Friday Fun Facts

Today begins a two and-a-half day writing weekend — the “and-a-half” is because I’ll spend part of the weekend consuming meat and beer at a friend’s Fourth of July cookout — and it’ll be the last weekend I have for a while, because I’ll be working ConnectiCon next weekend with my wife. So, three fewer writing days, but I get to spend them cosplayer watching instead. Fair trade-off.

As I warm up for today’s writing, I thought I’d share some random nibbly-bits about Action Figures — little insights into my thought process, backstory material, scenes that’ll never make it into the series, stuff like that.

* The Buzzkill Joy character’s look is based on actress Bex Taylor-Klaus, who many people know from her stint on Arrow, and who is currently on MTV’s Scream series. I had just begun rough-plotting Action Figures – Issue Three: Pasts Imperfect when I first saw her on Arrow. I was immediately struck by her look and thought, That’s Buzzkill Joy.

I sent Tricia, my cover artist, a couple of photos of Bex and told her to use them as inspiration. Actually I think I said something to the effect of, “I want Joy to look like Bex Taylor-Klaus, if Bex were a bloodthirsty lunatic.”

rt by Tricia Lupien.
rt by Tricia Lupien.

I think she nailed it pretty well. I hasten to add that I think Bex herself is not a bloodthirsty maniac, and would be a lot of fun (and completely safe) to hang out with.

Quorra
Olivia Wilde as Quorra.

* Joy is not the only character whose looks are inspired by an actress. Natalie “Nina Nitro” Guerrero’s hairstyle, in real life and in the story, are inspired by Olivia Wilde’s Quorra character from Tron: Legacy.

PS: Natalie loves Olivia Wilde but didn’t like Tron: Legacy.

* Like Carrie, Matt inherited his musical tastes — as well as his tastes in movies — from his father. Stuart’s love of hard rock and heavy metal comes from Gerry Yannick, back when Gerry, Stuart, and Matt were friends. Stuart passed along his tastes in part to Missy.

* Stuart’s grandmother is a retired police officer. She rose to the rank of sergeant but declined further promotions because she enjoyed working the streets. She impressed upon Stuart the importance of helping people and defending those who can’t defend themselves.

* Missy learned to speak rudimentary Japanese watching anime. Her uncle Seiji helped her fine-tune her fluency during secret Skype sessions (because, at the time, Missy’s dad was still actively denying his Japanese heritage and didn’t speak Japanese in the home). Also: Missy is a hardcore Hayao Miazaki fan.

* Gwendolyn “Doc Quantum” Quentin — back when she was simply Gwendolyn Green — met Tisha “TranzSister” Greene at MIT. The two were roommates who became such good friends, classmates referred to them as the Green(e) Sisters.

* Matt bought his original black trench coat after watching The Matrix for the first time.

* Matt’s love of The Matrix led to Kingsport High School banning students from wearing Halloween costumes — but it wasn’t entirely his fault. The year before Carrie’s arrival in Kingsport, Matt went to school dressed as Neo, which prompted Angus Parr to make a remark about Matt shooting up the school. A teacher overheard this and sent both of them to see vice-principal Dent. Matt was told to take off the costume, and costumes were banned from that point on. Angus was briefly suspended, which only fueled his longstanding hatred toward Matt.

Kunoichi. Art and copyright Adam Warren.
Kunoichi. Art and copyright Adam Warren.

* Before she was Kunoichi, Missy’s superhero name was Ninjette, but I had to scrap that after Adam Warren released Empowered, which features a character named Ninjette. I made a joke about it in Action Figures – Issue One: Secret Origins. I can’t be too mad about it, because I’m a longtime fan of Warren’s work, and of Empowered. Bonus fun fact: both Adam and I are former students of the Kubert School. Obviously, Adam has had more success in the comics industry than I have. Extra bonus fun fact: the late Joe Kubert, the school’s founder, was the man who told me, with kindness but total honesty, I had no future in art and should pursue this writing thing I seem to be interested in.

