Who said poetry was dead? It is alive, thriving and oozing from the all the sparkling gems around the world. In this day and age we live in, now more than ever, people are using poetry as a creative outlet to either deal with their frustrations at the world, show their admiration in beauty and nature, or as a way to vent their troubled hearts and minds. I had a chance to ask a couple questions to one such poet hailing from Nigeria. If you have been wanting to check out some new poetry or rekindle an old interest in it, I highly suggest checking out Gabriel Eziorobo. He has so much poetry on his website that he is about to start a second website just to contain it all.
IM: Why poetry? Why have you chose poetry over everything else as a means to express yourself?
GE: I have a passion for writing poems. I started writing poems when I read the love poem titled “So I Thought”. I fell in love with it and wrote my first poem afterwards, ”I Am So Quiet”.
IM: What topics do you like to write about?
GE: I am a poet that writes based on what I’ve experienced; what people have experienced and imaginary work. I love to write on love, hatred, sadness, the night, myself, life, and things of God.
IM: What fuels your writing? Anger, love, passion?
IM:Any other poets throughout time that have influenced your poetry writing?
GE: My favorite poems are “Song of Sorrow” by Kofi-Awoonor and “The School-boy” by William Blake.
IM: You say anger fuels your writing. Can you elaborate? Where does the anger stem from that drives you to write?
GE: Humanity. I hate things they believe and things they do. For instance, I am a left-handed person and people will say it is disrespectful and a crime to use to use my left hand.
IM: I hear you are starting a new website. Can you tell us a little bit about it and what its content will be?
GE: The site will be basically for posting my poems and serving a blog for my poetry writing. I will still keep my old site for my poems, but this one will be more for persistent blogging and journalism.
IM: Tell me about where you live and grew up. What is it like there?
GE: I live in Nigeria. That is where I was born and brought up. Nigeria is a nice country, blessed with natural resources like crude-oil, coal, etc.
IM: What are your goals as a writer? where do you see yourself in a couple years?
GE: To win many awards as a poet, to see myself among other writers in the world, to inspire people with my writing and to talk about the ills of the world. I see myself in the next couple years as a famous poet in the world.
IM: If you could administer one piece of advice to aspiring poets before parting, what would it be?
GE: To never give up as a poet, because the world needs poets.
IM: Can you tell our readers where they can find your writing and poetry?
The table looked more like a gathering of undertakers than a comic book convention booth. Intrigued, I got closer and noticed that the prophet spearheading this black-clad cult was Dirk “I scream” Manning from Hell, Michigan. He was front and center, graciously greeting, and testifying to the horrors trapped between the two covers of his books. This man’s approach was different and he certainly stood out from the other creators, who were also promoting their wares at this, the C4 comic-con, one of the largest in his home state. But what was it that made this creator stand out in a sea of creators? Was it the black attire accented with the clean-cut, slicked-back hairstyle? Or was it that he was readily available to anyone who wanted to hear his testimony of terror, never taking a back seat behind the books? This guy walked and talked the part of a true creative professional and you could tell this was not his first rapture. He not only knew how to market himself, but he was also teaching others the dark arts as well—and that, my friends, is what drew me into the faith of the Dirk Ages.
IM: Having met you in person several times, you seem very generous, hospitable, and easy to be around. So why, when you put pen to paper, does such terrific terror come out? Why such horror?
DM: I get that a lot. [laughs]
I really am a pretty nice person—but I’m also a very, very avid fan of good horror… and the key here is the qualifier in that statement: GOOD horror. I’m not a “blood and boobies” guy, and I think it’s unfortunate that this is the image a lot of people associate with horror— especially when, in many ways, the same can be said of action movies, too, for example… with the possible exception of such a sexualization of violence, which, again, is equally debatable as being seen just as much in other genres of entertainment, and not something we have the time to discuss now anyway. [laughs]
My point being, GOOD horror is ultimately about the human condition. GOOD horror asks (and sometimes answers) the question “What would you do if…?” That, to me, is a fascinating question that is best—and oftentimes most profoundly—answered in the horror genre.
IM: If you were to think back to when you first conceived Mr. Rhee, what would you attribute as his driving inspiration?
DM: The loss of someone VERY close to me that taught me the most important lesson of all:
“Some monsters can’t be punched.”
IM: Rumor has it you are starting a Kickstarter for Volume 3 of Tales of Mr. Rhee. Are you at liberty to discuss any details of when you plan on launching it? What do you hope to accomplish with this Kickstarter?
