2014 – 2015 a look backwards and forward

2014 was a year of burning candles. Adding wicks and burning them from hidden geometric angles. Turns out having a kid means you burn non-stop. On top of having a day job and trying to get better at, and into this writing thing, it all amounted to a mountain of stress.

And a lot of happiness. Turns out having a family and working (towards) the dream job feels really rewarding when the arrow points upwards. And in 2014 the arrow swung both up and down, but mostly up.

Film

I didn’t get as much time as I hoped writing screenplays last year. I had plans of beginning my first feature script in Norwegian, but that never happened. I have a plan of writing a peculiar thriller/horror that would suit a Norwegian approach. But that plan includes directing it, as well. So I figured that could wait a while longer. There’s been sporadic interest and talks on my earlier feature scripts, but nothing has amounted to anything tangible yet.

Two of my earlier short film scripts were picked up, though. Disappearing Darlings from 2011 is now being produced as a puppet animation by Klipp & Lim. They are a local production company with brilliant people and I get to see this whole project come to life every step of the way. We ended the year by doing some test footage and doing a little Holiday salute, which can be seen on Vimeo. We hope to get full funding this year, so its 10 minute glory can come true before the end of the year.

My other short script, a quirky, atmospheric horror called Krusninger (English: Ripples) hooked a great up-and-coming director from Oslo and we hope to attach a production company on it as soon as possible. If not it’ll be DIY all the way.

A short film I was commissioned to write will be made these coming months and shown in May, if the gods be good. Based on famous psaligraph Karen Bit Vejle amazing creations.

Also, at the end of the year I decided to devote time to develop a sci-fi concept I’ve been harbouring for nearly a year. Firstly as a feature screenplay, then as a comic book series. I’m nearly there with developing it, so next week I’ll write the first draft of the screenplay. Goal: Black list.

TV

A large portion of my writing was in television last year. My brilliant co-writer Robert Klecha and I developed a 6-part occult crime noir show and wrote a pilot. We’ll be reworking and fine-tuning the pilot these coming weeks, then it’ll be out the door.

We also have another show in earlier stages of development. Perhaps there’ll be time for that one this year.

I’ve also been approached by a European producer to write a treatment and a pilot for a really interesting historical thing. This is something for the first half of 2015, and I’m not sure what to think of this yet, other than it being really interesting and something I’m excited to dive into.

Games

Since summer I’ve been heavily involved with Snowcastle Games, bringing their title Earthlock forward. I’ve been writing lore, game story, dialogue and a tie-in comic book one-shot. Been really fun to help develop such a fun world and such great characters. I can’t wait to reach the end of this thing and see/hear the reaction from players.

I’ve always been a big admirer of games, and before I decided to dedicate my time to become a writer I played a lot. So seeing how games are made and being part of a great team is really cool. I hope this will be one of many game projects going forward.

Comics

Outré had another good year, releasing two more anthology volumes. We’re also coming to Comixology now on the 7th. That’s a nice milestone to start 2015 with. Been really great to work with so diverse and talented comic book creators, so I hope there’s no end to it.

Spiral is in a sort of limbo. While we’re waiting to hear back from a certain big-name publisher me and Emerson are working to finish up the Earthlock one-shot. Fingers crossed Spiral will be enough of an uppercut to have this publisher get back to us. (I have another future project I’d love to pitch these good people!) Whatever happens with this publisher, I’m really looking forward to getting back to Spiral together with Emerson. People really seem to like Spiral, which is motivational beyond words.

Earthlock – The Clay Orchid and the Stormdog (one-shot) will be done January/February and hopefully the Kickstarter Backers can receive it in March. It’s turning out to be a really fun little double-adventure. A perfect addition to the Earthlock universe, I think. Emerson, as always, has really brought his A-game.

Empire of Blood issue #1 has been hand-lettered by the fantastic Gaspar Saladino and we’ll put it all together these coming weeks. This is a huge project that me and my co-creators Michael and Jelena have been working on a long time. The future is uncertain, but we have been toying with the idea of a Kickstarter. Firstly, we want to see the reaction to this initial issue.

