Weekly Update – June 13, 2017

WRITING PROJECTS

The Adventures of Strongarm & LightfootBlades of Glory: First draft is at 58,000 words thanks to a solid writing weekend. That’s 4,000 words since last week, and that’s with a half a day on Saturday (the rest of the day was spent at a scotch sampling).

Action Figures – Issue Seven: The Black End War: Second draft finished, third draft in process.

Action Figures – Issue Eight: Crawling from the Wreckage: Second draft finished.

Action Figures – Issue Nine: Rough plotting in progress.

Action Figures – Issue One: Secret Origins: Audiobook recording in progress.

APPEARANCES and EVENTS

MISC.

I had my interview with Connie Dowell for the Book Echoes Podcast last week, and it should be available some time next week. I’ll let everyone know.

Weekly Update – May 24, 2016

WRITING PROJECTS

The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot – Assassins Brawl: Draft two is with my test readers. My hope is to get all my notes back by mid-June so I can have a draft ready for final editing by the end of the month.

Action Figures – Issue Six: Power Play: Pre-editing revisions are done, in the queue for editing.

Action Figures – Live Free or Die: Pre-editing revisions are done, in the queue for editing.

Action Figures – Issue Seven: The Black End War: I should be getting back to work on book seven this week. My writing time will be limited for a couple more weeks due to my commitments to the Robin Hood Springtime Festival, but after that my schedule will open back up.

APPEARANCES and EVENTS

MISC.

It’s been a week of ups and downs in terms of publicity opportunities. A couple of things I’d lined up feel through, which is disappointing and frustrating, but a podcast interview is still a go. That might happen later this week or perhaps next, depending on the host’s availability.

Finally, I was rather thrilled to find that someone ordered several books through the website. It’s maybe the second direct sale I’ve made, but it’s encouraging to think this little experiment of mine might just work.

Podcasts And Pimpery

A quick post today, and probably my last at least through Christmas — and the giving spirit is the sort-of theme of this entry, which focuses on a couple of things tangentially related to me.

First is a new podcast series The Writer’s Blueprint by Jonathan Krieger, a friend of a friend, and the debut episode features an interview with me. The series is about the challenges of becoming a full-time working author and will feature, along with author interviews, tricks and tips for getting your writing out there. Go give it a listen!

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000039_00009]The interview name-drops J.M. Aucoin; my wife Veronica’s business, Storied Threads; and my cover artist Tricia Lupien — who is the subject of my next plug. She recently added several new designs to her RedBubble shop, including some of her Action Figures art. Of particular amusement to me: the cover for Action Figures – Issue Three: Pasts Imperfect (which you can get on many products sans the text) is behind a “mature content” filter, presumably due to the presence of blood.

Go support both of these independent creators!

Fast Five With Joshua Mays

I thought I was done with these interviews, but no! Joshua Mays has emerged from hiding to tell everyone about his contribution to the Indie Superhero StoryBundle, Alpha Male!

Alpha MaleIt’s high-concept pitch time. In 20 words or fewer, what is your book about?

Alpha Male is thematically about hero worship and the celebrity lifestyle that can rise up from uncontrolled adoration.

Why did you decide to tackle a superhero story as a prose novel rather than as a traditional comic book/graphic novel?

I couldn’t find an illustrator. This ended up being a good thing though. If I hadn’t given up on the idea of doing comics, I never would have written my first book.

One of the notable earmarks of our current Indie Superhero StoryBundle is that “indie” part. Are you an independent author by choice? And what are the big pros and cons of life as an indie author?

I chose indie in the beginning to help me get started without any real consequences, but I’d like to see a publishing deal at some point. It’s not about the money, but just the accomplishment of it. I’ve always wanted that achievement.

Author Joshua Mays.
Author Joshua Mays.

Superheroes are well-established archetypes, and their stories have their own sensibilities and internal logic. How did you play with or subvert the tropes of superhero fiction in your story?

I wanted to explore the idea of subjective morals. Good and evil is always so easy in comics. Even when the characters have good intentions, they still have noticeably evil actions.  I wanted to work with that and try to turn it on its head. What if the hero is only good because of what he gets out of being good.

Beginnings, middles, and ends. What is your favorite/the easiest part of a story to write and which is the hardest/least favorite?

