Category Archives: 92

92 Walking the Path

by Trisha Sugarek

92Koning1IM: Where do you write? Do you have a special room, shed, barn, special space for your writing? Or tell us about your ‘dream’ work space.

MK: I mostly write in my home office. It is a quiet part of the house, and my room to do with what I want. However, with that said, I keep my mind open to write just about anywhere the inspiration or idea(s) hits me. For example, I keep a notepad with me when I am out for a walk with my dog, so that I can pull over and take a seat on a rock to scribble out my notes. I’ll also spend time (during the spring, summer, fall months) sitting out on my front patio, thinking up ideas. Likewise, out on my waterfront dock, where I’ll often take a notebook.

IM: Do you have any special rituals when you sit down to write?

MK: I tend to pace and talk to myself, talking out the first few sentences or paragraphs before I sit down and get my fingers moving. Every so often, I’ll take a break and do the entire thing over again. It is the best way to allow my mind to accept the story I’m putting to paper. Of course, while I am writing, I may alter things a bit, but this is how I start and keep going. Also, I need to have notepads or paper at the side, so that I can jot things down to either recall at a later time or work out, if I need to.

As someone living with a brain injury sustained from childhood, this ritual allows me to break up my writing into sections and, therefore, not become too overwhelming, tiring, (what I call writing fatigue), or frustrating.

I also like to have with me a warm cup of tea and a few cookies to munch on. J

IM: Could you tell us something about yourself that we might not already know?

MK: Well, I think the biggest thing about me, I just revealed in that second question: that I live with a brain injury, which has brought to my life, also, a learning disability.

Because the two are very similar, but not always necessarily paired together, I want to provide the definitions for those who may not fully understand:

Brain injury: An acquired brain injury (ABI) is damage to the brain which occurs after birth, due to a traumatic event, such as a blow to the head, or a non-traumatic event, such as a medical event (stroke, etc). Symptoms of a brain injury can include (but are not limited to): Unconsciousness; confusion and disorientation; difficulty remembering new information; headache; dizziness; trouble speaking coherently; changes in emotions or sleep patterns.

Learning disability: a condition giving rise to difficulties in acquiring knowledge and skills to the level expected of those of the same age, especially when not associated with a physical handicap.

I have written about my struggles in my latest book, titled Challenging Barriers & Walking the Path. I include in my book my writing journey and how I have found it very therapeutic and inspirational.

IM: Do you have a set time each day to write or do you write only when you are feeling creative?

92Koning2MK: Being so busy with work and other things around the house, it’s sometimes hard for me to set a time to sit down and write. I also don’t want to force my brain to do something it can’t because it is preoccupied or tired. I write when the moment is right. The feeling of creativity or inspiration is not always difficult for me to find, it is the moments where my mind can settle and I can find the time…. I hope this makes sense.

IM: What’s your best advice to other writers for overcoming procrastination?

MK: Don’t put too much thought into it; let it be natural. Every writer is their own person and should go with what works for them. Be open-minded to listening to others offer best practices, maybe try them out, but go with only what fits best for you. If writing is what you really want to do, try not to let others steer you away from what you want with negativity. While you can learn, grow and improve, don’t let someone tell you that you cannot be a writer. It’s your course, not theirs.

IM: Where/when do you first discover your characters?

MK: Because my latest book is my story (a memoir) the characters in it were always part of my life, especially me. J In my fictional stories, namely my first book (and series) Chronicles of a Girl, I first discovered my character Chloe in a dream and she grew as I thought and wrote about her. Most of my main characters are already (sort of) established/discovered/created before I start writing, but every so often, a new one or a bigger meaning for an already existing character pops up as the writing, the story and ideas flow.

IM: What inspired your story/stories? 

MK: Well, I have always liked characters with deep-rooted meaning and purpose, and hidden abilities that show compassion and strength, but it is life in general that kind of inspires me. The experiences I go through and things I have learned or witnessed, and then creating a spin on it…. That’s for fiction.

For non-fiction, such as my memoir or the blogs I write, it is the same things; inspiration from experiences. But also the idea of inspiring and sharing with others.

Standing/sitting on my waterfront dock, staring out into the big blue lake is very peaceful; it helps clear my mind, and I find it inspiring alone.

IM: Do you get lost in your writing?

MK: I do. I sometimes find that the characters and worlds I create through fictional writing are easier for me to relate to than the real world I live in. But it is those characters and worlds that help me deal with things. Although sometimes, it is just fun to get lost. I enjoy reflecting on ‘what happened’ (which I feel can provide growth or better understanding) and ‘what if’ scenarios.

IM: Who or what is your “muse” at the moment?

MK: This is a hard question for me. Can I say that ‘life’ is my muse? From my family and friends, to my dog, to my surroundings; which is why I said in an earlier question that creativity and inspiration are not difficult to find.

IM: When did you begin to write seriously? 

92Koning3MK: Upon reflection, I have come to realize that creative writing and storytelling have always been part of who I am. But I began really taking writing seriously when I began working backstage in production at the historical Red Barn theater which, sadly, was destroyed by a fire in 2009. It was helpful for me and my job to read through scripts, to get an idea of how the show was supposed to go. I would also sometimes help actors with lines during rehearsals. I can’t say specifically what it was, but something in my head just clicked and I suddenly wanted to learn more about—and polish up on—something I always enjoyed.

Over the years, through writing, I have come across moments of self-discovery, and so, it has also become a serious coping and therapeutic tool for me.

IM: How long after that were you published?

MK: I began working at the Red Barn in ‘93 and it was after that first season that I enrolled into a creative writing program. It was a correspondence program, so I got to work at my own pace. It wasn’t until 2007 that my first book, Chronicles of a Girl, was published. During those fourteen years in between was my schooling that I mentioned, a handful of short stories and articles (some that made it to print in magazines and papers), and some personal matters that were tragic, but also eye-opening.

IM: What makes a writer great?

MK: I think a great writer is someone who is strong and true to themselves. Someone who is unafraid of venturing into something new. (When I say ‘unafraid’ I don’t necessarily mean ‘not scared,’ I just mean willing to go forward and not give up) Someone who is open minded to changes and different rituals, someone who isn’t blinded to their way being the only correct way. Someone who knows that perfection and greatness are not achieved through one’s own style or methods, nor just through pleasing others (for example: writing within the current trend), but together. Write for others just as much as you write for yourself. For me, there are no rules and there is no genre, there are just great words and great stories.

IM: What does the process of going from “no book” to “finished book” look like for you?  

MK: I make plenty of notes for myself, I draw maps, and I visualize. My stories have to flow like a good movie within my mind. I talk to myself as if I’m already reading the book (by sections) and sometimes, I even get up from my chair and act out the scene. I try to create timelines for myself, but I try not to worry about them too much, so I won’t just end up getting overly frustrated.

IM: How have your life experiences influenced your writing/stories?

MK: Growing up with the challenges I did, even though hard at times, taught me to see the value in so many things… words, actions, ideas. I enjoy the idea of inspiring and sharing. I am learning and growing all of the time and I feel my writing craft and my stories are right there with me. I see the potential in almost everything and I am willing to explore. I have been seeing things this way since a very early age.

IM: Have you written, or do you want to write in another genre?  

MK: The word ‘genre’ seems to be how we categorize our stories and books, but like me, I don’t feel they can be categorized. I have been through so much and still go through things. I don’t quite understand the need for labels, but I go with what works. Only if I do, it happens after I have written.

I never set out to write Challenging Barriers & Walking the Path as a ‘memoir,’ per se, I just wanted to tell the story of me and what I’ve gone through. Just like with my first book, Chronicles of a Girl. It wasn’t until quite a while after I was done that I realized it falls under “dystopian fiction”.

I write what I write.

IM: Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know?

MK: Whether I become a well-known, “famous” author, remain a somewhat hidden gem, make lots of money, or just enough to survive, writing is me. Books, blogs, or short stories, I’ll always be writing somewhere, and the best somewhere to find me and my work is at www.markkoning.comIM91-Zad13

For more interviews with your favorite authors, visit Trisha Sugarek *** Writer at Play ***

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92 Odds and Ends

By Ellen Fleischer

92moyer1Bob Moyer began recreational writing to entertain his then-three-year-old granddaughter, with Fast Food, the story of a hapless spider who was slower than his prey. From there, he honed his talents on wit and whimsy, which has led him to pen The Wizard Was Odd—a reimagining of the L. Frank Baum classic, from Toto’s perspective. This trilogy, with maps by Christian Stiehl and illustrations by Ruslan Vigovsky, is nearly complete and a Kickstarter campaign to finance publication is slated to begin this summer. Bob sat down with us this month to give us an overview of his project and what it’s taken to get him to this point.

IM: Let’s start with your background. Tell us a bit about who you are, where you’re from, and what it was like for you growing up.

