Also in this issue: Sneak Peeks of Earthings #2 by Dave Brink, Jim Jimenez, and Jeremy Scott Brworning, Planet Earth by David Scacchi and Gary Welsh, and Tales of Terror by David Doub, Lou Manna, and Jerry Gonzales. Articles include Doug’s A Written View series, Trisha Sugarek’s Motivational Moments, and the Hall of Fame report by Ian Shires. Top it all off with a 10-reviews review section, in the PDF-only! Click the cover to go get yourself a free copy. Or Click HERE!
I have been following the election season pretty closely this year. Allow me to make it clear: I’m not about to endorse anyone or take either side. Fact is, the choices presented right now are a mess for the public to figure out. Therefore, we’ll leave those choices to each of you as individuals, and instead give you over to the super-fun topic that is our lead article this month.
It has been a long time since we featured a game in the magazine, and I only seem to remember one other time we did. But this speaks to the heart of what changing our name from “Self Publisher!” to “Indyfest” was all about. We have fantastic opportunities to cover cross-market small press stuff. The things going on out there that put someone with talent and an idea, onto a collision course with unheard-of success.
To that point, my longtime friend Rich Case came to visit me recently. I knew he’d become involved with a production company in New York, but I was surprised when he presented me with a copy of Black Salt, a live action mini-feature DVD based on the Indy comic of the same name. My first reaction was of course… “And why aren’t we doing a cover feature of this in the magazine, yet?” I mean, we’ve covered a couple live action things, most notably the Charlton Movie, which is still holding on to the title of best-read issue to date.
I have long been saying cross-promotion of different aspects of “Indy” in the same magazine is going to be the key to our break-through success. I think few could see any disadvantage to covering comics, music, books, motion pictures, zines, etc… all together in a way that our potential audiences mix. I feel like we have not quite cracked the code on making it happen on the level it needs to. And we certainly have not gotten the publishers and creators really behind this effort, to where we have decent advertising and ability to grow.
I will speak in the HOF column a bit about what I have done since last issue to move us all forward. I feel lot of it does all boils down to politics. Or maybe propaganda. Those of us who have made the commitment to following our own pathways owe it to each other to help show the way to new talent, new readers, and new pathways of potential. Giving any of this up to corporate control leads us to an end of how we got started ourselves.
So that is why I cannot take a side or endorse anything. I have to stand at the edge of what can be and poke at the ground to see what steps we can take to build the marketplace we all deserve. Sometimes, you need to sling some mud to see what sticks. I don’t know what the future is going to bring us, any more than anyone knows who is going to win this election. We’ll keep going either way.
I have been struggling with getting things positioned the way they need to be to solidify the whole SPA/HOF thing. By this time, I wanted to have a monthly awards system to help us build a start-of-year nomination pathway for HOF Induction. And I just haven’t been able to build the system. Not for lack of availability of software—that I have. It’s been lack of time to do the work. That lack of time has been due to a number of things, but really, I have no excuse.
Since last issue, I have contacted the local school system with questions and ideas about building an intern program for students interested in learning any and all aspects of publishing. We’ll see what pans out with that. The thing that takes me the longest right now is layouts, I have to find a way to get out from under that and still keep the magazine running smoothly month in month out.
I have come into contact with a local printer who prints everything from banners, to car decorations, to apparel and other swag. The also do pamphlets and brochures, so I am talking to them about the potential of POD comics. With that, Indyfest would be able to offer a lot of things. So, it’s about equipment and numbers right now; we’ll see how that pans out as well.
Meanwhile, I have also started talking to Jon Miller from Outpouring Comics, who is also developing a distribution branch. Now, you all know I have been talking to King Chan about this for a while, and I don’t plan to dump one guy for another, or in any way put one person’s efforts over another’s. Indyfest—I feel—is designed to be big enough to work with any and all systems and thus, having good, solid relationships with any and all avenues working to put Indy stuff in stores is prudent.
It struck me the other day that maybe it’s time to drop the “Self Publisher Association” from the mix. As in, do we really need an SPA and an INDYFEST NETWORK? Can the SPA just absorb forward, and be more focused that way?
I pose these as questions, because I have not made up my mind yet, nor really talked to anyone else about it. Even Ellen, who will be the first to read this when I turn it over for editing, hasn’t heard about this, because I am thinking out loud here.
Evolving with the times and being on the cutting edge of bringing change are two separate things. One is reactionary, while the other requires trying new things to see if they work. I have, on many occasions, been on that cutting edge and most of the time, all I got for the effort was getting cut to ribbons. I cannot guarantee that it won’t happen again. However, as I said last issue, waiting any longer is no good; accepting defeat is no good; only going back into an active development phase will bring forth the publishing world we want. And I can’t and don’t want to do this alone.
As a writer, I marinate, speculate, and hibernate. ~ Trisha Sugarek
Writing is as much a part of Trisha’s being as drawing breath is to the average person. Her many accolades and achievements not only bring her a greater perspective on the craft, but inspire her to share this passion with others as a freelance writer, blogger, and videographer.
IM: It is my pleasure to chat with Trisha today about the launch of her new release Song of the Yukon. Welcome.
TS: Thanks for the opportunity, MJ.
IM: In your last Indyfest Interview, you briefly touched on how the lives of the many women in your life influence your writing. How does this muse manifest itself in your new saga Song of the Yukon?
TS: Yes, the muse for this story was my auntie LaVerne, who did indeed run away to Alaska and homestead. Alaska was her muse. She wanted to follow in poet Robert Service’s steps as she wrote her music. As I mention later, I grew up being told as many stories about my mother and her siblings as I did fairy tales. There was no TV (hard to believe, isn’t it?) so there was a lot of storytelling in our house.
