So 2009 Happened...

This year didn't exactly go as planned. Two weeks in I got sacked from the job I had for the last 5 years. I knew where I wanted to go, but for the most part I was directionless. Leads came up empty, my writing career didn't take off as fast as I wanted, and my personal life was pretty much entirely limited to dodgeball (not that I'm complaining about the latter).

But let's look at what worked:
- I had a back-up story in Witchblade #125 and a 3-page Ragman yarn in the DC Holiday Special. I wrote more, but that's all that was actually published. Yeesh, was that it?
- I edited Josh Fialkov and Noel Tuazon's excellent OGN Tumor, in addition to one of the most challenging gigs of my career, Days Missing for Archaia/Roddenberry. I'm also attached to edit Ryder on the Storm with David Hine and Time Bomb by Palmiotti and Gray, both for Radical.

Of course, the biggest news was the announcement of Broken Trinity: Pandora's Box, the six-issue miniseries I'm co-writing with Bryan Edward Hill. Alessandro Vitti and Sunny Gho are handling art, and Tommy Lee Edwards is on covers. It's a sweet package, and if this year's crop is any indication, will definitely be one of the better books on stands next year.

That's all well and good, but let's get back to the bad. Last year, one year ago to the day in fact, I was getting ready to go out on New Year's Eve with my buddy Bernard Chang (responsible for that darling caricature you can see of me all over the Internets). Suddenly, I had an idea. I won't go too much into it as I don't want to spoil my screenplay, and because the story ended up changing a lot. I wrote up a one-pager, fired it off to Bryan and Brian Buccellato, and felt like I had stumbled upon something I could really get behind. I kept setting deadlines for myself, even stupid penalties like "I won't cut my hair until I finish this screenplay."

I didn't finish. I did cut my hair. I suck.

I haven't touched the damn thing since before SDCC. Sure, I got busy with some paying work and travel and life, but there's no excuse. And that pretty much brings us to 2010.

2010 - The Year Shit Jumps Off

The New Year is just hours away. I plan to have a fun time ringing it in, and maybe even taking the rest of the city's vacation (Hollywood shuts down for two weeks around this time of year) as one of my own. But come 1/4, everything changes. Too many days in 2009 were marred by setbacks. I couldn't write, editing got in the way, money problems got in the way, I was busy hustling, etc. All of those things are just excuses. And in some of those cases, those excuses prevented me from even trying to write. And there's no excuse for that.

I'm not setting any goals I can't absolutely achieve. Saying I'm going to write a screenplay every 3 months isn't unrealistic, but there's the inherent possibility of failure built in. If I write 3, I've failed. If I write none because I get an exclusive contract writing comics and get too busy, I've failed. But no one can stop me from putting in the hours. Sitting down at the desk, cutting out distractions (the Internet, twitter, movies, etc.), and writing. A word, a page, a novel. Doesn't matter.

In 2010, I will write 7 days per week.

Not because I want to (or as is just as often the case, don't want to), but because I have to. When I got laid off, I didn't spend too much time in the dumps. Thanks to the advice of friends and inspired by all of the bad entertainment I've ever consumed, I went straight into pursuing writing as a full-time career with no safety net. That's the eventual goal. Create for a living. Right now I have to do other things to supplement my meager writing income, but I'm getting work. People pay me to do what I'm trying to do.

I already have books scheduled to be on stands for at least the first 7 months of the year, with more potentials in progress. I have artists attached to four original projects. But that's just comics. I want to work in film, tv and video games as well. And I don't expect to make money in each avenue just yet, but I still have ambitions. So what it's going to take to monetize all of them, as well as give me the creative cache and brand recognition, is writing 7 days a week.

My co-writer Bryan is a fantastic role model. He's a workhorse, and he churns stuff out. His initial ideas are generally better than my (seldom) finished works. And that's because he's written out his bad stuff. He just keeps writing and pushing, and his work reflects that. Another friend of mine knows him and is trying to write full-time, and he's using B as a model to pattern himself after. He goes nowhere without a laptop, and he writes as often as he can.

Since Bryan and I have so much in development, I also need to keep up with his output. The scales are tipping in his favor during the tail end of the year thanks to my lackluster output, but I'm bringing it back to 50-50 soon.

Usually I make a lot more proclamations and resolutions heading into a new year. I look back at things and have a lot of regret. I'm not doing that. I didn't write enough this year, so next year I'm going to write more. And the year after that, I'll write even more, and so on and so forth. Whatever it takes for the longterm goal.

2010 appears to be the year things take off. I'm not going to let myself down by not coming through. There's probably more I want to do, but enough talk. I've got writing to do.


GeekWeek Has Arrived

GeekWeek is now a part of the Internet.

What is GeekWeek? Glad you asked.

For those too lazy to click the link, it's all the pop-culture stuff you're interested in one place, well-organized, with lots of original and awesome voices and exclusive content you can't get anywhere else. The beta site is live and is already better than some sites that have been around for years. That's just how they do it.

I'll be blogging over there (for now I'm mainly posting sports stuff) from time to time. I'll post links here to anything related to my own work or that I think is clever, but all the stuff you've come to expect here (TGIM, my frustrations with the industry, general blather, etc.) will still be here at AI central.

Bookmark it, read it, love it, and tell your friends.


Updates! Press! More!

I've been behind. There's a million reasons, but I'll be blogging better in the new year, just maybe not the way you've come to expect. More details on that over the coming weeks. For now, let's do a quick recap combined with some mild whoring. If I don't plug it here, how else will my mother know when to run to the comic shop...

I returned from the icy tundra that was Thanksgiving in Ohio to much nicer weather in LA, got a bit of work done, and then have been largely sluggish when it comes to writing ever since. Been rolling on a few things (comics and film) with the immensely talented Bryan Edward Hill, and we just secured an artist for a new project that should make it a no brainer sale. Now all I need is more time in the day to hit him back with some thoughts on this other story.

Broken Trinity: Pandora's Box has taken up the bulk of my time of late between scripts and idle thoughts, not to mention interviews. Here's the latest on that:

Opening Up Pandora's Box - Part 1
Opening Up Pandora's Box - Part 2

Before that hits stores in February, January sees my The Darkness one-shot, Shadows and Flame with art by Jorge Lucas and colors by Felix Serrano on shelves.

