A Comic…on the Web

I’m terrible at making names for things, but my working titles are kinda killer.

Along with Blue-Haired Stevie, I am writing a comic book that we’re going to be releasing on the internet that’s a sci-fi film noir about brain ghosts in literal machines.

I have no idea what to call it, but its working title is Fedoras in Space. Because that’s what happens.

Main Character is named after two heroes of mine: Gillian Anderson (aka Agent Scully, and yes, Agent is her first name) and Hayley Atwell (aka Peggy Carter). She investigates strange happenings in the future where Mars has been colonized and the colonists have supplanted their own bodies with so many bionic implants, that they’re almost no human anymore. Atwell and her partner, January Wallace, investigate supposed ‘hauntings’ and uncover a greater plot to destroy all of Mars. Both Gillian and January wear Fedoras and at one point in time, they go into Space.

There is method to my madness.

This is my first time writing a comic book–and although it may seem daunting, I’ve read plenty so I feel like I’ll get my comic-book legs soon enough.

I tried at first to just write down dialogue and then snippets of what was happening visually, but then decided that was just too far from where I normally brainstorm. So, I started just writing a synopsis of what would potentially happen with random dialogue tags and descriptions of scenes I’d really like. I’m hoping to sort of expand from there.

What I’ve learned, though, is that the pacing of a comic book is VERY different from the pacing of say, a short story and even more so than a novel, which is where I am most comfortable. I thought things A,B,C,D, and E would happen all in the first issues (22 pages) but, alas, not even all of A will make it into the final cut. I’ve had to revamp how I develop characters and plot and that’s been rather challenging.

I’ve also had to rethink how I plan out a scene. I’m sometimes dialogue-heavy in my stories, which I thought would be really helpful for a comic book–it’s pretty much all speech bubbles, right–but a conversation that goes on between two characters for a few pages could get visually boring, so I’ve had to spice up how characters say things, when they say them and maybe even leave a lot of what would be said up to the artist to show the audience.

Another thing I’m struggling with is knowing that Stevie will start to draw it before I’ve finished the entire story. Who even knows how long this comic will go on? We’ve both said we want a definitive ending and don’t want it to go on forever, but still, can I churn out 40, 50 issues? There will be no going back. I’ve been strictly told by Stevie the Artist that I cannot change anything once she’s starting drawing, which means I’m stuck with the strings I lay down and cannot do anything about it. There is no backspace once they’re up. It’s daunting.

We’re also going to be trying to get funding through Patreon–and hopefully get enough patrons to supplement our steady incomes so that we can devote more time to art and writing and become LEGIT ARTISTS. Building a fanbase will probably be extraordinary work, but I think we’re up to the task. And able to make it rad. Do people say rad anymore? Jeez. I’m going to lose my cool card.

This is a journey I’m super excited to be on and will be updating with progress as it is achieved! Stay tuned!

Inspiration a la Late Night Conversations

People ask me a lot where I get my characters from and if they can be in one of my novels. Yes, I suppose that the best authors are those who are the best observers, and that most novels carry twinges of the real. Not to condescend, but the saying goes that the best lies are based on the truth and what else is a novel but a big lie written down?

Truth is, the strongest characters I’ve written aren’t necessarily based on any one person, or even a conglomeration of my father with a bit of ex-boyfriend #6, but rather are juxtapositions of the many, many people I’ve encountered. Or, even other fictional characters. I’ll take bits and pieces of those around me and run with it. Byron is a mix of The Joker from The Dark Knight, the actual Lord Byron, ex-boyfriend #3, Lermontov’s Pechorin (from the magnificent A Hero of Our Time), and even a bit of Harry Potter.

Sidetrack paragraph: There’s an excellent article linking Quentin Tarantino ‘s films to Russian critic Mikhail Bakhtin that conveys this sentiment exactly. And Bakhtin is a favorite of mine, so there ya go. The article is more about the Tarantino-verse rather than a sprawling pop culture extravaganza that is my mind, but basic principles apply.

However, some real life things are too good to pass up. Like, an eleven o’clock conversation betwixt Adam and me:

M: Pluto is my ruling planet.

A: How so?

M: I’m a Scorpio, that’s how that works.

A: Ah, yes. Astrology. The thing that makes people believe in stupid things so they can blame their stupid behavior on something else.

M: I don’t think Pluto will take kindly to that. He’s already had his planetary status taken away. You know, those scientists are going to rue the day they made that decision.

A: Why’s that?

M: What’s Pluto the god of?

A: Death?

M: And when those meanie scientists die, who do you think is going to show mercy on them?

A: Not Pluto? And believing in the punishment of a death deity isn’t superstitious and stupid?

M: It’s sort of like Pascal’s Dilemma. Better to believe in the death gods than not at all.

A: Do you know who my ruling planet is?

M: Nope. Who?

A: Zapados.

M:…the Pokemon?

