And we have liftoff! The Pack Book 2: Lie with the Dead is now available in trade paperback. Evileye Books is launching the title with a 10% discount on Amazon. Stay tuned for e-book information. Lie with the Dead picks up six months after the events in Winter Kill, and we learn the Tylers aren’t the
The article “From bestseller to bust: is this the end of an author’s life?” by Robert McCrum over at The Observer sounds kind of scary at first: a couple of award-winning literary darlings have fallen on hard times due to the changing face of the publishing industry. Then I considered the stories of the first
From today through Monday, March 3rd, Winter Kill is free on Kindle! This new edition includes a preview of Lie with the Dead, which will be released early next month. Download your copy today!
I’m one of the lucky winners of the Fitbit Force skin rash lottery. I’m far from the only one reporting a problem, and now Fitbit has issued a recall on their Force devices. The company first blamed a nickel allergy, and they’re still using that as their main explanation. However, they’re acknowledging it may also
The new edition of Winter Kill is now available in trade paperback on Amazon. If you’re into crime and/or horror, I think you’ll dig it. This edition of the book has a new format, a new cover, and an excerpt from the sequel, Lie with the Dead, which is due out in early March. In fact, I’m
“Lie with the Dead,” the second installment in Mike Oliveri’s werewolf noir series, “The Pack,” will be released in March, following the release of a revised edition of book one, “Winter Kill” in February.
“Lie with the Dead” continues FBI special agent Angela Wallace’s search for answers about the mysterious Tyler clan and the bloody aftermath of the shootout with gun runners that left her recovering in a hospital. In book two, the trail leads her to a deserted mining town in Nevada where, once again, she finds herself fighting for her life against unseen enemies hellbent on keeping secrets buried.
“Lie with the Dead” will be released in trade paperback and digital editions.
This has been a long time coming. I’m excited, folks!
This morning, I posted the following on Twitter:
To me, a comic script is more like a conversation with the artist. I tell him or her what I need, and their response comes via the brush.
— Mike Oliveri (@MikeOliveri) December 13, 2013
It prompted a further conversation with a friend about how I handle scripts, so I thought I’d expand on it here.
Let’s get the obvious difference out of the way first: with a script, it’s more about art direction than painting the picture itself. Prose can create atmosphere and mood and paint a picture in a reader’s head, but in most cases, the only people reading a comic script are the artists and editors. (And I will say here, “artist” includes penciler, inker, colorist, and letterer, sometimes even the cover artist and the book designer. Anyone doing anything you actually see in or on the book? Artist.) There’s no need for all that detail, and aside from dialog, there’s a lot less laboring over word choice and sentence structure.
That said, the writer should accept the fact his art direction may be limited. Sure, I can drill down to camera angles and hyper detail, but a good artist can usually do all of that better. This is where the conversation comes in: I explain what’s happening, and he (or she) shows me how to best present it to the reader. If I get to see layouts and thumbnails, great, that’s a conversation. If it’s someone I trust, they may go straight to work, and their response is still via their brush.
It’s also important not to put ridiculous demands on the artist. The comics page is so big, and the artist only has so much room. When he’s done, the letterer has even less room. Cramming a massive crowd scene or a long conversation into panel six just isn’t going to happen.
Understand, too, that comics are single frames of action. When scripting, the writer has to be aware of spatial relationships between characters and/or objects. An artist can draw a character walking and chewing bubblegum at the same time, but he can’t draw the character running across a room to a table and snatching a knife off the table in the same panel. If the artist cheats it with a blur or similar effect, it looks like the character’s running at super speed. If he just draws the guy with the knife on the other side of the room, it looks like the character teleported.
In the end, this changes the language of the script. In prose, one might say, “Jimmy sprinted across the room and snatched the knife of the table.” In comics, I’ll break it into two panels:
- Jimmy is running across the room toward the table.
- Jimmy has snatched the knife off the table and turned back.
I might get a little flashier to convey feeling or extra detail (is Jimmy scared or angry?), but the idea is these are in present tense. Jimmy is doing this. Jimmy has done that, thus is doing this. If we previously established the knife is on the table, we know what Jimmy is running for, whether or not the artist decides to show us the knife in the running panel. In panel 2, a simple motion line can show the snatching of the knife, or the artist might even break it into an additional panel with Jimmy grabbing the knife and then turning back in a third.
