Category Archives: 96

96 Small Press Big World

Small Press, Big World: A New Look at Max West and Sunnyville Stories

By Ellen Fleischer

west1When last we spoke with Max West, creator of Sunnyville Stories, it was almost two years ago and we hadn’t yet changed our name from Self Publisher! to Indyfest. This month, Max joins us once more to talk about what’s been going on with Sunnyville in the interim, how he’s gotten there, and where he’s going next. (To those of our readers who’d like to check out the earlier article, you can find it in Self Publisher! #74, available for free download at https://mag.indyfestusa.com/read/#74.)

IM: What sparked your interest in comics?

MW: Exposure at a young age. I grew up in New York City and my family regularly got the local newspapers (the New York Post and the New York Daily News). The first thing I turned to? The comics section. I would read Peanuts, as well as Garfield and the Family Circus. Later on, I would read collections of these comics collected in paperbacks at my local library.

IM: How have you developed your craft over the years?

My education was piecemeal. I’d been drawing on an on-and-off basis for years, but it wasn’t until 2002 that I drew on a regular basis. While I did do a lot of practice and self-study, I went to night classes at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. There I learned life drawing, perspective, and painting, but most importantly, the nuts and bolts of comics, from names like Tom Hart, Matt Madden, and Tom Motley. Other than that, I just rely on plenty of practice and heading to life drawing sessions.

IM: Who would you consider to be your major influences and inspirations?

west4MW: One would be the German Expressionist painter Paul Klee. He’s my favorite painter and I love his use of color with line. But more than that, he really aimed to capture the world the way he saw it, rather than how people told him to see it. I draw what I see and I depict the world as I see it. I’ve had problems recently with detractors telling me to draw realistically. If you want to capture reality, then take a photo!

Another influence has been Charles Schulz. The artwork of Peanuts has always been a contrast to realism or the drawing of Walt Kelly and Bill Watterson. I use simple artwork, which also earns me criticism. I’ve been called “lazy” or just plain “stupid” for not drawing realistically or photo-realistically, but I don’t think drawing in that way would help me. My simple drawing, like that of Schulz, allows readers to project their own interpretations into the lines. Ultimately, the people who enjoy my work are the ones who put much in there to begin with. The complex writing I use too—like Schulz again—helps.

IM: It’s been almost two years since the last time we’ve talked (back in SP! 74). What’s been going on in the interim?

MW: The third volume of Sunnyville Stories has been released and I feel Sunnyville is starting to grow the beard. My drawing and layouts got much better, plus I have an established universe and continuity to work with. We’re starting to see Rusty think about his future; he reveals that he wants to be an animator, which leads him into conflict with his mom. I’ve also been dropping hints that Samantha has feelings for Rusty, but he’s not aware of that. There’s been more awareness of Sunnyville, too; I’ve gotten many good reviews, gotten more fan mail, and even made my local newspaper in Fargo, North Dakota! Working to promote Sunnyville is a challenge too. I have to rely on word-of-mouth and social media, but I still continue using direct mail to reach potential vendors and libraries with big budgets. As for other ideas, one I’ve been developing is Ingmar the Wanderer, a blind weapon-master wielding a sword cane. This character does co-exist with the Sunnyville universe and may do crossovers.

IM: For those of our readers who’ve come aboard since #74, can you give us an elevator pitch on the Sunnyville Stories?

MW: Sunnyville Stories is a small-press title about a big world. It tells the saga of two teenagers, Rusty Duncan and Samantha “Sam” Macgregor, in a small and remote village, having daily adventures.

IM: Tell us a bit about the characters; who they are, what makes them tick, etc.

MW: The stars of the series are Robert “Rusty” Duncan and Samantha “Sam” Macgregor. Rusty is a wisecracking city boy who moves to Sunnyville at the start of the series; he finds it a completely different world from the big city he used to live in. Rusty doesn’t have all the amenities he took for granted in the city, like supermarkets, shopping malls, movie theaters, video arcades and so on. Sam is a sweet country girl who has lived in the small village all her life and gets along with just about everyone. These two polar opposites quickly become close companions. The mechanics of their relationship is that of the classic “straight man and wise guy” routine. Sam plays the straight man to Rusty’s wise guy. She is there to provide reaction whenever Rusty says or does something funny. She’s also there to set Rusty up to do funny things. Rusty and Sam are also foils—Rusty is an only child, whereas Sam comes from a big family. Rusty is from a big city, while Sam is from a little country village. Sam wins friends by being nice, whereas Rusty relies on his sense of humor to fit in.

While I tap into archetypes for my characters—Rusty is the wise guy, Sam is the nice girl, Rose Von Straussen is the local rich girl, Ragnar and Olaf (sons of the town bakers) are the best friends—I aim not to make clichéd stereotypes. Rusty may joke around, but it’s implied that he needs to be accepted by others. Sam is a sweet girl, but even she gets annoyed or outright angry.

IM: And how about the society/world that they inhabit?

west3MW: Sunnyville is a remote village surrounded by vast forest and mountains. Only connected to the outside world by some roads and a set of train tracks, time stands still here. The residents go about their daily lives, ignoring the rapid (and chaotic) changes of the modern world. The town has a general store (no supermarket), only one restaurant (a Japanese restaurant—no fast food or chain restaurants) and no other amenities like shopping malls and movie theaters. Sunnyville was influenced by my time living in rural North Carolina in the first half of the 1990s; it was very rural and had none of the luxuries I took for granted living in New York City.

As for the society itself, there’s a definite generation gap. The adults are culturally and psychologically stuck in the first half of the twentieth century ,while the kids are stuck in the second half of the twentieth century. The kids (by that, I mean teenagers and small children) live in a world that’s a kitbash of the 1950s and 1980s with elements of the 1960s, 1970s and 1990s. They are into personal technology, like computers and video games, whereas the adults (especially the moms) are suspicious of such tech. An example of this generation divide was in Sunnyville #4 (collected in the second volume) with Mr. Jakes and his nephew Roger. Mr. Jakes was an elderly badger who fixed the town’s appliances. He liked to work with old-fashioned tools, while his younger nephew was into computers and acted more like a mad scientist.

IM: Let’s talk a bit about your process. How do you go from inspiration to publication, as it were?

