Amending my Christmas List.

I'd like some snow.

The near sixty degrees that the five day forecast is currently touting is more than a little disappointing. Hell, it doesn't even really have to snow. I'd just like some nice, crisp, cold weather. You know. The kind of cold that overcoats and thrift store sweaters were made for.

It's Justin's birthday today. We've been good friends for several years now, working on a comic together, playing Magic, taking up tables in IHOP for hours at a time. Hatching crazy schemes, and actually seeing some of them come to fruition. Okay, so that's mostly Justin, but still. Christmas is a pretty crazy time for him - his wedding anniversary is at the end of this month, as his birthday, as mentioned, and his wife's birthday, and then, of course, also mentioned, Christmas. I just wanted to wish him a happy birthday here - he's not much for internet salutations, but what the hell.

It's more and more looking like "Calamity Cash and the Town with No Name" will finally be finished after the New Year. We talked about some other things we might do for the occasion, too. Justin's picked up some neat toys over the past few years while we've been working on this thing, so there might be some neat extras, if for no one else, then for us.

Christmas has really come together. I have one thing left to wrap, and you know, a few people on my list didn't quite get covered, which is unfortunate, but it's late enough now, I figure it's just best to wait, and make it up when just the right gift jumps out of me. I did my best, and I've really enjoyed myself this year. I've stayed busy, and I haven't gotten down, or at least as not down as I have been in the past. Ideas are percolating, and I've been reading a lot of things, and even though it isn't the same as writing something for yourself, it's been nice to help others, or just remember what polishing work is like. I think I got pretty discouraged there, and forgot that there are a lot of different parts of the process, things I love just as much as the writing. It's easy to look at it all as just... the work done after the fun part, but it's not. I'm looking forward to getting back to my own stuff, even put out some feelers to some folks, who might help with some perspective things. And right now, I'm enjoying the reading, the editing, etc.

Anyway, just wanted to chime in. Been neglecting this space. Don't see that changing until after December is over. But we'll see.

Christmas List - 2011

This is the tree this year. It's pretty similar to the years past, and the picture was sort of... haphazardly taken with a computer web cam, which explains the quality. It's just not really a point and shoot job when you're dragging mouse work, and separate monitor into it. Angles, and angles. Apologies.

It's sparser than last year. I didn't use as many lights, or as many beads, and that's weird for me, because I generally think a full tree is the best kind of tree, and last year I thought it was pretty sparse too. But the tree's getting kind of old, and it sags a little under too much weight, and even though I spent the whole night on it, more of that might have went to watching Red Dwarf than digging through the decorations.

Plus, I had to cannibalize some strings of lights for the lights that wound up on there. I don't think I ever realized how simple Christmas lights were until I had to pull out bulbs and take a few sets apart. The upside to this is that fixing them was not as beyond me as I expected it to be. The downside is, as with most really simple things, it's really simple to screw up the perfectly good lights too while trying to fix or replace the bad.

Still, it made me feel handy. That doesn't happen very often.

I was writing last week, this short fantasy story called "The Mouth Devours." The plan was to post it on Friday, but the honest fact is, even though it was only a couple hundred words long, I decided it wasn't really up to my standards - which, if you've seen some of the prose I've put on here is pretty low. So, I nixed it. I meant to pop in on Friday or Saturday and write... something, but I didn't really see any reason to force it if I didn't have to. And I didn't.

Things have been busy. I actually only finished my Christmas shopping today, and that was "finished" with some caveats. There was a new book to review, and I actually polished it off a little faster than usual, just because the extra income to recover from said shopping would be nice, especially with other expenses that might be coming up after the first of the year. I'm also reading a friend's manuscript for them, and I'll admit I didn't really think about doing that with all of the Holiday-related merriment, which was... terribly short-sighted of me. And odd, because I really have procrastinated myself into a crunch in a very long time.

I'm actually pretty good at controlled procrastination, so that's odd.

Justin and I hung out on Thursday night - the long Magic games have been a lot of fun, and something I've come to look forward to each week. Surprise news this week, but Justin thinks on his current schedule, we could see "Calamity Cash and the Town with No Name" finished by February. Once the pages are finished, there will be a lot of work to be done by me again, and I'll detail it all here, as usual.

Something I wanted to add... I do something like this on the blog every year, where I write a letter to Santa, asking for whatever it is I want for Christmas. I have an Amazon Wishlist I sometimes give out which is embarrassingly huge, and my guess is, given the date, anyone who was going to get me anything and knows about it probably has already has. And anyway, the more I think about it, the more I realize that, honestly, I don't really want anything.

I mean, yeah, I know everyone says that. And I'm not going to turn down some book I want, and yeah, my scarves have all seen better days, and I have a Steam Account now, if anyone's interested in getting me a game or something on the cheap or just friending me to play Spiral Knights when I eventually get to that, and a bottle of Scotch wouldn't be so... sorry, no, no, I really am kidding with all that... because this time of year, like that's not what this is about for me. I just enjoy all this, you know? The music, and the shopping, and the decorations, and all the trappings, be they self-indulgent, commercial, and obnoxious, or just quiet, modest, and stirringly heartwarming. A celebration should be both, I think. I think that is what celebrating is.

So really. I don't want anything. If you must spend money on me, make a donation to some charity. RAINN's good, not perfect, but good. Honestly, anything pro-women's issues, or some place that's gay and/or trans friendly. Anything social justice related. Hell, try out some micro-lending. Just... nothing religious, no food banks, make sure you know where and what the money's going to.

It's gloriously cold out. There keep being promises of snow. It's Christmas time. I have this marvelous girlfriend, and a, at times mercurial, yet still incredibly affectionate cat, and yeah, things happen, setbacks like the thing with the story that I was going to post on Friday, but I feel like... it's slow, but I'm getting it back. I'm writing again, and I feel comfortable in that skin, being "the writer." Specifically, being the kind of writer I am.

Mind you, my moods are about like my cat's, so this could all change spectacularly, and soon.

So I'm enjoying my Christmas specials, the decorations, all the prep, so much of it I will never see the payoff of, but just knowing that payoff is there, maybe some of what I do will brighten someone else's season, that's really enough for me.

All right. I am not so sentimental that I can't tell when things are getting kind of saccharine. So here's the thing, Santa. I just want the mail to run a little faster, so everything can get to where it needs to be on time, and I just want a little bit of this confidence to stick around after the New Year. And that's all I'm going to ask for.

Happy Holidays, everyone.




P.S. I put something like this on Facebook, but I want to put it up here, too. I'm no stranger to depression. It's very much a part of who I am, and maybe it shouldn't be, maybe it's mad that I put up with it sometime. Being tortured is quickly falling out of vogue. But all that aside, I do still find it in myself to enjoy things, enjoy things like this time of year, but I would like to say, I know it isn't always so easy.

Look, it's hard. Life is not what I'd call the most pleasant experience... most of the time, but there are bright spots, and it's easy to let all the times without them get you down - sadly, especially, when there are bright spots. I know what it's like to be celebrating something, but also feel depressed, disgusted, just generally worn down by everything. And I know that for most people, the first thing you get when you mention to someone, especially this time of year, that you're down, you're probably just going to get a nattering "Why can't you just be happy?" Anyone who thinks it's actually that simple is mad, and not nearly as sensitive as they think they are. And anyone who's said as much lately... contemplate sending a very apologetic Christmas card.

Sometimes it's not as easy as just cheering up. And it can be really hard when you can't reconcile the good with the bad. And if you're feeling like you're struggling, well... be damned with the cheer up people, and don't be turned off by suddenly more upbeat disposition. Call me, write me. Or if not me, find someone to talk to, reach out. It's hard. You might have to do it a couple of times, before you find what you need. But keep trying.

To quote myself, it takes some serious mad skills to handle it all on your own, and trust me, not having said skills is probably more healthy than not.

Take care of yourselves.

Merry Gentlemen.

Christmas time. It is early yet, but I'm starting to get the feel for the season.

Stayed up all night putting up the tree. It may seem a little silly, maybe even ill-advised for someone so insomnia prone, but there's a bit of thrill to be had from the look on my grandmother's face when she wakes up to see a lit and decorated tree. Is this the fourth year I've did this, or only the third? I swear, I only remember two previous, though I have been here for one Christmas more. The blog proves to be woefully inadequate at helping me figure this out, so since I can only recall going to "all this trouble" two other times, I'm going to assume that this is my third.

Was glad to post "With Apologies to Regina Spektor, and Aaron the Moor" last week. Felt good, like I might be getting a handle on writing again, even if just in short spurts, and even if, for the most part, what I was doing was just transcribing and editing things scribbled down in the old moleskin. That process was interesting to me - I noticed again I have this habit of editing over myself, by which I mean changing things actively, as I type them up, only to find much of what I change is actually present in the next sentence - that the work was now following the direction I was wondering moments before why I didn't think to put it in. I guess by the end, it feels a lot like I'm cutting myself off at the pass, but it's not really a bad thing. I just need to be more patient, and probably not try to edit while taking things from paper to the computer. Patience is important.

I was thinking of a friend I don't see as much as I'd like to. He and I share some similarities in our outlook on things, and in reflecting on that, and wishing we hung out more, I wrote up the skeleton for a short comic. Not entirely sure what's going to come of that - but I'd like to put it into proper format in the next couple of days.

