Saturday, January 31, 2009

Snowfort Redux

As work progresses on the new hacienda, my new closest neighbor Tom can be seen here running his sled dogs through my back yard.
        When I was a wee child I used to dream of someday growing up to be Sergeant Preston of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (with his trusty lead sled dog Yukon King). Well maybe I can't be Sgt. Preston, but it looks like I can live next door to him.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Once again it seems I lied.

Apparently I am not going to post daily writing progress updates here, during the month of February. Just as I have decided to go deep into the writing hole this full coming month, my buddy and oft-times writing partner Matt Sturges has decided much the same thing, although in deference to the fact that he has a loving family that needs occasional attention and care, his hole won't be dug quite as deep or isolated as mine.
        But, that said, the fact that Matt is doing much the same thing for the same month is too much of an opportunity to pass up. So, instead of just posting my own daily progress here, Matt and I are both going to post daily progress reports over at the Clockwork Blog. That doubles the accountability, which is the entire purpose of posting daily reports in the first place. You can get to the Clockwork Blog by clicking on the link right there in the upper left hand side of this page.

There's a big fire coming...

And it's going to be in this fireplace, which is really shaping up nicely. Note that the huge mantle piece that was featured below is now in place.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

February Plans

In March I move into the new digs, up in snowy Minnesota, just in time to officially move in on April 1st. That means I can't count on getting too much writing work done then. So I need to get ahead on all deadlines and various writing obligations now.
        Therefore, in the month of February, I am disappearing deep into the writing hole. No days off. No dinners out with friends. Few phone calls. No computer activity not directly related to getting my work done. Just writing, and more writing.
        Here's what I need to get done in one month: 1) I need to finish the current novel, which is fully plotted, researched and begun, but much of which remains unwritten. 2) I need to write at least three full issues of Fables. 3) Along with Matt Sturges, I need to complete, at a minimum, two issues of Jack, two issues of The Literals, and two issues of JSA. 4) I need to finish a couple of short stories and various items that always come up, and can't really be scheduled.
        Can I do it? Sure. I'm pretty prolific when I decide to knuckle down. For the prose work I just need to channel my inner Chris Roberson, who can write a full length novel in a long weekend. For the comics work I just need to do daily what I am able to do, when I really dedicate myself. Will I do it? We'll see.
        In order to help keep the fire lit under my too-often lazy (insert earthy anatomical reference here), I'm going to try to post daily progress reports here.

Because I am not computer savvy...

Blogspot, the service that hosts this blog, has recently changed its sign-in procedures, in conjunction with some sort of new alliance with Google. When they did this, I became unable to sign into my own blogs. It took me days to figure out the new system, which is why I haven't been able to post here (and in the Clockwork blog) for some time. Most sign in functions have hints built into the system to prompt those who've forgotten their account names or passwords. This one didn't. And since this one required far different account names and passwords than those I often use, I couldn't suss it out by trying all of the variations I typically use for such things.
        In any case, after spending frustrating hours jumping through all sorts of hoops and roadblocks, some glitch in their ultra-cryptic system finally redirected me to a page that was clearly designed for idiots like me to deal with their bold new ways. I have no idea how I ended up at that page, so deftly hidden as it was, in case I ever need to go through this process again. We'll see how it goes.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Sure it looks big, but the camera adds ten pounds.

This is either the huge block of wood that is going to become my fireplace mantle, or the stick I'm going to beat Sturges with if he ever tries to come visiting.
        But seriously folks, the fellow shown here is Carl (or is it Karl?) the Amish cabinet maker who's building my kitchen cabinets and library shelves, and providing the mantle piece. Pretty cool, huh?

Big update: I have been told by Stacy, she who is overseeing the finishing of my house, that I got the name wrong. The Amish fellow who is making my cabinets and bookshelves and such is named Jake, not Carl -- or even Karl. How I got Carl from Jake I cannot begin to fathom. And, as if that wasn't enough, this isn't Jake in the picture. It's his number one son named Raymond. Boy do I feel uninformed and un-authoritative.

And yet another JSA favorite

Alan Scott, the Golden Age Green Lantern is going to play a pretty big part in my half of the JSA series.
        Here are a few carefully worded bits and pieces of the plans Matt and I have worked out. Of course this is all subject to changes down the road, when we learn that the next big DC crossover involves turning the entire line over to some hot young tyro from Hollywood or Real Books who plans to kill all of the JSA (stuffing the bodies of the women into refrigerators and the chopped up bodies of the men into tool boxes) and replace them with super powered badgers. But barring that we plan to:
        First arc. A big thing happens, but we also get all of the characters into position for the really big thing that happens next.
        In the second arc, Obsidian and Mr. Terrific are the prime movers of the plot and (in at least one case) the source of the jeopardy.
        In the third arc, it's all about Green Lantern (whom I will not continue calling the Golden Age Green Lantern, since he's the original and the other Green Lanterns should call themselves the Green Lantern Copies, or the Green Xeroxes, or some such). Of course none of this implies that the other characters won't be important, just that we want each character to have a particular moment in the spotlight.
        Hold on. Wait a moment. I just heard that Matt Sturges may have other plans for the next two arcs following the first (which we are writing now). Hmmm. Maybe you'd best treat the above plans as tentative until I work things out with the enthusiastic young scribe.


This is what the new house looks like today.