Last week saw my first writing work published by DC Comics with a Ragman yarn in the DC Holiday Special 2009. Newsarama's Best Shots crew gave it the following review:

Wow, a Ragman story. You don't come across these much. I love how this goes back and forth between the story of the Maccabees and Ragman handing out some street justice. Rob Levin really delivered on the script and Brian Ching just nailed the art.

Look for that in shops everywhere, and special thanks to Michael Atiyeh, who has done some of the best work of his career on this short story. Mike, I owe you one...

I also cut my hair, proving I lied about my promise not to cut my hair until I finished my screenplay. I didn't finish it, but 6.5 months worth of reminding wasn't doing anything to get me going. A challenge from The Hill Administration will hopefully get me on the right track there, but that's a post for another time.

I'll be better about everything soon, it's just been crazy times and I've felt my creativity sapped at times, so I need to put it into work instead of wasting my time writing about who knows what on the blog. Money's still a little tight and there are no new checks in sight...

That's all the plugging I can stomach for right now. If you're still reading, thank you. 2010 really feels like it's shaping up to be a break-out year for me. If you're curious as to why, stay tuned to this space and the twitter.


TGIM - Free(-ish) Wi-Fi

On the road working from my grandmother's house, and unsecured Wi-Fi is a hot commodity in Ohio it would appear. I have to be upstairs, in the farthest corner of the house. I thought I had found a solid connection when I went to load up this blog... And it was dead. I've found another connection but I'm hanging on for dear life right now, hoping I'll have enough juice (and as I type that sentence it's gone again) to update this post.

I downloaded a free Wi-Fi app for my iPhone that tells me of free hotspots based on location. I knew about the Panera down the street, but no one else will eat there (they're all dieting) and I don't have money to go on my own. The Ohio coffee culture isn't the same as in LA, so I'd likely be the only person sitting there not drinking or eating, taking a solo meeting with his laptop.

I'll figure something out. For now, TGIM for the secret corners of grandmother's houses where you can for a scarce moment connect with the outside world.

P.S. Has anyone had any problems downloading jpegs from your iPhone email (CMYK) and then trying to export them into iPhoto, but it says it didn't recognize them? Not having WiFi I can connect both the iPhone and MacBook to, it's increasingly hard to pull random files back and forth.


Let's Just Say It

Last night's episode of Sons of Anarchy was a "disappointment."

You'll note my use of quotes above. I watched the episode (at 1am, probably not a good idea), and just couldn't shake the feeling that it wasn't what I wanted given the events of last week and where I thought/wanted last night to go. But then I took a second and thought about everything I'd just seen and my jaw fell open a bit. The episode was pretty damn good, just not in the way I expected.

I think it's safe to say, when Sons has an episode as they did last night that really did two things - delayed gratification for those of us wanting bloodshed, and spent a LOT of time with its characters - they are setting the bar too high for television. And if you watched the promo for next week, everything I wanted to happen last night is going down, and it's going to be bigger than I imagined.

If you're not watching Sons of Anarchy, there's either something wrong with you or you don't have cable. The latter I can excuse, but just have one word of advice. DVDs... The former, get with it people. I've only seen Season 1 of Mad Men, which I thought was very solid, but it doesn't hold a candle to the epic build that has been Sons of Anarchy over the past 2 seasons (with 2 episodes remaining). I can't think of another scripted drama series that's currently on the air and coming anywhere close.

I also spent about 15 minutes on the phone yesterday just talking about how great the series is. Kurt Sutter and company, today we salute you for bringing it week in and week out. Long live Samcro.


Bang on my roof, why don't you...

And that's what the workers above me did, from about 9am until around 4:45pm.

I answered emails (I think I checked them about 62 times today), went to a meeting, and a had a call. But I couldn't get any writing done with that damn racket going on. I tried and I tried, but to no avail. I thought the people above me were noisy, but them moving out and carpeters (carpeteers?) were even worse. Hopefully they finished today and won't come back ever. Every room I tried to hide in they found me.

I don't like a day spent working in which nothing gets done. Makes every project feel like an albatross.

TGIM - Pushing Through

Some days work kicks your ass. You're not blocked, but you can't find a rhythm and that means you're just plodding along, working around problems instead of through them. And nothing ever seems to get any closer despite how much time you've already put in.

At 7:30 pm you tell your editor that though you were shooting for today, you want some extra time to make it spiffy for tomorrow and solve a few little hurdles. You go off for a bit, enjoying some recreation and Curb Your Enthusiasm. Then you get back to work.

At 1am, you tell your editor that the whole thing has started to unravel. You're not asking for help, you're just letting him know that as close as you thought you were, you may as well start from page 1.

You break it down on paper. Find the essentials, arrange in rough order. See if anything crops up with distractions limited. Then you find an empty breakdown doc template and fire it up. You do the same thing here, with more emphasis on structure. You're getting warm.

Finally, at 1:37 am you finish typing. You've still got one major, gigantic gaping flaw in your story, but you're feeling much better. The story has returned (along with your mojo), and you tell your editor a minute later that all is right with the world. Because sometimes all you need is a sounding board or someone to vent to, and you don't get no lip at 1:30 in the morning.

That was basically my day, with a lot more editing thrown in the mix early. And to think, if at any point I had stopped, I might not be a couple hours work from getting this treatment revised, sent off, and a miniseries in production.

Moral: Even when it feels like you're not making any progress or doing terrible work, push through. Keep pushing until you get a breakthrough, because it's bound to come at some point, when you simplify or make things complex. It's out there, waiting for you to find it.

Say, don't I have a screenplay that could use that same sage advice...?


My Next Invention

I'm going to create something that I can implant in every writer (and blogger/journalist/web type) so that they receive an electro-shock "suggestion" every time they perform the same typo or grammatical flub.

Some examples of repeat offenders include:

intact/in tact
overuse of commas (of which I use plenty, but I'm largely correct)
And more!

There will be pain...


TGIM - Back on Track

I know, I know. I said you'd probably see more blog out of me and then what did I do. I screwed the pooch on TGIM, the most regular feature here and pretty much outright disappeared. You'll be happy to know that I've prioritized deadlines in which others depend on me. It's part of being a professional, which I write about quite a bit.