IM: Wow, I couldn’t imagine doing something like that even today! Would you, personally, ever want to live off the grid—and in Alaska?
TS: Ha! If I was even twenty years younger, I would be gone! I think solar power would power up my computer and wi-fi. lol
IM: You mentioned Song of the Yukon is based off your aunt’s experiences. How much of the book is actually true? What’s been embellished?
TS: If I were to guess, at least 85 percent is true. She ran away to Alaska, met and married Milo Robbins, and lived there for around 25 years. I remember the first time I ever met my aunt. I must have been ten or twelve when they came to Seattle for a visit. She was raw-boned, no frills, no makeup, thin as a rail. Dressed almost like a man, very homespun. But pretty, and kind to this shy teenager. Milo was there too and he was (as in the book) bigger than life; six foot five and about 275 pounds. I remember distinctly seeing a 45-speed vinyl record with a title, North to Alaska, with my aunt’s name printed there as the composer.
The adventures and way of life in Alaska are 100 percent true. The friendship with Charlie was embellished. The indigenous people who “arrived” in my story are all fictitious. When LaVerne travels to Tanana (a real village in the outback) from Fairbanks, looking for her homestead, Black-eyed Joe just appears in the village store. I was as surprised as LaVerne. The folklore and Athabascan language are all true. This book was heavily researched. How to train dogs for a sled dog team, how to build a sled out of wood, how to build a cabin… all accurate.
IM: Astounding. To be able to connect with history like this really pushes the boundaries of fiction. Could you explain a little about your process for getting inside the minds of your characters, especially real ones, like your Aunt LaVerne?
TS: My six loyal handmaidens: What, Why, When, How, Where, Who. These are the questions I ask. Frequently, new characters will just show up (many authors that I’ve interviewed have said the same thing) and they always fit and they always enhance my tale. Black-eyed Joe, Elk-Tail, Edna, the Swensons, Ma Powers, I could go on and on. Getting inside my Aunt LaVerne’s head was easy. You see, I grew up with my mother telling me all these tales about herself and her sisters. Here’s a sample.
Excerpt from SONG of the YUKON:
It took a moment for Ivah to take in the fact that LaVerne was dressed and carrying a bag and her beloved guitar.
“What the h-e-double toothpicks is going on? You’ve got a coat on˗˗what’s in the duffle? What are you talking about?”
“I’m leaving˗˗for the Yukon. Tonight.”
“Yukon? You mean in Alaska!? Are you nuts? Go back to bed. You’re sleep walking…or I am.”
Suddenly LaVerne pinched Ivah’s arm.
“Oww! What’d you do that for?”
“To prove to you that you’re awake. I’m not sleep walking and neither are you. I just wanted to say goodbye.”
“Goodb…?” Ivah turned to her other sister and shook her shoulder. “Vi, wake up this instant! LaVerne thinks she’s running away. Wake up!
Violet rolled over and glared up at her two very noisy sisters.
“What the devil is going on? LaVerne, why do you have your coat on?”
“She’s leaving, you slug. Wake up, I need your help.”
“Vernie, take your coat off and go back to bed. You’re not going anywhere. You’re the baby, remember?”
“Shut up, Vi, and listen.” Ivah ordered.
“Who are you telling to shut up? You’re not the boss of me.”
“Please…” LaVerne whispered. “You’re going to wake up Mama. Maybe I better just go.”
“No, no!” Ivah yelled in a sotto whisper. She poked Violet with her elbow again.
“Oww˗˗stop poking me!”
“Vi, it’s obvious LaVerne has a problem. Let’s be good sisters and hear her out. What’s going on squirt?” Ivah patted the bed next to her. “Sit down, honey, and tell us all about it.”
“Yeah, spill it so we can go back to sleep.” Violet sighed. “It can’t be that bad, Vernie.”
“I’ve been thinking about this for a long time. I’ve read gobs on Alaska and that’s the place for me. You can chase your dreams there, be whoever you want to be˗˗no one telling you what to do and what not to do…”
IM: Can you tell me about the most difficult scene for you to write and how you were able to bring it to life on the page?
TS: It was painful to write about Charlie’s unrequited love. I liked her; she was a good friend, and I didn’t enjoy her pain. At first, I didn’t know whether my heroine would choose Charlie or Milo. I let LaVerne choose.
Excerpt from SONG of the YUKON:
When Milo had come outside he hadn’t noticed Charlie had been towing a second sled behind hers. It was not unusual for a musher to have two sleds behind the dog team, especially for larger jobs like hauling firewood or the meat from big game.
Milo stopped at the bottom of the stairs. The second sled looked new and was festooned with ribbons and shells. LaVerne stared at the sled, then at Charlie, then glanced back at Milo.
“Well, say something!” Charlie chortled. “Do you like it? I made it for you˗˗and Milo˗˗for your future dog team. It’s made of hickory, mostly, and should last you for years.”
Milo silently turned and, walking back up the steps to the porch, returned to the cabin.
LaVerne’s eyes filled with tears at the pain she was about to inflict on her friend. “Oh, Charlie, I don’t know what to say…”
“You don’t have to thank me. It was such fun building it for you.”
“And I love it but˗˗it just that˗˗well˗˗Milo˗˗he…”
“Milo what?” Charlie asked nonplussed.
“He built me a sled as a wedding present; it’s in the barn.”
Charlie’s face suffused with an embarrassed blush, “I see.” She fled back to her own sled and lifted the anchor that kept her dogs in place. She regarded Vernie with a deep agony in her eyes, “How could I have been so stupid? Of course we would think of the same gift, something you would love and can use. I’m sorry. Of course you can’t accept mine. I’ll see you later.” And with that she released the brake and yelled at her team, “Hike! Hike! For Chrissakes, go!” She screamed at her team.
