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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.

August 5, 2009 — 1,673 words

Q&A With Brian Spaeth

By MCM

Many of you already know Brian Spaeth, famed practitioner of actoring and writering... but for those who don't perhaps this little interview will shed some light.

Brian is the author of the reading book Prelude to a Super Airplane, which you should buy as soon as possible.  I spoke to him earlier this week via email, which is as close to being a journalist as I can get.

I know you're a writer, but what else do you do?  What is actoring, and does it involve duct tape?

What else do I do...that's a good question. Depending on the day of the week, and the week of the month, it could be any number of things. Almost all of my time right now is going into setting up the promo for Who Shot Mamba?, my broadband motion picture.

When that's not happening, I'm writing a book, writing my blog, lifting weights, writing about lifting weights, being scared of animals, and walking around grocery stores looking at which products have changed their logos recently. I have an unfair branding and graphic design fascination that often exposes me as a person who is like that.

Also, you know I've sent you a copy of WSM?, and when you see it, you'll understand the true power and meaning of actoring.

How has your background in film helped prepare you for writing?  Are there any similarities?

I'd say it's helped me in several ways, the biggest of which is that I learned the storytelling.

With screenwriting, you don't really have the freedom to go off on long tangents or descriptive meanderings and such. You need to be able to tell the story as efficiently as possible. This is a good skill to have. Secondary to that, I really figured out what type of material is the right combo of what I'm good at and what I like. Fortunately, these are exactly the same the material.

If there's a novelistic drawback, it's that I don't excel at writing prose with regard to the internal feelings of characters, and get bored writing extensive personal histories into the narrative. Apparently many people expect these things in novels. It's not that the stuff isn't there for the characters (i.e. in my head), it just doesn't go on paper. I suppose that's why I'm often told my book work reads like a screenplay in a certain way.

I have no problem with this - it's not like I'm writing Schindler's List. If it's entertaining, I did a good job. That's like my only rule.

Your book "Prelude to a Super Airplane" is considered a masterpiece in many circles.  To the uninitiated, what's it about?

Can I just steal this from the Amazon listing?

In the year 2012, These United States of America is politically divided to a magnitude not seen since the Civil War. On one side stands the fast emerging pro-flying car contingent; on the other, the stubborn and traditional pro-airplane members of the populace.

At stake? The entire future of airborne leisure and transportation.

Set against this tumultuous backdrop, a young fiction writer has written a book about the only thing that can save the airplane riding industry - an impossible to conceive, 47-story airplane of such power and wonder, the world will have no choice but to submit to its glory.

The world's first comedy-political thriller-mystery-drama-romance-action/adventure-science fiction-showbiz insider-horror-family-energy drink industry insider-holiday autobiography, Prelude to a Super Airplane weaves the lives and destinies of 40 people and one moon probe together in astounding ways, as they all find themselves facing the future of airplane riding...the Super Airplane.

It's basically Lost on a sugar-high, via Michael Bay and Airplane!. Also, despite what it says inside the text, there are actually five books planned, not including the Radby spin-off.

If you look through the nonsense, there's a pretty thick mythology that's been woven, and I'm excited to see it through somehow one day. Hopefully in movies or as a TV show, so I don't have to write the books ever in my life ever.

You sell in print and Kindle, and also give away big chunks of your book online.  Which methods work best for you?

None. NEXT.

Truthfully, there are two facets to this.

One, I never set out to be a novelist, so anything I've done in this space has been a total accident. My primary focus is film, and with Who Shot Mamba? coming this October, all my marketing efforts have been in that direction. My secret hope is the movie hits big, and then I sell a bunch of books on trickle-down. Then all the faux-book-marketing-gurus will write articles about how the key to selling your self-published book is to make a feature film.

The other thing is that I don't enjoy the business end of things. It's not that I can't or won't do it, it's just that I don't enjoy it. Since the books aren't my primary focus, I kinda blow that part off. In the end, most of my sales came right at the start when I was talking about it a lot.

But I get bored, yo. And I don't enjoy self-promotion. I may have self-esteem issues - I feel bad telling people to buy stuff from me. At the same time, I love myself.