It's 8:20 in the morning and I'm trying to start this week off on a better foot. I generally blog in the mornings to help get the juices flowing, but for about a month I've had problems waking up properly. And that meant a late start allowed no time for "extraneous activities." As I'm up on time today, and hopefully all week, I'll try to check in more regular like and give some thoughts and nonsense more often.

One of the things I've fallen into is an excellent Monday morning routine. I do a bunch of pull-ups, eat breakfast, and watch the latest episode of Californication. I do so love the exploits of Hank Moody, and the show (despite it's post-Season 1 warts) is one of the most eminently watchable things ever made. It's really hard not to like it. For the last four weeks or so, this is how I've started every Monday. Too bad Showtime seasons are short...

Let's all have a better, more productive week this week, yes? Hell, I might even dust off the screenplay and put in 40-50 pages on it. And that's WAY more overdue than any blogging. Routines are key. Use them. Abuse them. Love them.


2.5 Weeks?!?

Insert interrobang here.

I had no idea I'd been gone this long. Got crazy busy with things, and frustrated with an inability to complete one of them. Didn't seem like the right time to blog for a bit.

I'm back now. Woke up with a killer title in my head. It's a pun, sure, but puns can be great titles if the material backs them up.

Things that have kept me busy that you can check out now or soon listed below.

- Tumor (issues #1-6 available on Kindle, free issues and extras on TumorTheComic.Com)
- Days Missing (issues #1-3 in stores, #4 out next month)
- Twitter (@roblevin, as usual)

- DC Holiday Special 2009 (featuring a Ragman/Chanukah story by yours truly with jaw-dropping art by the amazing Brian Ching and a cover by good buddy Dustin Nguyen) [Previews Order Code OCT09 0223]
- New book to be announced any day with Bryan Edward Hill
- New creator-owned book that revives a long dormant idea

As always, my screenplay is not done and haunts every waking minute of my life. But it will be soon. And once I break the seal... It's over.


TGIM - Old Balls

Anyone that knows me, or reads this, knows that dodgeball is a major part of my life. Since February 2008 when Alexander asked me if I wanted to join a league, it's eaten up more of my time than just about anything (including drinking). However, the fact that we drink after matches doesn't really make counting all that easy.

Alexander and I joined at random, just marking that we wanted to play together. We were placed on Old Balls, the team by which all others are judged, and we won championships our first two seasons. Old Balls hasn't returned to the top of the podium since then (in 3 seasons since), but we've remained competitive, including losing in a Finals tie-breaker.

After last season (about two months back), the team was in strife. We had different people that wanted to go in different directions, and a vote was called for. What was the future of Old Balls to be? Ultimately the vote led to a split, with a former captain electing to leave the team and start anew. It was the first time we had lost an original Old Ball, and the first time loyalties had been questioned.

Tonight we kicked off yet another Hollywood season, and there were a handful of [New] Old Balls in the mix. We played a relatively inexperienced team and dominated (Mission: Establish Dominance - Completed). We played the way Old Balls used to. Smart, efficient, and having fun the whole time.

I love my Old Balls. It's going to be yet another great season.

P.S. I know I lost a week of posts last week. I have them all planned, just haven't had time to right. Time is money, and I've got none of either. I'll catch up soon.


Pro Time is Go Time (and LBCC details)

One of the struggles of being a freelancer is known as the "Freelancer's Dilemma." Simply put, it states that you never say no to a job for fear that they will stop asking. And that's why, looking back on the first 9 months of 2009, I wonder if I haven't made some mistakes.

I had a miniseries on the table as soon as I was done with Top Cow. The creators were all about me being on board, but it was a complicated project and I had to make sure I had the right take on it, or I'd be doing them and my career a disservice. Ultimately, while I liked the project, it wasn't the right thing for me because I knew it wasn't something I had the ability to make great. With a heavy heart and diminishing funds, I turned it down. Luckily I'm still talking to the same crew about other work, but I have no idea if/when that'll materialize. For the record, the writer who did take the gig is a much better choice and I think can make it a great book.

I've turned down two full-time editing gigs. They weren't the right fit. When I went freelance, I told myself that this was a no looking back sort of thing, and I'd push as far as I could until there was no writing work out there to be found. I was only going back to staff editing if I got some crazy job (a high level editing gig with Marvel working out of the LA office for example). I was going to make it writing.

I did a treatment for a feature film/series on spec. The intention was that if I nailed it I would write the feature or be a staff writer on the series (they were pitching it both ways). So when the call came in at 5pm that they needed something the following morning, I stepped up big, wrote something pretty damn good (with a twist I'm still really proud of) and delivered what they needed for the meeting. And then they sold the project. The people that bought it wanted to use other writers (I wrote about this in my 'Be a Professional' entry way back), so that meant my services were no longer needed. It sucked, but it's also totally understandable. Especially for this guy, who's now developed treatments for two projects that have sold, and then he's been asked off them. It happens, it's Hollywood, deal.

It hasn't been all bad. I've had Marvel ask me to pitch on projects (which will lead to an upcoming feature in December when a certain book is out - I didn't get it), I've gotten my first story with DC, a new series with Bryan Hill and some fantastic artists at Top Cow (as well as some one-shots), and a long-gestating project at Archaia. Plus another publisher and I have been trying to find something for me to write through some weird circumstances, and it looks like that's finally happening. I also started a consulting business - Comic Book Consulting. For a guy who was known primarily as an editor before this calendar year, I'm not doing so bad.

I've also said yes to a lot of things that never happen. People tell me they're hot on something or want to do X, and then I'm left holding the phone (usually for months). I say yes, I wait, and then nothing happens. No one told me freelancing was like hustling. And it's like that 24/7 even when you think it's going to be smooth sailing after Y. But I've read Iceberg Slim, so I'm handling it.

Each mistake leads to another opportunity. I've hit every deadline and kept every door wide open. Just need a few more of them to make it through the tough times. Hopefully the Long Beach Comic Con will lead to some opportunities for me. I'll be attending the show all three days, and hope to see some familiar faces and catch up with a lot of friends.

Here's my schedule for the show:

4pm - 5pm Top Cow booth #365

2pm - 2:45pm Editing in Comics panel - Room C
4pm - 5pm Top Cow booth #365

1pm -2pm Top Cow booth #365

Other than that I'll be floating, so give me a buzz if you'd like to meet or hook up.