IM: That is heartbreaking. The inner turmoil in a moment like that is something many readers can empathize with. In contrast, do you have a favourite moment that makes your soul sing or your heart laugh?
TS: Always, it’s about the animals for me. So I have to say, it was, Howler, Tukoni, Moon, and the puppies that made me laugh and my soul glow. At first, I was going to have the Grizzly take one of the dogs, but I couldn’t stand the thought. (I’m so sappy.) Then, I thought, “Oh wait! I’ve got goats; the bear can kill one of them.”
Excerpt from SONG of the YUKON:
LaVerne bundled up in her coat and boots sat on the porch letting the wolf become accustomed to seeing her and having her around.
This morning there was a major breakthrough. LaVerne had gone into the chicken enclosure with grain to feed the chickens and to collect the eggs. When she stepped out of the coop the wolf was standing in the clearing about four feet from the tree line. Ears pitched forward she stood waiting.
“Well, hello, girl,” LaVerne spoke in the quiet soothing voice she always used when around the animal. “Are you hungry for breakfast?”
Turning her back on the wolf, she walked to the cabin. Leaving the door open she collected a portion of meat and went back outside. The wolf had not moved.
“We need to give you a name, girl,” she said. “How do you like Tukoni? It’s the Athabascan word for wolf. What do you think of it?” As she spoke, she walked slowly half way across the clearing and emptied the bowl of meat chunks into the snow.
The wolf watched but did not run away. “Come on, Tukoni, you have to come and get it if you want to eat,” LaVerne told her, then turned away and walked to the cabin. This time, she sat on the steps and silently watched the wolf.
Howie ran out of the trees and approached his mate. With a snarl, Tukoni ran to the food and began to wolf it down. Howie, good natured as always, ran past her and up the stairs to LaVerne’s side. Sitting at her side, tail thumping the boards, he seemed to be telling LaVerne how proud he was of his mate.
“Yes, I know, Howie. She is doing very well.” LaVerne draped her arm across her dog and rubbed his neck. “If you two talk, you must tell her that she and her pups are safe here, will you?” Howie licked her face.
IM: What a heartwarming moment. Thank you for sharing! Have you written anything else about the Guyer family?
TS: Yes. I wrote Wild Violets, about my mother in the 1920s in San Francisco. She was a flapper, which meant she worked all day and danced all night. She was on a semi-professional women’s basketball team, owned her own speakeasy (later to be a legit bar and restaurant) and played poker and drank whiskey with a Catholic Bishop. All true!
The first thing I wrote about my mother and her sisters was a full length play, The Guyer Girls. The fiction spun off from that.
IM: Wow! You must be so proud to be inspired to write their stories. I can’t thank you enough for joining me today to talk about Song of the Yukon and the amazing women in your family. I wish you the best as you move forward with this, and many other projects.
TS: Thank you, MJ, and IndyFest, for supporting my work.
Okay, got that off my chest. I guess you’re wondering why I’m screaming that at the top of my lungs. Well, let’s go over what KU is, for those who don’t know.
KU, or Kindle Unlimited, allows readers to read as much as they want for a small monthly fee. Authors add their books to KU and, when a reader starts to read it, the author starts to get paid. On a 300 page book the payout is a maximum of $1.50 per book if it is read from start to finish. If the book is only 50% read, then they get $0.75. Nice system, and all you have to do is advertise your book.
Knowing the world we live in, there are people out there who’ve figured out how to scam the system. They get people to create multiple new KU accounts (free for the first month), download the book and either flip through it quickly or just skip to the end. So, for each individual scammer, the author has the ability to make $15. Do this enough and you could make a few bucks, but not until you have finished hiring a lot of people and losing those bucks.
So why is this bad?
Ask Pauline Creeden, author of the Chronicles of Steele. A while back, Pauline received a generic email saying her KDP account was closed due to a violation of the terms. Like most of us, Pauline sees a majority of her sales through Amazon in ebook format. She is a mid-range author, like many of us, and the closing of her KDP account cut off a large portion of income for her. It took a lot of emailing back and forth, and pain, but her account was reinstated.
Why did Amazon close her account?
Here is the email message she received:
We are reaching out to you because we have detected that borrows for your books are originating from systematically generated accounts. While we support the legitimate efforts of our publishers to promote their books, attempting to manipulate the Kindle platform and/or Kindle programs is not permitted. As a result of the irregular borrow activity, we have removed your books from the KDP store and are terminating your KDP account and your KDP Agreement effective immediately.
As part of the termination process, we will close your KDP account(s) and remove the books you have uploaded through KDP from the Kindle Store. We will issue a negative adjustment to any outstanding royalty payments. Additionally, as per our Terms and Conditions, you are not permitted to open new KDP accounts and will not receive future royalty payments from additional accounts created.
She’d received no advance warning, no information, nor anything to tell her there was a problem.
Basically, when you limit yourself to KDP and the KU program, it means you have the possibility of losing a lot. Pauline advertised this book like she did any other, but maybe the cover art (impressive when you look at it) enticed a number of people to join the KU program and grab her book. Maybe there was an influx of people who joined KU at that time and picked her book to read. We don’t know (and neither does Pauline). All she can tell you is it shocked her, and took a great deal of time to resolve.
Note – the payout for KU usually works out to $0.005/page.
Ouch! Really? Yes, they do, but that shouldn’t stop you from dealing with them indirectly. Here’s why. Warning, I may get a little racy on this one.
