Tag Archives: Ellen Fleischer

98 He Came From Southern Canada

He Came From Southern Canada: A Chat with David Scacchi

By Ellen Fleischer

came5David 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?

came4DS: 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.

came3As 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?

came2DS: 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)?

came1DS: 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!

IM: Thanks so much!

DS: My pleasure, Ellen, thank you!


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97 The Journey

Tracing the Journey: A Talk with J. Francis Parker

By Ellen Fleischer

parker1Jordan Francis Parker is an Australian author of teen and young adult fiction, who is following his mother into the publishing world. He loves fantasy and world-building. His other hobbies include parkour, gaming, game design, and art in general.

IM: How long have you been writing?

JFP: Most of my life. I can remember tapping away at my mum’s rusty typewriter as a kid, and she likely still has my story about talking trees and purple people. My parents read to me, as good parents should, but I was always more interested in telling my own stories.

IM: Tell us a bit about yourself? Where did you grow up?

JFP: Here and there in Queensland, Australia. Mum and dad didn’t live together, so I was often at this house or that. It didn’t influence me much, because I had no other life to compare it to. It was the norm, and I don’t consider anything negative about this situation.

IM: Anything you’d like to share about your childhood?

JFP: I took a fondness to parkour, the defensive practice, during my early high school years. It was useful exercise, and taught me how to refine my skills, both physical and mental. I never did very well in school in terms of grades. In fact, I regularly failed math and English, despite being very well versed in these subjects. My failure was not due to a lack of knowledge, but to a lack of participation. I love philosophy and the English language, but that doesn’t mean I like being told how to use them in a school classroom.

IM: Could you describe a couple of experiences that you believe set you on your road to writing?

JFP: Definitely the parkour. I was adamant in hunting down the words that could describe my philosophies of parkour. I gave it my best shot, and one reader of Trace said, he ‘could almost feel the thrill of parkour,’ but I still feel I that it is impossible to express the true sensation of parkour to those who have not tried it. It’s like trying to explain green to a blind man. Another influential experience was growing up with a dad who loved fantasy: The Lord of the Rings, Dungeons and Dragons, sword collecting, miniature figurines… he showed me these things at an early age, and I have never thanked him enough for it.

IM: Who (or what) would you consider to be your influences and inspirations?

parker2JFP: Definitely J.R.R. Tolkien. He created a whole world: languages, cultures, histories… and his epic fantasies set in Middle-Earth are masterpieces without flaw. Derek Landy, Robin Hobb, and J.K. Rowling are other influential authors, for they all address the same genres: fantasy and magic. I have always been fascinated by magic; not magician’s tricks but real magic, if there could be such a thing. Unfortunately, no matter how hard I tried, I could never summon a flame at the click of my fingers, so I resorted to creating magic where I could: in stories.

IM: How did you decide to start writing professionally?

JFP: It happened by strange coincidence. My first book, Trace, was inspired by the remains of a school assignment my English teacher set, where we had to create an autobiographical paper focusing on something we loved about ourselves. Naturally, I chose parkour, and I looked at the paper afterwards and thought, ‘this would make an interesting character.’

IM: What steps have you taken to develop your craft?

JFP: After high school I attended James Cook University for courses in graphic design, photography, illustration, arts, and creative writing. Between classes, I even snuck into other lectures where I could. I also read a lot more fantasy, and offered to assist others with their own editing and writing.

IM: You recently self-published your first novel, Trace. Could you share the elevator pitch with us?

JFP: Trace is an action mystery following the life of Seth Phoenix, a teenage traceur frowned upon by his local parkour community for his unique methods of training alone. Being a loner, Seth proves an easy target for recruitment by a secret group. Uncertain of what he’s getting into, Seth quickly finds himself embroiled in the affairs of an underground computer hacking organization and a genetically engineered human hybrid on the run. Caught amid mystery and death, Seth is torn between living his normal life, and unravelling the secret organisation’s elusive leader.

IM: Tell us a bit about the main character, Seth. Who is he? What makes him tick?

JFP: I think the main character is myself. I think that in every story, the protagonist is the author, and the antagonist is what the author despises. Seth and I like solitude. We have our set ways of training and thinking. We share our views on human society closely, and I think the only thing we don’t share is a name. Seth is easily annoyed when people don’t understand him, and this is likely why he chooses to have few friends. He is subjected to the ignorance and misunderstanding of the common rabble every day and decides it’s best to simply shut himself away from it all.

IM: What would you say was the spark that set off the story in your mind?

JFP: It was definitely my interest in parkour. The story sprang from the high school assignment, which was just my ideas and philosophies of parkour and life.