Google Wave - We Are Go

Got my preview invite to join the latest and greatest Internet sensation, GOOGLE WAVE, a bit earlier in the night. Not much to do with no contacts (so far I invited Hill and Sunny, the latter of whom I had to bribe to lock him in on our series), so I'm not sure what the hullabaloo is about.

Within minutes of me twittering that I had received an invite, no fewer than 9 strangers all asked for invites. I was shocked and appalled, and then Sunny did the same thing. But I know him, and he asked nicely, so he got one. It's not instant though, so we'll see how long it takes.

For those not in the know, you can get some info HERE or HERE or do a quick google search and see all about what's planned. Google is describing it as what email would be if it were invented today, with all of our technological advancements. I'm looking at it mainly as a tool for collaboration both with Hill on anything we write (should be perfect for brainstorming) and to have live conversations with entire creative teams. Socially I'm not as interested in it, but we will see...


I Really Need My Domain Set Up

Spent most of the morning attempting to get some mid-level blogs set up. I've reserved accounts with both tumblr and Posterous, and have yet to start using either. My goal is to set up a personal one - random pics, fun stuff, life - and a work one - reference, links, research, etc. Problem is, I don't know which option is the best long term, so I'm attempting to set up all, use Posterous primarily, and have it update everything else.

But get this, I can't have two Posterous sites update the same twitter (@roblevin), and @authenticimpostor is too many characters to have on twitter, so I'd need to create another name... But tumblr lets me update one twitter from two sites.

Why am I doing this again?

Bad enough I have a blog that's been in place of setting up a real website for almost a year, but I've made zero progress on the logo (Bernard did a sketch of my nipple, so technically that's some progress), hosting, and site design. So why would I want to create two more medium blogs?

1) I want to have a place I can dump photos from my life (twitpic style), quotes, and other stuff. I don't think that necessarily has a place on either a full-on blog like this, or on a business site once I get it fully up and running (beyond this blog).

2) I want to keep things separate. A work tab and a personal tab. Sure, I could use tags, but that adds a whole other wrinkle.

3) I have an inflated sense of self-importance.

4) I apparently never want to get anything done ever again, so's I can help the Internet. It would be so lost without my love and nurturing.

If I was smart I would either a) abandon this foolish endeavor altogether or b) just use tumblr which has way better themes and customization. But the nagging suspicion that Posterous is better, and newer, will gnaw at me.

If anyone is reading this (I'm looking at you, KODY CHAMBERLAIN), I could really use some help setting up my domain (www.AuthenticImpostor.com). I don't have hosting right now, just the domain registered and pointing here at the blogger blog. I need hosting and to do design a fully-functional site. If anyone wants to help me get my pro site up and running (ideally for trade, as money isn't something I'm familiar with), please get in touch at authenticimpostor AT gmail DOT com.

This has been yet another waste of time and cry for help presented by the Internets.

TGIM - Weddings

Though people may be down on the concept of marriage (despite divorce rates declining in large part to a bad economy), in my experience people still seem to dig weddings. Having been to two of them in the past 5 days I can safely say that I'm still of this opinion.

From the walk of a bride down the aisle to the exchanging of vows, to the kiss or the cake cutting, most people find something to like about weddings. They are an expression not only of love, which can become hackneyed thanks to marketing and Hollywood, but also of devotion. And that's really the big thing for me. It's two people, against all odds, deciding that this is it. This is the pair that's going to take on the world until they die.

And that's kind of awesome.

Congratulations to all who got married this weekend, and may your lives be filled with as much joy and happiness as your wedding days were.


Writing Rules + David Lapham

David Lapham is a hell of a writer and a pretty damn good artist. If you've never read Stray Bullets, you're really missing out on some fantastic crime fiction. I had the pleasure of working on an arc of The Darkness that he wrote at Top Cow a few years back. I was low man on the totem pole at the time, so all you can really compliment or trash me for is the lettering placements. All me, baby!

Yesterday was a day filled with a lot of reading, a lot of notes, and me reminding myself of a couple of writing rules. I posted the following writing maxims on my twitter:

Certain writing rules can never be stated enough: "Action is character." "Show, don't tell."

I thought I was just doing my thing, stating the obvious. They're such basic rules that it's really hard to find fault with them. But that's the novice in me speaking (out loud, on the Internet, forever). As much as I like to think of myself as a pretty good writer, I've got miles to go before I proverbially sleep, and there's ALWAYS room for improvement. I've got a ton to learn.

David, having written or written and drawn more books than I've edited (I'm guessing) chimed in with the following advice, and he is absolutely right.

While they essentially say the same thing I like the first and not so much the second saying. The second is dicey for two reasons. One is space. For practical purposes sometimes shit needs to be told to conserve panels or time. Second and more importantly. Characters have dialogue and in good writing every word of dialogue is telling.

So there you go. It's late and I won't remember any of this in the morning. G'night.


TGIM - Checking Things Off

I've got a loaded first couple days to this week, and I spent most of last week getting my work life reorganized with the help of Things, my favorite To-Do list program for Macs. All my projects, areas, and day-to-day stuff is in there. I'm way more efficient when I choose to use it, which is weird because every few months I fall off the map and get behind. Plus, there's that 8 million days overdue date on my screenplay...

Woke up this morning, worked out, then hit the email. Lots to get through, and a number of things to do before I headed in to a meeting at 3pm. Tracking your goals and tasks not only helps them get done, but gives you a sense of accomplishment as well. When I have trouble prioritizing, I also drag events around and put them in the order I know I can tackle them best.

Most efficiency experts recommend a few things when it comes to To-Do Lists:

1) Always make your list the night before, that way you can begin to organize your day around completing tasks, not reacting to new challenges

2) Accomplish your most difficult task first, that way you start your day with a feeling of accomplishment.

3) Limit yourself. Rather than listing everything you have to do, focus on two or three major things.

While note based on GTD necessarily, Things has some similar organizational elements that help me out. You can create things that are actionable now (Today), soon (Next), repeated tasks (Scheduled), Someday, or put them in a general Inbox for quick jotting. The better you master these and incorporate into your own workflow, the more beneficial the program and its lists become.

Definitely check out the program if you're on a Mac. I really need to get the iPhone version to keep everything synced up. But I got a lot done today, and I'll do more before I sleep. Never a dull moment in the endless morass that is freelance.


