Lack of Updates, Post-Thanksgiving

Okay, updates have been sparse lately. This time last year I was posting almost every day, as I was elbow deep in "Trendsetter" work, pulling all-nighters right and left, flipping my shit at every roadblock, and cranking out pages like nobody's business. There's really not as much focus this year, because I really don't have one, over-arching project I've been working on. Honestly, with the exception of what little I've talked about here, I haven't been writing much at all since my trip fell through at the beginning of the month.

Not that I've actually had time. This week in particular I've had one free day, most of which I was asleep for. Holiday errands have started early, or maybe with Thanksgiving right on time, and I've been swamped. Today was spent helping my mom with some moving which... was what it was, and by the end of it I wound up with a lot of my stuff out of storage and stacked to the ceiling in my room here. Things now are a bit of mess, and it looks like I live in storage room of a comic book store or a library's magazine stacks.

Looking at my schedule, I don't expect this busy thing to end until closer to Christmas, either right before, and maybe right after [I'm not sure which would be preferable]. Coupled with the lack of inspiration, I can't promise that my postings will get any more regular, which is a shame because I've seen an upswing in traffic in recent months, and folks are actually commenting on things, both of which makes me think letting up any is probably not a great idea. Then again, I never exactly expected to get marvelously famous from this, so I'm probably worried about nothing. Anyway, it's just the way of things -- if I'm not writing, I'm not going to be talking about writing as much.

I have a couple things I do want to write about here, though, and will try and get both in this week. Tonight, I'm too exhausted from packing and unpacking boxes, and just generally handling precious memories and mementos with a bit less care than I prefer. I'm glad to have it done [the parts of it that are done], and now I'm going to vegetate for the rest of the evening.

Before I go, I'd like to thank Glen for giving me someplace to go on Thanksgiving. It was a real pleasure sharing the holiday with his family, and seeing Hillary again too, which was a nice surprise. His parents are especially charming, and I was glad they let me impose.

I'd also like to thank Sam's parents for their kind Thanksgiving wishes on Facebook. I've spent three Thanksgivings with Lauri and Ruben, and I miss joining them for the tradition dearly. I can only hope one day I'll be able to see them again. It's been too long.

I need some Pym Particles.

Today was sort of a fun day.

Convinced Justin to help me run some errands today. We started way early, like around eight thirty. I was worried about this, actually, as I'd been up late the night before [re: shocker], and figured I'd only get a few hours sleep anyway -- which usually makes me feel like garbage. I've never been good with nap-style sleep, and usually if I'm looking at an early morning these days, it's easier to just push on through until morning.

Woke up surprisingly fresh, alert, and not sick to my stomach. First time for everything, I guess.

Anyway. We had breakfast, hit the thrift stores in Charleston, and when that didn't turn up much more than a particularly hilarious exchange between the two of us ["We should buy cheap chairs. And then put them some place chairs wouldn't normally be." "Like train tracks!" "...YEAH!."], I decided to hit the mall while he ran lunch over to his girlfriend. I haven't been in the mall in a while, and was surprised all the Christmas regalia was up, trees and and lights and music and all. No crowds yet, I guess those will wait until after tomorrow, so it wasn't an unpleasant trip, though there were all sorts of fun flashbacks now that my old calendar kiosk has reclaimed its spot near center court.

"Flashbacks" might be pushing it. Maybe. I was seeing some things, though. Some things and some stuff.

Wound up getting a shirt and a tie, paying a little more than I wanted. I had heard vintage ties were coming back into style, but not here, apparently. Was hoping for a square end, or at least one of those early 90s ska skinny-ties. I don't understand this silk tie thing -- sure, for a wedding, a funeral, they're brilliant, but for a job-interview, or a semi-formal/casual-formal dinner, I'd rather not blind the others with the casual glean off my shiny tie. Sort of bugs me, because these aren't really clothes I like or enjoy wearing, and I'd much rather put the money into a new hoodie, a new pair of Chucks, or maybe some t-shirts [which I am running surprisingly short on, for me], or something I know I'll need and actually get a lot of use out of. But I'm getting the feeling I'm going to need this shirt and non-ostentation tie soon.

I'll talk more about that later. Not tonight, not now.