DM: Kickstarter has been a wonderful way for me to be able to have my work directly funded by the people who are most enthusiastic about my work, while also hooking up this segment of my readership with all kinds of cool bonus swag.
The first two volumes of Tales of Mr. Rhee resulted in almost $40,000 in pre-sales, while also allowing me to give a lot of extra-cool exclusive rewards to my direct supporters… so, yeah, I’ll definitely be using Kickstarter again for Tales of Mr. Rhee Volume 3 this April. I mean, it offers a win-win for everyone involved, you know? [laughs]
To that end, my goal with this campaign is to do the same thing I did with the first two campaigns— especially the second one: Offer people who pre-order the book through Kickstarter an exclusive hardcover edition of the book, as well as a slew of cool Kickstarter Exclusive stretch goal rewards and swag.
IM: What are some of your planned goals and prizes for this Kickstarter? I know you have permitted people to become characters in your books previously. This is such a fun concept and motivator for people to participate in the crowdfunding. Are you planning anything similar for this campaign?
DM: One of the greatest honors for horror fans is to be killed in the book, so that’s something I’ll offer again, for sure… although I also continue to offer cameo roles that allow people to appear in the books without being brutally ripped apart by a demon or something. [laughs]
That aside, a lot of Tales of Mr. Rhee revolves around things happening in coffee shops—the coffee shop “Dirk’s Perk,” to be exact—so… expect to see some really (RHEE-ly?) cool rewards centered around that, for sure.
IM: I love where Mr. Rhee’s story is going. This is a series that grabs you from the first book you read, regardless of which issue it is. The post-rapture world that these characters fumble through is intriguing, yet horrific, to say the least. I think one of my favorite series was in Volume 2, issue 2. We not only meet a host of angels and masked superhero types of characters, but we also get a great scene of Cthulhu inflicting havoc on Megalopolis. Will you be revisiting any of these characters in the future? Do you plan on exploring the Great Sleeper himself more in pages to come? All hail Cthulhu!
DM: Ia! Ia! Cthulhu fhtagn to you as well, my friend! May the faithful be eaten by our great tentacled overlord first, so that we will be spared the madness sure to engulf all mankind when the stars once more enter their proper alignment and the sleeper rises from the sunken city in R’lyeh!
Was that a clear enough answer? [laughs]
Crypticness aside, let me just say this: I didn’t introduce the storyline involving Cthulhu and The Jovian from my other comic series Nightmare World into the pages of Tales of Mr. Rhee just for window dressing. There’s a big plan in place and seeing them both pop up in small(ish) roles in both Volumes 1 and 2 was a reminder—and, perhaps, a little bit of a tease—that there’s still some unfinished business with them both from the Nightmare World plot that will eventually be definitely concluded in Tales of Mr. Rhee.
Like the great writer Anton Chekhov once said, “If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there.”
Well, there’s no bigger gun—or guns, in this case—than a superhero and a giant octopus-headed demi-god who seemingly killed each other in a battle at the end of the world… and while I can say that The Jovian is absolutely, unquestionably dead (as discussed in the character handbook at the end of the Tales of Mr. Rhee Volume 1 trade paperback), the story between these two isn’t over yet… but it will be finished before—or, I daresay, as—Tales of Mr. Rhee reaches its natural conclusion, as well.
IM: I’m willing to bet you write way ahead of your stories. Can you give us any hints on what is in the future for Mr. Rhee?
DM: I planted seeds for pretty much everything that’s going to happen throughout the course of the series in the thirteen stories that comprise Tales of Mr. Rhee Volume 1: “Procreation (of the Wicked)”, so savvy readers can go back to that volume and, perhaps, start to extrapolate what’s coming.
For example, remember how in the first story—and then later, in Chapter Four—we learn that Mr. Rhee won’t kill kids? We saw the reason for that explained in the prequel story that was Tales of Mr. Rhee Volume 2: “Karmageddon.”
As you mentioned, we saw hints of both Cthulhu and The Jovian in Volume 1, and we saw a bit more of that storyline unfold in Tales of Mr. Rhee Volume 2, as well. And, as I just alluded to, we’ll be returning to that even more at some point.
We also finally caught a glimpse of how psychotic Thelma Lushkin has become in Chapter 8 of Volume 1, and we then saw that in much more detail in the closing pages of Issue #2 of Volume 3… and that’s something that’s going to factor in more and more as the series goes on, as Thelma Lushkin, her demonic bodyguard/lover William, and Dumashine Enterprises are going to be revealed to be major villainous factors in the series—sort of the yin to the yang of The P.R.O.M.I.S.E. Group.
