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Warrior Dash Promo Winners

Congratulations to Alyn Day and Jack Finley on winning autographed copies of Lie with the Dead as part of my St Jude Warrior promotion! Thanks, Alyn and Jack, for supporting my run and the children of St Jude. While the drawing is over, I’m still taking donations until the day of the race and would

Fight Pediatric Cancer & You Might Win a Book

I ran the Warrior Dash as a St Jude Warrior in 2012, and I’m doing it again this summer. Any Warrior Dash participant who raises $300 for St Jude Children’s Research Hospital is eligible for extra privileges including gear check, lunch, and showers. With your help, I was able to take advantage of those privileges

Lie with the Dead now available for Kindle, Nook

The Pack Book 2: Lie with the Dead is now available in e-book formats, as well as in trade paperback at Barnes & Noble! Amazon Kindle Link Barnes & Noble TPB/Nook Link Whichever your pleasure, Evileye Books is ready for you. Lie with the Dead is now eligible for the Kindle Matchbook program, so if you purchase

8.6 Reasons to Buy In the Dark

In the Dark is available for preorder on Amazon, and I’d say an 8.6 out of 10 review is a pretty good reason to make with the clicky, no? I was especially pleased to see the reviewer, David Henderson, mention my short story “All Things Through Me”. I felt the art by Mike S Henderson

The Pack Book 2: Lie with the Dead Available Now

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

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.

Shotgun Honey: The Return

Looking for a quick-and-dirty read? Check out my flash piece “Never Feels the Same” over at Shotgun Honey.

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.

The In the Dark Kickstarter is Live!

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.

A panel from "All Things Through Me". Art by Mike S Henderson.

A panel from “All Things Through Me”. Art by Mike S Henderson.

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!

Writers: Stop Using Two Spaces After a Period

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.

Anna Gunn’s Character Issue, and the Troll Problem

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.

Notebook Nerdery

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.