TGIM - Union Night

Today wasn't a great day for me, but it ended well. And I owe that largely to some solid football games and the fine folks over at Union Entertainment. They're a talent management and production entity focused largely on video games, and had a big hand in helping bring The Darkness to life as a game. Once a month they sponsor an industry mixer night featuring talents from video games, comics, and film. Free beer and wine, good people, and a chance to get paid. What could be wrong with that?

Usually I go and do a bit of networking, hob nob with some of my favorite Busby's folk (it's home for about the last year), and hang out with some of my favorite cats like Mel Caylo and Filip Sablik. Tonight, everyone bailed on me. They all had stuff to do, so I'd need to take advantage of the mixer aspect of it all if I didn't want to be the anti-social guy in the corner.

I ended up having a really good night, meeting some cool and interesting people, and washing off the leftovers of a somewhat dismal day. And hey, I have at least two people I need to follow up with tomorrow about some potential projects. Win win win.

Let's make this week a good one, shall we.


TGIM(T?) - Staycation

I didn't make much in the way of plans for Labor Day weekend. I'm not really a vacations or holidays kind of guy. But after three weeks of busting ass and feeling like I was just spinning my wheels knee deep in mud, I needed a break. I decided I would do as close to nothing as possible.

But what is nothing you ask?

Sleeping in, watching movies and Futurama, eating out, barbecue in Malibu then watching the tide come in at night, lots of laughing, eating way too much all-you-can-eat Mongolian BBQ, seeing (500) Days of Summer a second time, coloring books, a barbecue in Hollywood, love burgers, good friends, quality time, and never enough Mel Caylo.

I slipped up and did a little work (an hour on the phone with Bryan Hill) mid-day yesterday, followed by a flurry of emails and notes last night around midnight. But hey, it's the closest I've had to a vacation since I graduated from college. That 5 days in the UK don't count, because I was there for a convention and working every minute I was in a hotel room.

I can't think of a better way to have spent the last 3+ days. I'm refreshed, creatively inspired, and ready to kick ass for the rest of 2009. Lots of things on my mind, going to put as many of those into action as I can. Expect more regular blogging, as I plan to start my days either finishing pitches or getting in a groove by writing entries here.


I've Said It Before, I'll Say It Again...

I'm a big efficiency guy. Not that I'm the most efficient person, but I'm far from inefficient. In fact, the reason I'm able to waste as much time and procrastinate as much as I do is because when I'm actually working I am highly efficient.

I get distracted by the Internet, TV, twitter, and my own inability to focus. I'm no different than anyone else. But the more I spend my days organized around meetings and phone calls (which are not entirely useless, but often planned poorly and even more often without an agenda), I just want to take people to school.

Here's a good place to start:

Get with the program, world. We can do better, even if it takes us more than 4 hours per week to do it.

Additional resources:


The Wire - Pitch Bible, Scripts

Those that talk to me for any length of time about various creative endeavors know that I love crime/noir, and the deeper that conversation goes, the more likely I am to invoke The Wire as the greatest thing since sliced bread. I was having kind of a shitty day since I got out of bed, but then I found this...

Someone has taken the time to scan in the original 79 page pitch document David Simon sent to HBO. I haven't read it yet, but I'm sure there's all kinds of brilliance contained within. And hey, if you don't like pitch bibles, there are also 3 scripts.

God bless America, and the Internet!


TGIM - The Unexpected Days

I woke up on Saturday, not knowing what the day would hold. I'm not much of a planner in general, but I was especially limber on Saturday, thinking I'd forego dodgeball (which I hadn't played in about 3 weeks) to sleep in, be lazy, and then spend the afternoon and evening writing.

Instead I woke up and went for a run, decided dodgeball was the place for me, and got an unexpected text from Filip asking what time open gym was. Two hours of dodgeball later, I was at Smoothie King (which I probably haven't been to since 8th or 9th grade in Dunwoody) having my second smoothie of the day, and discussing plans for the evening. That's funny, I didn't know I was going out.

Met up with friends new and old, first at a house in Westwood, then ended up at the newly remodeled Trader Vic's. I know, I know, it's new as of about two years ago, but I only went to the original once, and that was probably a few months before it closed. It's all new to me. The poolside atmosphere is nice, but it's not really the vibe I want from a tiki bar. Ah well, the drinks were stiff as hell, so that works.

Hit up Busby's and then popped into a bar down the street (can't remember the name), then ended up back at the aforementioned house. Found out a pair of writers totally stole my pilot idea, and theirs is already optioned, so that was slightly sobering.

And I was getting entertaining texts throughout the night, including pictures...

Sometimes both not having a plan and saying yes to opportunities yields an amazing day. Saturday was just such an occasion.


Kody Chamberlain & Creator-Owned Blogging

Kody Chamberlain is one of my favorite people in comics. In fact, he's probably one of my favorite people amongst people as well. I've had the pleasure of knowing him for the last few years, and I'm proud to have worked with him and call him a friend.

At our very first meeting, he told me about an original story he was going to write and draw. While primarily known as an artist, Kody is one of those guys that's just too damn smart and too damn good to not be writing his own stuff as well. The story sounded cool then, and after several years of building his name in the industry, he's embarked on the actual creation and production of the book, SWEETS.

I've had the pleasure of reading the initial series manuscript and it's really good. Exactly the kind of story you want to see from Kody, with some surprises to keep it interesting and awesome. He'll be blogging about the process as he continues, and I'll definitely be keeping up with it.

I've put a link at right, but you can also check it out at the link below:


TGIM - Hard Work Paying Of

Not sure how much I can say right now, but the last 7+ months of busting my hump are finally starting to pay dividends. I'm officially moving forward on two projects writing wise. One is a WFH miniseries, details to come as I know it's okay to talk about, the other a story in an upcoming special for one of the Big 2.

I may not have arrived just yet, but months of pushing in many directions has finally started to yield some results. Things are looking up, and I'll hopefully be finishing up a draft of the screenplay this week.

Life is good. How are you?

(And yes, these TGIMs are getting posted later and later. I'm both busy, and not enjoying Mondays.)


The Invisible Man

Via Kody Chamberlain, stumbled across a link to a gallery of photos by Liu Bolin, who camouflages himself in virtually any surroundings for the sake of photos.

He's amazing.


Elmore Leonard's Ten Rules of Writing

I didn't know this existed. Was catching up on the always solid crime fiction blog, Do Some Damage, and Scott Parker happened to mention that he always keeps a copy of Elmore Leonard's 10 rules whenever he's working on something. Could it be, I didn't even know this existed?

