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Smoke Blog: Foundry Uranium

It’s been a while since a cigar kicked my ass, and the Uranium from Foundry’s Compounds, Elements, & Musings line came pretty close. The CE&M line is Foundry’s small batch, a mix of blends that will even vary within the same box. My guess is the names are all about the size and shape of

I’m Done Being a Tech Guy

At least, I’m done identifying as one. When people ask me what I do, my response is automatic: “I’m the tech director for a school district.” This typically demands explanation, and I tell them, “I run the network and fix the computers.” Without fail, this leads them to say, “You know, I’m having this problem

Keeping Productivity Honest with Todoist

I’ve tinkered with several productivity apps and task managers, but none of them have been as simple and convenient as Todoist. As an added bonus, Todoist has a tracker they call Karma which tells me at a glance when I’ve been slacking or when I’ve been productive. My initial needs were simple: speed and convenience. As

Lenore: Back on the Road

Lenore’s front brakes began to squeal at the end of the last riding season. I thought about taking her to a mechanic, but I knew that could get expensive, depending upon the problem. I mulled it over all Winter, and finally decided to man up and tackle it myself. After a little research, I knew it

All Scoped Out

Ah, modern medicine. Got a problem with your gut? Just run a camera down there and see what’s up. That’s pretty much how it went for me, anyway. I’d been sweating ulcers or a hiatal hernia for a while, so I finally went to see a GI specialist last week. Today, he ran the scope

Fare Thee Well, Fitbit

I’m one of the lucky winners of the Fitbit Force skin rash lottery.

Taken on Sunday, 2/23

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 be a glue used to bind the Force device to the wristband. This makes a lot more sense, as this rash feels more like a chemical burn than a rash. I’ve still got the burn/rash today (Monday), yet I haven’t worn the device since Wednesday evening. I notified Fitbit and they immediately issued me a refund and a shipping label to return the device.

Here’s the thing: I liked this device. While in many respects it is a glorified pedometer, and using RunKeeper and GPS on my phone is probably more effective when I get back to running, I liked the addition of a display and the ability to track activity all day. I also liked that it does sleep tracking and has a silent alarm. I had yet to really put it to the test in karate classes, but it seemed to be pretty good at figuring out when I was active versus just moving around on day-to-day tasks.

My personal feeling is their manufacturer used cheap materials. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that the worst parts of the burns are beneath the two joins between the underside of the device and the strap. With luck, it will be something they’ll be able to straighten out soon.

Will I purchase another Force if that’s the case? Honestly, I’m not sure. I thought about downgrading to Fitbit’s Flex, but I hate the idea of a single-purpose device. There are also new competitors coming, like Atlas Wearables, who make devices capable of tracking more data (heart rate would be terrific) and which are waterproof (ideal for when I run the Warrior Dash this summer).

My only other concern? Dragging a sword across it in iaijutsu class or snagging it during judo work and partner drills. I can worry about that when a new device is in hand, though.

In the meantime, farewell, Fitbit. It was nice while it lasted.

Update 3/6/14:

It’s been two weeks now, and the photo below is what the wound (I think it’s fair to call it that) looks like now.

They’re turning me into a lizard!

Tasty, huh? It doesn’t itch near as much, and it’s mostly just crusty, dry skin as it heals. It’s cracked in a few spots, though, so I try to keep it clean and I put unscented moisturizer on it.

Fitbit still maintains it’s skin irritation or an allergic reaction. I don’t buy it, but hey, I’m not a doctor.

New Winter Kill Now Available

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.

New cover! Oooh, ahhhh.

New cover! Oooh, ahhhh.

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 told my contributor copies will be landing at my doorstep any day now.

If you’re new to my work or my The Pack series, Winter Kill is the first book and this is the ideal jumping-on point. If you’re a digital reader, stay tuned next week for more information on this new Kindle edition of Winter Kill.

New readers can also get a taste of the series by reading the first The Pack short story, “Bravo Four”, for only 99 cents on Amazon, or by checking out the short comic “Big Bad Wolves” on Indie Pulp. “Bravo Four” takes place several decades prior to Winter Kill and is set during the Vietnam War. “Big Bad Wolves”, meanwhile, leads into the events of Winter Kill.

And on that note, expect news on the next The Pack short story in the coming weeks.

