Imagination vs. Knowledge

Some call it thinking outside of the box.

Others call it daydreaming. imagine

There are also those who call it a waste of time. Imagination, on the whole, is a vital part of life for many of us. Dating back to the beginning of humankind, the creative has always existed. Imaginative concepts are essential to those who consider themselves tied, in any way, to the artistic. You may paint, sing, write music, poetry, books, novels, short stories, or even just tell stories aloud, anything at all that causes your mind to wander away from the reality of the work week into a place that is all yours and yours alone.

I think that is why children fascinate me. When I was around twenty years old, I sat and watched my niece and nephew play together. They had action figures that were locked in fierce battle. My niece had a figure called She-ra and my nephew had one called Skeletor (we 80’s children recall those guys). Together, they were lost in the war that was taking place between them. I began to get up and walk away to tend to something else, something more adult, but something about their exchange caught me. So, I sat and watched and listened.

I then began to drift back to when I, too, had action figures, how I could not wait to run outside with the box of them to our large tree in the front yard on a hot summer morning to ready my figures for battle – good versus evil. I never knew who was going to win. I just let it play out. Sometimes He-man would win, other times Skeletor. Of course, good always triumphed – eventually.

As they continued to play, I wondered what had happened to my imagination. Why would picking up an action figure in my adult life make me feel silly and infantile? Who knew? I shouldn’t have felt that. As a matter of fact, today I think all adults should have playtime. It was at that moment that I told myself that I would never grow up. Of course, this was not to say I intended to shed responsibility or my grown-up sensibility, but rather it was the realization that if I allowed myself to succumb to the pressures of adulthood, I wimaginationould lose a part of myself that I simply was not ready to give up.

I hope that in my life, in your life, that we can always find the time to dream, to speculate about things bigger than we are, to feel small. These things are important and more significant than you know. I encourage each of you to pick up a Barbie and send her on a date, or to grab a coloring book and doodle away, or plug up a Lite-Brite and take off (Lite-Brites ROCK!). If you have children, ask them to play along with you. You’ll be glad you did, and their energy will feed into your own imagination. Encourage them to dream, no matter how silly you think that dream is.

Please, for at least one hour a day, shed the mortgage, the career, the illness, the bills, whatever you have resting on your adult shoulders and simply…be. Be young. Be agile. Be happy. A wise man once said imagination is more important than knowledge. I think you know who it was. I think he was right.

Create your own world…never grow old.

 

The Darkness of DC: We Can Dig It

As a writer of fiction, I can tell you that sometimes there is a need for darkness. Your tone is directly dependent upon the world that you’ve created. I think that’s why the contrast between the Marvel and DC Cinematic universes tends to get audiences buzzing.

It’s no secret that I’m a big DC fan, even though I also enjoy Marvel. Personally, I feel that the market has left DC understated until recently. I’ve been excited to see official DC theatrical releases in the pipeline. The thing that troubles me, however, is this constant comparison between Marvel and DC and the tendency to devalue DC films for being “too dark.”

Who wasn’t super-flipped-out to see the full Justice League trailer? I know I popped some popcorn and watched the thing dozens of times. So, imagine how surprised I was to see the headline on Wired.com that read “The New Justice League Trailer Is Everything Wrong with DC’s Dark Movie Universe.”

As I’ve said, just because I favor DC doesn’t mean that I don’t love Marvel. Spiderman is one of my absolute favs, and I’m super-excited to see Homecoming! However, I can’t help but feel that a lot of the negativity surrounding DC cinema is because it’s not a carbon copy of the Marvel style.

DBVSNow, writing and execution aside, let’s explore this idea using a general subset of critical responses for Dawn of Justice as an example.

  • From the Boston Globe: “‘Batman v Superman’ is dark and chaotic”
  • From CinemaBlend: “Batman V Superman Trailer: Is This Too Dark For Superman?”
  • From Rotten Tomatoes:
  • A movie that beats you into submission and makes you wonder if the sun will ever come out
  • Remember when comic book movies were fun? Well, you’ll have to use your memory because there’s not much fun to be found in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
  • The superhero world needed better storytelling, a comic touch and more than a few rays of sunshine.

