72 (More) Business Cards

I'm a big fan of business cards as both a communications and branding tool. I got this link via David Atchison's twitter, and thought it was good stuff.

I'm still waiting on a final logo for AI, but I'm going to think long and hard about the next iteration of my bidness card and see if I can't make something that speaks beyond my name and says I'm a writer.

Bedtime Novelization

And tonight I dusted off an old concept, that's not even the slightest bit developed, and started writing.  It's prose.  I don't know if it's going to be a short story, series of shorts, a novel, or just an exercise.  But I've found the best thing to do when you don't feel like a writer is to write.

So I'm writing.  I'll keep writing each night, before and potentially after I read.  It'll make a man out of me yet.

And I read the first three chapters of Haunted, the Chuck Palahniuk book I never really gave a chance.  Turns out with the release of Pygmy I'm now several behind so I need to catch up.  In terms of actual prose style, I'm pretty sure he's my favorite.  I really dig his authorial voice, if not his stories.  And to be fair, I did dig the stories up until I finished Diary and had an epiphany.  He had written the same exact story every time, changing character names and slight variables, and I hadn't noticed.  Took the bloom off the rose, so to speak.

On second thought, I can't remember a damn thing about Lullaby.  Maybe I didn't read it...  Or maybe it was just the different one that I did get to.


TGIM - The WorkMagicMachine

Not feeling like much of a writer today (or for the past week). The funk continues, and the self-doubt reveals itself. I'll get over it, it's just frustrating for the time being when I have multiple things do and none of them are getting to the place where I want them to be. Good thing I have a co-writer on one of them or I'd be pissing in Trite and Done Creek right now.

Anyhow, today I'd like to celebrate the things that make working easier. Like my Mac, aka The WorkMagicMachine.

I use an iMac with a 2.16 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo and 2GB of RAM running OS X v10.5.6. It's truly an awesome machine, despite being over a year old at this point (and white, rather than steel and glass). Maybe two years, I can't really remember. I was a PC guy almost exclusively for 19-20 years. I started using Macs at Top Cow, and on my 22nd birthday bought myself a Mac. I haven't touched a PC (save for moving it off my desk) in 4 months. I haven't used one in basically a year.

But beyond the Mac, here are the programs I use to get through the day as a writer and editor.

Firefox - the best browser, used as my primary and personal browser
Safari - the work browswer
Flock - the Firefox-esque browser that I just use to run things I have multiple accounts for. I use none of the social features of it.
Gmail - not technically a software, but the best thing about my day. Mail, chat, and now the address book is linked with my Google Voice.
DropBox - always synced cloud backup. Best thing ever, though it's had some problems with a few Scrivener files. That's due to how the latter program saves and indexes, not a fault of DropBox.
Things - best To-Do list software out there. I love it.
Tweetie - awesome twitter client.
Preview - the most used software on the machine, used for PDFs, jpegs, and other things that load slower in Adobe created products.
Microsoft Office 2008 - I hate it, basically, but it's necessary.
Scrivener - has become my main tool for writing because of the ability to keep all my drafts, research, notes and more in one place.
Final Draft - for all my screenwriting needs. I've also used for comics.
Quicksilver - fast program launching, and more. I only use it for the former, but need to explore it. Major time saver.
NetNewsWire - excellent RSS reader
Acrobat - for creating and manipulating PDFs, but rarely for viewing unless it's for proofing.
Comic Life - Can be used to give ideas to an artist when you're scripting and have a layout in mind. I have yet to do this, but I will use it when I need to convey something more clearly.
Photoshop CS3 - editing and color proofing mainly. 'Nuff said.
Cooliris - Better way to view images, videos, etc. on the web. Have only just started playing around.
Cyberduck - free FTP client
DaisyDisk - haven't touched more than once, but helps to free up space
Delicious Library 2 - Used for cataloging all of my books and DVDs. iSight scanning built in makes it easy.
FFView - allows me to view CBR and CBZ (comic scan) files when people send them my way.
Flip4Mac - Windows Media files via Quicktime playback plugin
Handbrake - convert video to iTunes/iPhone friendly format. I use it with Connect360 to watch videos on the computer on the TV via the Xbox.
Vuze/Azureus - bit torrent client
iCal - used to use a lot more at Top Cow, will get back once I figure out a better (non MobileMe syncing option with my google calendars)
Quicken - just started using to track expenses, receipts, etc. Already behind. I hate taxes.
Adium - one app, lets me log into AIM, Yahoo, and MSN.
Skype - only on occasion.
SlingPlayer - I get to watch ATL television feeds from my parents' house. Mainly for sports purposes, but also cool if I'm traveling with no TV.
VLC - watch any video in any file format