IM: For those who might not be in the know, what exactly is parkour?

parker3JFP: Parkour is a defensive discipline where the practitioner uses the fastest, safest, and most efficient movements to get from A to B. Films and the internet distort this idea a lot, often mistaking it for free running, which is more of a self-expressive movement using flips and tricks. That’s not to say free runners are incapable of getting away from danger, as many of them also practice parkour. What I find most annoying is how often other people think it’s so dangerous, when it’s not at all. Parkour is not about leaping tall buildings and throwing yourself from rooftops—it’s about safe and efficient movement, and often the ones who disagree are the one who have never tried it. It’s just the same as walking: you have been doing it your whole life, so you know how to do it. The ones who say it’s stupid and dangerous don’t see the practice we put in to achieve these physical capabilities—they only see the end result on YouTube or TV, and it skews their ability to appreciate the discipline properly.

IM: To what extent would you say your firsthand knowledge of parkour informs your novel?

JFP: Without the experience of parkour, this book couldn’t be. It certainly helps, but nothing can replace the real experience. I know that parkour can be ‘defined’ as a defensive discipline, but there’s so much more that goes on inside your head that can never fully be explained in words, and the only way to understand it is to experience it for yourself. If there are true words for it, I haven’t found them.

IM: What sort of research did you need to do to make your story feel authentic? Were there any elements that needed to change from the way you’d initially pictured them, either as a result of your research or as a result of the characters wresting your steering wheel away from you?

JFP: I had to research computer hacking history and genetic engineering to make my story authentic. In the book, Seth also gets a tattoo on his shoulder, and having no tattoos of my own, I couldn’t describe it. So I actually got a tattoo in the same spot, just to experience it for myself. Though grateful for it, I am now plagued by a tattoo addiction which I seldom mention to my mum, because she only complains about how I ‘ruined the perfectly good skin she gave me.’ It is difficult to say whether things in the story needed to be changed. I dislike planning, and the whole story is a product of improvisation, so things definitely changed as my ideas came and retreated. But as a whole, the story generally created its own path. I let Seth decide what was going to happen next.

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

JFP: Yes and no. Trace was also traditionally published, but they wouldn’t create an eBook version, which is something I much desired, so I also used Amazon to self-publish.

IM: How have you found the Amazon experience, thus far?

JFP: Simple, easy to use, and easy to get started and maintain. I never shop on Amazon, and I don’t like eBooks either, but I use it as another medium for putting my story out there.

IM: Was it difficult to hook up with your cover designer?

JFP: I designed my own covers. As a graphic designer, I have enough Photoshop and photography skills to do this. Dragon Child and The Warlock’s Apprentice also borrow artwork from other people, who I tracked down after seeing their work online to ask for their permission. (Illich Henriquez for The Warlcok’s Apprentice and Britta van den Boom for Dragon Child).

IM: How have you been handling the marketing and promotion side of things?

JFP: I feel that Facebook and a few well-placed ads are enough. I’m an author, not a salesman, so I wish not to spend my time promoting. The traditional publishers can do that, while I let sales of the self-published version flow as they may.

IM: Do you have any forthcoming projects on the horizon? What can you share with us about them?

JFP: While Trace is a teen action story, my future works will be young adult fantasy. The Warlcok’s Apprentice is in progress. It is about Alistair, an apprentice sorcerer who learns that most of his family are evil necromancers, and that their recent reestablishment in the mortal realm means the coming of a dark age… an age without life. When death and destruction strike, Alistair is forced from his daily routine in search of the necromancers’ tower, but whether to destroy them or join them is a choice he never thought he’d have to make.

Another work in progress is Dragon Child, and it follows the life of Noah Ryder, who was abandoned at sea as an infant, then rescued and raised by dragons. As a young teen, he was sent far away to live with his own kind in the land belonging to men. With the human tongue as a second language, it’s difficult to fit in, especially during a period of war between dragons and mankind. Noah soon learns that his veins run rich with the blood of a famous dragon slayer, and more than Noah’s life will be tested once he learns that he is destined to become a member of the dragon slayers’ guild.

After these are complete, I will start working on The Monk, the Miner and the Paladin, a novel which will challenge the concept of a good guy versus a bad guy, as there will be no real antagonist for the majority of the story. Instead, there will be three protagonists, each set on acquiring the same item, and all for honourable purposes. This means the idea of a protagonist/antagonist depends on who the story is currently following. More about this—and others—can be found on my Facebook author page.

IM: If someone were to approach you asking for one piece of advice about writing, what would you tell them?

JFP: Just write. That’s it. The best way to get better is to read more and write more. No amount of university lectures can replace the plethora of knowledge gained from just reading.