A quick google search later and I'm staring at them. Originally a short article in the New York Times, then expanded into a book, now mine to peruse.

Here's the originally article (via Modem Noise), plus a few extra rules culled from Leonard's site:

Elmore Leonard's Ten Rules of Writing
Easy on the Adverbs, Exclamation Points and Especially Hooptedoodle

from the New York Times, Writers on Writing Series.


These are rules I’ve picked up along the way to help me remain invisible when I’m writing a book, to help me show rather than tell what’s taking place in the story. If you have a facility for language and imagery and the sound of your voice pleases you, invisibility is not what you are after, and you can skip the rules. Still, you might look them over.

1. Never open a book with weather. If it’s only to create atmosphere, and not a character’s reaction to the weather, you don’t want to go on too long. The reader is apt to leaf ahead looking for people. There are exceptions. If you happen to be Barry Lopez, who has more ways to describe ice and snow than an Eskimo, you can do all the weather reporting you want.

2. Avoid prologues.

They can be annoying, especially a prologue following an introduction that comes after a foreword. But these are ordinarily found in nonfiction. A prologue in a novel is backstory, and you can drop it in anywhere you want.

There is a prologue in John Steinbeck’s “Sweet Thursday,” but it’s O.K. because a character in the book makes the point of what my rules are all about. He says: “I like a lot of talk in a book and I don’t like to have nobody tell me what the guy that’s talking looks like. I want to figure out what he looks like from the way he talks. . . . figure out what the guy’s thinking from what he says. I like some description but not too much of that. . . . Sometimes I want a book to break loose with a bunch of hooptedoodle. . . . Spin up some pretty words maybe or sing a little song with language. That’s nice. But I wish it was set aside so I don’t have to read it. I don’t want hooptedoodle to get mixed up with the story.”

3. Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue.

The line of dialogue belongs to the character; the verb is the writer sticking his nose in. But said is far less intrusive than grumbled, gasped, cautioned, lied. I once noticed Mary McCarthy ending a line of dialogue with “she asseverated,” and had to stop reading to get the dictionary.

4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said” . . .

. . . he admonished gravely. To use an adverb this way (or almost any way) is a mortal sin. The writer is now exposing himself in earnest, using a word that distracts and can interrupt the rhythm of the exchange. I have a character in one of my books tell how she used to write historical romances “full of rape and adverbs.”

5. Keep your exclamation points under control.

You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose. If you have the knack of playing with exclaimers the way Tom Wolfe does, you can throw them in by the handful.

6. Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose.”

This rule doesn’t require an explanation. I have noticed that writers who use “suddenly” tend to exercise less control in the application of exclamation points.

7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.

Once you start spelling words in dialogue phonetically and loading the page with apostrophes, you won’t be able to stop. Notice the way Annie Proulx captures the flavor of Wyoming voices in her book of short stories “Close Range.”

8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.

Which Steinbeck covered. In Ernest Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants” what do the “American and the girl with him” look like? “She had taken off her hat and put it on the table.” That’s the only reference to a physical description in the story, and yet we see the couple and know them by their tones of voice, with not one adverb in sight.

9. Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.

Unless you’re Margaret Atwood and can paint scenes with language or write landscapes in the style of Jim Harrison. But even if you’re good at it, you don’t want descriptions that bring the action, the flow of the story, to a standstill.

And finally:

10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

A rule that came to mind in 1983. Think of what you skip reading a novel: thick paragraphs of prose you can see have too many words in them. What the writer is doing, he’s writing, perpetrating hooptedoodle, perhaps taking another shot at the weather, or has gone into the character’s head, and the reader either knows what the guy’s thinking or doesn’t care. I’ll bet you don’t skip dialogue.

My most important rule is one that sums up the 10.

If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.

Or, if proper usage gets in the way, it may have to go. I can’t allow what we learned in English composition to disrupt the sound and rhythm of the narrative. It’s my attempt to remain invisible, not distract the reader from the story with obvious writing. (Joseph Conrad said something about words getting in the way of what you want to say.)

If I write in scenes and always from the point of view of a particular character—the one whose view best brings the scene to life—I’m able to concentrate on the voices of the characters telling you who they are and how they feel about what they see and what’s going on, and I’m nowhere in sight.

What Steinbeck did in “Sweet Thursday” was title his chapters as an indication, though obscure, of what they cover. “Whom the Gods Love They Drive Nuts” is one, “Lousy Wednesday” another. The third chapter is titled “Hooptedoodle 1” and the 38th chapter “Hooptedoodle 2” as warnings to the reader, as if Steinbeck is saying: “Here’s where you’ll see me taking flights of fancy with my writing, and it won’t get in the way of the story. Skip them if you want.”

“Sweet Thursday” came out in 1954, when I was just beginning to be published, and I’ve never forgotten that prologue.

Did I read the hooptedoodle chapters? Every word.

Additional rules:

- Never use a colon or semicolon in dialog. It may be grammatically correct but doesn’t look right.

- Tell your editor to tell the copy editor not to mess with your punctuation.- as long as it’s consistent. Incomplete sentences are okay.

- Don’t ever write to critics , and don’t show your manuscript to anyone outside the publishing business when you are satisfied with it.

- And if you ever work in Hollywood take the advice of Raymond Chandler who said, “Wear your second best suit, artistically speaking and don’t take things too much too heart. Do the best you can without straining at it. And when you have had enough, say goodbye with a smile, because for all you know you may want to go back.”


TGIM - Health

I got sick on Friday while working on a pitch. It began with shortness of breath, became a fever, and then some lower back pain. Saturday I became super-sensitive to temperature, got pulled over by the police for speeding, and woke in the middle of the night with uncontrollable shaking. I couldn't get warm. Sunday brought a cough, and today brought plenty of phlegm. I think I'm on the mend, but who knows.

Being sick reminds you how great it is on the days you're healthy. Every time you want to complain about something minor in your everyday life, just remember how much worse it is to be sick or injured. I especially miss my 100% cogent mind. Had to put the screenplay on hold with the pitch Friday, and my brain isn't back to normal to start again. Not an excuse, I just know how tough the day-to-day is, don't need the added frustration of negative progress.