The only downside to the new edition is we have a new ISBN, and thus a new product page on Amazon. As a result, our reviews aren’t listed on the new page. If you’ve read and enjoyed Winter Kill, I’d greatly appreciate it if you posted a review on the new product page.

Here’s a taste of previous reviews:

These people have taste.

These people have taste.

Respect.

Respect.

In the end, it’s the same great book, it just has a new face and some bonus material. I hope you’ll check it out.

A Little Bird Valentine

Little Bird is more metal than you.

This is my daughter, the Little Bird. This photo is a few years old, but she’s still pretty bad ass.

Today she brought home the Valentine she created for me at school. Pretty standard, hand-written stuff. Heart on the front.

Then I opened it and read it.

One note before you get to feel the love:

She has a friend who has a goldfish. Little Bird came home after visiting said friend one day last week and asked if she could have one, too. Why not, right? What’s it cost, like ten bucks at Wally World to get her all set up? It’s a no-brainer for her next birthday present this Spring.

There. Now here’s the card:

Dear Dad,

You are the best dad ever. I like beating you at Candyland. It is fun beating you at every single game. It is nice of you to let me have a fish. You are the best dad ever when I beat you at games.

Love,
[Little Bird]

Translation:

You’re cool because I can beat your ass at games and you buy me stuff.

Maybe I should buy her a piranha.

Get Rolling with Evernote for Writing

After some questions from other writers, I thought I’d expand on my “Why I Love Evernote” post to discuss how I actually use it to help with my writing projects.

The key to remember here is your mileage may vary. There may be things about Evernote I love that don’t work for you, and you may discover things I wasn’t aware of or had no use for. Dive in, play with it, and make it work for you.

Also, keep it simple. “Ubiquitous capture” and the lack of traditional computer metaphors like files and folders can be daunting at first, but once you get a handle on how Evernote handles notebooks, notes, tagging, and searching, things get pretty easy.

So let’s break it down and use my The Pack series and notes as an example.

1) Create a Notebook

It may help at first to think of notebook as folders, but the metaphor here is imagine you just purchased a shiny new paper notebook you’re going to write in and stuff full of pictures, newspaper clippings related to your project. It’s both notebook and scrapbook, in a sense.

An Evernote notebook, then is your first order of sorting. In the future you can share it with an editor or a collaborator, but in the meantime it’s the place you’ll dump everything related to that project. The default notebook is enough for some folks, but I just use that one for day-to-day things. I have a Recipes notebook, a Karate notebook, a notebook for the day job, and one for every major project I’m working on.

Everything from here on will have been created within my “The Pack” notebook. I could feasibly create one for every novel, but it’s a lot handier (to me) to group everything related to the series under one notebook.

2) Create Notes

Click “create note” and you’re off and running. The beauty of notes is they can include several types of content. Text is most common, of course, but I can also drag in photos and other media. Tables, lists, and checklists are available when needed, and with the indents and lists, you can build a traditional outline.

If you’re the type who likes voice notes, Evernote can handle this, too. Dictate into the Evernote app on your phone, for example, and it will be available everywhere you have Evernote installed or via the Evernote web app. Want to make dictated notes searchable, or transcribe to text? Check out Quicktate or Voice2Note. I don’t use these, but as I said, YMMV.

Here are the types of notes I use most often:

Character Dates and Timeline

This note is simply a master list of important dates and a timeline of events. The novels Winter Kill and Lie with the Dead occur about six months apart, but the events in the first Pack short “Bravo Four” take place decades earlier during the Vietnam War. Events from the Call of the Wild comic series have an impact in the prose series. There are references to unpublished (for now) events in each story, and of course there is the ages of characters to consider. To keep it all straight, I’ve got each major character’s birth date, their death date where applicable, and at least approximate dates of when each story took place and when unpublished events occurred.

Character Notes

This is where I get more detailed. Winter Kill has a lot of characters, including the Tyler family, at least two sets of villains, and a handful of supporting characters. There are two ways one might approach it: one note per character, like an old-school index card; or one note per group of characters.

I tend toward the latter because I don’t mind if the notes get a bit lengthy. So, I have a note for all of the core members of the Tyler family. I have a note for all of the skinheads in Winter Kill. I have a note for Angie Wallace, a major character unrelated to the Tylers or the villains. Each character’s physical descriptions, their personality, and so on are all included. It’s simply broken down so the character’s name is in bold, and then the paragraphs or one-liners follow.