Ingram tells you when publishing through their Lightning Source, that book stores like to have the ability to return books that don’t sell. It means limited liability to them (really, no liability). They also tell you that bookstores like to make 40 percent of the sale as profit.
Okay, let’s look at the numbers. A book sells for $20, the bookstore gets $8 and you get $12, right? No. In order for the bookstore to get 40 percent you have to mark your payments at 55 percent (40% to the bookstore and 15 percent to Ingram as the distributor). So now you have only made 45 percent or $9. Then you have to remove the print cost of the book as well, say $4.55, leaving you with $4.45. Okay, I can see that.
Returns kill your income
Ingram, when handling returns, charges you for both the printing of the returned book and their distribution charge. So, you are out the actual distribution fee of the book, or $11. And to add insult to injury, they also charge a $2 fee for handling the return.
That’s not all. If you request for the books to be returned, not destroyed, they charge you $2 per book for delivery—is if you live in the United States. If you live in, say, Canada, they charge an extra $20 per book for the return.
Is your wallet crying yet? There’s more.
Depending on when the return is done, you could be out a lot of money before you see one dime of royalties.
Say it isn’t so, Doug. How could they do that?
Easy. You go to the bookstore and arrange a signing and you live in Canada. They LOVE your book and see you have lots of sales, so they order 200 books through Ingram to stock the shelves and make money. You show up, slogging through the snowstorm to end all snowstorms. The store is open and you wait, hoping to sign and sell at least 100 books. You advertised the sale to all the people following you on Facebook and Twitter. Many people said they would be there.
At the end of the day you’re dejected, and have sold only ten books. Okay, not bad, but horrible for royalties (use the prior financial information to show you made $44.50 from the sale).
Now, the manager at the bookstore shakes your hand and says, “Tough luck with the weather, right?”
You smile, nod, and collect all your things in order to brave the raging storm outside.
Unknown to you, the bookstore packs up all 190 remaining books and ships them back to Ingram that very day, shaking his head at another wannabe author, not realizing the storm caused the lack of sales.
Ingram receives the books back, and promptly checks to see you have return marked on them. They smile, package them up, and send them to you. Your royalty report shows the following:
Sales – $90
Print costs – $910.00
Total Royalties – ($820)
The signing now cost you a lot of money, and they hold that against you, deducting it from royalties owed.
Now, when you get your financial report at the end of the month you’ll see the return of the books, and a fee imposed called “Other”. In this case (we’ll call the author Bill), Bill gets his monthly Ingram statement that shows he owes $820 in royalties and an “Other” charge of $3990 ($2 per book return shipping charge and $20 per book return out of US). Bill closes his account and stops writing. What a shame.
Ingram mentioned two months ago that they are rewriting the ‘agreement’ to remove the charge, but everyone asks, “What agreement?” In fact, there is no actual formal agreement between Author/Publisher and Ingram Lightning Source. Figure that out. So how can they actually hold you to that charge? Well, if you are smart you’ll realize it is a charge from Ingram Distributing, not Lightning Source. You could always say you don’t have an agreement with them—only Lightning Source—and see how that works. Until Ingram gets their heads out of their proverbial ass, I’ll never deal directly with them again.
If you decide to do signings, ask the bookstore if you can supply the copies of the book for sale. Let them know that as a self-published author, it is important you control all returns. Tell them you’ll gladly take back all the books that don’t sell at no cost to them and smile. If you’re a small publisher, make sure your website explains this as well. They should know you accept returns on your terms. And never let Ingram destroy the books.
Plot: I am currently finishing my newest novel and I have to tell you, the loosely-built plot that I had envisioned when I began is gone by the wayside. Way, way off and into the forest, in fact. About halfway through, the characters took me on a journey, making their own decisions, loving who they wanted to love, building their homesteads their way. When this happens to me, I welcome their storyline in… They know better than I do at that point. My characters write a better story than I ever could.
“The last thing I want to do is spoil a book with plot. I think a plot is the last resort of bad writers. I’m a lot more interested in characters and situations; following where it goes. In Cujo, I was as surprised as my readers when the little kid died at the end.”
“A poem begins with a lump in the throat; a homesickness or a love-sickness. It is a reaching-out toward expression; an effort to find fulfillment. A complete poem is one where an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.”
‘As a writer, I marinate, speculate and hibernate.’ Trisha Sugarek
I was first introduced to Matt Feazell’s work in 1985, when he replied to a letter of mine they’d printed in Comic Buyer’s Guide. My simple thought that “Someday I’d like to write comics” had led Matt to send me one of his minicomics, saying, “Well why wait!?”. Matt has, in that way, introduced probably thousands of people to making small press comics, and I have had the pleasure of being his acquaintance at countless shows over the last 30 years. At the SPACE show in Columbus, Ohio this year, he showed me Mudslinger, the game he has been developing with Matt Dawson. I knew instantly we had to cover this—and thankfully, they agreed, and we’re now able to get this into the spotlight at the height of the political season.
IM: So, hello Matt and Matt…Let’s start off with ‘How did you two meet?’
MF: Matt Dawson emailed me to inquire about the possibility of hiring me to illustrate some sample cards for a Kickstarter campaign. Said he was a fan of my work from way back. We didn’t actually meet ‘til he drove up to Hamtramck from Ohio to deliver a box of finished decks!
IM: Matt Dawson, this game was in development long before you two met; how did it get started?
MD: I actually was first introduced to Feazell’s work in the late ’80s at The Atlanta Fantasy Fair (I think that may now be DragonCon). He certainly left an impression on young-teen me and I loved the wit in his work.
