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August 26, 2009 — 214 words

What do you do when you’re nominated?

By MCM

I've always wondered what one does when one is nominated for an award.  You always hear what celebrities do, but those people aren't really human, so they don't count.

Having come as close as I'm likely to come, I will illuminate the details.  This is what one does after one is nominated for an award:

  1. Answer many, many emails.  In every one, get just as excited as the first;
  2. Get no writing done, but discover a newfound talent for web work;
  3. Drink very good red wine;
  4. Watch the disappointing finale of Iryu 2;
  5. Traumatize one's kitten with a YouTube video of a cat making loud noises while eating, sending one's kitten into a panic attack, trying to figure out where the invader is hiding;
  6. Fall asleep at a reasonable hour.

The day after, there may be the occasional interview to do, but mostly it's about getting websites made and writing Fission Chips before various interested parties make good their threats to disembowel you if you fall behind.

Still, it was a fun day.

August 25, 2009 — 124 words

OMG RollBots Got Nominated

By MCM

I will do my best not to get all squeaky and hoppity-hoppity here, but OMG ROLLBOTS GOT NOMINATED FOR 3 GEMINI AWARDS!

They are as follows:

  1. Best Animated Program or Series (RollBots)
  2. Best Direction in an Animated Program or Series - George Elliott, Joey So (RollBots "Training Day")
  3. Best Original Music Score for an Animated Program or Series - Serge Côté (RollBots "Crontab Trouble")

To say that I am giddy is to misunderstand what giddy means.  I am ECSTATIC.  Everyone worked their brains out on this show, and as they say "it's great just to be nominated"... yeah, that's pretty much it.

Now I must get back to work, because nominations do not a website make.

August 25, 2009 — 718 words

Interesting Observations

By MCM

So I'm back from my two week vacation (sometimes known as Holy Health Problems, Batman!) and am trying to catch up on work that was scheduled but not finished during my absence.  This has led me to some very interesting observations...

Writing to Structure

This is not writing advice.  This is something I've noticed while writing The App (which wraps up at the end of the month).  The plan for that story was to write one chapter for every day of the month of August, which meant REALLY knowing how things were going to play out.  Normally (as with Fission Chips), I kinda make things up as I go along.  With The App, I cracked open my calendar and plotted out the whole thing, making sure I knew every little twist along the way.  I was sure I was going to hate writing like that, since I was basically taking all the surprise out of the endeavour... but it actually worked out quite well.  I made some slight variations to the plan (within the bounds of each chapter), but it was a lot of fun knowing where I had to go next.  I made me write things faster... I finished all 31 chapters yesterday, a few days ahead of schedule (even more so when you consider my "vacation").

I still don't know that I really ENJOY writing to structure.  It's something I have to do with scriptwriting (where I'm contractually obligated to stick to my plan), but for books, it feels a bit stiff.  I like the undiscovered adventure of storytelling, even if I do know where most of the milestones are going to fall...

I'm going to try another super-structure project in a month or two, and see how it goes.  I'll report back on my progress.

Fission Chips!

We are getting very close to the end, people!  And now for some excitement!  I know I said we'd wrap up the business card game at the end of Chapter 20, but I think it needs to end sooner to fit well.  So the new deadline is THIS FRIDAY AT ONE MINUTE BEFORE MIDNIGHT.  If you want to become a character in Fission Chips, start sending out those cards!

Also, another mini-contest for you: I will be giving a special prize to the reader who can guess the perpetrator of each of the various crimes in the story.  They are:

  1. Who stole the laptop?
  2. Why did they steal the laptop?
  3. Who killed Luke Maxwell?
  4. Why did they kill Luke Maxwell?
  5. Who tried to/actually did kill Matt Richardson?
  6. Why was Matt Richardson targeted?

The first person to guess all of these correctly will win the prize.  If nobody guesses before the answers are revealed, the person with the highest success rate will win.  Email me your theories (they can be short) and I will announce the winners with the final chapter of the book.