MW: When I need ideas, I take them from different sources, like my own personal experiences or other sources, like TV and movies. Once I get an idea, I try to come up with a basic plot in a few sentences, like ‘Rusty goes on a game show to win big prizes,’ or ‘the adults leave the children in town for one day,’ and pair it with a theme of some kind like ‘greed’ or ‘finding your place in the world’. I’ll do a story treatment (a few handwritten pages outlining the conflict and resolution), which is then turned into a typed script. From there, I sketch out thumbnails, design any new characters, and gather references. I do pencils, lettering, inking, and the cover art; I also will handle graphic design and digital formatting for print (both individual pamphlets and collected books). On top of all that, I’m always marketing the series with the internet, leveraging press contacts, and soliciting vendors (like libraries and mail order companies).

IM: Who would you say your target audience is for this series? Would you say that it would appeal to fans of particular works or series? If so, which ones?

MW: My target has always been the demographic who doesn’t want an assembly-line comic, especially superhero material. I think this would appeal to people who adore newspaper comic strips, especially Peanuts. The writing is complex, the characters are more than meets the eye and I rely on actual comedy as opposed to toilet humor, shock value, or overt contemporary pop culture reference.

IM: Is there an overarching plan for the series (i.e. with a definite end-goal in mind), or is this more an ongoing series of adventures?

MW: It’s a bit of both. While many of these stories are self-contained vignettes, there are continuity nods (like a character saying, “Remember when we…”) to past stories. There will also be an actual ending to the series, which I had in mind when I wrote the series.

IM: Was it always your goal to self-publish?

west2MW: Originally, I did approach a few publishers with the concept of Sunnyville, but it was soundly rejected. At least one publisher simply sent back my proposal with an expletive written across in red marker! To be honest, I’m relieved that the rejections happened. I didn’t want the wrong people getting their hands on Sunnyville. I wanted full creative control; it made me anxious to have an editor telling me, “No, you can’t draw that.” I didn’t want to be told to change my work to make it suitable for a perceived market or to fit standards of political correctness. In the end, I made the right decision to go it alone.

IM: Have there been any lucky breaks or challenges along the way that you’d like to share with our readers?

MW: I’m a one man operation. Even if you decide to go through a publisher, you’ll need to market and sell yourself. Read books on marketing. (The Guerrilla Marketing series is a great read!) It also helps to get connections both online and offline; establish good relationships with vendors and media contacts.

IM: What advice would you give to someone thinking of launching their own comic?

MW: Keep working at it and be persistent. Just because you’re not successful right away doesn’t mean you’ll never be successful.

IM: Is there anything exciting on your horizon over the next few months?

MW: I’ll be selling at a convention again: CoreCon, in Fargo, North Dakota. I haven’t sold at any conventions since 2013. After I finish my present work (Sunnyville Stories #14), I plan to take a sabbatical, where I’ll develop other ideas (like Ingmar the Wanderer), raise money, investigate Kickstarter, and hone my skills. In addition to working on basic drawing skills, my aim is to take a closer look at the comics medium, understand its inner workings, and apply them to Sunnyville.

IM: Is there anything else that you’d like to share with our readers that we haven’t touched on, yet?

MW: Computers and software are handy, but don’t overlook traditional tools, like pencils and pens. Even if you do everything on the computer, train your hands and your mind.

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

MW: I regularly update my blog at sunnyvillestories.com and I’m also on Facebook at http://facebook.com/sunnyvillestories. My trade paperbacks are available through Amazon and wherever books are sold. They are also available through Brodart Company for libraries, as well as both Ingram and Baker & Taylor for booksellers.

IM: Thanks so much!

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96 Table of Contents

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Click on each cover to get a copy of the full PDF of each version of this, the “Big Summer Issue”. Additional PDF-Only content: Keeper of the Gates #1 and The Few and the Cursed #1 Sneak Peeks, and the Review Section…19 publications reviewed!!!

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96 The Driving Force

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Welcome to the “BIG SUMMER ISSUE” of Indyfest, which combines two issues into one! Because, while everyone was getting into summer mode, we ran into some website growth issues and had to change hosting companies. The long-term result is that we’re now on a Cloud VPS system and have managed to get ourselves set up with that https: green lock that says we’re now a secure site. It wasn’t easy or fun, and there might still be some code issues I have to figure out, but all in all, big step in the right direction, even if it meant some downtime and missing an issue.

To compensate, there are TWO editions of this issue. Since we didn’t want to have a project lose out on having their cover slot taken away or rescheduled, we’ve released TWO cover editions, each with a different article in the lead spot, and the other cover feature in spot 2… so no one loses. In fact, with more articles come more readers. And that’s what it’s all about here anyway.
We’re going to be entering a period here where we want to bring everything into real focus, stability, and expansion. We’ve been tiptoeing towards a Kickstarter for the better part of a year now, and we’re getting pretty close. You can read a bit more about that in the Hall of Fame update, this issue. I also want to see us add more staff writers, get a paid article system in place to help compensate our interviewers for the work they do, etc. There’s some reviews software to add on to the shopping cart to take it all to the next level, and… well, I have a list—and it’s going to be worked on. I hope you will all help us achieve the goals when we lay them all out, because if we can pull it off, we all win.

As we all continue to watch big companies, put together things that are tools for “the independents,” it’s continually clear to me that corporate interest continues to have the upper hand in being able to hire out, buy up, whatever comes up in the Indy scene… and the Indy scene itself, is content to remain fragmented and vunerable. Somehow, we have to be reminded that Indy doesn’t mean giving most of your profit to Amazon (cause ComiXology is owned by them folks), and that there can be ways to get into stores that care about your survival. And your access to new fans does not have to be controlled by Twitter and Facebook.
To become successful creators, we all have to realize, we are not competitors. It was true before the internet and it’s true now: we are not competing for a small slice of the mainstream pie; we are seeking to win new fans. Fans who don’t care about what else there is, and who are your fans, who will follow you because of who you are. It is a wholly possible thing to do, and you are in control of how those fans get your stuff.

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96 Hall of Fame Update

SPHOF-Logo

August Update By Ian Shires

I’m going to make this a short update, because for the most part, everything I wanted to get done to present this issue, got put on the back burner as I tried to figure out website things from moving from a shared server, to a VPS Cloud set-up. I had wanted to put forth the full system we are going to use to introduce public nomination/voting both here and online. I have most of the backgound work done, it’s just not ready to present.

