Time usually flies, however in the case of "The Conjurers", the series seemed to have fallen into a temporal loop. Much of that was because, from the beginning, I was trying to do something different. Found a few potholes but also found a few things that worked. So where does it stand now?My editor and I came up with a timeline with definitive dates and goals to get this done. A lot of what slowed us down was having portions of the stories told through sequential art. Prose blended into comics and vice versa. That's great if you have the text finalized. We didn't. So, change some prose and you had to change the drawings. Change a drawing and you had to add some prose. Round and round it went. We made a few compromises on the scope of the illustrations and also put all our focus on getting the prose done.This weekend I sent out book two. Now I'm onto the final pass on book three and simultaneously illustrating book one. That means book one is actually, really, truly in production. Which also means I should have a publication date soon. The next few months will be more insane than the last few (in which I was only re-writing one book). along the fall through this rabbit hole I'll post updates on the illustrations for book one and the manuscript for book three. Confused yet? Me too. That's why I have it written down. Either way, I think the trip will end up in wonderland, which is not a bad place at all.
The trials and tribulations of writing a fantasy novel series.
So, ya, about that fantasy novel series. Where are they at and what's happening? Are they ever going to come out? It's been a while since I've posted anything about the novels, mainly because there wasn't a terrible lot to post about. Thought I'd give a quick run down on their status. Good news and bad news. Bad news first? Good idea. Get it out of the way. Here we go.
The Bad News
I have no idea when "The Conjurers" book one will launch. From the get go, I had an ambitious idea of creating a hybrid fantasy novel that weaved prose in and out of the illustrations. Cool! Exciting! Never been done before! Yes, all very well and nifty, however, as is to be expected when doing things four miles away from the nearest box, you bumble your way along a foggy road that has never been mapped. The first tree in the road was attempting to write the prose and work out the illustrations at the same time. But when the prose changes, so do the illustrations and when the illustrations change the prose needs adjusting. Round and round it went for a bit. Finally a couple faint, swinging lights appeared in the fog.The first was coming to terms with the fact that, on my inaugural outing writing a fantasy series, I wasn't going to be able to pull off some the word C.G.I. where text blended into a sequential series of drawings and then seamlessly merged back into traditional prose. It was clunky and at times, too comic book-ish. Once I accepted that, there was another looming issue.The original draft of book one was just over ninety-thousand words, and that was before adding in the pages and pages of illustrations. The book would've been more a piece of furniture than a fun read kids could tote around in their backpacks. Thankfully, a new creative director had just flown over on white, feathery wings to my publisher and she had the light bulb moment that pulled the whole project out of the muck. "Why not split book one into two books?"And boom! Just like that, books one and two were written. Sort of. Now I could focus on polishing the text for book one and finalize the what and where of the illustrations. Right now, as I wait for notes on the final edits for book one, I am sharpening and molding book two (formerly the second half of book one) into it's own complete story arc. The neat bit is that where book one was torn in half makes the series more of a cliff--hangar serial. That is to say, at the end of the new book one everyone dies. Just kidding.
The Good News
Onto the good news! Mainly, that book one is nearing completion and should have an official release date soon. The second breath of fresh air is that, because books two and three are more or less written, there won't be any delays between releases. By the time book one thumps onto shelves, I should have book two wrapped and will be putting the finishing bits of spackle on book three.In the meantime, I'll be posting more often, given that I have a slightly sturdier grip on this eel like process. And that also means, as I promised myself, I'll post a lot more sketches.
Let's kick off these writing tips with a pop quiz. Aside from running out of coffee beans, what’s the number one crisis for writers and cartoonists? Organization. Now, if you’re one of the one percent of one percent creative types who doesn’t get distracted every five seconds, this little post won’t help you. Plus, the rest of us hate you.
I started using “to-do” lists years ago just to keep things prioritized. It helped immensely, until I kept losing the lists.So I switched to digital solutions. There’s a lot of them and I’ve tried almost every one, from the “post-it” app to “Remember the Milk” (is that still around?). They worked, but were sometimes clunky and crashy. Also, it was hard to lug around a tower unit so I wouldn’t forget something at the art supply store. Then a little while back, Google Keep showed up in the Play Store. Been using it ever since. And it does a heck of lot more than remind you how much you haven’t gotten done. Here’s a few:
1.Virtual Index Cards
Back in my cubicle days I would spend my lunches with a stack of index cards writing screenplays. You can do the same thing with Google Keep. I mapped out a picture book using one note per page. The apps smooth UI makes it super simple to rearrange cards. The one drawback is you won’t be able to work on multiple projects at one time. Best to outline one idea at a time.
Keep also has labels, which will allow you to group things by subject. Or organize a novel by acts and chapters. Again, best to keep it basic outline. Enough to give you a framework to start writing. As of now, Keep isn’t quite robust enough to handle a highly structured outline. You can transfer it into Scrivener (everybody uses Scrivener now, right?) and flesh it out.
2.Google Keep for Cartoonists
Yep, you can sketch notes in Keep too. I had been using the Samsung app that came with my phone, which was better in the drawing department, but Keep beats it in several other categories which I’ll mention later.