Finally, don’t be a dick. The script is not written in stone, nor so precious that it shouldn’t be deviated from. All I ever ask is my artists not alter my plot or dialog. If he wants to rechoreograph an entire fight scene, cool. Just don’t kill a different character. If a page of conversation is too boring and full of talking heads, and he condenses it into two panels, then I hope he left room for all the dialog that went with it.
That’s my take, anyway. The easiest way to learn this is to collaborate with an artist. They’ll tell you what they need to know, or what does and doesn’t work, because they need the book to look good, too. If the artist ragequits and goes back to work at Home Depot, then you definitely asked for way too much and need to back off.
“All Things Through Me” is a short horror comic which will be part of the In the Dark anthology now seeking funding on Kickstarter. When editor Rachel Deering posted this page to Twitter, it quickly racked up several retweets, favorites, and excited replies. It’s good to see people as amped about this project as I am.
There’s a whole lot of talent going into this book. Back the project today! You won’t be disappointed.
My first appearance on Shotgun Honey went down two years ago with “Tweet Tweet, Little Twat”. It felt good to flex those flash fiction muscles again, and I can think of no better outlet for flash crime than SH.
I’m going to have to make sure it’s not another two years before my next appearance.
Horror queen Rachel Deering has put together a stellar lineup of creators for the hardcover horror comics anthology In the Dark, which has just gone live on Kickstarter! There are a lot of great rewards, and less than 24 hours in, many of them are going fast.
In the Dark includes my short story “All Things Through Me”, featuring artwork by Mike S Henderson. I previously worked with Mike on “Big Bad Wolves” for Evileye Books, and it was great to partner up with him again. “All Things Through Me” introduces Tristan Yates, a character with a unique way of helping the dead. If you enjoy his story, I intend to do more with him.
Other contributors include Brian Keene, Cullen Bunn, Duane Swierczynski, Tom Taylor, F. Paul Wilson, Matthew Dow Smith, Christopher Sebela, Drew Moss, David James Cole, and many more! It’s definitely a packed lineup, and from what I’ve seen so far, everyone is bringing their A-game. I’m thrilled to be a part of it, and I’m looking forward to reading it myself.
In the Dark will be a full-cover, hardcover book and a gorgeous addition to any horror or comics fan’s library. Please support the project!
This morning at the day job, I worked in the computer lab and the fourth graders came in to write up some poems they had been working on. While giving directions, the teacher said, “When you type a period, you have to type two spaces before the next sentence.”
I almost had a heart attack.
It’s not the teacher’s fault. She was taught the same thing through college, and she is only a few years younger than I. Many of my co-workers—teachers and administrators—do the same thing. To my surprise, so, too, do many of my writing colleagues.
Rather than get into why the two spaces convention died, I’ll point you to “Space Invaders: Why you should never, ever use two spaces after a period” by Farhad Manjoo for Slate. It includes the required snark and typography elitism.
Now, writers, here’s why you definitely shouldn’t do it.
Go pick a book up off your shelf. Do you see two spaces after every period? Nope. Go pick up a newspaper. Do you see two spaces after every period? Nope (at least, not in any non-fully-justified text, like captions). It really is a dead convention.
So, writer, if you turn in a manuscript with two spaces after the period, you know what happens? Someone has to go in and strip those out. Now, to be fair, there are easy ways to do this in any word processor app worth a damn. However, the proofreader and final designer will still have to be aware of it.
Assuming we’re dealing with professional editors and publishers, of course. In self publishing and small presses, this could be missed, especially if they’re dumping straight from Word to the final product on CreateSpace or Smashwords. Even with some major publishers, things like this have gone unnoticed. Then the writer catches some, if not all, of the blame.
It makes more sense to turn in something as close to the finished product as possible. It saves time and headaches, and your editors will thank you for it. Is it a tough habit to break? Absolutely. I’m sure some of us have a few more bad habits we picked up from school way back when, but it’s not something we should be passing on to the next generation.