The biggest elephant in the room is probably Jack Faust and Ranobus, though… who could easily (and rightfully) be seen as Mr. Rhee’s arch-enemy. Volume 4 is going to see the return of Faust/Ranobus (Faustobus?) as he’s none too happy that Mr. Rhee was freed from the prison he was left in at the end of Volume 1.
IM: It all began with Nightmare World, and now we see another installment on the horizon. What are you planning for Volume 4? What is up your sleeve for this one?
DM: I’m so excited that, at long last, I’m going to be able to bring Nightmare World Volume 4 to print, hence bringing the series to its natural conclusion. This has probably been the book of mine people across the country (at least) have been waiting more for than anything else, so I know that this one has to deliver… and it will.
In Nightmare World, each volume contains thirteen stand-alone genre-hopping horror stories that all weave into one giant uber-story about Lucifer awakening Cthulhu to kick-start the second war with Heaven. While, due to the way that we structured the release and order of the stories in the first three volumes published by Image Comics, that uber-story reaches a natural ending… there’re also a few plot-threads that could use a bit more resolution and that’s one of the things we’re going to be doing in Nightmare World Volume 4… while also sticking with that same formula of thirteen stand-alone (yet ultimately connected), genre-hopping, eight-page horror stories that will rest in your psyche long after you’ve read them, as all the best scary short stories should.
Oh… and we’re also talking about simultaneously releasing a Nightmare World Omnibus collecting all four volumes together in one giant hardcover. Keep an eye on Kickstarter come October for that… [laughs]
IM: Have you any special guest artist planned for the next Nightmare World?
DM: A lot of the Nightmare World Volume 4 stories have been done for years, but one of the perks of waiting a while before publishing the final volume has been being able to take a step back and look at some of the stories through a fresh set of eyes, so to speak. To that end, I’m tickled to say that, along with bringing back a lot of the “classic” Nightmare World artists such as Josh Ross, Seth Damoose, Austin McKinley, Leonard O’Grady, and Jeff Welborn to the fold, I’m now going to be able to invite artists like Dan Dougherty (Beardo, Touching Evil), Howie Noel (Tara Normal), and Marianna Pescosta (Tales of Mr. Rhee), and John Marroquin (El Mariachi) to the party… and really, we’re all the better for it.
Nightmare World has always been such an ambitious, passionate, and exciting project that I’m honored to be able to open the doors to so many of my other creative partners and friends for the final huzzah on what I hope will be remembered as one of the best comic book horror anthologies ever created.
IM: Are you planning any other projects outside of the Nightmare World or Tales of Mr. Rhee universes?
DM: Absolutely. Nightmare World Volume 4 is going to be the last official Nightmare World release, although it obviously shares a “universe” with Tales of Mr. Rhee, which will be continuing for the foreseeable future, although that series also has a natural ending at some point way down the road that we’re always moving towards.
While I—like so many readers— love the Nightmare World and Tales of Mr. Rhee universes, there are other worlds to be created and stories to be told. People should start to see their first glimpse of those in 2017, latest.
IM: I would consider myself a fan of Nightmare World and an avid follower of Tales of Mr. Rhee, but your book that’s had the greatest effect on me (as a creator) has been Write or Wrong: A Writer’s Guide to Creating Comics When I read it, I felt like you were talking right to me. You answered so many questions and touched on so many topics that I still reference and recommend it today. In answering many of the burning questions that creators in general have asked themselves at one time or another, it seems you may have created a whole new set of questions (for me, at least, anyways). Since I have the chance to pick apart your occipital cortex, I would like to touch on a couple topics. The first being a fan base question: As someone who has been down that road, what would you say draws in more of a crowd for a new creator looking to not only build a fan base, but also publish their story? Would you suggest going to web series first, doing small print runs, or both?
DM: With the prevalence and relative ease with which one can publish comics both online as well as through print-on-demand services, at this point there’s no reason not to do both. Be everywhere, you know? Be everywhere and give readers numerous entry-points and means of accessing your work.
IM: Do you find publishers are just as likely to pick up a series that started off web-based, or do you see publishers steering away from publications that have already been released to the public in a free-to-read format?
DM: Now, more than ever, publishers—especially publishers of creator-owned work— are interested in series— or creators—they know will sell books and move product.