The real reason for today's outing was going home -- back to the boonies -- to box up comic books with boxes meant for... well, other comic books. I've mentioned before that I was stocking up on long boxes for the comics that would be slowly trickling out to me from Dad's, but recently Mom's decided she needs extra space out in the country, and because of this I need to get my expansive collection out of her hair. Which is a whole thing really, and probably better not discussed here, but the hangup is I don't really have loads of places to put comics in the small room I call home now. So, to save some space, and maybe make transitioning the books from one place to another more easily, I thought I'd use the long boxes I had to gather up my comics and get them tucked away somewhere. Justin was immensely helpful with this, and the whole job didn't take all that long -- I even had a chance to straighten up a bit for... no real reason in particular, but the point was, I got some of my stuff that's in storage better organized, and hopefully, more mobile.

So that's something.

It's still unsettling though, seeing so much of your life just packed up in moldy boxes. And there wasn't even as much as I remember, which is really such a mixed-bag of different feelings.

Safe to say no writing got done, of course, nor did any get done the day before thanks to an impromptu trip to the grocery store [never went grocery shopping so close to Thanksgiving. Practically had to start throwing strong-style elbows to get out of there]. So it's been a slow week, albeit a productive one in its way. It's actually kind of nice, all told. I like being busy for the holidays, because it makes them feel like the holidays, and that hasn't been the case with me for the past couple of years.

Someone really interesting asked to see some of my writing lately, and when I was gathering up things to e-mail them, I found that even with everything that gets deleted or abandoned mid-concept, I still had five or six different things that were actually show-able, and while I really wish it was more, considering the year it's been I felt pretty good to have so many things I wasn't mortified to share.

Uncle Phranc? Mom won't let her come to Thanksgiving because of her haircut.

I've been tooling with "Bourgeois Punk" this week and not really getting anywhere with it. I couldn't really keep it going after the first twenty or so pages of screenplay, so I thought I might try it in some other mediums. Found some success doing it as a comic -- jumping from scene to scene, and leaving out a lot of annoying exposition is satisfying, and I never really felt like I was writing anything just because I had to. Something's not quite clicking though, and I might take another run at it as straightforward prose.

The only thing I'm really worried about there is losing some of the more cinematic elements that cropped up in just the few pages I've written, a common trade-off for the added character perspective that a more novelistic approach provides. I don't want to let any of that go, but [in theory], there's something very appealing about using that medium to better convey the almost casual contempt my protagonist has for the world he's in. Which isn't exactly difficult to add, as a great deal of my revision time is spent taking out the judgmental prickishness that sometimes shines through when I'm writing about my characters or the world they inhabit.

In the context of film, this is a big no-no. If someone has a vague sense of douchebaggery about them, you don't just write that in the script -- you show them acting like a dick, treating people badly, doing the things that make me, as the author, look down on them, in such a way that the audience also get that. The simple term is "showing, not telling," letting the audience figure out for themselves that this character is a bad guy/girl, and not have them think that just because that's what the author thinks.

Perfectly valid. And while I'd never say that "showing, not telling" wasn't a great rule to have when writing a short story or a comic book, what's sort of appealing about those types of writing is that, in their own way, you get to show and tell, and if I want to have some of that contemptuousness shine through, I can. Certainly not always, and certainly not if the subject matter doesn't call for it [it probably says a lot about me that I can't think of an example of something that doesn't deserve a little contempt], but in the case of "Bourgeois Punk," which deals with a bunch of Mercedes Marxists and country club socialists, I think my natural inclination to go a bit negative could add a little flare to a relatively quiet protagonist.

The funny thing about this negative bit -- while I knew I was never Mary-Fucking-Sunshine, I never thought that it came through as bad as it did, until early on in a Steven Bach screenwriting class, when he went through my short page after page and asked me why I was being so hard on my characters. Hilariously, I never noticed I was being so judgmental about the characters I was writing, and even more hilariously [and one of the reasons I feel fortunate to have had Steven Bach as a teacher], Steven didn't discourage this habit, but instead, suggested I point it, and again, let the audience come to the same conclusion I had about the characters in the story. And though he didn't suggest this, I sort of decided right then and there that if I couldn't convey my contempt in a manner that was at least clever and useful, that I was going to do my best to take it out of the narrative.

