Wednesday, December 24, 2014

End of year reflection

This blog is getting an overhaul and I should be rolling out something fun in the next month or so. I started it back when blogs were still this thing you do for personal and professional reflection, but social media has kind of taken over that role for me, and so this is becoming more and more a personal afterthought vs. a real blog. I'd rather roll it over to something more functional.

But here is a final old-timey post for 2014.

Death and renewal were very instructive themes this year--in the best and worst ways, and not for me. In fact, people I love are still facing incredible loss, while 2014 continues to bring me gifts and blessings and triumphs that even now I'm not quite sure I deserve. And yet, deserving or no, I have them and I'm grateful for them. I'm superstitious enough not to go on too long about just how great things are, but I'm thrilled to reach the end of this year with words of thanks on my lips rather than weary relief.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Eyes up!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

NaNoWriMo 2014

National Novel Writing Month, a.k.a. NaNoWriMo, a.k.a. this thing I keep thinking I'll do every year and don't.

Except for this year. Bam!

Slamming 50,000 words together in 30 days doesn't lend itself to great writing, and in this case I tried to set aside the silly desire to write well and just focus on the word count. Happy to report that not all of it sucks. I don't always write well even when I'm really, REALLY trying anyway, so I suppose this evens out in the wash.

Terribly proud to finally complete a NanoWriMo challenge on the fourth try. Even though every word was started from scratch this month, the idea is actually something I started and stopped years and years ago. Here's an excerpt before this thing disappears into the bowels of my hard drive, never to be seen again (unless I'm desperate to mine it for other projects.)

QUARANTINE: Nathan Hope and his ex-wife, Dr. Jin Tracy, have been divorced for a little over two years. Nathan gets news that his ex was part of a medical mission working in West Africa when an outbreak hits the region. As an American, Jin is being brought home for treatment. Jin has no other family, and she didn't update her emergency contact information after their divorce, so it's her ex that is called in as her next-of-kin.

In this scene, Nathan is talking with one of the mission's PR wranglers, Melinda Corso, who is asking some deeply personal questions about the couple.

Felt as good as they promised it would to finish this thing. Congrats to all the other people who finished too!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


Check for all the latest (and much more frequently updated) news about comics by me.

A little while back, I showed everyone the cover for THE HOUSE OF MONTRESOR, my new graphic novel with art by the stupendous Jason Strutz. The story is a sequel to Edgar Allan Poe's Cask of Amontillado. Jason debuted Part I of the new book at Boston Comic Con, and then I brought it to New York Comic Con two weeks ago.

HOUSE OF MONTRESOR is a graphic novel, set 50 years after the events of Poe's famous story. In Cask, the narrator tells the story of how he, the villainous Montresor, murders his friend/enemy, Fortunato.
Back cover, House of Montresor
Available digitally and in print!
Montresor never reveals why he betrays and murders his "friend." Some vague reference to an intolerable insult. The way he kills him is so wonderfully cruel, that little tidbit didn't intrigue me until many, many years after I first read it. It's funny to me when I think about it now. "Oh yeah, why would a guy just decide to brick his friend into a wall one day? Huh." I was always so impressed by the method of the kill, that important question got lost. And, probably, had I not loved Poe so much, I might have thought to question him sooner.

One more thing struck me: the way Montresor teases at the end of Cask. His heart goes cold for the briefest second before he leaves his buddy alone to starve and rot in the dark behind a wall of stone. The feeling passes, and nothing much troubles him after that. Fifty years later and the guy's still cackling over this funny thing he did that one time at Carnivale, the pre-Victorian equivalent of Spring Break. The smug satisfaction in the telling is so dark and mean, you just know Fortunato wasn't the last guy to piss off Montresor in his lifetime. So, what has he been up to? Why tell the story at all?

So that's where I started writing (gosh, six years ago I wrote the script. So excited it's finally seeing print!) imagining the answers to those questions. Deep hate almost always springs from deep love. Insult only exists when we give a damn what people think of us: at one time Monty must have cared very, very much. And then he was hurt but didn't say a word until he could act without fear or consequence. In that we know Montresor is craven, a coward. What kind of life does a man like that build for himself? What else has he done, and who else will he hurt, now that he knows how to get away with it?

Part I is available digitally and in print in Red Stylo's online store. We previewed color pages from the book here. Reviews so far have been positive--I guess we'll see if the streak continues! And in a few weeks we'll be sharing pages-in-progress from Part II on


P.S. Haven't read Cask? You can do that here:

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Will I See You Tonight? (Angel With A Bullet #2)

Check for all the latest (and much more frequently updated) news about comics by me.

Slow to roll on these here, but the second story for my new mini anthology of comics Angel With a Bullet has been out for a bit. "Will I See You Tonight?" inspired by Tom Waits' "Downtown Train." This is the second story in this collection of comics I wrote, inspired by music-master Tom Waits, and you can see the first four pages and download the comic in Red Stylo's online store.

Available digitally and in print.
Waits is a second-hand theme for me: I heard the Rod Stewart version of "Downtown Train" before I ever heard Waits. And talented as Mr. Stewart is ("Love Touch", anyone? "Forever Young"? "Maggie"?) I pegged him as the scratchy-voice guy on the radio my mom would warble along to on Sunny 95. Which is to say,  I didn't appreciate the song at all. And then Tom finally got 'round to me what a fucking genius song. All that hungry, lonely and sad. In a city. (For a midwestern girl like me, that city part is important.)

Stevie is a girl with big dreams, singing for her supper in a New York subway. But dreams don’t always come true in the dirty underground.