That’s why I passed that Slate article on to every teacher in my district. The responses so far amount to “mind blown.” If it results in changes in instruction, I’ll have done my good deed for the year.
Editors and publishers of the future: you’re welcome.
Take a moment to read “I Have a Character Issue” by Anna Gunn. It’s an op-ed piece about all the hatred and threats Gunn receives for her portrayal of Skyler White on AMC’s Breaking Bad. It’s unreal.
I understand the hatred of Skyler White, but at the same time, she’s a great character (and a very well-acted character by Gunn). She strikes me as a very real character, making tough choices as she’s trapped between her fear and disgust of what her husband has become and the love she still has for the father of her children. She has undergone her own transformation, albeit not as extreme as Walt’s.
On top of which people seem to forget Walt is the bad guy. Yes, he’s our protagonist, he’s become a badass, and on some level a lot of us can relate to him. But he’s also a complete anti-hero. If he were our own neighbor and we learned what he had done, we would be in complete fear of him, not awe.
Ladies, how would you react if this were your husband? Guys, how do you think your own wives would react if you were Walt? Whether it’s support for criminal enterprise or taking the kids and running, it’s going to be a strong, visceral reaction. She’s not going to turn into June Cleaver and bake you a cake.
As for this:
“I have never hated a TV-show character as much as I hate her,” one poster wrote. The consensus among the haters was clear: Skyler was a ball-and-chain, a drag, a shrew, an “annoying bitch wife.”
This sexism is ridiculous. If women really behaved the way some of these idiots think they should, they’d have even less respect for women than they do now.
Then we have the hatred of Gunn herself. Holy shit how ridiculous is this? She didn’t write the character, she portrays Skyler as written and directed. Yes, Gunn absolutely brings her own strengths to the character and makes Skyler her own, but she’s not the one dictating Skyler’s actions. You hate Skyler White? Complain to Vince Gilligan.
It also demonstrates how people can’t separate the persona from the actress, and it’s a scary side of celebrity culture. People fall in love with characters and fawn all over the celebrities, without thinking the actor is very likely someone completely different from whom they are portraying.
Anna Gunn played a very different wife in Deadwood. Did she catch any flack for that one? If so, certainly not on this level. Do these same people expect Bryan Cranston to be Walter White or the bumbling Hal from Malcolm in the Middle? He can’t be both, but he’s a dude so he gets a pass.
I find a little comfort in knowing these same people wouldn’t have the stones to say things like “could somebody tell me where I can find Anna Gunn so I can kill her?” if they weren’t sheltered by the anonymity of an online account and the distance of a keyboard. However, we need to squash this behavior. Our school band director has a great quote on the bulletin board in his classroom: “What you permit you promote.”
When the people managing these forums and comment sections don’t do something about the sexist idiots, and the other users let them run their mouths without confrontation, we’re telling them it’s okay. They get to think their little zinger was so awesome, and then they do it again and again.
If we want to change the behavior, then we need to stop letting it slide. We need to stop saying, “great, another troll,” and move on. How do you kill a troll? Expose them to light. Take away that anonymity. Make them eat the very shit they’re shoveling.
If we don’t, it’s only going to get worse.
I still dig paper notebooks. Though I could tap notes into my smartphone via Evernote or a host of other apps, it’s much easier to write in a notebook. I also find it helps me think faster and make more connections. I’m more free-form scribbler than mind mapper. So, when I’m out and about, I tend to have a small notebook with me, preferably something that fits in a jacket or jeans pocket.
I finally filled a Piccadilly I’d been carrying for a while. It’s a cheap knock-off of the Moleskine pocket notebook style, and while I expected it to get beat up, the binding just didn’t hold together. I have Moleskines I carried longer, and though the covers around the bindings began to fray, the bindings themselves held.
I know there are a lot of other things out there, so I decided to do a little browsing. Here are the highlights:
- Field Notes are pretty cool, but I prefer a hardcover and elastic strap. The hardcover is easier to write on without a table, and the strap helps contain anything I stuff into my notebook.
- The Midori Traveller notebooks are gorgeous. For $50+, though, they can stick them in their ass. The passport size comes in brown for $28 on Amazon, which is still a bit much. However, I’d prefer the black passport size, and it’s $45. It might be a different story if I were an artist or a fountain pen nut looking for superior paper, but I’m just a pencil scribbler.
