You may recall awhile ago when I restarted this blog I wrote about how I would be explaining my agent search with you fine folks. Before I did that, I said that I would be writing about how I got to this point as well. And that's what I've been doing for the last few months. Do you remember?
I think you remember.
Well, in the weeks since I posted that, plans have... not changed so much as been extended. One of the reasons this has happened is due to my involvement inCullen Bunn's A Passage in Black graphic novel. Long story short, Bunn wrote a collection of short stories called (you'll never guess) A Passage in Black that OmahaBound published. You may remember me mentioning OmahaBound in this post. Anyway, I helped with the editing of that book. I guess Bunn liked my work so I was invited to turn one of the short stories from his collection into a comic story. In other words, I adapted his prose into a script and the amazing Arjuna Susini drew it.
This book is being funded through Kickstarter. I've never done anything through Kickstarter. But I like the concept a lot. We show people a glimpse of what we're doing, give certain incentives for support, and, after we reach our goal, we publish this book, again, through OmahaBound.
So I ask humbly if you like horror, if you like comic books, if you like Cullen Bunn, cool comic art, or even my work, take a look at what we've put together and throw some cash our way. Remember, it's not a donation. You shouldn't be doing this out of some altruistic motivation. Rather, you should be doing this because you expect an amazing product.
With no further ado, please take a look at the Kickstarter page. I think you'll like what you see.
A couple of years ago, The Novel Fox published a book I wrote called Former. It is a sci-fi, dystopian, horror novel about a guy named Billy Dodge who has recovered from a terrible infection that made him seem dead... and eat people. It straddles the line between stream-of-consciousness and standard first person narration because when people read it, I want them to feel everything Billy feels in a visceral way. You know?
This story came about because I've had a pretty substantial fear of zombies for as long as I can remember. I can't even watch the trailer for the Dawn of the Dead remake without feeling a nervous pit grow in my stomach. I don't know what it is. Death? Loss of control? Mob mentality? Who knows? They scare me. So I went about writing something I thought would help me wrap my head around them, control them, learn not to fear them.
I was wrong.
I'm more scared of them now than I've ever been. Writing is funny like that. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
After I published chapter one as a short story, a small production company found it online and made it into a short film. Eventually, the novel went on to it receive some solid reviews from the likes of Kirkus and Forward Reviews and was even a 2016 INDIES Finalist in the sci-fi category.
I like to think this is all positive stuff.
I tell you this now because I have something for you.
A free PDF of the book. Download it. Read it. Share it. Review it. Do whatever. And, if you feel so inclined, drop a couple bucks in my PayPal (email@example.com). Whatever you think is fair, is fair.
I really can't say a lot about my time with EAB Publishing, except that it was great. The company re-released my first novella and allowed me to make a few subtle edits throughout before it went to print. Also, it published two sequels. There are two more parts that have yet to see the light of day. But the future is bright and Max Dinkman's story isn't over.
I also was given the opportunity to edit EAB Publishing's literary magazine Midnight Circus for four amazing years. I learned the level hard work and dedication editing actually required. Long story short: a lot.
Below you will find three of my favorite Midnight Circus covers as well as the covers to all three parts of the Dinkology series released so far. I grew quite a bit as a writer as I wrote and edited my way through all of this. I worked with some great writers, editors, and artists along the way and I wouldn't trade my time with the fine folks at EAB Publishing for anything.
In the end I'm proud of the work I did with the organization. I'm proud of the organization. Mostly though, I'm excited about what's to come from OmahaBound, the company that handles all of EAB Publishing's work these days.
The future is bright folks and my writing career is just getting started....
Prior to my time at the University of Nebraska MFA Program, I spent a lot of my writing life working on two different sets of stories with the same protagonist: Max Dinkman. In some stories, he lives in a real world with real world issues such as a father with cancer, a mother with alcoholism, a 15-year-old little sister with a baby on the way, an ex-girlfriend who recently came out of the closet.... You know, normal stuff.