There's probably more, but that's basically what I do on the day-to-day tip. Going to experiment with some journaling softwares this week to leave running in the background. Any time I get stuck on a project, I can just make notes about other things in my head in the journal. Got the idea from this Don Roos writing exercise.

Chime in if you have better software that you use, or suggestions of what I'm missing that might make me more productive/a better writer.


'Variant' Forms

John August (screenwriter of Go, Big Fish and more) has a new short story available on his site. It's 25 pages, and it'll cost you $0.99. Wait, what's that? Something that isn't free on the Internet? Do tell.

He's taken his time to write 7,176 words of fiction, roughly 23 pages of content. iTunes has created a price point for disposable yet keepable entertainment, so that's the model he's following. Maybe it's an experiment, maybe he just needs to be compensated something since he could have been script doctoring or writing a screenplay that would pay him much more. And there's all that free advice for writers on his site...

I'm curious to see where this is going. With the proliferation of the Kindle and other e-reader devices making it not only easy and convenient to purchase books, but also keeping the costs lower/rather uniform, we're bound to see a lot more of this. How many novels would I buy if they were all $1? Less than $5? I don't have the answers, but someone definitely needs to be asking the question.

You can check out the first 13 pages (or more than half for those keeping score at home) of Variant HERE. I plan to. And I may even pay the $0.99 to get my hands on the whole thing if I like it. It's cheap enough... Although my gut reaction was the same as most people's I would imagine. Whu?? How come this ain't being free to me? Gimme! Some people at least...

Very curious about where this leads.


I've been feeling creatively stifled this week.  On my plate has been revisions for my one-shot script, adapting a screenplay into a comic, and taking someone's concept and making it my (our) own.

Monday I lost to meetings.  It happens, but I got some stuff done.  Tuesday I couldn't get anything revised, so I did other things to distract me.  A call to co-writer Bryan Hill was the most creative I got, as we took one thing, kept the general elements of it and then totally turned it on its ear.  Not sure if that version will get approved, but it's a cool story nonetheless.

Since then I've written nothing.  I spent Wednesday lost in a fog, and yesterday trying to slog through and get anything on the page.  Instead it ended up being a personal email clean up and reading day.  I felt really good last night though, and started having the inklings of creative ideas.  Hopefully the fog is lifting.

This morning I exchanged emails with Bryan, who told me he was kind of feeling the same way.  I think our creative excellence on Tuesday night might have been all we had to give for the workweek.  The weekend is coming, routines are set, and the words will flow.

There will be writing.


The Palm Pre is Here (June 6th)

Well, the moment I've been waiting for is here. Now to decide if I want to get this, wait for Apple's announcement two days later, or remain in blissfully ignorant dumb phone land.


TGIM - Long Days

Because staying busy is better than wasting away.


Post-Script Revelation

I can't be 100% sure, but I think in the past scripts I've written, I've always broken down my outline in sequences rather than pages. It's a guesstimate of pages, but for the most part it's in chunks. When I wrote this, I tried to dissect the synopsis too much and try to pull out the exact page count for each element of the scene. It's probably why I had such a strange time writing it, and still can't tell if it's even mediocre.

Generally, I like outlining and planning things out, but it's better for me to leave some element of organic discovery to the process. Breaking things down so much may have made it a little too paint by numbers in terms of the actual construction.


I(TM)WT - 5/14/09

Today's Interesting (To Me) Writing Tidbit is that my process on this one-shot I'm writing has never felt more scattershot. Because I had a better idea of the complete plot than usual, I wanted to do a page-by-page breakdown and then tear through the whole process of writing the actual script. So I ended up doing a looser breakdown of the pages, then started on the script.

