Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Bad Days

With the release of my first novel THE LOST SPARK and the premiere of my new creator comic JIRNI both coming in April, I am afraid my schedule hasn't allowed for much blog time. Something I hope to change going forward. I mean, what's the point of having a blog site if you don't blog?

Being on the verge of having new stories published is an awesome feeling, but today I want to talk about my least favorite aspect of the life of a writer - in part because today was one of those days for me. Now, let me start off by saying this is not meant to be a pity party or a call for accolades. This is merely my attempt to share another aspect of writing - part of the dirty, messy underbelly that some never mention.

Some days, I suck at writing. Sure, detractors might say - Hell, JT, everyday is one of those days, but I digress. The morning begins like any other. Drop the kids off at school, grab a cup of decaf, and settle in with my laptop for another day of writing. The only problem is no matter what I write, it's terrible. Everything seems trite and forced and false. Just blah. I type and erase and type and erase all day long, and at the end of four or five hours have little to nothing to show for it. It's so infuriating.

The whole experience can make one feel like a fraud and a failure. I literally hate every word I type and hate myself even more for wasting my time on such drivel. It's feels hopeless. But it happens. Maybe not to everyone. Some writers might love each and every letter that spills from their precious minds - like unique and wondrous snowflakes falling from the sky. Their fingers move like a master pianist over the keyboards painting lyrically, building worlds and moving hearts with ease.

And here I am in the darkened corner, mashing the keyboard with angry stumps, bloodied and raw. You see, I've cut my fingers off long ago out of pure and utter frustration. For the moment, every night is dark and stormy, and every character is lost and wandering like writer struggling blindly to find the right metaphor. It's brutal because you feel like you alone are responsible for murdering the characters you claim to love so much.

Even now, these words feel like a festering pile of hyperbole - ginned up for added drama.  But that's how it goes.

Luckily, I was able to pull free from the black hole of creativity and make some progress in the right direction. Not nearly enough, but progress nonetheless. And for the time being, that will have to be good enough. I can chastise myself more if I feel the need, but the honest truth - the inescapable truth - is that tomorrow brings another opportunity to do it right or do it wrong.

So, I'll go sleep and pray it'll be right.


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2013 - Living with More and Less

As the new year officially begins, my hope is to continue with life - more and less...

More joy
Less drama;
More hope
Less fear;
More fresh air
Less chemicals;
More writing
Less posting;
More running
Less lounging;
More listening
Less talking;
More reading
Less watching;
More saving
Less spending;
More loving
Less hating;
More wondering
Less worrying;
More meaning
Less wasting.


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Arrrrrrgh! (Warning: This Post has nothing to do with Pirates)

So, yesterday, I was able to enjoy one of the best days a writer can have when I announced my new Aspen project, JIRNI. I love finally being able to talk about. I've done work in the fantasy genre before (most notably my time writing SOULFIRE), but this is something a little different.

Now, let's compare that with today - one of the more frustrating days for a writer (at least for this writer).

Great ideas don't come everyday. We'd love to think they grow on trees and we could collect them by the bushel, but they are hard to come by. Now, don't get wrong, ideas come all the time and many of them can BECOME great ideas, but its more rare for an idea to spark and immediately you know you have something special. Something you can really sink your teeth into, have fun, and (god forbid) achieve a level of success with.

I know what you are saying - where's the frustrating part, JT? This all sounds fine and dandy.

Well, here it comes...

After doing research for several months and actually starting to write the project, I stumbled upon another work that is virtually identical. There you have it - Aaaarrrrgh!

Initially when I came up with the idea, I did my due diligence. I checked around, asked people, googled, searched through libraries and bookstores and on Amazon and Wikipedia in order to see if the idea had been done before. In truth, there were a couple of projects in the same vein, but I still felt good about moving forward in developing this particular project.

Like I said, I actually started writing it. And I don't mean just a couple pages of a script or a chapter or two of a book. I mean, SUBSTANTIAL work.

Cut to this afternoon when I visited my local Barnes and Noble (which it turns out is closing down in a week - double bummer). Wandering through the aisles, I stumbled upon a certain book that caught my eye. My heart sank as the grabbed the copy from the shelf. The title was troublesome, and then I read the blurb on the back of the book. Yep, there it was. Almost exactly the same idea I had been working on.

It's so deflating and disheartening. I felt like I got punched in the stomach. It really is nauseating as I think about all the time and energy and work put into it. All which is now useless. In the days to come, perhaps I'll figure out a way to adjust the story, rework a few things, and make it something different that I can still pursue, but for right now the project is gone.

All I can do tomorrow is try to find something else to fill that empty space, where the story in question used to live and breath.

God, I hate days like today.


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

It's Time to take a JIRNI!

Open the floodgates!