The good news is that the website is now READY for it. I am done with all major tinkering and upgrading. We’re now running on php7, have set up network wide HTTPS with the green lock in the browser so we’re secure site compliant, I have dug around and found some of the plug ins we used duplicated each other in parts, so got conflicts worked out, eliminated a lot of junk file stuff, etc. Everything seems a go, we’ll be putting it all to a test when we release this issue and see how it handles all the downloads. It’s loading pages faster than we’ve ever seen it, and about 20 times as fast as it was on the shared server. Hopefully people will notice and start using the site again.

And that’s the big thing on my horizon. We need to have a real place to pull together as a community to acheive the goals of success and lasting recognition that we all deserve. We’re going to focus on membership and fellowship, making a place that is welcoming to newcomers who want to learn, and be useful to veterans who have more advanced needs. Indyfest and the Hall of Fame system, can’t be one thing to all people, it must be many things that each group of people – Creators, Musicians, Producers, Publishers, etc, can find what they need quickly and have the tools to reach their goals.

I have a LOT of work yet to do on the navigation, layout, set up, look of the website. I hope to begin addressing it all very soon, but I’m just one guy. We really need to be building a team of people who beleive in this cause who are willing to dig in and make a mark. The whole point of building a Hall of Fame system is to turn it over to the future to be run by new people as we retire.

I’d actually like to find my way back to writing my Dungar comic book as well. I have a lot of stories to tell. I’ve been sitting on issues #50-about #68 for a decade, waiting to be able to do them right in a system that was built by the people for the people. We’ve got some great people coming together on this, I hope to see us surpass the 00’s when the SPA was at it’s previous peak. We can do it if you ask what you can do.

Ok, before I get set to put this issue to bed..our friend Richard Katterjohn let us know that the Tim Corrign HOF/SPACE presentation is now up on You Tube. Go, view it now!

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96 The Hard Bard

David Nicoll – The Hard Bard: Musician, Poet, and Artist

By MJ Moores

IM: So David, tell us how a Scotsman such as yourself found his way to South Africa.

bard5DN: In 1980, I met a very unhappy man at work in Scotland! He told me that he had been in a place called South Africa and told me that you can arrange a Braai (Barbeque) in a month’s time over there and know that it will be sunshine! He also told me that some people had swimming pools in their back gardens! That sparked my imagination, and I hated the Scottish winter weather!

Came here on the 12th of February, 1982. I do not regret the move. It is a beautiful country with amazing people and musicians.

IM: As a poet/musician, your work is seldom solo, and yet much of art is introspective. What is it about the collaborative process that speaks to you as an artist? And could you describe for us what your most inspiring collaborative moment has been to date?

DN: I do perform on my own, but collaborations are magical with the very talented musician friends that I have been blessed to meet. Poetry and music are two sides of the same coin with rhythm, melody, and harmony. They fit together like a hand in a glove. Performing with Steve Newman and Madala Kunene are highlights, as are the collaborations with Mervyn Fuller as MAD: Mervyn and Dave. To view some of my solo work, please look up A Tribute to Nelson Mandela, I Wish at the Broch, and Man and the Whale on YouTube.

IM: What came first, the poet or the musician? And can you describe for us how you have worked toward enriching both sides of your artistry over the years?

bard6DN: The poet came first as a way, initially, to get rid of emotions! I started reciting my poetry at TJ’s Folk Club in Johannesburg, and then met guitarists Ernie Stark, Yvonne Raff, and Claude de Speville and formed the band called Hakuna Matata! It was then that I started playing the African Djembe drums! After moving to Newcastle in KwaZuluNatal and finding that there was no live music there, I started The Newcastle Folk N Culture Club with others, which eventually morphed into a band called US (United Souls). We would perform at many festivals there, putting the poetry on top of the massed Djembe drums, didgeridoos, guitars, mandolins, and even bagpipes. We often had more than twenty musicians on stage.

IM: Tell us a bit about your two books Thoughts and Reflections and POKEs – POetic joKES. What are the most memorable recitations from each?

bard1DN: Thoughts and Reflections is a collection of poetry and short stories from Scotland and Africa, some with full-color photos and matching illustrations. There is included a personal letter from President Nelson Mandela from 1995, after he read the poem called “Peace and Harmony,” which I had sent him.

POKEs POetic joKES is humor in poetry. If you have a sense of humor, you will love this book. It’s good for a laugh. I also have some poems with matching illustrations in this book, as well.

IM: Your work is infused with equal amounts of caprice and humility, from your tongue-in-cheek playfulness with poetry like “Instead!,” to the more poignant “Wildlife at the Zoo”. How are you able to find a balance between these two very different sides to your soul?

bard4DN: I care very much about the wildlife on this planet and the mess that Homo Sapiens are making as temporary custodians of it. Everything has been turned into a commodity now and has a monetary value, from elephant ivory, to rhino horns and lion skins! Too many species are being decimated because of greed, and we are disregarding the natural balance of the earth and each animal’s unique part to play in maintaining that balance. This is also happening in the oceans. I write about these things.

On a lighter side, I love to make people laugh, and writing and reciting POKEs POetic joKES is my way of doing that. When I give the book of POKEs to people to read, they are inevitably laughing within a couple of minutes.

IM: As a draftsman (by day) and artist (by night), what advice would you give to someone starting out in their own artistic career—be it music or writing?

DN: Do it! Just do it! Do whatever your soul and spirit inspire you to do and use whatever gifts that you have been blessed with. I can best express this with a poem of mine called “To Achievement!”

Imagination is the key to light the fire as it comes before desire, the seed bursts open many leaves to vent, then starts the process of development, till your flower bursts open revealing your dream as if almost Heaven sent, you have gone from a thought to Achievement!

IM: I’d like to thank you for taking the time to share your insights and artistry with us and I wish you continued success in your artistic endeavors.

bard3DN: Thank you very much for the opportunity to showcase my work. I would also like to thank all the South African musicians that I have had the pleasure of collaborating with. Thanks also to Micheal de Saedeleer for the cover photo for Thoughts and Reflections, taken of the reflection of a canal surface in Manchester, England, and for the illustrations in the book. RIP my friend! Thanks to Jeff Hollbrook for the illustrations in the book of POKEs. Thanks also to Jerry Kuzma of Radio Wicca International, who are shortly going to be airing my work on their station. And a final thanks to Edenrock, Byrdclyffe with Knocking on Heavens Door Studios and www.uniquemusic.co.za for getting my musical work online.

Be sure to follow David Nicoll on his BLOG, FACEBOOK, ITUNES and YOUTUBE.