Should have posted about this earlier - but one of my awesomely talented collaborators, Ander Sarabia, and my oft-linked comic-loving compatriot Eric Esquivel, have a Kickstarter going for their next book "Thor: Unkillable Thunder Christ," a loose continuation of their "Blackest Terror" outing, which I believe is due to be released soon. They've already made their goal, and doubled it [and then some], but realize that making comics isn't cheap [even without this level of penetration and the support of a label like they have, you're liable to spend a thousand dollars or more just to get a book to print], and any extra they get not only goes to making up the deficit the first comic put them at, but also assures funding to get the third in the series made.

The holidays are a great time for giving, folks, and it's a great project to get involved with. And us creatives need to look out for each other - who knows when we might need similar help?

More soon.

With apologies to Regina Spektor, and Aaron the Moor.

Matters of succession – you know, sire, these things all started with a sort of logic, a man becomes a king, takes a wife – a queen and begets a son, and when the king dies, the son becomes king himself. And other sons and daughters, while complicating things, were sensible too, as after all, no king lives an… unaccompanied life, rather none should, and with the world as it is, other sons, other daughters, are, well, a necessary evil. Which, no, my lord, apologies, my lord, not that I’m suggesting you’re – not that I’d suggest anything of the kind, of course. Just illustrating, how something quite logical became not quite so, and thus, we can’t just think of it as such.

Though I suppose, if we could – if I could be very common for a moment, if you might humor that, and speak of these things logically, and we could consider them such again, as they were meant to be. You are, and again, sire, I mean nothing by this but what it is, but you are one in a line, and you were, let’s be generous – and truthful, my lord – set in that line as a contingency, a back-up, an “understudy” as I’ve heard the players it call it, if I may be so profane. And if allowed, while being profane, I might well point out the obvious, not to imply that you are not aware, but just for the sake of frankness that you are not the first, or second, or even third of said contingencies – you are, remarkable by the very nature of it, the thirty-second of the line.

Which is never to be taken lightly, as one thirty-seconds from the king is greater blessed than all but – yes, thirty-one others, well met, my lord. But despite that, your title will always come with its own privileges, its own rewards and responsibilities, the greatest of which, and perhaps, to some, not you sire, but perhaps to your brothers and sisters, the most burdensome, is that you, like them, have been tasked with the protection of your line, the kingdom – no, your kingdom, like your father, your king, and your country. And yes, all its citizens. Your citizens, sire. And so important it is to secure these things that even you, the thirty-second child of your father, our king, both as chosen by God, could be called, by great circumstance or terrible tragedy, to serve.

The weight of it! The consequence of king and country, that it needs not two, nor three, but thirty-two to safeguard itself. Thirty-two for the line to endure! Does anything better illustrate the importance of the throne? How you bear it, how you live with such a burden placed upon you, even with the illusion of being so many times removed – for I know you feel it as though you were first – I cannot fathom it, my lord. Yet I see you, and it, your onus, lying heavy about your brow every day.

And knowing how it weighs upon you, seeing you wear such worry on your brow – hidden so well, I might add, that only I, who humbly your lord must love so well as for you to drop your guard to – I must – no. No, I must not. To disparage your siblings – I couldn’t, though it’s just, no, sire I just wonder, for you have never said. And I, courteously, have never queried. So respectfully, I must ask, do you trust those who come before you, do you believe they grasp that? Do they know the responsibility that you so plainly see?

Apologetically, my lord – my prince, as you are the, and mine, of any of them, I must now speak honestly, tempered but honestly, and if that answer you would say is yes, that they know, that they appreciate it as much as you, why if any man but you would make such a claim I would think them a fool, if not call them such. And if sire, if you are of the mind that would say no, or even say yes with doubts, just doubts, then can you say truthfully that the order of succession should really, truly be managed just by order of conception? That men and women, even if of your own blood, who cannot, or will not – yes, who might outright refuse – understand their responsibilities do one day deserve to be placed on the throne? Superseding even someone who grasps the concept so fully, implicitly?

Which would be impudent of me to suggest, and I wouldn’t dare, of course, as it is not my place to speak of your family in such terms, and raising such questions, well that, that is the privilege of a king… and his children, I might think, but surely not one such as I. And you, you in your wisdom, so young yet, but already a man of intellect and breeding, I know what you would say of the manner, only because I know the measured, benevolent response – that when it comes to your siblings, your brothers and sisters, all of this which we speak is their right, and theirs alone. That they are your blood, and more importantly, the king’s blood, and they need to greater vindication than that.

And I know, my lord, that some, some of them you love. Others, I know of others among them that at least command your respect, your fealty. Their rank, more, their place as a part of the king’s line, of your line, rather, your family’s, demands loyalty. Protection. Submission. And the last, as thirty-two, you know much better than any of the others, and the rest, the privileges they have, which only you, if I may be so bold, have ever properly grasped as to why they are afforded to them, and to you at all.

But yet… their not grasping this, their… forgive me, shortcomings, they vex me, sire. As your servant, and as your friend, and as someone who sees you suffer stoically beneath them. And for you to see their abuses, which neither I nor anyone of my rank would – should indict them for, but rather in just recalling them, as instances – yes, that’s more proper, you’re right, these instances where they wield their power, their privilege, what you so aptly noted as their right, with no regard for the price that others must pay… do you never suppose such behavior, it threatens the line? Is not doing so, despite any other reckless disregard they commit, a danger to the line, nay the very crown and its dominion itself? For is not their very presence owed to it? And in not safe-guarding it is that not a debt that goes unpaid?

I hear the men in the square some days, criers for the church, talking about moral deaths. And how they befall families like waves upon the shore, engulfing many until the strongest among them, the rocks upon the coast, pushes back against the tide, and send the wanton roil back into the ocean. Moral deaths threaten them, your brothers and sisters, and I see from your face, you think perhaps they have befallen a few, maybe more. And you worry, my prince, I see it on your brow again, because you allow me to, I’m sure, wondering who the burden to be the strongest is upon now– who among them can hold the line, and push back to assure it perseveres, no matter the cost?

I am sorry for my forthrightness, but we both know you worry it is you. I tell you my lord, it is no cause for concern, for there are no worries in that which you already know. And you, I promise, even as the thirty-second child, indeed perhaps because of that, have always remembered what too many have forgotten – that the burden is yours, that is has always been yours, just as it has always been theirs. And no matter their actions, their dalliances, their character, you have never wavered. You are prepared if called upon to serve in succession, even when, if any, then you, could be lax.

No sire, again I say none of this lightly, though nor do I dare suggest treason. Some things are just not for me to say. You are my lord, more than even my friend, and though my love for you is great, I know my life rests totally in your hands, and I would take no such risk for a lesser a man. I only wonder – and worry, I worry too, sire, what the responsible, what the logical thing is to do? We seem to agree that the throne is in peril, and there’s no question it demands protecting, but who is its true protector? Even you, with your great knowledge of this burden, and your willingness to bear such responsibility, feel it is not a prince’s place. And I in my impudence, I can barely stifle myself to ask – should not these concerns fall to the King? Does not the shield beneath the swords we have both been raised under, does it not proclaim the King will guard his kingdom, the crown, his line? Is that not why the King keeps the line? And those swords, do they not mean that said protection must come from eliminating threats, be they man, or heretic, or even enemies that come from within?

Even if… they’re of the King’s own blood?

You know well, my lord, you know why no one speaks of you as thirty-three, that if one of those who precede you steps up to claim the throne before the King’s death – may he live long, of course – there would be no exile, no mercy on that day. They would be dealt with, and swiftly, as sure as the hangman would have a new set of boots on that day. For threats against the throne, the King must deal with summarily, be they from a single man, or ten thousand on the battlefield. And you sire, that is why you are here, and by your grace why I am blessed to speak with you, to safeguard something worthy of striking down ten thousand men, and if so called for, to strike down ten thousand more. And I know, you say, ten thousand, nay twenty, is but a small price to protect your line.

And you would be right to ask, if you dared to ask - just what is thirty-one more?

Quick note.

Still alive, still here. Not writing nearly enough.

Finished a book review today, way behind on something I promised I'd look at for a friend. Plus reading for myself, and I hope another couple books to review because getting paid is rad, plus reading for myself, plus... all kinds of other things. I've got a ton of non-writing stuff to do, and hey, you know what I'd really like to do? Write. That'd be awesome. Trying to dig myself out of this hole, and I imagine I'm failing at it spectacularly. But then again, I'm imagining the hole too, so...

I want to take the opportunity to thank everyone who weighed in on my previous post. I was actually hoping in my absence, some more responses would trickle in, and I got a couple of emails too. I might try and break up the broad strokes, and just have a single post with the best stuff in it, to stick in the sidebar for easy access. I appreciate everyone weighing in - the response was about what I expected, but not who I expected it from, mostly. And it's always nice to know who's out there, watching.

If you're reading this now, and would still like to add something, or respond to something someone else has said, then feel free. I'm... sticking to my story that I said my piece, so I won't be adding much myself, unless, I don't know, the Metatron appears to me with something that needs put out there.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Mine was beyond excellent, great food, the best company, Margaritas, and "The Muppets" and so many other good things. I usually do a fairly maudlin "what I'm thankful for" post, but hey, this year, I just unplugged from the internet and enjoyed myself. Even I can't be tortured all the time. It's exhausting.

