Thursday, August 14, 2008

Thelma & Louise-ing It, Part 1

Hey all,

I have a subject I really want to talk a lot about, but I'm still trying to process things myself, so this really WILL be a (relatively) short entry. It's about being inspired by two ladies from the silver screen. Thelma & Louise-ing it is my way of saying, just jump, full in, no net, with every chance that you will fall on your face...or every chance something amazing will happen.

This week, I did that, in two different situations. Right now, I can talk about one of them. It's regarding The Project (the thing I can't talk about that I am working my butt off on that I really want to talk about). Editor gave me 1 note and 1 suggestion. I took them both into consideration and stepped back. Sometimes, when you write something, you think, THIS IS IT! This is perfection. And then someone else reads it... Get out of your own way and listen, especially to your editor. I did this. It was the second draft that Editor was giving me notes on, and both versions were quite different from each other. Then came these ideas from Editor. The two things that had bugged me about the story, that I KNEW were off but tried to cover up with bells & whistles and shiny pretty things, were spotted by Editor. That's when it hit me. And I jumped.

I took it down to basics and started over. I kept the core ideas and goals but EVERYTHING else changed. I also played with a structure I have never used before. I put it all on the line, didn't hold back at all. And when I turned it in, it was the first time I actually thought that this is a story that if, God forbid, I couldn't write it, I would still want to read it. I was able to feel confident that I was proud of every moment, and didn't need to cover any weak spots. I went for it. And then I walked away to let Editor read & absorb it.

Met with Editor today, and the difference was instantly noticeable. Editor & I were on completely the same page! This story's structure is completely unique for me but still something I feel passionately about writing, and that combination excited Editor, and me honestly. This is EXACTLY what I wanted to write when I first pitched it, but now I finally found THE way for me to best tell the story.

So what was the difference? I jumped. I Thelma & Louised it. And I didn't crash. I hit the ground running. And I haven't stopped smiling ever since.

More on all of this later.

Until next time,

- Jim

Monday, August 11, 2008

Get outta the way!!!

So, you know that research rule I talked about? Yeah, I am dangerously close to tripping over it. In my efforts to do this project justice and right, I am trying to serve many masters (the fans, my editor, myself, and many others who might be reading this upcoming project). In all honestly, the main master I need to serve is The Story. What is going to tell the best story?

I spent 2 hours this evening pouring over a decade's worth of issues trying to find the right moments, the right dialogue, the right references. A great deal of it probably has little to do with what will ultimately be the final result, and what does make it in will please some and set others into a tirade. How could I address this and not that? How could I leave out this minor reference on page 15 of issue blah blah?! Obviously, I will be a hack to some people. But that's just it- no matter what any of us do, there will be those who will find fault in it. Every work is flawed. If creative people kept working on something until it was so perfect that no one could complain, nothing would ever be finished.

I need to step back and stop looking at where these characters have been and look at where they are now, where they need to go, and what makes them the people they are. I also need to make sure that I am telling The Story I want to tell. Not in a possessive "this is MY story" way, but the Story I feel I can tell, what voice I bring to the table.

Basically, I need to get out of my own way and get to creating. For those who don't realize we are all in this industry out of love for the characters and the medium and will hate anything because they can only see the faults, go ahead and buy your tomatoes now. This way, if you don't like the story, they will be nice and rotten and prime for throwing when the story hits.

To the rest of you, thank you for enjoying and supporting.

Until next time,

- Jim

Sunday, August 10, 2008

A little help from My Webfriends - Spy Films

Hello again today!

Quick change of pace and the possibility of the start of a themed series. A lot of times, message boards can be terrifying pools of snark-infested cyber-water, filled with bile. An update on an old saying should now be: "Those who can, do. Those who can't, post about they WOULD do it better on a message board." Sometimes, however, you stumble across sites that are that rare gem, with helpful, intelligent people who actually think before hitting "post" and honestly like people. Two such sites are below:

Brian Michael Bendis's message board - The main site for one of the top writers (and nicest guys) in the comic book industry

Twitter - I suggest signing up (super easy) and finding people who you don't mind "following" as they spend 140 characters answering the question "What Are You Doing" (follow me here)

Sometimes, I throw out questions to the masses (that IS what Web 2.0 is for, after all) about a variety of topics. This goes back to the research topic earlier. It's a way to help tap into the knowledge all of those around you may have on a subject you don't know a lot about or want to know more of. I like doing this because I learn a lot more not just about a topic, but about my webfriends. As I ask a new question, I will post the results here. These will most likely be entries I update/edit as more roll in, but I wanted to centralize some info for myself (easier to go back to when research times happen) and also for others who may be reading this little sliver of the blogosphere.