And what IS the prize?  Here's the fun: Fission Chips will be turning into a PRINT book in the first quarter of 2010.  I'm going to revise it, patch up problems and hopefully improve the flow... then wrap it in a nice cover (which looks a lot like the current cover) and sell it on Amazon.  But the winner of this contest will get their very own signed copy!  Yay!

The Plan For the Next Few Weeks

I'm still badly behind on things.  TorrentBoy: Pirates Attack! needs more editing work, and I'm not going to be able to catch up easily.  I need to prep Xander and the Wind for release, and my various other projects are in need of serious attention.  That said, with The App wrapping up and Fission Chips due to close near the end of September, I will be very close to hitting my mark of 12 books for 12 months!  I just need to keep my eye on the ball and not get distracted by oooo shiny!

August 17, 2009 — 201 words

Coming Back to Life

By MCM

As those on Twitter already know, I had another fun allergy attack on Friday.  The episode wasn't as bad as others have been, but the drugs I took to fix myself beat the living crap out of me.  As such, I've now lost 3 days of work, and I'm still not feeling 100%.  Some of that is likely due to a burn-out I've been predicting for a few weeks now... but either way, it's not good.

The long and the short is this: I have to catch up on The App, edit the next TorrentBoy chapter, and prep for Fission Chips.  I will probably not be posting much here or on Twitter (except for Topic Tag Tuesday), and will fall badly behind on emails.  Do not be alarmed.  If I actually died, you'd be able to tell because the sky would get blue and birds would sing in the trees etc.

Oh, that reminds me... the one thing I can still do while utterly zonked is make websites.  Please alpha test the very-unfinished 1889 Books v4 site.

August 13, 2009 — 55 words

The Society of Elderly Jaywalkers

By MCM

Logo Thursday claims another victim!  Thanks to Tim for the truly absurd idea.  The Latin should say "I walk anywhere", but I can't be 100% sure without an edumacation.

elderly-jaywalkers

August 13, 2009 — 294 words

Odds and Ends

By MCM

First, some housekeeping: I'm going to be moving the Chaos Book from its serialized spot on Fridays so it can become my first "episodic" series, which involves fully-formed mini-books released every month.  There's also a new business model involved.  I'll explain more when it's ready.

The next thing just dropped into my head: what makes eBooks more useful than regular books?  Tagging.  Some people have suggested that meta data should be included in books by authors and publishers, as a way of giving them more value.  I think that's the exact wrong way to do it.  The meta data should be created by the rest of the world, written in things like wikis, with as many different viewpoints as can be found.

When I write Fission Chips, I'll tag Gare with some unique ID (registered at some centralized database, open to everyone) and then people can reference him that way.  When you read his name, you can click on it to see what other stories he's been in (by checking the metadata served by Amazon), read the wiki articles he's referenced in, and contribute your own information.  Authors may want to kick things off sometimes, but in a lot of cases, I think the lack of information given by authors is more important than what they DO say.  What makes it interesting and fun is when someone else tries to piece together the portrait with the information they have at hand.

I'm already working on a system similar to this for TorrentBoy, but I think it can be expanded further.  My goal is to replace Babel with a new editor that lets anyone tag, translate and describe every part of text from all of my stories.  And from there, the rest of the world :)

August 12, 2009 — 786 words

Topic Tag: Sentient Glowing Balls

By MCM

Today is Topic Tag Tuesday on Wednesday!  Schedules are for crybabies!

Today's topic comes from the everpresent kdnewton, who suggests: "The mass migration of sentient balls of light, mistaken as a meteor shower."  Next Tuesday, he gets to request the topic, and I'll take another full hour to write the story and fix WordPress so I can post it!  Here are 500 words about sentient glowing balls...

The sky had been alight with shooting stars, and to Darlene, spread out on her lawn at two in the morning, it was like her own private miracle.  And then she threw up.

She spat twice — once on each side of her, for variety’s sake — and took another swig of beer to wash away the taste.  Friday night lights is what it was, and she was loving every second of it.  She was so glad they’d kicked her out of the pub, or she’d have missed this.  It was awesome.

