March 2009


I finished the first real synopsis of Strongman Volume 2 today.  My first effort was an idea sheet, which I used to jot down all of the random ideas I had that could eventually be shaped into a story.  My second effort was a real synopsis, handwritten, with arrows and marginalia all over the place as new ways to structure the story occurred to me.  My third effort, what I consider the “real” synopsis, is typed into a Word document, and will probably serve as the main story bible.  Typically, I print out a copy of the synopsis and carry it around with me for a few weeks.  I read it periodically, and scribble in new ideas.  I start to script once I think everything’s properly gelled.  I’m not there yet – I read the synopsis on the subway today and realized a bunch of holes, unexplored ideas, dangling plot threads, etc.  But that’s what revising is for, and the heavy lifting is probably done.  I take that back – there’s usually a point where I realize that there’s something I could do to make the story MUCH better, which requires a fairly substantial set of changes.  So, that’s probably somewhere on the horizon, but for now, I feel like real progress has been made.

In particular, there’s a plot point involving a water tower and a bunch of gangsters that I absolutely love.

I was video-interviewed (videoviewed?  vinterviewed?  That sounds like Chekov in Star Trek IV.)  while in Austin earlier this month for the fabulous Staple small press convention.  I’ll get to that in a minute, but first, just to digress, the convention was an absolute blast.  It was a chance to hang out with extraordinarily talented creator-types, which is something I LOVE, whether it’s writers, musicians or artists (or, presumably, dancers or architects, although I have yet to really have the pleasure.)  I also got to sell Strongman in person, and you can’t imagine how gratifying it is to tell someone about your book, have them consider it, and then reach into their wallet for a ten-spot.  In a single eight-hour day, I moved about 80% of the copies of the book I brought down to Austin, which I personally think is pretty good. 

It didn’t hurt that Austin is one of my all-time favorite cities (of all time!)  I was about a hair’s breadth from moving there three or so years ago, and still occasionally wish that I had (please accept my apologies, Brooklyn… oh, no, don’t be like that… I didn’t mean it, I swear.)  [Yes I did.  Austin is awesome.]

I have another convention coming up the first weekend in April – the Emerald City Convention in Seattle.  The artist for Strongman, Allen Gladfelter, will be there as well, plus some of the folks from Slave Labor.  This will be my first chance to hang out with the main SLG guy, Dan Vado, since he published my book, so it’ll be interesting to talk to him.  And I hear Seattle is fabulous, too.

But anyway, back to this interview.  The interviewers were a couple of guys from the very cool Geek Bombast site (www.geekbombast.com), and we did a quick 2-minute interview that I’m going to attempt to embed below. 

………. (3-4 minutes of screwing around trying to get wordpress to deal with this veoh.com site)………..

Well, that didn’t work.  See it here: http://www.veoh.com/browse/videos/category/people_and_blogs/watch/v180281339TXsGG2J

As part of the promotional effort ramping up to the release of my graphic novel Strongman this past March, I created a series of five short films starring a live-action version of Tigre, the main character.  All five were shot in Brooklyn, New York, near the old Brooklyn Navy Yard, and in two nearby neighborhoods – DUMBO (Down Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass) and Vinegar Hill. 

Dumbo was an old warehouse district in the olden days, so it’s filled with huge brick buildings with no windows.  The Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges loom over you (super cool, like something out of Johnny Mnemonic.)  Many of the streets are paved with large grey stones that look sort of like granite bricks, and since the neighborhood is currently occupied by a large number of art collectives, galleries and studios, there’s all sorts of neat art scattered around the streets, as well as other random items.  For example, on one of the days we shot, a huge pile of ice bricks/sheets was piled outside one of the buildings, just chilling.  They looked like raw material for ice sculptures.  We wanted to shoot a soliloquy while the actor playing Tigre was standing on the pile of ice, but ultimately decided against it because (a) I had no insurance and the ice looked a little deadly and (b) it was getting late, and we didn’t have lights for shooting outdoors.  Would have been neat, though.

Vinegar Hill is one neighborhood over, and it’s really just a few blocks.  Not much of a neighborhood, really.  It has a unique character, though, because many of the homes are the same ramshackle wooden buildings thrown up in the 1900s.  (At least, I think they’re that old – I didn’t Google.)  It feels like an old fishing village, or perhaps a New England town. 

