Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Day #325: Doomed to Fail? Write It Anyway

One of my big mistakes as a young writer was conservatism. I held back a lot. I would have a book idea, but if I didn't think it was marketable, I would not write it. I was worried that I would write 100,000 words that would end up hidden in a drawer. When I wrote short stories and essays for my college classes, I kept the metaphors to a minimum. I didn't bother with eloquence. I got straight to the point, as I do with most of these blog posts. And I used lame verbs like "GOT" (See previous sentence.)

I must have believed that my creative energies were finite. That if I wrote brilliantly in an essay, I would run out of brilliance when it came time to write a novel.

Because of this flawed strategy, my writing style became sparse, more like Hemingway than Charles Dickens. More William Carlos Williams rather than William Shakespeare. My words are economic, which is good, but they are rarely poetry.

If I went back to relive those college years, I would have put passion into every paragraph. Yes, I would have written many more failures than I already have... But I would have taught myself so many more lessons.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Day #324: Book Dream (Number Two)

I have had back-to-back vivid dreams. That's rare, and weird, and fun.

In last night's dream, I was reading a picture book written by Stephen King.

Day #323: Book Dream (Number One)

We are visiting family in Washington state. Since I am on winter break, I am actually sleeping in, unlike my normal work schedule which gets me up at the crack of dawn.

For some reason, I dream more often when I sleep late. So, on Sunday morning, whilst I slept until 9 am, I had a strange dream, one that seemed like something that could become a picture book.

Have you ever seen the show Raising Hope? Well, I dreamt I was watching the final episode of Raising Hope, and the family of quirky characters discovered that they were living in the middle of a conformist dystopian society. And since they were so quirky, the society decided that it needed to capture and brainwash the all American family. However, these characters were too resilient. The brainwashing didn't work, and so to return to their "normal" lives, they had to lie to the brainwashers.

Right now, you are probably thinking, this does not sound like a children's book. True. But something about the dialogue in the dream inspired me. In the dream, the mother character (played by Martha Plimpton) looked directly at the camera (or perhaps I should say directly at my mind's eye) and said, "The eighth lie is Shelia." Then she pointed to a woman who was apparently nothing
 but a living lie. 

For some reason, I really like this idea of The 8th Lie... Or, more to the point, I like the notion that 
there are a series of lies and each one has been ranked. 

I'm not sure what I'm going to do with this idea, but perhaps it's the seed of an idea. 

Day #322: Reflecting on Resolutions

I didn't have an elaborate lost of New Years Resolutions for 2015. I wanted to take more photos; record more of my family's life. (I failed at this, so I will be putting it on my list mext year.)

I also hoped to publish Camp Omigosh (which I did -- however, my marketing on that project has been incredibly lackluster.)  I also wanted to create something new (which I did, though it's not finished yet, quack quack.)

My other goal was to increase my online presense, and I chalk that up as another failure. Sure, I've been blogging... But it's rather personal, and probably very boring to anyone besides me and my mom. (Hi Mom!)

For 2016, I am trying to decide whether or not I should bother trying to gain popularity on the internet. Writers like John Green have an incredible influence on their readers with their use of social media. But those are mainly teen authors. I am writing for younger readers, so I'm not sure about the best ways to use the internet to develop my brand.

Also, and this may just be me making excuses, I'm not sure how much time I should commit to marketing when I barely seem to have enough time to write.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Day #312 - #321: Favorite Things of 2015

As I reflect upon the year before 2015 comes to a close, I want to make a list of the creative works that have influenced me during these twelve months. (So, keep in mind when I say Favorite Things, I won't be listing family or friends -- it goes without saying that those folks are what make my life some kind of wonderful.)

So the following list is a bunch of creative works which have been inspiring me in a variety of ways. Some of them are brand spanking new; others are quite old -- but I'm experiencing them for the first time, or rediscovering them.

10) The Blacklist
I've binge watched several shows this year, but for some reason this has been the most satisfying of the new shows. I think because it taps into something primal. We want evil to be eradicated from the world, but with civilized laws justice if often unfulfilled. However, if another bad guy goes after the villains, revenge seems much more doable. Such was the case during the first three seasons of Dexter, and such is the case with Blacklist. In some ways it's a typical crime TV show, but James Spader takes things to the next level. He makes the show.