She finished the bottle and set it down on the grass, then got to her feet, hands out and at the ready, and she stumbled her way back inside to the kitchen.  The fridge door rattled with alcohol… remnants of the rained-out BBQ party from last weekend, impossible to reschedule, it turned out.  She grabbed another two bottles — to save herself a trip — picked up a bag of chips off the counter, and swayed out the door.

On the lawn, right atop her empty bottle, was a meteor.

Darlene blinked at it, rubbed her eyes with her forearm, and stepped cautiously forward.  The meteor was hovering just above the ground, throwing blue and green light around like it was on fire, but it wasn’t… it was a nice, soft glow like a night light.  It was so beautiful that Darlene felt compelled to open another bottle and keep drinking.

“Hello, little, meteor,” she said, sitting down next to it.

“Hello,” it replied, in a voice like a child’s, but not so whiny and obnoxious.  God, she hated kids.

“Would you like a beer?” she asked, offering it a bottle.

“No thank you,” said the meteor.  “We are travelling.”

“Ah.  Right,” nodded Darlene, and took a long, brooding sip.  “Where’re you off to anyways?  There’s a lot of you, isn’t there?”

“Two hundred and seventy-five, yes,” said the meteor.  “We are looking for a new home.”

Darlene nodded appreciatively.

“Well, I’ve got room on my couch for five of you, but I dunno wha’tdo about the other two hundred an’… an’…”

“Seventy,” said the meteor.  “Do not worry.  We can find our own accommodations.  But please, tell us… what is your homeworld like?  It is quite beautiful from afar.”

Darlene shrugged, opened the other beer, and chugged for a bit.

“I dunno,” she said.  “I mean, there’s a park down the way, an’ the movie theatre’s pretty nice now that they’ve got the bigger screens an’… I guess you’d have trouble there if you glow all the time.  Oh!  And D’Arcy’s Pub is really awesome, but they ban you if you try an’ make out on the pool tables.”

“That is unfortunate.”

“They’re prudes.”

“Yes,” said the meteor, swaying slightly.

“How ‘bout you?  What kind of things’re you looking for?  My last boyfriend was looking for sex.  Are you looking for sex?”

The meteor paused at this.

“No,” it said finally.  “We are looking for a sentient race with which to co-exist, share the wealth of our learning, and work together towards a new era of peace and prosp—”

Darlene couldn’t hold it.  She barfed on the meteor.  Luckily, most of it seemed to burn right off, so it was like no harm no foul.  She burped, took another drink.

“Wow,” she said breathlessly.  “Sorry.  Those come outta nowhere sometimes.  Hold on a sec, let me make it up to you…” She tried opening the bag of chips, but for whatever reason, her fingers couldn’t manage it, so she just popped it open the old fashioned way.  Except it popped open at the bottom.  She sighed, picked some of the bigger chips out of the grass.

“Here you go,” she said, holding up a handful.

But the meteor was gone.

“Meteor?” she called.  “Little meteor?”

There was no answer, no sign of lights, no sign of anything.  She lay back on the grass and checked the stars again, but none of them were moving.  Eleven seconds later, she passed out.

The next morning, she awoke to a world where extra-terrestrials were still the stuff of fiction, and her hair smelled like vomit.  It suited her just fine.

August 7, 2009 — 248 words

Logo Thursday (on Friday)

By MCM

Today is Logo Thursday!  Well, no, today is Logo Friday, but I don't want to make it habit, so we're calling it Logo Thursday.  Oh never mind.  You know what I mean.

Here's how Logo Thursday works: you give me a topic for a logo.  Fictional companies, family crests, other such absurdity.  I will pick one at random and do it up within an hour, and post it here.

To give you a sense of how it works... here is my logo for Eventualism.  Also note that this is my entry for Mike Vardy's contest.  I will win.  Neener neener.

eventualism_col

So now it's your turn!  I'll be making the request on Twitter very soon!  Be ready!

Update: here's the design for "Muffin Man", who is a serial killer with foodstuffs, as requested by Alexis Norton.  Black and white and full-colour options are available.  I made it a bit jokey, but I bet people would still buy muffins from this guy anyway.  People are interesting that way...

muffin_man

Next Thursday, we try again!