This general disdain for “darkness” distresses me. It seems like the current expectation is that all movies in the superhero genre be overflowing with slapstick moments and rainbows. If I were to rate Dawn of Justice on a literal scale of 0-100%, I would place it at a firm 77%. Even with me being a die-hard DC fan, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that the movie was a perfect balance in execution and style. There were indeed moments I would have done differently were I to have been in the Director’s seat, and certainly, if I would have been writing the script. I wasn’t overly excited with Jesse Eisenberg as Luthor, and his portrayal of the character tended to have a more “Joker-esque” quality. I was also thrown a bit by the scene where Flash appears in Bruce’s “dream.”

DARK KNIGHTI guess what I am saying is, my love for DC doesn’t lead me to plug the movie as a work of cinematic art. However, I do greatly appreciate the film and its overall presentation. I found it a solid start for the new universe. To me, it was a very formidable flick, especially for those who were familiar with Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller. Now, some may argue that point, and I appreciate your view completely. Nevertheless, I feel that audiences may need to step away from the expectation that every superhero film needs to include gallons of vibrant color and loads of laughs.

With the forthcoming release of Justice League, I am confident that we will see more humor. Those who seek a more fun-loving premise should find enough comedy to wet their whistle. I just hope that moviegoers pause and understand that in the world of superheroes, sometimes there is gloom, and this should be expected in some films, at least to some degree.

Hope cannot always shine through the darkness if not occasionally buried in the shadows.

FFI’s Graphic History of Graphic Novels

You know you love them. Sure…you may act like you don’t. You probably have an entire collection of them tucked away in a remote corner of your house somewhere. Comic books have entertained the minds of the young and old alike for generations. They have been an invaluable asset to our imagination and our passageway into the fantastic. Conversely, many of us take comics for granted, not seeing the vast amount of time, effort, and endless talent that is poured into the history of each and every story.

Telling tales with pictures existed long before language and prose. Evidence of prehistoric Stan Lees is sketched all over ancient cave walls around the world. Even tapestries of the Middle Ages were designed to tell intricate stories and serve as history lessons for future generations.

These things have led society to present day comics and graphic novels.

So, what is the difference between a comic book and a graphic novel? Simply, it is length of the overall work that separates one form from the other. Both mediums are presented in the familiar sequential art design, combining text, panels, and images. However, a comic book is around twenty – thirty pages where a graphic novel can span hundreds of pages. I compare the two to television broadcasts versus theatrical motion pictures. An episode of RAISING HOPE will run about twenty minutes, whereas the movie HOPE FLOATS runs nearly two hours.

Though there have been some slight debate, the first recognized comic/graphic novel that debuted in the United States is considered to be The Adventures of Obadiah Oldbuck published in 1842. As historians examined the evolution of comics in the U.S., they established several historical phases, or ages:

Proto-comic books and the Platinum Age

The earliest of comics, these were assortments of comic strips that were gathered and compiled into hardcover collections. The Yellow Kid in McFadden’s Flats (G. W. Dillingham Company, 1897), and The Funnies and Funnies on Parade (Dell Publishing/George T. Delacorte Jr., 1929) are proto-comic books that came to life in the Platinum Age.

Golden Age

Ah…the birth of the superhero. Action Comics #1 emerged in June 1938 and with it came the birth of the dude known to all as Superman. This started it all, even down to the superhero tights. Action became the print with the second-largest number of issues trailing Dell Comics’ Four Color. World War II delivered mass-market appeal for superhero comics, which not only provided cost-effective entertainment, but gave citizens a sense of invulnerability and power at a time where many were afraid. This era spawned heroes such as Captain Marvel and Captain America. After the war, the need for the superhero declined dramatically making room for more comical plots, like those in Archie Comics and Walt Disney. With the exception of whom I refer to as the “big three” (Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman), superheroes were mostly extinct by 1952.