The ending seems to be the easiest for me. Beginnings are hard because it’s difficult getting started, and then I always seem to stall out in the middle, but once that ending is in sight, I can type it out without a problem.

Fast Five With Mike Leon

Friday, sweet Friday! And here is the next in my series of quickie interviews with my fellow Indie Superhero StoryBundle authors. We head into the weekend with Mike Leon.

SupervillainousIt’s high-concept pitch time. In 20 words or fewer, what is your book about?

It’s the interview with Baron Hammerspace that I did for Trigger magazine a few years ago.

Why did you decide to tackle a superhero story as a prose novel rather than as a traditional comic book/graphic novel?

I actually have no idea. I never wanted to write novels. I was doing screenplays when I wrote Supervillainous, and I thought the idea would work really well for a cinema verite/mockumentary style film. I was doing a blog back then and I knew nobody would ever read a movie script (because nobody reads movie scripts). So I did Supervillainous on my blog in weekly installments. I didn’t expect anybody to read it, so it was pretty half-assed. There are a few loose ends and gaps in the story if you actually pay attention. And the characters don’t have well defined arcs at all. When people point that out, I just insist I reported what I saw.

One of the notable earmarks of our current Indie Superhero StoryBundle is that “indie” part. Are you an independent author by choice? And what are the big pros and cons of life as an indie author?

Yeah, definitely. I haven’t sent a single manuscript to a major publisher. I never even think about it anymore. I write stuff that’s really pretty crazy. Case in point: KILL KILL KILL has been described as “balls-out insane” and it’s about 200,000 words in length. I knew when I was working on it that no major publisher would ever touch it. It’s fucking poison from a marketability standpoint, but I wanted to write it. So I did. And I think that encompasses the pros and cons of what I do. I don’t make much money, but I get to write what I want.

Superheroes are well-established archetypes, and their stories have their own sensibilities and internal logic. How did you play with or subvert the tropes of superhero fiction in your story?

I get complaints about this all the time actually. Supervillainous throws out all of the usual tropes or deconstructs them to the point where they just look ridiculous. A lot of people hate it for that. Those people aren’t  hardcore enough. Yeah, I said it, and I know I sound like a hipster. Here’s the thing: When you eat, sleep and breathe superheroes the way I have for 30 years, you get sick of those tropes. The obvious flaws in them become glaringly apparent. You stop caring if Superman will return, or if Peter Parker will get his body back from Doctor Octopus, or if Wolverine will come back to life (He will). You yawn the fifteenth time somebody breaks ALL of the rogues out of Arkham and Batman has to round them up in a twelve part mini-series, or a psychic manifestation of Magneto and Professor X turns into an all powerful entity that threatens to crush the Marvel universe. You get sick of retcons, retcons, retcons, and retcons. That stuff has been done to death and it’s boring. All that’s left after that is to start tearing it all apart. Now I just want to read a story about what happens if Batman binge watches Orange is the New Black instead of fighting crime, or the Punisher tries to trademark his skull shirt because he’s sick of seeing every angsty teenage white boy wearing his duds. That stuff is fresh. It’s why I liked Garth Ennis’s The Boys so much. That’s a superhero story for people who have already read way too many superhero stories, and I think my book is too.

Beginnings, middles, and ends. What is your favorite/the easiest part of a story to write and which is the hardest/least favorite?

The beginning is easy. I wish I could finish all the beginnings I wrote in the last ten years. I’d be as prolific as Dick or King. The end isn’t too bad. It’s the middle that sucks. In the middle, you don’t always know where it’s going to go, and you also don’t know if the beginning supports what you’re writing in the middle, so you want to go back and change stuff, and that’s a slippery slope. It’s like trying to tune a floating tremolo on an electric guitar. You tune one string and that puts another string out of tune, so you tune that string, and that puts another one out of tune. Pretty soon you’re playing WoW and eating a burrito because you’ll go insane if you think about it anymore, and you decide maybe guitar playing just isn’t for you. That’s why you have to just finish the whole thing and then go from there, changing and correcting things. I’m a big proponent of outlines in theory, but in practice I always end up forgetting about them or throwing them out.