August 7, 2009 — 2,433 words

Q&A With Craig Young

By MCM

Craig Young works at Amberwood Productions, home of RollBots, where his primary function is to make me crazy.  Ha!  Just kidding!  I was already crazy.

I thought it would be fun to chat with him about the animation industry, what it's like doing what he does, and how many wild animals he eats for breakfast.  You should keep in mind that Craig tends to injure himself on a regular basis, so it's a miracle no blood was shed in the creation of this post.  Oh, and I've added commentary in the square brackets.  Hold on tight!  Here we go!

You're a producer, right? What does a producer do? Do you make people cry?

Some would loosely call me a producer, yes.  Others would most likely use something a little less flattering. Most often you'll find me eating fancy cookies or heavily debating what a pickle would say to a chicken [note: he really does this.  I've seen it].

It should be noted that there's several different types of producers, a few of which would be... Executive producers - they're the head honcho on a series (typically), and usually responsible for finding all the money.  Producers - just under the Exec producer...similar responsibilities but more hands on in the day to day running and management of the production.  Creative Producers - these types care less about the nuts and bolts and focus primarily on storytelling and art.  Line Producers - these guys are generally all about the nuts and bolts, and run and manage all the intricate details of the production...scheduling, hiring, managing, and production planning.  They also lack souls [so true].  There's also the Associate Producer - this individual ranks somewhere just above a production manager, and just below a line producer.  Much like the Yeti, they're not often seen in daylight in Canada ...and are more common to American productions.

Naturally, I'm a line producer...but I'm migrating slowly towards being more like one of those creative types.  I need to regain my soul.  However, I dearly hope I never lose my skill for making artists cry.

How long does it typically take to turn an idea into a real, live show, and why?

Oh boy....about as long as it takes a fat kid to fill up a swimming pool with his spit.  Having a show picked up and produced in Canada is a lengthy process, which typically takes anywhere from 4-5 years give or take.  Here's why... Typically a creator will come to a producer with an idea for a series.  To blow us out of the water, that idea should contain at least a few of the following elements:

  • The Hook - what is it about the series or story that will captivate our imaginations?  What twists or ideas will make it stand out from all the other stuff out there?
  • Great Characters - what is it about your character(s) that will make us sympathise, route for, laugh with/at, and care for?
  • Conflict - Without great conflict, it's pretty difficult to have great stories.  What's your hero's inner conflict?  What's the more obvious outer conflict?
  • Design - Do yourself a favour, if you can't draw either A) hire a proven high calibre designer, or B) Leave the designing to the production house.  The WORST thing you could do is try to pitch a show with poorly executed drawings riddled throughout your document.  Because most of us are very visual types, you could be setting your property up to be unfairly judged before a single word is read.
  • Know Thy Property: Even worse than a poopy design is a poopy pitch.  It's one thing to be nervous, but it's another not to be able to answer simple questions about your property.  You really need to set aside a good chunk of time and delve deep into what it is you're selling.  Even if you've lived and breathed nothing but your baby for years, you need to think about all the angles.  As mentioned, you need to know and explain why we will empathise with your hero, what his motivation is, what the set up of the story is, what your character's arc is (this applies more to action adventure rather than comedy), what are other successful antecedents, and what your own motivation for telling this story is?  The more you can detail, the more likely we are to be sucked into the world you're trying to sell.

Step 1 - Pitching It to a Producer (6 months, - 1 year):
So to make a long story much longer, it's quite common that a creator will come to us with usually one of these major components missing.  Joy.  Typically it's design, but often there are certain holes in a property that we have to assist in filling.  We do that by asking questions, giving examples, and massaging the property towards something we believe the broadcasters will buy.  That process in itself can take anywhere from 3-6 months not to mention the time it took the creator to conceive the idea in the first place.

Step 2 - Pitching to The Broadcaster Part 1 (3-4 months):
Once the creator and the producer are satisfied the show is in a place where it can put its best foot forward, we take it the broadcasters.  Sometimes you get lucky and broadcasters will say "YES!" right away and you can head into a development deal.  More likely however, they'll give constructive advice on how to make it more appropriate for the programming they're trying to sell.