These notes help keep details straight. For example, if a character carries a certain weapon, it goes in the note so the weapon doesn’t magically change in another book. If a character receives a wound, I make sure I know where the scar is. I might even paste in descriptive passages from each work to be sure it’s always consistent.

In short, it’s helpful for continuity, and it saves me the time of having to flip through published works to verify details later.

Book Notes or Outlines

I have at least one note for each novel in the series, including Book 3. They’re fairly organic, and change as I massage the plots. They might start with a simple breakdown of Act I, Act II, and Act III, or even just a line or two about what I want to accomplish or an overall theme. Some are just brainstorming, and at least one includes a discarded version of a story which I might pick apart for later use anyway.

Over time, they get more detailed. I might have a beat sheet breaking down the book event by event, or even chapter by chapter. Pretty soon, they’re more or less an outline of the book I can use to write from, and they also become useful to refer back to when working on other projects in the series.

Short Story Notes

I have one note that has the synopsis for each of the short stories I’ll be writing for the series over the next few months. I then flesh them out with a separate note to figure out how the stories will play out.

For example, there’s a “Bravo Four” note I used to write from. It’s an outline, and it’s a reference for the future. If The Pack were a comic series, I might even have an issue-by-issue breakdown, a note for each story arc.

Research Notes

These are most often web clippings, but some may be simply photos or other notes. Because The Pack is a werewolf series, I clipped the article “Why everything you know about wolf packs is wrong” in case it might be useful in the future. This way it’s available in searches and browsing rather than lost in a pile of bookmarks or other links. I also have some notes about places and events from the Vietnam War for “Bravo Four”, and I have some other history notes for future short stories.

Publishing/Business Notes

Everything related to publishing gets a note. I have a note with key reviews for Winter Kill. I have a note listing the ISBN numbers and publication dates of each work, and any relevant Amazon or Barnes & Noble links. They’re small things, maybe only needed once in a blue moon, but they’re handy to keep around.

I also have a note for the editing process of Lie with the Dead. I simply dumped the editor’s notes into a note for quick reference. Once, while sitting in a doctor’s waiting room, I thought of a way to address one of his notes. I fired up Evernote on my phone and jotted those thoughts in with that comment so I could address it later and not sweat forgetting it before I got to a computer.

I also dumped everything from a weekend retreat planning meeting I had with my publisher into a note. Notes we took, things we discussed, and even photos of the whiteboard we used are all still available to me for reference.

Miscellaneous Notes

Everything else, basically. I do all my brainstorming on paper, so I might transfer those notes into a separate note for later noodling. Other times, the brainstorming notes go into existing notes. There’s no hard-and-fast rule here, because tagging and searching makes where I record the notes irrelevant.

3) Tying Notes Together

There are two ways to do this: tagging and linking.

You’re probably already familiar with the idea of tagging. They’re a simple way to “group” notes without using folders. Character names are an important tag, for example, as are book titles. This way, if I look for anything tagged “winter kill,” I’ll get everything that may be related to that book.

Linking is also handy, and works just like a hyperlink on a website, and in effect can turn your notebook into a wiki. In a plot note, I might include a link from a character’s name to the note containing their description. Or I can link from a plot or character note to one of the research notes. This keeps me from having to reproduce information, or from bogging down notes with extraneous information.

4) Sorting Searching

This is the point people sweat keeping everything organized. Forget about it, because the search feature makes all of that irrelevant. It’s very powerful, and will search tags, text within notes, and text within attachments (pictures, and even PDFs if you’re a pro user).

You simply don’t need to sort things into folders because the search will find it for you. Accidentally drop a note into the wrong notebook? No problem, you can restrict searches to within a notebook or open it up to your entire account.

Notes are typically listed by the date they were last modified. This way, the thing you’re working on most at the moment is typically at the top of the stack. It can also sort notes by location if that’s what you’re into by tagging notes with GPS information and showing you a map.

Are you the visual type? Take a look at Mohiomap, an app which allows you to surf your notes visually as a mind map based on your tags. This is another feature that’s not for me, but if you’re a big fan of mind mapping, check it out.

Once you get used to searching over sorting, it’s very liberating. You’re not wasting time organizing things, archiving things, or otherwise performing housekeeping on a fat stack of files. Throw your data in a note and forget about it.