I wondered, going in, if I should try laying down all the dialogue first, then the action. From page 1 it didn't feel right, so I went my usual method. Now that I'm a ways into it, what I've discovered is that I had to skip a page because I have no idea how to pull it off, and I have one page each of dialogued but not plotted and plotted but not dialogued pages.

I feel like some kind of maniac with the script. Should be able to finish up mid-day tomorrow, but I have the feeling I'll need another pass or two to even feel like it's worthy of being turned in. Right now, I have no idea if any of it's good or utter shit.


You Know What Would be Awesome?

  • If this script could be for 48 pages instead of 20.
  • If I could stop editing while writing, and just write it all out, then edit.
  • If I didn't know exactly where I could cut things, yet still feel like cutting makes the story jump around too much.
  • If I was writing a screenplay instead of a comic (hello last 25 years).
  • If LOST weren't the most spoiled show on TV via twitter, Internet, friends.
  • If I made dinner right now instead of typing hypotheticals since I'm stuck.
Oh, wait. I can do that last one...



The NBA season for the Atlanta Hawks has come to an end after being swept by the Cleveland Cavaliers. I'm a long-time die hard when it comes to the Hawks. Don't ask me to explain, except for the fact that they're the hometown crew, and basketball is my favorite sport to watch. I watched as the team devolved from a championship contender to trading Dominique Wilkins for Danny Manning, Steve Smith for Isaiah Rider, and Jason Terry for Antoine Walker (and later, Antoine Walker in exchange for nothing). Where did that put them? The bottom of the basement, trapped in a barrel underneath said basement.

The true defining moment? An ugly 13- 69 season 5 years back. We've improved every year since then, doubling our win total 4 years ago, making the playoffs last season, and becoming the #4 seed this year with 47 wins. But I would argue that we've both over and underperformed this year.

We were 28th in free throw percentage. We lost too many one point games. We blew a lot of leads. We easily could have won 50 games (a so-called important number) if not for all of these factors plus injuries to Josh Smith, Al Horford, and Marvin Williams (all of whom missed somewhere in the neighborhood of 12-16 games). And Joe Johnson had a terrible start to 2009, despite being white hot at the beginning of the season. Clearly, looking at the regular season, we're better than our very frustrating to get 47 wins.

But then the playoffs rolled around. We tore Miami apart in Game 1, holding them to a franchise playoff low 61 points while firing on all cylinders on our end. And then we looked like the worst team in the playoffs in Games 2 and 3. It was an ugly series, but we came out on top in 7 games.

And then the eventual champion Cavs came to town. They exposed every weakness we had. Short bench, no offensive strategy, and a lack of guys who were willing to step up regardless of injuries. They made us look like we had no business being in the playoffs, let alone as the #4 seed. And the worst part is... Cleveland didn't even play that well.

Did they over perform during the season, or under perform during the playoffs? Which team is the real team?

Each season is a long and arduous one. The Hawks never let me get content that they're going to do what they're meant to and just perform at a higher level. They jump, they dive, they sidestep. They never let me know what's coming next. I guess that's what being a fan is like.

It's an interesting summer they're heading into as well. Bibby, Williams*, Zaza, and Flip are all free agents (*restricted). We have the money to sign them all, I'm sure, but... Does it help the team? And what happens after next season when 3-time All-Star and captain Joe Johnson's deal is up? And just where was he for most of the playoffs?

I love the Hawks. One day, I hope they'll return the favor.


TGIM - Mamet

I didn't know what to watch yesterday, but knew I wanted to get through at least one movie. Redbelt was among the choices, and David Atchison was the first to respond via twitter so it got the nod. I'm a huge fan of David Mamet, so I'm not really sure how I missed Redbelt in theaters. I'm surprised more people aren't still talking about the movie given the continued proliferation and success of UFC/MMA in the mainstream. And the fact that's it's amazing, and stars the always excellent but perhaps always improperly pronounced

Mamet kills me. He really does. There's always something I can take away from his movies that makes me want to get a thousand times better. I've decided that rather than calling him a writer-director, he'll now be referred to as a Master Dramatist. No other way to describe him.

