your name in the hat to win a copy of Jeff Goins' book, Real Artists Don't Starve, which I've been sharing my notes on chapter-by-chapter.
Fine, It's Called “Collaborate With Others.”
Having had my ideas of being the lone mad genius smashed to smithereens, this chapter proceeds to set the smithereens on fire and, once cremated, sweep them into a tiny jar with the label “Here lie the remains of the idea of being a hermit and an artist.”
Hermit artists may occur in nature, but no one has ever seen one. Because they don't go anywhere or do anything with anybody.
I saw the names C.S. Lewis and Tolkien in this chapter and pounced on it. I love their work and I'd gladly follow in their footsteps if only I knew what those footsteps were. Evidently their footsteps led to regular meetings with other great writers over a period of seventeen years. This didn't make their works derivative of each other, but helped drive a passion to improve and continue writing.
This sounds like the kind of writing crit group I'd love to belong to. A place of mutual respect and accountability (that the know-it-all guy who's more concerned with being the alpha than being actual help doesn't attend).
I am collaborating a bit already – my amazing artist Mia takes my ideas for the comic and pushes them farther as she illustrates, and I love getting her feedback and looping her input into the storyline as well. I want her to have her creative freedom as well, even though it is work-for-hire. As a bonus, I'm learning so much!
My next step (ugh, I'm getting behind on all these steps) will be to try again on the writing crit group front. Or some kind of creative group. I know so many amazingly talented, creative people but I don't actually see them in the same place at the same time.
Just a reminder, I'm giving away one copy of Jeff Goins' bestselling book, Real Artists Don't Starve, to one commenter on this blog series. So, leave me a comment!
Have you found a good crit group? Any tips for me?
P.S. I have some errands to run before I can post my very linky catch-up post, stay tuned!
I can see that in the future, I'm going to have to think ahead quite a bit more to account for holidays.
I've been trying really hard to be "present" for my family lately, especially on occasions. Trying to work when my husband isn't at work himself creates some friction, because he works a lot and there isn't much time that he's here and, you know, awake.
Simultaneously, even though I want to spend time with him, and time with us all together, what my sanity needs is some time to myself. By myself. Completely alone for a couple weeks would be awesome, but right now I'm making do with hiding for thirty minutes every morning behind two locked doors with the shower running.
Such is the life of an introvert who failed to reproduce introverts and instead bred outgoing cuddle bunnies. They are quite awesome and I do love them, but... not the constant physical contact or the incessant and repetitive chatter. (I can't tell you how many times I've been working hard at consciously, attentively listening to my kids, waiting for them to finish what they're telling me, and realized they just said the same long sentence four times in a row because they just wanted to talk and that was all they had to say.)
My mind is pretty fairly unraveled by this point, and today we have company, so I have a bit longer to keep it together and then... I'm not quite sure when I'll get to sort myself out again. It's been awhile.
I will be continuing the series on Real Artists Don't Starve shortly.
Just let me hunt up my brain; it's squishing around here someplace. If I can, I'll be back later today with a couple catch-up posts.
Artist, writer, creator of stuff. I just want to build worlds for you to escape to.