Then there is the second set of stories that involves Max going on fantastical, sometimes scary, always strange adventures with his talking dog, Moses. These stories take Max to a little piece of Hell on Earth, to a different planet, and even a place where all realities meet. He fights zombies, travels through time, and in one madcap adventure, he ends up in the cartoon version of Africa we see in The Lion King. Thank God he has a talking dog in that one, amiright?
Upon reading through my work, my first mentor asked me why I had two sets of stories. I had no answer. I may have shrugged though. Thus, I combined my stories into The ABCs of Dinkology, a book that combines prose with comic book art, footnotes, trading cards, and music. It's a tossed salad of things I love. And I shopped that book around in a blind fury of pure determination until WSC Press picked it up to be part of their Kloefkorn Series. No matter what happens in my writing life, I will always be proud of that. Of course, I'm not just proud of it. I'm happy because it has led to much more....
Chances are, this isn't the Isis you're thinking of.
Around the same time I was earning my MFA and working with the mentors I mentioned last week, I was also dipping my toes into the world of professional comic book writing. Though, to be honest, I use the term 'professional' loosely. I was a work-for-hire writer on a Bluewater (now TidalWave) property called Legend of Isis. As I scratch my chin and try to remember the highs and lows of that experience, the fact that I was paid very, very little sticks out as a pervading low. But such is life. I was new to comic book writing and all that. I am casting no aspersions.
I can't remember how many issues I wrote. I do remember some editorial mishaps that saw issues hitting the shelves out of chronological order, company trouble with finding and keeping artists on the book, and most significantly company trouble with sales.
Above all else, for me it was a learning experience.
I think this is something we all need as we go forth on the great publishing experiment. I learned about working with editors, schedules, and properties. Overall, I enjoyed it. Real talk, though? I do wish it would have been a springboard toward more comic book work. So, was my experience with Bluewater a failure or a success? It's hard to say. I know there was a lot of drama surrounding the company about the same time I was working for it, but I tried to avoid it. Maybe I should've dived deep and picked a side. Maybe I should've admitted I had skin in the game, as they say.
I don't know. I do know the experience was helpful. I learned a lot. So in that, I guess it was a success. However, the fact that I wasn't able to use it as a springboard to more comic book writing makes it a failure. A little from column 'A' and a little from column 'B.'
Such is life.
Next week we're taking a deep dive into my first published novella: The ABCs of Dinkology. I'm pretty excited about this.
This will be a short one, folks, because there is not a lot to say about it beyond "thank you."
When I entered the University of Nebraska's MFA program I worked with four writers closely to help mold my writing style. They are great writers and teachers. Working with them helped me realize how good my storytelling was (not very) and how good it could be (basically amazing). Though I'm still working toward amazing almost nine years after I graduated, I'm a lot closer now than I was then.
That, dear readers, is a success. I will always be in debt to the four writers.
If you'd like to check out any of their books, follow the links below:
When I was in college I had a teacher who many might consider strange. She was a poet, more ethereal than concrete, more create and free than any other professor I had met. Naturally, I was drawn to her. I found her wise and amazing. At the end of my first semester with her, I learned that she always gave a present to all of her creative writing students. She gave each of us a poem and a drawing she came up with after a meditation session in which she focused on the particular student she wanted to have a gift for... because of course.
My poem is good and it is mine and I will not share it here.
I will say this though: she drew a picture of a book with the title The ABCs of Dinkology on its spine. This is a significant moment, folks, for when she showed me the drawing, which was on a simple notecard, something clicked in me, something magical. That's the only way I can explain it. You see, for some reason that title gave me a name for a character I had been writing stories about for years. He had never had a name that stuck. None of them had every felt right. But suddenly, almost inexplicably, his name appeared before me: Maxwell Wayne Dinkman.
