Reality

Here’s a sobering, but enlightening article on the realities of publishing and why you shouldn’t quit your day job…

The average advance for a midlist novel, regardless of genre, in 2004 was between $2,000 and $5,000 dollars. That’s your paycheck. The year you spent working on that novel? The blood, sweat and tears you poured into it? The time you spent away from family and friends? It’s worth somewhere between $2,000 and $5,000.

You made more than that working in the call center, didn’t you?

And I bet the call center gave you health insurance.

Cownt Thoughts

I was walking around with an artist friend at a convention a couple of years ago and he was looking for old Jack Kirby comics. He was trying to figure out what Kirby did that made his pages so exciting. A lot of artists, inspired by Kirby, would be content with trying to imitate his poses or his layouts, but my friend was digging a lot deeper than that. I admire his dedication to improving his art and allowing Kirby (or whomever) to be a bona fide inspiration instead of someone he just steals from.

In thinking about how to appoach The Cownt, I’ve taken the old Harvey comics I read as a kid for my inspiration. I had a vague recollection of the format they used, but I wanted to refresh my memory, so I stopped by the Source yesterday and picked up some cheap Casper issues as well as the recent Ultimate Casper Comics Collection trade paperback. I started reading them last night, trying to take the same approach that my friend took to Kirby and hoping to learn some of the techniques these guys used to make Casper so timeless. I was surprised to see how much I hadn’t remembered about the series and pleased to find that former Casper editor Sid Jacobson wrote an intro to the Ultimate collection that talks about their approach to the series. I’ve gotten some solid notions already about how to approach The Cownt and make it really accessible for kids, yet fun for adults as well. Some of it confirms idea I already have (like giving the Cownt a nice-sized cast of supporting characters to interact with), some of it reinforces things I’d thought about, but hadn’t decided to make into Rules yet (like not having any narration boxes), and some of it was just plain new (like having one main story per issue, but dividing it into easily digestible chapters, and having characters speak their thoughts aloud instead of using thought balloons).

Crisis!

The signing was great. Hanging out with Grant always makes my day and I sold enough books to turn around and buy a bunch of stuff at 75% off from the Source. After the signing though, I kinda had this crisis of direction. Am I working hard enough on writing? Should I be spending so much time online? Should I be writing different kinds of stories than what I’m writing? Should I be writing more short fiction?

These questions came about as the result of conversations I had at the signing or observations I made while I was there. Being around artists (like Grant) always makes me want to work harder. I’m used to that, so that’s not really part of the crisis. Wondering about spending too much time online is an offshoot of that. The answers to those two questions are a) yes, I should always work harder and b) any progress I’ve made so far in my writing career is a direct result of meeting editors and other creators online. I can’t afford not to be online. I can do better about using the Internet to just goof off, but retreating into a writing shell isn’t an option.

The questions that I’m still working through have to do with the kind of stuff I’m writing. I’ve probably talked about this before (I know I’ve complained to Grant and Jess about it enough), but I’m tired of going to conventions and store signings where there are lots of kids and having a table full of stuff that they really shouldn’t be looking at. And it’s only going to be worse when 3 Days the Devil Danced comes out. It’s going to be a beautiful book and I’m proud of it, but it’ll be one more thing on my convention table that I’ll have to steer kids away from.

Not that I only want to write stuff for kids. That would get old fast. I just feel the need to have something to offer them when I’m at an appearance. The Cownt book will serve that need, so I have to get working on that sooner than I planned. The Pirate Novel’s not going to be finished by the end of the month anyway.

Speaking of which, I’m also starting to be concerned with being put into a niche like “horror writer” or “historical writer.” It seems too early to be concerned about that, but on the other hand, now might be exactly when I should be concerned, as opposed to later when I’m published and it’s too late to do anything about it. I’m aware that all my published work so far is in the horror genre, but it’s not like I have a public presence already. It’s not too late to change gears and do some other stuff. The Pirate Novel, assuming it’s published, would be a departure from that, but if it’s successful, would it label me as a “pirate writer” and affect my success at writing other things?

Where I’m going with this is that I’m going to put the Pirate Novel on the shelf for a while and concentrate on other things. I’ve got three comics projects for which I already have artists waiting for scripts. One of them is the first issue of The Cownt (horror in the same way that Casper the Friendly Ghost is, only also funny for adults — I hope), another is related to the 3 Days the Devil Danced project, but I’m conceiving it as more of a story about faith than a straightforward horror tale, and the third has monsters, but is really more campy sci-fi.
Once I get those done and off my plate, I think that I won’t pick up new comics projects, but will go back to novel-writing. It probably won’t be the Pirate Novel right away though. I’ve got an idea working around in my head featuring the character Miko Masaaki from “The Evil Dr. Lanky” in Tales from the Inner Sanctum #2.

Thanks to my buying Kong: King of Skull Island at the Source on Friday, I’m itching to do something in a jungle setting with wild animals, dinosaurs, and people in loin-clothes. I got to chatting with a fan at the signing about short fiction and that might be the venue for this. He was telling me about some of the sister publications to Weird Tales, one of which publishes adventure stories, so I need to check that out.

Lots to think about.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Went to the Source last night and one of the guys gave me his copy of a documentary on FallCon 2004. Among many other people like Adam Hughes, José-Luis Garcia-Lopez, Phil Hester, and Dan Jurgens, it’s got clips of Grant Gould and I talking about what we were doing there. David and I watched it together and he was pretty pleased to see his old man on TV.

We watched some of the parade on TV this morning while getting some cooking and baking done. Now the house smells great with cooking turkey, I’ve got pumpkin pies cooling and cranberry salad chilling, and Diane and David are down for naps, which gives me a chance to update this before our guests start to arrive. Matt and Alex are bringing one of Matt’s co-workers along who would’ve been otherwise alone for the holiday, so we’ll have a nice-sized group around the table tonight.

Tomorrow: Grant and I signing for seven hours at the Source (10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.), so if you live in the Twin Cities, stop by while you’re doing your shopping.