I guess I'm hoping this is the door to key I keep trying.

I'm also mulling over doing some more shorts pieces. The few I did after Dad died were worthwhile, and I'm pretty sure I only stopped after things got so intense with getting "Nova" just perfect. I'd like to do some in the vein of what I used to write so often, just two or three characters on the screen, having conversations in front of a straight-shot stationary camera, "Clerks"-style. Kyle mentioned that if I did more of these, we might be able to take a weekend here or there to film them, and I think that would be beneficial, if not a lot of fun.

Of course, I just decided I'd like to get back to these, and even though it's only been a week or two since I got the idea in my head, my lack of progress is already annoying me. It's really hard to get any sort of rhythm going in my head, and worse yet, a lot of the deep talk disguised as guy talk or small talk just isn't coming to me like it used to. I'm going to sit down with a few indie films in the next couple of days, and maybe dig through some of my older notes, to see if something doesn't shake loose in the process.

Anything in that vein I finish [using the word loosely] I'll probably post here.

Haven't been sleeping terribly well again [shocker]. Upside is I've actually been getting some rest, though it's mostly been in the evening hours. I've seen more mornings than I have in a while, and frankly, I don't see what all the fuss is about.

I bought a vintage winter coat today on eBay. I think the biggest shocker to most people will be that it's not black. Sort of a rockabilly look to it, and apparently came from someone's estate sale. I've gotten one from a dumpster, and one from the military -- I guess it's way past time that I add a dead man's coat to that list.

Thanksgiving's almost here. Last year I got pretty maudlin about spending it on my own [and hey, I still could], but thinking realistically about how tenuous family has been, right now I'm pretty okay with the idea of an underwhelming dinner at some restaurant with my grandmother and her friends. It's not glamorous, but as tenuous as my family situations is, and uncertain as where I'm going to end up, it seems... pragmatic to get used to the idea of being alone on these family-type holidays.

I don't know. I have so much to say on this subject, and several related ones, but this probably isn't the place to air these grievances. Not that it's ever stopped me before, but it is this time.

Fun side-effect to having this place -- I'm starting to feel accountable.

Breaking blocks, hopelessnes [not mine], and a new Cash panel.

First off, Justin has posted a new panel from the comic [re: Calamity Cash and the Town with No Name]. In a rare switch, it actually has lettering, so even though it's a small panel, it's one of the most finished panels we've posted yet, and it shows off the font I talked about... well, awhile ago, which Sam had a hand in helping us find.

Actually wrote yesterday, which ended a bit of dry spell for me [though an understandable one]. The lack of writing is one of the reasons for the lack of posts here, and it was nice to shake off some of the things that have been happening, and just write something, even if what I did wind up with is a bit ridiculous. What I ended up with was this sort of semi-biblical, Walt Simonson's Thor meets Doctor Who kind of story, or as it would probably better be explained, Conan the Barbarian versus the aliens. I've never been a big Conan fan, though, so I like my first summation better.

Even though I got a rough outline for what the story would be about, the premise is so ridiculous, and the little bit of dialogue that would be in it [warrior cavemen and aliens? Not my kind of small talk], that I might forgo actually writing it, and just have Justin do a poster of one of the big battle scenes, or something. If he does, the end result will, of course, be posted here. And who knows, maybe visuals will actually spur me to write the whole thing -- they have in the past.

I thought a lot about some of the fantasy-level stuff I grew up with while working on it. Though I certainly have some non-schlock influences in that area, most of what I was thinking about during was "Hercules: The Legendary Journeys" and "Xena." Other than introducing me to the Raimi brothers and Bruce Campbell years before Evil Dead, the Kevin Sorbo and Lucy Lawless-centered television shows held sort of a high place for me, if only because the syndication-only, hour-long camp-fests hit at a very convenient time. My weekends as a kid were notoriously long -- living in the middle of nowhere with no neighbors, especially no neighbors my age, and only ten television channels made a Sunday or a Saturday something to be gotten through, and not enjoyed. The days dragged, and a couple of hours of bare-chested monster punching [oh man, I almost didn't write that] made the time pass a lot faster, and the shows were nothing if not fun. Sometimes I wonder if I wouldn't have gone native if not for that.

