2014 Begins

A beginning of the year roundup of what I’ve working on.  There are a few projects in the works, all in various stages.  First up is ClosetWorld, the project with art by the brilliant John Amor and colors by Tamra Bonvillain.  John’s art gets better with each issue, and we’re now working through issue 4, the final issue of this series that was picked up by Arcana Studios.  Can’t wait to get this one wrapped up and into your hands.

Next we have A Heart for al Qaeda, a military-themed story that features combat controllers, the Air Force’s special operators who embed with Army Special Forces and Navy SEAL teams to serve as the on-site manager of air support.  I’ve had a switch of artists recently, and I can’t wait to show off new artist Francesco Mobili from Italy (check out my Hangar 19 Facebook page to see some panels).  Early pages are nothing short of stunning.  My first artist on the book, Sedat Oezgen, had to move on due to family commitments and some other comics projects, and we’re both excited to work again on another project in the future.

Also in the works is The Forgotten.  This one I cannot go into any detail other than it does take place in both the real world and the dream world.  I know this is not somewhere most comics writers would tread, given Neil Gaiman’s seminal work in The Sandman, but I’ve got a take on the dream world that I’ve never seen done before.  And the background story between the real world and dream world are deeply personal.  I’ve held this story for some time waiting for just the right artist, and I believe I may have found him.  More to come on this comic.

I’ve also got some prose stories coming out, and I’ll be sharing those another time when they’re closer to release. 

All in all, a lot on my writing plate as 2014 begins.  And with a move to Amman, Jordan coming soon, not to mention family time with my wife and twin boys, it’s going to be one busy year. 

Now to get to work.  These stories don’t write themselves.


What the Military Taught Me About Writing

On Sunday, 2 June 2013, I’ll have officially been an Air Force officer 20 years.  On graduation day at the Air Force Academy, I threw my hat in the air as the Air Force Thunderbirds screamed overhead.  I’m extremely proud of my years in the service, and even now I continue serving, learning Arabic and preparing for an assignment to Amman, Jordan.

During all this time I’ve known of my love and passion for writing.  It’s been an ever-present desire in my life, and I have to say my career in the military has taught me a lot that pertains to and helps with my writing life.  Here are a few things the military taught me and how they help me with writing.

1)      Respect authority.  There is always someone in a position of authority over you, and this is no less the case in writing.  Even as a freelancer, there’s an editor who you’ll work with.  Be respectful to this person and help them succeed in their job, which is to get a great comic or story out on time.

2)      On time is five minutes early.  In the Air Force, if you’re exactly on time for a meeting that means you’re late.  On time is actually five minutes before the meeting.  The same helps with writing.  If you’re given deadline, beat it.  Get your work written, polished, and in to them before the date they said they’d need it.  Remember there is a line of creators (pencilers, inkers, colorists, letterers) whose job is waiting for you to get your story in.

3)      Be brief, be brilliant.  You hear this statement a lot when communicating in the military, particularly in briefings.  The seniors you’re briefing have a lot of issues to handle and not a lot of time.  So be concise, informative, and hard-hitting.  The same goes with writing.  Trim the fat, get to the meat of the story, and make it as hard-hitting emotionally as you are able.

4)      Communicate, communicate, communicate.  When working on a military operation, you may have people scattered over the entire globe.  The only way to pull it off successfully and on time is to always communicate.  That goes with writing comics as well.  I always try and let my creators know what’s going on with the project at any given time.  It’s best if they aren’t left in the dark.  That includes discussing page rates, deadlines, story ideas, publishing plans, and whatever else you can think of.

5)      Experience life.  The military gives you the opportunity to experience a LOT of life  in a short amount of time.  With multiple moves all over the country and world, I’ve had the opportunity to see this world in a way many never get to – not by riding a tour bus but by living with its inhabitants, talking with them, knowing them.  I’ve learned languages other than my own, I’ve learned to ski and dive, I’ve learned what it’s like to welcome life into the world and to say goodbye to loved ones who’ve passed.  Don’t become complacent, but get out and live life and use that to fuel your characters and your stories.

6)      The work doesn’t do itself.  The biggest lesson I take from my military time is to sit down and do the work.  There’s no other way it’s going to get done.  You can’t sit and say, “I could write a better story than that.”  You have to sit and write that story. 

I thank God for my 20+ years in uniform, and I’m still proud to wear it and serve.  I don’t know what’s in store beyond this, but I know it’ll hold more stories that I must tell.  I hope you’ll read and enjoy them as much as I enjoy the telling.


Convention Preparation

I've mentioned before that I'll be attending this year's Heroes Con in Charlotte, NC from 7 - 9 June.  To make this a successful con, there are many things I have to work on prior to attending. 