IM: And self-publishing?

JFP: There are pros and cons. Traditional publishing is and always will be my preferred choice. It reaches more people, earns advance payments, and is seen as more respectable. My advice is to do what you feel is best to achieve your goals. My goal is to write engaging stories, and I have done that. Earning a living from said stories is not a part of my goal, however desirable it might be.

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

JFP: While my Facebook author page is a tool for promoting my publications, I also want to help others with writing /editing /graphic designing tips and advice, so this page can also be messaged with such queries.

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

JFP: My Facebook author page, J Francis Parker, can be found here www.facebook.com/jfrancisparker and my Amazon bookstore page here www.amazon.com/author/jfrancisparker

IM: Thanks so much!

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96 Small Press Big World

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

By Ellen Fleischer

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

IM: What sparked your interest in comics?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IM: Thanks so much!

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96 Table of Contents


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


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95 Comics Talk

By Ellen Fleischer

RayTimRob-9Raymond Francis, Timothy D. Craggette, and Robert Spencer have decades of comics experience between them. In addition to creating their own titles, they are speakers, mentors, and consultants in the field. Together, they host the Ray, Tim, and Rob Present Podcast.

This month, these three gentlemen take time out of their busy schedule to chat with Indyfest about their work.

IM: Who are Ray, Tim, and Rob? Where do you each hail from and what are your backgrounds?

RF: Ray Tim and Rob are three comic book guys who met in high school. We are all from the DC area. We all have a background in the arts and have a common love for comics and comic book culture. We’re very big proponents to the medium and have given back as speakers and mentors at schools and libraries.

RS: We have a wide range of things in our backgrounds, such as fine arts, painting, photography, mixed media, web design, internet marketing, and the list goes on.

IM: How did you all get together?

TDC: We all met during our high school years at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts as visual art students. It was a fun time learning the arts and growing with each other over the years.

RayTimRob-4RS: We started to hang out and then started to work on projects together, some successes others not so much, but those moments led us to where we are today.

IM: Ray, you’ve been described as a ‘comic book consultant’. Can you elaborate on what that means in practice?

RF: Well, it means that I have used my extensive knowledge of the different aspects of the comic book process from the creative, to the business, to networking, to marketing, to self-publishing and everything in between, to help up-and-coming creators along in their own projects. I help guide writers and artists and up-and-coming comic book studios to perfect their craft through edits and art direction. I help to promote them and their work; I represent them and their interests with regard to negotiating page rates or pitches to companies and studios. I help guide them with questions they have from how to format a script to portfolio reviews. Kind of a jack of all trades.

IM: Tell us about your work with the Hero Initiative. What is the Hope Anthology?

RF: Yes, that was such a HUGE honor for me, and it was my first official published work. I was so stoked to have my work be a part of The Heroes Initiative. The Hope Anthology was a collection of stories from some great creators, and I have to thank Marc Fletcher for the opportunity. It was amazing that my first body of work was with such a great comic book non-profit like The Heroes Initiative.

IM: Can you tell us about some of your other comics?

RayTimRob-7RF: We have a few titles in early development. My project is called Crew. It’s a story of a group of young people who just so happen to be some of the most powerful people on the planet—which gets them constantly hounded and hunted when they really want to just be left alone. They’re always being pulled into the superhero game and saving the world. There are twists and turns and action… tons of action… and humor and love and traitors and all things crazy in a crazy world. These young people are considered legendary with a reputation of being superheroic bullies.

RS: Another one of them is Fret. Fret is different from our other titles. It is a hybrid story mixing manga and traditional American comic style. It is a story of betrayal, love, forgiveness, and following your path in life, as we follow the story of Fret, a rock-n-roll/heavy metal infused clown who turned from his evil family to spend the rest of his life correcting the wrong of his family with his ability to alter reality and corporealize sound through playing the guitar. There is a lot of death and destruction in this series, but there is a message of hope and a wild ride.

IM: Describe your creative process for us. How you go from inspiration to publication?

RF: I like to get into a creative zone. When I sit in front of my workstation or my carry board, I like to immerse myself with comic book paraphernalia to keep me comic-centric and focused. I have read tons and tons of comics and have seen just about every comic book movie or cartoon, and so, to get in the zone, I will play different comic book cartoons or movies. I also have a big affinity for 80s cartoons, so that might be playing as well. I will binge-watch these shows and movies while drawing. I may reach out to Rob or Tim as a sound board on things from time to time, just to get another perspective and to keep ideas fresh. Once all of that is going on, I create some really cool stuff, while making a complete mess of my office area.