Me and María José Barros have a short comic called Next Ovum in the wicked-crazy anthology Imaginary Drugs, hitting shelves now in January from IDW and Michael McDermott. Another nice way to start the comic-year!

I also have a date with Dave this year. We’ll see if that date ends with a crescendo in a haystack somewhere.

Books

Me and Steeven decided, after having no success getting any publishers (English or French) interested in our children’s horror comic, to rather go down the illustrated children’s book route. This story has been with me since 2011 and we aren’t going to let last year’s setbacks stop us. After some back and forth we decided to go down a slightly older age segment (11 – 13), so we’ll be tweaking the plot a bit before I go back to writing. This is a new venture for me (children’s/teen’s literature), and it’s a market that’s been cornered by a few big name writers. So nothing short of A+ game will make do here. It will take as long as it takes, but I hope to have a good portion of the book written by the end of the year. Maybe in 2016/17 you can buy The Sounds from the Sinkhole.

Lastly, but not least, I’m working with Marcus Muller in bringing another children’s book project to life. It’s got heart, thrills and a fantastical world. It’s so high-concept I’m not even going to reveal the title. But it’ll be fun, just wait and see!

That’s most of what happened last year and what’s on the plate for 2015. It will continue to be a struggle to do this writing thing full-time, but giving up is for the unhappy. And I don’t plan to be.

Creating a noir comic book – part 10

Part 1 – Idea to concept
Part 2 – Concept to outline
Part 3 – Outline to page breakdown
Part 4 – Scripting and the first step of finding an artist
Part 5 – Finding a great artist
Part 6 – The great artist and defining visuals
Part 7 – From script to finished page
Part 8 – Identity and branding
Part 9 – Pitch package

This blog post has been way overdue. And with a sense of irony, that’s good, because that’s what this post is all about: waiting.

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THE GREAT WAIT THAT (NEVER) ENDS

In the previous installment I talked about submission packages and how we went to London where a few editors really liked what they saw and wanted to see more. And the Great Wait was on. I’ll talk a bit about what to do while waiting in a bit.

But first, let’s get to the point in the timeline where we received emails from the publishers: Rejection emails. The first company, a fairly large American one sent us a standard rejection email two months later. The UK company, which we felt we had an even better chance at, sent us a rejection four months later.

Were we back to square one again?

Psychologically, rejections can really jolt you back and feel like a massive negative blow. I’ve had a lot of rejections, from big to small, and you just learn to live with them. No one ever got anywhere without wading through some rejections first. It’s part of any creative game.

It’s when these rejections arrive you need to look at all the positive aspects. We still had a great comic, and we did continue producing pages to finish our first issue. (Crucial point I’ll elaborate on a bit about further down.) And we’d managed to show a team of editors at two publishers what we were about, show off my writing and Emerson’s art. Just because you get a rejection doesn’t (necessarily) mean the project is bad in any way, it just means it doesn’t fit the publisher at that moment. Either due to schedule, genre and style, we being unknown, the financial risk too great in today’s market, or that it just didn’t stick with the editors personally.

But they had our names and saw our story and art, and that they’ll remember next time our names and art hit their desk again in the future. And that’s when they see that the team is still creating, still honing and keep getting better. And come that time, they might take a risk on us.

Gotta take the positive out of the negative.

Back to the crucial point mentioned. I knew the wait would be a long and arduous one. In every type of creative field this exist, and the most important thing is to hurry up and forget that you’re waiting, get back to the project you’re waiting on or new projects. Keep the wheels rolling.

Now, in the case of Spiral, we continued creating the pages to finish up the first issue. Since Spiral is just a 4-part mini-series I decided to go through with it despite rejections. Bigger projects or other type of projects might need to be considered up against the risk, though. If you’re reliant on getting your project in with a publisher for it to actually survive to the end, then you’re probably best shifting your focus over to new projects while you wait—but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be prepared for when the no/yes arrives. When that moment arrives, you need to know how to play the ball. Is it best to put the project on ice, repeat and pitch to other publishers, or continue production anyway and have a back-up in self-publishing. This is project based, and up to the parties involved. My best advice is to talk it out and find good solutions for every creator involved. As a writer, don’t sit there and make calls you haven’t explored with your artist(s) first. That might derail the project completely. It’s a collaborative effort to reach the end result, no matter if you unload buckets of cash on your co-creators/artists, so make it collaborative.