Today's question posed: What are some good Spy/Espionage films?

Answers are below, in no particular order. Please keep in mind, these are suggestions gathered from others, not solely from me. I have seen some, have loaded others on my Netflix queue, and will look into the rest. Enjoy!

The Spy Who Came In From The Cold
The Bourne films
North by Northwest
Mr. & Mrs. Smith
Manchurian Candidate
The Bank Job
Layer Cake
Three Days of the Condor
Casino Royale
The Jackal
Spy Game
The Recruit
Mission: Impossible
True Lies
Where Eagles Dare
The Third Man
The Falcon & The Snowman
The Ipcress File
Le Femme Nakita
The Company
The Good Sheppard
The Conversation
The Avengers (TV series, esp the Emma Peel years)
Notorious (1946)
The Parallax View
Defense of the Realm
The Man Who Knew Too Much
The 39 Steps
The Spy Who Loved Me
The Tailor of Panama
Smiley's People (BBC mini)
Confessions of a Dangerous Mind
Alias (Especially Seasons 1 & 2)
The Quiet American
Ice Station Zebra
Foreign Correspondent
Our Man Flint
No Way Out
Marathon Man
To Live & Die in LA
Extreme Prejudice
Le Circle Rouge
Army of Shadows
The Day of the Jackal

Until next time,
KEEP READING (or in this case, WATCHING)!

- Jim


Hello there! Why look, day two of the blog and I'm making my second entry. Nice start...

I'm not looking to post an incredibly long entry today (or at least right now), as I am eye-balls deep in research. But I wanted to talk a moment about that. One of the best bits of advice I ever got was to do all the research you can, but follow two rules - 1) know when to stop researching and start writing, and 2) never let your research show. Just because you learn a cool fact, don't jam it in there because it's so awesome you HAVE to show everyone how much you personally know or learned about a subject. If you are writing a thesis, fine, cite your references and write all about your findings. But if you are writing fiction, your research should be done to get to know your characters, not to brag that you did it.

Learn what you can about your characters. This doesn't just mean to know where they are from, how many siblings they have, and their favorite ice cream flavor (although those things help establish well-rounded characters as well). You should also try to learn as much about what THEY know as possible. This way, what they say and do will ring true to their experiences and their knowledge. Learn what they they would know, and let their experience and your research come out in their actions and, where appropriate (and in their voices, not in long-winded exposition) their dialog.

People can say what they will about Wikipedia, but it is at least a good place to start your research. You can use it as the Cliff's Notes version, but be sure to look at the related links or cited footnotes in the articles to get more info. Side note, if you are ever at a loss for ideas, check out the featured article of the day on their
home page. If you are still stumped, look to the left at the Navigation tab and click on"Random Article" a few times. I guarantee that eventually SOMETHING will pop up that will make you stop and want to read more about it (within 3 clicks just now, I got to The Blasphemy Act of 1698)

Personal side note - LOOK! I figured out how to insert links! One web-challenge down, hundreds to go...

Right now I am reading as much as I can about a variety of subjects- from what it takes to get a PhD (which I did not realize stood for Doctor of Philosophy until I started - thank you Bachelor's of Arts degree in Radio/TV/Film), certain scientific disciplines, Film Noir poster art, weapons used throughout the ages, and even the rules of centuries-old organizations. Talk about jumping around. My "Bookmark" section is getting a work out. As is my
Moleskine notebook. I can't stress this enough- when you read something, or hear something on TV or in a movie- write it down! You'll be amazed at how quickly just writing down something will switch your mind on and you'll find yourself writing that tidbit down from your character's point of view or at least how it applies to your story.