9) M*A*S*H
We have been watching every episode of MASH as a family... Well, Emily is usually on FunSubstance... But the rest of us have been exploring the exploits of Hawk Eye Pierce and the doctors and nurses of the 4077. Alan Alda's moral compass is the polar opposite of Blacklist's sensibilities. As a child, I watched reruns of this show, every now and then. But watching it in chronological order and in its entirity is a dramatically different experience. You really sense the fatigue that these characters experience, and you understand how humor becomes their main defense mechanism.

8) Stephen King's 11/22/63

I loved the way Stephen King describes time traveling into the 1950s and early 1960s. He really gets back into his groove as a storyteller with this vivid novel about a man who attempts alter history by saving the life of JFK. One of my favorite moments was when King reintroduces Bev and Richie, two characters from IT. That was so awesome.

7) The Complete Peanuts - 1953 & 1954

Much of my year has been consumed by my obsession with my graphic novel, Duck Town.
I have loved drawing since the second grade, and my greatest inspiration in those early days was Charles Shultz. Peanuts was my first experience as an active reader (meaning the Charlie Brown books were the first books that I actually wanted to read, unlike the assigned readings in elementary school). My art never matched the professionalism of Shultz, but he remains my benchmark, my artistic polaris.

6) Inside Out

I love any creative work that can evoke tears. Pixar's Inside Out did just that. Damn you, Bing Bong!

5) Mad Max: Fury Road

This was a dusty wild ride, and a fitting continuation of the Mad Max world. It's really just a long car chase, but it's incredibly entertaining, filled with lots of action sequences that made me gasp and a 
few sequences that made me cringe. A great big screen experience.

4) Star Trek: The Next Generation

If you know me at all, then you know that I am a joyful nerd. I may not be the biggest Trekkie, but I do love me some Star Trek. This year I decided to rewatch all of the Next Generation episodes, usually during my office hours. I was surprised at how many episodes I had missed durng the original series' run. I missed a whole bunch during the second and third season. I was also pleasantly surprised to find that Weasley Crusher isn't as annoying as I remember. I love the world view (or should I say galactic view) established by Roddenberry. It's his version of heaven -- and I agree with his version of paradise (minus the Borg).

3) Bloom County
One of the most wonderful and unexpected surprises of 2015 is the return of Berkley Brethed's beloved comic, Bloom County. I have loved reading the further adventures of Milo, Opus, and the gang. However, I must say that I have been most pleased to be reunited with Steven Dallas.
2) Hamilton
I fell in love with In The Heights, and then this musical came along. Take my admiration for Lin Manuel Miranda's first musical and multiply it by three, and you'll calculate just how strongly I feel about this hip hop historical masterpiece.
1) Star Wars: The Force Awakens -- Nuff said.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Day #311: New Star Wars = New Levels of Awesome

Okay, I have now seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens twice. I'm still processing my feelings.

I know it's just a movie (and it's not a perfect movie), but at the same time, it's a fulfillment of my childhood dreams. The prequels were very important to me because they visually depicted so many boyhood debated hosted by my friends and me. I speculated endlessly about what happened between Anakin and Kenobi. How did Vader become a cyborg? What were the Clone Wars? What misadventures did the droids entangle themselves in?

I've said before, and I'll say again -- I love the prequels, flawed as they are; the films further explored an imaginary universe that has fascinated me for decades.

I have spent the last two years doing my best to avoid trailers, images, spoilers of any kind. (Although I did know that Han, Luke, and Leia would be in this.) The result: a whole lot of surprises. I won't give much away except this.... Because this was the only aspect of the film that disappointed me: There's a Death Star knock off... I don't know why they decided to do yet another spherical planet blaster as a pivotal plot point. There are MANY parallels to the original STAR WARS (Episode IV) and most of them work, many are pleasing, but the Star Killer weapon seemed lazy in comparison to so many other aspects that were fresh yet fitting.

That caveat is minor in contrast to the sheer joy it has been to see Han Solo and Chewbacca together again.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Day #310: Don't Be a Stranger to my New Play

A few months ago, Heuer Publishing release my latest bittersweet comedy: "Strangers."

Here's the pitch:

Strangers is a touching one-act comedy about two people who interact or encounter each other every few years, throughout their entire lives. But they never really meet... until the end.