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96 Honing your Craft – pt.1

Honing Your Craft—Part 1: Formal Education

By Nanci M. Pattenden

PattendenSo, you’ve been writing for years, maybe ever since you learned to print or write. Now you want to have some of your work published, but no one’s been beating down your door, fighting for the rights to your stories. Maybe you’ve been too afraid to submit because you don’t feel you’re there yet. Have you considered taking writing courses? Several colleges and universities offer both day and part-time courses. Formal education isn’t for everyone. though. Let’s look at some of the pros and cons.

PROS

  • Most of the higher-level courses are taught by published authors. They have the experience of going through the process of traditional publication, can guide their students in avoiding some of the pitfalls, and maybe even let them in on some trade secrets and provide a few tips.
  • You’ll meet a group of people just like you, trying to learn all they can so they too can publish their work. If the course is on campus, you might be able to form an in-person writing group when the course is over, or maybe create a group online.
  • Most courses require you to submit something for critiquing. That can be scary, but helpful. The instructor—and your fellow students—can point out things (nicely) that don’t make sense to them. Better yet, they’ll tell you what they love about your writing. The critique process gives you the opportunity to look at your writing from other perspectives.
  • You’ll read short stories and snippets from published authors you may or may not have read, or even heard of, and examine what makes them good. You’ll learn to read as a writer, and you’ll be amazed at what you start to notice.
  • You can take courses specific to your needs. If you know you are in dire need of help with your grammar or punctuation, take a general English course. This is especially helpful if English is not your first language. You may also be able to find courses that are genre-specific.

I’ve learned quite a bit from taking courses, especially from the critiquing. My instructors and fellow students have pointed out things that I hadn’t noticed and given me wonderful suggestions for areas to expand on. Often when we write, we do so with total understanding of what is happening. Sometimes we need a reminder that the reader doesn’t have a direct link to the author’s mind, and what we think is perfectly clear, isn’t.

CONS:

  • At the top of the list is cost. You can expect to pay $500–700 or more for one course. Only you can decide if you can afford to take courses. Maybe, if you’re lucky, you can find a grant that will cover the cost. Remember, though, education is tax deductible (at least, in Canada).
  • Courses are time-consuming. Especially if you work full time. You need to find the time to read the course material, plus any extra assigned reading, as well as doing your own writing. A rough estimate is five or six hours per week. Are you willing or able to devote that much time to it?
  • The courses come with no guarantee. After you finish the course or program, don’t expect to suddenly know everything and have your next submission accepted and published.
  • Reality check: You just may find out your writing isn’t as wonderful as your family says it is. Not everyone has the ability to write what is considered publishable material. However, you will find out what areas you need to work on. You could be pleasantly surprised.

On a personal note, I’ve done the creative writing certificate program at the University of Calgary (online). It’s a good, solid program with basic writing courses. There are also options, so you can take one genre-specific course. I enjoyed the program and learned from it. I recently discovered that the University of Toronto has a creative writing program, with most of the courses available online. They have many genre-specific courses and three levels of novel writing, the last being a master class. Check the schools, both in your area and across the country. Many offer distance education.

No one can tell you whether or not formal writing education is for you. If you feel it’s something you want to do, try one course before embarking on a certificate/diploma program, or even an MFA. Only you can weigh the factors and come to a decision that is beneficial to you and fits both your budget and lifestyle.

Coming up in Part 2, I’ll discuss workshops and conferences. Are they really worth your time?

Nanci M. Pattenden is a professional genealogist and an author of historical crime fiction. After digging into her own genealogy, Nanci uncovered a story about a young ancestor, sent to Canada from an English workhouse, who ended up on trial for murder.  This sparked her interest in writing fiction, and launched the beginning of her first novel.

Nanci has published two novellas: Body in the Harbour, and Death on Duchess Street. Her interest in genealogy and local history, and her love of Victorian murder mysteries have merged to create a new Canadian Victorian murder mystery writer. She is a member of Crime Writers of Canada, The Writers Community of York Region, and the Ontario Genealogical Society (OGS). Nanci has completed the Creative Writing program at the University of Calgary, as well as two programs with The Institute of Genealogical Studies (Canadian and English studies).

Nanci currently resides in Newmarket, Ontario, and can be contacted through her website at www.nancipattenden.com.

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96 A Writers Take

Interview with Author Michael Saad: A Writer’s Take

 by Trisha Sugarek

Saad4Michael Saad has been writing almost his entire life. Now he is about to release his first full-length novel, All the Devils Are Here. It will be published by Tumbleweed Books, an imprint of DAOwen Publications. He lives in Lethbridge, Alberta. A teacher by day, a writer by night, this is a fascinating journey of how Mike fits it all into 24 hours.

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

MS: I write in my ‘man-cave,’ as my family so affectionately calls it. It is my own, customized room in the house, filled with items that fuel my imagination. Everything from Star Wars posters and memorabilia (yes, I’m a wannabe Jedi—I’m totally a child of the 1980s…), historical paintings, nature portraits, my favorite books, and hockey artifacts. Every writer needs his or her own, customized work space, whatever that is, and it needs to be tailor-made by the writer, and for each writer that’s different, but it’s so important.

I didn’t always have my man-cave. In the past, as a university student, my writing was best done in a little cubicle in the basement of my old university library. It wasn’t customized and was quite drab, but it was my space and I did my best writing there. It doesn’t matter where ‘your’ space is, but you need one, no matter what stage you are in as a writer. J.K. Rowling famously wrote her first Harry Potter novels in a coffee shop, but it was—for that time in her life—‘her space.’ I had to work up to finally earn my own office—my wife and I had to share a workspace for quite a long time (which, I should point out, was perfectly fine) but our new house allowed us our own space, and this man-cave, I can truly call ‘mine.’

IM: Do you have any special rituals when you sit down to write? (A neat work space, sharpened #2 pencils, legal pad, cup of tea, glass of brandy, favorite pajamas, etc.)

Saad3MS: I usually have a hot Irish Breakfast tea, or an ice-cold Green-Tea, depending on the season, as I write. It’s like a little shot of ‘pick-me up,’ whenever I take a short break or have a lapse in my thinking. I also play certain music that, for whatever reason, somehow suits the mood of the story or piece that I’m working on. For All the Devils Are Here, for instance, the music of Nickelback and Ed Sheeran somehow spoke to me, so I would play their songs to either get in the mood to write the story, or to recharge and reset myself to counter those moments of Writer’s Block.