The Evernote app also allows you the flexibility of creating shortcuts to your most-used notebooks and notes. One click gets you to a current project rather than having to go through a list of notebooks every time.

5) The Extras

Ubiquitous Access

Wherever I am, whatever device I have with me, if I can get to the Internet I can get to my notes. If I’m going to travel somewhere coverage might be sketchy (a very real possibility for me now that US Cellular has carved up and sold off entire service areas), I can tag certain notebooks as Offline notebooks so I can keep current notes with me at all times.

A Second Screen

I’m not a fan of flipping back and forth between windows, and it’s not always helpful to shrink windows to keep them side by side on a screen. Thus it’s not unusual for me to have a document in progress open on screen, and the notes related to that project open on the iPad or smartphone next to me. It’s a small thing, but I like it.

Reminders and To-Dos

I personally prefer Todoist and Google Calendar for these, but Evernote does have these features built in. You can set a reminder to nag you about a meeting or a deadline. You can create checklists of to-dos in a note, and tie them to reminders. It’s all very flexible, I just find it unwieldy compared to Todoist.

Just Do It!

There’s really no right or wrong way to this, and it’s all very adaptable to your style and personality. Get in there and dig around, start creating notes. If you decide you want to handle notes and notebooks differently, you can drag notes to different notebooks.

It’s all very organic, and all a lot more user-friendly than it appears at first glance. Understanding comes quickly. Learn by doing, and don’t be afraid because you’re not going to lose anything.

If you’re ready to get started, please, use my referral link to set up your Evernote account. I’d appreciate it!

Smoke Blog: CAO Flathead

When I visited my friend John’s man cave for the NFL championship games, he handed me a CAO Flathead cigar. The sheer size of the thing surprised me, and I took it as a challenge.

The Flathead 770, aka Big Block. 7″ long, 70 ring gauge.

I lit this cigar during the 1st quarter of the Seahawks game. Shortly after Richard Sherman’s post-game outburst about three hours later, I stubbed out the last inch-and-a-half or so to get back on the road. Amazing.

The cigar lit easy and drew fine, but one of the box-pressed sides would start to go out from time to time. I blame the ring gauge. It looked like a Maduro, but instead the Flathead sports a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper. Inside we’ve got a Habano Connecticut binder and a mix of Nicaraguan and Piloto Cubano Ligero for the filler.

I’ll say now I’ve never had a Ligero I didn’t like, and the Flathead is no exception. I truly enjoyed those three hours with this monster, and when I saw Flathead 660 “Carb” in a local liquor store’s humidor this past weekend, I thought I would try to repeat the experience.

I found the 660 sported the same smooth taste, the same draw and sturdy construction, but did not have as many lighting problems. Of course, it didn’t last quite as long, either, but it was still a damn fine smoke in its own right.

Ligero fans, put this one on your must-try list. Highly recommended.

In the Dark Now Available for Pre-Order

The In the Dark horror comics anthology will hit shelves on April 23rd, but you can preorder your copy today with Diamond/Previews order code FEB14 0452.

Featuring 368 pages of horror!

Featuring 368 pages of horror!

In the Dark had a successful Kickstarter campaign around Halloween last year and will be published by IDW Publishing. The backers already have their copies reserved, and now preorders are available to the general public. Simply stop by your favorite comic shop within the next couple of weeks, give the guy behind the counter the FEB14 0452 order code, and you’ll get your copy in April.

Don’t know where to find a comic shop? Check out the Comic Shop Locator Service.

Congrats to editor Rachel Deering on getting this monster anthology funded and published. I’m looking forward to reading it myself!

One Wipe Charlies: A Review

Let’s get one thing out of the way right off: One wipe? Not so much. But there’s a whole lot to like about Dollar Shave Club’s One Wipe Charlies.

DSC’s Mike bills the OWCs as a sort of extraction team. You’re a busy man, so you wipe once and you get on with your life. Problem is, I’m a big busy man, and my diet ain’t the greatest. If I subsisted on granola and greens, one wipe would probably be all it takes. Instead I eat a lot of meat and dairy. I’ve been known to burn through half a roll of TP in a sitting (pun fully intended), and I’ve even slain the jet-flushing industrial toilets in some public restrooms.

(Too gross? Too personal? I’ll just skip the hair issue. You’re welcome.)