Let me be brutally honest with you here: At least half of the reason Josh Blaylock of Devil’s Due picked-up Tales of Mr. Rhee was because he knew I was always out there online and at conventions selling my work. He’ll be the first to say that he was seeing me everywhere—always selling books—and that’s what made him interested in bringing me into his stable.
I’m not saying that Tales of Mr. Rhee isn’t a great book or that he didn’t think people would like it—because it is a great book (in my humble opinion) and a lot of people do like it—but that was only half the reason I he picked me up. There are a lot of people creating a lot of great books out there… but if you’re not doing anything to get the word out there about them—to the point where fans are responding to the work by buying it, mind you—then it’s going to be a lot tougher for you to convince a publisher to publish your books.
Conversely, let me add that there’re two sides to this scenario, though… and that’s asking what a publisher can do for you. A common misconception that a lot of aspiring creators have is that being signed by a publisher will automatically generate sales. Let me tell you and everyone reading this right now that this is unequivocally, unquestionably false.
Being signed with a publisher will not automatically mean you’re selling more books. To this end, you have to do your homework—and, perhaps, engage in some tough conversations with a potential publisher about what they can do for you to help you grow your brand and your audience. Ask not just what you can do for a publisher, but what a publisher can do for you.
IM: I know you are one to keep your stories and concepts a secret until published, but how do you go about submitting to publishers without giving away the farm, per se? Many publishers want to know the ins and outs of a story before they ever attempt to publish. Many new creators out there may be worried about getting their ideas stolen this way. Any useful tips on submitting to publishers that can still protect the creator’s ideas?
DM: Jim Valentino of Image Comics gave me some great advice on this topic that I share as frequently as possible: “Your editor is not your audience.”
In other words, your editor (or publisher) needs to make a decision on whether or not they are going to invest considerable time, effort, and resources into publishing your comic. To that end, they need to know everything about what you have planned and what will make your comic series appealing to readers—and vendors, for that matter.
It’s OK to play “hide the ball” with your existing readership—at least to an extent—but you should never do this with the people who you’re asking to publish your work. They need to know exactly what you have in mind, so they can make informed decisions about whether to move forward on the project or not.
As for ideas being stolen… honestly… if your idea for a story is so simple that it can be stolen by anyone who hears it, what’s the point in writing it? As a creator, you should be pitching stories that only you can execute well.
Sure, sure… there are occasionally those “Why didn’t anyone think of that before?” concepts that almost anyone could write well—such as, with all due respect to Steve Niles, the concept of 30 Days of Night (in which all the vampires descend on Alaska and have a feast on the isolated townsfolk when there’s no sunlight for thirty days), but the fact that no one else ran with that seemingly “duh” idea before Mr. Niles is also testament to the fact that, really, he was the only one who could have written that “gimme” story concept, too.
So, that being said, don’t worry about other people stealing your ideas. Rather, strive to craft stories that are so well-done no one else could do them justice but you.
IM: As a writer with his tentacles in different publishers, do you prefer to loyally stick with one publisher, or do you like to play the field a little? Would you consider yourself a lone wolf? How do you view label loyalty in this field?
DM: See above: Ask not what you can do for a publisher, but ask instead what a publisher can do for you.
I have no problem being loyal to someone who I work well with, but at the end of the day, making comics needs to be a business if you’re going to do it in the long-term—and it’s important to ask yourself that question each and every time: Is this the right publisher for this project.
I’ve been very happy with my relationship with Devil’s Due for these past few years and look forward to continuing to work with them for years to come… but there will never come a day when I don’t ask myself that question before I pitch each and every new project.
IM: You have written some real, bone-gnawing, beautifully-gruesome comics in your day. As a horror writer, what scares you most? What is your greatest fear or worst nightmare?
DM: Thanks, dude! I think it’s hard to genuinely scare people using the comic book format, so I take that as quite a compliment!
My greatest fear and my worst nightmare are two different things. At the risk of coming close to closing this interview on a down-note, my greatest fear is probably dying alone and unmourned somewhere with no one giving a care about who I am and what I’ve done—both professionally and personally. It would mean everything I’d done in my life was for nothing.
My worst nightmare is a bit of an irrational one that I can never seem to understand. It’s being captured, trapped, and eaten alive by cannibals—not in a big orgy of violence, but rather piece by piece. First they take one arm, for example… then a few days later they take the next. Etc. That nightmare gives me the hibbily-jibblies every time… and I’m even getting a little queasy right now talking about it. I’m sure there’s a psychologist or someone out there who can make sense of it… but I haven’t met him or her yet. [laughs]
IM: If you could impart any one piece of final wisdom or advice to today’s generation of creators, based on your observations thus far, what would it be?