RayTimRob-6RS: The process is different for different people. We get ideas a lot from talking to each other and bouncing ideas off of each other. We might give an idea for a story arc or an issue, and then we help pick out what works and what needs to be fixed. We then sit and start to work out the visual through story thumbnails. Ray likes to watch old-school cartoons like Voltron, Bionic Six, X-Men, SilverHawks, and many others while he is drawing. Tim can create without any outside stimulant, and I like to listen to music when I am drawing. It helps during the creative process to get the ideas and juices going. Also, having my wife Kia as a sounding board is a tremendous help. Bouncing ideas around with her provides such great inspiration. Once we get a good flow going, we are ready to bring it to the world. Ray draws and produces his comics traditionally using a wide variety of mix media, Tim switched to digital colors and digital 3D work, and I use a hybrid method, but am currently producing work exclusively in Manga Studio—a comic software. After we go through our edits and corrections, we send it to Ka-Blam and have it ready for cons.

As far as the podcast, we come together and think of a cool topic or a hot button and then, we create a show. Once we decide on what show we are doing, we record it. Once recorded, the show goes through its long process of edits to ensure we have a good show. Then, we add the show notes and put the final touches of the show together. Lastly, we push it up to the RTR site for the world to hear.

IM: What is the Ray, Tim, and Rob Presents Podcast?

RayTimRob-8RF: It’s a really cool show about comics and comic culture. It started out as secondary content for to beef up our website, where we sell our comics or prints or what have you. We initially were just goofing around, talking shop, and then people caught onto it and started really digging it. In our first year, we cultivated such great connections that we started getting invited to major venues to record and interview. The show literally took off with a life of its own! We went from just recording in-studio to, like, 18 events, to being interviewed for internet TV, to being reviewed on YouTube. All within our first year. EPIC!

TDC: The Ray, Tim, and Rob Presents: PODCAST! is about three comic book guys talking shop about comics and a comic book culture/interview show. We discuss the fun, artistic, or technical aspects of comics and cover a lot of DC Metro comic-related events. It’s a labor of love, which comes through on the show.

IM: What kind of work goes into each podcast? How do you plan and produce?

RF: A LOT goes into the overall product. I’m a co-host and I provide the content. I am considered the comic book historian and expert on the show. As Tim says, I secure the talent for the interviews on the show and am usually the initial contact for shows and events. On the show, I’m the funny one. Tim is the main host and executive producer of the show. He records and does the initial edits. He provides the tech work. He puts the end product together for final approval. Robert does final approval on edits and does the distribution of the show. He is a co-host, and on the show, he is our straight man. He also is considered the overall general manager and brings the show together. We get together and enjoy the culture. We have a lot of fun and create podcast magic!

User comments

User comments

TDC: Well, it all started from an idea to sell books, but grew into its own thing. The biggest task we have to do is be in the same place to record. Ray handles talent acquisition… meaning he finds and books our guests. When we don’t have interview shows, everything else stays the same. We come together in my studio, get everyone leveled on their mics, and I run the mixing board. After a recording session, I do the edits to the show, trying to make us sound super sweet. Then, once the shows sounds right with the intros, edits, outros, and all that, Rob handles the upload and distribution. Some shows are topical, so we don’t have to plan much. Other shows, like interview shows, might have us do some light research for questions… but most shows are just us shooting the breeze.

IM: How do you land your guests? Any interesting stories on that front?

RF: I hound them. Ha ha. No, really I kinda hound them, but this is such a great medium with such great people who are like-minded in comics. They love what they do as much as we do, and I think that should always be shared with the world. Alvin Lee, for example, was such a great guest. I asked the guys who they wanted on the show, and the first name was Alvin Lee. I have a pretty awesome network of pros in the industry, so I reached out and connected with him. I was very persistent in getting him on the show. He was very cool and open to it. Jonboy Meyers also, just such a great guest. And they both liked our show, which is so very cool.

IM: Who would you say is your target audience for the podcast?

RF: Avid comic book, gaming and pop culture fans. Like-minded people who love the culture and have a great sense of humor. People just like us that enjoy the medium.

TDC: Our target audience is just like your magazine’s. Comic book fans. [Editor’s Note: While Indyfest Magazine features many comic creators, our target audience are indy creators and fans in all media.] Our goal is to just represent the fans in a show, because we’re the same people. We love hearing from other pros, just like regular fans. We like to fight about Batman versus Superman, just like regular fans. We just want to entertain fans of what we’re fans of and have fun doing it.

IM: How do you promote your activities?