And lately, not as productive as normal. But the fruit's still there, just gotta find another way to get the juice.

Begs the question.

I want to know what you think [I fear this is going to wind up looking pathetic].

I don't have many rules here on the blog, but one of things I've said from the beginning is that it's my space, and I naturally have the time, so I'm always going to have the last word. Just one of those things I can exert some measure of control over, and it helps me feel comfortable here. Plus on the rare occasions crazies show up, I don't feel bad about moderating.

But here's a rare occasion - chance for anyone reading to chime in without me butting in, because I'm going to get my two cents in right off.

My last post I talked about struggling with some of my ideas that didn't really feel like they had any soul to me - just self-indulgent stuff, stuff without a reason, a message, or anything personal behind it. And if that is even self-indulgent, or if that's just fun.

Post prompted this comment from my good friend John [that's John Wiswell of "The Bathroom Monologues"], fresh off writing his novel, which I think deserves highlighted:

"The question of whether something is worthwhile if it's just self-indulgent will probably last another age, until we're all digital and things are decided by sub-protocols for us. But for now perhaps we can jerry-rig a second question onto it: is it okay to do something self-indulgent if you wouldn't do anything else with the time otherwise? Might be better to finish your own Hobo With A Shotgun by the end of the year rather than end the year with nothing finished. It's a conundrum that paralyzed me for a long time."

Now, first, let me just say "Hobo With A Shotgun" was excellent, and I'm sure John meant nothing by that comparison. Second, I personally don't have a ready answer to this question, and even John seems to only be leaning in a certain direction with his statement. About all I do feel comfortable saying on the subject, and I feel like I can say this quite adamantly, is that one of the reasons I write is to write things that I would want to read. And if I'm being perfectly honest with myself, I really just have no interest in reading heartless, soulless stories right now, and the thought of writing more of those, adding to the... pile, which I feel is kind of a fitting word, doesn't exactly spur me forward.

But that's all I've got. So, look, I know I don't have loads of traffic, but what I do have is fairly steady, and I'm just asking that if you read this post, no matter how you come to it, that you tell me what you think about the question. Especially if you're a writer, or an artist, but if you're not, if you're just a consumer of these kinds of things, I'd still like to hear your feelings, hypothetical, or actual, or otherwise. Feel free to comment anonymously. Feel free to write a lot, or a little. Just... chime in. I'd like to know what people think.

And make sure you visit "The Bathroom Monologues" in thanks to John, for asking the tough questions, or if you just want to read something good.

Laura Prepon is a Scientologist. And then it gets worse.

Haven't done a lot of work in the past couple days. Hence the long lull between posts.

I've actually kind of been sleeping like a normal person lately, a not uncommon occurrence when you think that the usual "up-all-night/sleep-all-day" lifestyle does occasionally lend to catch-up days where you find yourself crashing hard and waking up at seven or eight o'clock in the morning. Once you're awake at that time of day, it's kind of... difficult to not start dozing off around nine. Personally, the whole experience is a bit of a miserable one as far as I'm concerned, the morning not particularly being my friend, what with the nausea and the crabbiness [yes, yes, how can I tell?], and the weird sensitivity to light, sound I have anytime I stick my head out the door before ten o'clock.

Which, I guess is fine. I stick to my dark little cave of a room for the opening hours of the day, and that's not so bad because the cat is still settling in, and I figure as much time as I can take, bonding with him, that's good. I don't have a lot of experience with older pets, most of mine started as puppies or kittens or whatever you call baby hamsters, so this is all kind of new, and I don't really expect to change any of his habits at this point, I just sort of want him... comfortable here, and comfortable with me, and I want to be comfortable with him too. I have always been a coward at heart, and would not put it past myself to become gun shy about interacting with a creature who was physically smaller than me.

I've done a little writing. Had an idea for a comic that I wrote the opener too. I like writing openers, beginnings, even though a lot of mine look the same, there's something fun about carving out the world, or the scene, or trying to figure out how you're going to introduce everything. Halloween must have hit me, because this was kind of a horror-themed thing, and I got a couple pages out of it. And I think I could actually do all of it, but I'm just...

I mean, part of it is just the general hang-up I've talked about a lot here. And the other part is, since college, well since a certain point in college, I've kind of wanted everything I do to have some sort of message, or personal oomph behind it. I feel like it's important to have something to say, something that's a part of myself, even if it's just a little something in a much bigger something that doesn't have anything to do with that. And that doesn't necessarily mean that whatever I'm doing is about me, just that there's some bit of something personal in it. It probably sounds ridiculous, but that's the sort of thing that tends to separate my work from more mindless, Tarantino-esque rip-off pulp.

I don't know. It's that age-old question if something is worthwhile if it's self-indulgent, or just for fun. There will be tons of people who say it is, and there will be tons who say it isn't, and there will be a few - a blessed few - who don't think of it at all, and are probably better for it. And for their sake, I wouldn't bring it up at all, but those people probably also stopped reading a couple paragraphs ago when my hand-wringing started.

Anyway. I'm mid-book review, and I have more waiting-room intensive errands this week than usual, so who knows what kind of work could get done. Then again, I was also supposed to be sorting out some of the clutter in my life. Decisions, decisions. Have to wait and see.


Obscenely busy week. In its way.

Actually, that's only half true. I think at least one day was left solely to dicking around.

No progress has been made on the clutter, and I have failed - failed! - to type up that thing I said might show up... day before yesterday. I am remarkably ashamed of myself, almost as much as I am unmotivated. But if you pile on the unmotivated shame, it I think general pity and self-doubt win the day.

Or as the Randall Nichols status quo is concerned: "God's in his heaven, all's right with the world."

This week has been all about the nut orders - I may have mentioned this before, but my grandmother sells bulk nuts seasonally - peanuts, cashews, mixed nuts, and various other dry goods, your gummy bears, Bridge Mix, granola, lots of other stuff covered in chocolate. The sort of things you might have sold for fund-raising in school, but she actually turns a small profit on it, and has a pretty dedicated clientèle. Dedicated enough that despite claiming each year was her last, she still manages to clear about the same number of orders.

And all told, I don't mind the work. There's something about playing the collection agent and the delivery boy, there's something... I wouldn't call it satisfying, but it's not like other work I've done. It's like the book reviews - it's tolerable, sometimes even enjoyable. Strange, and not how I typically think of work. But I can't hate everything, I guess, right?

I also have a cat, now. A three year old rescue, named Loki. Well, it was just "Ki" but that was because it was the only sound he'd respond to [I'm guessing because of "kitty"], but a one syllable pet name, that just can't stand. He's a long hair, black and gray... a real sweetheart, though a little jittery, as you'd expect for cat who has been uprooted and kept at a vet's around dogs for so long. It's only day four with him, but I think he's settling in well.

It's weird. I have... a part time job [nothing extravagant, or even enough of anything to hold anything in the way of finances up], a cat, a new, amazing woman in my life. Of course, there are other things that can improve, and will. Even though I'd rather not, I'm going to try and pick up driving this fall, and even though I'm not putting a lot of money back, I'm holding at a comfortable place, for the first time in my life. Not "oh god, oh god, I need an operation or I'm gonna die" comfortable, but... ah, I don't worry about it quite like I did. And yeah, I really wish that I could catch up on some of these correspondences that I've fallen so far behind on, and I want to thank everyone who has written, who has been in touch, and who hasn't been able to get a hold of me. I haven't forgotten any of them, and they're all amazing, and writing, talking to them, it makes everything better, but I'm just playing catch up. I wish I had more time, too, to maybe get a little more involved in the Occupy movement - if, for no other reason, than to sit and talk with some of the people, students, ex-students, non-students, workers, citizens, consumers, activists - all thinkers, in their way, in different ways. Missing that bothers me. But all of that stuff, all of that stuff that I feel like I'm missing, or isn't there, I feel like it will be. If it can be. I feel confident in that.

About all that's left is the writing. I just... dammit, I'm just not getting the work out like I want to. And I don't know if it's just because there's been other stuff to do, or if I just haven't had it there. I've worked on stuff, but not every day. The consistency, the regularity, the output... it's just not there right now. I'm just frustrated, and tired. Maybe there's something I'm missing, or maybe I'm still fighting my rut. I don't know.

More's the pressure. That I'm at that age that I'm supposed to be doing everything. Impressing everyone, or at least anyone I can get to look at me. Maybe not success, but inklings, indicators, support systems. I might be inventing all this. Writers hit their strides, become big in their 30s, 40s, 50s mostly. Right? Just seems like all my heroes, were doing... not their best work, but some of their most interesting now, at my age.

I should just, you know, kick into gear, right? Stop bitching, and just do it. There's really no excuse, not even the usual "no inspiration" - I have literally pages of work, handwritten, just needing transcribed, and edited. We're talking outlines, short-stories, complete comic scripts, short scenes... that would be enough to get me working again.

Lighter note. Pictures went up of my kid brother's graduation at Ft. Benning. Occurs to me we never got one with just the two of us. Bummer, about that. But these two, with our mom, they're quite good, and something small gave me a chuckle.

Unseasonably brisk, that day. So, here we are, and then...