BM: I was born on a mountaintop in St. Petersburg, Florida. Well, not quite a mountaintop—it was more like a mound… Mound Park Hospital, to be exact. Growing up was different in St. Petersburg. For the longest time, that decrepit little town was known for its old people and green benches. When I grew up, benches and old folk were everywhere. If you didn’t take care, you would constantly be tripping over one or the other. Then, when I was a teenager, I witnessed the “great divide”. The construction of interstate I-275 split the sleepy little town of St. Petersburg into east and west, causing misgivings and significant animosity between folks split by the interstate. The separation died an early death once both sides realized that they could access the interstate without having to make a U-turn. Other than that, my earlier years were uneventful.

IM: What sparked your interest in writing? Have you had taken any formal training or creative writing classes?

BM: Like most kids, I took a creative writing course, when offered as part of the curriculum. Though I enjoyed writing poetry, I never took the time to do well with it. As an adult, I have considerable experience in technical writing relating to my livelihood. My wife Janet and I have an adult babysitting service (we manage condominiums and home owner associations). So, my writing has been industry-specific to the statutes, trials, and tribulations of communal living.

92moyer2That changed in in the year 2010. I had my first grandchild, joined the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), and made a terrible mess with words for the first two or three years. Finally, when Madeline was three or so, I completed a story, found an illustrator, and printed off my first picture book, called Fast Food. Fast Food is about a spider whose food (his neighbors) is faster than he. When I shared it with my granddaughter, her understanding of the plot had nothing to do with my story. She had no idea that the spider was out to eat his neighbors; instead, she looked at me sadly and said, “The poor spider. No one wants to be his friend.” That was when I knew my brain was not a “picture book brain,” and I moved on to an older audience.

My interest in creative writing started about five years ago when I was reading a good deal of Dr. Seuss to my granddaughter. At the time I had two dogs and seven cats. Their behavior was foolish and their interaction with my granddaughter was captivating. From the meager recesses of my mind, there erupted a Seussian volcano of great magnitude.

IM: Which authors would you say inspired you the most?

BM: The authors that inspired me the most… Dr. Seuss, for sure. His clever use of rhyme and simplicity of meter was remarkable. Mark Twain’s sense of humor and wit, definitely. Otherwise, I am a fantasy freak. I started with Poe, stalled out at Lovecraft, Blackwood, Hodgson, and a number of other pulp fiction writers… My parents were collectors of pulp. Bram Stoker and Mary Shelley top my list of classical authors. Semi-modern: Jack London (Sea Wolf). Modern favorites are Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, Dean Koontz, Isaac Asimov (for his Foundation series), and Frank Herbert (for his Dune series).

IM: Have you published any other works before Wizard was Odd?

Other than self-publishing Fast Food for my grandchildren, I haven’t published anything else. When I first began recreational writing in 2010, I strived to be a Seussian Clone. Rhyme came easily, but my meter was terrible. While I spent a good year trying to master meter, it became apparent in my discussions with publishers, and literary agents, that NO ONE had any interest in another Dr. Seuss. In fact, mentioning his name was the literary kiss of death.

Unable to master metering and able to blame my attention deficit on ADHD, I moved about on wit and whimsy. My favorite chapter books that survived the scrutiny of my critique group are: Monocle Man, Boy, and the Insidious Grandfather Clock; The Calamitous Attitude of Kat Katitude; Lump of Dog; and Every Creature Needs a Teacher. I also started a mythological novel called The Wonders of Everything, but I set this project aside when I became captivated by The Wizard Was Odd. So, in summary, the wellsprings my interests and subject matter flow from are foolishness or fantasy, and often, they are inseparable.

IM: Your current project is drawn from L. Frank Baum’s Wizard of Oz. What was/is it about the source material that attracted you?

92moyer3BM: The origin of this fantasy The Wizard Was Odd is also odd. It was on a Friday, at the end of a long day, and an even longer week. My wife Janet and I, we’re driving to dinner, chilling out. I heard her sigh, and turned to find her loving eyes locked on mine. I said the only thing that came to mind. “So, Toto, how is Dorothy?” I can’t remember the answer, but it was here that the concept, The Wizard of Oz from Toto’s perspective found fertile soil.

IM: Would you say that you’re more influenced by the films, the original novel, or by one or more of the many adaptations/transformations?

I reckon that the source of inspiration for this series stems from the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz. I was also influenced by my younger sister, Laura as this film was her favorite “of all time”.

As my series progressed, I read all of Frank Baum’s fourteen Oz books, but have no experience with the countless number of adaptations. Recently, I was curious to find if there were other Wizard novels from Toto’s point of view. I did find one, but but have not taken the time to review it.

IM: How have you spun the classic story? Can you give us an elevator pitch?

BM: Elevator Pitch: A couple of days in Oz equal a year in Kansas where Uncle Henry is dying. If the Wizard will provide the cure, will Dorothy find her way home… and in time to make a difference? Alongside Toto, you will ride in the front seat of a thrilling and emotional roller coaster throughout the magical Land of Oz… and beyond. This Wizard of Oz takeoff is a multidimensional plot-twister as told from Toto’s perspective that includes an updated original cast and a host of other wondrous, quirky social misfits. With many surprises along the way, this complex and intriguing parody has as much tongue-in-cheek humor as it does original content, adventure, mystery, fantasy, and romance.

IM: Tell us a bit about how you portray Toto. How does he perceive his life in Kansas and his experiences in Oz?

BM: Toto is a little bucktooth terrier who hides his inferiority complex with a preposterous attitude. In the first chapter, ( while being carried aloft by the tornado, William, a milk cow, seeks refuge in Toto’s and Dorothy’s cabin. Toto is quick to set down the rules:

“Three points you need to remember, William, and we will all get along fine.” With an authority that I did not feel, I continued. “First, I am in charge. If I say jump over the moon, you do it. Second, please shut the door, it is windy out there. Third, I am in charge of all of the milk that Dorothy squeezes out of you, and fourth, if you have any questions refer to point number one.”

Truth be told…Toto carries the terrible burden of responsibility for Dorothy’s safety while trying to deal with the realities of the physical limitations of his smaller size. When he is not wearing his “protector” shoes, he strives to be the adult in their relationship.

IM: You’ve broken down the story into a trilogy. What are you dealing with in each part of the narrative?

BM: The first book takes place in Eastern Oz and follows the yellow brick road from the Land of the Munchkins to the Emerald City. There are distinct deviations in plot, geography, and topography, but basically, Toto’s Eastern Oz is similar to the original Oz of L. Frank Baum.

92moyer4I have included the map for the setting of the second book, Trail of Tears, which takes place in Western Oz. Except as a point of reference, Western Oz did not exist in Baum’s Oz series and, except for an adaptation of those Lying Flying Monkeys, all else is about the setting, plot, and characters are unique. Western Oz is fraught with mystery and danger. It encompasses Lovecraft’s Necronomicon in the Mountains of Madness, the spiritual vampires in the Valley of Vegans, the firewalkers of the No-Name Gorge, and the mysteries of the Dreadful Wilds. Book Two will stretch the reader’s imagination and its dark side will stress their emotions. A new chapter is posted each week at or

In the third book, unknown forces split the comrades. The settings take place in both Western Oz and the Dow’nunder—which I can’t describe any better than this elderly munchkin….

“East of us, far, but still in the Land of the Munchkins,” said one, “is the Dow’nunder.”

“The Dow’nunder,” Dorothy said with a twist of her head. “You mean a gorge?’

“Nay,” the Munchkin shook his head. “There the Maker lifted the skin of the world. Like a shaved peel that rests upon its apple, the everyday world remains atop that peel and continues on as always. The land beneath the skin o’ the world follows the curve of the earth past the burgs of Twi Night, Gloam, and Darksville. Further east, is Shadowland. The whole of this, m’dear, is the Dow’nunder.”

The final book promises the reader edge-of-the-seat suspense, surprise, wit, and tongue-in-cheek humor. It also ties up loose ends and innuendos raised in the earlier books that nag, tease, and beg for answers.

IM: How did you hook up with Christian Stiehl and Ruslan Vigovsky?

BM: In the fall of 2014, I needed a cartographer to help design my map of Western Oz. I checked out the Cartographer’s Guild, found a particular map style that I liked, reached out to its creator, Christian Stiehl, and we worked out an arrangement. Christian is a very talented graphic designer/artist and I can’t say enough about his patience, professionalism, and dedication. He spent many more hours than he bargained for and I couldn’t have found a better artist for this assignment. If you are ever able to experience the map in its full megapixel size, the detail will blow you away.