Silver Age

BUT—you can’t keep a good hero down and the mid-50’s into the early 60’s saw a reprieve for the wonderful superhero. The two publishing titans—Marvel and DC—hatched a plethora of incredibles: Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman, Fantastic Four, and who could ever forget Spiderman (Amazing Fantasy#15 – 1962)? Radioactive accidents were everywhere!

Bronze Age

A more mature comic began to show its face during the 70’s through the mid-80’s. Social issues were the hot topics and comics weren’t going to turn a blind eye to our collective challenges. It’s said there is no distinct line that heralded the beginning of the Bronze Age but rather a soup of occurrences that brought about its existence. The onset of the Bronze Age overlapped with multiple career changes in the comics industry of the time ranging from promotions to departures to all-out beheadings. This allowed a newer, younger group into the mix. Additionally, marketing changes erupted, moving comics away from the cheaper newsstands to the newer specialty/comic book stores, which I still believe are some of the coolest places on earth.

Copper Age/Modern Age – Then and Today

Change is exciting! Since the late 80’s, comics and graphic novels have evolved into a species adored by many. It is now a lifestyle that is fed by the coolness of knowing what The Watchmen is about, or knowing why Scott Pilgrim is fighting the world. We’ve seen an ample rise in the independent publisher who has and will continue to deliver the freshest in entertainment. Superheroes are all over the movies today and the stories of graphic novels and comics dominate the box office. Massive events like WonderCon and Comi-Con are the places to be, not only for us “nerds” who rule the world, but the celebrities who want to be cool enough to be invited with us. Consoles like Playstation 3/4, Xbox 360/One, and Wii have granted even deeper wishes providing all of the role playing adventure we can tolerate. We’ve seen the rise of the conflicted anti-hero, like The Dark Knight, who has challenged the blissful humanitarian heroes of the past.

And it continues to change; it continues to grow.

Yes, the world of comics, video games, action figures, and collectibles is no longer for the goofy guy living in his parent’s basement. It is a domain where those who don’t get it…don’t get it. In the immortal words of Sheldon Cooper…

Sheldon Cooper: [Holding the latest issue of The Flash] Hello, Fastest Man Alive. Wanna see me read your entire comic book? [Flips quickly through comic] Wanna see it again??

References and Reads

Royal Quiet DeLuxe

No author is perfect; however, some have come very close to it. Take Ernest Hemingway for example. Hemingway once said, “There is no rule on how to write. Sometimes it comes easily and perfectly; sometimes it’s like drilling rock, and then blasting it out with charges.” He cherished Royal typewriters and used the Royal Quiet DeLuxe line. Well, let me tell you, these bulky machines were anything but quiet. Still, Hemingway loved them. He would stand as he wrote, which makes perfect sense seeing that it took an act of Congress to press the keys.

I don’t think authors begin their career feeling like an author. I believe true authors are born, not created. They enter this world with the unique ability to blend grammar and style with storytelling to weave worlds of imagination. It’s a talent I don’t think can be mimicked or replicated. A writer may spend many years writing, but not feeling like a true author. Some consider publication the point where authors are born.

I can tell you this is not true.

Some published writers are only writers who were lucky enough to receive a buck. I’ve read enough books to know that publication doth not an author make. I think that being an author is a 50/25/25 split.

25% is the ability to create, to imagine. You have to be able to visualize worlds that don’t exist and then bring them to life.

Another 25% is the ability to learn. A true author is never perfect, even though some are terribly close. There is always room to learn and grow. Expanding grammar, composition, and style is essential.

50% of the entire equation is the ability to believe, to envision your success, your ability, and, most importantly, your talent. If you don’t believe that you are an author, you’ll never be one (also you won’t ever fly with Peter Pan).