We pass dour expressions and slight looks of disgust like most brothers pass footballs. I guess some people would see the switch as a negative, but it made me, strangely enough, happy. It's... remarkably easy to forget our similarities, and there's something about just... having a nice reminder that we may not share fathers, but we still share something.

When it comes to family, it's always complicated. But I hope no one would begrudge me this.



As expected, I crashed pretty hard after my "trip." Slept something like... 18 hours, I guess.

The graduation was good... I find myself more and more impressed with my kid brother each day. I don't think I'll go into it here, but there are things, maybe things I only worry about because I'm a deluded, communist hippie, but there are things about the military that worry me, even more than the risk he was undertaking. I'm not really worried about those things now.

The ceremony was nice - hard to really describe, a bit like a football game half-time show high school, except everyone on the field had the same haircut, and there was live artillery. Actually, I wouldn't be surprised if that described someone's high school experience. Still, it was fun. It all felt fairly sophisticated, and epic. Naturally, Aaron was very busy during this time, and since I road along with mom and her boyfriend, I spent a lot of the three days by myself - maybe not physically by myself, but definitely a lot of stuff was going on solely in my own head.

Despite the extra time, I didn't get to read as much as I wanted, nor was there any great wellspring of writing done. Came up with another little prose thing that I might try and have ready by Friday. It is a tough squeeze - I have a book review deadline on Wednesday, and then... I have yet another book already in hand, though I believe I have until around the 15th to get it finished. Maybe not Friday with that prose piece. But soon.

Also saw a couple movies while I was gone. Skipped out on Hugh Jackman and giant fighting robots twice, to see "Moneyball" and "50/50." Moneyball was a no brainer for me - yes, I'm far from any kind of sports fan, but this thing is a sports movie penned [at least in part] by Aaron Sorkin. And yeah, I, who knows next to nothing about sports, was a pretty big fan of Sports Night at the end of the 90s [I think most people who liked that show weren't that into sports, actually], so I was pretty anxious to get Sports Night guy back writing about sports again. And you know, I think also I've sort of been hung up, since my Bennington days, since the Red Sox/Yankees arguments, about just how money plays into what looks to me to be a competitive sport, where skill and such should be the major thing. I don't think I ever really was able to draw a line to what the extra greenbacks some teams got meant for those teams, or even that winning a game could have anything to do with the size of your wallet at all, until I started hearing about rich teams buying all the good players, and even then... Oy. It all seems fairly obvious now, and I suppose it seemed fairly obvious then, but now I just feel like I have a grasp on it.

I dig teaching through drama. It's about all I've got. Ending of the movie has been surprisingly haunting to me as well. Weird way to go out, and one of those cases where one flick had a lot more going on in it that it's advertised as having. Maybe as it can handle having. Would need to see it again. Still, enjoyed it. Rarely do I get to see these things as they come out. And I like Jonah Hill.

"50/50" I liked too. Lot of trepidation going into that, I think getting to scope Rotten Tomatoes before deciding helped a lot [actually, both things I saw were the only chart grossers that were in the 90+ place]. Couple of parts were far from perfect, but I've always dug the adult comedy genre - the "Punch Drunk Love" types, uh... "Bandits" springs to mind. "A Serious Man." We're talking a wide array here. Stuff that's funny, but you might not be laughing out loud the entire time. Maybe not at all, but that doesn't mean it's not funny [It's weird that we have designated only certain actions as appropriate indications as to how we feel]. I don't know, I also have a lot of respect for comedies who dive in and do drama. You see that a lot the other way around, a drama throwing you some comedy, but this is a different way in. Levitt has a bright future, still... weird, thinking how long I've actually been watching him, and Anna Kendrick - I just find something about her to be charming. Also, something about her, surprises me she gets work. I am not sure why on either of those. Rogen, meanwhile, is just still damn good at what he does. I think over-saturation is making people a little sick of the guy, but I think just taken work to work, he's actually pretty impressive.

Plus, some stuff in it just hit kind of close to home. I was a little surprised.

Still, came out with some of the same questions, mostly why there isn't a market of 20-something movies with female leads, more women roles, more women cast. Certainly if there are omega males, there must be omega females. I feel sure of that.

Anyway. Cancer comedy. Can be done. And I'm glad for that.

I read a neat comic book called "That Salty Air." From Top Shelf, by Tim Sievert, would recommend it, especially if you just enjoy marveling at art work. Not that the story isn't there, it very much is, there's just some exceptional layouts, paneling, stunning art, surprising because from the style you expect it to be sort of minimalistic.

My life has felt very cluttered lately. Might need to do some cleaning... even Twitter, Facebook, my blog roll and RSS, it all just seems awful and cramped and too much. Same with the room, same with... most things. I should probably look to that soon.

I feel weird, bad for not talking more about the graduation. My priorities always seem askew. Just proud - probably not in a way I could make anyone understand, probably not like those mothers, or my mother, or anyone else there that day. Well, not anyone else. And the only thing else I can think to add is that it was fucking cold in Georgia, and I didn't bring a proper coat, so I couldn't enjoy it nearly as much as I wanted to. I gotta start trusting myself more, so as to avoid things like three days spent in a suit jacket.

To the grad from Bennington, and his brother, the grad from Ft. Benning.

Out 'till Friday

Writing this in a bit of a rush.

I'll be gone until late Friday night, and you might well hear from me when I get in then, or I could be so wiped out from the trip that you may not see dazzling words about other words until several days after then. My kid brother [can't say little anymore] Aaron is graduating from boot camp at Ft. Benning, so I'm taking a long, promised-myself-I'd-never-take-a-car-anywhere-under-these-conditions long, 10 hour trip to see him off. It's an ordeal, but like most ordeals, it is well worth it to be there for his big day. Or perhaps just the start of his big days.

So here I am, but only momentarily, and then off I go. For now, trying to work out some final packing things, scratching my head over why a suitcase isn't made to hold suit without wrinkling it. Someone look to that for me, if you would.

I will probably be sans internet for the next three days. If for some reason you need to reach me, text messages and my phone number will serve you the best, and if that's not information you're privy to, and Direct Message on Twitter with some way I can get in contact with you will go straight to my phone. I will miss you all.


Warren Ellis and good readin'.

So, Warren Ellis put this up on his blog, and I just think it really deserves a read if you care about comics, print, digital, web or serialized, or otherwise:

"The Broadcast of Comics."

Sometimes you just need to hear things, or maybe some things just sound enough like good news, to inspire just a little bit of hope. And I've been so... frustrated lately, with my own work, mostly, that this just hit me right, hit me at a good time. I feel so much like web comics are treated as a passing fad, and in weird sort of way it was actually the for-free comics on the internet that got me through the doldrums of my last year of high school more than their paper-based alternatives. And while I won't claim to be as... forward thinking as Ellis is about these things, but I do think part of my weird... stand-offishness when it comes to digital comics might have root in some of the things Ellis talks about.

But that can't, of course, be all. I'm just not sure, and I keep reading it, and thinking about it. I don't know.

Justin and I talked recently. As you know, we've been on a long adventure with our 52 page comic book "Calamity Cash and the Town with No Name." To speak for Justin as much as I'm comfortable doing, I feel like working on the book has been a pretty present thing in his really busy life, and yet in our weekly get-together he said he was looking realistically at reaching the end soon. That is a strange thought, that it might actually be finished soon, and what the world will look like without it as a finished project seems kind of mystifying to me, as I imagine it must to Justin. The honest fact is, sometimes comics happen fast, and sometimes they don't, and I don't feel like a lot of excuses are necessary.

A lot has happened over the past couple years, and I find myself wondering what would have happened had we taken the web comic approach. I'm fairly sure Justin wouldn't have cared for the idea, but I wonder if a page going up on the web, for free, even intermittently over that time, might have generated some interest in the thing we'll finally end up printing. Thinking about it, that might not have been the best idea for a project like this one - especially as Justin has looked at so much of the work as practice, and especially since so much of that script was such a mess [and I am still glad I got to take a second run at the last half].

I suppose it would depend on who I'm collaborating with, but I think if I was going to do anything quite so long with someone, I might at least float the idea of putting it up free, a page at a time, on the internet. I wouldn't be disappointed if whoever I'm working with turned this down, I just can't help but wonder, as an experiment, if that might be workable, and interesting for people. I think the general wisdom with web comics is that two years is about how long it takes to get rudimentary exposure [thanks Cheri], barring some amazing act of god or Penny Arcade. So for a longer piece, even if it was something you were just going to take down once you committed to actually selling it - starting as a web comic might be an interesting tactic.

There are also many intangibles. The mind boggles.

I have been writing a little bit, playing with a character from VHS Generation, the short comic Ander Sarabia and I are going to do. But my output is still not consistent, and I already have several book reviews I need to get through. I just... really want to get back to creating, to writing creative things, and telling stories, and do so with some regularity. I am unsure how to whip myself into shape, and I still feel, physically, run down from these allergies. Still, I remember when that wouldn't stop me, not even slightly slow me down. I know it's not age, so it must be laziness. And I kind of find this unacceptable of me.