The advice given is often spot on, so don't take it too hard, cry baby.  It generally serves to make your series stronger.  ... but it also means more development work before you can re-pitch it.  Not only do you want to rework the material, but you also want to make certain you come back to pitch with NEW material. This typically ranges from added designs, a full script, often a fully boarded sequence or two.  Never come back with material packaged the exact same way you did before.  In order to do all this, expect to add another 3-4 months minimum to get it right (and for both you and the producer to agree on the direction).  Naturally this can happen faster, but it's been my experience that in order to do something right, you need to find the right writer, artist, and other required professionals to pull off something that will impress.  Finding these individuals, getting them up to speed, and having everyone on the same page and agreeing on all points takes time.  Or a gun.

Step 3 - Pitching it to The Broadcaster Part 2 (6 months - 1 year):
You've taken the broadcaster notes into account, and have worked on refocusing your pitch with the producer.  On top of that, you now have some fresh new material to show!   If you've really done your homework and have listened and executed accordingly (without selling your soul) you may have a shot at going into a development deal with the broadcaster.  This isn't always the case, but in this day and age it's very common that the buyer will want to see a little bit more of what a show will be like before committing to a full series.  Typically you're looking at a couple more scripts, further bible development, and often an animated pilot or demo ranging anywhere from 90 seconds to several minutes.  Expect one more year of joy.

Step 4 - Financing It! (5-6 months):
Your demo is complete and the buyer loves it!!  Yay you!!!  Just a few months before production right?  No way, clown.  This only means the frustrating part is about to begin.  First you need to finance the show, which entails about 10 different parties all signing off and waiting on the other 9 parties signature before they do so.  Financing in Canada is an art in of itself, and is far from being a quick process.  Expect to wait another 5-6 months before everything is set in place and full production can begin.

Step 5 - Making It! (52-80 weeks):
Ahh the good stuff!  After spinning your wheels like a dummy for all those years, you're finally at the fun stage. Know that this means another year and half (give or take) to make your long overdue baby, but trust me...if you've made it to this point just enjoy the ride.  Production is always a challenge when you have anywhere from 50 to 100 creative people involved, but it is truly a rewarding experience when it's all said and done.  You'll miss it all once the shows been delivered, so breathe it all in, fool.  You done good!! [aw shucks]

What is your favourite project you have ever worked on? (wink wink nudge nudge)

I would like to say it was anything other than your series, but sadly that would be a lie.  Rollbots to date, has been the greatest experience of my career.  More so than any other project, I was able to fully immerse myself in the creative along with management of the process.  It's hard not to look at an episode and not see all the mistakes or things we could have done better, but it was truly a labour of love.  I miss it dearly, and the yahoos that shared in the process.  The gang at Elliott animation (primarily Dan, Joey, Phil, and George), Howard, Serge, and Adrian from Atomic Audio here in Ottawa, and even your silly arse made for an amazing team.  I miss working with all you turds.  [well done.  I will return your cat by FedEx Overnight as discussed.  It was a pleasure doing business with you.]

A close second was a little known series titled Untalkative Bunny.  It was the greatest gathering of talent I've had the pleasure to work with to this day, and am proud to say I worked alongside the likes of Graham Falk, Nick Cross, Rob Anderson, Kristy Gordon, Tavis Silbernagel, Troy Little, Shivan Ramsaran, and Philip Craig to name a few.

Amberwood accepts pitches from just about anybody. What kinds of things do you look for in a good pitch? Cash between the pages?

Typically Scotch or a fancy cookie.  I believe I covered this earlier, so I won't bore you again with the details.  However, I will add that packaging your pitch in creative manner does help to gain attention.  It's not necessary, but if it's done right...it's hard not to notice projects locked inside a time machine.

What is the most common mistake people make when conceptualizing a cartoon show?

I think the most common mistake is that they focus too much on the hook of the series, and not enough on character development.  A series won't have legs if you don't care about the characters...they need to speak to you in some manner.

What's popular in the market right now? Show about bunnies? It's shows about bunnies, isn't it?