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

MS: I am a fulltime teacher in a small, rural high school. I love my job, my students, and teaching, but it is very time consuming, so to find time to write, and write well, is always a challenge for me. I’m always in awe of anybody who works full time and is able to accomplish a major project ‘on the side,’ whatever it is—building a shed, a graduate thesis, running a marathon, sculpting a piece of artwork—because I know how hard it is to balance completing a task like that with having a demanding career.

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

MS: When I’m working full time, especially with teaching, with all of the marking, lesson planning, and numerous ‘extra-curricular’ duties we have going on in our profession, it is very difficult to find the time and energy to write. As a married family man with small kids, my family has been very supportive of my ‘hobby time’ of writing, but it still can be an insurmountable task to balance work, family time, and writing. I want (and need) to spend time with my family, and I want (and need) to focus on teaching, so quite often writing will (and should) take a back seat to that. That being said, I have gotten up at three or four AM some days to write, often during holidays, just so I can squeeze it in and balance writing with my other responsibilities. It is not an easy thing to do, but when you truly find a hobby you like, whatever it is—in my case it’s writing—you are willing to do that if it means being able to get that ‘hobby time.’

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

Saad2MS: There’re a number of things. The consistency of writing—that is, doing it every day—can certainly help you to build flow and enthusiasm in your work. However, most of us— certainly those of us who do not make writing our careers—are unable to have the advantage of being able to write every day. So I think the key, then, is to have a piece or project you believe in, but also have definite parameters in place for the size and scope of your project. Don’t try and write the great Canadian novel, for instance, if you truly don’t have the time to do so. Work on a short story instead. Also, if you just find yourself not believing in your work, and don’t have that passion for it that, perhaps, you thought you did now that you are partway through your first draft, then perhaps, you need to let it sit and start another piece. A lot of my published stories, for instance, including my most successful ones, have come from having started another piece, leaving it incomplete, and then starting the brand-new one, which—for whatever inexplicable reason— has wound up being the story I complete and go on to sell. Quite often, the piece left incomplete is still sitting on my hard drive in limbo or left stewing in my mind for me to either revisit someday—maybe with a new angle in mind—or abandon altogether in digital ‘development hell.’ And, in my experience, at least, that’s been perfectly okay, because it’s helped me overcome what otherwise would have been procrastination on a floundering project…

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

MS: Honestly, they just pop into my head. There’s no real rhyme or reason to them. I see them in the oddest of places—when I’m driving on the highway, sitting on a plane, or walking on a trail. I don’t necessarily see them in whatever plot I conjure up in my head. I often work backwards that way, at least with fiction. I envision the character before the plot.

IM: What first inspired you to write your stories?

MS: Growing up as an only child, I developed a natural inclination toward reading. It was a solitary activity to kill time. I had a lot of comic books, and it definitely started there. I became so enamored with the comics of the early 1980s, all the Marvel and DC titles primarily—particularly Star Wars, Avengers, Superman, Spiderman, Star Trek—that I began envisioning myself taking part of those imaginary worlds, where I was either the main character (e.g. Batman), or I was telling the story with those characters. My parents and family used to wonder why I would spend time wandering around aimlessly, pretending I was fighting, or jumping over buildings. They called it ‘the jump’. Well, that was what I was doing—acting out my comic book stories. My later love and future appreciation for more ‘mature’ literature stemmed from that, as did my inspiration to write stories. Just to clarify, I still read those comic books! I really am just a big kid in an adult body!

IM: Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

MS: Yes, absolutely. I know exactly what that means. A few of my fictional stories have literally ‘written themselves’. It’s hard to explain, but I think many experienced fiction writers can identify with that. I can think of two stories in particular that I’ve published, where I’ve looked back and asked, ‘did I really write that?’ and ‘where the heck did that come from?’

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

Saad1MS: I have many. Right now, I am totally into musical artists like Hozier, Rachel Platten, and Virginal to Vegas. Their lyrics and sounds speak to me in their various messages of hope and optimism or, in Hozier’s case, the exact opposite. In the past year, these artists have been an inspiration, not only to my writing, but also for my teaching, as I see how many of our young people today have had to be resilient in the face of adversity.

Exploring the natural world—hiking, canoeing, sightseeing—is certainly another muse. Many stories and ideas have come to me just standing in the outdoors, on a mountaintop, in a stream, or watching a bull moose bathe in a pond. Seeing the destruction of nature—be it by pollution, overdevelopment, or flat-out negligence on the part of human beings—is both devastating and maddening for me to watch, and this frustration is slowly starting to pop up more and more in my writing.

IM: When did you begin to write seriously?

MS: Probably 18 years ago (in 1998), when I first started my teaching career. I knew I needed a bona fide hobby. I had been playing a lot of sports and going to the gym, but I felt I needed a constructive interest that exercise couldn’t quite fulfill. I need to create, and I had always had in the back of my head that I wanted to write stories and articles, so that was the direction I decided to go.

IM: How long after that were you published?

MS: I was published two years after that. I have had many short stories, novellas, and historical articles published since then. Incidentally, I’ve also had hundreds of rejection letters in that time. Only a fellow writer would appreciate that last statistic!

IM: What makes a writer great?

MS: I may have a different answer for you 20 years from now, but today I would say having the ability to achieve resonance with your reader. Only the very best writers can do this with as many readers as possible. Notice I state ‘with as many readers as possible,’ and not ‘every single reader who’s ever read their work.’ There’s a reason for that, and it’s the very reason why you’ll hear many people praise the Stephen Kings and Shakespeares of the world as literary geniuses, while others condemn them as laughable and boring. Some writers connect with certain people and others don’t. It’s that way with all art, not just literature. That being said, we can safely categorize Stephen King and Shakespeare as literary marvels, because of their unprecedented success, and I think it’s because their characters, their themes, and their style resonate at a high level with the majority of their readers. Readers relate to their characters; they can share in the drama of their suspenseful scenes, and their themes are presented in a poignant enough way that we remember them. I read King’s It and Shakespeare’s Macbeth over 25 years ago, have never seen the film versions of either, and yet remember the plot, characters, and nuances of both stories to this very day. Two months ago, I read a novel that I barely remember. It was written by a well-known author and I would be hard-pressed to tell you anything about the plot or characters. It’s all about resonance for me, and for every reader, that’s different. As a writer, I, of course, hope that my work holds resonance with every single person who reads it, but I know that’s not realistic, and I certainly don’t let that hinder me from writing.