Speaking of Ander, the Blackest Terror book he's working on with the talented Eric Esquivel for Moonstone continues to get press, excitingly enough on Newsarama this time, where Eric gave an interview about the project and the string of other comics to follow it. It's very exciting - I always looked at being interviewed for anything as a sign that you'd really made it [after all, I grew up in Wizard's heyday], and I just wanted to give it a proper plug, as it's not too late to order a copy at your local comic shop.

While I'm plugging things, oft-linked friend John Wiswell has two of his best - "Sologamous" and "Kill Mommy" on Untied Shoelaces with audio readings added to them. [Also on the Randall Nichols list of signs that you've really made it is having someone else read your work aloud, something that to me screams the same thing that having your work read aloud in class meant in our pre-teen years - that you've done something truly exceptional.] What's great is, if you've been unwilling to try out John's Bathroom Monologues out of fear that driving while reading might cause you to smear your lipstick or spill piping hot Egg McMuffin all over yourself, you can now just download the audio to your mobile device. No excuse now.


With apologies to Chris Rock. And everyone else.

"Look, it was the last, best advice most people got in the 1990s, and I'm just saying that's not the kind of thing you tack a last minute addendum onto. It's a shame, but something like that, it can lessen it's impact, make it hard to reach out to the young people, the folks who really needed to hear it.

But yeah, I'll concede, it's not that there's never, ever been any sex in the champagne room. I mean, it's a strip club, there are, well, strippers, and most of the guys there are customers, yeah, but that's not everyone, that neglects a whole cross-section like the DJ, the bartenders, the bouncers... I mean, just the bouncers - two guys, working side-by-side, probably for years, in a keyed up, often violent position. And they've got to be there for each other - they got to have each other's backs. It's Spartan stuff.

So no question, after closing, maybe they're back there, sweeping divorce dust off of the couch. And it's couch, so naturally, they're moving cushions, looking for spare change - job doesn't pay that well - and they brush hands. It's a little surprising, so to break the tension one compliments the other on his AC/DC shirt, he in turn asks how he gets such straight hems when he cuts off the sleeves, and... well, the next thing you know, you have two handle bar mustaches pressed up against each other, and all sorts of new doors opening."

Sustainable consistency. Or something.

Tuesday was a shockingly productive day for writing. Probably one of my most since getting back into the swing of things.

Spent several hours with a new screenplay [re: "Dodged a Bullet]. Wound up with a five page opener that's pretty solid if you don't look at it too hard, and a six to ten page conversation that I actually worked out when I supposedly on "a break" from writing. The concept is one I've wanted to tackle for a long time, and I actually talked about it once here, but I'm going to avoid mentioning it directly because I don't want what happened last time to happen again, and end up having to police some proxy-using crazy who thinks he's going to use wingnut theories to one-up me on my own blog.

Anyway. I'm pleased with that kind of page count for a day's worth of work. Now all I really need to strive for is a little more consistency. With fall starting, and it cooling off, I am feeling a little more clear headed, but perhaps more important than that particular real or imagined impediment, is that I've been trying to get out more, get some pavement under my feet, just walk, even if that means I have to squeeze in said walk at the inopportune times. In the half of week since I've started again, I've had a couple reminders as to why I stopped in the first place - a discarded diaper was... less than pleasant, in a check-to-see-if-there's-an-indian-crying sort of way, and then there was the woman who just... stood and stared. If we're going through the greatest hits of bad walks, I expect to either be verbally accosted or run over tomorrow.


Anyway, the point is, today was awesome, but I'd like to get to a place where I crank out five pages a day, or even less than that, as long as I was regularly producing the same amount. I want something... not structured, but regular, sustainable. I enjoy, and won't lie, prefer spring-writing like I'm more prone to, but the downside is, when I'm not in the sprint, I feel bad that I'm not working on something. That I'm creating something. I forgot how even the exercises I was doing before was giving me that a little bit - and it was helping fight a lot of discouragement I could stir up in myself.

I also worked on the bible for my little fantasy story today, found a neat idea for the third act, I think. Couple pages, hand written. I've been surprised that I haven't been getting hand cramps like I used to.

Catching up on email too, slowly but sure. And I voted. Always sad to me they don't give out stickers or something for that - democracy as we do it now really isn't that different from giving blood, is it? And I have something short I might post Friday, if I don't chicken out. We'll see.

Still fighting this sinus infection. Will be glad to get it behind me.

Find someone to carry you.

Haven't been feeling well. Fighting a sinus infection, trying to get my rest. "Trying" being the key word.

Bulk of this weekend has actually went to fixing my grandmother computer. The machine's nothing particularly special, a Dell 2400, really an out of the box budget model whichever way you slice it [not unlike my current laptop], that's been floating somewhere between needing a back to factory settings reformat/restart or just a merciful bullet to the brain. Purchased in '04 or '05, it's probably shouldn't be as shocking to me as it that the thing still runs - especially since the only hard workout I can even think of it having was my short MAME-fueled King of Fighters/Samurai Showdown obsession. Still, I'm not used to seeing computers last this long, especially with only the nominal upkeep I've ever bothered to get it.

Which in retrospect was kind of shitty of me. For a short time that 2400 was my go-to computer, in that particularly uncertain period between my Toshiba Satellite dying and selling the house so I could buy this winner I'm writing this on today. As personal milestones go, I had quite a few on that particular machine, from starting this blog, to finishing "Unfilmable," to even doing the bulk of "Trendsetter," not mention a bunch of smaller, probably to most people less noteworthy things, such as the "Before Hulu was Awful" "Death Note" marathons, or getting started on "Breaking Bad" [thanks, Justin]. Sitting at that computer I read a script by my friend Glen, setting up years of future "I knew him when..." stories. It was there that I finally got back in touch with Lex, and it was there that I finally, actually got to talk to her at length - one of those rare instances where a missed opportunity to get to know someone wasn't. Perched on that air-filled office chair in front of that monster of a monitor, I dissected so many things, from "The Dark Knight," to how I spent and organized my days, to how I was treating and taking care of myself, while in the midst of some pretty serious heartbreak.

And though I was partly joking before, it really was quite shameful that I let the computer deteriorate into such unusable shape, especially since it isn't even there for me, really - it's my grandmother's, it's what she plays games on, what she checks her email on. And with a little bit of regular attention and care, there's no reason it can't keep doing that. Selfish of me to let that go to hell like I did.

And as with anything put off far too long, "fixing" it wound up being quite the ordeal. How much of that was actually my fault is up for debate, of course - yes, I probably should have read up on the model and noticed that it was going to give me a bit of a run-around, what with it's notable [though not universal] penchant for not loading all its necessary drivers on the first installation, but that doesn't change the headache of its backup disk being pre-Service Pack 2. Thankfully, my new external hard drive, which was so perfect for backing up what little was on the computer in the first place, was just as perfect for downloading all the necessary BIOS, drivers, and updates that were needed. Especially since accessing the internet on its own was nearly the last thing the it wanted to do.

Actually, it's quite surprising how smoothly it runs now, even with limited memory and hard drive space. I'm really thankful for free virus-scouting programs like avast! and Ad-aware, and less memory-intensive browsers like Google Chrome, and hell, compared to IE, even Firefox, which make running an older machine feel a lot more do-able. The best part, of course, is that while digging through piles and piles of unorganized CD-ROMs for the reboot, I was also able to find the discs for the weird third party games that my grandmother has come to love so well over the years.

I honestly think if I hadn't found those, I would have been better off just shooting it.

Still. It felt odd to be in front of that computer again. Sense memory, the sounds, the texture of the mouse and keyboard and chair, even the smell [all right, I might be off my nut, but I swear when they get going, those old box monitors have a smell] made it feel like it hadn't been that long. Certainly not like it had been 3 years.

...huh. I guess Wednesday was the 26. Weird.

I guess we shared lots of sleepless nights back then. Giving it one more seemed like the least I could do.

And for the Mojo Wire - here's to the end of the first three years.

That one where I need to work more.

Lost some time this week. Got a couple hours of writing in on Wednesday, Thursday morning, but I had plans Thursday night that went until dawn, and a full day of things scheduled, not my things, until... five or six in the evening on Friday. After that, I pretty much passed out. Saturday was pretty full too, again with not my stuff, and though I thought I might get some work in that night, I opted to catch up with a friend instead.

I got my business cards in the mail during all this. Nothing special, just bare bones, Vistaprint special kind of things, but I've needed some forever, and too often have wound up jotting a bunch of contact information down on whatever was handy, which does not scream professionalism. I was pleased with the way my cards turned out, despite their simplicity, and my only real complaint was that the font was a little smaller than it appeared on the preview. It's readable though, and that's pretty much all that matters - of course, now that I have them, I imagine I won't be any place where I can make use of them anytime soon.

Haven't worked on anything too noteworthy in the past week. Mostly just toying with some memoir stuff, though I'm still not sure to what end. High school, early college have been on my mind a lot, lot of people I haven't seen anywhere other than Facebook cropping up in my dreams. I actually wrote a lot in high school, even though my heavy-handed poetry didn't always make it clear what I was writing about, so it's not hard to dig up a lot of old impressions of people, stories about them. I mean, yeah, some of the stuff about me is pretty mortifying, but it's still more palatable than ten minutes of "Glee."