User comments

TDC: A good bit of our promotion comes from five things: social media, our network, guest mentions, paid traffic, and live events. Everything that’s not live is a more hands-on approach, where we’re using inbound attention to increase our reach. Whether it’s a post, an ad, or a shout-out, it all helps to increase the fan base. As for the live events, that has helped us a lot. Doing panels at conventions, workshops, and live shows, has taken our voices and added faces, so people are starting to know who we are first, then become listening fans.

IM: Has this been the case from the start, or were there other methods that you’ve tried and since moved away from?

RF: It initially started as word of mouth. We then started expanding the brand through social media, and I would network to my colleagues, who were great to take time out to be a part of the show. The entire process was a true trial and error, and has evolved into such a great product. MUST HEAR RADIO!

TDC: Everything we’ve done has been a progression. One thing has led to another, and we just try to find our sweet spots as we experiment. I don’t think we’ve done something yet that hasn’t worked in some way. We have the good fortune of marketing as a strong suit for what we do as a team.

IM: What advice would you give to someone just starting out, either in comics, in podcasting, or both?

RF: Be patient. Let success come to you. Rome was not built in a day. In comics, as in podcasting, dedication to your art form is key. You have to live what you do as much as you love what you do. No quitting. As a great guest said, “Comics as an industry is not a sprint, but a marathon.” And let it be about the journey, not the destination. Work hard. Perfect your craft. Network. Don’t be fearful of criticism, it’s there to make you better. Have a voice and have fun!

RayTimRob-1TDC: Do something fun, so when you hit the hard points on your journey, you can use the fun bank and withdraw some good vibes to get you through. Also, do what you can handle. Find people willing to help you along the way. People love being a part of cool things.

RS: Do what you love and keep a clear vision of what you want to do and how you want to do it. Do not be afraid to ask for help along the way. Times are different from when we were growing up. There are a lot more resources now to help you in whatever you are trying to do. Fill your life and surround yourself with positivity, even during rough moments. Keep the big picture in sight and remember that it is worth it.

IM: What does the rest of 2016 (and beyond) have in store for you?

RF: More shows, more guests, more events, more cons, more fun, more CREW and Fret, more craziness. More! More! More!

TDC: More shows, definitely. lol. Also, more training from us on creating and getting into comics, podcasting, and stuff like that. More fun stuff.

RS: More shows and a lot more guests. We have been blessed with the amazing guest list we’ve had on the show, and there are more guests to come and more great content. We will also be releasing more issues and a graphic novel this year. We have a few things coming down the pike.

IM: Finally, how can folks keep up with you online?

RF: www.whoisraytimandrob.com



TDC: The best is www.whoisraytimandrob.com, for our Ultimate RTR Bundle with Sketchbook, Artwork, and Preview Comic Book + Podcast Updates. That leads to everything we do, which is all about fun.

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94 Out of the Shadows

By Ellen Fleischer

94-Vevasis1Troy Vevasis is a comic book creator and writer. He is the author of Vincent Price Presents: In The Shadows #1 published by Storm Comics. Troy has self-published seven full comics and three minicomics so far. He has also been included in the following anthologies: Indie Comics Magazine #9, Oh, Comics! #23 Music Edition, The Gatekeeper Files, Uncanny Adventures Duo #2, WitchWorks #2–4, Blokes Terrible Tomb Of Terror Magazine #13, Hallowscream #7, Megabook M4, and Santa’s Favorite Tales.

IM: How long have you been making comics?

TV: I have been making comics for four years.

IM: Was this something you always planned to do? How did you get into it?

TV: I was always a big fan of comics. When I was a teenager, I started writing short prose stories. I later saw many indy comics online and decided to learn how to write comic scripts. I prefer to write comics because it is a great medium to bring the stories to life.

IM: Who would you consider to be some of your main inspirations?

TV: Jeph Loeb and Roy Thomas are my favorite comic book writers. Edgar Allen Poe and Robert E. Howard have had a huge impact on me as a writer.

IM: What is it about them that has inspired you?

TV: Jeph Loeb’s Batman comics are my favorite Batman comics and are among my favorite comics in general. I was always amazed at his ability to have so many characters in one book, but the book never seems crowded. Roy Thomas is one of few writers to capture the spirit of Conan the way Robert E. Howard intended. Edgar Allen Poe is one of the greatest American writers of all time. His horror stories have had a huge impact on me as a writer. The Cask of Amontillado is one of my favorite short stories. Robert E. Howard’s fast paced action and adventure stories have had a huge impact on me. He had the ability to blend great adventure plots with hints of horror and bizarre monsters.

IM: What training or life experiences have you had that got you into writing?

94-Vevasis3TV: I read a ‘how to write comic scripts’ book to get a better understanding of the comic script format.

