The Stack, 2015

Another year and another instance of San Diego’s primary contribution to culture, Comic Con.
A respectable 11 inches of books for under $500. That’s counting money spent on food and drink, and not including the statue of Krypto because that’s cheating. I’ve read all of this except the two novels and two of the graphic novels. Expect a future post on the best of the Stack.

I’ll also have a future post on pitching; the act of selling a publisher or other investor on a story. I learned a lot about pitching that weekend, that was my main takeaway beyond the books. Excellent timing too, since I’ll be doing just that at the SoCal Writers’ Conference in September.

comicCon2015

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Done & Done

I’m going into Comic Con in a good head space with baggage cleared.

Well, mostly.

One the software front, I released the Android version of Texts From Jesus last week. Software is never really done. We have plans to add multiple languages to the app starting with Spanish. Once we have all the major languages covered… Texts From Buddha

In fiction news, The Faith Machine is almost at the end of its second draft. I’m working shopping the last three chapters tonight. I have a few more versions to make, plot and character threads to cut or tie off, and a cold open to write, but if all goes well and if Con leaves me as creatively charged as it usually does I should be into third draft next month.

I’ve been attending Jonathan Maberry‘s Writer’s Coffeehouse meet-ups at Mysterious Galaxy. It gives me that same creative charge Con does, but in a more manageable amount. Like an IV drip.

What I don’t have is a series of good pitches for Comic Con, a skill I really need to work on. But there’s two days until Con and who needs sleep anyway?

How about you? How are you doing?

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The Hard Part is Over

The Faith Machine first draft… done. 88,227 words is a tad on the short side. But I have a lot of scenes in the last act that need fleshing out beyond the dialog. And I plan on throwing on ten action packed and unrelated opening pages, ala a James Bond movie. Not to mention everything I forgot to write. That Hellfire missile I foreshadowed in the second act, totally forgot about it in the third. And I never showed the consequences of the villain’s success before he was defeated. That’s got to go in there somewhere.

Next: I take a week off to clear my head, even do some camping. Then I give the entire document a few pass-throughs. Like an iron pressing out the wrinkles. I’ll be looking for plot threads that changed or were lost over the last year. There used to be three clones floating around in tanks, now there’s one. Most importantly, make sure everyone’s agenda leads them to the climax. And I’ll be looking for opportunities to foreshadow elements I thought of while writing the last half.

I like the second draft. This is where I pretend that someone else tried to write my novel and it’s my job to fix it. I mean look right here, he forgot about the Hellfire missile.

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To celebrate Family Literacy Day (Canada) Between 8AM and 8PM today, January 27, 2015, ChiZine Publications is making PDF copies of these eBooks available for FREE, including Picking Up the Ghost

Boom!

To celebrate Family Literacy Day (US) they’ll be giving out DVDs.

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And the only one who can do anything about it is me. So I gave the Magic Spreadsheet a try (almost). The gamification of writing.

The rules as I understand them:

  1. Write at least 250 words (equivalent to a page) everyday. Every 250 words is a point.
  2. Keep score with continuous blocks of goals met. Ex. If you’re written 250 words a day for a week your score is 7. 500 words a day for a week, 14. But if you miss a next day your score drops all the way back down to 0.

As this chain builds and your score gets into the two or three digits it taps into the compulsive part of the brain, the seed of game addiction. Using that nasty bit of neurology for good instead of evil.

So far I’ve only played by the first rule with a macro-less spreadsheet. Eventually I aim to write a full web app to calculate the score. In the meantime I’ve written up this basic version using ZingChart.

Setting a daily goal of 500 words a weekday and 1000 a weekend I managed to get 27,922 words written these last two months. That’s almost half of my total words written so far and I didn’t make my goal everyday, not by a long shot. I was only a third in, now I might be done by mid February. The desire to fill cells on the spreadsheet is a great motivator.

(Note: This isn’t a fair comparison. I was work-shopping as I wrote the first 40,000 words. They’re in their second draft, while everything I’ve written since November is a rough first draft. But the goal is to get the first draft done since that’s the hardest part.)

The Third Act is my Complication

No battle plan ever survives contact with the enemy and neither did my outline survive contact with the third act. Changes I made in the first act invalidated large parts of the third. Major characters had their roles changed and needed to be replaced. Motivations no longer lined up with actions. Moles reconsidered their treason. Characters that died lived and vice versa. The warranties expired on my MacGuffins. I hit that wall and I spent Christmas weekend re-plotting the last five chapters. Gotta blue that print, measure twice, and proper that planning if the words are to flow.

Because done… done is beautiful.

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Schedule Sausage

It took a lot of raw meat and a lot of grinding but the San Diego Comic Fest schedule is finished. As much as a schedule can be finished. No plan of attack survives the battle.