Had an interesting conversation with a friend about how I use sex in the things I write. The funny thing, or maybe funny isn't the right word, is how often anything sexual I put in my stuff is either transactional, or tied in some way to death. Or some combination of both. I don't think there's much to say about the former - I feel like in those cases, what I'm doing is fairly straightforward. The latter is kind of embarrassing to me, I guess, not just because of any necrophilia jokes it might make way for. I think with sex and death, what I most commonly think of is that whole "after a funeral, the most common thing for people to do is go home and fuck" the idea being, I think, that it's some middle finger to death, by going out and doing that one thing that seems to prove that we're so alive. And I think there's validity to that, but I also think it's a bit of a cop-out to say it's all just some kind of "life affirmation bullshit," as my convo partner so succinctly put it. It also implies an order too, death, then sex, though I guess without sex we could have never gotten to the death part.

It's like moving two pieces of furniture around in the room. Trying to figure where they look just right.

I have a lot of email to catch up on. It feels a little ridiculous that I let that of all things get out of hand.

I also didn't have a book to work on reviewing last week. New one now. I don't like not having one in the queue - it seems like I get them fairly regularly, until I start talking about getting them fairly regularly.

Mm. Superstition.

"We are unfashioned creatures..."

Spent today trying to catch this one particular moment in time. Nailing down a single memory is... difficult, actually, I'd call it much harder than putting together a whole series of things that happen to you, because that's more straightforward narrative, and it's easier to fill in the gaps when you're not getting something quite right. Creative license is the embalming fluid of memoir and history.

God, if I was fifteen, that would sound so deep.

Funny thing is, this little bit of prose I keep toying with was just an exercise, something I just wanted to see if I could put together. I call it "writing as portrait" when you try to capture a single moment, or an aspect of someone. Usually it only takes a sentence or two - I have a couple of pages of "self-portraits" here and there, tucked away in moleskins, on the backs of restaurant place mats. Of course, looking at yourself is a lot easier, and I try to push, do the same with friends, enemies, my heroes. It... varies in success. Occasionally you might end up with something that would really flatter someone, or really offend them. I don't trot them out much.

Trying to do one of these for a particular moment in time felt a little more ambitious, but I got stuck on it. Not that I couldn't do it, just that I couldn't let it go, and just when I get satisfied, I bounce back to it. I've hit three or four people today with the "Hold second..." and then manic typing or scribbling. It's obnoxious, and I may wake up tomorrow and not care at all. Today, though...

I might post it here. It depends on whether or not I think the person who its about would see it. That can end badly. But I can't imagine what else I'd be able to do with it.

Other stuff. Did some work on "Cherry Stone." I was looking at someone else's project recently, a comic they were working on and asked me to give some impressions, crit on, and they lamented how poorly most monologue and narration was in comics these days. They were absolutely right, of course, and in most cases heavy narration in comics is clunky, exposition-centered garbage, to be avoided at all costs if possible. So, naturally, when I started toying with my own scripts again, I wound up adding to the narration. It's just my way.

I partly blame Kieron Gillen's and Jamie McKelvie's Phonogram - I've been reading both "Rue Britannia" and "The Singles Club" lately, more poring over them actually, and they really are some of the best comics I've ever read. Gillen's narration in them is incredibly infectious, and both books, though "The Singles Club" especially, are exactly the kind of comics that got me excited about writing for comics in first place, and sort of represent the... timbre of what I've always wanted to do, add to, in the medium. They're great. Consider buying them, if you haven't read them. Cannot recommend both works enough. They're my new favorites, for sure.

Anyway. This is all stuff that if I decide I hate, or is unnecessary, I can easily cut [some would argue that's enough reason to do away with it]. Characters talking to themselves in their own heads is dangerous territory, that can quickly become tedious or masturbatory if not careful. But right now I'm just trying things out.

Wrote several of the flashback scenes for "Nerd Love" too. Threw them all out. I kept slipping, and indulging sensationalism. It's not that kind of script, and I really want to keep everything that has happened very much rooted in the real world. In "I don't miss the green" that was easy - I could fall back n pop culture, and brands, and other things to anchor me to the real world. But I never really had to show the real world in that, just suggest it. Things during the flashbacks in "Nerd Love" have to be a bit more mundane, so the stuff balancing it will really drive home what has and hasn't changed.

I think this is the first time since my self-imposed hiatus that I've tossed a significant chunk of work out. Writing everyday and then chucking the bulk of it was a pretty standard habit for me once upon a time, and I have mixed feelings about getting back into that. The practice was great, the repetition and structure were helpful, but it's hard to start deleting stuff again with my last creative dry spell still so fresh in my mind.

Let's start at the end, and work our way back.

Sunday and Monday I got a bit sidetracked with things. No big.

Yesterday I spent a little more than three hours working on "Nerd Love." I'm having trouble feeling accomplished about that, for a bunch of reasons. The first, most obvious is that working on "Nerd Love" in any real way, and it being a project with so little done on it, feels cheap to me, when I have things almost finished, and possibly could have gotten done in three hours. I can never tell, in those instances, if I'm being cowardly, or just following my muse. I'll also add that I'm still a little shaken by the "Dia de la Vida" incident - I'm used to writing things, and thinking they suck, and then them turning out to actually suck all the time - I'm not used to writing something, thinking it's good, enjoying working on it, and then coming back to it and finding it a fumbling mess. It's just not happened to me very often. Very disconcerting, so I'll probably take a look at what I did on "Nerd Love" today or tomorrow, and hope that its as good as I remember it being.

There are other reasons, but those seem like the two big ones right now. If something more pressing comes up, I'll probably come back and write about it later.

"Nerd Love" is a weird project for me - one of those stories that the ending came first. I'm always worried that anytime I have an ending in mind right off the bat, one that seems so important to the entire story, that the story itself is in real danger of becoming a one-note joke - which I should preface, I don't mean in a funny way. And I think that's a realistic worry, because the good writer who starts at the end and works back is always going to be wondering if his ending has been earned. This isn't a bad thing to worry about, it's an important thing to worry about, because even if you're not starting with an ending and working towards it [though I guess we all, more or less, work towards the endings], making sure you earn everything you get by the last scene, chapter, panel, or whatever you prefer to call it is so damn important.

I also think - and I want to stress this is just me - that the ending of story is not as important as it's sometimes made out to be. Don't get me wrong, if you have the ability, the chance, to write an impressive ending to a story, then you should, and you should make sure it satisfies in every way humanly possible. But the old saying about the journey being the most important part isn't total bullshit, and often times a non-ending ending can say as much as an ending wrapped up in a nice, neat looking package. The Cohen Brothers, for instance, have a real knack for this - so much so that I'm starting to believe non-endings really are, themselves, proper endings when done well.

And I suffer from what I call a... moralistic leaning. I'm a big fan of cautionary tales, morality tales [you know, things where you find out the morals of the story], tales that sometimes impart a slightly heavy-handed message to make a point. I've been working on that, because I'm not sure it's a very worthwhile endeavor [I go back and forth on this - I don't think it's particularly artful or elegant, but I'm not sure if that invalidates what I have to say - I'd be interested in hearing what others think] but there is something about coming from a place where that is the major school of thought in your head that sort of predisposes you to actually having endings for things. I think anyway.

So, I'm outlining a lot, playing with dialogue, and digging up a lot of old memories which are a little raw, and makes me wish I had money for a good bottle of scotch to have sip from at the end of it all. Christmas is coming, folks. Though really, I need a new gray hoodie, and maybe a scarf, more.

"Nerd Love" is one of those projects I've had on my mind a long time. I think there's something from my high school, college years I really want to address, even though it's not entirely about me, it is tide to a world I was very entrenched in, and in many ways still am. My friend Savannah, she really deserves thanks for this project, because it was actually talks with her, talks she probably just thought were idle conversation, and I did too, which gave me my "in" into this story, and a way to look at some of these more complicated issues. A special thanks will be in order there.

My only reassurances that I'm not using this project to run from things I could actually get done is by how on my mind it has been lately. "I don't miss the green." was sort of a piece of this story, just bursting to get out, even though what I ended up with in that short won't likely resemble much of what "Nerd Love" will hopefully be in the end. There will be one or two important, and striking similarities, but still. I was exploring something - and I'm going to keep exploring.

I'm worried a bit about subconscious plagiarism on this one, if only because there are side aspects to the story which resemble other works I've read/seen, two of which I really love, one I will admit to enjoying, but not being crazy about. My sole reassurance there is that neither of those stories gave me what I wanted, not entirely, and I'm not even approaching the subject matter in the same way. I do worry about the shallow reader/viewer/etc. looking at this and seeing something derivative, but again, as I feel like with "Nerd Love" I'm trying to address something I haven't seen or read before, and in a way that I would like to see, that I kind of want to show to people. It's easy to let this kind of doubt creep in, though. I think I'll leave it for now.

Besides, if you end up with things inspired by enough things, an original idea is probably going to grow in such fertile soil. I hope.

It's a weird project, though. The kind that, at the end of the three hours working yesterday, it was hard not to call folks I hadn't heard from in forever. It makes me wonder how long I've been wanting to just sit down, and work out what's been in this.

Anyway, lots of thoughts. There are other things to look at while I give myself a day or so's distance.