Do you suffer from writing ailments or publishing woes? Then look no further, because Cindy Davis (AKA the fiction doctor) has the cure. She started writing her first novel at the age of nine, and has since published more stories and acquired more editorial experience than you can shake a comma at. A solid editor can be your biggest critic, but also your greatest ally in getting your works in front of a publisher—and Cindy is no stranger at being either. As she will attest, there is no greater joy than seeing others get published, but sometimes it’s a hard pill to swallow.
IM: Your list of published works is quite impressive. Do you plan to continue writing, or have you shifted your focus solely onto editing?
CD: I am still heavily into writing and promoting. I’ll be honest though, the editing is what brings in the paycheck, so that’s where most of my time goes.
IM: Out of all of your past publications, which piece(s) did you enjoy writing and publishing most?
CD: I think the first one. There was such a note of satisfaction when I wrote THE END that I literally sat there crying. Wouldn’t that be the time my husband would come home? Naturally, he thought I’d crashed the car. The publication of A Little Murder was monumental also. A wonderful diner featured in the book put on a fabulous launch party for me. When my husband and I arrived, they got on the phone to all their friends and family. What a crowd! It was great.
IM: Are there any ongoing series that you plan on revisiting as a writer?
CD: I have just finished the sixth in the Angie Deacon mystery series. Stone Cold Sober should be out sometime in October. I have outlined book four in the Smith & Westen series, but that will be put on hold while I work on an unplanned sequel to A Lethal Dose of Love. I traveled to Italy last spring and was struck with a triple plotline that would be amazing with the characters from LDOL.
IM: At what point did you transition from writer to editor?
CD: I’d like to consider I’m still both, though seventeen years ago, when my then publisher had both her editors quit, she asked if I’d take over. I said, “I’m not an editor.” She said, “You’re an amazing writer. You CAN edit.” I found out I thoroughly enjoy editing. There’s little that’s more satisfying than when an author says, “OMG, so that’s how to do it!”
IM: How did the nickname “fiction doctor” come about?
CD: I have no story to go with this. I was looking for a name for my website and it just came to me. Seemed apropos, though.
IM: How did you know editing and helping others prepare for publishing was your calling?
CD: About two years into the job with that publisher I mentioned, things were going really well. The books were getting rave reviews. That’s when I decided to hone my craft (classes and workshops), then branch out to freelance work. It’s been my fulltime job ever since. I always raise a few eyebrows when I say I love writing a rejection letter. I love it because, along with explaining why a story or a character doesn’t work, I can help show the author how it CAN work. I have some freelance clients that have been with me since I started. When I lived in NH, I taught a lot of workshops at conferences and writers groups. Now that I’m in Florida, my schedule hasn’t filled up yet. Part of me is enjoying the freedom, because it’s given me time to finish my latest WIP, Stone Cold Sober.
IM: What do you find most difficult in dealing with the new and aspiring writers of today?
CD: Their resistance to acknowledging that their ‘baby’ might have a LOT of flaws. It’s not so prevalent with freelance clients, because they come to me knowing there’s something wrong. But working for publishers, some authors are aghast when the book doesn’t just float through the system without editorial work. I’ve been on their side of the fence, so I understand what they’re going through. We authors spend a lot of time, sometimes years, on our stories. It can be a blow to the ego to be told it’s not right. I try to get them to recognize an analogy with a pro ball player who practices every single day to hone his craft. He is never satisfied with the three point shot; he swings the bat till his shoulder aches; he putts till his eyes burn. Writers should always strive to make their writing better. Always be open to new ideas and trends.
IM: If you could relay one piece of knowledge to amateur writers reading this, what would it be?
CD: As I said above: Never stop trying to improve your craft.
IM: What is in the future for the Fiction Doctor?
CD: Hopefully, some new conferences. I’d like to find a writers group to help hone my own craft. Otherwise, take my work outside into the amazing Florida sunshine and continue helping authors ‘see’ what’s wrong with their story before they suffer rejection from a publisher.
I am always jealous of those who can do it all. I’m talking about creators who write, draw, color, letter, and publish their own works. Sometimes they are better at one thing than another, but not 38-year-old Jay Mooers from Dartmouth, Massachusetts. This guy is proficient at all of it. His stories are on-point and so is every stage of his art. This makes the jealousy level even higher for me, but provides the reader with a well-rounded, timely, crafted piece of work from one man with a vison.
IM: How did you come to start making comics?