As Programming Coordinator for San Diego Comic Fest I saw an opportunity to bring the process into the 21st century. A lot of conventions are still relying on email and MS Word:

  1. Collect availability and panel ideas via email
  2. Create a list of programs
  3. Send this list in a Word doc to all the panelists with a pair of square brackets, [], by each item
  4. Spend days processing these docs by hand, figuring who’s interested in what programming and juggling the availability of over a hundred people

The bulk of the time is spent manipulating clusters of guests and their schedules, trying to avoid conflicts, and keeping it all in your head. But me, I like to crowdsource and I use computers to make my life easier. Here’s my process:

  1. Collect availability and panel ideas via Google Forms
  2. Schedule the panels
  3. Release the schedule on a second Google Form to the guests. They manage their own availability. This is the step that saves the most time
  4. Upload to Sched.org which handles future communications and all presentation.

That’s saves a whole lot of data entry. But there’s a lot of transitioning between mediums. From Google forms, to post-it notes, to Excel, to Sched, and email, email, email. Sched is good for presentation, but not for inception, and it could be a whole lot better at conflict recognition. I think there’s room here for a better tool. One tool to take the convention from conception through presentation with support for print.

I know what I’ll be working on this year.

But this year I’ll be Moderating How We Write on Friday at 2pm and Pop Culture Professionals: Writers Sunday at 3pm. The main upside to scheduling a con; putting yourself on whatever panel you want.

Hopefully I’ll see you there!

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Boom! Luck.

This week I won a course in Contract Management in a raffle. My biographers will pinpoint this as the moment the thug life chose me.

prize!

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Nano Nano Nevermore

Man, I thought it’d be cool to live in a loft and swing down on a rope.

At 7 or 8 I was all about Mork & Mindy. My first non-fiction book was a cheesy, 80 page, paperback biography of Robin Williams. There wasn’t much to it. What was there to say at that point in his career? “Robin grew up, went to school, performed stand up, and landed on a hit TV show.” But I still carry the memory of that book. Robin’s been there my whole life.

From Mork to the movies and TV stand up specials. I never had to follow Robin’s career, he was always there. A ubiquity that I should have worn its welcome. The rapid fire pop culture references in Aladdin should have played out after a single viewing, but I still pop in that DVD at least twice a year.

Like most stand ups he was public with his troubles. The manic performer had a depressive private side. Recently, there’s been money problems, then there was the Parkinson’s disease which comes with it’s own bag of depression. Darkness on all sides.

It’s right there when Mork & Mindy met Robin Williams..

Robin: "I guess I want people to like me, I hate myself for that." 
Mindy: "If you learned to say no you'd have a lot more time to yourself."
Robin: "Maybe that's the last thing I want."

Entertaining people was how he felt loved and valued. With the onset of Parkinson’s he must have felt those days were coming to an end. If he couldn’t entertain us anymore he’d lose us and have only himself. He’d always been giving; USO tours, Comic Relief and stories of him stepping into people’s lives, just to make them happy, make them like him.

It’s tragic that he drowned in a pool of depression so deep he couldn’t see we’d never abandon him.

Goodbye, Robin.

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Comic Con 2014

comicCon2014

It was an amazing Con. I learned a lot and got to see Con friends. Spike’s brain was ripe for the picking on Tumblr techniques. Accidentally wandered into the Grant Morrison Multiversity panel, scored a Map of the Multiverse, and turned it into Reddit Karma. Bore witness to a recording of Pop Culture Happy Hour. Possibly broke a toe on Saturday morning. Did that stop me from walking the Con floor for the weekend, fuck no it didn’t. Of course the one TV panel I wanted to get into left me standing outside, typical Venture Bros.

The Pro Lounge used to be a barren wasteland of free coffee and empty tables, but this year I met someone every time I stopped for a rest. I’m going to spend more time there next year.

The high point, what really recharged my battery: I asked Geoffrey Thorne about leveraging my novel work into comic and TV mediums. His said not worry about that, keep producing quality content and the work will find you.

I’d better get back to writing.

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I haven’t posted much since the Conference. There’s hasn’t been much to post. I really don’t do much except work and write. And the world doesn’t need another word count tally.

I had half an insight while writing The Faith Machine: A protagonist was going to die in the first act to show the stakes were high. For this purpose I created Gabby, the hillbilly with poor impulse control who could force a crowd to listen to her talk. But Gabby grew on me. I saw potential to use her throughout the story and stories beyond.

So Gabby got a say of execution. But I still wanted someone to die. So I created 97:4, the Bible-banging electrokinetic with pica. But she grew on me too. Lesson learned; I make awesome characters that should never die disposable heroes aren’t my thing. Maybe that’s why I fixate on characters who died before their full stories played out, like Thunderbird and Swordsman.

Maybe so, maybe not. Either way, that’s a blog post. See y’all at Comic Con!

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