Sunday, December 6, 2015

Writing Plans for 2016

It's that time of the do my weekly blog which is only 3 months behind.

As I'm clearing the semester out and almost finished with my five finals, I am trying to figure out my schedule for 2016 as far as my writing goes.  Of course, I have lots to consider with Caliber Comics as well as the Deadworld Zombie Soda and a few other things, but one thing at a time.

Coming next year are two short stores that I wrote for two different anthologies but I'm not sure of the exact schedule.  I have a series that is already underway coming from Source Point Press called "The Savants" and that is being drawn by Seth Damoose.  There will be much more on this in a couple of months as we'll wait until issue 3 is nearly finish before we formally start to push it.

I get asked about Deadworld all the time and yes, I am working on the next script for well as other Deadworld "stuff".   When I can be more specific on the series, I'll discuss it more but there is so much other Deadworld material that should be arriving before then.  First off, there is the complete collection of ALL Deadworld material in a series of graphic novels, newly printed.  It will be 22 books in all (that's a lot of zombies).  Also, a new series from writer Gary Francis and artist John Marroquin along with Christopher Sanchez and Tony Miello, should debut soon.  That will be dealing with the duo of Punk and Eddie.  The "Art of Deadworld" should be coming in the spring sometime.

There will also be a new book for Deadworld featuring an anthology of prose and I will be joined by a great cast of writers to give some varying views of Deadworld.

I am also working on a new Saint Germaine series but too early to get into many details but it will likely be called "Faith".    I have a couple of other projects that I need to finish and/or add a short story to flesh out  and these include "Subversives", "No-Man's Land", and a few projects that I created but turned over to other writers to develop such as "Disciples",  "Level X", and "Searchers".  These will finally see print although have been available on digital platforms.

Two books I'm thinking about and I get asked all the time about these are not comic stories.  One is the History of Caliber and I may put together a small book on that.  I get asked so often about the details and so many requests to do a history of the company.  I plan on it to be a chronicle of everything that happened but not necessarily a "tell-all" book because there was very little drama involved through the history of the company.

The second book is harder for me to tackle and that's a book on writing comics.  Again, I get asked often about doing something like this as I imagine a lot of comic writers do.  I feel a bit egotistical in tackling this but I plan to approach it as how "I" write comics and some of my thoughts regarding being a comic scribe.  I don't plan to get into the mechanics of writer per se, but just some of the guidelines I use and some things to think about.  On one hand, so much of it seems obvious, but then I remember, it wasn't to me when I started.  Also, I see so many of the same mistakes when I get submissions, I often think about putting a guidelines together and it seems to be growing.

I figure that should keep me busy for a few months.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Grand Rapids ComicCon and other Cons

Just got back from the Grand Rapids Comic Con.  I planned to post this on Facebook but figured that since it was more than a paragraph, might as well make it a blog since I’m failing so miserably at keeping up with that.

No idea what the attendance was but the show was at the Devos Place which is a great facility.  I went solely with the Deadworld Zombie Soda and I’ll explain that decision in a minute but first just wanted to thank all the fans in attendance for the great reaction to the soda.

At first, I was a bit put off as we were placed in the lobby as we were considered a “food” vendor.  Not only that, we were put at the very far end so there was no reason for anyone to walk all the way down to where we were.  On Saturday, the Speaker’s Room opened next to us so that brought more of a flow towards us but it didn’t seem like we had anything to worry about.

I was there with Eric Reichert who is not only part of Caprice but also Caliber.  The soda company is small and we had one person in Las Vegas for a trade show and another person in Florida for a Zombie Fest (no, not the one with the shooting).  So, I decided to go to Grand Rapids with Eric as I know how busy the cons can be.

We had some intermittent periods of lull when the speaker room was full but when it emptied out, it was sheer madness.  Sometimes we had 3-4 lines going 5 deep for people to check out the soda.  We were servicing some 40-50 customers per hour during the peak periods and sometimes that would go on for three or four hours straight.  It might have been the most exhausting show I’ve ever done.  It was about the same as Cincinnati Expo but there, we had four people manning the booth instead of just the two of us.  The credit cards took up a lot of time so in the future, we’ll have to establish a separate line for cash versus credit.

So, we sold out of everything except I think we had a couple of bottles of Grape Soda left when the con closed.  We pushed the soda to local stores that carried it so customers could get more so it will be interesting to see if our distributor in that area gets more reorders for the product.