"Will I See You Tonight?" is the most feminist piece of writing I've ever done, in any form. Of course partly due to subject matter, but mostly because it's my big girl yawp about similar situations I've witnessed or experienced and how I feel after them, always--hungry, lonely and sad. I guess it's "feminist" whenever a woman talks about what it feels like to be one. I'm cool with that.

The comic is 8-pages, illustrated by the fantastically talented Lora Innes, with color by Emmy-nominated Mark Mullaney, also to whom I am very grateful. I posted the entire B/W version of the story for free as part of #yesallwomen on, but if you like it, get one in every color.

Read my story. Do it now.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Patreon vs. Kickstarter

So...this is happening:
"Hi everyone. Need your help to get a new venture going. I've got a campaign on Patreon-- This is very similar to a Kickstarter, but instead of one big pledge, it raises tiny amounts of money over time. We need folks to pledge the $2 level and/or spread the word about the link.
For $2 each, you get a new story from Red Stylo Media, plus 15% off everything else in our store for as long as you stay a Patron. We'll send a new comic every two weeks. $2 each! That's cool, right? $2 is SUPA cool!
Become my Patron? The first stories we're delivering will be from our newest anthology, KILLER QUEEN, A Comic Anthology inspired by Queen! Even more updates will include chapters and issues from other Red Stylo titles. My goal is to reach 100 patrons by September 15!"

And here we are, back to ye old crowdfunding. I did the Kickstarter thing in 2010 and found it to be an exhilarating experience. Nerve-wracking, but positive--we were funded, after all! It's certainly blown up since then, though. I remember having to explain over and over how it all worked, and now eeerrrbody is doing one, two, ten of them. I've thought over and over about going back to the well, but have always been kind of on the fence. I'll never knock it. Still, it's tough for a lot of reasons.

It's nerve-wracking to ask for money. I hate it. Both because it goes against my nature and upbringing to point-blank ask for financial help, and also because I hate rejection. (Hey, I've learned to deal with it, but you'll never get me to enjoy it.) Thing is, I am not above deal-making-- I love to bargain and cajole favors-- because then it's a contest of personal charm vs. that hard-sell request for help. And yes, I know you're selling a product in return on Kickstarter. The "feel" of it on the creator side, though, is still the hard sell: panicky and aggressive by necessity. Whereas I am a soft seller from way back.

This is the appeal of Patreon for me. Sure there's the hard sell in the beginning: I need 100 Patrons to get this thing rolling, and I've set a Sept 15th date to achieve that goal. But if we don't make that goal, we have amassed at least some of that already, and we're in the game. I will focus on growing our Patron base out of the pool we have, learning what works, what folks want to see, and adjust and add as I go. It's organic, in that way, because it feels like an opportunity to earn and keep a reader over time, rather than a quick hit. And we only get paid if we deliver.

It's also a great, fair deal: I ask for a very comfortable, small initial investment in my company, just $2 per update. If you like what you read, you're in for the continued experience and you stay. Then it's on me (and all my creators) to hold your interest, show our work in increments, keep you happy. We earn you, not just once, but over and over again. Which I am very confident I (and they) can do. S'why we're in business after all.

Please consider becoming my Patron on Patreon. Even if just to see what happens. $2 is a supa cool start.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Angel With a Bullet #1

Check for all the latest (and much more frequently updated) news about comics by me.

The first story for my new mini anthology of comics Angel With a Bullet is out. The title story is inspired by the song "Romeo Is Bleeding" from music-master Tom Waits, and you can see the first four pages and download the comic in Red Stylo's online store.
Available digitally and in print!
I loved the movie Romeo Is Bleeding before I ever knew anything about the inspiration for the title (hyoooge Gary Oldman fan, you see.) I have an old SCAD professor, Adam Davies, to thank for "introducing" me to Tom Waits. Davies used the Waits song as text to give a lesson on specificity and mood in writing, and I've loved the spoken word, cut-to-the-heart singsong of all Tom Waits' work ever since.

Gut-shot and betrayed, undercover narco Agent Angelo Carlos has one last chance to make his case.

No one who asks me about what this story means to me gets anything less than a verbal dissertation about crime, punishment, law-enforcement, betrayal, how every beat is symbolic, every character is both a persona and a concept, and precisely how I went about crafting all of it. And right about when their eyes start to glaze over, THEN they get a mind-numbing recitation of every movie, character, writer and novel I was thinking about in addition to Waits when I was plotting and scripting it. I love to pretend literary analysis of my work. Call me Tarantino.

I'll spare you all the pixels. The comic is a ten-page story about a man who would rather blow everything up than fail, brought to sad, beautiful life by two very talented artists, illustrated by Robert "Rahb Gee" Grove,  color by Sara King, to whom I am very grateful. Also a shout-out to my good friend and soul-twin, Erica Schultz, for lending her lettering talents in the 11th hour.

Read my story. Do it now.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Throwback Thursday

Getting a little more creative with my #tbt contributions. In the mid '00s, I followed a Soldier to Virginia and got a job selling plots in a local cemetery. The business of Death was of morbid fascination for me then (still is, really) and I learned quite a few things--some lessons I'm usually happy to share at cocktail parties, and some lessons about how to be a better human being. In 2006, I started a collection of short non-fiction essays, There's a Girl on My Backhoe, but never did manage to finish more than three. So far removed from the experience, I think the stories will have to be recycled into a collection of fiction rather than essays as I fill in (or even invent) details I can't completely recall. I did, though, finish this piece.

All names and places have been changed, except for the most generic, as there are, in fact, many, many, many Lamms in Virginia, alive and dead.