I haven't been feeling well lately. It's nothing I've been advertising, but my sleep schedule is sort of righting itself, which my mind and body are both for in principle, but against in the transition. I've also had some sinus problems that I thought I could shrug off - bad call. I've also been having some soreness, sometimes straight-up pain - in my neck, then my back, and now my leg on the right side. I'm hoping it'll wear off quickly, because otherwise, something like that could seem serious. I've also had a mad upset stomach, and some acid-related problems which have left my mouth raw. I've been drinking a lot of tea. Hoping that will help.

Few things for some friends - this is older, but I just never got a proper chance to link it - lots of good, Ander Sarabia goodness on his blog, where he shows off the CD/album artwork he did for the rock band COBRA - it's amazing art, and definitely tune-age you should consider checking out. Ander hooked me up, and I enjoyed it mightily. The art for the inserts is exactly what you'd expect from Ander, too - top-notch stuff, with lots of great details and a little bit of a throwback to a style not seen as often anymore. Absolutely spectacular.

More recent, John Wiswell did this great 9/11 post called "Do Not Post Until 9/12." I did my best to stay away from 9/11 baiting, because it's always been my contention that grief is something no one handles in quite the same way, but societally, we've sort of only made a handful of reactions "okay." That John felt the need to wait a day, in hopes of not offending others who was mourning was incredibly thoughtful, but I also feel bad that John's method of coping is somehow one that he would have to put off talking about. You don't hear about these reactions enough - and you should, because they are perfectly valid, important, and normal.

Yet more recently [re: yesterday], is Eric Esquivel and crew [that'd be Godlewski, Cody, and Barajas] all popped up on Warren Ellis's website yesterday, with their entry into Ellis' "Three Panel Open" event. Go check out their excellent entry, along with all the other comics that have went up. It's absolutely worth your time, and their entry "Magic Words" is, well... more tip-top work from Eric.

Don't forget to keep checking what both Eric and Dave are up to these days on the ModMyth blog too, and some other websites you should definitely check out are Peter Wonsowski's blog, who has always been a supporter here, and does amazing work as well, but if you want to talk exciting every new entry from PW is more exciting than the last.

Finally, one of my favorite web comics from back in the day, Mitch Clem's punk rock three panel called "Nothing Nice to Say" has returned. If it's not your speed, it's not your speed, but it was one of those comics that hit me in just the right way, at just the right time, and seeing it back means the world to me. Been excited every since he announced he was back in the saddle.

More soon.

Death or Glory

Heady reading yesterday.

I read a lot. I'm not saying that to be like "Oh ho! No one reads anymore but me, ye god-fearing, X-Box playing, printless heathens!" because I really don't have an opinion on the Middle America culture war that wants to fight about whether reading, television, news, video games, etc., are more or less worth your time than something else in that list. I tend to think down time and entertainment, decompressing, are a lot like vegetables - whatever way you can get them in you, that's just fine. But because of my day-to-day responsibilities, I have what I'd say is probably an inordinate amount of free time in little bursts, and what I tend to do with that is read. My life here, a lot of it revolves around waiting, "hurry-up-and-wait" waiting, a lot of errands that usually involve five minutes here, five minutes there of - you guessed it, waiting. So I read a lot.

I suppose I could use the time for writing. I have tried that before, though I'm always incredibly disappointed with the outcome more often than not. I always feel like I get more, better, focused work done when I sit down, and just pour things out on the page, uninterrupted, and don't have to worry about losing a funny line or a major plotting point because a prescription is ready, or the poodle's treatment is finished. So, yeah, I'm not saying I never jam some writing out in there, but I'm saying, mostly, in those little moments between things, I prefer to read.

Because I read so much, I think I probably don't absorb things as well, or as universally as I should. I'm not crazy or happy about that, but wet, saturated soil floods more easily, and not everything I read is going to get more than a "huh" or a acknowledging nod. Sometimes, there will be anger, sometimes, there will be a little outrage, but I've noticed more and more that's not too much different than the "huh" or the nod - and if I take my time, it'll pass pretty quickly. I've been trying to be better about this, to come away from things I read with as much as was imparted to me as possible. But it's kind of... eh, right now.

Still. Some things just hit you at the right time. In high school, it was "The Great Gatsby," a very visual work that hit me during a time when I feel like the visual part of my imagination was firing almost 24/7. When I think of "Gatsby" I think of Jay, and Nick, and Daisy, and Tom Buchanan and the wasteland between West Egg and New York, and that immutable [shut-the-fuck-up-it's-only-as-heavy-handed-as-it-needs-to-be] green light, and I actually see it, in my head, as this sprawling epic drawn by John Romita Jr. Anyone else ever completely fabricate an American Classic as drawn by J.R. Jr. in their own head? No? These things just hit me, like a re-read of "Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail" hit me at the height of the 2008 presidential primaries. How "Tristam Shandy" and "So Long See You Tomorrow" hit me when I was trying to find my voice, and my place [respectively] in college.

How "Clerks" hit me when I didn't think I could do what I wanted in my life. How "Strangers in Paradise" hit me, when I so desperately needed to know if the stories I wanted to tell were worthwhile. How "Watchmen" hit me when I wondered if they could be art.

I mean, there are a lot more examples than these - many of you saw when I went "Riot Grrl" crazy [hell, I'm still Riot Grrl crazy], partly because I needed an outlet for some of my anger at all the social bullshit, and partly because I'd had enough time for hindsight that I realized, looking back, the kind of man I'd been just wasn't good enough. And "Girls to the Front" was there. And when I wanted someone just as awkward and screaming to get noticed as me, I found Mia Zapata. There are others, some private, some not, but the point is, a lot of things can hit you, and when you read as much as I do, those things tend to be things in print. And all you need is that right timing, and ding, they hit you.

I took a short hiatus not too long ago. I actually considered it a pretty long hiatus, and a lot of it was about clearing my palate, and trying to get back into something that resembled a healthy work structure, not with responsibilities that I'm called on to perform in my day-to-day, but with my writing, which had been jammed into places and was suffering for it, or worse, wasn't getting done at all. Coming back has been difficult, because I'm still trying to eek out that groove, and there are new things - good things - along with the same old challenges I need to try and circumvent.

The hiatus also gave me a lot of time to think, and while most of that has gone into some sort of ordering, trying to form habits that are healthy and productive, it also made me realize there are a lot roadblocks in front of me for what I want to do, and some of them I either have no idea how to overcome, or am just incapable of tackling myself. I'm not... ashamed to say that last part either, there are some things that I just don't excel at, probably will never excel at. And some of that might be more integral to writing, to making my art, and to getting it out there for people to see. Definitely for making money at it.

So I guess I had my knees taken out from under me a little bit when I popped on Twitter and found the article "Two Voices of Experience on Comics as a Career" by Johanna Draper Carlson on her blog "Comics Worth Reading." I'm a big fan of Johanna's blog, sort of swear my limited comic book-funds by CWR's reviews of things, even use it to find comics I wouldn't normally read, but would work as gifts for other people. It's all about spreading the love, as a friend of mine would say. Can't recommend the site enough.

But "Two Voices..." was complicated for me because of the blog posts by creators in the industry that they linked to. Each contain first-hand, real-life comic industry advice, creating as a profession advice, the kind that, as Johanna so succinctly puts it, "you either listen to and take to heart or you suffer through yourself." [I find this statement rigid, but not entirely unfair.]

The first is by Steve Bissette, probably best known for his legendary run with Alan Moore and Jon Totleben on DC's "Swamp-Thing." His posting "Looking for Magic Carpets - An Open Letter to My Fellow Writers (& Artists)" covers a wide variety of topics, not to mention a great deal of common sense-but-not-so-commonly-shared rules when it comes to things like collaboration, ownership, and people who are deluded enough to think that guaranteeing success is some sort of incentive anymore. If you're a person who wants to do something creative for a living - writing, drawing, film making - you should read it. It's a cutting indictment of those out-of-work screenwriters who have a script that they want to take to paneled world of comics, in hopes of exploiting the current popularity of the genre to nab lucrative intellectual property rights and stepping stones to movie deals [I always thought this fair-weather pursuit of comics reminded me too much of the attitudes behind the speculation boom of the 90s - but that's probably a post for another time] .

But more importantly than that, it busts the notion that comics as a medium are somehow easier, that one can be thrown together with little work and come out as a great monument to storytelling, or at least something that will sell high to some Hollywood executive looking for the next big thing. It's hard work, often arduous, often stressful, and always time consuming. And even more importantly than that, it's a reminder that a professional artist or illustrator, that is [to be clear] an artist or illustrator looking to do art for a living, isn't going to be eager to sacrifice that time and stress for next to no compensation. And that's entirely fair.

Now, that being said, I could quibble with some of Bissette's lesser points, but I think in most of the cases that I want to say "wait... but that's not how that works!" it just means I haven't reached his level yet. I did find the way he treats the different mediums - film, novels, comics - as more or less interchangeable a little lackadaisical - as how you go about telling your tale, the way in which you choose to tell it, is just as important as the other aspects of the story. I just don't believe that a screenplay can anymore easily be switched to a comic or a novel, and as someone who works in many mediums himself, I'm a little shocked he implied that would be viable in certain circumstance. Though I guess there are certain circumstances it would.

But this is all parsing. There's more to take from Bissette's single blog post about collaboration than, in most if not all, books on the subject of "Making Comics" that are out there, and I think any creative person is going to take a lot away from it. I think what I most importantly took away from it, what's most applicable to me right now, was bullet #2:

"Cartoonists have their own projects they’d dearly love to afford to do, many of those lengthy works."

