Saturday, March 19, 2011

Upcoming Appearances and Random Links

I've obviously got my hands full drawing Doctor Who, running the NIGHT FOLK Kickstarter campaign, and working on some secret things on the side. Lots going on, but not much time to keep everyone updated here on the blog. Hope to change that state of affairs soon, but in the meantime, here are some random updates from the studio...

First up, I've got two upcoming appearances -- I'll be attending the Albany Children's Book Festival on April 9th, and the next Albany Comic-Con on April 17th.

Second, there's a sneak peek at my variant cover for issue #6 of IDW's Doctor Who up on Comic Book Resources. If you haven't seen it yet, check it out here. Issue #6 is the first part of a three issue story arc I'm currently drawing.

And finally, between now and the end of April, I'll be raising funds to help finance my first novel - NIGHT FOLK - through the crowd-funding site, Kickstarter. I've still got a long way to go to reach my goal, so if you haven't visited the NIGHT FOLK project page, please do, and let me know what you think. You'll find a number of my illustrations on the Updates page, along with a link to the first chapter. And for those of you interested in picking up some of my original art, I've just added a number of backer rewards to the main page, including a custom pinup option and an original comic art reward.

Like I said, lots going on. I'll try to post another update soon, especially if some of the secret things that have been developing are announced.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Sports Cars, NIGHT FOLK, and Kickstarter, part two

(And here's the second part of my long and rambling explanation for why I'm doing a Kickstarter campaign for a novel. If you're curious about the project, please visit the Kickstarter NIGHT FOLK page.)

It seemed like a pretty simple idea -- use Kickstarter to raise funds to finance work on a novel. I've been studying prose in depth for the last 5 or 6 years, learning the craft and refining my approach to stories, all with the goal of writing a novel. And then I started working out the details.

For those of you who aren't familiar with Kickstarter, here's how it works -- you put your creative project up on the site, set a goal for the amount of money you want to raise, set a time limit for the fundraising (up to the Kickstarter limit of 90 days), and solicit pledges from people to help finance it. If you meet your goal, you're golden. If you don't meet your goal by the end of your auction, you receive nothing. So in order to attract 'backers', you need to give away some rewards, geared to different levels of pledges.

Now, anyone who knows me knows I've been working on a novel based on my character, Evan Fade. When it really comes down to it, he's why I decided to learn how to write prose. My first thought was, "Great! I'll raise the money I need to take time off from comics to finish the Fade novel!". But if I was going to ask people to pledge money for a book, I felt like they should get a copy of the book, and the most logical way to do that was to create something I could publish digitally, give a copy to all my backers, and then sell it in Amazon's Kindle store and through Apple's iBookstore. I've been playing with the idea of digital publishing for my personal comic book projects, even setting up my own company to do it, so why not expand the idea to publishing a digital novel, as well?

Now, for the record, let me admit up front that I'm a wuss. This whole thing is a massive experiment, even if I happen to think it'll work. (Wouldn't be spending time on it if I thought otherwise.) But I was nervous about using the Fade novel as the project I'd be fund-raising for. There are all sorts of complicated reasons for this, mostly having to do with trying to sell a book to publishers when it's already been published digitally, but really it all comes down to this... I chickened out.

In my defense, I've been developing the Fade material for 20 years. It's an intensely personal project for me, and it's not something I'm comfortable taking chances with or doing anything that might compromise my vision for the material. With people pledging money to see a finished project, I would have to rush to finish it and publish it digitally, which in and of itself was a risk. While some authors (most vocally, thriller and mystery writer J.A. Konrath) have had a lot of success with digital self-publishing, it's still a pretty new and volatile market. All in all, a few too many risks and way too many opportunities to compromise in the name of getting the project done and out.

But there was a solution. I had two stories that tie into the whole mythos of the Fade universe -- or as my friend Dan and I call it, the Smythos (which I probably shouldn't admit to, publicly) -- The October Girl, and a project called Night Folk. They're both side stories, featuring characters that also appear in the Fade book I've been working on, and flesh out the whole mythology in ways that will be important to Fade's story later on.

(Did I mention that the Fade novel I'm working on now is supposed to be the first in a series? I've got 2 more plotted, and a plan for at least 3 more on top of those. Yeah... I've had way too much time to plot and plan his story.)