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THE CRAZY PLAN

With Spiral we had already finished up the first issue when that second rejection came through. We had our back-up plan, but also intended to continue finding a publisher. After showing the first issue around to people whose opinion would be valued, I realised we did have something good on our hands. It cemented our intention of getting Spiral out there, publisher or not. But favorably, it would be through a publisher. The hunt was still on.

Since I didn’t have the possibility to attend any conventions in the UK and the US during or after summer, I knew it would be really hard to get Spiral into the hands of editors. Sending it to the regular submission piles wasn’t really an option. Then a long-time industry pro suggested we try something different with a publisher I’d long admired: A physical copy sent to all the (non-senior) editors at the publisher’s HQ.

So we did. I printed up 25 exclusive copies with UKComics, wrote up an informal cover letter to each of the editors, explaining why such a freakish attempt was needed and what Spiral was. Enveloped that and a copy of Spiral #1 and sent it. To 9 different editors at that publisher.

A devious plan, bending the rules—because I don’t think it’s air we’re breathing now—but also one I hope will put both me and Emerson’s names to a variety of editors and especially showcase Emerson’s art. And the idea is that there’s a greater chance that one of 9 likes it, rather than the one person-shot you get by going through the official submission pile.

Did it work? We don’t know yet. As I type this the packages might have arrived, might be a day or two off, and it might take some weeks to hear back, if we ever do.

Such is the gamble. Such is the game. Such is the wait.

So now we’re back at the top of this article, to the great wait. But while this waiting happens in the back of our minds, me and Emerson are already working on another project (a one-shot) and intend to get back on Spiral #2 after that. I’ve also started gathering pull quotes from good people I know and/or admire, preparing for both the yes and no that might arise from this crazy plan.

So next installment of “Creating a noir comic book” will depend on the outcome of this plan: will I talk about working with a publisher, or will I talk about preparing for self-publication.

Check back in about a month, and we’ll see!

With an inventive, grounded spin on the costumed vigilante genre, SPIRAL has a chilly aesthetic I found reminiscent of Nordic thrillers, wrapped up within an intricate plot that puts character at the forefront. A massively intriguing opening chapter.

– John Lees

Artist submissions for the Earthlock comic [CLOSED]

**CLOSED. THANKS TO EVERYONE WHO SUBMITTED. INFO GOES OUT TO YOU ALL THESE COMING DAYS.**

If you follow me on either Twitter or Facebook you’ve probably seen that I’ve mentioned Earthlock now and then. Simply put, it’s a fantastic adventure RPG I’m writing the story for, together with Snow Castle Games in Oslo. We ran a Kickstarter earlier this year and it was a great success. One of the rewards – since I write comics – was an Earthlock comic book. A one-shot, as we call them. Expanding on the universe and exploring the characters more. But we also wanted the comic book to stand on its own adventurous feet. And now the time has come to find an artist for the book.

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We’re looking for you! An experienced artist, you can meet deadlines, collaborate well and also bring some of your own magic to it. We’re looking for a style that fits the atmosphere of the game – a bold and funny adventure with vibes of both Disney and Ghibli Studios. Fun, charming and fantastical are what we’re looking for.

– This is a paid, work-for-hire-gig with a decent budget.
– The comic book will be 32 pages, full-coloured greatness.
– Work begins as soon as possible.
– About 400 backers will receive this gem with their Kickstarter rewards.
– Send your 4 best sequential pages to me, with some info about yourself and what you have published. And your preferred page rate. Send this here with the headline Earthlock Comic.
– Do let me know if you colour or letter your own work.
– Decent English proficiency is a must.
– If there are too many e-mails, I might not be able to reply should you not be the one we’re looking for. So please take a couple of weeks of silence as a kind “thank you but it wasn’t you this time”.
– A lot of info on the game can be found at the website.

If you have any questions, you can comment to this post or send me an email, and I’ll be sure to reply as soon as I can.

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Hope to see your artwork in my inbox!