JM: I used to dabble in comics when I was younger. I never really collected them, but I was always fascinated and intimidated by them. There were just so many, and I knew with my compulsive nature, I would have to find a way to collect them all. I instead collected funny comics like Garfield and Heathcliff. (When I was young, my family got two cats, so I was into cat things at the time.) Through college, I started discovering my true passion was in telling stories. My degree project was my first graphic novel. But then, I put that style away and continued as a hired illustrator, portrait, and mural artist. I had many started concepts rolling around in my head, with sketches and outlines filling my bookshelves. In 2009, I decided to write and illustrate my first novel to completion, titled Illweed. Once I had realized I could do complete works on my own, I went back to my treasure trove of almost-forgotten stories and found one that I wanted to write next, Autumn Grey. I wrote about 200 pages before the massiveness of the story completely overwhelmed me. I had to find a way of breaking it down into manageable chunks. So I teamed up with a friend of mine, Kristi McDowell who, with her expertise of comics and her editing skills, helped guide me through my first issue. When it was finished, I tried to peddle it to friends and family. I had just finished the second issue when Kristi introduced me to Free Comic Book Day, where I brought my books to a comic shop and actually sold out of them. It was remarkable. I had tasted comic blood and I wanted more.
IM: What made you want to start your own label?
JM: I originally didn’t want to start my own label. I wanted to be taken under the wing by a publishing company like Image or Vertigo. I had no experience and had no idea the sheer numbers of comics that were thrown to those publishers on a daily basis. All I knew was that I wanted to tell my stories my way. I quickly learned about all the wonderful options in printing and digital comics that were available for someone who wasn’t taken under the wing of a massive company. So, Kristi and I started our own label called Eden Park Tales. Autumn Grey was its flagship comic and we planned other ones to follow. We knew that if the world liked our comic enough, the big names would hopefully come looking for us.
IM: Tell us about Eden Park Tales and the types of books you’re producing.
JM: Eden Park Tales was created as a sandbox for fantasy tales. We led it with Autumn Grey, which is a tale about a fictional place in New Hampshire where faeries and monsters go to hide away from the world, and how it affects the people who live there. I then brought my original novel Illweed under the label. Then Kristi’s graphic novel, A Planet’s Cry, about time on Earth breaking down and different time periods melting into each other, brought us even more attention with the comic community. Kristi and I have gone our separate ways since then, but we are both thriving in very different genres.
IM: What is the hardest part about being the do-it-all guy?
JM: Yes, I am a do-it-all guy. I write the story, draw, ink, color, letter, publish, and then promote and sell the books. It is a daunting task and I know I’ve taken on at least five full time jobs doing this all on my own. I enjoy working with other people on many other projects, but stories like Autumn Grey and my future comics, Dusters and Bloodlines, along with my second full-length novel (due out at the end of the year) titled Scales and Sand, are all very personal pieces. These books are my art. Every bit of each of these tales is created from my own experiences, dreams, and imagination. They are like abstract portraits of their creator.
IM: Tell us about your new novel Scales and Sand.
JM: Illweed, my first solo project, keeps selling well through the years. I’ve sold out of copies at conventions on several occasions. I’ve even received emails from children and parents asking for a sequel. I toiled with the possibility of a sequel and couldn’t find the right tale. Illweed felt complete to me, but the world it existed in seemed riddled with possibilities. Scales and Sand takes place in the same world as Illweed, and there are little references and goodies throughout the book for those who have read the first book. But Scales and Sand is completely free-standing and independent of Illweed. While Illweed was geared towards a younger audience, Scales and Sand is a longer and more serious story about a girl and her family who are ambushed in the Red Sea, a hostile desert. She is brought to a mysterious city, deep in the Red Sea, where she uncovers the great secrets of this hidden world.
IM: Who are the main characters?
JM: Aria Dannes is the main character. She is a girl from an upper middle class family. She is privileged and takes it for granted. When her family is ambushed and carted away by the mysterious Mirans, she loses everything and must learn that her actions make her a better person, not her materials. Captain Cadence Cree is a leader from the Miran Empire who doesn’t remember anything about her past. But when she meets Aria, unfamiliar memories start to stir and the cloud that covers her mind begins to break apart. The main antagonist in this tale is a man who calls himself the Crimson Foil. He’s a mysterious man with little regard for others. He will kill them and cast them aside if he feels they are in his way. His casual manner of murdering is only dwarfed by his passion for playing music. Who is this dangerous man, and why is he lurking through the halls of Mira?