Most people credit him with having distinct dialogue. It's realistic, unique, and often perfectly delivered. He's well-known for rehearsing actors with metronomes to get the timing down right. His background is as a playwright, but he's been writing films since '81 and directing since '87. There's a difference between his work when directed by others and directed by himself. Something just feels much more authentic when he's the one getting the performance. Not to say he hasn't written some amazing work for others (The Verdict, The Untouchables, and Pulitzer Prize winner Glengarry, Glen Ross), but for a truly Mametian experience I recommend letting the man do his thing.

One of the many things of his I'd like to integrate more into my own work is his use of repetition. Oleanna is an early film, based on one of his plays (one room, two actors) that for all intents and purposes isn't a good film. It's just not visual enough for film and I didn't particularly like the girl in it, but as a dramatic exercise it really works. There's a scene (or more than one, I only watched it once on LaserDisc) where William H. Macy keeps repeating the words, "What would you have me do?" And somehow, they manage to take on new meeting the more he says them. Same thing in Spartan, when Derek Luke keeps telling Val Kilmer, "I saw the sign."

In Redbelt, we have the following exchange, which is a better representative example because it shows how each character in the scene has a different dramatic need, and they're pretty much unwavering. It's not really communication in the typical film/scripted sense, but it's how people talk and makes for something much more interesting.

Gini Collins: Joe still inside?
Mike Terry: No, he just left.
Gini Collins: Left?
Mike Terry: Yeah, maybe he went to the club.
Gini Collins: What happened to the window?
Mike Terry: Isn't he on at the club?
Gini Collins: Um, that's funny.
Mike Terry: Weren't you going to the mountains?
Gini Collins: Why would he go to the club?
Mike Terry: Isn't he working tonight?
Gini Collins: The club? No. No, no, no. He hasn't worked at the club in months. Listen, uh, I have to tell him something. Okay? Tell him.
Mike Terry: Why?
Gini Collins: Why what?
Mike Terry: Why hasn't he been working there?
Gini Collins: Yeah, I know. Listen, I gotta get home.

Mamet does much more than great dialogue though. His plots aren't always 100% what you would expect structurally (probably due to the difference in act structure in plays), but he always seeds and pays off properly. I think his tightest script might be The Spanish Prisoner, criminally out of print on DVD. It's pretty much perfectly executed, with the twists and turns never stopping until the end credits roll. I haven't really been studying him of late so I can't talk more, but thematically he often deals with duplicity, seedy underworld stuff, and magic/deception. Somehow his stuff, despite being very plot heavy, is always character-driven. He's great that way.

I have reason to believe he probably has a hard time trusting most people. It's because he gets them so well in his writing, and their often duplicitous nature. He's spent enough time in the underbelly and dealing with magic and trickery that it must be hard to ever just look at the surface of things. And while I just made that up based on the content of his work, I did find this in an article he wrote:

And, I wondered, how could I have spent decades thinking that I thought everything was always wrong at the same time that I thought I thought that people were basically good at heart? Which was it? I began to question what I actually thought and found that I do not think that people are basically good at heart; indeed, that view of human nature has both prompted and informed my writing for the last 40 years. I think that people, in circumstances of stress, can behave like swine, and that this, indeed, is not only a fit subject, but the only subject, of drama.

I highly recommend his book, On Directing Film, based on a series of lectures he gave at Columbia. I've read it twice, and will probably read again this week (only 107 pages) since I'm on a Mamet kick. It's really interesting the way he lays out questions, has the students toss answers, and then gives simple, much more effective solutions to problems. Like I said, he's a Master Dramatist (pretension inherent in such a statement, of course), and learning from him is something more people should do.

His films do have one downside, though. His wife, Rebecca Pidgeon, is a frustrating actress. Sometimes she's perfectly cast, and other times she feels like the only amateur in an otherwise flawlessly cast picture. Obviously he's not just giving her the work as he could just cast her on stage, but I just think he overestimates her type on screen. There's something about her delivery that does it. It might be perfectly Mametian (how many writers get their own adjective), but it's often frustrating.