IM: Could you describe your writing process? How do you travel from inspiration to publication?

TV: I spend a lot of time thinking about potential ideas. Once I feel strongly about an idea, I will give it a lot of thought and then write it. I will then look for artists and that would be a good fit for the comic. I then look for publishers or think about self-publishing.

IM: How did you come to create The Protector?

TV: That was the first comic project I ever worked on. I created that web comic to get my name out there.

 IM: Could you give us an overview?

TV: It takes place in the future, where an evil man named Eyi rules the earth with an iron fist. The Inventor and The Protector fight against him in hopes of restoring peace to Earth.

IM: And since then, you’ve gone on to self-publish another six titles! What can you share with us about them?

TV: I published the three-issue Tales of Trolik fantasy series. I then published the anthology Mysterious Comics and the science fiction comic Vaxdor and The Ikton Conflict. My most popular self-published project was the two-issue Ghostly Comics anthology. I also published three minicomics: Vaxdor and The Intruders and two all-ages books featuring a character called “Furry Qaileny.”  

IM: Your latest offering, Vincent Price Presents: In the Shadows just came out last month. Care to tease?

94-Vevasis4TV: Vincent Price Presents: In The Shadows #1 is published by Storm Comics. I am very happy to be a part of this project. I have been a fan of Vincent Price since I was very young. It was very surreal to write a comic featuring such an iconic actor! The story has elements of horror and tragedy, and takes place in the 1950s.

IM: What was the spark that set the ball rolling?

TV: I was in contact with the publisher and that led to me writing the comic for them.

IM: You’ve got a new art team this outing. How did you hook up with them?

TV: The artist J.C. Grande drew another comic I wrote called “The Duel,” that was published in Indie Comics Magazine #10. I am very happy that he is also a part of the Vincent Price project. The other members of the team were picked by the publisher.

IM: Is there any sort of common thread or theme that runs through your stories?

TV: Not really. I tend to write many different types of stories.

IM: Overall, how have you found the self-publishing experience?

TV: I think it is a good way for someone to make a name for themself in such a large community. It does, however, take a lot of time and effort to market the books and make they are available in as many places as possible.

IM: Could you share with us a bit of good advice that you got when you started making or publishing comics and/or a lesson you learned firsthand?

TV: I think the most important thing for someone who is just starting out is to make sure they get their name out there. I suggest self-publishing, writing web comics and getting into as many anthologies as you can. Once someone gets enough credits to their name, they will have greater opportunities. I also think a lot of patience is very important.

IM: You’ve also had some of your stories appear in comics anthologies. How has that experience been?

94-Vevasis2TV: It has been great! I think anthologies are a great way to get my work out there to as many people as possible.

IM: How are you handling the sales and marketing end of things?

TV: I have my comics for sale on Comixology, Drive Thru Comics and Store Envy.

IM: What does the rest of 2016 have in store for you? Any new projects on your horizons?

TV: I am working on a new self-published project that is almost finished. It should be out sometime this year. I continue to submit scripts to anthologies and publishers.

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

TV: My website is http://troyscomics.blogspot.com/. My comics can be purchased at https://www.comixology.com/Troys-Comics/comics-publisher/4692-0?ref=c2VhcmNoL2luZGV4L2Rlc2t0b3Avc2xpZGVyTGlzdC9pbXByaW50U2xpZGVy

http://www.drivethrucomics.com/browse/pub/8568/Troy-039s-Comics?term=troy – and http://troyscomics.storenvy.com/. My Facebook is https://www.facebook.com/troy.vevasis.

IM: Thanks so much!

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94 Table of Contents


Also in this issue: 2 great Sneak Peek features you can only see in the PDF of the magazine: Caligula Imperatore Insanum -Vol 1, and Wind and Fire #1. Click Here to get the PDF! (Or, click the cover!)


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93 Writing Mystery

Characters1A Writer at Play: Talking with Trisha Sugarek

By Ellen Fleischer

Trisha Sugarek has been writing for four decades. Her works include plays, mysteries, children’s books, general fiction, and poetry. She has thirty years of experience in the theater, both as an actor and a director. These days, she is a fulltime writer, blogger, and frequent contributor to Indyfest Magazine. This month, Trisha moves to the other side of the interview process and talks with us about her experience, her writing process, and her latest ten-minute play for the classroom, The Trans-G Kid.

IM: How long have you been writing professionally?
TS: Since 1996.

IM: Is this something that you’d always planned on doing, or did you have different goals when you were starting out?
TS: I never planned on being a playwright or writer. After thirty years in theatre as an actor/director, I was then drawn to try my hand at writing a stage play. It seemed a natural transition.