Many years later, I became a bit of a political junkie and, during the run-up to the 2004 election, the idea for a game where players campaign against each other for the presidency came to mind. More specifically, a game where the more terribly one behaves, the better odds they have of winning. It’s one of the few games where you can straight-up lie to others at the table, make empty promises, and do everything possible to weaken and confound your opponents.
Designing the game was easier said than done and it took two years to develop, but I, and the many folks who helped along the way, were very pleased with the final result.
IM: What led you to doing it as an independently published game?
MD: I sent out inquiries in 2006 to some publishers and no one seemed interested in even glancing at it. My wife at the time insisted we take it to some publishers personally, so we self-published and rented a booth at the Origins 2007 convention with the hope of meeting publishers, while introducing it to the public. After the first day of people passing by and ignoring us, we began rounding up strangers to play at our booth. Mudslinger can get somewhat volatile with competitive players and our area got kind of rowdy as more and more people came to play and watch others. We sold out of every copy we brought by the end of that day. It was crazy. We even earned a “Best New Card Game” award from a group of hobbyists who attended the convention every year at the time.
We ended up having a major publisher take a very close look at us following Origins, but ultimately, that deal fell through as they didn’t feel Mudslinger was family-friendly enough for their brand. I haven’t yet resubmitted Mudslinger to publishers since the fresh update, but it’s on my radar.
IM: Matt Feazell, you have some experience in politics; can you give our readers a bit of your background there?
MF: My wife Karen Majewski is Mayor of Hamtramck. That’s as close to politics as I get. Mostly I stay out of it and try not to make her job any harder than it is. What I have learned over the years, though, is that back-stabbing and double-crossing happen all the time. Doing somebody a favor doesn’t mean they will vote your way down the road. Political capital isn’t worth Monopoly money.
Also politicians are usually not corrupt, just stupid. They don’t follow the rules ‘cause they don’t bother to read the rule book. It’s up to the smarter ones to yell at them every now and then to keep things in line.
IM: Were you able to put any of your experience into the game?
MF: Yes! I put as much stupid stuff as I could into the illustrations!
IM: This has been a wild political year. I have to think that has helped your marketing efforts. What happens AFTER the election?
MD: I think it’s wild every election cycle. Mudslinger is capable of being updated with the current events and zaniness of the day. We sold over 200 copies of the original version and we’re on track to repeating that. With the right publisher, I’m convinced (of course I’m biased) it would be it a hit.
IM: What is the strangest thing that has happened in the process of promoting this game?
MF: I sent a deck in the mail and the post office clerk asked me if there was anything dangerous in the package so I said, “It’s so funny you might die laughing,” and he stamped it “Hazardous.”
Not really. I made that up.
IM: At this point, if Hasbro came to you tomorrow and said, “Let us market your game”, would you “sell out”?
MD: Of course. This is politics, after all.
IM: Both of you, what is next on your project lists? Where do you go from here?
MF: Children’s book!
MD: I’ll probably send some inquiries to publishers in the near future, but unfortunately, I have to work in the real world, so I haven’t had as much free time to promote this as I would like.
IM: Take a moment to promote anything else you are currently involved with or have available. What’s your favorite work?
MF: I’m pretty excited about the new Cynicalman “Have A Day!” coffee mugs!
IM: Ok, last chance, if you have anything else you want our readers to know, let them have it!
MF: Go out and vote! It only encourages them!
I want to thank both Matts for taking the time to speak with Indyfest about this truly unique game. We hope everyone will check it out and look forward to hearing from both of them in the future.
He Came From Southern Canada: A Chat with David Scacchi
By Ellen Fleischer
David Scacchi is a newcomer to the world of comics. For the last little while, he’s been paying his dues and getting his name out there. Recently, his comic They Came From Planet Earth was accepted by Insane Comics. David tells us more…
IM: How long have you been creating comics?
DS: I’ve been drawing superheroes and spaceships my whole life. Ever since I can remember, I’ve always had a pencil in my hand. It’s only been in the past few years that I decided to sit down and make a serious go at comics professionally. I’m faster at writing than I am at drawing, so I decided to write the stories and get others to do the art.
IM: Tell us a bit about yourself. Where did you grow up?
DS: Male, 41, grew up (and still live) half way between Toronto and Niagara Falls! By day, I’m an industrial computer programmer. I spend my nights trying to come up with witty retorts to serious questions without annoying the interviewer. How am I doing so far?
IM: Anything you’d like to share with us about your childhood or teen years?
DS: I was a typical geeky kid/teen who spent too much time with comic books and video games and not enough time enjoying the outdoors. Now, I’m a typical geeky adult who spends too much time with comic books and video games and not enough time enjoying the outdoors. I’m hoping my golden years follow the same trajectory.
IM: Could you describe a couple of experiences/influences that helped set you on the path to comics?
DS: I can remember buying my first comic, Transformers #1 in 1984. I was into the toys at the time and loved the comic. The rest is history.
IM: Can you talk about a couple of individuals/characters/works/events that have served as a source of inspiration for you?
DS: I can remember my first exposure to Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns in 1987 as a specific source of inspiration. I know it came out in ’86, but I didn’t get it until ’87. I was about 12 at the time, and although the story was probably a little mature for a 12-year-old to fully understand, I loved the art and how ‘adult’ Batman talked. I know it’s a clichéd book to mention for inspiration, but it’s one that is still teaching me to this day. Every time I pick it up, I learn something new about it, and about the art of storytelling. I was a big mainstream book fan at the time, and it really was revolutionary when it came out.
Norm Breyfogle, Frank Quitely, and Jim Lee are also very inspirational artists for me. Some writers I look up to are Michael Crichton, Alan Moore and Andrew Kevin Walker. How’s that for a random list??? haha
IM: What steps have you taken to develop your craft as a writer and artist (and letterer!)?