GOLD. Dialog for my next quirky sitcom. DONE.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Gone Girl by Gillian* Flynn is one of the New York Times Bestsellers that I sometimes read in order to connect with the average reader to see what the hullabaloo is all about. I’ve done this with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Time Traveler’s Wife, and even that Dan Brown monstrosity The Da Vinci Code and rarely am I left impressed.

This time was no exception either.

TL;DR version: interesting writing style and formatting that is squandered by unsympathetic characters and a drawn-out plot.

Story is simple: guy (Nick) meets girl (Amy). They get married. On their fifth wedding anniversary Amy goes missing and there’s talk about murder. Nick is the suspect because, duh, he’s the husband and the story unravels, revealing both Nick’s and Amy’s sides of the story chapter by chapter until the truth sets no one free.

I will say I was impressed by the format of the story — Nick’s events traveled further past the days Amy is “gone” and Amy’s are moving closer to her disappearance until they meet at the end of part one — because it allows for your sympathies as a reader to shift from one to the other as more and more information is revealed. First you side with Amy as she relates how her and Nick fell in love so many years ago. Then, to Nick as Amy’s strange and obsessive behavior is slowly revealed. Then again, back to Amy as more information about just what Nick has been up to stomps around the stage.

It’s not really a mystery, but there is some suspense around whodunit and if there even really was a crime. But that suspense slowly peters out and there isn’t much tension left behind after the big reveal, which is about two-thirds the way through the novel. After that, it’s just a boring third act that has to tie everything together before a flat ending.

I also found it difficult to connect to either Nick or Amy. Both are incredibly well fleshed out and Flynn has the amazing ability to write multiple points of view. Nick’s voice is drastically different from Amy, who has several voices of her own, so that I didn’t even need to see a title telling me who was narrating, the voices were so strong. But this doesn’t make up for the fact that they’re both despicable in their own ways and have little to no redeeming qualities.

Everyone loves a good villain. No one loves whinny, weak, and self-pitying fools who both get what they deserve in the end, which is neither satisfying nor cohesive. I was left with a bad taste in my mouth after finishing this novel — which took me six months because I kept reading other things at the same time.

Three stars out of five. The writing style is brilliant and refreshing; Flynn’s observations through the characters of Nick and Amy are amazing (ha!), but the plot and the ending were too flat and bogged everything down.

*My fiance and his twin think it’s hilarious that Mulder and Scully’s names can be reversed so they’re Sculder and Mully. Now I’m left not being able to remember which ones are the right ones.

To NaNo or Not to NaNo?

…that is the hypothetical question posed to you all. Hey, at least I think of you as more than a skull, m’kay?

I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo for the past three years now and I’ve never once NOT finished. 2010 was a sci-fi novel, 2011 a short story extravaganza, and 2012 a fantasy novel.

2013 might be…a nothing novel.

Listen, kids, I’m getting married on Halloween and then I’m going to be in Cabo (as in Mexico) for a good chunk of that November on my honeymoon. I can’t just, you know, IGNORE MY HUSBAND, and be all, “one sec, hon, I’m writing when we should be honeymooning. Pool time? How’s about plot time? Sitting on the beach? Only if it’s raining, and I’m imagining a car crash.”

Can I?

In years past, I have slacked off for various reasons — Thanksgiving, my birthday is on the 18th — and have gotten it done. What’s one more? I oftentimes leave it until the last two weeks anyway and write in 10,000 words a day spurts until I sprint toward the finish line.

But on the other hand, I should enjoy myself as a new wife and relax this November, my honeymoon/birthday/Thanksgiving month. In years past, I’ve gotten a little, um, touchy when the deadline approaches. I know, my accent through the computer makes cantankerous sound like touchy.

But then again, I already have an idea!

But then there are the detractors of NaNo, and sometimes I’m really influenced by the random commentators in the intertubes.

But it’s time to write! And November makes me ridiculously productive!

What’s a girl to do? Listen to music, apparently. Or, ride my bike.

UPDATE: I write these things a few days in advance and just this morning (October 16th), I asked Adam what I should do about NaNo and he FULLY INTENDS ON PARTICIPATING. “What else are we gonna do?” I paraphrase for him.

The Jade Skull

Speaking of my car, Sir Blimey, not only is he the inspiration for a great many character quirks, but he has even inspired my own superhero comic. Prepare yourself for:

THE GREEN SKULL!

What, I can’t use that? That’s already a Captain America villain?

Yeah, but he’s kind of a crossover special. Surely no one will mind if I use it?

They will? But…but*…Cap can’t have a monopoly on all colored skull villains, can he?

Fine. Fine! Prepare yourself for:

THE GREEN JADE SKULL!

I switched out the gear shifter in my Jeep for a green skull and then got to thinking that my car had an alter ego and went out and became a vigilante at night, all Christine style. Then, BAM. Inspiration.

Story goes that a witch lady who used to possess people a while ago got tricked into possessing a green jade skull figurine and couldn’t get out until she redeemed herself by doing deeds of good. She takes this to mean kill evil doers and proceeds to possess whatever the green jade skull is attached to. Sometimes it’s a necklace, sometimes it’s a 1986 Jeep Wrangler YJ.