One of the harder aspects about being a writer is keeping mum about new projects while you are developing them. When that spark of creative energy triggers and you find yourself scribbling away late at night, building entire worlds out of thin air, you want to share it with everyone that very instant. As you conjure up new characters and new challenges for them face, when you realize exactly what the story is about - where the heart and soul of it rests, you want to leap up and down shouting eureka.

But you can't. You have to keep it to yourself until it's time for the big announcement.  Well, luckily for me, today is that day. I am over-the-moon, thrilled to be able to announce my new creator book being published at ASPEN COMICS - JIRNI!

JIRNI, yes a play on the word "journey," is an epic fantasy adventure about a warrior princess named Ara, who finds herself on a quest to find her kidnapped mother. It celebrates everything I love about the fantasy genre - from the legendary works of Frazetta to the amazing icons like Conan, Flash Gordon, and John Carter; from the world of Dungeons and Dragons to Tolkien's fabled realm of Middle Earth. It's a dangerous world that is both familiar and yet different, with wild barbarians, cutthroat thieves, and exotic creatures. And, let's not forget the mythic d'jinn or genie of the lamp.

I owe a huge thanks to ASPEN COMICS for not only giving me the opportunity to publish it through them, but also for making JIRNI a part of their huge 10for10 initiative coinciding with the company's 10th anniversary. For that reason, the first issue of JIRNI hitting stores in April will only be $1! That's right - only a buck!

Joining me on the book are Paolo Pantalena and Brett Smith. Two amazing and talented artists that are bringing all their energy and excitement to the book. You can get just a taste in the covers seen above featuring inspiring pencils by Paolo, with awesome colors by Peter Steigerwald (not to mention the deft touch of Mark Roslan!).

In the coming weeks and months I'll be talking more about JIRNI and showing more artwork as we countdown to the premiere of the first issue in April. I really hope everyone checks out the book. It's going to be something special. I promise.


Friday, December 7, 2012

No Love for Superman?

It's been talked about before. People lamenting Superman for being boring. He's so powerful and indestructible, there is never a sense of danger for him. And, how can we relate to such a boy scout who can do anything?  He is a god among men, living with us without being one of us. I thought a lot about Superman as I prepared to take over Superman Beyond, but I also reflected on the character as I wrote Captain Atom.

Yes, Superman is an alien. He is way powerful, virtually indestructible, with abilities we can only dream about. He leads a seemingly charmed life - loving parents, trusting friends, a job he cherishes, and let's not forget an unbending moral spine.

That last part is what I think is the problem. It's not the power and strength. We can relate to the Hulk. It's not the impervious nature. We relate to Wolverine. Tony Stark thrives in his career. Peter Parker has loving people in his life. It's that pesky morality. As flawed humans, we have a hard time connecting with someone who seems to make all the right decisions with ease. Superman never wavers in his heart. He knows the right thing to do and simply does it. There is no battle, no inner-struggle. And, that is what makes him so very inhuman. Ironic, isn't it? His empathy, his ability to relate to us makes him seem foreign to us.

It even explains why some actually loathe Superman, hoping more than anything that he gets knocked down a peg or two. Because Superman serves as a mirror to our own behavior. He's the ultimate role model, and it frustrates us because we cannot live up to his gold standard. He's kind, responsible, and even-tempered. There isn't a mean bone in his body. And, he makes it look so damn easy. He doesn't belittle people to make himself feel better. He doesn't lash out in anger or greed or fear. Don't get me wrong, humans possess all the same altruistic traits. We are not monsters. But, our behavior ebbs and flows. We have moments to be proud of and moments to abhor.

Superman never has those lapses in judgment.

As for me, I don't loathe him or think he is boring. I admire him. He was always meant to be the beacon on the hill. The trick is to strive to reach the light without being dismayed when it exposes our own failings hidden in the shadows.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Let's Go Forward - Together.

Okay, so yes - I could be talking about the election.  I've made no secret that I support Obama and tend to lean to the democratic side, but that's not what this blog is about.  So for those of you exhausted by the marathon election season, you can safely keep reading.  No political discourse follows.

It's my birthday today, and this is the time I take stock in my life, both personally and professionally, evaluate the successes and failures and plot a course toward a brighter future.  A lot of people choose this exercise at the coming of the new year, but for me, I've always done it this way.  But the honest truth is, you don't have to wait for New Year's or your birthday or even flag day (one of these days I'm going to have a flag day party that will be something like a toga party where guests come draped in their favorite flag - just saying).  You could even do it today.  There's never a wrong time to start living the life you want to lead, to start being the person you want to be, to start pursuing the dream you want to achieve.

Earlier this evening (I am writing this on the eve of my birthday), I took some time to chat with an aspiring writer about career advice (to the extent that I have any to offer).  For the record, I refer to any writer who has yet to earn money from their work as "aspiring."  In truth, the term simply "writer" could apply.  It's not like the monetary result is necessary to achieve that status.  I do it more to differentiate it from what I call "wannabe writers."  These are people who talk about writing, claim to love writing, but never seem to actually do any writing.  It's an empty title they use to fool themselves in thinking they are something they are not.   Of course, at any time, these wannabe writers could convert into aspiring writers simply by putting their ass in the seat and punching on the keyboard for a spell.  But most of them never have the stomach for it. 