93-Sugarek-3IM: To what degree would you say that the techniques you picked up as an actor have helped you in your writing?
TS: Writing a stage play, solely with dialogue, was so easy. Must have been those thousands of scripts I had read over three decades. My experience as an actor taught me that, when writing, you have to ‘see’ the stage. For example, if the actor exits on the right side, needs a costume change and enters on the left a few moments later, have you written that window of time into the play with the other actors?

IM: Have you found that it’s easier to get under a character’s skin, for example?
TS: Absolutely. A competent actor studies their character not only in the timeframe of the play but explores what experiences they have before, and even after the play ends.

IM: You’ve also sat in the director’s chair on more than one occasion. How has that experience informed your writing?
TS: Directing is all about ‘control’. When and why the actors should move: is the ‘picture’ on stage pleasing or discordant with regard to the dialogue? Is the actor giving the director the emotion (whatever it is) that the director needs? Does the lighting enhance what is going on and not distract? I’ve often joked that directing actors is like herding a bunch of chickens. It takes a strong, steady hand. Writing, for me, is the opposite. You will have a better story in the end, if you give up control. I am a writer whose characters almost always take control of their own stories leaving me to become the typist. In interviewing other bestselling authors, I am not unique. It happens to others as well.

93-Sugarek-4IM: Could you describe your writing process to us? How do you go from inspiration to publication?
TS: I marinate, speculate and hibernate. I will write for days in my head. And not just when I am quietly sitting at home. Sometimes, while driving, I will quickly call my voicemail to make a note about an idea, a piece of dialogue, or a plot twist. I go from inspiration to publication by, what I call, ‘slamming out the first draft’. Then it’s re-write, re-write, re-write, and then, re-write some more. I go through the manuscript over and over. I try to have a couple of trusted friends read it and give me honest feedback. In recent years, I have hired a professional editor to go over the last draft. It has resulted in much-needed editing and always given me two or more new chapters. Sometimes, I have more than one manuscript going. Don’t be afraid to let your work ‘rest’. Write something else. I find writing my blog re-energizes me.

IM: You’re a blogger, an interviewer, an author and a playwright, and you’ve written in a variety of genres, which include fiction, poetry, mystery, juvenile, and theatre. Can you describe some of the elements/incidents/events that have inspired you? (Feel free to discuss some of your earlier works in detail).
TS: Most of my stories have come to me; picked me. I like to tell the story of sitting in a prison waiting room (yep! I said prison) one Sunday morning, in the countryside of Illinois. Waiting to visit a convicted murderer whom I had written a play about (Cook County Justice). The room was filled with women and children of all ages. Sisters, wives, and mothers, they sat, docile as sheep from years of this routine, come to visit their men. They all had their shoes untied. Their eyes pleaded with me, figuratively, to write their stories. These were not women who were wacky enough to have a jail house romance and/or marry a convicted felon. No, these were women you meet every day, who had children and families and normal lives, until one day, their husband made a stupid mistake. I couldn’t wait to get out of there and begin my research and write a play about these brave women. (Women Outside the Walls).

Years later, fans of the stage play begged me to write the rest of their story. (Remember the time restrictions of a play mentioned above.) So, one day, I sat down and stared at a blank screen which represented page one of a 350-page novel. I was terrified! Next came a biographical novel (Wild Violets) of my mother’s days as a flapper and entrepreneur during the roaring twenties, in San Francisco.

A similar experience gave birth to my mystery series, The World of Murder. I had written a ten-minute play (for the classroom) which was a murder mystery. Again, fans and friends told me, ‘we love your detectives; please write a story.’ The Art of Murder became book one, and I am currently writing book six of the series. Funny how these things happen!

93-Sugarek-2IM: Do you have any tips or tricks for getting through periods when the creative juices aren’t flowing as easily?
TS: Writers, don’t beat yourself up. Don’t add pressure to an already scary place. Creative juices tend to ebb and flow. I am revitalized and energized by reading another author. Other good writers tend to inspire me. I interview bestselling authors on my blog and the stories about their writing processes always stimulate me. I’ll write a ten-minute play or a piece of poetry to ‘re-boot’ myself.

IM: Recently, you’ve written The Trans-G Kid, a one-act play about a transgendered teen. What can you share with us about this work?
TS: Celebrity transgendered people have been in the news and I was struck by the staggering statistics about transgender teens’ suicide rates. It is horrifying. The Trans-G Kid was a perfect addition to my collection of ten-minute plays for the classroom. Perhaps the play will save just one kid. I can only hope.