- The Leuchtturm1917 intrigued me, and a video comparing the Leuchtturm1917 pocket notebook to the Moleskine got my attention, but I’m not convinced spending $8-10 more (including shipping) is worth the difference. Page numbers would be cool, but I could do (and have done) that myself.
- I felt the same way about the Rhodia Webnotebook. Another comparison video suggested some advantages, but once again it’s paying $8-10 more for things that don’t quite make a difference in my needs.
A few other brands looked like more of the same. For all of them, I might change my mind if I wrote in pen or wanted sturdier paper, but I write with a pencil. Always a mechanical pencil, and always one with a retractable, non-stabby point. I still prefer to erase rather than scribble or cross things out (I have a different use for strike-throughs), so my eraser sees a lot of action, too.
I’ve considered the Evernote Smart Notebook before, and I looked at it again now that it comes in a pocket size. The extra cost comes with three additional months of Evernote premium, which adds value. However, I’m not convinced it will really do me any good.
For one, there’s no reason I couldn’t snap a photo any other note notebook page. The sticker tagging and the dot guidelines make it easier for Evernote, I’m sure, but I’d rather have straight text notes than photos. I also don’t think Evernote will make any sense of my manic chicken-scratchings, either.
I haven’t been motivated to test it, though, because the act of transcribing those notes into the computer helps keep the details fresh in my mind and often prompts new ideas, corrections, or improvements. It’s become part of my process. Transcription is also quicker with page numbers (whether pre-printed or hand-written), as I can leave a lot of the extra brainstorming notes in the notebook and just type a book and page number into an Evernote entry for quick reference.
On top of that, Moleskine’s Evernote design is not very enticing. I can live with the lime-green band, but the stuff all over the cover is ugly. A simple Evernote elephant logo embossed on the front, or a just few additional elements like on the Hobbit notebook would be much nicer. Not a deal-killer, just a nitpick.
In the end, I came right back to the standard Moleskine notebooks. I have two now: a standard, pocket-sized one and a larger one with my name on the cover (gifted from a friend). I could still be convinced by some hands-on with the other notebooks, but from what I’m seeing on the web I’d rather not spend the extra ducats. I’m good with a middle ground between affordability and premium features.
“Dad, why do you do things that are bad for you?”
The middle son asked me that as I walked out of a local liquor store with a fistful of cigars. It’s a fair question, and a reasonable one for a nine year old to throw at his old man. It prompted a conversation on vice and moderation. This brought on several follow-up questions from the eleven year old, an active participant in his school’s D.A.R.E. program.
Kids aren’t stupid. I answered them straight: “Yep, they’re bad for me, but I like ‘em.”
Cigar aficionados can debate the finer points of the chemical content and additives in cigarettes versus cigars, or the differences between puffing and inhaling, but when it comes down to it, there will always be a risk involved in lighting something on fire and taking in the smoke.
Of course, binging on them kind of kills the idea of moderation. I’d been a good boy most of the summer, but after vacation I set out on a mission to burn through the contents of my humidor. I’m pretty sure my doctor would punch me in the face if he knew how many I’d gone through.
But, hey. Stress. And a powerful need to get some writing done.
I did a piss-poor job of keeping track of them or keeping the cigar bands, so I don’t recall what I had. I know two were Tatuaje Little Monsters, both of which were quite good, but the details escape me. The writing needed to be focused on some short work and a comic script, so I didn’t set aside the time for Smoke Blog entries.
I can tell you, however, the Partagas 1845 I smoked tonight blew me away, right from the light. Hints of cocoa on the wrapper, a smooth draw, thick smoke with leathery note, and solid construction all combined for a blissful, relaxing experience. The cigar dude at Friar Tuck assured me I’d enjoy it, and he was dead on.
I needed it. This is the busiest time of year at the day gig, and I’ve been non-stop for a week and a half now. Some weekend work and a lot of time doing extra tasks from home, combined with vendor phone system issues and construction setting me back even more, has had me on edge. I haven’t been able to get to karate class or do my home workouts, much less write.