A few years ago, a very special friend of mine presented me with a gift, one of those out of the blue things. I came in from work to find a huge box with a large bow sitting on the table in the middle of my kitchen along with an accompanying letter. The letter was a heartfelt testament to my determination to become a successful author, the faith they had in me, and how they believed I would find my dream.

I opened the gift to find that I now possessed a genuine 1941 Royal Quiet DeLuxe typewriter, which was nearly in mint condition. I sat there holding the bulky thing in awe, feeling its weight, pressing its keys, and typing my name over and over again. I wondered how many of the great authors from history sat in front of a machine just like it, typing away with no spell check or track editing, and I longed to be them, to know what they knew/know.

When I recognized this desire, along with how excited I was at holding the Royal, I realized something. I understood, without a doubt, that I was an author—maybe a “far-from-perfect” author—but an author still.

Yes, I am an author…

Thank you, my special someone, for showing me how to believe in me. Much love…

Peace, Faith, & Love, Y’all…2017

So, yeah, 2016 has been a crap sandwich on rye. Hold the onion.

I think you can agree with that. Most would. I think it all boils down to Reality. I capitalize “Reality” in this context, because Reality is an entity all its own, a fierce, nasty, ghoul of a thing that haunts my very existence. I loathe it. That’s why fiction and fantasy thrill me so. Think of it—Star Wars, Harry Potter, Stephen King horror, DC Comics, Playstation, Xbox, Marvel, ghosts, magic—all of these things, these worlds, far more wonderful than our own in most cases, are places where we can escape the bitterness of the Reality before us.

I spend much of my time in these places. It’s why I write. To me, nothing is more immersive than diving into a world that you yourself created. You can pick the people, the personalities, their characteristics, their situations, and their fate (though “fate” sounds grim, when you put it that way). I love doing that initial plot pass, that high-level review of how the story will go, leaving all details to chance, only to be discovered along the way.

This need, this desire for something beyond Reality, is one thing I believe has caused 2016 to seem so dismal. Look at the celebrities we have lost. I know some folks find mourning celebrities rather insignificant given the status of things in Reality, but celebrities aren’t part of Reality. The loss of the players who show us the worlds we prefer is quite momentous to those who depend on the fantastic. For me, there have been significant losses this year: David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Prince, Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds, and that’s just to name a handful who have passed on. I hate using the term “died.” I don’t like it. I don’t like the finality of it, because it is rooted deep in the soil of Reality. As a matter of fact, I wish that once we said our final goodbye that we would disintegrate into a plethora of sparkling particles, or flower petals, or butterflies, like the noble passing of the wise elder in movies. To just fade away into something beautiful. You have to admit, it would save a helluva lot of money in burial expenses.

But to continue, as these people have bid us adieu, I have not been able to keep myself from feeling an overwhelming sense of loss, loss from that artistic world, that perfect space that belongs only to us Bohemians. I’ll admit that when I found out Prince was gone it nearly flipped me out. And it’s surreal to feel that disconnection from someone that you never knew in daily life, that slight sting of mourning. You feel silly, in a way, but at the same time you feel a little lost. Take these souls who are now gone and wrap that in the pompous, political crap-slinging fest that was shoved down our throats the entire year, and you have the prime ingredients for the sandwich in my leading sentence.

But a new year is dawning, and with a new year comes new hope. Like the majority of America, I’m not too thrilled about our forthcoming “leaders.” As a matter of fact, I try not to think about it too deeply lest I scare the wits out of myself. However, I have arrived to an approach that I am hoping will work for me this coming year, one that I hope will bring me peace of mind. I plan to work on the things that I can change, and to pray for the things I cannot: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.

So, I urge each of you to enact change where you can. If you see wrongdoing before your eyes, don’t just stand there and capture it with your smartphone. Act. Now, don’t charge in like an idiot and get yourself hurt—people be crazy—but do something. Get the store manager, get a teacher, go to Human Resources—don’t just refuse to be treated like less than a human being, demand it. One’s freedom stops precisely where another one’s freedom begins, after all. I think in this coming year it will be up to each and every one of us to be responsible for this, to be responsible for each other, because no one else is going to do it. Like they say, be the change you want to see in the world. And we can do that, it is within our power.