At the same time, I sought out an artist for my book covers. I created a challenge on and several artists provided their “vision” of the first book cover, The Wizard Was Odd. I selected the draft created by Ruslan Vigovsky. Over the next couple of month’s we firmed up the final cover. Ruslan has worked with me ever since. I plan on portraying sixteen full-color character scenes for the series. To date, we have completed three, and are finalizing the second book cover of the trilogy, Trail of Tears. I commend Ruslan and Christian for their patience and guidance. Not having an artistic bone in my body, I communicated with descriptions and images when possible. The basis of the project began with what I thought I wanted… until they created it. More often than not, it took multiple mock-ups for me to see what I did not want before we got to the end result!

IM: What are you doing currently to market/promote your work?

BM: Since my series is not yet available, I have nothing to market. My goal for the immediate future is to raise public awareness through Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, before I launch the series with Kickstarter in summer 2016.

IM: What advice would you give to someone planning to self-publish a graphic novel?

BM: I wrote a series that no conventional publisher wanted, leaving me with self-publishing as my only option. However, there are a staggering number of self-published books screaming for attention. Self-promotion and extensive marketing are required to compete. Extensive marketing requires considerable $$$. This is my plan…. Take a look; you can follow along. It may send you running or give you some insight—in what not to do!

I began writing the series in 2012 and completed books one and two in 2014. During those years, I submitted a number of critiques, pitched the book to publishers, agents, and pretty much anyone that would listen. Folks shivered and shuddered. No one would touch the series! Those in the “know” believe the topic has been used, abused, and if the public has not had enough of The Wizard of Oz, the trade surely has. 

So…what is one to do? Self-publish of course. No problem, right? …Because there are sooooo many DIY publishers. However, the challenge lies not in the publishing. The challenge is to avoid being crushed and buried under a mountainous heap of millions and… millions of other self-published novels.

I have never been lucky, so leaving the book’s likelihood of success in the hands of fate seemed foolish. So… in addition to self-publishing, I had to figure out a strategy for self-marketing and publicizing. It didn’t take me too many minutes to learn that self-marketing is a lot more complicated and EXPENSIVE than self-publishing. Armed with this disappointing knowledge, I set my sights on devising a marketing plan and, in time, I came up with a good one. A good one costs money… lots of money. After more research, I believed I could raise the necessary capital through Kickstarter crowd funding.

Ones success in funding through Kickstarter is a process that requires a personal investment of time, some money, and lots of energy. With Kickstarter, patrons contribute financial support in exchange for “rewards”. The rewards I intend to offer on the lower end are color posters, e-books, and paperbacks. Contributors on the high end will be offered rewards of limited edition art and limited editions of The Wizard Was Odd series. 

Offering limited edition art and books was a choice I made because, in my estimation, marketing the trilogy effectively requires at least $40,000. The only way I can expect that kind of support from my patrons is to offer them items and keepsakes of value in exchange for their faith and support.  

IM: What’s next on your horizon?

BM: In closing, I also intend to reach out to Spanish-speaking patrons by translating portions of Kickstarter and I have already had some snafus with that. In any event, I expect to launch my Kickstarter campaign no later than June of 2016.  

IM: Finally, how can folks keep up with you and your work?

BM: You can follow along by checking out my two blogs. A Brick at a Time is a sharing of what I am going through with publishing, self-publishing, social media, Kickstarter – a diary of sorts. Scene and Character Development is a sharing of the conversations as well as drafts and development – the creation of scene, character, and cover art. Also:




IM: Thanks so much!

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92 A Written View

Authors, Agents, Editors, and Publishers —Who’s the Devil in Disguise?

By Doug Owen

DougHeader-webYears ago, an author would write their manuscript, polish it, have people check spelling and grammar, and then submit it for publication. That author could wait for months before hearing any type of hint about possibly getting their work into print. A frustrating experience for anyone.

Along came the agent—that special person who promised the golden key to print. They took the manuscript, edited it with the author, held their hand, hugged them when needed, lifted their spirits, and generally became a buffer zone between the author and publisher. Negotiations happened and the agent grabbed at every scrap of fat left in the coffers of the publisher, trying desperately to earn one more cent per print copy.

Then self-publishing erupted around the world. Authors, regardless of their skill, ability, patience, or care, could have their work out in the wild through print or digital. Gems have come into the world through this practice, but it’s still been mostly coal that has populated the bookshelves of readers everywhere.

Regardless of the desire, many authors have relied on lesser-skilled individuals, sometimes not because they didn’t care, but because they were taken in by the promises of greater things. And even I, a steadfast content editor only looking for a second pair of eyes, have been taken by those just looking for a quick buck.

Sites like Fiverr, Upwork, Freelancer, and such are magnets for those has-beens and wannabes trying to separate you from your money. They promise the world at a cut-throat rate, only to supply very little in return.

As an author, I always hire someone to look over my offerings. Sometimes I’ve been surprised by the response and pleased by the results, while others have taken me for a ride. This is what happened on my first book: a wannabe talked me into believing they were an editor of renown, citting novels they’d worked on and projects they’d completed. The second editor was not much better. Now, I look closely at credentials and do research on everyone who looks at my work. I’m not saying that my work resembles the likes of Terry Brooks or Issaac Asimov, but to many fans, it is right up there.

So, keeping this in mind, what should a new author do? What are the mistakes and pitfalls to look out for? How do you protect yourself? Well, here are some simple things to look out for.

Mistakes when Dealing with Agents


One of the biggest issues is an author submitting to both an agent and a small press at the same time. Agents don’t have the staff to review submissions quickly. Generally, there are only a few people (if not only one) looking over the submissions. The same goes with micro presses. A small press publisher could have a few people whose job is to just read submissions and decide if they are good enough to fly through. They devour submissions at an alarming rate and, sometimes, grab even the questionable ones in order to get something out there.

Also, some of those presses may have predatory deals, no distribution other than what YOU—the author—secure, and their covers look no better than what my cat left on the kitchen floor last night. Good luck to your baby, and I hope you have a lot of friends who will make the publisher money.

All is fine if what you want is someone to publish your book, but don’t expect an agent to sign you. Probably, you’ll never get another response from that agent again. You could have gotten better. At least you’d know how far that mass of words would go.

Self-Publishing a Book that is Submitted

You just signed up with an agent, and they are working the manuscript through some big name publishers, but rejections start to come through. Panic rises in your throat and you push the novel through CreateSpace or Book Baby. Now, you are self-published.

What is your agent going to think? They need to be told. Always keep communications open with your agent. Talk to them; they are spending an awful amount of time trying to get your manuscript purchased by a publisher, and nothing will kill a relationship like going behind their back. It will also mean they have to pull the book from submission, for an editor would be furious if they found out the author had already self-published the work they were considering, and they did not know about it.

Note: most publishers will not sign a manuscript that has previously been self-published.

An Agent is not a Publicist

If a manuscript is self-published and does poorly, some authors think they need an agent to help market the book. The agent can’t help. A publicist is what you need, not an agent. Yes, they may have publicists in house, but that is not what they are for.

Self-publishing is a business. You must be an author, editor, publicist, marketer, and salesman all rolled into one. Thinking that the world will beat down your door to purchase that book is something unrealistic in today’s bloated publishing world.

The internet is not the answer either. Slinging your book out there like a log on fire and expecting it to become a bestseller will only leave you with disappointment.

Self-Publishing Because an Agent Said No

So, one agent told you ‘no thanks,’ and you fling the work into self-publishing, hoping for that brass ring. Why?

There could be a number of reasons why the agent turned you away. Maybe they have a lot of manuscripts they are working on, or your genre is way out of their grasp. Could it be that you have not put the time nor effort into the work to make it sign?

Negotiate Foreign Rights

You self-publish and sell a few thousand copies. Thinking this is great, you contact an agent and ask them to sell the foreign rights to a publisher. But the actual book has run its course.

Most agents don’t negotiate only foreign rights, they do all or none. So asking them to do this would be like asking a plumber to do electrical work. What you need is a foreign rights specialist. Yes, some agents are specialists in this, so you have to find one of those to approach.

Do You Really Want an Agent?

Agents are great, but they do cost money. The average agent takes 15 percent of your novel income. Generally, they deserve every penny. Most agents work ten hours a day, seven days a week, 364 days a year. It is a nonstop business of proposals, contracts, and hand holding. They read more words than you could imagine, talk to editors from many different publishing companies, and do more to earn every single penny they take from you.

But if you are going to self-publish, you really don’t need an agent. If you submit to small press publishers, you don’t need an agent. The only time you want one is if you are after one of the big five publishers; then you need an agent.

Editors and Predators

Yes, there is a website by that name, and they track those poor souls who think they can get away with ripping people off. When you are looking at a website advertising editing services, or hiring a freelancer, always run their name against that website. It could save you a lot of money.

Even if your editor checks out, you should test them. Put some homonyms (not hominins) in your writing, but record where they appear. If the editor catches them, they did a good job. Also have a few style changes, like one or two sentences with double spacing after the period (if you don’t use single spacing after a period by now, change it). You could also use some very obscure grammatical errors to see how advanced they are, like ‘chomping at the bit,’ because it is actually ‘champing at the bit’.