The Partagas, a glass of Four Roses bourbon & soda, and some mindless browsing through paper notebooks and notebook reviews proved a great way to unwind.
And that, kids, is why some bad things are also good for me.
Now my humidor sits empty on my desk. I’m going to need a box of something to refill it, but I may need to sell some books first. Nudge nudge, wink wink.
Secor is a small farm town not far from me. With a population under 350, it’s exactly the kind of place where people always say, “nothing ever happens here.”
Until a man was murdered and his body dismembered there just over a week ago.
I first read about it on Peoria’s Journal Star website Thursday morning, and early Thursday afternoon I read about the two people arrested in connection to the crime. A live-in caregiver and her boyfriend allegedly shot a 74-year-old man and tried to dispose of the body. Details are still being withheld, but it appears the killers dismembered the body, leaving a portion at the home and a dumping the rest off a bridge into a river just over the county border. Authorities were waiting on DNA test results to confirm the body parts go together and verify the identity.
Later that afternoon, I got home from work and pulled our local weekly paper out of the mailbox. The murder made the front page, which is not a surprise. However, it was already way out of date. It said a man was missing and a body had been found in the river, but there were no suspects yet.
It’s a perfect example of the challenges faced by print media and the increasing irrelevance of small, local newspapers when it comes to reporting major news. My wife and I subscribe to the local paper because it’s the best way to get coverage of our town, such as village and school board meetings and notices from local groups. However, because of the way the paper tries to protect itself, it’s the only way to get that news and information in a timely manner.
See, this newspaper does have a website. It also has breaking news on the case, but it’s all culled from the paper’s parent, Bloomington’s Pantagraph newspaper. Unfortunately everything else is unavailable for about a week after the local paper is printed and distributed. Some other big stories have been exempted from the rule, but for the most part, delaying the news has been their alternative to putting up a paywall.
It’s sad, really. I understand there’s a business side to running a paper and reporting local news. Reporters need to be paid, and whether we’re talking print or Web, there are costs involved in distribution. We can talk about how information should be free and people deserve the news, but unless we’re willing to cough up more taxes to pay for it, we’re out of luck. (Not to mention we’d then be dealing with government oversight of the media, which is the last thing we’d want. But that’s a whole ‘nother blog post.)
I got to thinking, though: what really pays for the newspaper? Ads. This is why just about any given interior page is at least 3/4 advertisements, and at least one or two other pages (in our small paper), often the back page, is a full-page ad. How do you get ad revenue? Guarantee eyeballs. How do you guarantee eyeballs? Subscribers. Sales in stores and out of corner machines probably vary somewhat, but a paper can cough up an exact subscriber number at any given time.
This is the problem news websites face. The web advertisement arms race, where ads get more obnoxious and browser-based ad-blocking software gets more aggressive, is frustrating on both sides. Paywalls, meanwhile, are a huge turnoff because sometimes a reader just wants one story or isn’t local to that paper.
Also, the Journal Star’s paywall is laughably easy to defeat: after a reader has read 15 articles for the month, a pop-up ad asks for a digital subscription. If the reader refuses, he is dumped to the front page. However, I’ve discovered if I hit the browser’s stop button after the page loads but before the pop-up arrives, I can keep reading. If they fix that, I’d bet dumping or blocking cookies or using a proxy would still get me past the paywall.
It’s going to get worse before it gets better, and it’s these small, local papers that are going to suffer. Our local reporter is nearing retirement, and I can’t imagine it’s going to be easy to replace her. The pay can’t be great, and the beat is far from glamorous. They’re going to need someone who cares about the area, otherwise we’ll get someone out of Bloomington or Peoria covering the area part time and our news will be secondary to whatever city story he or she is working on at the time.
Papers really need to start thinking outside the box, leveraging both emerging technologies and the desire to reach local audiences (and for local businesses to reach their local populace), or they’re going to die. This isn’t news to them, of course, but the locals don’t have time to wait for the bigger outlets to figure it out.
So yes, here I am with a half-assed suggestion: mobile apps and subscriptions. A tablet app local news outlets can push news, ads, obits, classifieds, etc., to. Readers buy the app, subscribe to the content.