Backstory!**

The Green Jade Skull, back in the 70s, was attached to a walking cane of one Sir Reginald Blahblahblah (official surname in the delicate planning process) and she took care of business. This, of course, attracted the notice of the local law enforcement, who couldn’t find a link between all of the victims, other than the fact that their bodies were charred, LEAVING ONLY THEIR SKULLS, WHICH HAVE BEEN TURNED THE COLOR GREEN JADE.

Sir Reginald Blahblahblah dies and his beloved walking cane is put into a safe with the rest of his items until…

Actual story!

…it’s sold in an estate sale to one, LUCY SWEETFACE. (All I know about her is that she’s just gotten out of a divorce and is sweet. Kind of like Diane Wiest’s character in the greatest movie known to mankind, The Lost Boys.)

She takes the green jade skull off of the walking cane and puts it on her 1986 Jeep Wrangler YJ because it looks cool and the Green Jade Skull comes back to life to accomplish her mission of justice! (Or maybe vengeance!)

Lucy has no idea that her car is going out at night and killing people, but again, the local law enforcement starts a-sniffing’. Enter one SGT. STEWART. (Only so named because I think of the Green Lantern Jon Stewart when picturing my cop character.) He links Lucy to the crimes and is about to arrest her, but feels there’s something missing.

What we don’t know — until we do know — is that Stewart had a run-in with the paranormal when he was a child! Oooh. Which makes him want to understand that world, which brings him to the case files of the 70s and to the shocking conclusion that it’s not a WHO, but, rather, a WHAT that has been cleaning the streets of San Francisco for him!

I mean, it’s still kinda in it’s early stages, and I really need someone to draw because my skills stopped progressing somewhere around age six, but the story is there, waiting.

*…but WE used to use soap!

**My friends and I play the Settlers of Catan card game and there’s a destiny card that gets flipped over when certain actions happen. It’s a house rule that when you flip the destiny card, you whisper the word, “dessssssstiny,” in a suitable, movie-trailer voice, way.

The Art of Seduction Querying

Once, in a D&D campaign, when I was playing a Wilden rogue, I, along with a few other adventurers, brutally killed a dragon. I — and this I did alone — took his teeth and then displayed them on a necklace that also held other little mementos from earlier vanquished enemies. Little did I know (but very well known to our DM), I would later encounter said dragon’s mother and she, seeing my necklace, decided to poison me with her barbed spiky tail, directing most of her attacks toward me, and, instead of fighting her (I was a rogue!), I tried to seduce* her. After failing my charisma rolls and not knowing how to speak Draconic (don’t all dragons speak Common?), I was unable to woo her successfully and died in the ensuing combat, only to be revived later because my friends cut off a piece of my tail and were able to bring me back.

This is somewhat the same relationship I have to querying agents.

I labor and labor, finding out exactly what they want and how they want it, only to be bludgeoned over the head with a poisoned barbed tail.

Now, you can read websites and books and blogs and seminars galore about how to query, and these may help (this one, I found especially insightful), but ultimately, it’s a gut feeling thing. You craft a letter that you think is enticing to said agent and sometimes you win and sometimes you get eaten by a dragon.

I thought I had an in. A published author friend of mine gave me his agent’s information and I queried and waited with baited breath and trembling hands and all of the characteristic unsettllings of a Victorian gothic novel heroine, only to be rejected by what I believed to be my best chance. A REFERRAL, DEAR GOD, THAT’S LIKE THE HOLY GRAIL OF QUERYING. (Or, to continue the D&D metaphor, like the giant pile of gleaming treasure underneath a dragon’s leathery yet still quite deadly wing.)

But I was rejected. And not all of the gold nor any small piece of me cut off by my adventurer friends from my dead corpse can help bring me back from the sadness that brings.

Just like D&D, however, the story continues and you can either get back on that direboar (we saved a direboar from the evil, evil clutches of Veckna, and he — his name was Tusky — will soon become a battlemount for me to ride on into the throes of war once I get enough XP), or you can go back to your goddess or god and give up and sit in the corner and pout while everyone else gets treasure and experience points.

IN THE END, WRITING QUERY LETTERS IS LIKE GETTING EXPERIENCE POINTS. Each one makes you a little bit better and you learn valuable lessons. Like don’t kill the quest-giver until AFTER he’s given you all of his quests.

As of this writing, I have seven query letters out there. I’ve been rejected four times. I’m sure those numbers — both of them — will grow. Maybe I’ll start thinking of rejection letters as gold instead of what they are. All adventurers — especially rogues — love gold.

*On a somewhat related note: when reading a book on volcanology (hey, I felt I was becoming stupid after I graduated college and thusly consoled myself by checking out books from the library and reading them — and even taking notes — so as to slow the inevitable progression of my own stupidity) I kept on reading subduction zone as seduction zone. Changed the connotation of that book entirely. I can’t even look at a volcano anymore without thinking about that one picture of George Costanza. You know the one I mean.