Instead, think of the OWCs as a clean-up crew. You’ve handled the real business and the battle is over. Now it’s Charlie’s turn to kill off the survivors and stash the bodies. In those terms, all I’ve ever needed is one, and I’m much happier with the final result.

The next thing to consider is cost. One Wipe Charlies work out to ten cents a wipe, so I hit a couple of stores to examine alternatives. Some baby wipes are cheaper, but the thing to remember is they’re not all flushable. Unless you’re also keeping a diaper disposal station nearby, you want a garbage can loaded with crap-covered wipes, or you want to bring a plumber into the equation in the future, the Charlies still come out on top.

I also don’t want to go around smelling like baby powder or a “baby fresh” scent all day, but we’ll come back to that in a moment.

I did find some Kroger-branded flushable wipes which were far cheaper. I don’t recall the actual cost, but I got over twice as many wipes for a similar cost. Great, I thought, I get the same experience and save a few bucks even over Dollar Shave!

In the end, not so much.

First, the Kroger wipes are smaller. Not a lot smaller, but there are times those couple of inches count. Second, they smell like hell. To be specific, they smell like the witch hazel they’re made with. Witch Hazel isn’t really the image I need at that particular moment.

Looney Tunes Witch Hazel

“Trust me, I’m here to help.”

Now, are you really smelling what’s down there? Probably not while you’re walking around. However, it does make things easier on a significant other and on your laundry. And honestly, just opening the One Wipe Charlies package and handling the peppermint-scented wipes is a lot nicer than everything else going on at the time. And it’s a gentle peppermint, not an overpowering toothpaste or candy smell. Dare I say, it’s a manly peppermint: just enough to counter the biological stink but not enough to overpower you in the other direction.

Are there other, cheaper alternatives I haven’t seen? I dunno, maybe. The convenience of delivery, the one-click ordering, and the comfort and hygienic advantages, however, will keep me Dollar Shave-loyal for the time being.

Not a Dollar Shave member? Sign up now and give it a shot. I’d appreciate your using my referral link.

Winter Kill Relaunching Next Month

Next month, a new, remastered Winter Kill will be available prior to the release of the sequel, Lie with the Dead, in March.

Winter Kill 2014 Cover

Winter Kill 2014 Cover

What’s changed, you ask? Not a whole lot. The manuscript itself is untouched. Evileye Books is giving Winter Kill a new cover and design to jive with the look of Lie with the Dead and future books in the series. Also, there will be an excerpt from Lie with the Dead included in the back of Winter Kill. Both the print and e-book editions will sport this new cover.

Why I Love Evernote (and You Will, Too)

I use a lot of apps, but Evernote has become the single app I’m not sure I could replace. Word processors, task managers, and social media apps are all fairly interchangeable. Operating systems? I have my favorites, but they don’t much matter in the end. Even the device isn’t very important anymore.

Not so for Evernote. Sure, it has competitors offering some of the same features, but it’s so entrenched in my workflow, and I have so much data stashed in its cloudspace, that it would be difficult for me to migrate away from it, even if I wanted to. I have a premium account for the extra features, but I’m also happy to pay up to ensure they’re not going anywhere.

The following video sums up the basic idea and features. Check it out, and then I’ll get on to how Evernote’s been useful for me in so many ways.

Now let’s talk about why you might want to sign up.

I Use It For:

The Day Gig

I juggle a lot of information in the day job, and there’s not a lot that doesn’t find its way into Evernote. Software manuals and instruction booklets can be stored on several services, but Evernote makes them searchable, lets me tag them, and lets me add my own notes. The extensive federal paperwork I have to fill out every year goes into Evernote, along with all of the notes, dates, and filing information that goes with it.

It also makes a great repository for software license codes and activation keys. For a while I’d type in anything I couldn’t cut and paste, but now I just take a picture of the keys. For example, when we purchase interactive whiteboards, there are activation keys on both the board and the CD case. A couple of taps and a photo of every new key is added to the same note as the others.

Separately, I make extensive use of Evernote Skitch to mark up screenshots for passing instructions and tips along to coworkers. With Evernote integration, I have those same notes and annotations to share again later.

Research

This one should be a no-brainer. I record it once, I keep it forever, no matter the subject. If I’m shopping for something, I can snap photos and take notes about pricing and/or features. If it’s a newspaper or magazine article, I can snap a photo and Evernote will make its text searchable.