* Matt and Stuart first bonded during a school talent show. They were paired together and instructed to come up with a skit to perform. They reenacted several scenes from The Blues Brothers, which Matt had watched weeks earlier with his father. A parent-teacher conference followed soon thereafter.

* Edison “Concorde” Bose never went to college. He wanted to attend MIT, but was thrust into the corporate world following the death of his surrogate father. He managed to sneak in business classes here and there, but never received any formal higher education in any scientific field.

* Nina Nitro and Dr. Enigma originally played different roles within the series. Originally, Astrid filled the role of the kids’ friend/contemporary, but as I plotted out the series, I realized Nina would work much better, so I flipped the characters’ relationships with the Hero Squad.

Hope you enjoyed this look inside the rattling, echoing cavern of my brain pan. If you have any questions about the series, please feel free to shoot ’em over!

Odds And Ends

With the manuscript for Action Figures – Issue Two: Black Magic Women out to my editor, it’s time to move on to the cover, which is proving something of a challenge.

Coming up with a concept for the cover of book one was remarkably simple; it was one of those “it just popped into my head” moments, and even after giving the concept some cooling-off time, to see if it was still a good idea once the thrill that comes with the act of artistic creation died down, it held up. I threw the idea over to my cover artist Tricia Lupien, and she nailed it right away.AF Cover

The cover achieved what I wanted it to achieve: it hinted at the nature of the story without spelling it out. It also avoided the trap I see on so many other novel covers: it wasn’t such an abstract image that it told you absolutely nothing about the story.

It further avoided another trap common to self-published novels, in that it wasn’t absolutely wretched (like these regrettable entries).

Book one was such a cakewalk, I assumed I’d have similar luck with book two, but no. I wanted to utilize the same approach and present a cover that teased the story, but every concept I came up with didn’t stand up to the cooling-off test — mostly because the end result would have been a crowded image. I’m not a great artist, but I grasp composition well enough (thanks in large part to my time at the Kubert School) to know when an image is too cluttered.

While it pains me to do so, I asked Tricia to play with something more general, that drew inspiration from some of the more familiar comic cover tropes (i.e., the hero walking away, as if in defeat, a la “Spider-Man No More!”; or the anguished hero cradling the body of a dead comrade, a la “I love my dead Dark Phoenix!”). The back cover will now serve the intended original purpose of the front.

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In case you missed it, which you may have because I didn’t post anything here, the print edition of Action Figures – Issue One: Secret Origins is now available at Barnes & Noble’s website!

AF on BandNLast month I submitted the novel to B&N hoping to have it added to their catalog of in-store items, but apparently its sales need to be better for that. However, they added the book to their website, so I’ll take that as a minor victory.

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To tweet or not to tweet is the question I’m asking myself.

Full disclosure, I hate Twitter. I simply don’t get it. It’s like Facebook for the ADD crowd, with the self-absorption factor cranked up to 11. I’m as guilty as anyone for posting trivial fluff on my personal Facebook page, but Twitter, to me, always seems to encourage people to report on their every little activity (“Just peed in nastiest restroom ever #employeesmustbleachself”).

Yet, like any social media outlet, it has a lot of potential as a marketing tool, which is why I encouraged my wife to set up a Twitter account for Storied Threads.

Apparently, a lot of indie writers are turning to Twitter, sometimes in favor of Facebook, to promote their work, mainly because Twitter feeds every post to every follower, unlike Facebook, which decided to monetize news feeds by limiting what people see from pages they’ve liked, thus encouraging people to drop money to expand their posts’ visibility.

The question is, do I take advantage of a viable marketing tool, or cling to my distaste for the Twitter platform?

Of course I’m going to swallow my contempt in order to pimp myself. Duh. Go follow me on Twitter at https://twitter.com/MCBaileyWriter