Friday, December 4, 2009


I finished my "last" inking deadline about six weeks ago. The quotes are because I don't want to completely close the door on my inking career. I'm trying to become a full-time writer in the long term, but... you never know.

Anyway, in the last six weeks, I have spent most of my time as a writer wrestling with the same damn pitch. It is a pitch and an idea that I love... one that I would love to write. It is also one that is wearing me out.

When I first wrote the pitch, it was pretty high concept and minimal. It was character driven, and the lead is a character I'm dying to write. It got complicated, though. The pitch was a little too similar to another book that had just come out, so I started tweaking. For the next few weeks, these tweaks occupied my mind damn near all the time. I would find a solution, sure it was the way to go. The next day, that solution was a load of crap. I woke up a few times with great ideas, only to stare at my excited scribbles the next day with disgust.

So, for the first time in the short lifespan of my new career, I did something really smart. I set it aside. A few days ago, I moved on another project... something that's been on my mind for years. That project was an absolute godsend to me this week.

Problems on the "new" project are falling away with relative ease. I'm excited to be back in this world, and while I can still feel the world of the other pitch lurking over there in the corner, it's not weighing on me anymore. I have no guarantees, but I have a strong feeling that, once this new project is resolved on paper, the one I was fighting so desperately will somehow fall in place.

It's been an interesting process, and one I'm not quite familiar with. I didn't often have the luxury to simply move over to another project as an inker. I have a feeling I'm going to be learning a lot of new tricks over the next several months.

Have a solid weekend. See you back here soon, I hope.


Thursday, December 3, 2009

Thursday- Talking Truman

Just time for a quick story today.

I was asked to speak to a high school English class a few years back. The class had read To Kill A Mockingbird and the teacher, knowing I had written about Harper Lee and Truman Capote (you've all read Capote In Kansas by now, I assume!), thought I could offer some insight as to the creation of Harper's masterpiece.

Well, I serve on the school board of our little town, and the last thing I need is an angry parent showing up at a board meeting asking why the hell I was teaching her little angel about the evils of man-sex. I didn't want to be dishonest about Truman's sexuality, but I didn't want to invite controversy, either.

I asked the teacher how, in talking about the character Dill and his Truman Capote life-model, she had dealt with Truman's sexuality. The smiling teacher informed me that she had simply been referring to Truman as "flamboyant!". Um... okay!

So, I did my little talk. As I walked the class through my experiences in researching Truman and Harper, I spoke at length about the Clutter killings and how I portrayed them in my book. Along the way, I mentioned that I believed Truman had, during the writing of In Cold Blood, fallen in love with one of the killers, Perry Smith.

When I asked for questions, a girl at the back of the class raised her hand a little sheepishly. "So," she asked, "Perry was a girl?"

"No," I replied, "Perry was a gentleman, as well".

Silent beat.

Girl screws her face up for another silent beat before finally offering, "Um... oh... yeah. Okay."

And we moved on. Never heard from any parents, so I guess no one was too badly traumatized.


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Wednesday: Reading and Writing

Just finished the first fiction I've actually finished in far too long: James Crumley's The Last Good Kiss. It had the effect on me that all good art does. It opened up possibilities. It made me want to do better.

Part of my new life as a full-time writer is more time for reading. Like I said, I haven't read much fiction lately. I've always been more of a biography and non-fiction reader, but there's been too little of that lately, too. For too long, I've clung to a stubborn belief that staying away from other people's writing helped preserve whatever was unique in my own talent. There may be some kernel of honesty there, but it's mainly a rationalization for laziness. I'm fixing it. I'm not going to be lazy about reading anymore.

Winding my way through Crumley's wonderful prose, I was struck by how you have to get into a flow to read well. I cannot stand to skim through the page. I want to really feel the impact of a clever observation. I'm not just reading for plot. I want to study what the writer has laid out for me, and that takes time. As I made my way through The Last Good Kiss I found myself more in tune with Crumley's style, and the pages flew by. It took me about as long to read the last 150 pages as it had the first hundred.

Crumley also made me wonder about writing more prose. It's something that's been on my mind lately, anyway. I've always said that I liked writing comics exactly because I didn't want to write prose. I thought I preferred writing a script that served as a guide for an artist, and letting the dialogue serve as my only accompaniment. I'm starting to wonder, though. I don't know if I could ever touch Crumley, but I can string words together. It's worth thinking about. There are practical considerations, as well. I have at least some sort of career as a comic book writer. Writing prose means reaching out to an entirely different business... one that is reeling.

On the other hand, in these days of e-reading, maybe I could write prose without finding a publisher in the old-school sense. Well, I know I could write it and distribute it. The question, as always, would be making a buck out of the whole endeavor. Stupid bucks.

That's enough of my rambling for today. Go read some Crumley. I'm moving on to some Steve Hely.


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Guess Who's Back... Back again...

It's been an absolutely embarrassing long time since I posted here. I could blame all manner of things, but what's the point? I was busy elsewhere... that's all.

A lot has happened to me in the past month or two. In a way, I left a career that has treated me pretty well for nearly twenty years behind in pursuit of a new one. It's not that cut and dried, of course. Things rarely are. I know I will do more inking. I know it's possible that I'll be scrambling for inking job by this time next year. I also know, thought, that I really want to be a writer. Inking the last page of the last inking job I had lined up was an interesting experience. Likewise, embarking on what I hope will become a real career as a writer has been exhilarating, daunting, and a bit stressful.

I have a lot to say about the shift, actually. I don't want to blow my blogwad in one day, though, so I'll just pick one thing to focus on for now.

I was twenty-six years old in the summer of 1990, when my wife and I moved away from home to live in Philadelphia. She was going to work on her Doctorate at Penn. I was going to be closer to Marvel and DC Comics in New York, and to establish myself as an inker. Quick aside- screw you, spellchecker, for not knowing that "inker" is a real term.

Anyway, Cynthia and I had been married for only seven months when we hit the road. It was a big step. We weren't kids by any stretch, but it felt like a pretty grand adventure. We were leaving behind parents and relative security to find out if we really could make it in the world on our own. Thankfully, we had each chosen our partners in this adventure wisely. Me more wisely than my wife, I should add.

In short, we did it. My wife, because she's brilliant, kind, and lovable, finished her degree and entered the job market in great shape. I, thanks to a stubborn nature, a little talent, and the help of some extraordinary friends (Mike Manley, Phil Hester and John Heebink, to name a few), made a real career for myself in the comic book business. We settled back in Kansas and began the next chapter in our lives, welcoming our children to the mix.

I indulge myself, and anyone still with me at this point, in these memories because they hit me hard as I finished the last page of this last (for the time being) inking job a month ago. I found myself tinkering with that page: adding unnecessary details, picking at stuff that was really done and good enough before throwing the page on the scanner. It didn't take a lot of soul-searching to realize that I was being wistful.

Damn near twenty years ago... nearly half my life ago... my wife and I took our big first steps together. We drove to Pennsylvania to face the rest of our lives with a thick veneer of excitement and possibilities covering what had to be a lot of uncertainty. We made it. We built good lives for ourselves and our children, and now here I was saying goodbye, even if not permanently, to a job that had served as a cornerstone to that life.

I know it is right for me to move on from inking and into writing. I know that the former represents something of a dead end, while the latter represents almost boundless opportunity. I also know that writing represents challenges that I haven't faced in a long time. And, this time, it's not just me and my young wife along for the ride.

Shit... I better get to work.

I'll be back soon.