Fast Five With Matt Adams

Happy Friday Jr., everyone! Here we are with the next in a series of quickie interviews with the authors of the Indie Superhero StoryBundle, and today the spotlight shines on Matt Adams. Yoiks! And away!

Crimsonstreak 1) It’s high-concept pitch time. In 20 words or fewer, what is your book about?

Super-speedster escapes prison to find supervillain father in control, enlists help of superhero-to-be and snarky butler to set things right.

2) Why did you decide to tackle a superhero story as a prose novel rather than as a traditional comic book/graphic novel?

When I read comics, I tend to read collected editions because I like to have the full story. In a sense, I, Crimsonstreak is a collected edition in novel form. I’ve always loved comic art and style, but I wanted to dig a little more into a superhero’s mind. A novel, I thought, gave me the best chance to do that.

The book is told entirely in first-person through Crimsonstreak’s perspective. Since he’s a super- speedster, his mind is always going. He can take the time to make an observation and can’t stop relating circumstances to something he saw in a movie or TV show.

You make a tradeoff when you go the prose route for a superhero story: you lose the art and the dynamic visuals. On the other hand, you give readers the opportunity to get a little closer to your heroes and villains, something you don’t always get in the comic book format.

Author Matt Adams.
Author Matt Adams.

3) One of the notable earmarks of our current Indie Superhero StoryBundle is that “indie” part. Are you an independent author by choice? And what are the big pros and cons of life as an indie author?

My book was released from a small press called Candlemark & Gleam. I always saw I, Crimsonstreak as kind of a “starter” novel for me. The main novel is relatively short compared to some of my other books and special appendices in the back flesh out the rest of the story and the world.

I didn’t know if a major publisher would be interested in the novel given that Soon I Will Be Invincible had been released some years before. I considered going “full indie” and self-publishing the book, but I didn’t feel like I was quite ready to go that route.

Crimsonstreak needed some editing and guidance, and I feel like my small publisher really helped me craft it into a better novel.

Obviously, when you go small press, you’re kind of in that “nether realm” between indie and traditional publishing. You do a lot of your own marketing and spend time setting up book signings and that type of thing. You split revenue with your publisher, although print royalties are higher than what you’d get with a larger publisher. Ebook royalties are higher than traditional pub, but lower than self-pub.

You get some of the benefits of going “full indie” in that you help forge the direction of the book design and that sort of thing. You get a little bit of the traditional publisher world in that you don’t pay for cover design or editing.

Small press really is a balance between self-publishing and working with more traditional publishing.

4) Superheroes are well-established archetypes, and their stories have their own sensibilities and internal logic. How did you play with or subvert the tropes of superhero fiction in your story?

Generally speaking, every superhero story owes a debt to Marvel or DC. I mean, you can’t wrap your head around superhero comics without thinking about Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, X-Men, etc. At the same time, the genre is really flexible. You can have a Batman comic that’s more of a detective story. A revenge fantasy with the Punisher. A supernatural tale with Ghost Rider. Allegorical social commentary with the X-Men. Cosmic sci-fi with Green Lantern. Spy thrillers with the Black Widow. It’s not all just POW-BIFF-BANG!

So, yeah, my book has Batman-type character called the Crusading Comet. He’s a rich guy with gadgets and gizmos—the real “professional” crimefighter with ridiculous acronyms on his signature tech and a snarky butler named Mortimer P. Willoughby, who’s a smart-aleck version of Alfred Pennyworth. The hero also pays tribute to The Phantom in that there have been several Crusading Comets, with the mantle passed down from father to son over the years.

I have a lot of fun with the Comet (and Mortimer). They don’t really think much of Crimsonstreak, whose superspeed was genetically inherited and not really “earned” in their estimation. And it’s often Mortimer, the prim and proper butler, who gets the team out of jams most of the time.

We’re used to seeing traditional comic book heroes make all the right decisions and save the day on their own, but Crimsonstreak makes plenty of mistakes. In fact, he often makes things worse and digs himself a deeper and deeper hole. He’s imperfect.

Also, much of the action in the book takes place in the Midwest, an alternate version of Indianapolis, Indiana, to be precise. Most of your big-time superhero stories take place in much larger cities (especially New York, the nexus of 95% of all superhero shenanigans), so placing the action in the Midwest, where we live life at a slower pace, was a way to subvert that.