These contradictions - wonderful, yeah? I am crazy like you - this is why we get on so well. I've never said "get on" in that context before - it makes me feel British.

Who is Brad Radby, and how did you manage to get him to write a foreword to your book?  It was blackmail, wasn't it?

It wasn't blackmail at all - I'm a master of persuading important movie directors to write things for me when that same director isn't busy producing my films and letting me use their name as a character in my books. You do know Brad Radby is a real guy, yeah?

Tell me how confused you are about Brad Radby on a scale of 1-10.

If you could be any airplane in the world, which kind would you be?

14.

I honestly don't know anything about airplanes. When I did the to-scale diagram for the 47-story Super Airplane against the one-time Sears Tower, I was shocked (and pleased) at just how unrealistic it was.

I don't know why, but it just struck me that we should do some kind of cross-over short-story jam. Like have one of your characters have an adventure on the Super Airplane. Let me know what you think about this - keep all this in the interview, also. This is like open-book idea-having.

Do you have any marketing tips for new writers?  What is your #1 marketing technique?

1) Twitter has been amazing for me. Used correctly, you make friends. Friends support your work and tell others about it for you. And I like never talk about my books on there, and rarely even RT when others do.

What's really fun is I've seen people pick up terms like "actoring" and other vernaculars all on their own after reading my stuff. They just use it because they think it's fun, and when people ask where the heck they picked that up, it's basically marketing for my book, without doing any marketing at all.

2) Keep a blog and update it regularly. Make it good, and honest, and not a big sales pitch.

3) Don't sit on your book. Don't sit on your book. Don't sit on it. Get it out there, and while you're doing that, get the next one going. One book will not make your career - do not think this way. I don't want to say quantity over quality, but someone with a ton of ideas, and energy about those ideas is exciting, and that's a marketable quality in and of itself. (Hi, MCM!)

4) Semi-related to #3. Get YOU out there. "If you build it, they will come" is not a marketing strategy, and neither is a good book all on its own, especially in the area of indies. Even in the big leagues, JK Rowling and her personal story has been a massive asset to the Harry Potter franchise.

Do you truly believe Keanu Reeves would make that bad of a President?

I don't understand why you describe him as "bad". He's an exciting President! Look at those plans he has - he's makin' moves! He's shakin' the world up!

Nobody would be able to resist seeing a movie with Keanu Reeves as President. Give me a studio to run - I need to prove this.

What's next for you?  Any cool projects on the go?

I'm hesitant to say much - I want to be like Apple and just drop stuff on the ususpecting masses from now on. But...you're cool, so why not:

WORLD WAR 2002

Not saying what it is yet. It could be many things. It might just be a new kind of word puzzle. You'll be able to find out right around Christmas, during the holiday hiatus of Mamba.

Oh, and related to WSM?, I have a mini-book (30 pages or so) coming out in September, explaining how the source material became the movie. I think it's a neat little package, and a pretty cool intro to the movie itself.

A very special thanks to Brian for answering my journalistering questions so thoroughly.  Now go out and buy his book before I subject you to more silliness!

August 4, 2009 — 658 words

Topic Tag Tuesday: The Cottage

By MCM

Today is Topic Tag Tuesday, where someone on Twitter picks my topic and I have one hour to write a ~500 word story about it.  This week's story is based on heliosengine's topic: "a horror story written from the perspective of a literal fly.. on a wall."  Next Tuesday, heliosengine gets to invite people to suggest topics!  Yay!


The knife tap, tap, tapped against the glass window, making a horrible noise as it slid down like a snake.  The yellow-haired one turned slowly in the darkness, face lit by moonlight, but saw nothing.  She’d missed the knife, the mask that had been there, the red in the eyes.  Not Sandy.  She’d been watching that window like a hawk.

“Did you hear that?” the thick one say to the yellow-haired one.  “What was that?”

“I knew this was a bad idea,” the yellow-haired one said, her voice wavering like the beating of wings.

“Shhh, let me listen!” said the thick one.