Publishers are Greedy!

Actually, if you saw how much money they gamble on an author you wouldn’t think so. Yes, they are a business and looking for profit, but what they get out of your book may not be as much as you think. Let’s break it down to what they spend before they even see one cent of return:

  1. Advance— If warranted, they will give an advance to a writer. (From $500+)
  2. Editing— Yes, they pay for editing. (Editors do not work for free). (Around $3,000 depending on length of manuscript)
  3. Artwork—An artist or digital artwork creates the cover and other products. ($500+)
  4. Advertising—Costs money, and depending on their resources, could be large. ($300+)
  5. Ingram Distribution (Minimum $50 per title/format)
  6. Printing— The wild card. They usually order at least 3,000 print copies, say $3 each. ($9,000)
  7. Audio Book— Creating one involves hiring a voice actor. ($5,000)
  8. Press Release— Someone has to write it.($25;Distribution, $100)
  9. Meetings and Discussions— People are still paid. ($5,000)

So, that is just a light overview on one publication, say a 300 page novel. Imagine, if you will, if that book does not sell. The only thing they can recoup is the advance. So, they are out $14,000 before a single book sells. Still think they are greedy?

Authors Cry!

As the creator of the work, you sweated, toiled, cried, screamed, banged your head, and otherwise died inside to make this manuscript. And that is only the first draft. After a year of writing and rewriting, the thing stings your eyes so much you cannot see anything wrong on the pock-marked screen. Then you have people critique it and rewrite a few more times. An editor goes over it for you, both content and SPAG (Spelling, Punctuation, and Grammar, if you didn’t know). When you get it back, the work is polished.

Agents will see your work or a slush pile is created for it.

Yes, you bled for it.

Yes, you cried for it.

Don’t be demanding.

The publisher, unless they are really a poor excuse for a company, will make sure you get every cent owed to you. Always read your contract. If they are demanding rights without paying you for them, that is a problem. But if the contract says you receive X percent for revenue generated by the work, just ask where to sign. That is being fair.

92ads3When you look at it from all sides, there is no devil, just people trying to create a great experience for a reader. Look at it that way and life will be good.

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92 A Mystery Writer’s Mind

By M.J. Moores

92pattenden6I had the pleasure to speak with indy author and mystery writer Nanci M. Pattenden for this issue. Her Detective Hodgins novella series is a nice change to the ‘over-graphic’ nature of adult writing these days. I have read both books in the series and find them a great little escape, perfect for commuters or something interesting (but not epic) before bed.

Nanci shares her insights on her Detective Hodgins Victorian murder mystery series, writing habits, muses, and time in the trenches mastering her craft.

MJ: What drew you to the mystery genre?

NP: I’ve always enjoyed reading mysteries and true crime stories. I don’t really know why specifically. I just find it fascinating. The reasons people give for committing crimes and the ingenious and sometimes totally weird ways they come up with to ‘do someone in’ are mind-blowing. Reading the mysteries and trying to figure out who the killer is can be fun. It’s also frustrating when the author decides to keep one major clue out of the story, only to be revealed at the end, so the reader has no real way to sleuth along with the investigator. It’s way more fun when you ‘help’ find out who did it and remember when the main clue was introduced, usually in the most innocent way, so you didn’t realize at the time that it was important.

MJ: Would you ever consider writing in a different genre?

NP: For sure. I’ve always wanted to write horror, or even comedy. I’ve got most of Stephen King’s books, and many from John Saul and Mary Higgins Clark. I also enjoy reading Stephanie Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series. Her books are funny, even though they’re murder mysteries. I’ve started the occasional short story in horror or comedy, but they don’t go where I want them to, so they are just residing inside the computer for now. I’ll get back to them one day.

MJ: What are your favorite scenes to write and why?

92pattenden5NP: I don’t really have a favorite type of scene, but I seem to get quite into dialogue. A lot of people have trouble with it and write pages and pages of narration and description. I’m the opposite. Dialogue comes pretty easy, but the details have to be drawn out of me. My editor is great at suggesting areas for me to expand on. I’ve read so many books where the author drones on and on about stuff that has nothing to do with the story. Makes me think the author is simply trying to beef up the word count. As a result, I’m afraid of over-describing and risking boring my readers. I don’t want them to flip past pages, as I sometimes find myself doing.

MJ: Could you tell us a bit about your writing process? How do you get ideas for your stories and then translate them into a book?

NP: I generally get my ideas from stories I’ve read in the old newspapers. I like to go into the issues from the mid-1800s to early 1900s, as they gave so much detail and, as Mark Twain said, “Truth is stranger than fiction.” When I come across something that grabs my attention, I write down the details that I decide are important, build my story around those points, and then I change and add whatever is necessary. I don’t outline or build character sketches before I start. Many people say that’s the only way to start, but everyone works differently. I’m what’s called a pantser. Basically, I fly by the seat of my pants when writing. I do have a general idea of where I’m going, but frequently don’t know who the killer is until I’m near the end of the story. Sometimes, while editing, the murderer turns out to be someone else. I think if I did a full outline and profiled my main characters, I’d never get the story started.

MJ: What was the most difficult scene for you to write in your Detective Hodgins series to date?

NP: I think the most difficult scene was in book two, Death on Duchess Street, when the father came home to find his daughter dead. It wasn’t difficult because it was a young girl who was murdered, but because I needed to have details without making it gory. My books lean towards the cozy side, even though, technically, they aren’t. Because I want to keep them more on the lighter side, I needed to set the scene without totally grossing out the readers. I think I managed to convey his reaction with a slightly disturbing but pertinent description of the room. I also managed to lighten it up a bit with the constable’s reaction outside the house, when he called for backup.

MJ: If you could meet one of your characters from the Detective Hodgins series, who would it be? Where would you meet? And what do you think you’d talk about?

92pattenden4NP: That’s a hard one to answer. I think I’d like to meet Constable Barnes. He’s a bit of a klutz, but he’s also a fast learner and very interested in climbing the police ladder to become a detective. I hope we wouldn’t meet at the police station, but rather a chance meeting, say on the street while shopping, chatting with him while he is in the midst of his rounds and finding out why he became a cop and why he enjoys it so much. He’s young and naïve, but not stupid.

MJ: What insights or advice can you impart to new and emerging writers, based on your experience?

NP: The main advice is what many writers say—just write. Place bottom in chair and fingers on keyboard (or pen to paper) and write. It doesn’t have to be good. That will come later. Just get in the habit of writing whatever strikes your fancy. I’m also a believer in education. So many colleges and universities offer full or part time courses on creative writing. In order to learn the craft better, I took the creative writing program online through the University of Calgary, and have just started a more genre-specific program online through the University of Toronto. You don’t need to take courses at that level though. Many local high schools offer evening courses, which is where I started my writing education. You can also find some free course online. Read books and blogs on the craft. Join a writing group, or start one of your own. If there isn’t one locally, find one on the internet. There are many free or low-cost writing websites for both new and experienced authors.

MJ: Finally, what projects are you currently working on? Can you reveal any juicy hints?

92pattenden1NP: I’ve been working on a story that I started for one of my courses. It’s totally out of my comfort zone—it’s sort of a fantasy/new adult book about an almost twenty-one year old who has inherited her grandmother’s house. Her family practice a type of Celtic witchcraft and she is weeks away from the initiation on her twenty-first birthday. Her mother is dead, her grandmother just died, and she’s trying to figure out how to complete the ceremony on her own. She’ll discover some interesting—and possibly disturbing—things about her family and the deaths of her family members.

I do also have a third installment planned for Detective Hodgins involving his older brother, but I haven’t started working on it yet.

MJ: It’s been a pleasure chatting with you today. Thank you again for stopping by and sharing your experiences and stories with us.

92pattenden2NP: Thank you MJ. It’s been a treat talking about my book and the writing process. Thank you for taking time to chat with me.

Nanci M. Pattenden is a genealogist and a fiction writer, with non-fiction articles in The Attic, Ancestors, and Site Lines. She is currently working on a collection of detective stories set in Victorian Toronto, as well as a novel based on an 1891 murder involving a young relative.

Body in the Harbour and Death on Duchess Street are the first two novellas in the Detective Hodgins series, published by Murder Does Pay, Ink.

Nanci lives in Southern Ontario with her diabetic cat Sandy, and has completed the Creative Writing program at the University of Calgary.

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IM90-moores1Interviewer: M.J. Moores *** Infinite Pathways *** ***


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92 Aces and Eights

By Steven Pennella

92aces6Aces and Eights Press is a small press comic book publisher specializing in quality, creator-owned, digital first, comic books. Co-founded by Frank Mula (co-President, EIC) and Sal Brucculeri (co-President, Creative Director), AA88 prides itself in establishing new comic professionals with quality creator-owned projects. I met Frank and Sal back in July 2015 at the Great Eastern Comic Convention in Morristown, New Jersey and we discussed the possibility of an interview for Indyfest Magazine. Today the possible is now.