5) Beginnings, middles, and ends. What is your favorite/the easiest part of a story to write and which is the hardest/least favorite?

Let’s just say The Dreaded Middle and I aren’t on really good terms. I start each novel I write with a “road map” that includes a clearly defined start and end with a few key “beats” and subplots ironed out as well.

Still, I get bogged down in the middle, which becomes a poorly paced, cluttered mess no matter how much I try to outline things. However, we all know first drafts absolutely stink, and I manage to fix this mess during revisions.

I’m much more confident in where I start the story and where I end it. It’s just that gooey middle that traps me. I will say this has gotten better over the years as I’ve written more books, but it’s always in the back of my mind.

Fast Five With Adam Oster

Mornin’, all. Here’s the next installment of my series of quick interviews with the other authors involved in the Indie Superhero StoryBundle offer (still available, hint hint). Today’s guest is Adam Oster, so let’s hear from him now.

Legend of Buddy Hero1) It’s high-concept pitch time. In 20 words or fewer, what is your book about?

Buddy Jackson is the world’s greatest superhero. He just doesn’t know it.

2) Why did you decide to tackle a superhero story as a prose novel rather than as a traditional comic book/graphic novel?

First reason: I can’t draw and can’t be bothered to convince someone to draw for me.

Second reason: I think we’ve got enough superheroes in the visual medium, but in pure prose, there’s so much more that is capable. Novels allow for much more subtle storytelling that can have so much more of a connection to everything. I’m not going to pretend that The Legend of Buddy Hero is literary fiction, but it has a lot to do with the human condition and a whole host of other things that aren’t overtly related to superheroes.

3) One of the notable earmarks of our current Indie Superhero StoryBundle is that “indie” part. Are you an independent author by choice? And what are the big pros and cons of life as an indie author?

I’m indie both by choice and not by choice. I did initially attempt to get myself representation or a publisher (or, preferably both), for The Legend of Buddy Hero, but quickly realized that it wasn’t where I needed to be with my work. The interest in the superhero genre was small enough to begin with, and they all just wanted it to be a Young Adult novel, which would be a very different story. So, I went indie because I needed to be able to do it my way. And, I was really tired of sending out query letters.

4) Superheroes are well-established archetypes, and their stories have their own sensibilities and internal logic. How did you play with or subvert the tropes of superhero fiction in your story?

The Legend of Buddy Hero is all about trope subversion. Well, you know, at least as far as the humor aspects of it go. There’s your character who talks like Adam West, your over-sexualization of women, your caddy artificial intelligence, and a whole ton of other things that regular comic book readers will find quite amusing. In fact, one of the reviews Buddy Hero received is that it reads like a comic book. There’s a lot there to show where the story comes from, while also completely separating it as a new and unique concept.

Author Adam Oster.
Author Adam Oster.

5) Beginnings, middles, and ends. What is your favorite/the easiest part of a story to write and which is the hardest/least favorite?

I’m a really big fan of the middle. You know, the point where you can just write whatever crazy thing you want and make the future version of yourself deal with trying to tie up the loose ends. It’s where I get to really let my imagination fly. I’m also a really big fan of the moments before actually writing, where the idea begins to meld into a solid concept. I spend a lot of time working in that headspace where I’m trying to figure out how to tell the stories I want to tell.

Fast Five With Jack Wallen

Hey, everyone! Today I’m kicking off a series of quickie interviews with my fellow Indie Superhero StoryBundle authors, and leading the series is Jack Wallen, who has proven a bit of a dynamo when it comes to promoting the bundle, so it feels appropriate that he’s starting things off.

Shero Cover1) It’s high-concept pitch time. In 20 words or fewer, what is your book about?

A transgender superhero protects the very citizens that mock him against evil most vile.

2) Why did you decide to tackle a superhero story as a prose novel rather than as a traditional comic book/graphic novel?

Due to the nature of Shero, it would be incredibly easy to turn a transgender superhero into something other than what was intended. By using the written word, Shero becomes the product of the reader’s minds and not the result of an artists rendering of what a transgender superhero would be.