I mentioned that I decided to forego Caliber and just concentrate on the soda line and that is something that I have to evaluate each convention.  It’s hard to do Caliber unless there is enough room, after all, we have about 100 graphic novels released and that takes up room.  My feeling is that if I can’t do Caliber right, I’d rather not set up at a show and try to squeeze into a small space where I can’t even display most of the books. 

And I’ve also noticed the direction that cons are heading to and comics aren’t the focus area, even for these “comic cons”.  Of course, there are still some that are comic-centric but so many of them now are the family affairs with cosplayers and celebrities.  No, I’m not heading into a rant about how the cons aren’t about comics anymore because I realize that for the most part, these huge attendance numbers are in addition to the comics, not replacing them.  But it does give a whole different vibe to the shows and I think it’s important to recognize that.

What I’m seeing now is that the bigger “small” shows (which means newer and less established ones) are hitting attendance figures of 20.000-40,000 and most of them are NOT centered on comics.  There are still some of the large comic shows, of course, but it seems that the comic centric shows are hitting the 3,000-5,000 mark and that’s where you’ll find all the independent comic artists as well as a sprinkling in of the more mainstream creators.

As I’m writing this, just saw a post from Master Plot Comics regarding the same thing as they review Grand Rapids Comic Con here.  They have the same response as I do.  It’s not a bad thing per se, but it is different.  I guess if it brings attention to the whole medium, overall that’s good.

One disturbing trend that I have noticed and of course, other people have been talking about this for a while, is the use of prints produced on company owned characters.  Of course, mostly it is Marvel and DC but when approaching these other shows, it seems like a lot of artist start producing prints of top level movies and television shows.  I know Marvel and DC have turned away from coming down on artists as it’s a tricky situation of restricting someone promoting your product but when it comes down to selling prints of licensed characters, I think with the expansion of the medium, the big guys are possibly looking to start clamping down on it.

I’ve always been ambivalent about it since I’m not an artist but I think I’d be pretty pissed off if I saw someone selling prints of King Zombie or other Deadworld characters or other creations like Saint Germaine, Baker Street, etc.  Usually when I work with artists, even on jam sessions, I generally let them make prints and they can keep all the revenue because they don’t get much of a rate for doing the initial job.  That is part of the package and if they can sell a print of the art they did for me, good for them and I also feel better that they’re getting some additional revenue.  But if it’s someone who didn’t do work for me or who I don’t even know, I have to admit, I don’t think I’m going to feel too happy about that.

It should be interesting to see how all that shakes out with the growth of the characters into the mainstream (even though it really hasn’t penetrated the comics themselves to any reliable and great extent).  I wonder if a crackdown will happen sooner than people expect.

In a related note, I do get asked a lot to attend shows as Caliber…as well as Deadworld Zombie Soda.  Although time is the main concern, I do have to think about expenses.  I pretty much won’t do a show unless we are given space and that’s the main priority.  Travel and lodgings…that’s all negotiable but I’m not one to expect a full ride to most shows but I have to have the space.  And of course, the time factor.  Shows just eat up a lot of time and I am always at a show wondering how much I’m not getting down because I’m at a particular show but I do recognize the importance of doing shows at the same time.  So, it’s always something I have to take everything into consideration.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Year Ending Odds and Ends

Figured I’d cover a lot of misc. stuff on a year’s end blog.

First off, 2014 saw the announcement that Caliber was returning and its been a really busy year getting that going. So much of it isn’t evident on the surface but we spent a lot of time and effort on the digital side of things. I think we’re close to 500 issues/books on various digital formats and many of them are just now rolling out. There’s a lot of formatting for the various platforms and of course, we keep adding to the list. Hard to say at this point how impactful the digital sales will be but some titles move briskly and others…well, not so much. We have some promotional plans and hopefully, but mid year, we'll have a much better idea of what the digital market actually is for Caliber.

Of course, it hasn’t just been digital as we’ve also added to the original Transfuzion line that converted over to Caliber. This year we had a number of titles go through Diamond and the comic shops such as Rocky Horror Picture Show, Carbon, Strange Detective Mysteries, Knights of the Skull, and Storyville. Plus, we had a few collections released outside of the traditional comics market. The market determines the strategy, of course, and while the Diamond route brings much awareness to the titles, because of the hefty discount we have to offer, going through Diamond and the comic shops is not necessarily the most profitable method. Not complaining about it as I fully understand the logistics but we have quite a few books that don’t go through Diamond and are more profitable than the ones that do. But anything to do with comics, of course, we want it in the comic shops and ideally, those will pay off in the long term.