So anywhere, anytime you can scratch a comic idea into Keep, and you can even use a separate note for each panel. Quite handy when you’re waiting for your son to get out of school. It also has pinch and zoom to get in closer and add a bit more detail. The app needs a more work on its pen selection, but hey, we’re shooting for fast and furious and not a Mike Mignola watercolor.
3. Google Keep is seriously Portable
This is my favorite feature and the one that made me switch from my Samsung app. If you can get online you can get to your notes. Don’t have your phone? No prob, so long as you can borrow one or a laptop or a modified toaster, anything that can get online, you’ve got your Keep. I will say, it is much easier using it to storyboard on a laptop, simply because of the wider screen.
4. The Obvious Reason: Organize Your Day
This is of course is the main purpose behind Keep, and boy, howdy, it shines. I have one list for longterm items and another for the daily business that needs to get done. One thing I’ve had to be careful off is adding too many notes. Best to consolidate items whenever possible. And it’s super fun to check the little boxes everytime you complete a task.
When I was putting together my first Dog eat Doug collection and wishing InDesign was a real person I could punch in the face, I kept track of my process in Keep. That way, on later volumes, I had all the tricks for reducing PDF file sizes right at the tip of my mouse button.
Keep is handy for research and collecting photo reference. You can zip articles and such over to Keep right from your browser. I’m starting to do this more and more. Evernote has been my go to for collecting reference materials for many years but I find Keep’s clipping interface much less cumbersome, and I don’t have to dig around to find it later.
Also should mention the “reminders” feature, which is exactly what it sounds like. You can have notes pop up on your phone and laptop to remind you about an upcoming conference call or to take a shower every six days.
5. Best for Last: Dictation
Writers and Cartoonists know that ideas are fleeting. You bite into a doughnut and suddenly you see before you, from start to finish, the greatest sci-fi, noir, who-dunnit story of all time. Two bites later and it’s gone. Forever. Or is it?
“Okay, Google,” I said, showering my Samsung Galaxy with crumbs. “Take a note.”
Those few words are all you need to save the most awesomest idea ever without touching a button, which means you can have a doughnut in both hands. Sure, you could waste this power on making grocery lists and such, but that would be like SpiderMan using his powers only for spackling rusted bathtubs.
That’s the tip of the iceberg. I didn’t even mention the collaboration feature, as I haven’t tried it out yet. All in all, Google Keep is like having a tiny forest sprite as an assistant. Except less sparkly. Give it a try, if you haven’t already, and let me know if you have even better uses for it than I could come up with.
Yep. Volume six is almost patched together. That means there'll be some giveaways and deals on the past editions coming up. I'll announce everything in the newsletter first. So if you haven't signed up yet, drop your email in the hat and grab the free ebook while you're at it.
There will be some Conjurers news in a bit too, as I'm in the process of finalizing the copy and laying out the first the novel. That will hopefully include a final, set in stone publication date. Stay tuned!
Indeed, this project has taken a lot more work than anticipated and I anticipated a lot. However, my editor and publisher want to get it right. Doing things outside the box means a lot of growing pains and learning as you go. Been a ton of that.So, as it goes right now, I'm streaming words for book two, as you can see in the photo. Yes, that's a tiger with a rabbit in its mouth and it's not what you think. Unless you think it's something more than a tiger with a rabbit in its mouth. Then you're on the right track. I have a solid, working outline of book two. Nine chapters in, I'm discovering lots of cool bits that don't show up when you outline stories. The focus on book two is getting the words down, fast and furious. Type it into the box with all the circuits and such, cut of the jagged edges and send it off to my ridiculously patient editor. By that time she should be sending me the manuscript for book one. That needs final line edits, final art direction and final, final art.While things have been delayed quite a bit, the good news is we're figuring out this odd way of slipping from prose to art and art to prose and a few variations in between. The other good news is that there won't be a delay between books. That, right now, is key. And the first webcomic companion will finish its run soon. There'll be another companion right after that one, which should be much less experimentally. More on that later after I finish torturing my Lamy on this draft.
Here's a two page spread from chapter seven. Might have to makes some changes if some of the prose ends up on the left side. Again, spoiler filter on, so I won't divulge exactly what this scene is. This two page spread accomplishes several things. First off I can visually set the mood that flows from the text. Second, I can show all the important bits instead of spending several paragraphs describing what you see here. And my favorite bit, I can drop in Easter eggs that relate to book two.
Had to share this one for all of you reading the speed drawing experiment that is the Conjurers webcomic. You can probably guess who the boy is falling out of the sky. Completely different style than in the comic, but I think his general essence comes through. Keep reading the webcomic to see how he gets here.
Moving along with the art from chapter four. This posted piece is a two page spread. The previous page is all prose ending with the kids entering the carriage. You flip the page and voila, you get to see what they see. I needed to accomplish a lot in this spread. First off, I'm setting up the interior of the carriage (it comes up again later) but more importantly, I get to show a little of what the Grubians do as opposed to just chatting about it in the prose.Meanwhile, the dialog helps set up some more important elements, all set against a static background where the characters move from panel to panel, hopefully giving it a cinematic effect as opposed to hopping from panel to panel.