So there's a little of that in there too.

Lot of my stuff lately has had a sort of sci-fi bend. Escapism, more than anything else. Probably reasons for that.

This comic went up over at Modern Mythology Press today. I always enjoy their stuff, but today's comic is called "Hopelessness" and plays well with that whole sad/miserable thing I like so well myself.

Spent most of last night defragmenting hard drives and trying to get my laptop and my grandmother's home computer working in top shape again. We're switching internet providers at the end of the month, and it seemed like a good time to get everything working at peak condition again. There's a slim chance in the switch-over that I might be without service for a couple of days [unlikely, but always a possibility], so fair warning. I haven't really been posting enough lately that anyone would notice, anyway. Still, by the end of it, the internet here should not only be faster, but more reliable too, and I'm always glad for the upgrade.

Finally my oft-linked friend John is having surgery soon, and it would mean a lot to me if anyone who can would contribute to his surgery donation drive. I know I don't get a lot of traffic, but if the few people who do visit would just help spread the word, I'd appreciate it. Again, you can read all about it on the account page at Pledgie, or get John's own thoughts here. It's almost Christmas, after all.

Points... Of... Interest!

Justin has a panel for the new page over on his blog [Re: Calamity Cash and the Town with No Name]. I've seen the whole thing, and it looks amazing. I know I say it every time, but each page Justin does impresses me more than the last, and that's really saying something if you were to see just how crowded the pages he's been working on have been. I mentioned it here once before, but there was a pretty heavy rewrite done on my part after Justin had already started, which meant only the last half of the book was changed, and even then I couldn't really add new pages -- so any new content had to work in the number we already had set aside for the book, which means things got kind of... cramped.

It's the reason when I wrote "Real Quality Comics" I stuck much closer to my 4 panels per page rule.

I've also been parodied over at Ian's blog. Ian's doing a series of creative homages to various kinds of blogs and online journals, and the Mojo Wire got to be lampooned this week. I particularly appreciate the Gin Blossoms reference in the title, and feel like with this out there, I can take a break and not write so much today.

Still re-orienting a bit here. Hopefully get back into the swing of things soon.

I don't hate you for disrespecting my nostalgia, though.

I am learning the subtle art of making coffee. And what I'm learning is that I'm not very good at it.

The machine is supposed to do most of the work. My pot at home, or where I used to call home, certainly did. I remember the first time I used it, when I realized, staring blankly at the filters in front of my then girlfriend, that I had no clue what I was doing, that this plastic thing in front of me was demanding attention from someone other than a perky, round-bottom barista, or rather more often, to the Jason Mewes looking guy who was just trying desperately to sling as many espressos as he could across the counter until he could afford to get the hell out of that place, and probably, out of the state. Post-script to the story? I went back to my coffee shop a few months ago, just to check, not to stay, I really couldn't have sat on that couch again. And he was gone, that morning saint who'd memorized my coffee-with-soy, he'd finally gotten out.

I saw him later, working at the coffee place next door.

I was lucky. In that moment without him, that time when I needed to look macho and knowledgeable in front of this girl, to show I had the manhood necessary to operate the coffee maker, I had absolutely no clue as to what I was doing. And that girl let slide. Though I am young, I think that there is rarely a show of love so strong as not pointing out another person's stupidity, save perhaps a few Lloyd Dobler-esque gestures or something involving one parachute.

It was a brilliant moment of triumph for me, and one she let me take complete credit for. I have no idea why, but if anyone here is eyeing sainthood, I'd consider taking notes. And from here on in, I felt I could master any coffee machine, or at least any that relied so heavily on the common three-part construction of maker, filter, and pot.

Post eviction, I found a new challenger. It didn't look any different [okay, so maybe it looked older, though one wonders if even the most posh and modern coffee makers manage to look as though they were made after 1979 -- a trait shared only by the digital clock], but there was something not quite right, one might almost call it contrary, and it had no sympathy for someone careless in its use. Too much coffee, and it's bubble over, beating back the filter from it's inner walls and filling the belly of the pot with grounds, while too little meant brown water that tasted more or less like what came from the tap. Measurements had to be exact, and not exact to any particular, measurably amount, no, it had to be exact to the old, disposable cup someone had once left in the container now holding the grounds. It didn't want to give me coffee; it wanted to give me a hard time, and to leave it the hell alone and let the woman who had cared for it diligently for years to continue to brew everything just right.