Hopefully I'll be healthy soon enough to knock this thing out, and for my birthday later in the week. No idea of plans, but we'll figure it out. Can't wait to get healthy, back up to speed. Hopefully some cool work announcements soon.



Another day, another 10 pages. For those keeping score, that puts us at 81 pages. And yet, I'm not happy. I feel like the whole thing is spinning out of control. I'm off the beat sheet, pulling things out of my ass, and it's just not quite where I want it to be.

Here's what the last (almost) two weeks have taught me about screenwriting:

Screenwriting is easy. Good screenwriting is hard.

Progress is progress, that's about all I know. Tomorrow I'm definitely going to go back through the last 15-20 pages and see what I want to throw out. Things really got out of hand, to the point where certain scenes I know I want/need to have aren't really appearing on the horizon. This isn't a kill your darlings situation, this is a "fix this mess" kind of deal.

I'm tired, definitely need to start earlier tomorrow. And yet, I have potential paying work due first. Which I should put some more time in on now. No rest for the untalented...


Had a hard time with things today. Meeting early got postponed, ended up spending more time on editing than I planned. Said the wrong thing on an IM and got chewed out (in an encouraging manner) by Fialkov for a bit. I needed it.

Really been struggling with a pitch. It's not that I don't have ideas, I just don't think they're there yet. Got another couple days, and an idea of how to get closer to what's wanted. We'll see how things go tomorrow. I feel better whenever I talk to Hill about it. I know we have yet to get actual projects rolling together, but we've been baking things for a few months now and it's really refreshing to be in the same wheelhouse (almost exactly in some cases) but come at things from different angles. Really opens up my thinking and lets me tackle things in ways I wouldn't normally try in order to get to the place I'm trying to get. Bryan Hill is the truth, people. You heard it here third.

As a result of pitch issues, editing needing to get done, and WeHo Dodgeball playoffs (we did not win, thus ending our season and winning streak), I didn't get started on the screenplay until late. Should have gotten going around 11, but wanted a smoothie. And then I should have gotten going at 11:30, but Nelson and I started talking. Careers, the pitch, art, etc.

Got rolling at 12:30 am. Wrote about one page in the first hour. Kept distracting myself with twitter responses, refreshing email for no reason, etc. Finally got in a groove, just finished up a couple minutes ago. Again, I have no idea if it's good. In fact, the main scene I worked on didn't play out at all how I planned (ended in the same spot, but that's about it).

I haven't been warming up by revising previous pages, so I think I'm gonna just keep plugging, take a day off just reading screenplays with a good style, then come back through and revise the whole thing. Then I'll give the first round to the only readers I trust to not abandon me when it's terrible, do their notes, and cast the net out wider.

10 pages done, sitting halfway through 71 and right in the middle of a scene that'll write itself. There is no more can't in my vocabulary when it comes to this screenplay. Given 2-3 hours (or preferably more), I can consistently make 10 pages of progress. If I can keep that up, work on quality, I'll be a beast in no time. Now, sleep...

P.S. I randomly found an email from an artist I want to do an original thing but couldn't find any contact info (or name) for him. Combing through old email for something else, the email just appeared. Just dropped him a line. Could be cool.


Roger Ebert on The Gathering Dark Age

An excellent article by film critic and historian Roger Ebert on the state of movies, education, and America.

If you're not game for the article, scroll down and check out the videos. The food lady is officially the dumbest person I've ever seen speak.



Since I didn't mention it earlier, I ended up taking the weekend off from the screenplay. Don't know if it did me good or bad, because I managed to get my ten pages done today. And just a hair before midnight too, not that it would matter if I finished at 3pm or 3am to me.

It is now, at 51 pages, the furthest I've made it into a screenplay (previous mark was 47 pages, which I wrote in two nights sophomore year of college). Not an accomplishment until it's actually done, but a sign post along the way to mark my journey.

I don't know where this thing is going right now. I have the overall story and I'm about to hit the midpoint which changes things and should help me tighten up, but the journey there has gone unexpected directions and I'm really doing my best not to edit as I go. Had a couple scenes I know I'll be revising tomorrow as a warm-up (which I did not do today due to getting going very late, probably to my own detriment), but the pages keep ticking and the story keeps moving. Fair enough.

Today's quota met, time for a little bedtime snack (been incredibly hungry since eating at 7pm tonight) and an episode of Dead Like Me. Tomorrow will be another ten pages, and hopefully hammering out a pitch for some cohorts to get feedback on until it's live to the world.

TGIM - Synergy

I'm not talking about the corporate buzzword, when various aspects of a company come together to co-promote itself in a never-ending orgy of cross-platform marketing and exploitation (which I actually think is a good and brilliant thing when handled correctly). I'm talking more about when everything in your life starts to gel at the right time, and one good thing begets another.

I feel like everything is headed in a really good direction for me right now. Work is good, the screenplay is flowing (as of this writing I need another 5 pages for the day, but considering I wrote 5 in about 90 minutes, I think some time after dodgeball will get me to the safe zone), and even my personal life is looking like the hot fire. I can't remember the last time I had this much fun at both work and play in a long time.

Parties, good friends, baseball games with my hometown Braves, etc. And I'm writing. So often in life, especially during my time at Top Cow, I was choosing areas to focus on. I always had work as the big chunk, and I often sacrificed personal projects. I had some fun at times, and I forgot to have it at others.

One of the things I've learned since leaving Top Cow is how to better use my time. I still get everything I need to done (for freelance editing, pitches, writing, etc.), but I also make time for me. Me the person, me the writer, me the couch potato. I'm oddly living a richer (not monetarily), fuller life in funemployment than I ever did with a great job.

And I think it's all because of synergy. When it all comes together, sometimes there's magic.

Sidebar: Little known fact, I first heard the word synergy on some MTV special. It was during a phase in which I wanted to be black, rock a flat top, and thought that Chain Letter was a great book.



Finished my first official week of SCREENPLAY OVERDRIVE.

One day of planning, four days of writing. The cursor calmly sits mid-way down on page 41, waiting for me to write more. I guess I'm about a third of the way done, though I have a feeling this first draft is going to come in long.

I sat down today with the nagging feel that the first half of Act II still sucked. I looked at my cards, thought about the story, and decided I would introduce a new character to help my character out. When in need, invent something or someone. New character, quick backstory, long scene to make him a vital part. But the question is, how does he fit in with the later things I'm still using? That remains to be seen...