In 2017, we may not be able to stop those who would imprison us from leading us to the jail, but we can certainly refuse to be locked inside. This coming year can be what we make it. Make it beautiful.

Peace, faith, and love, y’all.

Happy New Year!

 

The Liberty of Literature

 

Freedom. That’s what writing is to me. I love the liberty of literature. I think that is why I particularly love to write fiction. I don’t enjoy reality much, so why write about it? Reality is boring, mundane, something we face every day. We know enough about it. In fiction, I have the freedom to do just about anything I like. I can create any host of worlds and characters, and I can have these plots play out precisely as I want them to. And, if I’m lucky, I can entertain someone in the process. That’s what I enjoy most about the freedom I feel when writing.

As most people in the world today, the reality of recent events has moved me, a reality that seems fictitious, at least to me. My latest book, The Forgotten Federation, focuses on the rise of a global tyrant who uses alien forces to rid the Earth of superheroes so that she may assume control of the government.

Coincidentally, I expect to see a UFO any day now.

However, to remain logical, one must remain objective. Therefore, I do my best to maintain a partial temperament in the face of change. To be more…Vulcan…if you will. And that logical aspect of me recently began to question what freedom really means and if its meaning will remain the same in the face of evolution. I’ve heard that freedom is being you without having to ask for permission. Janis Joplin sang that freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose. Throughout history, various freedoms have come into being because of change. Change, more than most things, is quite certain. Death, after all, is change, and death is at the end of life’s inescapable path. It’s all part of the natural progression, the erosion of time. So let’s take a closer look at evolution and its impact on freedom.

 

Ev·o·lu·tion:

evəˈlo͞oSH(ə)n

[noun]:

The gradual development of something, especially from a simple to a more complex form.

Synonyms:          development, advancement, growth, rise, progress, expansion, unfolding

Antonyms:         regress, regression, retrogression, reversion

Evolution. The definition is simple enough. Evolution literally is change. It is a process that is natural, gradual, and inevitable. If we look at the past two thousand-some-odd years, evolution is clear. Historically, the changes we have underwent as a society are obvious in our present judgement, our behavior, our social edifice, and our ideologies. That fact is indisputable. If we think about it, evolution is much like wind, or rain, an unstoppable force of nature. Yet, some of us always resist it, myself included. In general, no one really likes change. It’s like the drunk uncle that shows up at Thanksgiving. We don’t enjoy him, but we will tolerate him, and we eventually get used to him being there.

 

Re·gres·sion

ri-ˈgre-shən

[noun]:

A trend or shift toward a lower or less perfect state.

Synonyms:             retrogression, reversion

Antonyms:             advancement, development, evolution, progression

Regression. Regression is moving backward. Sometimes regression is a good thing. You’ve made an enhancement to a module and you want to validate that this enhancement has not broken your overall structure, so you “regress” the testing to make sure everything has remained operational. However, the larger meaning of regression is reversion, pushing against previous steps forward. Remember that drunk uncle at the dinner table? Well, now he won’t leave, and he’s passed out on the couch slobbering all over your new throw pillows. Not pretty.

We can take these two concepts—regression and evolution—and apply them to a more social philosophy.

 

Con·ser·va·ti·sm:

kən-ˈsər-və-ˌti-zəm

[noun]:

Belief in the value of established and traditional practices in politics and society. Dislike of change or new ideas in a particular area.

Synonyms:                     conservativeness, die-hardism, reactionaryism, traditionalism, ultraconservatism

Antonyms:                     progressive, liberal, liberalist

Before we continue, I think it’s important that we set aside the larger picture of politics. As a matter of fact, remove politics from the equation altogether. Today, we make way too many assumptions by linking liberalism with Democrats and conservatism with Republicans. Though this may be true in a common sense, it is not the rule. There are many Democrats with conservative views and Republicans who lean to the liberal side of the spectrum.