IM: What is in the future for your label?
JM: After the trade books of Autumn Grey and Scales and Sand come out this year, I’ll be working on the next chapter of Autumn Grey and the first issue of a new series, Dusters. I’m hoping to continue growing my fan base and to get this book into the hands of people who can promote it far better than I can.
IM: What other books do you have getting ready to release, or just recently released?
JM: Autumn Grey #5 was released a few months ago, and the trade of 1–5 will be available very soon. I have a short story in a current Kickstarter, titled My Peculiar Family. I also have a few other projects on the drawing board, including a second comic for a new convention in Saratoga Springs called 0Chase Con, and a fun time traveling story I’ve been working on with a writing friend of mine, called The Hunter’s Paradox.
IM: If you could give a piece of advice to any creators wanting to “break into comics,” what would it be?
JM: Do it! Draw, write, make something that you can show people! I spent too many years sitting on my ideas. These days, you can easily print something yourself. Bring it to conventions, or comic stores, or even into online groups. Social media has made it much easier to share your ideas with the outside world. Don’t be afraid of criticism. Every time I get a bad review or someone insults my work, I puff up my chest and feel even more determined to prove them wrong.
IM: Where can people find your books?
JM: You can order my books through my website, www.edenparktales.com or get them digitally through Comixology. Some comic stores that carry them are listed on my webpage. Feel free to check out my site and download the freebie teaser book! It’s the best price—free!
Comic cons are a great place to gauge the playing field for independent publishers such as myself. Whenever I get a chance to attend one, it’s at the artist alley that I will spend most of my browsing, my mingling, and my money. The way I see it, I can buy a big label comic at any comic book store, but this is my only chance to see other independent publishers in action. It is here that you can stumble across a wellspring of talent or a gutter of mediocracy. If I pass by a booth and it gives me that glassy-eyed, 1000 yard stare, accented by the small puddle of drool that has formed on my shirt collar, then you have made a fan for life. It was at the Cherry Capital Comic Con (C4) in Traverse City, Michigan, that Source Point Press did just that. That three-day comic con is where I met the extremely talented creators of Source Point Press, Trico Lutkins and Josh Werner. This was their home state, and let me just say that the Michigan creator collective is quite impressive. There are not many places in the Midwest with the growing independent comic scene that Michigan has right now. So, we asked Trico if he would be interested in answering a few questions about the work they are putting out, and being the generous creator that he is, he obliged.
IM: It seems you have your sleeves rolled up and you’re really putting out some great stuff. How did you get into writing and producing comics, as well as other books?
TL: I started reading comics as soon as I could read and began to create my own characters at around ten years old. After I hit thirty, I found myself happily married with a wonderful daughter, but there was still so much more my twenty-something-year-old self, thought that I would have accomplished by then. First on that list was making my own comic. I started going to every con I could, talking to all the creators there, and networking with artists. I’ve always written short stories, plays, screenplays, novels, and poetry, but writing comics is completely different. It’s all collaboration. The writer and the artist both bring ideas and visions to the project. Writing is a very solitary hobby, so having to work with someone throughout the process took some getting used to. Luckily, my first comic was with Josh Werner. He’s 110 percent pro in everything he does, so it helped me to learn fast and made me step my game up.
IM: Let’s talk about one of the comic labels you are working with: Source Point Press. How did Source Point get its origins?
TL: I was at a horror con when I met the cofounder of Source Point Press, Joshua Werner. We hit it off right away. He liked all the obscure stuff I was into and he is an amazing artist. I commissioned him to work on Jack of Spades #0. At the time, I just wanted to make that comic, and maybe a couple of poetry chapbooks (I had made some really amateur chapbooks when I was an undergrad). One thing led to another, and next thing I knew, we had published a dozen titles our first year.
IM: Which stories are Source Point Press producing currently?
TL: To tell the truth, I can barely keep up with it all (laughs). We are going through major expansion this year. We have a new president, Travis McIntire, who runs the company and manages new projects and titles (which works out awesome for me, because I can focus on writing and talking with fans at cons). We have a new ongoing series, Up the River, that is doing amazing! I handle a lot of the outside sales for the company and comic shop owners order copies as soon as they see it. We are reformatting Source Point Presents to be more of a magazine. It will still feature an original comic short story, but also interviews and tons of other cool content. We are expanding our graphic novel line with the titles Rottentail and Scorn. We are in negotiations with a very popular punk/rockabilly band to publish their first graphic novel. Also, Gary Reed (Caliber Comics, Dead World) is interested in doing a miniseries with Source Point.