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

MS: Well, for All the Devils Are Here, it was a step-by-step journey in the truest sense. It started off as a short story assignment I did 25 years ago in a class called Writing 11. My English teacher at the time, whom I dedicated the novel to, gave me good feedback on it, but told me it was incomplete and challenged me to delve more into the main characters’ storylines. This soon became one of my ‘back-burner’ projects, while I ventured into other pursuits like university, history, teaching, and sport. About ten years ago, I encountered my English teacher again in a chance meeting, and we conversed and he asked me about my story. I decided to turn it into a novella, taking his advice from 25 years ago to heart. From there, I still found myself with unanswered questions about the main characters, and so then, I turned it into a full-fledged novel, which I now realize was what my teacher was steering me toward all along. Sadly, my teacher passed away suddenly two years ago, so he wasn’t able to see it in this finished form, but I definitely owe it all to him, hence my dedication to him.

IM: How have your life experiences influenced your writing?

MS: I have encountered drugs and drug use in my time, and have seen and experienced the cycle, agony, and destruction that addiction can bring. That subject has been a big part of my fiction writing now and in the past. Life experiences are very much an influence on my writing. I would best describe them as the thread that weaves in and out of the fabric of my work. All of my characters and plots are imaginary, but there are elements of them that are reflective of various experiences I’ve encountered in the trials and tribulations of life. Like everyone, I am not perfect and have my fair share of demons in the closet. Every now and then, I turn some of them loose in my writing.

IM: Have you—or do you want to write in another genre`?

MS: Yes, I have written science fiction and horror stories. My science fiction carries explicit warnings and themes, whereas my horror stories are more subtle in their message. I have always been drawn to the serious stuff, and that includes all other types of media—video games, movies, television, theatre. For me, sitting though comedies of any kind is akin plucking out nose hairs at best, or full-out psychological torture at worst (the latter especially so with the banal slapstick comedies that are so popular today). Even with the great Shakespeare himself, I was bored stupid reading The Taming of the Shrew and Much Ado About Nothing, yet was enamored with the tragedies, like Hamlet and King Lear. I completely suck at reading or writing comedy, but I think that has to do with my interests in war, history, and the state of the world. The crazy part about all that is, I actually do like to laugh. There ARE a couple of comedies I’ve enjoyed— I can count them with two fingers: Revenge of the Nerds (1985) and My Big, Fat Greek Wedding (2002), and both of those are probably because I could relate to the characters in those films. Otherwise, I may laugh at a quirky line that characters like Mr. Spock, Data, or Khan Noonien Singh quip in Star Trek. Yes, I’m weird, and maybe a bit of a party pooper that way.

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

MS: Yes. [Haley Joel Osment voice on] I see dead people. Kidding… 😉 See, I can be funny—or maybe not.

You can see and read what Michael is up to here: https://msaadwriter.wordpress.com/2015/11/21/welcome-to-michael-saads-author-page/

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96 Melting Away the Shame

Melting Away the Shame © by Trisha Sugarek

Characters1One early, wintry Sunday morning, I found myself sitting in the waiting area of the Illinois Correctional Facility for Men. I was about to visit a confessed murderer. I was writing his story for a stage play I was developing (Cook County Justice) and, while we had spent over a year with telephone calls and letters, this would be my first time seeing him in person. Need I mention that this would be my first time ever meeting a murderer?

I felt like a fish out of water. Overdressed, out of place, and very conscious of the other women around me. The only males in the room were young, probably sons and nephews of the incarcerated men we were waiting to see. And here was the odd thing: everyone’s shoes were untied. I found out later, and from personal experience, that the other visitors knew the drill. The COs (correctional officers) would search our persons, which included having us remove our shoes for inspection. Shoes were just one of the many places where contraband could be hidden.

Trying hard not to stare, I observed the hopeful resignation on these women’s faces. They knew each other and murmured news and gossip to one another. I was definitely an outsider and I did not belong. As I sat there, an overwhelming urge to know their stories and write them down came over me. It was urgent that I find out what brought them to this place, this time. They didn’t look like bad people. They were women you might see at the store, on the street, or in an office—wives, mothers, and sisters—ordinary in every way.

Suddenly, it was time to go inside. I remember heavy steel doors clanging shut behind us. It was a scary moment; I had just given up my freedom. Even though it was for a short time, my rights and freedom were in other people’s hands. I was assigned a table and sat down to wait for Bill. More time to observe—and feel as though everyone was staring at me. The suppressed frustration and rage in that room was palpable. Other than a short hug between loved ones, no touching was allowed. I’m certain that contraband was exchanged, but I never witnessed it. The women were indefatigably cheerful in front of their men. I might have been at a crowded city park, seeing families sitting at picnic tables visiting, playing cards, and giving their children snacks; save for the concertina wire at the top of the ten-foot-high fence.

A year and a half later, when I was in the final rewrite of my novel, I was working on the acknowledgments. One woman in particular had shared so much with me about her life outside the walls. I wished to thank her, but still maintain her anonymity. I asked her if I could use her first name and only the initial of her surname. Would that protect her, I asked, and keep her clients from knowing about her personal life? Her reply to this question was,
“It doesn’t matter if your readers figure it out and discover that it’s me… your book has taken away all my shame…”

Shirley K. had stood by her man while he served ten years. Raised their children, supported an unwed daughter and grandchild, and worked two jobs.  Halfway through her husband’s term, Shirley’s son was sentenced to life for murder. Now she was visiting two of her men in prison. She’s a hero in my book. She did nothing to deserve this kind of life. She’d never even had a traffic ticket. And that’s the common thread among these women. Married, raising their children; mid-stream America, right?  Then their husbands or sons or brothers make one stupid decision and end up in prison.

I once asked Shirley how she and the other women kept up a brave face when visiting their husbands. She told me stories about how, after the visit was over, the women—friends for years—would drive to a designated rest area (down the highway a couple of exits from the prison) and meet up. That was where they shared their tears, grief, anger, and commonality of spirit. Surrounded by other women who understood their pain, confusion and grief. But they never let their husbands see what they were going through. They were serving time in their own personal prison; doing their own time.

One gives little or no thought to the innocent families of the perpetrators. Violent crime has many victims. Not only does the victim’s family suffer a never-ending grief, but the family of the perpetrator suffers equally, only in a different manner. In cases of homicide, while the offender might not have lost their life, the family loses their loved one sometimes… frequently … for life. This is an ‘eye for an eye’ society, and justice should be delivered to the culprit. But that punishment is far reaching and unavoidable.