Combine that with the super-industrial vibe of the BQE and the Navy Yard, and you have a million amazing locations within a ten-block radius.  We found a mansion behind a gate, a grim as hell construction site beneath a 6-lane expressway overpass, and of course, JJ’s Navy Yard Lounge (I’ll save JJ’s for a post all its own, though.)

The whole shoot was a great experience.  I’d never done anything like it before, and while I had help from friends who were more experienced (including producer Andy Deemer and cinematographer Arsenio Assin), I was the guy who had to figure out the shots that would tell the story I wanted to tell, keep them straight, deal with the actors, get people fed and paid, etc.  And once the footage was in the can (or on tape, really), I had to figure out how to edit, color correct, do digital effects and score everything.  The scoring was simple enough, since I’ve been doing scoring for years, but there was a pretty steep learning curve on the rest.

Anyway, I think they turned out pretty well.  There are a lot of stories to tell about the shoots, but for now I’ll just put up a link to one of the videos, and add the rest to future posts.

My next graphic novel project to appear in the world will probably be a book called “27.”  The art segment of the work is just ramping up now, but I do have a few sketches and such that I can share.  Neither of these are final, but they might give you a sense of the artist’s style.

Here’s Garland, the main character:

Early Garland Sketch (27)

 

And here’s Dr. Hargrave Swinthe, a very important character with an unfortunately limited amount of screen time:

Early Swinthe sketch (27)

Good stuff.

It looks like I’m going ahead with a sequel to Strongman, which is an exciting prospect.  It’s exciting in part because of the reason I’m doing it – because people apparently want to read it.  I don’t know that it’s many people, necessarily (yet), but it may be – or it may eventually be.

Anyway, most of the time thus far when I’ve written things, it’s been more or less solely because I wanted to create whatever it was I was writing.  There’s rarely been an outside impetus (other than, say a nebulous deadline from an agent to provide a rewrite, or a screenplay competition deadline, etc.)  But now, there are people in the world who affirmatively want to read more of the characters  and world I created – people I’ve never met, who I only know about through Google Alerts-fueled skimming through messageboards, reviews, etc.  Hopefully there are a few folks beyond the ones who feel moved to post on a board about Strongman, too.

In other words, I find myself with an audience, albeit I’m sure a small one.  And those people are in my mind as I work on Strongman Vol. 2.  Now, I was never planning to reinvent the wheel and go totally outside the basic setting and themes of Vol. 1 (no Star Trek-crossovers – sorry, Allen) but now I’m trying to drill down and figure out what it was that worked so well about the first book, and bring that along to the sequel.  Was it the New York setting?  I hope not, because NYC gets much less screen time in V2 as currently planned.  Was it the essential character of Tigre, my main guy?  I actually think it was – and we’ll definitely get much more of him.  Was it the film noirish tone, and the mystery?  Well, there’s a bit of that too, but not to the same degree.  If the first book was Nacho Libre crossed with Sin City, this new one might be Nacho Libre crossed with Traffic by way of City of God, with just a touch of Forbidden Planet.

Which, I think goes without saying, will be awesome.

Some of the logs are huge.  It’s going to take quite an effort to get the fire hot enough to chew through them.  That being said, the weather’s turning fast, and the days when it’ll be pleasant to have a fire at all will be gone soon enough.  I think I’ll give it a try this evening.

I also have about two hours of silence until things move into their typical nighttime rush.  My first (published) book hit shelves a week ago last Wednesday, and I’m tempted to continue working on my outline for its sequel.  I’m excited about the possibilities of expanding the story, but I’m not sure the verdict is one hundred percent in as to whether I’ll be doing a sequel at all.  Of course, when I wrote the original book in the first place I wasn’t sure it’d be published, but this seems different somehow.  The story’s sort of churning around in my head, though, pushing to come out.

This particular character (Tigre, the 65-year-old ex-masked Mexican wrestler who some reading this might already be familiar with) comes more easily to me than many in my various books, screenplays and other projects.  That should tell me something – and it’s actually nice to write stories that I can just create without a ton of outside research.

Of course, now that I think about it, this as-yet un-subtitled Strongman Volume 2 is going to require research into the ongoing Mexican cartel wars, unusual US-Mexico border crossing methods, super-long distance hot air balloon technology and probably a little about ICE.  But that’s all fun stuff.

I’m sure I’ll add ten posts with book purchase links and reviews in a minute, but I wanted to begin the blog with something a bit more relaxed.  There’s always time to self-promote, but days cold enough to light a fire are going to be gone before I know it.

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