Everyone sat perfectly still, even Sandy.  She so wanted to stretch her legs, but if the bigguns were being quiet, she felt a certain obligation to do the same.  Besides, the room wasn’t especially interesting anymore, now that the lights had all gone out.

A long, shiny knife stabbed down into the thick one’s shoulder, and he screamed, fell forward, and tried to get away.  There was blood all over the place, but what was most frustrating for Sandy was that if the masked biggun was inside, that meant a door or window had obviously opened, and she’d missed it.  She was about to beat herself up about it when she noticed the thick one was about to fall into her.

She shot through the air as fast as her little wings would go, weaving left and right to avoid the masked one, trying not to panic with all the screaming going on.  She landed on the ceiling, far above the fray.

The thick one was gurgling blood now, trying to protect himself.  His fingers got chopped off, and Sandy fought the urge to go see if they were tasty.  She liked hot dogs, and these looked like hot dogs.  She wondered if this is how they made hot dogs.  Hopefully not.  It was horribly inefficient.

Now the yellow-haired one was at the back of the cottage, hands gripping some kind of silvery tube thing, pointing it at the masked one.

“Get off him!” she yelled, and he looked at her suddenly.  The yellow-haired one aimed the silver thing up at the ceiling, and without warning, the wood right next to Sandy exploded!  She took off into the air, zigging this way and that as splinters rained down.  She hated the normal rain, but this was absurd!

When she finally got her footing on the wall, the yellow-haired one was exploding the masked one all over his abdomen.  Still, the masked one kept on coming, like he was one of those ants that doesn’t need a head to move.  Those things were creepy.  Sandy could understand why she’d be exploding him.

Finally, the masked one got up close to her, and he stuck the knife right into her eyeball, which was (in Sandy’s opinion) a tragic waste of an eyeball.  The yellow-haired one got all jumpy and fell on the ground, looking all quiet.

And it was just as the masked one fell on top of her, blood pumping all over the floor, that Sandy realized what she’d been watching:  this was how they made maggot farms!  Boy was she glad she hadn’t escaped out the open door after all!  What a great night!

August 4, 2009 — 656 words

Reader Question: Letting Things Die

By MCM

I am going to try this thing called Reader Questions for a while, since I have some interesting ones that come up from time to time.  Today's is about letting things die.  Prepare your cleavers!

How do you decide what stories or characters you are going to write about, and which ones you have to let die without being written?  I  have been working on a book for four years, and I cannot figure out how to make it work.  Should I just give up?

This is from Josh, whose last name I will withhold because it seems appropriate.  This is a question I actually get a lot (which I find funny, because evidence would suggest I don't let ANYTHING die), but nonetheless...

I like to do something I call Literary Darwinism.  It's pretty simple, really: I have, in my head right now, about 30 or so distinct stories that are largely unwritten.  Hundreds of characters, all in various stages of development, all waiting to come to life.  Most of my ideas are not written down, but those that are have been written as short stories or half-finished books over the past 18 years.  Of all those ideas in my head, I think The Vector is only the second one to fully mature to something you can see.

What happens to the rest?  They die horrible deaths and get merged with each other to become stronger.  I have one character who you've only recently met, and he's been in my head since I was 14 years old.  Now, your typical character at 14 isn't that well-formed, if only because you haven't lived enough life to really mess them up properly.  So (aside from some half-done novels), he hasn't done much of anything except bounce in the ether, waiting to find his story.

At one point in the recent past, he almost came to life in a very different incarnation.  He was going to be good at his job, with a history in the military, and ready to kick ass.  The story I imagined for him made perfect sense, and I was getting excited to write it.  Then someone asked for a sci-fi story, and one thing led to another, and the character ended up dropping out in favour of someone more suited to the role.  Same background, different personality.  The original character floated around in my head again, and I only recently pieced together what I wanted him to do.

The original story I imagined him in, way back when I was 14, was about a strange kind of Prohibition, missing politicians and dead women hanging in closets.  It needed work, but once my older-and-wiser mind took a close look at it, I could see how it would update.  I borrowed some elements from other stories in my head (making their respective characters cry) and beefed it up as much as I could, and then... I put it on the shelf.  This was the end-game, not the start of the story.  I needed to write a series of prequels, leading up to that one.  He needed time to breathe before he went on his Biggest Adventure.