Empire of Blood & Gaspar Saladino

Empire of Blood* is an ambitious comic book project that’s been cooling on the famous ice lately. We have the artwork for the first issue finished and we’ve basically shown the project to every decent publisher out there. Historical stuff is too tough a sell, they say, and Jelena’s unconventional b/w style is apparently also a tough sell in the mainstream market. Let’s agree to disagree, then. We have plans for Empire of Blood, yet haven’t nailed all the details down. The empire will come, in the near future, in the future or in the further away future.

What we have decided, and are extremely happy will come true, is for Gaspar to finish hand-lettering (!) that first issue. In case you don’t know who Gaspar Saladino is, go wiki! We were so fortunate to be able to work with Gaspar for our pitch package, where he hand-lettered (again!) the first 12 pages of our massive 36-page initial issue. His lettering and Jelena’s artwork are a match made in some graphic art heaven.

Now we’ll soon have the rest of the issue “lettered up” and the next piece for world dominion will fall into place. We’d love some help from a publisher, of course – but we aren’t afraid of doing it ourselves.

Here are a couple of double-spreads lettered by the legend himself.

page 13-14 full cor 2 page 15-16

If you want to read our initial issue once we have it lettered and ready, e-mail me and I’ll send you a PDF.

*Empire of Blood is created by me, Michael DeShane and Jelena Djordjevic.

Creating a noir comic book – part 9

Recap:
Part 1 – Idea to concept
Part 2 – Concept to outline
Part 3 – Outline to page breakdown
Part 4 – Scripting and the first step of finding an artist
Part 5 – Finding a great artist
Part 6 – The great artist and defining visuals
Part 7 – From script to finished page
Part 8 – Identity and branding

And that brings us to today’s post, where I’ll talk a bit about the pitch package, your sales document for your comic book, and what to do about it.

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Now, some publishers aren’t open to submissions (seemingly), and some encourage it (seemingly).

Those that state they aren’t open to submissions haven’t stopped looking for content to publish, they just have enough channels and a big enough network to find this content themselves. They know who to get in touch with to get the content they want. That said, if you strike up a conversation with a person from such a publisher and a communicative relationship springs from that initial talk, I’ll bet my left margin that you’ll eventually be able to pitch, show them content or even be asked to pitch for them. You’ve entered their network, their channel. So NO publisher is closed shop. Remember that. There are always ways in, although they might be long and look like a maze.

Then there’s the “other”, seemingly easier side, and that’s the publishers that encourage submissions – usually electronically on their websites. Easy! They’ll usually have rules on how and what to submit – and everyone says you should follow them. I have. (And I haven’t.) But no matter how hard you follow the rules, fact is that putting your content in that submission pile won’t get you far. If we’re talking about the “higher-ups” publishers, at least. And those are the ones we’re aspiring to, no? You’ll have to do the part mentioned in the previous paragraph. Network, meet and greet and get to know. Once your name is on their radar, then they’re more likely to give your submission a proper look. But I’m not saying you shouldn’t submit to these seemingly open publishers – you absolutely should, from the get go. Especially if you’re an artist. Because they’ll see your art and that can lead to things. And extra especially if you’re a writer working with an artist. Send that stuff in so publishers can start to see your artist’s work. Hustle and pimp that lovely lady or handsome bloke. Get their art in front of the eyes of editors, whenever you can, without being a pain in the ass, of course.

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But, all in all, I’m not a fan of does and don’ts, rules and restrictions. I’m not saying break the rules and go crazy, but bend the rules, use some tricks, pick some locks and sneak in where you can. As long as you act professional, humble yet confident and plain ol’ nice – you can get away with a lot of rule-bending. But none of this matters unless you have good content on your hands.

Another issue that arises for me personally is my location. I’m far away from any comic cons where I might meet editors (because meet editors is what you really want to do!). Sure, we have a couple of very nice conventions here in Norway, but usually there’s just a few guests from the States and the UK, and they are always creators. If I want to speak to an editor, I’ll have to fly over to the UK, or better yet the US. So if you have high-profile conventions near you where editors from all walks of comic publisher lives regularly appear, know you are privileged. And take advantage of that.