DS: I watch a lot of TV and movies. When I write, I don’t use typical comic book formatting. I prefer to write screenplays. I love procedural cop/law shows because they are excellent at filling dialogue with ‘necessities’ only. I’ve learned a lot studying TV and movie scripts. They’re great for understanding how pacing, blocking, and exposition work if you want to maximize storytelling. Then it’s just write, write, and write some more. Same with drawing. Obviously, the more you practice, the better you get.
As for lettering, that is something totally new to me. There are no flashy or extravagant sound effects or speech balloons in They Came From Planet Earth. Since I’m so new to it, I wanted to keep all the lettering basic and clean and simply try to make it look readable. I’m aware of the horror stories of creators doing their own letters as a budgetary short-cut. I had a budget for letters, but it was always something I wanted to try. If the artist [on the book] had hated them, then I would have hired somebody to letter, but he was happy with the final result. I used a lot of comic books for reference. YouTube is helpful, too. There’s a TON to know for lettering and I’m just breaking the surface. Knowing where to put balloons, their sizing, how many words for each one, flow, composition… you don’t normally think about all that stuff when you’re enjoying a book, but when it comes to creating your own, all of a sudden you have no idea why something doesn’t look right.
IM: What was the spark that convinced you to take the leap and start creating your own comics?
DS: When I was approaching 40, I guess I did what a lot of people do around that time. I just started looking at my job/career and began questioning if it was something I wanted to do for another 30 years. Typical mid-life crisis stuff. Is 40 mid-life?
Don’t get me wrong. I’m grateful for my job and the life it has provided for me, but if I had a choice, I would prefer to be a comic creator. It was really just a matter of ‘life is short’, and I realized I wasn’t getting any younger! Better late than never, right?
IM: You recently published They Came From Planet Earth through Insane Comics. Can you give us the elevator pitch on the story?
DS: In the near future, mankind discovers that the moon is just a giant, ancient, alien-made cage for a wormhole. They figure out how to control it and send some brave astronauts through. It doesn’t go well, though, and on the other side of the wormhole they crash on an alien planet. They are just scientists trying to do what scientists do… explore and discover. But, regardless of the intent of the humans, the ‘locals’ aren’t too impressed with their unannounced visitors and see them as a problem to be dealt with. The story is about explorers trying to get home, trying to get away from this alien civilization that has completely misinterpreted first contact.
It’s not much different from those cheesy, old, sci-fi, alien invasion B-movies from the 1950s, with giant ants and other space creatures, but with a twist: this time, the humans are the unwelcome monsters!
IM: Tell us a bit about the characters. Who are they? What makes them tick?
DS: The story hits the ground running as we join the four-person crew of the spaceship about to crash on the alien planet. We begin to learn about these characters, both from the way the crash plays out, and by how they react in the following scenes.
The crew are Wakefield, Shelly, Mathis, and Stone.
Shelly, the mission commander, is a good leader, capable of weighing the odds and making split-second decisions during unexpected and risky moments. She’s a realist who understands that you can’t have it both ways sometimes. Hopefully, that will make more sense when you read the book! (LOL)
Wakefield is the pilot. He’s loyal and level-headed, but isn’t afraid to question questionable orders! Ultimately, he’s a compassionate scientist who doesn’t want to cause any trouble. He’s a voice of reason and will always err on the side of caution.
Mathis, a mission specialist, isn’t as ‘composed’ as Wakefield. He’s a bit of a hothead and isn’t very helpful during dangerous and stressful situations. He cares deeply about the mission and his fellow crew members. However, sometimes his emotions get the best of him. I wouldn’t get too attached to Mathis, if you know what I mean! 😉
Stone is another mission specialist. Brilliant in the fields of science and math, she is also able to keep it together during stressful situations. She is very self-aware and capable of stepping outside her emotions in order to calm herself down. When at a loss, she knows enough to just stick to her training instead of panicking.
IM: Did you do any particular research to help your story feel more authentic? Were there any elements that needed to change from the way you’d initially pictured them, whether due to your research, or your characters steering the plot in a different direction from what you’d envisioned (or any other reason)?
DS: I tried to keep all the technology within the realm of possibility. I don’t want the reader to be too distracted by technical realism. My main concern with authenticity is making sure the characters react in a realistic manner. I want the characterizations to be realistic enough so that the reader can identify with a character if they were in the same situation, however extraordinary it may be.
As for elements that changed from conception to execution… the lead characters of the book changed when I began fleshing out and filling in backstories. As the story and characters grew, some of the themes changed as well. It was supposed to be a high concept, trippy, sci-fi story, but once I nailed down the main characters, I decided to pull back on the high concept part and simply focus on things that were easier to identify for a reader. Typical human things, like feeling lost and just wanting to get home. Or wondering if you’re ever going to see that special person again (I’m looking at you, Mathis’ family! LOL).
IM: How did you connect with the rest of your creative team?
DS: I simply asked a mutual friend if he knew any good artists I could hire. He gave me Gary’s contact info.
IM: What is it like working with Insane Comics?
DS: Awesome! The gentleman running it, James Munch, is really great to work with. The best part of Insane Comics is they don’t place any controls on creators. If you have a story to tell, they’ll let you tell it! They are pretty open about that, and super supportive and helpful. Not to mention, the books they print are reminiscent of the high quality of those early Image books in the 90s.
If you’re a creator working on a book, send it in to Insane Comics. They open their submissions quite often. There’s also no specific requirement for genre. They take anything. I’ve recently been reading a lot of Insane Comics books and they’re all terrific! Whatever your taste, they will have something for you!