IM: Which character or comic book began you love affair with the medium?

92aces7FM: I have read comics for as long as I can remember. My father used to read them on his commute home and then pass them off to me. The earliest comic I can remember was SUPER POWERS V2 Issue 3. It was this great comic drawn by Jack Kirby and had Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, and Doctor Fate battling the Easter Island Heads come to life. Something about that comic really appealed to me as a kid. Could be the awesome Kirby artwork or the cool colors or, maybe, just the idea that these three superheroes all teamed up. I just loved it!

SB: While my first comic was the original black and white TMNT comic (not sure what issue…), my love affair with comics started with Batman. I was a 90s kid and my favorite show was Batman: The Animated Series, but when I found out there was a Batman comic, with stories I’d never seen before, I just had to read them. I was also reading Erik Larsen’s Savage Dragon and Jim Lee’s X-Men.

IM: How long have you two known each other?

FM: Jeez… has to be like ten years now, I would say. Sal is married to my cousin, so he is family.

SB: Yup, ten years. When my wife told me her cousin was just as into comics as myself, I was relieved. Not too many people I know are into comics, so to find some common ground with my girlfriend’s (at the time) family, I knew it was meant to be.

IM: Can you tell us a little about your professional life in comics before you started Aces and Eights Press?

92aces1FM: There isn’t much to tell there. I worked at a few comic book stores as a teenager, but I don’t have many credits outside of what we are doing with Aces and Eights. Most of my background on the creative side of things pre-comics falls into film, working on a few indy film shorts, most of which never really went anywhere.

SB: Well, I’ve been writing my whole life. I actually went to school for TV production in order to learn how to write comics. Is that weird? I have a few little credits here and there in comics, nothing to brag about. I started with a webcomic back in early 2013, finished it, and then moved on to C U Next Tuesday.

IM: Sal Brucculeri: You started the C U Next Tuesday webcomic in 2013? Was this originally part of the Aces and Eights Press, or did that happen later on?

SB: Yeah, the amazing artist Ibai Canales and I linked up through DeviantArt. I loved his art and basically laid it all on the line to try to earn his partnership. About a week or so in, and we were partners in our little venture known as C U Next Tuesday. We started it at and, from December of 2013 to today, we update one page a week every Tuesday. AA88 Press is how we collect and distribute pages into serialized comic for print, as well as on Comixology.

IM: When did you two decide to form Aces and Eights Press?

92aces2FM: Sal had already been working on C U Next Tuesday and a few other projects. I thought it was really cool that he was making comics and doing his thing under his own label, which was called Captive Comics at the time. I decided I wanted to throw my hat into the comic book business ring as well, and started working on The Devil You Know. I pitched it around and had a few people interested, but for the most part, at the time, most publishers believed the market was oversaturated with stories that revolved around Heaven or Hell.

Both of us had pretty much hit a brick wall submitting to the upper echelon of comic publishers, and we decided to come together and create our own label as a home for these projects, as well as any other projects that would come our way that couldn’t find a home. We both felt that there were a lot of quality books out there… GREAT stories that deserved to be told… that we were getting shafted because new creators in comics did not have the network established to reach editors and decision makers to get published at a higher level.

Basically, we just said, “#@&% IT, WE’LL DO IT OURSELVES!”

SB: I couldn’t have said it better myself. I’ve made a lot of contacts with editors, writers, artists, and comic industry business people, and they all gave me similar advice, “Send submissions in because you have to, but even if you don’t get accepted, publish your work on your own.” You would be surprised by the names that have told me to stick to small self-publishing and focus on creating a brand before worrying about making it to top tier publishers. If you want my honest opinion, I think the current comic publishers want established writers and artists with name recognition, their friend who make comics, or people they could take advantage of, who they don’t understand how business works. Lots of people forget that making comics is a business, because it’s fun.

AA88 Press exists because we want to make comics that we believe, in with creative teams of like-minded individuals, who are passionate about making comics and hoping to turn it into their primary source of income.

IM: How do you divide up the responsibilities?

92aces3FM: We both pretty much do everything. I would say, if anything, Sal does the technical stuff, like the website and setting up the ETSY store and lots of the stuff that has to do with computers. I am very much from the Commodore 64 generation and most of that stuff is like voodoo magic to me. I handle most of the financial side of stuff.

SB: Yeah, teaching Frank how to use WordPress could have been a season of Sunday morning gag strips! It was a lot of fun, though. In addition to being the moneyman, Frank also handles the Twitter page. He just understands Twitter and is really good at updating and networking through Twitter. Frank is also the editor-in-chief, so he once-overs a lot of the work. I actually bounce ideas off of him all the time. Any hour of the day, Frank will get a text from me about a storyline idea I have for one of my current projects, and I also pitch him all of my comic ideas. He has a really good feel for the comic market, so is a great resource I am constantly using. I’m also the creative director of AA88 Press, which is basically me getting a feel for the comics we want to create, as well as marketing concepts.

IM: Your backgrounds are in radio, TV and film. What are some advantages to this, when it comes to creating comics and telling stories?

FM: In many ways, being a creator is a lot like directing a film. You, sort of, are the guy in charge of everything, but you need an entire team to make a great product. Your artist is both the cinematographer and the actors, your colorist provides the lighting, your letterer is like a film editor, and it is up to the creator (or creators) to be the driving force that keep everything together, as well as deal with the post-production side of things (distribution, marketing). It is a tough job, managing a million balls in the air at the same time, and it reminds me of my time spent on film crews, making independent shorts, filming guerilla style in NYC. Sort of a controlled chaos that is intoxicating and addicting in its own beautiful way.

SB: Comics has always been the goal for me. If majoring in comics was a thing, I would have done it, but it isn’t so I majored in TV/Radio (Rider University didn’t separate the two) with a focus on TV production. But it was all about learning how to write scripts for me. Personally, I don’t think there are any advantages, other than learning how to write different characters that have different wants, needs, personalities and dialogue.

IM: Tell us about some of your titles and what makes them stand out in the world of independent comics.

92aces4FM: The Devil You Know tells the tale of Greydon Cross, an ordinary man who comes home one day to find his family murdered at the hands of the Devil.  Driven towards vengeance, Greydon cuts a deal with Heaven. In exchange for powers needed to exact his revenge, Greydon will travel to Hell and assassinate Satan. However, there is one catch: if he succeeds in destroying Satan, he must take up the mantle himself. The story is brought to life by the team of Kellik Iskandar (pencils), Nunun Nurjannah (inks), Victoria Pittman (colors and letters), and Sal Brucculeri (edits).

It’s a fun action adventure story, with an underlying message of humanity’s inner darkness and I wanted to explore the concept that, within us all, is a person capable of death and destruction on a truly terrifying scale, and that person is held in check only by conscious decisions to do good. But what happens when you take away the little part of your brain that tells you not to do something wrong? Where would someone who is already in Hell, draw the line between good and evil?

Themes like trust, war, sex, and friendship all take on a different meaning without a moral compass to guide us.  To me, the series boils down to one simple question: what does it take for a good man to be king in a world of bad people?

While the series explores the inner emotions of humanity, it does so in a dressing of what could best be described as a Middle-Earth type of world with familiar biblical tropes. The series moves fast, at an almost video game-like pace, as Greydon battles his way through an endless horde of demons.  

It is going to be a wild ride and I hope that people pick up issue one and check out what we are doing, and stick with us. The team has really gotten into this world and these characters and it is reflected in each subsequent issue we do. The series only gets better with every page, and I think that is something readers can appreciate. The best is yet to come.

SB: C U NEXT TUESDAY is written by myself with art by Ibai Canales, and is a horror/noir with a bit of comedy thrown in where applicable, following Detective Tuesday, aka the Bride of Frankenstein, solving cases in the monster community, which is filled with urban legends, monsters, and myths from around the world. When I started writing it I didn’t think there were enough strong female leads in comics, so I made one. I’m into tough characters that have something to say, both internally and externally. She has a shitty sidekick in Robert The Doll, a smart-ass cowardly doll begging for a friend. She also has her partner, Officer Pigstein, a humanoid Pig, who is basically a tough New York-like cop, ready to do what he has to do to get the job done.

BADAASSARY is a project written by me with art by Jason Rivera. Its a post-apocalyptic parody set in a post-Civil War 2 divided America, following a mercenary named BAD, whose demon mother and angel father live on his shoulders guiding him as his moral compass. BAD, along with his adopted mercenary father Merci, computer hacker Screen-Shot, and a little orphan girl named Sarah, travel around looking to make money by any means necessary… typically taking an ultra-violent, ridiculously comedic approach. We go balls to the walls with the script and art, constantly trying to push each other to make the most absurd things happen in the book.