Rather, let’s just look at the bare ideologies.

Conservatism is a belief in the unchanged, the traditional, as it always was. There are positives to this, of course—the road that is always traveled to get home, the apple pie that always tastes like it should, the song that remains the same. Now, let’s turn to good old drunk uncle. He always comes over on Thanksgiving, and he always get sloshed and passes out in front of the kids with his hand down his pants. As a matter of fact, Thanksgiving may not be the same without his buffoonery.

However, just to shake it up, what would happen if we sent our alcoholic uncle to Alcoholics Anonymous?

 

Lib·er·al·ism

li-b(ə-)rə-ˌli-zəm

[noun]:

Belief in the value of social and political change in order to achieve progress.

Synonyms:                       left, leftism, left wing

Antonyms:                      conservatism, illiberalism, immobilism, right

Liberalism is the belief that change is coming, that change is good, necessary for the continued growth that occurs during evolutionary elements far beyond our control. Let’s say that after walking up those twelve steps, drunk uncle shows up at our next get-together with a side dish instead of a fifth of vodka. Furthermore, let’s say that he helps Grandma to the car instead of urinating on your rug. Let’s say he plays a board game with the kids instead of telling them what it’s like to projectile vomit from a moving police cruiser. I, for one, would think this would be a positive turn of events.

But, who knows? Maybe you like a pissy carpet.

There are those who believe that some folks who truly practice conservatism dislike those who are not like themselves, or who they deem to be non-traditional. If you take a moment to look at the social foundation around us, I think we can locate examples of this. Even looking at the select antonyms of the word “conservatism” you see it is polar-opposite to terms like broad-mindedness, open-mindedness, and progressivism. But that is not to say some of those who profess to be liberal are all-inclusive of those different from themselves (e.g. conservatives). As a matter of fact, some of those whom are liberal are much the same, in the fact they dislike those who are not also liberal. I think if we take a moment to look at the social foundation around us, we can certainly locate examples of this, too.

And I believe it boils down to the fact that as an intellectual species, we are against those who are not like-minded.

That statement can apply to just about any social aspect. Some who love rap music can’t tolerate those who find it lacking. Some who consider themselves well-educated think those without degrees are beneath them. Some who have money can’t comprehend why the “lazy” homeless man just won’t get a job. And the song goes on…

However, remember evolution is a force of nature; it’s all around us. It’s happening right now while you are sitting here reading this on that Samsung Galaxy S7 you had to take because that damn Note 7 just wouldn’t stop catching fire. Just like water slowly polishes down the rugged stone, evolution wears down the stony surface of tradition. During the time of the Black Death, doctors believed that treatments should equal the symptom—“like cures like.” Therefore, it was tradition (and I assure you this is true) to have people keep flatulence in containers…or “farts in a jar.” Each time the pestilence appeared in someone’s neighborhood, to keep themselves from contracting the disease they were to open the jars and take a big whiff.

And…

Well…they dropped dead anyway. But, still…

Stuttering used to be “cured” by cutting off half a person’s tongue. And let’s not forget the “Touch Test” that was used to validate if a woman was a witch or not during the Salem Witch trials. If someone was having a “fit” and stopped when a certain woman touched them, townsfolk considered that woman to be a witch whom was later given any number of gruesome death sentences. Yet, this was simply the way things were in days past. We didn’t know any better. These things around us, these ideologies, this resistance to change, these things will fade away.

Just like farts in a jar.

They fade away because we simply evolve to know better, and we will continue to get better, because there is no other way. Don’t get me wrong; it is evident that there are extremes to every side. Your freedom to do just as you choose ends specifically where my freedom begins—and likewise. At least today, abortion can be legal, and it is your right not to undergo one. Gay marriage can be law, and it is your right not to marry someone of the same gender. Yes, all of these things, these freedoms, stop just at the point where your freedom is impaired.