IM: How did you go about researching the issues before you started the writing process?
TS: As an example, I’ll tell you about a saga I am still writing (it is currently resting). Song of the Yukon is about my auntie, a musician who, at age 17, ran away from home and, disguised as a boy, hired onto a steamer bound for Alaska, eventually homesteading outside of Tanana. The only problem I had was that it was 1920. Fairbanks was a single-building trading post. Transportation was by sled and dogs, riverboat, or foot. Thank the stars for Google! My research was extensive as I wanted, of course, to be as accurate as I could be. Who knew that surface gold is only found in the bend of a creek or stream that has black sand as part of its riverbed? What was a barn raising? How was meat preserved in those days? What were the riverboats like that transported people and supplies? How could you chink a log cabin using sphagnum moss? I was about half way through my manuscript when all the ‘Alaska reality’ shows hit the airways. Great stuff and really helpful with my research!

IM: Were there any surprises along the way? (Research causing you to revise plot points, characters running with the story and taking it in a different direction from what you’d originally envisioned, encountering support where you’d expected to meet resistance or vice-versa, etc.)
TS: Surprise is a good day! I know I’m really doing a good job if my characters tell me, in no uncertain terms, that it’s time for them to take over. I love my role as the typist! I won’t tell you much about Charlie (the protagonist in Women Outside the Walls) taking my story and turning it upside down. I wouldn’t want it to be a spoiler! But suffice it to say, Charlie took charge and caused me a four-month delay, while I researched the situation he threw at me. And Arnold Miller, a quirky actor, (The Act of Murder) who sauntered off the elevator, at the Food Network Building, in The Taste of Murder and nearly mowed down my two detectives. Where’d he come from?

Wild Violets is about my mother raising two kids during the roaring twenties. She was a force: played on a semi-professional women’s basketball team, owned her own bar and grill, worked all day and danced all night. This novel started out based on the stories my mother told me while growing up but eventually the fictional Violet took over, telling me she could tell her own story.

IM: How are you handling the marketing and promotion angle?
TS: After three years my blog has finally gotten traction. I have grown my readership on social media to seven million plus. I faithfully post twice a week and that’s a tough thing to maintain. Thinking up subjects, (always about writing) that maybe my readers will enjoy. I interview bestselling authors and that gets people to my web site where, hopefully, they will look at my books. I have give-aways, free audio book promotions, and ask people to review my books on Amazon.

IM: Was it always your intention to self-publish your work?
TS: Funny you should ask. No. I tried for years to get a publishing house to represent me. All the writers out there will confirm this when I tell you that it’s a hamster wheel! Publisher: Do you have a literary agent? Agent: Do you have a publisher? Publisher: Do you have an agent? When I started self-publishing, it was a dirty word. You were accused of writing a ‘vanity book’. You had to warehouse 20,000 books and schlep them everywhere. Then print on-demand was born and self-publishing platforms/programs were offered and that was a turning point for me. I am both actually; four of my plays are published by Samuel French, Inc., the biggest and best script publisher in the world, and I am so grateful to them. But they rejected forty of my other plays… and I was tired of waiting. It wasn’t that my work was no good; it was that it was not commercial enough. So I self-published and never looked back. My bestsellers are The Bullies, a ten-minute play for the classroom (one of 27), my journal/handbook, The Creative Writer’s Journal, and Ten Minutes to Curtain (a collection of ten-minute plays).

IM: What’s next on the horizon for you?
TS: Working on unfinished manuscripts. Book 6, (Beneath) The Bridge of Murder in my World of Murder series is about finished. It is about the serial killings of the homeless of NYC. This series has been a real joy to write. Contemporary true crime. Featuring my two murder cops, who are great partners, but couldn’t be more different from each other.

IM: Finally, where can our readers find your works and how can they stay on top of what you’re up to?
TS: Web Site: http://www.writeratplay.com/
Blog: http://www.writeratplay.com/category/a-writers-take/
Twitter: @writeratplay4
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/writeratplay
Purchasing: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=trisha+sugarek&rh=n%3A283155%2Ck%3Atrisha+sugarek
Audio-Books: http://www.audible.com/search/ref=a_hp_tseft?advsearchKeywords=Trisha+sugarek&filterby=field-keywords&x=7&y=12



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ALSO IN THE ISSUE: 3 great Sneak Peek features you can only see in the actual PDF, Sepulchre #1, Bang Bang Lucita #1, and Shaman’s Destiny #1…ALSO – a listing of most recent additions to our Marketplace.


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The Driving Force – Editorial – by Ian Shires

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

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

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

A Written View – by Douglas Owen

Odds and Ends – Bob Moyer – by Ellen Fleischer

Walking the Path – Mark Koning – by Trisha Sugarek

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