It's shows about eating bunnies and selling their feet to the mafia actually.  In truth, I feel there's little point in saying what's hot right now.  The market is simply too cyclical to try and sort out what direction you should be aiming in.  Create what you love, and chances are during the next few years it will hit a sweet spot if it's an idea worth making.  I can tell you that boys comedy aimed at around 10-11 years of age is popular at the moment, but next year it could be boy’s action.  Again, do what speaks to you and your chance of capturing the imagination of the buyers is possible.  Doing something just because it's trendy is usually a recipe for disaster.

Which do you personally prefer, traditional animation or heathenistic computerizational animation?

I used to strongly prefer 2D classical animation (pencil drawn) as I found the design, timing, and acting conveyed were FAR superior to 3D animation.  Bob Clampet, Tex Avery, Milt Kahl, Ward Kimball...far too many to name; these guys understood and mastered every aspect of design, timing, and acting...every shot served a purpose.  It was hilarious, beautiful and heart warming to watch.

Then 3D animation came along and started spewing out weightless moving characters, with no sense of timing, who on top of it all were completely void of life.  I hated it with a passion!  ...but slowly people started to catch on and realized if you brought on old school animators who understood the fundamentals you could actually produce something of amazing quality.  While there may not be a ton of great 3D animation out there that I love, it's certainly starting to get there qualitatively.  I'm the first to admit I'm now a huge Pixar fan.

What's in the works now? Can you tell me? I promise I won't tell anyone.

I'm currently working on a new 3D preschool series called Rob The Robot.  I guess its suits my juvenile nature, as I'm really enjoying it.  The director on the series is actually the same fellow that supervised that overseas animation on Rollbots!  [I have seen it, and it is quite amazing]Aside from that we're doing a 4th season of Benjamin Bear, and working on a few other series that are in development.  Those I can't tell you about...unless you want to be knee capped again [those weren't my knees].

Any last words?

Send scotch...my back is killing me!

Watch RollBots on YTV in Canada, the CW4Kids in the US (starting in September) and worldwide at various moments in history I cannot begin to articulate.  Also, please send Craig scotch.  He hurt his back just answering these questions, so he obviously needs it.

August 5, 2009 — 406 words

The Update That Ate New York

By MCM

I tend to forget to update blog readers on the goings-on around here, so this is it.

The Chaos Book

The first part of episode 1 is up, as it a schedule change.  I previous imagined it as a 3-parts-per-week schedule, but since each art is really bloody long, I'm going to make spread each episode across 3 weeks.  I'm looking at a 9-episode season under this system.  Here's a sample of the first part:

“So here’s the plan,” Finn continues, oblivious to Pinkerton. “If the citizens of this good town aren’t awake to see the zombies, we’ll look into bringing the zombies out in the day instead.”

“Will that work?”

“There’s nothing to say it won’t. Zombies are scarier at night, sure, but if you get a good overcast day, there’s no reason they won’t be just as terrifying at noon. Really, I’m amazed you’ve gotten them out in the night time here, given they’re Chinese. Zombies are naturally nocturnal, and don’t deal well with jet lag. So kudos to you, sir! Well done!”

Pinkerton seems uncertain. As do we all.

Fission Chips

For those of you who aren't following, Ping is to be sold into slavery tonight.  We're getting close to the end, I think, but I need another chapter or two to be sure.  Also, an important note: this week's voting will end on Sunday night (rather than Monday night) because I am travelling Tuesday and Wednesday, and I can't be sure I'll be able to write a new chapter.  So vote early.  And stuff.

The App

If you're not following The App, it's a 31-day serialized web project about a guy who's making an iPhone app that may very well be a killing machine.  One chapter every day.  We're on chapter five now, with six coming tonight.  I've got some great twists coming up!

Oversaturation?

Question for you all: do you think I'm doing too much?  Should I cut back?  I'm concerned it's overwhelming, so I'm willing to spread the Chaos book out more, or pause some other projects.  Let me know.  I can keep going, but I don't want to make anyone sad.  Well, except Tim.  Tim can be sad.