There was another added bonus -- I'd conceived both October Girl and Night Folk as comics, but the more I worked with the Night Folk concept, the more it seemed like it wanted to be a novel, and a shorter novel than the first Fade book. And it was an all-ages kind of book that would lend itself to illustrations, something I hoped might bring in fans of my art who were iffy on the whole idea of me writing something. Hmmm...

But in the end, the deciding factor was that I really wanted to tell the story. It's true that I'm a wuss, and I have time constraints to deal with, so length was an issue, but I never commit to writing something unless I actually care about it and feel like I have something to say with the story.

And I care about Victoria and the Night Folk, and there IS something I want to say through them, something about being true to who your are and standing up for what you believe in.

As I'm writing this, I'm already 30% towards my funding goal with 50 days or so left. We're off to a good start, but there's a long way to go. But let me also say, having admitted my nervousness about using the Fade project (and feeling like a world class wuss for being nervous about it), I'll make this promise -- if this NIGHT FOLK experiment works, I'll be doing the same thing with Fade next.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Sports Cars, NIGHT FOLK, and Kickstarter, part one

(This is the first of two posts where I plan to talk a little about why I decided to do a Kickstarter campaign, and why I decided to raise money to write a novel as opposed to financing a personal comic book project. If you're curious about the project I'm fund-raising for, visit the NIGHT FOLK Kickstarter page)

You remember the stereotypical guidance counselor question, right? The one about what would you do if you had a million dollars? The idea was whatever you would do if you were rich is what you should do for a career.

I had three guidance counselors in high school, and as far as I know, none of them ever asked me that question. Not sure how I would have answered it back then. Probably something about playing bass in a rock band.

Still, if someone DID ask me that question at any point in the last 5 or 6 years, I know what my answer would be -- I'd write novels, and write and draw comics on the side.

Don't get me wrong, I love drawing comics and I love writing them whenever I can, but it's a rough job, and not the easiest lifestyle. When you've got a job, you spend 12-16 hours a day at the table (or computer), seven days a week. And when you don't have a job, you're on the sharp edge of an emotional razor, desperately trying to line up work while second guessing everything from the way you draw to each and every career choice you've ever made.

(Note to aspiring comic book creators: I don't mean to make it sound so scary, but freelancing full-time can be a hard life. Whenever people ask me how to break in, I always try to add something about holding on to the day job for a while - even if it doesn't pay as much as the comic book work - just for a little added stability and much needed social interaction.)

Maybe that's just my experience, but I've talked with enough comic book artists to know I'm not the only one who struggles with the full-time freelance comic artist lifestyle. And considering I've been struggling with it for nearly 20 years, it's kind of amazing I've lasted this long.

This March is the 18th anniversary of my first professional work in comics. Throw in the fact that I also just turned 40 and you've got a recipe for a wild and perhaps misguided attempt at a major life change. And while some people might run out and buy a red sports car (can't afford one) or get a toupee (don't need one) or start dating someone far too young for them (my long-time girlfriend is 5 years younger than me, so maybe I'm actually guilty of this one already), but I decided to try to finally launch my career as a prose writer.

Only one problem. Working that many hours at the art table doesn't leave much time to write, and it's kind of hard to launch a writer career unless you've actually written something. I've been working on some things, including my long-running side project, a novel featuring my character Evan Fade, but I didn't have anything that I could wrap up quickly while still drawing comics full time, and I was in no position to take time off from comics to finish anything. I do need to keep a roof over my head after all, and while it kind be frustrating sometimes, I have no intention of giving up my comic book career entirely.

And that's when I noticed friends like Ian Struckhoff and Tony Harris raising money for their personal comic book projects on Kickstarter, and it got me thinking.

I'd already been toying with the idea of financing a graphic novel through Kickstarter, but with my 40th fast approaching (and my complete inability to buy a sports car), I decided there was no point doing something like this unless I went all-in, and what I wanted to do most wasn't more comic book work (even if it was something personal like The October Girl or Night Folk); it was to write a novel.


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

NIGHT FOLK Kickstarter Launch

I'm pleased to announce the launch of a Kickstarter page for my NIGHT FOLK project. I'll be raising money to help me take some time away from comics to work on the novel, which I'm hoping will lead to even more chances to write in the future.

If you get a chance, check it out. And in the meantime, keep an eye out for some new art I'm producing to help publicize the project.