I find I hate it, for not respecting my nostalgia.

I spoke to Kyle today about "Nova." He's taken on another side-project, but feels his schedule will be freeing up a bit soon, and work will probably happen then. I've been thinking about some design things, particularly for the wings of the angels, something maybe a little more current to the trends as well as easier and cheaper for us to do. Nothing permanent enough to mention here yet, but maybe in a few days, after Kyle and I have had some time to ruminate on it.

I'm only up now, drinking my weak swill I made myself, because my allergies have hit me pretty hard, and sleeping just wasn't on the agenda last night.Which is a shame, because earlier in the day I finally slept quite a bit, and caught up after the two 36+'ers I pulled in tandem there. I find myself desperately wishing it would freeze outside, just to give me a little relief.

My last post made it sound like I was getting back to work. I really thought I was, but after sitting with several piles of papers all I could think was how I had no idea what I wanted to work on next. Barring 'want' there's nothing that needs my immediate attention, so that's out as well. Something new might be cool, assuming it wasn't a "completely take over my life" sort of something new, but I'm always short on inspiration while trying this hard. A lot of other writers have told me that at times, it's better to "just write" which is, more or less, what this post is, me putting myself at the computer and just trying to produce, even if the end result isn't very good. And anyway, it's my blog, so if I want to turn my mind out and see if it does a trick [that works on so many levels], then that's my prerogative.

Lot on my mind. Might need to sit, re-organize things up there a little bit before I can get to work again. But there are these panels in my head, like comic books, all drawn by John Romita Jr. [I have no idea why I'm thinking in his style, but it's happened before, in high school, so much so that if I met the man I might ask him to draw Jay Gatsby], of myself and others, of things I watch on TV or read that I've written. And they seem so... clear. It makes me want to get it all out so I can look at it proper.

So there's that.

I wish I had a novel in me. This is national novel writing month or something ridiculous like that, where everyone and their cousin are trying to write one, and I find it offensive for a number of probably unfair, and most certainly elitist reasons. The novel is one of the few formats/genres I still put up on a pedestal, and the idea of attempting to finish one in a month causes me physical pain. To illustrate, people have, usually lovingly, told me that I tend to agonize over whatever I'm working on, and I currently think a novel is too big of a mountain for me to climb. Which on the surface probably doesn't mean anything to anyone but me, yet it seems like a heavy responsibility to shoulder just because an internet holiday tells you to. Think about what you're taking on, is all I'm saying.

Eh. Ignore me. I'll always be uptight when I think folks are being cavalier about writing. Imagine how indignant I'll get if one day someone starts paying me for it.


I know there weren't any posts for the last week, but I had plans to take a trip and that kept me from doing much writing, especially here. Barring drastic changes [again], it doesn't look like I'll be going anywhere for the time being, so I'm going to try and get back into the routine.

It was weird to miss a week, especially with how I've been feeling lately. Everything has seemed very present, like something is right on my heels, and I'm trying to out run whatever it is. It's hard to explain, but it feels like a deadline, or maybe more like a drum beat from an oncoming army. There's no way to guess what's coming, when it will arrive, or if it's even really on its way at all, and I will freely admit it could all be in my head, but I've felt this real urge to just sit and write -- get things out of my head and onto to paper, even if they're just truncated notes scribbled here and there.

What I feel like I need to do is actually finish some things. If it were any other year, it would be ridiculous to me that things like "Trendsetter" and "Familiar" are sitting unfinished; it isn't any other year, of course, but the point stands. Following up a little better would be nice too -- I finished the script for the RCQ script [Re: Real Quality Comics #1] ahead of schedule, and even found a few places where I might find interested artists, but I didn't keep with it, even though I have three or four outlines for new issues. It's all there, the oft-repeated mantra of this blog might as well be "I just need to do it" and these things are no different. Of course, that's also simplifying it a lot. There's something intangible between "this is what I need to write for this scene" or "this is what needs to happen on this page" to what actually goes on the page, and making that leap, at least for me, takes a lot of time.