So far, no one has produced this play... It's waiting for it's world premiere -- but perhaps no school or theater is daring enough? Or maybe the play is a stinker -- but I did put my heart and soul into this one. So, if you'd like to check it out, you can read a free preview at:

Heuer Plays...

Thanks for reading!

Day #309: Creative Year in Review

I've been reflecting back over the months...  trying to recall what I have accomplished in 2015...

All in all, it's been a very good year -- even though I constantly whine about not being productive enough. Here's my top five creative accomplishments for this year...

#5) With the help of Sky Rocket Press, we published CAMP OMIGOSH

#4) Began developing and drawing DUCK TOWN -- my very first graphic novel!

#3) Wrote / Directed THE PRE-MUSKETEERS (and sent the manuscript to Eldridge)

#2) I worked with my editors to finalize drafts of AROUND THE WORLD IN A BATHTUB (Charlesbridge) as well as THERE'S A DINOSAUR ON THE 13th FLOOR (Candlewick).

#1) My agent sold a new picture book: MR. COMPLAIN TAKES THE TRAIN

Friday, December 18, 2015

Day #308: Back to the Drawing Board

Love spending time in Duck Town...

Can't wait to see how this comic book ends...

Day #307: Parody is Hard Work!

When I'm not working on Duck Town, or grading Final exams, or studying my lines from Bullshot Crummond, I've been distracting myself with a little project.

I've been trying to create a parody of the opening rap from my favorite musical of the decade: Hamilton.

I've been trying to retell the story of Rudolph in the style of Lin-Manuel Miranda, but man it's been a challenge! (The guy's such a genius, I'm having a hard time just coming up with a silly satire!)

Here's what I have so far...

How does a runt of a reindeer
Son of a doe and a dumb buck get stuck
in the middle of a magical lil’ spot in the Arctic region
by providence is punished with a red nose
Grow up to be the hero of the North Pole?

The stop motion, little puppet w/no puppet master
got a lot faster by flying in skies vaster
floating like a jedi master,
nose glowin like a laser blaster
It’s so lame – they kept him out of every reindeer game.

Hoping to add more soon before Christmas is over!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Day #306: Christmas is Coming (Way Too Fast)

I love the holiday season. We often complain that consumerism compels stores to start celebrating way too early (like before Halloween), but maybe that's okay since Christmas time flies by faster than Santa's reindeer.

Starting on December 1st, Cheri began her twelve days of Xmas, which is really twelve days of spoiling Wade. Each day, she puts a little gift in the box, such as Candy, lottery tickets, or Star Wars t-shirts. When Dec. 12th arrived, I began Cheri's version of the 12 days. I am giving her a book each day, along with a lottery ticket as a book mark. Oh, and I'm making Duck Town characters too.

Day #305: Refining Camp Omigosh

Well, as you may or may not know, I enormous part of 2015 was spent developing my middle grade novel: Camp Omigosh. It's been one of my life long dreams to write a successful novel. (By successful, I mean that a bonafide publishing house picks it up, promotes it, and it doesn't fail miserably.)

I was hoping that Camp Omigosh would be that novel. I put my heart and soul into it.... But my agent wasn't sure how to sell it, or who to sell it to... (and I completely understood, since Omigosh is a very quirky mash-up of several genres).

The good news, I didn't give up, and my amazing fellow author and friend, Laurisa White Reyes, helped me produce the book through her independent publishing operation: Skyrocket Press.

We raised funds with Indigogo, and invested a bit of my own money, and we created a really good looking product.

Unfortunately, the first edition of Camp Omigosh had a few typos (did I say a few, I meant about fifty of them!) I didn't have enough money to get a professional proofreader, so that's what happens! But thanks to my Mom, she painstakingly read through the novel several times and caught the typos. (There might be a couple still lurking, but I t most of them have been weeded out.)

So, even though I've sold less than a hundred copies and e-books, I'm prouder than ever of my summer camp - ghost - mystery - sci fi - adventure story.

Order a copy of Camp Omigosh today!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Day #304: Presenting "The Pre Musketeers!"

At long last, I revised "The Pre-Musketeers," my comedic tribute to Dumas' swashbuckling adventure and I sent it to my good editors at Eldridge Publishing.