I’m proud to say that both Ibai and Jason are not only my partners, but two of my best friends, in and out of comics. I talk to them every day and tell these guys everything that goes on with my life. I’m so lucky that comics put them in my life.

IM: Who are your biggest influences as far as writing and drawing comics and what are the most important lessons you’ve learned from them?

92aces5FM: Buffy the Vampire Slayer! It is a little dated now, and the special effects don’t always hold up, but the writing on that show was a collection of some of the most brilliant minds in entertainment. I loved the subtle infusion of humor with horror and the range to hit such powerful and real moments in one scene, and have a laugh out loud gag in the next. There is an episode in Season 4 called Hush, that just might be the best single episode of television ever. That style of writing, dark with a bit of humor, is most definitely my wheelhouse.

SB: I love comics. When I decided to really give comics my best shot, I started studying every comic I read, good or bad. Every comic has something it could teach an aspiring writer. Frank could tell you, I don’t just read comics on a weekly basis, I study them. I look at everything: panel layout, shot angles, dialogue, plots, character expressions and body language and, most importantly, pacing.

I believe my biggest influences in writing comics come from the comic writers I’ve read for years. Matt Fraction has always been my favorite comic writer, because of the types of stories he tells. His plots and dialogue, the way he blends all of these unique ideas into a story is just perfect, in my opinion… The way Scott Snyder paces his comics and gets you to stand in the shoes of the main characters is amazing. Brian Michael Bendis may have the snappiest dialogue in comics and the way he builds relationships is top-notch. Robert Kirkman makes you care about every single character he writes, and he just hits character beats spot-on every time. Mark Millar, Jason Aaron, Rick Remender, Erik Larsen, Skottie Young, Grant Morrison, all of these guys are amazing writers who, in some way, have influenced me in wanting to be better. I’m also a huge Quentin Tarantino fan; his film scripts are genius.

As far as art goes, Skottie Young, Tony Moore, Wes Craig, Jason Latour, Erik Larsen, Howard Chaykin, Humberto Ramos, David Aja, Joc, Greg Capullo, Gabriel Ba, Fabio Moon, Frank Miller, and Todd McFarlane are all artists who just make me wish I could get to the level where I could work with any of them on a project some day.

IM: What do you look for in an artist before you decide to work with them?

FM: I look for people that are like-minded to my goals and are driven to make a great comic and showcase their talents. Someone that believes in the project and isn’t afraid to make changes and take some ownership of the project; a constant professional and on time with pages. There is nothing worse than an artist abandoning a project on page fourteen of a twenty-page comic.

SB: I agree with Frank, but I would like to add to that. I always ask artists what they want from the comics industry. If an artist is just looking for a paycheck, then I’m probably not going to work with them. I want to work with artists who are passionate about the project they are working on and want to say something creatively. Every issue I write, I want to be a better comic than the last, and I want to work with artists who feel the same. Working with someone who wants to build a name for themselves in the comic industry, to me, is better than working with someone who just wants to make money. An artist, while it will probably be through email, is someone you will spend a lot of time with as a writer, and I want that partnership to turn into a friendship because, in my opinion, you will always do better work when you are having fun messing around with your friends.

IM: What do find to be the most effective way of getting your work noticed by the comic-book buying public? Do you prefer conventions, podcasts, word of mouth, etc.?

FM: I have tried them all and none of them can really compare with the marketing push that the big publishers can make. Out of everything, social media has been a big help. Twitter especially.

SB: The most effective way of getting your book noticed? Get a multi-million dollar corporation to purchase your brand and make movies off your characters. Until then… conventions, podcasts, and social media will have to do! 🙂

IM: Do you prefer getting a table at a smaller comic conventions or larger shows? How often do you show your stuff at cons in a given year?

FM: We are still pretty new to the whole convention scene. I prefer larger shows to smaller ones. Sometimes you get a little lost in the crowd, but the visibility of the comic can be a huge boost. We attend a bunch of cons as fans, but only a few each year as exhibitors. Hopefully we up our convention presence in 2016.

SB: What he said…

IM: What’s the hardest thing about getting people to care about your work?

FM: It is really hard to get a non-comic person to read your book. I have family members and close friends that have never read my books, simply because they don’t read comics. That sort of storytelling doesn’t appeal to everyone and it is nearly impossible to break people from that ‘comic books are for kids’ mindset, especially if they never had an affinity for comics in the first place.

SB: there are over 90 pages of C U NEXT TUESDAY available for absolutely free at Each week, I see around 100 different viewers come to the site and read it. I’ve been doing this since the end of 2013, it’s 2015, and there are only around 100 people who care. In the grand scheme of the webcomic readers out there, that’s a small percentage. I think with just a huge oversaturation of available comics, both new and old, it is really hard to stand out and make people care. But I was given advice from a well-known 20+ year comic creator, and it’s this: “People won’t give a shit about your comics until people give a shit about your comics.” It didn’t make sense to me until I really thought about it, but he is absolutely right.

IM: Have you run a Kickstarter or any other crowdfunding campaigns? If so, what was the experience like? How time-consuming was it and how did you handle it while running your publishing company and dealing with real life?

FM: I will let Sal answer this one, after running lead on more than one successful Kickstarter project.

SB: I’ve had two successful Kickstarters and one failure. My failure was my first attempt, and it failed because I wasn’t ready. I was 24 years old, with an artist who was in it for the money, and I had no comics network. It was going to be my first comic ever; thank God it failed. As for my successes, the first was for Ninja Baseball Man, Volume 1, based off of the cult-classic video game Ninja Baseball Bat Man, created by Drew Maniscalco. My second and recent overly-successful Kickstarter was for the first issue of Soul Men, with artist Ibai Canales.

Kickstarter is a grind; it’s like having a third job. Think about it. I have a day job where I’m a software admin and shipping/parts sales manager, then I come home and write comics, and then I was also promoting a Kickstarter. Dude, it was brutal. I pre-promoted with some email address capturing website to run pre-marketing campaigns for the Kickstarter. Once we were live, I emailed every person individually, just so I would let them know it was me, personally emailing them and not a cued spam message. Then, I was doing around 2–3 podcasts a week, promoting. When I wasn’t doing any of that, I was tweeting, posting on Facebook, and jumping on and off of message boards talking to people who I’d interacted with before. That was all for around 2–3 hours a night, before bed. Did I mention I had a 20-month-old son while I was doing this? I didn’t run off of sleep, I ran off of coffee and chocolate.

IM: On average, what’s the breakdown on a crowdfunding campaign? Is it mostly friends and family, or new fans?

FM: Once again, I will defer to Sal for this question…

SB: I’m going to be honest, around one third of my funding came from friends and family. One third of my backers were fans of C U NEXT TUESDAY and the final third were random people from Kickstarter and Twitter. (Kickstarter runs schematics and I can see where people came from.)

IM: Tell us where we can find your work .

FM: You can check out all our projects at and follow us @aa88press on Twitter. You can also find the link to our books for sale on Comixology.

SB:,, and are where you can read a bunch of our stuff. We are on twitter at @aa88press, I also have my own twitter account @SalveyB and I have a little blog at Also, we both have columns at!

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92 Dead Man’s Party

92deadman1Jeff Marsick’s Dead Man’s Party

By Louise Cochran-Mason

Jeff Marsick is a Connecticut-based comic book writer. Together with artist Scott Barnett (, he created the noir thriller Dead Man’s Party. It was initially self-published before being picked up by Darby Pop. Darby Pop (and IDW) also hired him as a writer on Indestructible: Stingray #1. He has various other projects, which include writing and co-creating with artist Kirk Manley ( of the self-published Z-Girl and the 4 Tigers.

Jeff spoke to Indyfest about his work and future plans.

IM: What is Dead Man’s Party about?

JM: Dead Man’s Party is a noir thriller about an enigmatic hitman, known only as Ghost, who finds himself in a situation where he has no other option than to put a contract on his own head by arranging a Dead Man’s Party. In the assassin trade, it’s part Viking funeral and part Irish wake, a way for your peers to either honor your memory or get even. Five assassins have thirty days to come find you and put you down, and the contract is irrevocable. After everything is set and the clock starts running, however, is when Ghost discovers he’s made a terrible mistake.

IM: Did you invent the term “Dead Man’s Party” (in the context in which it’s used here)?

I share credit for the term with co-creator and series artist Scott Barnett, as it relates to this comic book, but the inspiration is wholly from Danny Elfman and Oingo Boingo’s song of the same name. Ever since I first heard that song, this concept is the movie that has always run in my mind’s eye.

IM: Dead Man’s Party was self-published before being picked up by Darby Pop. How did that come about?