3) One of the notable earmarks of our current Indie Superhero StoryBundle is that “indie” part. Are you an independent author by choice? And what are the big pros and cons of life as an indie author?

I am indie by choice. I decided to go that route for one simple reason– control. Too often publishers want more control over elements they may not fully understand. I know the endgame of every series I write and with that knowledge comes a responsibility to each story that a publisher may not get.

Also, too many publishers are still stuck in the old, stale mold of what “genre” should be. Without being able to navigate the grand rapids of writer-dom as an indie author, the likes of Shero might never have happened… simply because publishers wouldn’t know what to do with it. Thinking outside the norm is not one of their strengths.

4) Superheroes are well-established archetypes, and their stories have their own sensibilities and internal logic. How did you play with or subvert the tropes of superhero fiction in your story?

Two things: First and foremost this was made incredibly easy by nature of Shero. Because he is transgender he is a good guy that isn’t always seen as such, simply because he fights super villains in a little black dress.

Second, the nature of the narrator in the series evolved into something very special. The narrator is as much a part of the series as Shero. The narrator also breaks a lot of rules – one rule in particular is that he breaks the “fourth wall” and comments not only on the action in the book, but on the reader as well. I have a LOT of fun with that.

Author Jack Wallen.
Author Jack Wallen.

5) Beginnings, middles, and ends. What is your favorite/the easiest part of a story to write and which is the hardest/least favorite?

Everything about Shero is a joy to write. In fact, I write a new Shero book every time I think I’m starting to take myself too seriously. I laugh so much as I write it, so the process is incredibly easy.

If I had to name a challenge it would be the never-ending struggle to not go “too far” with the humor and the cheestastic nature of nearly every situation in the series.

Author Interview: Mark Aberdeen

Mark is an old friend of mine. We worked a particular renaissance faire together for a few years before life sent us in different directions, but in recent years we reconnected via Facebook. Mark recently released his debut novel, Dex Territory, and he’s here to tell you about it (and you can click on the image to jump over to Amazon and buy it for the Kindle, or jump to the publisher link below, if it sounds like your kind of book).

Time to introduce yourself to readers. Who are you?

My name is Mark Aberdeen, I’m originally from Connecticut, but have kicked around the planet a fair bit. I currently live in Georgia with my wife and a couple of rescue dogs. I work in telecommunications, but have had a long and varied employment in everything from retail clerk to submarine mechanic to cook to highly unpaid renaissance faire actor. I took up writing as a sideline and frankly as an escape from the technical field. It was nice to exercise the creative field. When you do this an engineer, things can go horribly wrong.

Your book is Dex Territory. What’s it about?

Dex Territory is the first of what I hope is going to be a long series. It exists as a standalone, but there are a lot of threads I can pull. The story centers on a police detective, Rick O’Shea, and he tracking a serial killer in a world where super powers exist. While during the investigation, a full on street battle occurs in the city, a robbery gone wrong. Rick and his partner notice that the supers, called Dexes (short for spandex), have significantly grown in number and something is strange with the known Dexes. This leads to a web of lies and betrayal and Rick is tasked to find who, or what, is behind the violence, what they hope to gain and not get killed while do so.

Who is your target audience? Who do you think would like this story?

I hope this book appeals to people who like urban fantasy, science fiction genre. The story also contains mysteries with hard-boiled characters that have difficulties with relationships. I wrote it because I wondered how a normal police detective would be able to live in such a world where anything is possible. It’s a very adult book with sex and violence and it’s a crazy over-the-top world, but it feels grounded.

Where did this idea come from?

The idea spawned from a gaming session back in early 90’s. My gaming group got into playing GURPS and we took a break from fantasy and did a campaign with supers. It was the most fun any of us had ever had gaming. We used our home as the backdrop and that idea stuck. The characters are different, the world is different, but the seed of everything came from a handful of weekends, alcohol, great friends and too much time.

And what about the title? What’s the story behind that?

Dex is short for spandex, a slang term used in the book for people with superpowers. Dex Territory refers to a website used in the book for an online game similar to a fantasy football league using Dexes.

What was behind your decision to go with a small press? Did you consider trying to find a larger publisher or self-publishing?