I don't want this to seem like a "Randall gets his shit together" entry because that would involve me actually getting my shit together, and we're all better off if I don't have to do a "Randall's sorry he didn't fulfill his promise and get his shit together" post later. But the past couple of days have been prime ones for rethinking things, including some of the stuff I was working on before Dad died that I haven't really picked up since. I think there were ideas, even projects that were really present and important to me, that I sort of "gave up" when that happened, not unlike how I gave up video games for that period of time there.

I spent a lot of today reading over "Trendsetter" again, and thinking of some alternatives to putting so much of it in a Walmart. Having the character of Eddie be a flea market pitchman isn't the best idea I've ever had [and Jesus, I'd have to re-write more than half of TS to accommodate that], but it was fun to play with his dialogue, and get the character back in my head.

And it also reminded me how much I've wanted to write something about Evangelical youth ministers...

I'll see tomorrow if it goes anywhere. Cheers.

Found wanting.

Last night I did the first twenty pages of "Bourgeois Punks," before stumbling about where to take the story after I'd already had a coke party and a funeral [the first I put in with great trepidation, especially having read John's recollection of workshop writing at Bennington]. I don't really know if I'm going to follow up with it, as while I already have a strong Act 3 in mind, I really have no clue what the end of Act 1 and the beginning of Act 2 is supposed to look like. I only mention it at all because it's rare that my throw-away writing takes shape like this did -- usually what I end up with is a scene, a conversation, or an outline, but here, there's a beginning, and several scenes, and all the characters slowly hit their mark of who they're supposed to be.

Besides, at 20 pages of a screenplay, it's hard to not start thinking about the math. If it only tops out at 90, then it's entirely plausible that a first draft could be done in around five days. Of course, in this case, that would rely on some flashes of brilliance and inspiration to get me through the next thirty or so until the things start happening that I know I want to have happen, but still. People have been telling me more and more lately not to toss so much out, and though I've always felt my process has worked very well with me, it's hard not to argue with folks who've managed to put together a slightly more robust body of work than I have.

The story for BP is nothing special. Pretty much a straight romance with hipsters, something I keep toying with but putting away as soon as it starts to resemble anything. Ending takes a different turn than what I think most people would expect with the genre, so there's that as a saving grace, along with a denouement I think I could actually sit through if I were watching it. There are a lot of characters [in this first twenty I just barely squeeze in nine], and the pacing is sort of wonky, and would probably have to be reworked heavily if I ever wanted to do anything with this. Not strange for me is knowing where I want to go, but not being very sure as to how to get there, and I think I might have just kept writing tonight if not for the fact that I had no idea what the next scene should be.

This morning, I've been thinking about "Un-filmable" -- specifically, if I'm any closer to getting it made than I was when I finished it over a year ago. The funny thing is, it doesn't seem like such an impossibility now, as it has in the past. Pragmatically speaking, and working from the numbers Kyle and I were using on "Nova," I think it could probably be finished in two-and-a-half weeks for somewhere in the area of 25,000-35,000 dollars. Not that I'm anywhere near being able to get that kind of money, but still, with the few connections I have, if funds were to materialize, I think I could do it easily.

So much is about money, of course. And I'd probably have to take the rain scene out. At least the exterior one.

It's good to get writing done, as I actually hadn't done much of anything since making my Halloween post. Three days isn't really a dry spell, especially for me, but for some reason it felt like one. Not getting any feedback on it was kind of a bummer, but let's face it -- not that many people read this blog, and sometimes replying to comments slips my mind, which I doubt encourages people to do make any.

I'm going to try and do a "PsyOps" outline in the next couple of days. I was looking at how many notes I put together in that one period of time when things were just really flying onto the page, and realized if I ordered these things a bit, I might actually have the story I've been looking for. Not sure yet, though.

In an interesting aside, Julia and Zoe both have blogs up about some of their influences. Both good, interesting reads, especially for my interests. Speaking of my interests, the Lucid Despair blog also has an entry up on "Heart Throb Comics," that though tongue-in-cheek was just fascinating to me, especially considering the "Real Quality Comics" script I did recently.

All for now. It's been nice to write a little, but the past 12 hours or so have been rough.