Ergo, are these things our business?

If we aren’t contemplating abortion, should we concern ourselves about those who do? If a woman is, indeed, condemned to Hell because of their choice to end a pregnancy, if that is what she chooses, should we concern ourselves with her choice? Or should we concern ourselves with our own bodies and souls? I don’t like hunting. I don’t like the thought of killing something for sport (and let’s face it—it’s a little gross). Yet, I wouldn’t deprive my big brother of hunting rabbit. That’s his business. I simply don’t choose to shoot Thumper myself.

I don’t know. Could the answer really be a simple as live and let live? Maybe. As for me, I will continue to live by that code, I suppose. If I don’t believe in it, I simply won’t partake in it, and is it my right to remove that choice from someone else? I don’t think so. I choose not to believe that. And presently, at this very moment, that choice is my right.

You don’t have to agree with it, because that is your right. At least today…

That’s the reality inside the fiction, the liberty of literature.

 

 

 

Why Publish “Independently?”

Why Publish “Independently?”

Some people use the term “self-published” for authors who have published works outside of traditional resources.

I don’t care for that word. Self-published. It sounds like you’ve done something nasty. “He’s been in the shower for thirty minutes, but I know he’s in there self-publishing again!”

I suppose it’s due to the way I view the publishing industry and its present dynamic. I’ve been writing now for most of my life, in one manner or another. Most of my scribblings during earlier years were short stories, various lines of poetry, and song lyrics. I didn’t begin to entertain thoughts of writing full novels until around 2005/2006.

After months of excavation, I dug up my first manuscript, Haunting Thelma Thimblewhistle, a four hundred and thirty-three-page monster of a novel that no young adult would ever take the time to read, though I didn’t realize that at the time. I knew very little of my target audience or market. Nevertheless, I began pitching for an agent with Thelma in 2008 . After a few months, I was surprised to land a contract with a small boutique agency out of Portland, Oregon. We launched into extensive rewrites and editing that changed much of what I had written. Through this process, I found that the novel had morphed into something with which I truly wasn’t satisfied. It wasn’t that the editor had transformed it into something else—it was that she didn’t have much to work with in the first place. I had written this bear of a disconnected epic with no real focus, like a rough, jagged boulder that was destined to be a small diamond one day. After a year of pitching to no avail, my agent announced she was closing shop and joining a larger agency in New York. It soon became obvious that she was considering me a lost cause, but was too nice to say it. Her reluctance to sign me to a contract under her new agency confirmed the suspicion, however. So, we parted ways.

During those months of pitching Thelma, I realized I had to develop a new method of writing, something that would allow me to create a good story, but with less of the endless side roads that tended to develop. I found I did best when I drafted a level outline that goes chapter by chapter. And I’m not talking about that good old I., II., III., A., B., C. outline either. I simply compose a short paragraph about the foundation of each chapter. Do new, uncharted chapters appear during the writing process? Absolutely. Do new characters spring to life? Of course. However, my direction remains the same regardless of the winding roads I take. At the end, I typically have a novel I feel is concise and riveting. In my mind, these characters play out as if they are on a bright, white movie screen, projected on the frontal lobe of my brain. Using this method, I discovered I not only could write, I could have a darn good time doing it! I used this process to write my next manuscript, Vickie Van Helsing, and Vickie and I had an absolute blast!