This is also where the Evernote Web Clipper comes in handy. Web articles, blog posts, Wikipedia entries, and more can be saved and tagged with a couple of clicks. Just yesterday I grabbed an io9 article on powering a starship with an artificial black hole for possible use in a writing project.

Fitness

There are a handful of print fitness magazines I’ll pick up from time to time, but my shelf space is far too limited to keep them around to look up a workout routine once in a blue moon. In those cases I’ll scan and tag the article and slide it into Evernote.

It works the same for digital magazines on the iPad. Whether I’m reading them in the Kindle app or Apple iBooks or Newsstand, a screenshot works as well as a scanner, and Evernote filing is handled on the same device.

Even better, I don’t have to think about them anymore. Magazines go forgotten on shelves, but if I search for “bench press” in Evernote, it’ll turn up a handful of useful articles I’ll have forgotten about.

Recipes

This is how I hooked The Wife. She has a cabinet full of recipe books, magazines, and hand-written cards from her mom or her friends. I do most of the cooking these days, and I can never find the right books. If we go shopping, we would inevitably forget an ingredient or two.

With Evernote, I snap a picture of our favorite recipes. They’re instantly available when I’m cooking, and if we’re at the store and suddenly decide we’re going to make shrimp chowder, I can pull up the recipe right there. I’ve used Web Clipper to collect several new recipes, too.

Now The Wife has an account, and I’ve shared the entire recipe notebook with her. She can browse them on her phone, or she can add to our collection.

Martial Arts

This is where the workflow gets a little strange because I take notes by hand at first. I’d love to use an Evernote Notebook by Moleskine, but my handwriting is way too messy for Evernote to make any sense of it, especially when I’m writing in a hurry in class.

Taking a few minutes to retype them, however, is worth the time. I have research, history, kata breakdowns, judo articles, and more piled up in there, and I often include links to videos I’ve stashed on YouTube for reference. As such, it became an invaluable study guide for my black belt test last March, both for the written test and the board exam.

We also have a class where my instructor has a handout from time to time. We have a binder we keep for these papers, but scans or pictures of these, too, go straight into Evernote. Instead of digging up the binder, I just pick up my phone.

Writing

And now we have the big one. Aside from the writing itself, there’s not much I don’t do in Evernote (though there’s no reason I couldn’t write in a note if I chose to). Let’s just make a list:

  • Character descriptions. Sure beats searching back through a manuscript, and I’ll often paste in passages alongside my own notes.
  • Timelines and continuity. Character histories, plot timelines, back story, all of it.
  • Plot notes. Best way to keep the story straight.
  • Outlines. I’ve been known to use ‘em.
  • Submission tracking. Dates, editor information, all of it.
  • Contracts and contract terms. Of course I keep the paper, too, but sometimes I need to look things up.
  • Production notes. Artwork, thumbnails, layouts, cover mock-ups, and so on.
  • Publication details. Street dates, blurbs, reviews, ISBNs, and links.

I’m also using Evernote to collaborate on a project. We have a small pile of notes and reference material in a shared notebook. We’re gearing up to do the actual writing in Google Docs, but Evernote is better for organizing the rest of the material.

I Don’t Use It For:

As much as I love Evernote, there are some things I prefer other apps for. Most notably, I use an entirely different task manager, as Evernote’s task/todo list is a bit unwieldy for my taste. And I haven’t used its reminder feature much because Google Calendar is faster and easier.

All in All:

Evernote rocks. I love it, and at the day job I encourage the staff and students to check it out. There are more uses for it, and there are more videos and articles about those uses than you can possibly keep up with. Project management, going paperless, research, running a business, the possibilities are endless. There’s even a private investigator using Evernote for case management and field work.

If you think it’ll help you, by all means, sign up for an account.

Lie with the Dead is GO!

After some unforeseen delays, Evileye Books and I have a release timeline for the next novel in the The Pack series, Lie with the Dead. From the official press release:

Lie with the Dead 3D cover

Lie with the Dead

“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!

On Comic Scripts

This morning, I posted the following on Twitter:

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:

  1. Jimmy is running across the room toward the table.
  2. 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” Color Sample

I’ve gotta say, Mike S Henderson and Jordan Boyd are making my scribblings look terrific.

A colored page from "All Things Through Me"

A colored page from “All Things Through Me”

“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.