When Shirley told me about the shame finally leaving her, I had little known that my story—about wives waiting outside the walls—would have this kind of impact. What I did know was, as I wrote the book, I met many women from all walks of life, who had someone currently in prison, or had lived the experience in the past. As a writer it is not uncommon for me to have people—strangers—appear in my life to share and contribute something to my writing. It’s welcomed but a little eerie.

Epilogue: Shirley’s son, convicted of murder and sentenced to life, had his conviction and sentence reduced to manslaughter and fifteen years. He got out in 2014.

www.writeratplay.com
Women Outside the Walls is available on Amazon.com

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96 A Written View

DSP-IM96b-page024Building Worlds

There are writers who can sit down and fashion an entire world in their minds, put it on paper, and you would swear it was real. We, as fiction writers, must imagine worlds and situations that seem real to the reader. It’s a challenge, to say the least.

Fiction—the word—means something made up. You use imaginary information to piece together something that could, or could not, be real. But everyone will agree that fiction is a creation that is made up.

Fantasy

This is an amazing genre for world building. Some authors start by using a place they have already lived in or visited, then create from there. Others just make it up as they go, relying on that overactive imagination we writers have.

Create the Place

Creating your fantasy world starts with creating it first. Do this before you start your story; that way a true place is already fully-formed and there for your characters to play around in. Laws, places, land masses, forests, mountains, streams, and everything else that makes sense to have. Use maps to create by cutting and pasting parts together until it forms what you are looking for.

We all have our own versions of reality, impacted by laws, governed by philosophies and customs, and grounded by real life. This is called society, and accepted as normal. But you create what is normal in your fantasy world.

The Spear series starts in a town Fisheries—many huts and small homes around a fishing village and transportation hub crossing to Capital located on a peninsula. To start it, I drew an outline of the story and then sketched the land mass, culture, underground society, different places and people. This built my world and made it easy to have the children run around from one spot to another.

I needed a place where rules governed the lives of everyone, but where there were areas of lawlessness. Those became the destitute areas of the Realm. My imagination sang as several legends of the land formed from the rough drawing of the map. Hobs formed from Hobgoblins and the legend of a famous Spear came to life.

Draw a Map

I can’t draw. Yes, lines on a piece of paper is definitely drawing, but I personally have a hard time drawing something worth sharing, so I won’t share.

With your information in hand, draw a map of the fantasy world you envision. Put lines on paper, mountains, streams, rivers, valleys, shorelines, and anything else you can imagine. Then put it to scale. This way you know how far things are and if they have to travel 100 miles, you know it’s not going to happen in a day (unless they teleport). It will help you add realism to the story. Definite features and regions mean more interaction, better chances of narrative description, and a cleaner story.

But this is just the start of your world. Making it believable is the next step. You need to invent societies and build differing qualities of life. One area may have a stigma about eyebrows while another, knees. Religion is as differing as people. Customs, rites, traditions, beliefs, and dogma can change from village to village. Make sure you have something set for each area your characters travel through.

Religion, and Other Beliefs

Do you believe in the Old Gods or New Gods? That is the question everyone in the world of Game of Thrones is asked. The religions across the world built by George RR Martin are vast. I’d bet he stayed up all night thinking of them all, from the stones on the eyes (reminiscent of paying to cross the river Styx) to the Lord of Light (bringing to mind Judaism) or Great Shepherd (more Catholic than anything else).

What you need to do is figure out what the people of your land believe and why. It is important, for you never know when one character will start spouting out religious rhetoric at someone. Myths and legends need to come alive, and like Samson’s hair, be cut only to show it was the strength within.

Specifics

The fun starts to come into play when you think of volcanoes to add drama. Mountain ranges, deserts, jungles, forests, rivers, lakes, waterfalls, and deltas all add realism to the area, bringing to life wild creatures and hiding places. You could have a temple near the volcano where they push interlopers in, or those followers of the Sun God crying every morning as he hurls the glowing orb of light into the sky. These are some of the things you need to add in order to build your world.

Transportation is always something people take for granted. How long does it take to cross a city from end to end on foot? Think of how fast you walk. Most people can travel around three to five mph, so if you live 40 miles from town, that would take you ten hours to walk! Even on horseback, a trek like that would take hours (and a lot of soreness) to complete. Why did the dog stay in their village? Because it took so long to run away. Think of this, it took Columbus how long to cross the ocean to find the Americas? Two months and eight days. So how long will it take your characters to travel across the land?

Think of clothing, for what the world is like will tell you what they wear. Is it cold? Then they wear furs. Is it warm? Loin cloths and little more. The way they are seen by others will tell you how they are judged by travelers. Like the Native Americans of old being seen as savages by the Europeans coming across the great ocean, they could either be seen as backward or equal.

Finishing It

With all fantasy works, you will want to add some dabbling of the fantastical. There could be wells of magical power, dragons, mythical creatures, unicorns, hoarded gold of the ages, or swords of such power only the righteous can wield them.

It’s a lot of work, but if your story only exists in your imagination, you need to do it to make the place real. Part of your job as a writer is to envision the place where everyone lives and make it come alive, even if half of what you do does not end up on the page with the published part of the story.

So, with the fundamentals set, you can now start writing until the story is finished, referring to your notes and the amazing mapped world you have in the back pocket of your favourite jeans.

Doug’s Site

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96 Big Tree Comics

Big Tree Comics

By Louise Cochran-Mason

BigTree1Big Tree Comics was founded in 2014 by Kyrun Silva. Since then, he has built up a creative team who work on Big Tree titles, and outside commissions. Their first comic was the six-issue miniseries Shaman’s Destiny. Since then, they have added three other titles to their roster.

They attend many conventions and store signings, and are involved in both the Superhero Thrill Fun Run and the Free Comic Book Day Festival.

Kyrun tells us more about Big Tree Comics.

IM: What is Shaman’s Destiny about?

KS: Shaman’s Destiny was the first book published by Big Tree Comics. I created the series, wrote and drew it. It’s a story about Malik, who is a newly-appointed shaman. He’s been appointed by the spirit of the earth Gaea to protect our world from demons, creatures, and other beings. He notices that his powers aren’t working the way they normally do, so he sets off with his guardian, Jeph, who is a talking rabbit, to determine why his powers are failing him. Along the way, he meets up with other powered individuals and beings. Some are out to hurt him, while others try to help.

IM: What is Whyte & Wong about?