I highly recommend his whole catalog, as even his lesser works have great things in them. Disclaimer - I have yet to see quite a few of his written by only films, like The Edge. And he also doctored and made Ronin good, under a pseudonym.

Interesting Mametian semi-trivia, my copy of Spartan broke, snapped in half, the first time I pulled the DVD out of the case. I later mentioned this to Troy, who had the exact same thing happen with his. Crazy.


Amazing Footage

Because I needed to feel better during this Hawks drubbing. Via Engadget.

American Original

On a day when nothing seems to make sense, and everyone is acting foolish, stupid, or ridiculous, Jeff Katz seems to be the only guy making any sense. Starting with the announcement of his new company, American Original, and the follow-up interview on CBR, he's got my ear.

Very curious to see what this leads to, and I wish him and his company a lot of success. It's making me feel better about life on a strange day. That's invaluable.


Thomas Allen's Art Book Photography

This was all over twitter today, and it's quite amazing. He's cut out parts of old pulp novel covers and then photographed them, creating something even cooler.

(stupid blogger is messing up my ability to post images right now)

Want to Lose Time?

Don't blame me if your work suffers. Consider it an alternate career path.


TGIM - 'Star Trek'

I'm not a Trekkie. Sure, I had my phase where I rented all the movies (on VHS) from the now defunct Versatile Video. I liked them well enough (well, the second one anyway) and I liked when the now defunct SciTrek museum hosted an exhibit and we spent the night there in elementary school, but I never really got super into it. That's because JJ Abrams and company weren't involved then.

Star Trek on the whole has some excellent thematic stuff going for it, but it always rang a little hollow for me. It was built like a TV show confined to a set. Because it was. It had its moments, but I wasn't really willing to discover them. I was more of a Star Wars guy, but I wasn't one of those either. In all honesty, I'm not big on sci-fi. Too many trappings often prevent solid storytelling and then I check out. I like isolated projects, but as a genre it's not my thing.

Trevor Roth who runs Roddenberry Productions was nice enough to invite me to a screening of the new movie last night on the Paramount lot. I had high hopes, as the trailer is amazing and early buzz was stellar. It met or exceeded all of them. It's a re-invention (not a re-imagining) of the mythos, and I can't imagine that anyone between the ages of 6 and 30 won't become instant, life-long fans. It's that good. Action I expected to be on point, but I was a little bit worried about the script. I shouldn't have been. Kurtzman and Orci did their thing with style. It's everything I want in a movie as a casual fan at best of the original IP. If you're a fan, it's got all the fan service nods you need to keep you from even bothering to say, "That's not how it was in the original." Everyone really did their thing across the board. It's not perfect, but it delivers everything you're likely to want and more.

The casting is damn near perfect. One or two slightly iffy but not bad supporting characters (and when I mean support, I mean sub-5 minutes of screen time), and the rest is awesome. Chris Pine is the next Harrison Ford. He's totally charismatic, and amazing in the role. Even with the monkey that is Shatner on his back, he moves effortlessly through the film in stride. Really happy JJ decided to go with an 'unknown,' as I'm a big fan of guys without baggage inhabiting a role. Everyone else is good, but it's his show. Quinto does his best to steal some of the limelight, and he's damn good, but everyone plays second fiddle to James T. Kirk. Which is exactly how some wannabe 'blockbuster' directors will be feeling about JJ Abrams in no time at all.

I'm not going to post any spoilers, save to let you know that Star Trek is a great film. Easily the one to beat this summer, and all indications point to that not being much of a problem. And this coming from a guy who didn't care about the property at all.


TED Talk - 'Sixth Sense' Wearable Tech

Filip was nice enough to send this my way. It has some ties to a couple things we were planning for a storyline at Top Cow. Not sure where that ended up, but this is a fascinating look into the future.


Free Comic Book Day Signing

I'll be at Brave New World with the amazingly talented Nelson Blake II (Broken Trinity: Witchblade, Black Vault, The Darkness) tomorrow from 11am to 2pm. Swing on by and get some free books signed, or looked at by us if we didn't work on them.

Bring some non-comics reading friends and let them experience the medium. It'll be fun, I promise.

Brave New World
22722 Lyons Avenue #6
Newhall, CA 91321