On a personal level, the local paper’s website is useless, and it’s not worth paying for the Pantagraph or Journal Star (even if I couldn’t defeat the paywall). Pay what, $2.99 or so for the app (for the developer), then around $1.99 per month for the content (for the paper)? Sure, that’d be worth it to me. I don’t know what our subscription cost is, but I’m sure it’s less than buying the paper for $1.00 per week in stores. I’d just as soon read on the tablet if I can get the same content, including things like the high school’s monthly newspaper.
Speaking as a tech, I’m seeing a lot of folks picking up tablets. Not just the students who are bringing more and more tablets to the school I work for, but their parents and grandparents, too. Every year, more staff members, both current and retiring, are buying iPads when we do our annual bulk purchases. Staff members who are not computer savvy are purchasing iPhones at the behest of their children. I also see parents and grandparents bringing tablets and e-readers to the karate dojo.
Tablets are perfect for people who have no use otherwise for a computer. The elderly are buying them or receiving them as gifts in greater numbers because they can do email, Facebook, and basic web surfing without the hassle—real or perceived—of a laptop or desktop. With the Nexus 7 priced at only $230, it’s very affordable.
Design the pages right, and we could get local, relevant ads in an unobtrusive manner, making local businesses happy and generating more income for the paper. Small ads around the content, larger ads on a full page to swipe past, just like a real paper.
Hell, if I knew anything about app design and programming, I might try to develop a relationship with the local paper and take a crack at it myself. I’m not a business man, but it seems to me a developer catering to hundreds of local papers might do at least as well as a major paper developing its own in-house app.
Last Sunday, we hosted the Wife’s family reunion at the local park, and most of us biked in.
I’m still waiting to hear the rumors about the biker gang that took over the park building. My bike was already there when they arrived, but it was something listening to them all come rolling through the park. I shot a video of them rolling out at the end of the day, but Instagram was happy to hose it all up for me.
This is most of the bikes in the family, a mix of Harleys and Hondas with a Kawasaki and a Star for variety. Missing from the photo are two Honda Gold Wings, a Harley Electra Glide, a Harley Street Glide, an old Suzuki Cavalcade, and at least one or two more Harley cruisers. Most of the family have been riders for a long time, some of whom are just getting back into riding and some of whom never gave up their bikes. A few more have hopped on two wheels within the last five years or so.
The family is having a short ride again this weekend, but they’re in downstate Illinois and I’ve got other commitments. One of these days I’ll get down there and run with the pack, though.
I’ve been doing a lot of behind-the-scenes work the last couple of weeks. A lot of it is assembling notes and research, putting outlines together, communicating with folks to line up more work. It feels like I’ve been really busy.
Unfortunately, it’s all false productivity.
Things have kept me from the keyboard, but I still do what I can to stay busy and be prepared for that precious keyboard time. It’s the actual keyboard time, however, that counts. I can spend all year with the notes, research, and email, but until these things make their way onto a page that’s available for sale in some form or another, it doesn’t count for squat.
That includes the blog. I haven’t had time to keep it up since my vacation, but while it does serve its purpose, it’s not the priority. The same goes for social media. The priority has to be the clack clack clack that outputs an actual draft. The clickety-clack that outputs a pitch that becomes a gig. The clack clack clickety outputs an outline attached to a business proposal. The priority has to be the writing and the rewriting.
The priority has to be the clack clack clack that becomes the cha-ching of cash flow.
Not coincidentally, this is what makes one a professional writer. “Professional” should be suggestive of its root word: profession. You know, job. Career. Trade.
Whether one is obsessively pounding away at the keys to the detriment of his home, family, and social life or making occasional forays into the office for hurried spurts of writing between a day job and family and social life doesn’t matter. This is all differing views of what a writer should be, and it’s often an idealized point of view, not a practical one. It’s very subjective.
Writing to get paid, or to at least get content out there to build future pay upon, is enough to be professional. Everything else is that same false productivity, and trying to put a compensation level or success level on it is just splitting hairs. It may matter for some status in an organization, but in the big picture, really, who gives a shit?
Finally, I’d like to point out that by some folks’ standards, J.D. Salinger would not be a professional writer. That just seems kind of foolish, doesn’t it?