JM: In 2014, Darby Pop had a contest for writers using a character from their Indestructible comic series. I won the contest and my script was produced as a comic book, Indestructible: Stingray, which came out in June of 2015. I pitched Dead Man’s Party to them as a possible series for them to publish, and they loved it. At the time, Scott and I only had three issues completed, the fourth was at the printer, and the script was written for number five. Darby Pop asked us to finish the series in “floppy” form and then they would publish the series in its entirety as a trade paperback.

IM: Do you find working with a publisher very different to self-publishing?

JM: It’s actually been pretty flawless and smooth working with a publisher. Jeff Kline and Renae Geerlings at Darby Pop essentially said that they loved what we had done and, aside from some minor tweaks, they weren’t going to make radical changes to the story. So, in that sense, the experience hasn’t been significantly dissimilar.

Scott and I consider ourselves pretty strict when it comes to creating, editing, and putting out a product that is as good as we can make it. From outlining the story, to writing the script, to rough pencils, to finished art and lettering, we pore over every panel of art and each word of dialogue to make sure that our comic looks as professional as possible for a self-publisher. Jeff and Renae run a similarly tight ship, but since they’re not at the creator level for this project, they have a high-altitude view of the overall story, and they’ve been able to see where something doesn’t work or where Scott and I may have been too narrow in our focus. Jeff and Renae have years of comic publishing experience between them, so we hold their opinion and input in high regard.

Where working with a publisher is very different, however, is in the marketing and promotion of the book. Scott and I were selling primarily at conventions and through a handful of stores that we developed relationships with. Under Darby Pop’s banner, though, we are able to take advantage of their distribution reach and get into more stores. We also published the series as individual issues, and in black and white. Darby is producing the entire series as a trade paperback collection—in color—which means that Dead Man’s Party has a future in the graphic novel section of bookstores and on Amazon. Pulling that off as self-publishers would be cost-prohibitive for us, unless we ran a Kickstarter campaign.

IM: Who is the target audience?

JM: Our target audience is primarily older teens and adults. Because of language and violence, Dead Man’s Party is certainly not a kid’s book. I’ll put it this way: if Dead Man’s Party were a movie, it would be rated R. Anyone who is a fan of the Bourne movies, or the Taken series should really enjoy Dead Man’s Party.

IM: Are you planning other stories set in the Dead Man’s Party universe?

92deadman4JM: While crafting this story, Scott and I have discussed a myriad of characters, scenarios, plots, and conflicts, and a bunch of material had to be left on the cutting room floor. All of it, however, has the potential to be fleshed out into more stories set in this universe of ours. I know Scott is itching to use a character I used in a short fiction piece for Out of the Gutter Online (, which could be fun. So yes, if this does well, we’ll certainly go back to doing more.

IM: What’s your background?

JM: I’ve been around the block a couple times. I’m a graduate of the United States Coast Guard Academy and I was a Coast Guard officer for six years. When I left the service, I went to chiropractic college and became a chiropractor and a nutritionist, but after a few years of fighting with insurance companies, I changed careers and became a financial analyst. I am currently working toward reinventing myself—again—only this time as a high school math teacher. Through it all, however, I have always been writing, as much as the margins of my professional and personal lives have allowed me.

IM: How did you get started in comics?

JM: I was working in Manhattan as a financial analyst when I learned of Comics Experience, a company run by a former Marvel editor Andy Schmidt that offered a course called Introduction to Writing Comics. Ever since I was a young lad reading issues of The Flash and Daredevil, I had been interested in writing comic books, so I figured this was a great way to figure out not only how to do it, but also, how to get a foot in the industry.

The course was terrific, and I cannot recommend Comics Experience enough to anyone who wants to get into writing, drawing, lettering, or even editing comic books. The primary takeaway, however, was that a creator doesn’t need DC or Marvel or Image in order to turn a dream into reality. As a result of the course, I got turned on to self-publishing, contacted two artist friends of mine, Kirk Manley and Scott Barnett, and started discussing how we could go about creating comics. Six years later, I have two series, Z-Girl and the 4 Tigers, and Dead Man’s Party.

IM: I saw in another interview that you had written a novel, short stories, and a screenplay. Did you publish (or option/sell) any of them?

JM: I wrote a fantasy novel, Sula Ruin, that I shopped around to several publishers and agents and, while they were complimentary, everyone declined. This was before self-publishing through Kindle was a thing, though, so the manuscript will not be staying much longer lost in my desk drawer. I have done a couple of short stories for Out of the Gutter Online, and I wrote a pair of television pilots with my buddy, Scott Malchus, that have semifinaled in screenplay contests and are currently up for consideration with Amazon Studios. One of these days, something’s going to hit, I know it. Until that something does, though, I have to keep on creating and publishing.

IM: You were the winner of Darby Pop’s “Breaking into Comics” contest. Can you tell us more about it?

92deadman3JM: That contest was fantastic, not only because it led to the publishing of my first mainstream comic book work between Darby Pop and IDW, but also for the subsequent door it has opened for Dead Man’s Party. In a nutshell, Darby Pop’s contest was to write a script in 30 days, using a character, Stingray, from their Indestructible comic book universe. One script would be chosen, the story would be published, and the writer would get $500.

Now, this was a challenge, because Stingray only appears in a total of about six pages throughout the first five issues. In that arc, all we know is she is a former member of the League of Defenders group of heroes, someone who has fallen from grace and, when we first meet her, she’s being released from a stint in prison. The next few times we see her, her actions intimate that incarceration has not quite cured her of a questionable moral character.

That was all we had to go with. The contest stipulated that we could do anything we wanted with her: create an origin, envision her in the future, or continue the storyline as established in the comic. I wrote an origin of sorts for her, basically her introduction to the League of Defenders, all wide-eyed and naïve. Except, not everything was what it seemed.

And out of a few hundred submissions, I won.

We’re discussing possibly doing more with Stingray with a limited series, which would be fantastic.

IM: What is Z-Girl and the 4 Tigers about?

JM: Considerably different from Invincible: Stingray and Dead Man’s Party, Z-Girl and the 4 Tigers is another self-published comic book that I write and co-created with my friend and artist, Kirk Manley.

Z-Girl is a centuries-old, heroic, female zombie. When’s the last time you ever heard of that, huh? She leads a unique special operations team composed of the Tigers, who are human hosts of ancient Chinese warrior spirits. So, what that means is, while a host can perish, the spirit is eternal, and it will seek out another worthy host to inhabit and then bring the team back together. In this way, they have been together, in one incarnation or another, since about 300 BC. As a team, they are at the forefront of protecting humanity against the monsters and demons that try to wipe us out.

It’s a science fiction and adventure comic with elements of horror and mythology thrown in. Kirk and I have finished the first five-issue story arc (available as print on-demand that can be ordered from our website,, we did a standalone issue for last year’s New York Comic Con, and we are at work on the next arc. We even have a gorgeous action figure, too!

IM: How do you distribute your work?

JM: Before the publishing deal with Darby Pop, Dead Man’s Party was distributed the same as with Z-Girl and the 4 Tigers: through conventions, our websites, and grass roots campaigning at the local comic shop level. We have made friends with a handful of comic shop owners, which is great and we are extremely grateful for them carrying us on their shelves, but we’re not in enough shops—especially outside of New England—to be a known commodity in the ranks of the independent publishers. Both books are also in digital format for download on Comixology, Drive-Thru Comics, and Indyplanet.

We do all of our own marketing and distribution, which can be difficult, since we all have day jobs and family obligations, too. But word of mouth and a presence in social media has helped our sales.

IM: What effect has advancing technology had on the comic book industry?

92deadman5JM: I think it has certainly made creating comics even easier to do. Writer, artist, and editor don’t need to be in the same zip code in order to collaborate. For instance, on Invincible: Stingray, I wrote the script in Connecticut, the artist drew the book in Italy, and the editor massaged it all together in California. I know that for Scott and Kirk, technology has certainly made drawing comics an easier endeavor. Also with printing, since we send digital files to the printer, any mistakes, additions, or deletions are easy to make happen.

IM: How important to do think it is for creators to have their work in bricks-and-mortar comic book shops as well as online?

JM: I think it is imperative for a creator to have a physical presence on a store’s shelves. First of all, I think seeing it in stores lends a legitimacy to an independent publisher’s work. Sure, conventions are great fun, and you get to interact with writers and artists, but that’s something of a vacuum. If someone meets me at a convention or comes across my website where they can print on demand, maybe they balk, simply because I’m an independent. But maybe the week after they meet me, they see my book at their local comic shop., I think it registers that, “Oh, hey. That guy’s got a legit comic book, he’s not just selling copies out of a UPS box. NOW I’ll give it a shot.”

For the record, though, it’s a milk crate I sell from.