IM: How did Dust Bunnies Comics come about and what is your role in it?
TL: I met Mike Eshelman at the I.C.E. (Indie Comic Expo) convention in Dayton, Ohio. He had this amazing comic inspired from poetry, titled (Non) Collaboration. A comic created from poetry! I had to be a part of that! (Laughs) I submitted a few of my poems for some upcoming issues. Mike is a really cool guy and a great writer. I’m hoping to work more with the Dust Bunnies crew in the future.
IM: What are some past and current projects that we can find your name on?
TL: I have a miniseries coming out in the spring of 2016, titled Magma-man. A short screenplay I wrote as an undergrad titled Scavengers was adapted into a comic and will appear in the horror anthology, Thirteen Little Hells, edited by one of my favorite authors, David C. Hayes. Josh and I have a Jack of Spades prequel story in the Michigan Comic Collective Anthology, Volume II. If you’re a comic writer, letterer, illustrator, editor, or colorist, and you live in the state of Michigan, then you have got to join that group. They are an amazing network of comic creators, and they do a lot of events to bring comics to local communities. I’m working on a few projects with Headshrinkers Press. Also, I have a short story in the magazine, Ghostlight, put out by GLAHW (Great Lakes Association of Horror writers). They’re a great non-profit group and some of the funniest people you’ll ever meet, so it’s an honor to be accepted into their magazine and to see my name in print with some outstanding horror writers.
IM: What’s in the future for Source Point Press, as well as for yourself as a writer?
TL: Lot of comics! (Laughs) Source Point Press is going to become a major publisher of comics, graphic novels, and books. SPP is expanding exponentially and will continue to make amazing horror, noir, and pulp-inspired books and comics. I’m working on a one-shot comic based on a sci-fi poem I wrote, called “Vostokapolis.” It’s being illustrated by the incredible Emily Zelasko. I’m scripting Jack of Spades #2 (actually the third story in the series) and writing the rest of the Magma-man miniseries. I’ve written a graphic novel based on my all-time favorite band, and I can’t wait to see it published. I have a project in the works with BJ Duvall. His imagination is amazing and I’m really looking forward to working with him.
IM: Can you tell the readers about one of your newest projects: Magma man?
TL: He’s one of the characters I created when I was growing up, so I’m really excited that he’s finally getting a comic. I feel like I’m introducing everyone to one of my childhood friends. (Laughs) It’s penciled by Rich Perrotta, who has worked for Marvel and DC. His artwork will blow you away. I still can’t believe I got a veteran of the Big Two comic companies to work on a project with me.
IM: Who are the characters that you will be introducing in this story?
TL: The title character is from another world, so we will not only meet him, but also get introduced to his homeworld. He befriends a couple of teens, Skunk and Christie, which brings a kid’s point of view to the book without becoming condescending to young people. Also, what would a comic be without a villain? Magma-man comes to Earth and becomes a light for humanity, but someone else from his world follows him here and gives humanity a reason to fear the dark.
IM: Is this going to be published through Source Point Press as well?
TL: Yes! I’m really excited because Magma-man and Jack of Spades are in the same comic universe, so there’re some cameos from Jack of Spades and other characters I’ve written for Source Point Press.
IM: At Indyfest, we like to try and give other indy creators, new and old, tools that may help them succeed at their craft. I have found some of the best advice is the experience from others who have traveled this road. Can you share some of your hurdles in self-publishing?
TL: Writing can be a juggling act. You want to give the artist enough direction, but still leave the script open enough for them to experiment with panels, angles, etc. Also, give yourself due dates for everything (mine is usually a week or two before a comic con). I tend to be patient to a fault, because I love the process of making comics, so I’m never in a rush to see the finished project. If it wasn’t for trying to get new content out in time for cons, and Josh putting a fire under my butt, I’d probably still be on our second book. (Laughs)
IM: And where can our readers follow you and find the comics and books you have produced?
TL: Pretty much any comic shop in Michigan has Source Point Press comics in it (and the ones that don’t will have them by the end of next year). Practically any comic con or book festival in Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, or Michigan will have a Source Point Press booth, where you can not only pick up SPP merchandise, but also get it signed by the artists and writers. All of our novels are available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and basically anywhere you can buy books online. And, of course, there’s our website:
I’ll be posting about being an indy comic writer, editor, and publisher, as well as reviewing other indy comics. I’m a huge history nerd, so you’ll probably come across some history stuff on there, too.