If you aren't aware of the creative process, you probably don't understand why this is such a big deal in my writing life. There are fits and starts. There are ebbs and flows. This kicked off quite a flow. Eventually, this led to four books from two differnet publishers. With any luck, it'll lead to six. I'm not going to get into how the books formed because that took a few years. And I'll go into it in a later entry.
For now though, understand that there are little moments in life, tiny gifts, that can lead you to great things. Don't ignore them. And aways say thank you.
Like so many other stories, this one starts with a girl.
She dumped me... rightly so if memory serves. In response, I, being an entitled young artist who felt I was mistreated, decided to write a fantasy story about four erstwhile heroes on a journey to defeat an evil witch queen.
You'll never guess who I based the evil witch queen on....
It gets worse.
I read it aloud to my art class.... It was terrible. I was terrible.
Thankfully, I've come a long way since those teenage angsty days, apologized profusely to the girl who rightly dumped me, realized how ignorant and unaware of myself I was, and, I like to think, generally become a better person.
Also, four good things to came out of that fantasy story: those characters. They have been on a journey with me since then, growing, changing, and, I like to think, generally becoming better people. Weird how that works, isn't it? But I'm getting ahead of myself.
I have put them aside time and again. But they have always been there, hovering on the periphery of my thoughts, forming themselves into a story, epic in nature, fantastical in style, a story that has recently taken most of my focus and I hope will one day take much of yours.
Next week we will move to college where I did a lot of crazy stuff... also wrote some poems and quite a bit about a boy named Max.
No, I'm not writing about everyone's favorite crazy wrestler from the 80s and 90s. Though, to be fair, I kind of wish I was.
I'm writing about the first novel I ever wrote, titled The Ultimate Warrior. My brain during 8th and 9th grade was a strange place. Suicidal ideation competed with superhero comic books to own most of the property there. At some point during those years I cut the mullet I'd had for... a long time and was letting my hair grow everywhere. All of my t-shirts were black; my favorite had Ghost Rider's flaming skull on it. It looked something like this. I also had trouble focusing on anything other than reading and writing. I was something of an anomaly. I couldn't finish in-class assignments, often spent my time staring out windows, and tended to let my thoughts roam wild and free when they were supposed to be focused on math, history, or science. ADD am I right? The strange thing was that when a comic book or novel I liked was resting on the table before me, open for my eyes, I sat still and focused--even on the big ones. Also, when an idea for a story hit me, I wrote... a lot. Everything else fell to the side.
Thus, my sci-fi epic The Ultimate Warrior was born. This novel is crazy. Set on a different planet, it's about a kid named Mike who nearly dies when a villain named Wood Chuck slices him to pieces. He's only saved because there is a robot junker nearby who happens upon his nearly dead form and repairs him, making him into a cyborg of sorts. This boy grows up with desert monks who teach him all sorts of survival techniques and think of him as some kind of savior from Wood Chuck. All the boy wants is revenge though. Eventually the boy becomes a man and sets forth on his mission of vengeance, all the while, the robot junker tries to be a voice of reason in Mike's tormented brain...
As I type right now I'm beginning to think I should revisit this....
It ended up being a tome. This thing is literally hundreds of handwritten pages, involves spaceships, monsters, our hero splitting into two characters at some point, and an eventual showdown that surprisingly doesn't end how, upon re-reading it a little bit ago, I thought it would. Yes. I forgot how I ended the story. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Anyway, I mostly worked on it during my end of the day study hall. Just about every day I dived into that world and scribbled crazy idea after crazy idea in chicken scratch that kind of formed a story. I can remember how I felt writing it all out. More than anything, I felt as though I was there. I was no longer at school where I was bullied. I was no longer suffering on the inside. I was with my characters, figuring out what to do next. In a way, writing this novel helped me survive a rough period in my life.
On Saturday August 11 I'll recount how I first stumbled into epic fantasy writing. It's a trip, folks.
See what I did there?