Secondly, for as much as people are online, I’m not convinced that they’re buying much beyond the big publishers for digital downloads, and there are far too many websites to stroll through in order to find great comic books. I think comics, even more so than books, are best enjoyed physically over digitally. And personally, I know that I’ve been disappointed by buying a comic solely based on the cover and the description. Even with mainstream books, I want to be able to flip through them and get some sense of the writing and the art, which is something you can only do at a shop. Being only online—which can be a sound business strategy from a financial standpoint—I think it makes a creator miss out on a huge opportunity by not being in stores.

IM: Do you think the number of self-published comics, print-on-demand comics, digital comics and web comics makes it more difficult for individual creators to promote and market their work?

JM: This is a great question, and I’m going to talk out of both sides of my mouth when I answer with both ‘yes’ and ‘no’.

Yes, all of those avenues for delivering comics do create a four-lane superhighway of marketing congestion. Everyone’s inbox is already saturated with noise that they take three seconds to evaluate as either ‘read’ or ‘trash,’ and our inbox filters need filters. So, getting noticed these days, I think, is harder than it has ever been.

But, a difficult environment forces creators to foster some ingenuity and creativity, not to mention really puts the onus on them to develop a book that is unique and really stands out. Podcasts, social media campaigns, personally meeting with shop owners, basically anything where a creator can put more of a personal touch on their marketing, I think, goes much farther than simply MailChimping out a press release.

Oh, and blind stinking luck is an amazing asset, too.

IM: What future plans do you have?

JM: Hopefully my future involves writing the screenplay for the Dead Man’s Party movie! I have two sci-fi comic book concepts to pitch to publishers, I’m writing a thriller novel, and I’m working on another movie screenplay. Then there’s the next two issues of Z-Girl and the 4 Tigers to write and maybe get a Stingray limited series off the ground. I’ve got lots of plans for 2016!

IM: Will you be attending any upcoming conventions or other events?

92deadman4JM: I know for certain that both Dead Man’s Party and Z-Girl and the 4 Tigers will be at Terrificon at Mohegan Sun in Connecticut on August 19–21, and we’ll be in our usual spot next to the Marvel booth at the New York Comic Con from October 6–9. I will also be with Darby Pop for the Free Comic Book Day event at Jetpack Comics in Rochester, New Hampshire, on May 7. I hope to be at other conventions and venues, but we’ll see what I can commit to as the year goes on.

IM: Do you have any advice for people who want to start their own comic?

JM: I could probably write a book on the topic given all the lessons I’ve learned (the hard way). First and foremost, if anyone reading this really absolutely, positively, don’t-tell-me-I-can’t-do-it wants to start their own comic—and I’m talking primarily about a series, or a limited series, not so much a one-off—then they have to approach it with a business mind-set. Even if it’s meant to be nothing more than a hobby, a creator needs to think of it as a business venture. Why? Because it costs money. Even if the creator is writer, artist, colorist, letterer, and editor all in one body, printing and marketing and distribution and conventions all cost money, and those costs can quickly spiral out of control. I’m not necessarily saying there needs to be a formal business plan in place, but if a creator wants to be serious about their product getting noticed, it has to be treated like a small business operation. And having a professional look or appearance will go a long way toward helping someone and their creation get noticed.

Secondly—and this is the subject of an article I wrote for this very magazine—let’s say you’ve written and drawn the first issue of a series. You’ve printed it, you’re looking at it in your hands, and it’s gorgeous. Bravo and congratulations. Now, put it away and get the next two issues complete and printed before you start marketing, or even thinking about selling, the first issue. This is so very hard to do, because you’ve metaphorically just given birth, but you have to do it. Why? Because self-publishers are notorious for being late, delayed, or even murderers of a series before it even gets legs. Marvel and DC put out—for the most part—a new issue for each title every month. Every month, you know you’re coming back for Batman or Superman or Wolverine. Readers know and respect that self-publishers don’t create comics as a day job, so if Dead Man’s Party comes out every other month, or once a quarter, well, that’s something of a regular schedule, so we’ll get the benefit of the doubt and a reader will take a chance on us.

But a book that comes out this year, then the second issue a year from now, a third two years later, it’s likely to be pretty much dead in the water. That first issue could be amazing, or the series could really be getting on its feet, but without regularity of release, it’s going to be forgotten, if not abandoned outright. What I have found is that people typically shun an independent book until an entire arc is complete, so that they can be sure of getting the whole story. As a creator, you want to develop buzz for your product and capitalize on momentum, so the best way to do that is to have several issues already ‘in the can’ before you start releasing them. This harkens back to the brick-and-mortar question, too, because a store won’t want to carry your book if they can’t be assured that subsequent issues will be timely in arriving.

Third, and most important: stick to it. Whether you are a writer or an artist, I know what it’s like to have that creative itch that only getting something onto paper can scratch. So do it. And do it often. I obviously speak from a writer’s perspective, but being an artist or a letterer or an editor is not all that different: it’s creative exercise. And the only way you get better at your craft is by working out every day. I look back on some of my first scripts, the ones I thought were pretty damn good, and they’re positively groan-inducing. My writing has gotten much better, because I practice often.

Now, the first comic you create may be hailed as the most amazing thing that’s ever been produced since Peter Parker crawled up his first wall, but the odds are that, nope, it won’t be. It may not ever be noticed and maybe only family and friends buy a copy. But if that inner muse in you still believes you have a story to tell, then don’t give up, and go back and do it again.

The comic industry for self-publishers reminds me of gym culture back in my powerlifting days. You show up and sling some weights around, the veterans who have been there every day for years are unimpressed. But after showing up for months on end and pushing yourself each time, the old guard sees that you’re “worthy” and starts coming around, and they slowly accept you as one of their own. If you create a comic book, become a fixture at conventions, be friendly and conversational with fans and shop owners and critics, and—as Joe Dirt would say—“keep on keepin’ on,” you’ll slowly become recognized and accepted by those who have done exactly the same thing. It’s an industry that rewards and respects tenacity, so don’t give up.


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92 The Driving Force

IM90-Adriving- Copy

      And we’re back! We’re going to hit the ground running in 2016, and already have some great issues coming up. So it’s been one full year calling the magazine Indyfest now, and as an agent of change, we’ve managed to shift perspective from just comics, to the fuller world of all things indy, including books, motion picture and music, more than ever before. With an actual music producer joining staff this year, we plan to further the cross-breeding of audience and growth in readership that is making Indyfest a must-read magazine. We’ll keep working on these advances, as long as you are there telling us this is what you want.
     Some of the major things I want to secure in this upcoming year, are a full layouts team, so I can back out of that aspect of things, and focus on other developmental aspects of the website that we need to get to. I also want to develop a Reviews team, and expand the interview/articles system to include more people, so we cover more things each issue. Accomplishing this is going to take some serious team building effort, and goal-reaching.
     The start of which will be a large crowd-funding effort, which will be designed to raise the funds needed to pay staff, among other things. I have been doing this magazine since 1989, and have never made a penny. I have time and again put $$ into print runs that were given away at shows, sometimes with help of advertising, many times, without. That’s not a complaint, it’s just how I kept things going through the years. That’s how committed I have been to seeing this “small press network” survive and have a place to find new readers. I’ll be presenting and launching the campaign right here in the magazine, and we’re planning to have as many people who have been involved in or been covered by, this magazine, participate with the prize structure as we can. Our goals will be set in attainable levels. This is going to be a roadmap to building a better roadmap for us all.
     Let me also mention the Hall of Fame -Starting Point book that is coming out right before this issue hits. I spent the “off period” since December’s issue, building a new way for me to be able to track and present information about publishers. One that automatically tracks publisher eligibility for HOF things. I’m thrilled to say that I pretty much accomplished everything I wanted to do in getting a real starting point for HOF development. I hope you will check out the 350+ pages of information, and see why it’s important and how you can help make the effort, move forward into truly historical significance. I will be doing a LIVE presentation about the HOF at the next SPACE show, in early April. So, if anyone is interested in all of this, and you are able to make it to Columbus, Ohio, please check out the SPACE ads in this issue, and we hope to see you there.
     Many of you know I’ve had foot problems for a long time. Well, to keep everything just a bit more interesting, I am going to be having an ankle replacement surgery on Feb 10th. I am not expecting this to make much difference in the magazine’s production schedule, and with any luck, I may be walking around SPACE, pain-free, for the first time in, well, over a decade. We all have a lot to look forward to in 2016, let’s give it all we can, and make some new history.92ads8


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92 Table of Contents


The Driving Force – Editorial – by Ian Shires

 Dead Man’s Party – Jeff Marsick – by Louise Cochran-Mason

Aces and Eights – Frank Mula & Sal Brucculeri – by Steven Pennella

A Mystery Writer’s Mind – Nanci M. Pattenden – by M.J. Moores

A Written View – by Douglas Owen

Odds and Ends – Bob Moyer – by Ellen Fleischer

Walking the Path – Mark Koning – by Trisha Sugarek

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