I also quite like how Johanna put it - that if "he had the time to work for little or no pay, then he’d be working on his own projects." And that is a smack-across-the-face fair point. And it wasn't something I didn't know, quite the contrary, it's the problem that's frustrated me to no end of late, and finally, I have a name for it. And yes, I've been complaining quite a lot lately about how hard it's been for me to find artists interested in working on comics with me - even gotten to the point if perhaps it came down to just not being very good at selling my projects to them, but in this case, the answers a lot simpler.

So. I think I'm going to stop. Not writing comics mind you, not even asking artists that I can't afford to pay to work on them for me [and I think most encouraging about Bissette's post is his adamance that you should "never be afraid to ask"], but rather complaining. I'm done bitching about how this isn't happening, or how that isn't there, because that's the nature of the beast. And while maybe I haven't been successful, I've been lucky, lucky enough to work with Justin, to work with Ander.

When it comes to my writing, I've really only ever thought of myself struggling with rejection once, but I think in a round about way, the not being able to root out an artist to collaborate on this project or that, well, that's not much different, and I'm getting over it. I'm going to get okay with it. Just, you know... not okay enough to stop looking. Stop hoping.

Which leads me [roughly], into the other posting CWR featured, "If you’re not happy, comics won’t make you happy" by Colleen Doran. Doran is prolific [just look at her Wikipedia page, which is far from comprehensive, and say slowly "Jeeee-zuuus..."], an artist and a writer in both the comics and animation industries whose name may not come immediately to mind, but who has done so much great work that if you're involved in fandom at all, I'm certain you've brushed up against her work more than a few times.

Her article is more of a cautionary tale [seriously, go read it for the same reasons as Bissette's. It's great, and important.], looking at someone who I'm not going to name here who struggled with depression, and a lack of success and fulfillment, and blamed everyone else for those shortcomings and failures. There are parts of it that... they cut me very deep, and it was one of those situations where I almost needed a mantra of "this is not about you, you are not the center of the universe, this is not being accusatory" because let's face it, creativity and a lack of success and fulfillment, in my case just a basic lack of acknowledgment that I'm even on the right path to be creatively recognized for anything - that's me all over, and it's difficult for me to not take a lot of what she was saying to heart, and as, specifically, discouragement. I mean, let's face it, her words here, a little over half way through the article - this, to a point, this is very much me:

"When things go well as a creator, there is nothing like it. It’s a high, an emotional drug. Some people get addicted to it. They don’t look at any payoff except the payoff of seeing their work being seen. Eating, medical care, roof over head: tertiary concerns. Until the day they wake up and realize they are fifty-years-old, they have no savings, nowhere to live, and their teeth are falling out."

Except, of course, my standards of what "going well" is are much lower, and I guess thankfully I still have time to come around to those tertiary concerns. And I don't know if this means me, that I'm one of those people who should, as Doran puts it, "get as far away from the art and entertainment business as possible." I mean, comically, I don't think you can get much farther from the entertainment business than where I am now, but in a self-reflective sort of way, the point stands. And what this is challenging is going far beyond my concerns as to whether or not my work is good, and whether or not I have something important and worthwhile to say.

There are a lot of other things in the article that are hard for me, for anyone I'd imagine, to take - it's hard being told by a pro that it's okay to not be a pro. Advice from someone who has found success, but now pauses to call back to the rest of us to let us know that what we're clamoring for, it's just not all a tea party up top. That said, it's a kind of benevolence that's very common among writers, I imagine less so among artists, but I don't really know, the constant reminder of what's lost, sacrificed, all the bad stuff you should be looking out for, and making plans to tackle [seriously, name the last thing about writing or other kinds of art you read that didn't profess to give you the cold, hard, no-nonsense facts of what you're trying to do. Name the last time you read a something by a professional telling you how wonderful and fun their profession was]. And the posting itself strikes a difficult tone too, because any challenge to it is setup as a fairly indefensible position - disagreement with it is just petulance, a lack of maturity. And rightfully so, if I'm being honest.

But like before, none of this parsing changes the absolute validity of her point. And not just to those who go to the extremes, like the older creator who had fallen so far, but to anyone who is committing to this path. I hope I'm not doing this just for validation. I only include the "just" because I'll admit, the lack of success at 26 is getting to me [yes, this would be a good time to make fun - in writing, 26 is when you should be nowhere near success, yet I still interact fairly regularly with those younger, and more successful in the things I'm pursuing, that I want to do]. Yet I'm not quite there with the "know yourself" part, for the writing, or for the greater part of my life. And that's frightening.

Other things seem in the article I'm not so willing to embrace completely. I've never done this out of some sort of pursuit of happiness. Fundamentally, I've always seen that sort of reasoning as flawed, as though a fulfilling, exciting life can only come out of attaining this thing we call "happy." Don't get me wrong, my writing makes me happy, as much as it makes me angry, or frustrated, or sometimes even sad, but all of those reactions I'm okay with. And while I support the fundamental idea of pursuing wellness, taking care of yourself which the post heralds as some of the most important things a creative person can do [and things I will admit to at times being negligent in], I'm not sure happiness is something necessarily worth actively seeking out. If, for no other reason, than to me it always seemed like those who chased happiness the hardest rarely really find it for themselves.

There's a lot to be gotten from Doran's post [I think the not tearing others down part is so important, and I regret that I won't be touching on it here], and again, I can't encourage people enough to give it a read. And I'd encourage scouring the comments too, as even more than the post-proper I find myself caught on some of Doran's additions, further down the page:

"You don’t get to sit around and create all day. If it is that difficult to handle a day job and create on the side, there is no way you will be able to handle the creative business."

Coming out of college, I kept a pretty standard 9-to-5 retail job, for about a year. It wasn't pretty, and it wasn't an environment that I could work around - this, what Doran describes here, is very much me, unable to create side-by-side while working the day job. I was on my feet all day, and when I got home, I crashed. There was no place, or no time to jot things of worth down. It wasn't like college, where things could be creatively scheduled - I was on someone's else's schedule, they expected me to a do a job, and it could pause because I had an idea, or pulled an all-night working on something.

So I've actually taken a bit of a stance that is "anti-day job," and have been "lucky" enough that my current living situation calls on me to not really take up that kind of work again, because of the necessity of me being as present here as possible. But at the same time, I have a sizable amount of debt hanging over me, and I know that I'm playing fast and loose with some aspects of my life - a certain kind of tragedy or one ill-timed bill, and the day job is an inevitability. Less inevitable, but highly possible going by my short history in retail, that could mean the end of my creative work.

As is, I'm currently struggling to balance being of assistance here at home, doing my freelance work [mostly the book reviews for Kirkus], and also making sure I have time for my writing. It's constant. It's hard. And I'd like to think if there was some success, if I suddenly had to step up and "handle the creative business" I could - because it would be something I loved, and I cared for, and my excitement and my ability would get me through. Maybe, just maybe, something about me has changed from that person before. The thought of finding out is disconcerting, because I know what kind of situations I'd have to be in. But what Doran says seems to make sense to me, and like my inability to sell myself, I fear I've come across another aspect of what I want to do that seems to have so little to do with what I love - creating, story-telling - and seems to be so outside my wheelhouse as to doom success from the beginning.

The one thing I have so long focused on, the one thing I've believed, that getting good, tearing myself down, rebuilding myself, being the best storyteller, being the best writer I could be, that would be enough for people to take notice of, to recognize, that maybe not being the case? That likely not being the case? The very idea that you can be great at something - I'm talking barn-burning, genre-busting, Ulysses-writing great - at something, and you may not be able to do that professionally isn't so much news to me, as it is just more frustrating each time I encounter it. More frustrating that it's repetition is due to it being true.

The thought that talent is not enough, that refining and perfecting your craft is not enough, it's something that I struggle with daily, because the long and short is that a mediocre story with a good salesman behind it is almost always going to beat out a great story from someone who sucks at being a shill [this neglects those who excel at both - I'm not one of them, but I've recognize them, among those I'd be hubristic enough to call peers]. And I'm not really sure how to fix that - I'm not even sure there is a fix for that. And what I am left to struggle with is the very basic concept that no matter how good I get at this thing I love, it's unlikely, maybe impossible, I'll ever actually be able to make a living off of it.

I don't know what to do with that. It overwhelms me sometimes, but I also don't view quitting as an option. Still, time and time again I seem to run into these entirely reasonable indicators that I have no business being on the field. I mean, I am a writer. It's the only thing I've ever felt the least bit of confidence saying about myself, and while I do sometimes have doubts, that still feels true, and real to me.

So I don't know. I don't know what to do with it, or if it even really matters. Again, I know I'm not keen to quit, even if these are all signs that is what I'm supposed to do. But I'm not even sure about that.

Despite the timing [no one can be blamed for my moods but me], I'd like to thank Johanna Draper Carlson for posting the links - my RSS is so backed up, it's unlikely I'd have found them if not for her calling attention to them, and her presence on Twitter. I'd also like to thank Steven R. Bissette and Colleen Doran, not just for these blog posts I've been dissecting, but also for all the stellar work they've produced over the years. I hope sincerely nothing here offends.