Today's ten pages kind of sucked, but overall its longer than the previous attempt (41 pages to the previous 39), and I think the opening and general thrust of the story works better. I'll call that a win.

Again, the one thing I'm really working toward here is finishing. I know there's good stuff in the story, it just might not be as tight as I want it to be when I get done with a first pass. So I'll do another. For now, just finish.

Let that be a lesson to all neophyte (and veteran) creators out there. Finishing is one of the most important aspects of the game. Can't finish, can't submit, can't produce, can't get paid, can't move on. Now, quality is obviously a major factor, but sometimes your creative brain needs to vomit, then you piece through the mess and keep the good stuff. Like the corn and beans that never got properly digested.

Hello, weekend. Treat this writer well. He has more in store for you...


A Day Without Tweets

This morning's twitter outage has me worried. What am I to do when I can't offer random wisdom, aphorisms, and general nonsense to the world? Whose lives will I follow? Must I live my own?

A scary proposition indeed...



It's an unofficial term that I'm using to describe my progress on the screenplay that will carry me into the promised land of actually getting it done. Seems to make sense given that 10 pages a day is a lot to ask for if you think about getting 120 pages done in 12 days, but really not that much on its own.

Yesterday was all about getting the Board in shape to see if anything was missing, and today was about getting back to work. Get 10 pages done, no matter what. Procrastination ruled the day, but then around 4-something I finally managed to shake off the funk, let Blake Snyder's passing push me to do something rather than feel weird, and get some work done. I wrote my ten pages, which are largely similar to the first 10 pages, but with a revised opening sequence, and I can rest for the day. And of course, I didn't look at any of the cards I made for the board. Typical.

I'll be mulling some notes I got on a comic project, hopefully discussing them with one of my collaborators as well, but mostly taking it easy with dinner and perhaps a movie whilst I pontificate.

Tomorrow will see pages 11-20 written, as well as polishing up 1-10 as a warm-up to get the neurons firing and fingers flowing across the keys. Hopefully some progress on the comics side, as well as some work on new pitches with Mr. Hill. We've got at least one stellar one, just a matter of giving it the fleshing.

Lots of blog today. Hmm...

RIP Blake Snyder

I'm not a complete devotee of Save the Cat, but I think the book and its method have a lot of merit. So imagine my surprise to see a tweet from Blake Snyder (@Blake_Snyder) that read:

passed away earlier today. Please visit blakesnyder.com

I assumed it was truncated, missing the name in question, but instead... He was the one gone, notifying the world via a posthumous tweet and a goodbye blog from someone. I don't know why, but finding out about death in this way seems really odd to me.

And selfishly, I'm now going to have an even harder time writing and not procrastinating today.

RIP Blake, I'll use your wisdom for years to come.

Do Some Damage Covers 'Writer's Block'

I'm never really sure how I feel about writer's block. I think it exists, in a sense, when certain things won't come together. But I've never felt (being the immensely talented and creative fellow that I am) that there was a time when no words or ideas would come on anything. I've struggled with projects and pages, paragraphs and lines, sometimes even punctuation. But my brain never shut down to the point where nothing would come at all. There's always something left in the tank.

But anyway, here's a solid article from Jay Stringer, one of the members of the new crime fiction blog, Do Some Damage. Haven't had much time to check out the site yet, but did read and enjoy this article.


TGIM - Back Against the Wall

Here's what I like to do:

Sleep. I mean procrastinate. Hell, if I can do both together, that's just gravy.

I don't do much for myself. Make someone (a person or a company) dependent upon me and I'll hit deadlines, come through in the clutch, and do whatever is needed. But me, working on a screenplay just to get one done, tell the story I want to tell, and not having anyone waiting on it... I procrastinate. I let other things get in the way. I even take on other work (paying or not) to avoid doing it.

All because of Parkinson's Law. And as often as it's failed me, it's proven true countless more times. Look at pretty much every paper or school project I've ever written, or the first few comics I did where artists were in need ASAP and I had to get something done yesterday. I got it done.

But, as my friend Sean Chen pointed out at SDCC, I've been blowing a lot of my self-imposed deadlines. He asked me why and I didn't have a good answer. Still don't, to be perfectly honest. I think fear of doing something bad (even though I've already dealt with this) is still holding me back. But I also keep in my mind something Brian Buccellato told me. He said his writing career really turned a corner when he finished his first screenplay. Not because it was amazing, but because it was done. There was no longer any reason to think that he couldn't do it, because the proof was sitting right in front of him.

So I'm eliminating excuses. I'm eliminating goals. I'm just going to work, with no other options. I've got my editing stuff on a good track so that it won't get in the way of my scheduled writing, and the writing plan is reasonable if intensive (10 pages a day, thanks to Tony Gilroy's method via Bryan Hill). I've already blown every deadline I've set for myself countless times. I've tried shame (shaving my beard before SDCC) and grooming tweaks (not getting another haircut until I finish) and nothing has really led to much progress.

So I'm just going to sit my ass in this chair and write. No bullshit, no excuses. I've realized, thanks in no small part to my roommate, that finishing this screenplay is more important than any job I might take, project that might get approved, etc. It's holding me back from everything I want to do. The only choice is to finish it if I want any semblance of a career, or it'll forever be a stumbling block that keeps tripping me up.

Not many guys let their first screenplay put their career on the line. But I'm already there, in a fucked up in the head sort of way. So my back is against the wall, whether I want it to be or not. And sometimes that's not a bad position to be in. Like now...

Does this even count as a TGIM. I say yes, and notice the period indicating a rhetorical question. Grammar saves the day again!

In other news, been finalizing my "Board," for those familiar with Save the Cat. I hate the process. I don't mind outlining, but taking this thing the whole way has me bullshitting through the +/- emotional change of some scenes, ditto for the <> conflict in each. It feels really inorganic to me, and more like busy work (which he swears is not the point). I have enough faith in my sensibilities and storytelling that I like to think I can borrow and dip my toes into the method without actually going through it like an automaton. I'm mingling my stuff with his, and trying to find harmony. If it helps me get this thing written (and help it shall, since there's no other choice), I'll go and do The Board properly next time.

After all, "If what works for you isn't working, try something else." Say, there's a screenplay idea in there (not the next one, but the third one)...