Seriously, this company (and James) is a jewel in the rough. It’s hard getting noticed out there in the indy publishing world, and Insane Comics is a welcome light in the storm. I’m trying to think of another metaphor to compliment them with, but I’m drawing a blank.
IM: Do you have any other projects in the pipeline? If so, what can you share with us about them?
DS: Yes. I have another title coming this fall, called Rogue. It’s also from Insane Comics. It’s about a covert CIA operative who begins suffering from mental illness and tries to manipulate the world into a nuclear war. Another agent, a specialized hunter-killer, is assigned to track him down and eliminate him. This killer just lost her family in a tragic accident, though, and she must supress the grief long enough in order to stop an apocalyptic nightmare.
It’s a character study. One person is unaware of their deteriorating mental state, attempting to destroy society with carefree abandon, while another is hyper-aware of her emotions and fragile condition, and struggles moment to moment trying to keep it together to prevent global war.
The story basically studies these two people dealing (or not dealing) with differing mental states against the backdrop of an impending World War III. I would characterize it as a cross between Black Hawk Down and the TV show, Homeland.
IM: If you could give one piece of advice to someone looking to create their own comic, what would you tell them?
DS: Commit to having to hire and pay your talent. Just accept that you’re trying to produce a product, and like all products, it will cost real money to make. Sure, there are a few people willing to collaborate and work for ‘exposure’, but when a project gets rolling, it’s pretty hard to demand deadlines (or changes) from an artist who is working for free. I find you tend to get what you pay for. Even just getting to the finish line is a struggle if you don’t have a binding business agreement in place.
Just like anything in life, if you want something done properly you have to pay for it. The hope is that eventually, your book will find enough success to begin paying for itself.
IM: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers that we haven’t touched on yet?
DS: I warned you about Mathis, right? Poor, poor Mathis.
IM: Finally, how can folks keep up with you and your work?
DS: You can find a page for They Came From Planet Earth on Facebook, and on Twitter @TheSpacejunk. Stop by, say ‘Hi’; you can also read the first eight pages!
Stephanie C. Lyons-Keeley and Wayne J. Keeley have recently published a co-written novel, Horror in Jordan’s Bank, which is part on of their Deadraiser series. Between them, they have written, produced and directed a wide array of projects for print, stage and screen.
Indyfest spoke to Stephanie and Wayne about their work.
IM: Can you tell us more about the Deadraiser series?
Keeleys: The Deadraiser series began with some old news stories about these cults who were practising Necromancy–the ancient art of attempting to raise the dead. For example, one cult was found with a cadaver that they were using in their rituals. What was odd–and also documented–was the fact that the cadaver did not show any signs of decay. So the books actually were inspired by true events. A draft was written in the early 80s and left on a shelf. The original title was The Necromancer. When we got together as a writing team, we decided to dust it off and update it. At that time, we saw the strong possibility of it becoming a series and/or franchise. We’ve been told that it conjures up the classic horror novels of the past, which may be because the original was written in the 80s. It also has an archetypical structure: good versus evil with innocence in between.
IM: When is next instalment of Deadraiser due out?
Keeleys: Our plan is to allow Part 1: Horror in Jordan’s Bank to gain a little traction. We hope to really get the hype up to a frenzy around Halloween. Once things settle down, we expect to release Part 2: Rise of the Necromancer before the holidays. We’ll likely do a similar release pattern with Parts 3 and 4, spacing them out about every three months.
IM: Is it your first book?
Keeleys: We have co-written another novel, which currently is under print contract with a publisher. Wayne also has another novel (Mahogany Row Murders Series) he published a number of years ago which was re-released with edits by Stephanie. Finally, we have two manuscripts that are works in progress: a self-help book and a celebrity memoir.
IM: Did you self-publish it?
Keeleys: Someday Productions LLC published it, a company which Stephanie owns. It is technically not a self-published book, although it certainly is an indy-published book. Someday is debuting its first offering with this novel, but Stephanie has plans to publish other books and produce films under the Someday imprint.
IM: Can you tell us about Someday Productions LLC?
Keeleys: Someday Productions LLC is a media entertainment company and all that it implies. Someday will be publishing books, producing films, TV shows, and other programming. It already has produced several Off-Off-Broadway plays. As a corollary, Pillow Talking, a highly successful media blog, was formed under Someday’s umbrella. The blog has an amazing reach and generates 400,000 to 500,000 documented hits/visits per month. The sites for Someday and Pillow Talking are: www.somedayprods.com and www.somedayprods.com/talking.
IM: What was the other novel you wrote together?
Keeleys: We wrote a novel titled Triptych: All In, which is based upon a screenplay of the same name. In all forms, this is a project which is near and dear to us. The second-ever joint endeavor of our many past, present, and future works. Wayne wrote an original draft of the screenplay, originally titled Triptych, a year or so before we met. I have since made several edits, changes, and additions, and we’ve been working hard, but being very selective with whom we share the script, which has won many awards. We decided that the common book-before-the-film scenario might work well for us, so we adapted the screenplay into a literary work.
IM: Can you tell us more about the self-help book and celebrity memoir?
Keeleys: The self-help book is titled Beyond the Bucket List: Your Life’s Peak Experiences, and it is about going for the gusto now, instead of the usual course whereby many people wait until they’ve had near-death experiences or even terminal diagnoses. Living a positive life and having “peak experiences” is based upon psychologist Abraham Maslow’s idea of self-actualization and fulfilling one’s individual potential through transcendent moments of pure joy and elation. Wayne’s oldest son Wyatt has muscular dystrophy; I’m a psychotherapist and professor of psychology—we have a lot of vested interest in the subject.