I'm not sure how they will feel about this one. There are a few jokes regarding Athos and alcohol. The other problem: there are a lot of male characters, and my plays tend to be a lot more successful if there are a lot of female cast members.

So, it's a fifty fifty chance of getting published. But I think it's a fun, fast paced show, and it deserves to be seen beyond the Canyon Theatre Guild. Hopefully it will get out into the world, if only for my favorite line: "Pirates, ninjas, and musketeers. This is the greatest day of my life."

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Day #303: The Sound of Deadlines Whooshing Past

My newly revised goal for Duck Town involves a pushback of the original deadline.

Once upon a time, I thought I could finish my graphic novel before December 17th (the day Star Wars: The Force Awakens premieres!) However, I underestimated that creativity-draining power of work. Those essays, those classes, those meetings, and those commutes absorbed my time and energy. I don't get much written during the school year. I gotta fix that!

Anyway, my new deadline is Jan 10th, the day before spring semester begins. If I don't finish this project by then, it may not get completed until Summer 2016!

Keep your feathers crossed.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Day #302: First Day of Rehearsal

We just finished up our first day of rehearsal (not counting our initial read-through) for Bullshot Crummond. I had my doubts when I first read the script, but now that we're bringing this wacky plot to life, I have a feeling it's going to be a LOT of fun.

The cast features several alumi from The 39 Steps: Tyler Joy, Chris Flowers, and yours truly -- not to mention it's directed by Randy Aronson, who is always an absolute pleasure to work with... And I get to work with a couple folks I haven't had the honor of sharing the stage: Barry Agin and Sanya Arnold.

The not-so-good news... I have hardly looked at the script. I was far too immersed in Duck Town to think about learning my lines. But that's gotta change starting today. Oh, did I mention I am playing six different roles, each accent more atrocious than the next!

Monday, December 7, 2015

Day #301: Back to Duck Town

Next week I get a whole bunch of research papers shoved my way. But this weekend, my desk is clear and so I've made the most of my time by sketching and inking as many drawing as possible. I think I completed ten new pages in the past three days.

I think I've passed the halfway point. The end isn't exactly in sight, but I've built up enough steam I know that I'm going to make it past that proverbial finish line.

Several folks at the Canyon Theatre Guild glanced at some of my rough sketches, and they seemed genuinely impressed and encouraging. Of course, grown ups aren't the target audience, but it's nice knowing the graphic novel appeals to lots of different ages.

My original goal was to finish Duck Town by December 17th. That's not going to happen. However, I have a feeling that it might get done before my spring semester begins.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Day #300: A Geo-Political Side Note

Let's stop giving them power by calling them Terrorists. They fill me with anger not terror.

Let's take off the "T" and call them Errorists because once they get to the afterlife they will realize they have made a serious error.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Day #299: Let's Stop Killing Each Other, Shall We?

Dear Extremists,

You don't scare me. Whether you are an overly/underly medicated mentally ill lone wolf, an government-hating/abortion clinic attacking murderer, or a radicalized Islamic terrorist who is not only taking lives but inspiring more prejudice against peaceful Muslims -- you might fire a lot of bullets -- but you will not thwart our love for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. There are millions of Americans and billions of like-minded world citizens who value justice, compassion, and community.

We will persevere.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Day #298: Inking While Binge Watching

Sometimes my work on Duck Town is rather mindless. Once I have done the preliminary penciling, then it's time for the inking process, not to mention a whole lotta lettering.

That's when I need something to listen to. Sometimes that's music, and sometimes that's having Netflix on in the background.

This semester I finished watching the entire series of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Then I moved onto the latest (available) season of The Walking Dead...

and now, the family and I are hooked on MASH reruns.

We broke away from regular cable about two years ago, and we've been loving Netflix ever since!

What have you been Binge Watching lately?  

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Day #297: Bullshot Crummond

Oh, did I mention I auditioned for a play?

It's called Bullshot Crummond and I happily landed a role in which I play seven different characters.

This will be my first play since last year's The 39 Steps, and my fellow cast members Tyler Joy and Chris Flowers will be returning with me.

I'm so excited -- yet nervous -- especially since I've already misplaced my script! So much for learning my lines ahead of schedule!