There is a backlog of titles scheduled for release in early 2015 and these include Velda: Girl Detective, Horror City, Ballad of Rory Hawkins, Talismen, and Nain Rouge. All these are set for January release. Lots of titles to follow such as God Child, Squalor, Counterparts, The Prophet, and more collections from the original Caliber including The entire Realm and Legendlore series.

Outside of Caliber, my focus has been on Deadworld quite a bit. Of course, I had the Deadworld: Restoration series released from IDW. The first issue came out late December of 2013 but the other four issues hit in 2014. I was also involved with Caprice Beverages that announced in November, the Deadworld Premium Soda, which is a line of soda beverages based on Deadworld. That line is scheduled for a full release in late January or February and should be available at various outlets around the country. Deadworld has also been licensed for wall scrolls in addition to the t-shirts and collector cards and we hope to have information about the board game shortly.

Another publishing company I’m involved with is Binary Publications which has published books on Jack Davis and Rocky Horror Picture Show in addition to a number of art books. I think we had 6-8 releases this year and have a few more scheduled for next year already. These tap into a whole different market and the dynamics of that keeps things interesting.

I see this year as focusing more on the “business” side of things, especially with Caliber which means less emphasis on writing. In 2014, I had the Deadworld series and Storyville come out plus there was another mini-series that I was working on that the artist bailed out on after the first issue. So, I probably wrote the equivalent of 14-15 issues last year. Of course, there’s some other stuff in the works but for the most part, I will limit my writing this year to concentrate on the growing Caliber line. I will announce the plans for more Deadworld comic material shortly as obviously, that is a major title for me. There's a couple of directions it could go.  Surprisingly, a title that I get a lot of requests to come back to is A Murder of Scarecrows. I’m used to the questions about Saint Germaine but Scarecrow fans proved to be enthusiastic even though the original book didn’t sell as well as I would have liked.

I also cut back a little back on my teaching schedule as that was becoming a bit over-whelming. This last semester saw many of my classes getting new or revised text books and that called for a major revamping of my lecture material. Also, the classes I teach, Evolution and some General Biology courses, had a lot happening in the scientific world and it is important to stay up on all the new changes being discovered almost daily. I still teach full time, just not as much.

One thing I don’t have to deal with this year is Detroit Fanfare as the convention has been shelved. That was incredibly time consuming, especially the 4-6 weeks prior. The cancellation was due to a number of reasons which I touched on in the last post, but I find it amazing how many people who have nothing to do with conventions, “think” they know.  I guess on the surface, it seemed like we weren’t close because of the lack of announcements and that there was a Kickstarter program.   But that's a superficial glance as there was a lot of guests ready to announce and the Kickstarter was actually irrelevant to the actual con. The Kickstarter was just a tool, it wasn’t a necessity by any means. But there were some ominous signs over the last month before the announcement so we held back on committing to things. I’m not going to miss the work behind it but I will miss that there won’t be a Detroit Fanfare and I mean that, not just as a co-organizer, but as a creator and fan. I hope that something in the area replaces it.

Overall, I find that I’m just not as efficient as I used to be. In the earlier Caliber days, I had the publishing company, wrote a couple of issues on a monthly basis, had my four comic shops, was Vice President of McFarlane Toys, and raising four daughters. Somehow, I managed to juggle it all but now I find it a bit harder. I deal with over 100 emails daily and that sucks up a lot of time just answering those plus once Caliber returned, I get an incredible number of submissions and I try to respond to most of them. I feel that if someone who puts together a good package, that they’re at least owed a legitimate reason on why it wasn’t accepted.

On a personal level, Jennifer and I are contemplating our plans. Three of our four daughters are gone (two in California, one is Japan) and our youngest is heading towards the final year of college and plans to move out of state as well. I find myself less tolerant of the Michigan winters and so we’re evaluating where we might want to go. California is an obvious choice but we want to give other areas a proper look. Colorado, Arizona, and North Carolina are contenders so far but we still have to check out more places. I’ve been to 46 states but never Washington or Oregon so have to visit those. We have a couple of years to see so the plan is to find what feels right.

That about covers things as I know, even with the best of intentions, I’m not likely to update the blog as often as I should or plan to, so figured I get things brought up to date. You know, just in case I forget about it again.

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