The celebrity memoir is about Golden Globe-winning and Oscar-nominated actress/icon Sally Kirkland. About a year ago, we interviewed her for our blog Pillow Talking, and have since formed a relationship with her. She asked us to pen her memoirs and we’ve had multiple conversations with her; we also are utilizing her bounty of journals and diaries. She is a fascinating woman, who has lived through many challenges, and has worked with countless legends in the business.
IM: Do you have any films or plays in the pipeline?
Keeleys: As I mentioned, we are always hoping for lightning in a bottle—as for film scripts, we have Triptych, as well as a comedy-bromance script in the hands of a few people. In addition, we have no less than a half-dozen other scripts ready to go.
With regard to plays, we have a powerful work we wrote called Dark Rift, for which we’d hoped to have a staged reading in October, but the wonderful venue we’d chosen unexpectedly closed, so we’re back at square one. We have another play we’ve staged several times called Waiting for the Sun, but currently, it’s on the shelf alongside the multiple one-acts we’ve penned, produced, and directed (summer of 2015 was a big season for us in NYC, where we launched many of them Off-Off-Broadway and both placed and won in a few competitions). It is tough to be so diversified—we just cannot find the time to launch everything in all genres!
IM: Is it difficult to alternate between script and prose writing?
Keeleys: Not difficult, but there are differences. With scripts, it’s almost like you’re creating an outline—you know you’ve got to leave certain things out and allow a director to fill in the blanks. With prose, you have to give your reader more, since there will not eventually be that visual to go along with the words you’ve written.
Once we get ourselves in the mindset of each type of writing, we simply write. It’s like changing gears. We are creative people and we need to get in “the zone” as we like to call it—then we are full-speed ahead with anything which happens to be in our current focus. We tune out other projects in order to be most effective in whatever it is we’re doing.
IM: Is writing plays very different to writing for the screen?
Keeleys: Stage and screen are similar in that you’ll have a director’s input, but with plays, you have to consider that there won’t be camera angles and close ups and all the real-life sets and situations of film—therefore, you have to think about more “make believe” and creative ways to express what an actor is thinking or feeling. In some ways, you have to create more magic—but that’s incredibly fun and imaginative.
IM: Is your blog part of the company or more of a hobby?
Keeleys: The blog was intended to facilitate Someday Productions’ projects. To a certain extent, it was never intended to be a mass media content outlet. You never know in this business when lightning in a bottle strikes and, to our surprise, the blog took off and really has an independent life of its own—it keeps us VERY busy! We review theatre, film, television, books, music, etc. We write nearly everything in a “He Said/She Said” format. This really has caught on with our readers and the venues for whom we review. We also have reviewers who guest review for us, including video games, comic books, and occasionally, some other entertainment works. In addition, we have guest bloggers who share their professional expertise on a variety of subjects. We expect Pillow Talking to continue to increase in reach and exposure.
IM: What impact has new technology (i.e. the Internet) had on your business over the years?
Keeleys: The internet has made research easier in all ways, and that includes how we incorporate elements into our works. Everything is at the touch of a keyboard. The internet has allowed writers quicker and more efficient ways to reach out to others in the business, and given us more options for getting our work out there to more people, while relying less on the outmoded ways peddling your wares by making phone calls and snail-mailing manuscripts or scripts. But that’s good and bad; it’s also increased the competition, saturating the market. No matter what, cream rises to the top, and if you have a good product, the hope is that people will find it, read it, or see it—and love it.
As for our blog, the entire face of it is internet-based. We market like crazy and are fortunate that it has garnered us 400,000–500,000 hits/visits per month. We’ve also been extremely lucky to have had the pleasure of meeting countless incredible artists and talents as a result; we wouldn’t have had those opportunities come so easily if it weren’t for the web. We are so grateful that we have that many people coming to our site to read our words—and then coming back again and again.
IM: Do you produce films, as well as connecting film-makers with investors?
Keeleys: We are always searching for the next project and in these kinds of talks. (If you know anything about the film business, projects are always “hurry up and wait,” and many also fall by the wayside, even when they seem to be a sure thing.) But more to your question, when you produce any type of media that requires an investment on any level, it’s inevitable that relationships and/or connections with investors are formed.
IM: How does the process work for filmmakers? Do they approach you?
Keeleys: We sometimes reach out, and also are very open to hearing from other writers and film-makers. We always keep our eyes open for potential projects that we can either become involved with at a writing level, a producing level, or at some other level of creative involvement.
IM: What are your backgrounds?
Keeleys: Stephanie is an award-winning writer, director, and producer. She has a Master of Arts in counseling psychology, was formerly a practising psychotherapist, and director of a women’s work release facility. She currently is a professor of psychology at two Connecticut colleges. The field serves as a big part of her creative endeavours.
Stephanie also is a journalist, writer, editor and, together with her husband Wayne, has penned countless works for film, theatre, TV, and the literary world. Together they have created a production company, Someday Productions LLC and a highly successful “He Said/She Said” blog called Pillow Talking, which may be found at www.somedayprods.com/talking. Most importantly, they have seven beautiful children between them.
Wayne is an Emmy award-winning writer, director, and producer. He is an attorney with a LLM from NYU. He teaches film-making and communications at Western Connecticut State University, and has taught at Fordham University, Audrey Cohen College, Baruch College, and Bronx Community College. He has created many programs and documentaries that have appeared on television, and have been distributed to schools, libraries, and home video. He is a published author of the novel Mahogany Row. He is married to Stephanie C. Lyons-Keeley, his writing partner and muse. His full bio can be found on Wikipedia at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wayne_keeley.