So Josh: you can give up your book, but don't give up your book.  If you decide to shelve it, don't read it again.  The things that stick on your mind are the things worth keeping, and the things you don't remember are the things you're best forgetting.  At some point in the future, you'll think of what's left in your memory, and you'll say:  "Wow, if I just added a pink elephant, it'd be perfect!" and I think you'll find the result will be more to your liking.

Oh... that character I've been nursing all this time?  He's a private eye with terrible luck, and while YOUR first experience with him is "Fission Chips", mine is called "2 Blue".

August 1, 2009 — 685 words

Saturday Update

By MCM

Due to my obsession with iPhone app creation, I neglected to post here for several days.  Happy August!

RollBots

Just a little over a month until RollBots starts airing on CW4Kids in the US, and I can't wait.  I will have to figure a way to re-post my recaps so everyone can see them again, now that they'll make sense.  I don't know when we start airing new eps on YTV, but I'm assuming it'll be around the same time.

The App

The App starts today and runs for the entirety of August.  It's about a programmer trying to make an iPhone app, and things go horribly wrong. I am not that good at horror (either writing or watching) so this is kind of a horror/thriller/scifi hybrid you'll be reading.  I'm trying to write to a visual length this time (which is to say: I write until I fill two formatted 5x8 pages), so the chapters are short.  Also, each chapter takes place on a different day, so you only ever get a short window into the character's life.  It's more fun that way :)

Topic Tag Tuesday

Topic Tag Tuesday starts (wait for it) this Tuesday, and follows a fairly simple theory: I will "tag" someone on Twitter, and they need to reply to me with a topic.  Any kind of topic.  And I will write a 500-word story using that topic and their name, and post it here.  The next Tuesday, they tag someone else, who then sends me a new topic.  And we repeat.  It keeps my brain working, helps me find new friends, and should be lots of fun for everyone.

Logo Thursday

If only there were a day of the week that started with "L".  Logo Thursday is much like Topic Tag Tuesday, except a tiny bit sillier.  Send me the name of a company, a secret society, a personal brand or anything else made-up, and I will draft a logo for you as fast as humanly possible.  I won't do REAL companies, and you don't have any input into how it looks, but it's the process that counts.  I am having a miserable time getting Xander and the Wind completed because my artsy skills are growing rusty, so hopefully this will help.

The Vector on Kindle for $1.99

For a limited time only, buy The Vector on Kindle for $1.99.  This undercuts my personal eBook sales, but unless you make some sales on the Kindle store, you never get anywhere.  So yes.  Go buy it.  Now, if you can.

Test of the Emergency Broadcast System

You will hopefully not see it in the RSS feed, but right before this post, I'll have written my first "subscription only" entry to the site.  Don't worry, it's nothing too exciting.  I mostly need to test that it works.  That new premium space will be the place I post the stuff deemed too sensitive to show the world, like whatever happened to D'Myr, insidery information about working on RollBots, and upcoming projects.  Today, it just contains some Google search words that I want to be sure don't somehow get indexed :)

Final thought: attitude

You know what bugs me?  Artists online.  I've noticed that lately, a great many artists (of all shapes and sizes) have adopted a very cold and almost resentful voice when talking to their fans.  It bothers me to no end.  I appreciate that getting hundreds of emails a day can prove daunting, but that doesn't excuse a baseline of snark across all correspondence.  Especially not publicly.  I do my best to reply to each and every message I get, and I can foresee a day when I won't be able to keep up with it anymore... but anyone here ever notices me treating my audience with anything less than cordial (and/or silly) respect, please kick me in the ass.

August 1, 2009 — 54 words

Testing Premium

By MCM

I am writing the word gazerblaster here because it currently does not show up on any searches, and if it starts to over the next few days, I'll know there's a way past my paywall :)

Eventually, this area of the site will house all the can't-show-the-public stuff I do.  Right now, not so much.