Knowing Thelma needed a complete rework, I decided to move forward with Vickie. Again, I spent months of pitching to agents to no avail. The screen went dark. I had absolutely no idea what to do next on my journey to publication. It’s my opinion that agents tend to fall into three categories:

  1. The BUSY Agent: This, unfortunately, had been my target agent, my golden goose. Look, publishing is a business just like any other, a company with cutbacks and erosion in workforce. I consider most of these agents superb at what they do. They just can’t get their heads above water. They have several “assistants,” who may be fledgling agents themselves, digging into the never-ending pile of queries that pour through the door. Sadly, I would estimate these agents miss approximately >45% of viable works that come into their inbox, because they simply do not have the time or resource to manage the flood. Most of these guys are SUPER-funny, witty, and probably all-around cool people. I wouldn’t hesitate to hang with any of them. They seem to genuinely care about the authors they represent, and that says more than anything else. It’s rare to find someone with whom you can connect and create that true professional relationship.
  2. The WHAT’S HOT Agent: These agents are much like the Busy agent, with one major difference. They go into their business quarter solely focused on riding the coattails of whatever is “hot” at that time. Glittery vampires, dystopian girls with bows, fifty shades of purple—whatever is cooking on the stove, they want the recipe. They have little time for something unique or outside of that current market focus. These guys read taglines, and if the story isn’t what’s selling, they simply hit delete. I would estimate these guys overlook a much greater ratio of viable works, maybe >65%. Not only are they busy, they are targeting the next big thing, which is never an easy task.
  3. The GODLY Agent: Last on the list, and for good reason. Luckily, I have never had direct engagement with these types of agents. These are agents who have possibly seen some great success with sales over the years. They have used their influence to build tall, golden podiums on which they sit, looking down upon the meager writers below with self-righteous pity and indignation. They hang around, haunting social networks, grammar-shaming those around them, poking fun at beginning authors, and making cruel jokes with little regard on how it may make someone feel—the bullies of the literary world. I used to follow countless agents on Twitter, and these guys were the absolute worst. I read my share of cruel, 140-character taunts on surviving on the “tears of writers.” What assholes. And who would want to work with that?

I realized that getting an agent was only the first step. I was having to fight tooth and nail to get someone to recognize me, so they could, in turn, get someone to recognize us. Seems a bit monotonous, right? So, in 2010 I began to research what would be involved with independent publishing. Also, I began to think about what I wanted out of my writing. For a good number of those who create—be it painting, music, writing, or any number of things—we wish to make a living at what we love to do, hoping someone will find our work valuable. I had this same dream; I do still, but there was a clear choice before me. I could either keep investing months, years even, into trying to secure another agent.

Or, I could just keep writing.

As stated, even if I landed an agent, it didn’t guarantee a six-figure book deal. How many years would I spend writing endlessly, searching for agent after agent, only to find my time wasted with nothing but pages and pages of old manuscripts scattered around my floor? Did I want to potentially share what I had written with the world, or waste countless hours in a quest for fame? At that moment, all I wanted to do was write. And so, that is exactly what I did…independently.

I published my book independently—independent of edits and cuts I did not desire, independent of limitation, independent of creative confines. I could write anything I wanted. It could be as long as I wished, or as short. I could use any font (within reason) and format every page just the way I liked. I love the process of writing a book—generating the story, envisioning the scenes, creating my own personal soundtrack of music that inspires events and plotlines, formatting the manuscript for print, constructing a wonderful book cover—these things bring me something far more valuable than money.

These things bring me joy.

Maybe one day me and my crew will be able to make Fiction Factory Incorporated a full-time career, and, if so, that will be beyond my wildest dreams. Yet, if that doesn’t come to pass, I have my characters, the worlds which I have created, and the happiness they have brought me. Maybe what we’ve created will bring you happiness, too. As an author, that means more to me than just about anything else. Oh, trust me, I spent many years wandering in a fog of desperation, hoping for the chance to be the next King, Kontz, or Rowling. And still, that could happen. But if it doesn’t, I have written three books to date. Most people don’t get around to writing even one.

This, my friend, is the question you need to ask yourself. What is your ultimate goal? What really brings you joy? Whatever your answer, remember that writing only for recognition and money isn’t writing. The day you decide to write for yourself will be the day that you will truly feel like an author. To me, that is independent publishing.

Best of luck to you…and to us!

See you in the funny papers…