Anyway, as I talked with this aspiring writer, many of my comments could have been bounced back to me with a mirror.  Writing is about forward progress - about working toward something.  Writing is not being afraid that what you create will be crap.  It might.  Chances are, at first, it probably will be.  But that's okay.  Writing is a process.  You can only learn by doing.  That's not to say classes and books and such are not immensely helpful, but the real progress comes from putting the effort onto the page, day after day. 

Writing is a demanding endeavor - without relief.  No matter how much I write, I can always write more.  No matter how much I read, I can always read more.  And those are the two vital staples for any writer - writing and reading.  And don't get lost in any one genre or format.  Read it all - comics, books, magazine articles, short stories, poetry, plays, screenplays, etc.  Like any career worth doing, as a writer you are never done learning.

As of now, I have my first novel, THE LOST SPARK, coming out early in 2013, as well as another creator comic series premiering in April through Aspen Comics.  I'm very excited about both, but right at this moment, I am at that terrifying, yet exciting stage of writing.  For tomorrow, I'll begin my next novel - a completely new concept and world.  It's something I've been developing for quite awhile now, and the time has come to simply begin.  And, I can't think of a better way to speed my birthday than inside a new world of my own creation. 

Of course, I'll probably work in a beer two to celebrate as well.  I mean, writing is thirsty business. 

And, to all you out there hoping or wishing or working toward a dream, I give you my birthday, November 14th.  It's as good a day as any to recharge your battery, strengthen your resolve, and reset your determination.  Let it be your catalyst to reignite that fire in your belly - that drive to work toward something of passion and purpose.  Good luck and keep up the great work. 


Friday, November 2, 2012

Marathoners be Damned?

There's a lot going on right now on the East Coast.  The aftermath of Hurricane Sandy is heartbreaking to watch.  And while I can't fully grasp the true impact of the storm, I do get a small sense of the devastation and turmoil and frustration from television, but more importantly from friends, colleagues, and family through phone, email, and social media (finally, a real reason for Twitter and Facebook to exist). 

Billions in damage.  Loss of life.  Millions still without power or food or gas.  I was inspired seeing the sense of community erupt nationwide, especially seeing often political foes Obama and Christie working together in unity to do what politicians should be doing everyday - solve problems instead of being problems themselves. 

Now, there is a debate and argument going on about Bloomberg's decision to keep the New York Marathon on schedule.  Some see it as a slap in the face to those still struggling - surely, the resources needed to conduct the event could be put to better and more immediate use for the desperate citizens.  On the other hand, the revenue generated for the event will help businesses affected and bring in taxes and revenue for regions that will be rebuilding and recovering for years to come.  I'm not going to be foolish enough to pretend that I can know the right answer sitting 3,000 miles away in California.

But, it does bring to mind a rather perplexing reality that I find myself struggling with on a  philosophical level.  What are we to our nation?  And to our fellow countrymen and women?  Are we citizens and neighbors or are we consumers?  What is our role in life?  I'll never forget in the days following the attack on 9/11 when all that was asked of us from Bush in terms of response and sacrifice after the attack and the coming conflict was to go about our day - in essence to go shopping.  They wanted us to spend our money so that the economy didn't tank as well.

Now, I am no economist.  Math isn't even really my strong suit (probably one of the reasons I became a writer).  I do acknowledge that there is a necessary connection between our consumption and our well-being.  If I don't buy the clothes and shoes and cars and books and food that others sell and make and distribute, then my fellow citizens in those industries will not have jobs and will themselves be unable to spend their money on food, shelter, cars, and perhaps the books that I write - thus negating my source of income.  I get the cycle that exists.

I guess I just wish it weren't that way.  I wish when a tragedy like Hurricane Sandy occurs, our priority wasn't getting Wall Street back up and running so the financial machine could keep humming.  I wish that came way later - after we made sure that everyone was safe and accounted for. I see the throngs of New Yorkers walking across the bridge, braving the over-crowded subways, and enduring endless lines to board buses.  But they aren't going to see family or check on loved ones.  They are trying to go to work.  We spend so much money on so many stupid and useless things in our lives - as individuals and as a government.  I wish when such things happen, people could focus on their family and safety and shelter and not bringing in that paycheck because its so damn important to our survival.  Again, I sound incredibly naive right now, and I'm not saying that work isn't important.  I guess I just wish our lifestyles weren't such that when something like this happens we can't even spare a few days to cope and recover before having to return to the grind just so we won't end up on the street. 

I have no idea what the answer is, but I yearn for a world where we could exist as people first and consumers second.