I started writing the book in 2004 and finished it in 2008. From ’08 until ’12 I’d been rejected by every mainstream publisher who dealt with any kind of genre fiction. The stack of rejection letters props up a table. I considered self-publishing, but honestly, I wanted validation. I wanted someone to tell me this was good enough. I gave it up. I wrote a little for a magazine and I was going on with my life. A friend mentioned me to an editor at a small press. He was looking for new talent. I got in touch with Terry Wright and pitched him my story and he invited me to submit it. He had a contract in my hands a week later. Terry got a hold of it and tore it apart. A lot of excessive exposition, clunky parts, some inconsistencies and we trimmed the hell out of it and turned a hundred thousand words into sixty five thousand and had a really solid story. I reworked a few things and I’m very proud of it.

What’s your next project?

I’ve started the sequel. I hope to put several of these out. I have some good strong characters and as long as the voices speak to me I’ll continue to write what they say.

Where can readers buy your book?

Readers can find my book at www.TWBPress.com. They can find me on Amazon in both e-book and trade paperback. I also offer signed copies on my blog at http://markaberdeen.blogspot.com  I have instructions and a checkout button on the blog. It’s the slowest way to put a copy in a reader’s hands, I warn.

Where can readers find you online?

www.twbpress.com

www.twbpress.com/authormarkaberdeen

www.amazon.com/author/markaberdeen

www.twitter.com/Mark_Aberdeen

www.facebook.com/mark.aberdeen

Drop by say hello. Facebook is my social media of choice. Friend me.

Creator Interview: Dean Calusdian

StockingDeadCoverHey, everyone, it’s time for another author interview, but this time around I present to you Dean Calusdian, who recently released his first graphic novel, The Stocking Dead.

Dean, tell everyone a little about yourself.

I’m a freelance artist, playwright, a stage director and filmmaker. I like to try a little bit of everything. My artwork has been on such divergent things from record album covers to olive oil bottles.

The Stocking Dead. What’s it about?

It’s “Night of The Living Dead” meets “Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer.” On Christmas Eve a zombie plague spreads throughout Christmasville turning the residents into flesh eating fiends, and small band of elves fight to survive.

What was the inspiration for this project?

After years of doing haunted houses, and being known for creepy art, I had tried something new by creating a large walk-through Christmas display. After two years, and the occasional observation that my Christmas display was still more creepy than cute, I decided to try something new. So purely for the fun of it, I started The Stocking Dead. I had no real intention of ever publishing it, it was more of an exercise to just spend several hours drawing every day.

I know you’ve been working on The Stocking Dead for quite a while now. How long did it take you to complete it?

Over three years. At least a year to write and pencil it, another year for inking and a year to color.

Did you do all the art by hand or did you have some digital help?

The pencils and inks were done traditionally on 11x 17 bristol paper, then those were scanned and the coloring was all done in Photoshop.

You’ve employed a rather tongue-in-cheek marketing campaign that’s so far included fake billboards and Stocking Dead pogs. What’s the thinking behind that?

I don’t know if my funky marketing campaign will actually yield sales, but it’s a lot more entertaining for me, than to keep posting “Buy my book! PLEASE!” I’m actually having a great deal of fun creating a campaign that is its own ridiculous (and mostly fictitious) adventure.

I have a really hard time with self-promotion, so inventing “Stocking Dead Central” and their terrible marketing and public relations divisions was much easier for me.

For the print edition, why did you choose to have a large quantity of hard copies printed rather than use a print-on-demand approach?

Unlike a novel that’s completely prose, the on-demand printing costs of a 116 page fully illustrated color graphic novel are super high. It was about an average of $16 a copy, and that’s before any type of mark up. Although I’ll be living with boxes upon boxes of graphic novels, ordering a huge amount of offset print editions was the only way to make it affordable for the consumer. We currently have a cover price of $11.99.

How can people get their hands on a print edition?

Currently you can order it from Amazon, or direct from us at StockingDead.com. The Kindle version is also currently available (right here: The Stocking Dead). The coolest of comic stores will be carrying it. We’ll also be selling it, along with some of my other artwork at SuperMegaFest in Framingham MA, and RI Comic-Con.

Is this a one-time project, or do you have another graphic novel in your future?

Right now this is a one shot deal, if it’s successful maybe in another three years we’ll do our follow up book…World War X-Mas.