Random Notes

Artwork by and Copyright 2015 Tricia Lupien.
Artwork by and Copyright 2015 Tricia Lupien.

Hi there. I’ll be heading out this weekend to work Connecticut ComicCONN with my wife, so I’ll be away from the laptop (and not writing anything. Booooo), but I wanted to throw out a few bits o’ news, starting with a peek at Tricia Lupien’s latest draft of my new bookmark. Remember, I’m giving free bookmarks away to anyone who contacts me with a mailing address (so I can send you your goodie) and a link to a review of any Action Figures book they’ve posted on Amazon or Goodreads.

That gives me two segues! First, on the topic of giveaways, I still have three codes for eight free e-books in the Indie Superhero StoryBundle to award. If you’ve never read Action Figures – Issue One: Secret Origins, or a current fan who wants to share the series with a friend, contact me and I’ll set you up with a code — or you could go buy the bundle yourself, but hurry! It’s only available for seven more days!

Next, on the subject of my cover artists Tricia, she just finished work on another cover for another indie author. Check out her artwork for the first book in Kevin Horwitz’s Dream Walker series.

Artwork by and Copyright Tricia Lupien. "Dream Walker" Copyright Kevin Horwitz.
Artwork by and Copyright Tricia Lupien. “Dream Walker” Copyright Kevin Horwitz.

Dream Walker, FYI, is set for an October 1 release.

Finally, back to me. Speaking of release dates, it’s starting to look like the release date for Action Figures – Issue Five: Team-Ups might be pushed back a little. Tricia and my editor Julie are still working on The Adventures of Strongarm and Lightfoot to get that ready for my October appearances, and they have to clear that from their respective plates before they can get to work on Team-Ups.

There’s a bit of s silver lining here, however. I’m already well into draft one of Issue Six – Power Play and that should be ready for a March 2016 reelease — and based on the feedback I’ve received from my test-readers (which has been — and I’m paraphrasing slightly — “Goddammit, Mike!”), readers aren’t going to want to wait for the next book.

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.

Giving Stuff Away!

Progress on Action Figures – Issue Five: Team-Ups is proceeding apace, with three of my five test readers having reported in with their feedback. I’m hoping the last two will get back to me before my wife and I leave for our anniversary getaway to Quebec so I can button up the next draft and ship it out to my editor. We’ll see!

In the meantime, I want to let everyone know that the Indie Superhero StoryBundle will be available for nine more days — which is also how many days I have left to give out three codes for all eight e-books for free! This offer is available only to people who have not yet read my book, so if you fit that description — or you’re a fan who knows someone who would like to check my book out — use the Contact Mike form to drop me a line.

Speaking of those of you who have already read my books, I have something for you too.

My cover artists Tricia is working on a new project for me: official Action Figures bookmarks, which I’ll give away at signings. These will replace my old postcard-style promo materials with something people might find more attractive and useful. Take a peek at the rough she sent me last week…

Artwork by and Copyright 2015 Patricia Lupien.
Artwork by and Copyright 2015 Patricia Lupien.

Would you like me to send you a free bookmark when they’re ready? Here’s what you’ll need to do: contact me and give me your mailing address, and — and this is key! — a link to a review of any of my books that you’ve posted to Amazon or Goodreads (or both!).

Haven’t posted a review yet? Well, now’s a great time to rectify that situation, and if you need some help crafting a review, go read this post that shows you just how easy it is.

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.