Pitches: I have a few projects that are currently being developed and in various stages of building the pitch.  One of these, "A Heart for al Qaeda," is getting close to completion, and my goal is to have all the pages and cover completed by Heroes Con.  That means I have to work with artist Sedat Oezgen to get the last few pages done as well as prep the colorist and letterer that pages are heading their way and I need a fast turn on them.

Sales Items: I'll be selling copies of my Marvel New Avengers, Wolverine, and Astonishing Tales work, as well as my independent copies of Devolution, Redo, and ClosetWorld.  Prior to the convention, I need to inventory what I've got, make sure I have pricing stickers, and get cash on hand for when someone hands you a $20 bill and needs $18 back. 

Banner: Now that Hangar 19 exists as a studio for my work, I need to get a professional-looking banner to attract attention and identify who I am.  I decided to go with Post Up Stand as the reviews on their work were excellent.  They've been very responsive, patient, and willing to work with my limited technical background.  It goes to print tomorrow and should be sent to me soon after that, and I'm really excited based on the proof sent to me.

Fans: I want to encourage as many as I can to attend, and since there is a Facebook chat group for those of us who were extras in the movie Iron Man 3 (filmed in NC), I plan to invite the extras to come by the con and swing by my booth.  I've also got to prep other materials, i.e., business cards, a placard with my name, etc.

Convention Pros: These conventions are a great time to link up with friends from the industry.  I always make sure to poll around and see who's going.  I'll get the chance to see Mitch Gerads (artist - The Activity), Nathan Edmondson (writer - The Activity), and several of my Comics Experience (CE) participants, who I've grown close to as we hone our craft on the CE forum.  I'll also be sharing the table with author Kevin Maurer, using the time to further refine our comics story "A Heart for al Qaeda."  And there are certain artists I'm hoping to work with, and it'll be a good opportunity to meet them and form a relationship with them that hopefully will lead to collaboration some day.

Publishers: If the right editors and publishers are at the con, it can be an opportunity to meet with them and pitch current or future projects.  If nothing else, it's good to meet them, establish a connection, and follow up after the con for possible projects.

Play Time: No matter what, I have to get some time to wander away from the table and enjoy the con as a fan myself.  This is the joy of going to a comic convention - walking, talking, and buying cool stuff with like-minded comics fans. 

I'm looking forward to Heroes Con, and I hope I get everything ready in time.  If you can make it, swing by and find me, and we can talk comics, the industry, life, whatever you want.


The Joy of Collaboration

One of the things comics writers will always tell you is so great about working in comics is the joy of collaboration.  It's such a great experience to sit and work with these artists and combine your vision into that mix of words and art that's better than what either of you conceived alone.

I know for me, it's a great feeling to see the art come in.  When I'm developing and writing a story, I have some idea in my head what it'll look like.  Then when it comes in and I open it, it's usually so much different and so much better than what I could have imagined. 

I've been blessed to work with some extraordinary artists.  I know I'm forgetting some, but some of these include: Paul Neary, Adriana Melo, Jake Bilbao, Alex Amezcua, William Allan Reyes, John Amor, Drew Moss, Sedat Oezgen, and Christian N. St. Pierre.  This doesn't count the inkers, colorists, and letterers I've worked with. 

I'm richer from having worked with these talented people, and seeing their imagination and talent only motivates me more to create great stories for them to illustrate.  I've got several artists that I'm reaching out to now for a newly developing project, and I hope to continue working with such amazing people in such an incredible medium of storytelling.


Convention and Conference Appearances 2013

Greetings everyone.  Just wanted to provide an update on the conventions and conferences I'll be attending this year. 

First up, I'll be attending Heroes Con in Charlotte, NC from 7 - 9 June.  This is a fantastic convention for those who love comics, and a really family-friendly con.  Not sure what my table number will be, but you will find me in Artists Alley at a table with author Kevin Maurer.  Kevin and I are collaborating on a new independent series titled "A Heart for al Qaeda."

My next appearance will be at Realm Makers 2013 from 2 - 3 Aug at the Univ of Missouri, St. Louis.  This is a faith-based writers conference put together by author Rebecca Minor, and I'll be speaking on what to do to turn your novel or short story into a comic book or graphic novel.  This is the inaugural year for this conference, and it looks like it'll be a fantastic event based on the speakers they've put together.

I'm also hoping to attend the New York Comic Con from 11 - 13 Oct.  I have no plans for a table at this show, but if anyone wants to link up, reach out to me through the site here.

Can't wait for this year's great conventions, especially since we'll be in Jordan next year and convention time will be difficult to come by.  Hope to see you there, if not sooner.