KS: Ricky Eaddy created, wrote, and drew Whyte & Wong. It’s a buddy cop comedy series. Carter Whyte is the grizzled veteran and Trevor Wong is the slacker rookie. They both work as detectives in the police force of San Francisco. They’ve been paired and now have to learn how to work together. Their first case is to find out who the mysterious figure is that controls the organized crime in the city, a figure known only as The Rooster.

IM: What is Joshuan Somewhere about?

BigTree2KS: This is created and written by Dennis Nancarrow and drawn by Larry Haines. It’s a coming of age series about Joshuan Somewhere. Joshuan is a loner in school, who gets transported to different planets by his bracelet called A.S.P.E.N. The bracelet takes him on his journey as he learns how to be hero. Joshuan learns that the bracelet was designed by his father, who he thought was gone, and he has to figure out what plans his father has for him and the bracelet.

IM: Big Tree Comics also has a web-only comic: Vocabularious. What is it about?

KS: Vocabularious is written and drawn by Ricky also. It’s on hiatus right now as he focuses on Whyte & Wong, but what he does is take an obscure word and turn it into a one panel strip describing something that’s happened in his life. It stars Ricky and his lovely family. We decided to make this a free web comic, so people can enjoy Ricky’s humor.

IM: How do you find: Smack Jeeves as a publisher?

KS: I found Smack Jeeves through another artist, Melissa McCommon. She runs an amazing web comic called Epic Chaos, and has used Smack Jeeves for years. It’s a great way to get your work out to a mass audience really quickly. They provide great tools to help design and publish a web comic site very easily.

IM: What made you decide to start your own comic book company?

KS: I decided to start my own company, because I wanted to tell stories that I thought were interesting and enjoyable. It’s sort of selfish, but I wanted to make comics for myself. Once I started doing it, I realized that I knew so many talented people, and I wanted them to find a way to develop their books also.

IM: Did you start it and then get the other creators involved, or was everyone there from the start?

KS: I started everything back in 2014. About a year later, I brought Ricky along, first doing the web comic, and then Whyte & Wong. By the end of 2015, I had started the ball rolling on getting Joshuan Somewhere produced.

IM: Are the comics creator- or company-owned?

BigTree3KS: The comics are all creator-owned.

IM: What is your background?

KS: Funny thing is, I have no background in art or graphic work. I went to school for accounting, but I realized very quickly that it wasn’t for me. I’ve always enjoyed drawing and creating since I was a little kid. After enough coaxing from my wife, I decided one day to just sit down and start my own comic book.

IM: How do you promote your work?

KS: Mostly through social media and word of mouth. I have a great group of friends and family that are always there and willing to help me promote anything new that we are doing.

IM: Do you do a lot of appearances at conventions and stores?

KS: We usually do one to two appearances each month. We are always willing to do more if someone wants to invite us somewhere.

IM: How important are they for getting your work known, and sold?

KS: Doing shows and store events are essential to getting our work sold. We are at a time where there are literally thousands of people self-publishing their comics, either in print or on the web. Getting face to face with a potential client gives me an opportunity to put my books in a reader’s hand and have a better chance of them choosing us over someone else’s book.

IM: What advice would you give to someone about them?

KS: Don’t be discouraged if you don’t sell a lot of products, especially at your first few shows. It takes time before you can do this and make money. Try to have fun at any event you do. If you have a nice time and people can see that, they are more likely to stop and look at your stuff.

IM: Can you tell us more about your third-r  year “Launch Party”?

BigTree4KS: In May was Free Comic Book day and we released three different books that day (Shaman’s Destiny #5, Whyte & Wong #2 and Joshuan Somewhere #1). We showcased our books at three different stores here in Sacramento, but we found that because of the crowds, we didn’t get a lot of time to talk with customers.

IM: You have your own online shop Bigtreecomics.storenvy.com and a print-on-demand shop on IndyPlanet.  Which do you find works best?

KS: The print-on-demand still is our bestseller. Even though technology lets someone have hundreds of comics on their iPad, I still find most people enjoy having an actual comic book in their hands to read.

IM: Are you on Comixology?

KS: We are on Comixology, but only Shaman’s Destiny #1 is listed at this time. Within the next few months, though, we should have our other series on Comixology and other digital outlets.

IM: You also use DriveThruComics. Do you think digital comics make it easier for indy publishers to sell to a worldwide audience?

KS: Digital comics are a great way to get your book to a broader audience. We’ve definitely received interest from different parts of the world using DriveThru and Amazon.

IM: How important is it to you to get your works into bricks-and-mortar comic shops as well as online ones?

KS: Our first goal is always to get into local comic shops. Comic shops are the backbone of the comic industry. Most comic shops are great at recommending indy series to customers.

IM: Is it difficult to juggle creating commissions (other comics and art for BTC’s shop) and your own comic creations?

KS: Commissions are always stressful for me. Doing someone else’s characters can be very nerve-wracking.

IM: You’re participating in the Superhero Thrill 3 and 5k Fun Run/Walk; could you tell us more about it?

KS: The Superhero Thrill run was created to support the Hmongstory 40 exhibit coming to Sacramento, CA. People dress up as superheroes and run through an obstacle course and mini marathon. It’s all for fun and charity, and a great family event. We were lucky to be invited.

IM: You are also involved with the Free Comic Book Day Festival 2016. Is it a big event in your local area?

KS: Free Comic Book Day has slowly evolved into a huge event. It’s basically a miniature comic convention in most places. Where I live, a lot of stores allow local creators to come down and showcase their creations for everyone to see.

IM: I’ve seen Empire Comics Vault mentioned a few times in stuff related to Big Tree Comics. Is there a connection between the companies, or is it just a friend/fan/helpful local shop?

KS: Empire Comics Vault has been a huge help in the process of Big Tree Comics getting off the ground. It was the first store to allow me to display my books, and also the first store to sell our books. Because of their continuous support, we are always working with them.

IM: You have some merchandising (mouse mats). Is that something you want to expand in the future?

KS: We are slowly making our way into merchandising. We are planning on testing things to see what might interest people. I’m really excited about the idea of Big Tree Comics cookies that we hope to launch soon, but that won’t be for a while. Slowly, we will start rolling out different products for people to get from us.

IM: Is there anything you’d like to add that we haven’t covered?

KS: I would like to thank all our fans who have supported us over the last couple of years. Please keep sharing our work. Without your support, we could not be here.

 I also want to thank the great staff at Indyfest for taking the time to interview us. We have some amazing things coming out in the future that we can’t wait to share them with you.

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