So, let’s get back to Spiral. Me and Emerson put together a simple and easy submission package, or pitch package, if you prefer. A handful of finished pages (*see below), some character sketches, a quick outline of the content/story**, and our contact info. All in a small, handy PDF. This was back in January, and I had already set my sights on London Super Comic Con (which I’ve been to before) to see if I could get some face-time with editors. There were a few publishers there that were interesting and a fit for Spiral.

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So I flew down to London, which was also a trip to promote and talk to creators about Outré. Together with my co-editor Glenn Møane. I had the Spiral pitch PDF on my iPad and went up and talked to a few editors. (I’ll leave the names up for guessing.) The “industry” says you shouldn’t pitch stuff at the convention floor, because editors either want to sell their books or talk to fans there or just hang out, but here we’re back to the rule-bending business. I introduced myself, talked a bit about their books (which are books I really like and books from creators I like and some I know), told them about my situation and asked about their submission policies. And since I was plain ol’ nice – (hey, I am!) – of course they could take a look. Up comes the iPad and I tell them the sales pitch for our project while I show them the pages. Everyone I showed the pages to, creators, friends, fans and editors really dug them. And I can’t blame them. Emerson’s pages are fantastic. The editors I spoke to asked me to send them the PDF so they could have a proper look at the office. Mission completed.

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And this is where your imaginary high fives, your silent victorious war cries, you on the knees laughing of joy – in your head – soon vanish and turn into a long, long wait. Because that’s what it says on the package: hurry up and wait. The week after, (this is March still), stuff was sent and initial replies were received and the wait for the final “yes, let’s do this, boys” or the “nope, chaps. Next!” began.

And we waited, and waited. But what you need to do in these periods where you are walking the Withering-Soon-Away-From-Waiting-For-That-Email Plains (you’ll walk them a lot), is create, create, create. Me and Emerson quickly began producing more pages, setting our goal on completing the first issue. The indication from peers and editors was that we had something good on our hands. Pages kept coming in from Emerson and the notion of waiting seemed to vanish into the back of my mind. I had started working on other projects at the same time, so you kinda forget you’re waiting.

Then one day, that e-mail came diving into my inbox…

 

*Here are the pages we included in the pitch package. The first 7 pages of Spiral. All art by Emerson Dimaya and lettering by Chris Crank!.

Spiral_01_001 Spiral_01_002 Spiral_01_003 Spiral_01_004 Spiral_01_005 Spiral_01_006 Spiral_01_007

**which is called the pitch text, the hardest part of writing for most writers. It’s hard to distill your own work into a quick and sales-worthy paragraph – but it’s easy to do it to other people’s work. So practice on properties that you like, books, films, comics whatever.

“Disappearing Darlings” going into production

My award-winning short script Disappearing Darlings, an insect noir animation, is going into production this year by Klipp & Lim here in Trondheim. We’re doing a puppet animation style mixed with CGI and other useful tricks to create a dark and filthy world for our characters. Here’s our leading fly, Lieutenant Mike:

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The brilliant puppet is made by Klipp & Lim’s own Svein Erik Okstad. And Jøran Wærdahl is our producer and director.

I can’t wait to see sets being built and these puppets coming to life before the camera. Quite the magical feeling to have imagined something, put it to paper, and then reach this stage and see it come to life. I’ll post more behind the scenes photos once we’re fully into production.

“The Vessel of Terror”: a graphic novel any Lovecraft fan will enjoy

A lovely review of The Vessel of Terror. After 3 years it’s fantastic to see that the book still turns heads.

Lovecraft eZine

The oceans provide 99 percent of the Earth’s living space — the largest known space in our universe to harbour living organisms.  Over 90% of this habitat exists in the deep sea known as the abyss.  Less than 10% of this living space has been explored by humans.

The Challenger Deep outside Asia is the deepest known location on Earth: 10,916 metres (35,813 feet, 6.78 miles), 2 kilometres deeper than Mt. Everest is tall.  The water pressure is more than 8 tons per square inch, the equivalent of one person trying to support 50 jumbo jets…

Fear of the unknown.  Alien horror.  Hopelessness.

The Vessel of Terror has all of that in spades, and from the very first pages, a feeling of doom permeates.

Tracking whales in the north Atlantic ocean, the research vessel Alesia discovers and captures what they think is a Magnapinna Squid.  The researchers are elated, but…

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