As a gift last Christmas, Joe Quesada gave us all in publishing Marvel-embossed Moleskine notebooks. In it was an amazing inscription: Some of the greatest creative minds and thinkers in the modern era have used Moleskine notebooks like this one for jotting down their thoughts and ideas. This Moleskine is dedicated to you and your next great idea. Thank you for an amazing 2007! Well, Joe, thank YOU. I can only hope that what I am filling this with is worthy to be called a great idea, or at least a good one.

Until next time,

- Jim

PS - so much for not posting an incredibly long entry! Ha! Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to exercise Rule #1 of research and get some writing done!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Welcome Aboard!

Hello friends, family, acquaintances, fans, and reading-voyeurs,

Surprise, surprise, another blog enters the blogosphere. As you can see in my profile, I make no promises how updated this blog will be, but here's hoping. "The best laid plans of mice and men oft go astray, and leave us not but grief and pain for promised joy. Well, hopefully my potential sporadic updates (or complete lack of them) won't leave you with grief and pain, and I cannot promise you joy with every post. What I CAN offer you is that I will be *me* in these entries.

So, where to start? I'd rather not start off with the traditional "I was born in..." exposition. Zzzzz... Details of my youth, history, interests, etc will hopefully come out in more unique ways, organically, as I (hopefully) write new entries.

Brief aside here- just because I have a blog and a Twitter, by NO means should indicate that I am at all web-savvy when it comes to the bells and whistles of these here Interwebs. I will try to post pictures, art, etc where I can...when I can figure out how.

Second aside - this is intended more as my "professional" blog. You won't find much in the way of personal info here as I tend to keep that stuff off the web. instead, this is to update my experiences in the world of comics, writing, and wherever this crazy path of life is taking me on professionally. That said, I'm not above raving or ranting about current novels, movies, or TV shows. But don't look for too many rants, you never know who is reading and when/if you may meet them in person. I'd rather not get slapped by anyone from the "cast" of The Hills because I ranted about that show (for the record, never seen an episode).

Back on topic. Work. I work in Marketing/PR/Conventions/"other duties as assigned" at Marvel Comics. Yes, it is my dream company. No, cannot believe I work there (and I just celebrated my 4th year there-- it still amazes me). Yes, I do know how lucky I am. Convention season is mostly over and it is sort of bittersweet. On one hand, I never sleep, eat, or stop moving when at a convention, so it is exhausting. But on the other (much bigger) hand, I absolutely love everything else about it. From the thrill of making a great announcement on a panel and hearing the crowd applaud, to meeting fans one-on-one (without them, no one in comics would have a job), to seeing friends from around the world who work in comics too. Thanks to FedEx and the Internet, people can work in this industry from anywhere in the world, which is great. But it means you really only see them a few times a year. One of the greatest things about this industry is that I have been lucky to make some true friends over the years. Anyone who has seen a Marvel panel should know that we are HUGE goof-offs; joking around with each other, snarky (in a good natured way), and genuinely happy to be together. That's exactly how we are OFF the panel too. Some call me the happiest man in comics. I don't know if I can claim that superlative (Dan Slott's pretty darn jolly, too), but I can say that I am the happiest I have been BECAUSE I work in comics.

(Third aside - I had the Olympics on in the background on the USA network while writing this. At some point, they ended and "Psych" came on. I am convinced I just saw the same cave set used in Smallville and the same woods that Mulder and Scully trekked thru in X-Files. Makes me wish TV had a shared universe where all of these characters ran from place to place, encountering each other. I would never turn off the television...)

Obvious personal fact you should have gathered by now: I am very easily distracted. Another fact - I am obsessed with television.

I know I have far more to say, but this is the beginning. I have to leave something for people to come back to. And there's plenty! From my history in soap operas, to my present job, to writing my first full comic script, to trying to dance between the raindrops of talking about my new project that I can't really talk too much about. Speaking of, I should run spellcheck on this entry and publish it so I can stop procrastinating (which, truth be absolutely told, was the genesis of this blog- procrastination) and get back to a more necessary form of procrastinating: research!

Until next time, KEEP READING!