The Fires at Story Creek

The contractors are moving along rapidly now. Here's the framing of the wood burning fireplace that's going into the living room. The finished fireplace will be real stone, matching the stone floor.
        Stacy Sinner, the wife of my long time Army buddy Mike Sinner, is overseeing the finish of the house while I'm wintering (for my last winter) in Las Vegas. It's several degrees below zero up there in Minnesota. It's so chilly here in Vegas that I actually had to consider putting on a longer sleeved shirt the other night to venture outdoors.
        When she's not doing custom house completions, Stacy is the Director of Adult Corrections for Olmstead County. This makes her the second highest Olmstead County law enforcement official behind the sheriff. Mike is the Director of Juvenile Corrections for the same county. I'd like to imagine they first met during a prisoner transfer, when a dangerous juvenile offender who reached the age of 18 was being handed over to his new digs.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

And here's another one.

Continuing our list of My Favorite JSA Characters, we have Doctor Fate, who used to be a fellow named Kent Nelson, then wasn't, then wasn't, then wasn't, but then he was again, but not the same Kent Nelson as the original, unless that bizarre helmet of his, that sometimes contains the spirit of Nabu, and sometimes doesn't, and sometimes contains its own pocket universe, and sometimes doesn't (all depending on who's writing it I suppose) is playing some sort of game of its own.
        My departed friend Steve Gerber was hired to sort through all of the past continuity and redesign Doctor Fate in a way that preserves the cool stuff and discards some of the chaff, while adding a few new, uniquely Gerberesque elements to the good doctor.
        Steve died before he could entirely explore the new Doctor he'd fashioned, but we'd had some opportunities to discuss Steve's long range plans, back when the Las Vegas based funnybook writers were getting together for regular lunches, and Steve was helping me come up with ideas behind the change in magic status in the DCU -- ending the fictional universe's Ninth Age of Magic and ushering in the shiny new Tenth Age. In doing so, Steve provided all of the best lines for my Detective Chimp special issue, which was part of Steve's Helmet of Fate event, that would lead into his new Doctor Fate series. Steve was a most generous fellow.
        So what happens when a brand new Kent Nelson Doctor Fate joins the JSA that used to have an entirely different Kent Nelson Doctor Fate as one of its early members? Finding out is going to be fun.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Story Creek

This is the creek that borders one long curving edge of the property. It's not actually named Story Creek by the way. It's one of the many branches of the Zumbro River. I'm told in the spring and summer its high enough for canoeing and such. We'll see. But there are fish in it. Getting to do some trout fishing without leaving one's property -- now that's a nice day. Just on the other side of the creek you can see a hint of the limestone cliffs that border the far riverbank. So, even though I will have neighbors, they're all up on top of the cliffs (access by a different road) and don't really impact on one's sense of solitude.
        This year's Clockwork Storybook retreat will take place here -- a week of writing, fishing, walking in the woods, outdoor bonfires in the fire pit, indoor bull sessions in front of the fire place.

The House at Story Creek

While visiting friends in the wilds of Minnesota I found the perfect house on some wooded acres bordering a river (I call it a creek, but my friends insist it's a river and I just haven't seen it at full swell), so I bought it.
        I'll be moving there after it's finished. The outside and major construction is done, but the builders left the floors and walls and such unfinished so the buyer could have it finished to suit.
        The yellow carpet things are burlap and straw coverings being rolled over the newly planted lawn to protect it from the coming winter -- which I understand is in full howl right now. I think I might call the property Story Creek, since I'm just enough of a fuddy duddy old romantic to think that houses, even modest ones, should have names.

Another JSA Favorite

Obsidian was a favorite character of mine ever since I first saw him, long before I had any idea who he was or what he could do. Why? I think visually he's among a handful of the best designed superheroes ever.
        Then when I learned that he's the son of the original Green Lantern and that his powers are basically the same, except with solidified darkness rather than green light, then that sealed the deal. Obsidian's going to be a big part in my JSA plans.
        He hasn't taken a very active role in recent issues, being more of a "living security system" plot device. That's fine. Geoff Johns did me a huge favor by basically letting him lie fallow for some time. Now, when he returns to the forefront, he can return rejuvenated -- sort of like how a favorite food tastes even better when you haven't had it for awhile.

JSA Favorites

When Matt and I were invited to take over writing the JSA we were a bit daunted at the huge size of the team. One way we're dealing with it is to each pick our favorite JSA characters and sort of be the one to "take the lead" in writing that character, when he appears in a given story.
     Among my favorite JSA characters is Mr. Terrific, for a couple of reasons. First and foremost he's supposed to be a very smart fellow, and the challenge of writing a character vastly more intelligent than myself is irresistible. 
        For another thing, a hero should have a code, and this one makes sure everyone knows it. It's written there in bold letters right on his sleeve. Corny? You bet, but I like it.
        Don't much care for the mask though. Since he's a publicly known superhero -- meaning he doesn't keep a secret identity -- and since it's already established that he can turn the mask invisible at will, I wonder if we might just have him lose it. No changes to the Fair Play jacket though. Love the jacket. DC should produce them for sale.

JSA Days (and Daze)

As you may already have heard, I'll be writing DC Comics' JSA series soon, in collaboration with my oft-times funnybook writing partner, Matt Sturges. By the way, the image to the left isn't from one of our issues, as they've yet to come out. It's from a previous JSA issue and doesn't show the full immensity of the team that we'll be inheriting from Geoff Johns, the current JSA scribe.
        Since this news broke, I've been asked more than once, "Why would you even consider taking over a book from Geoff Johns? It's about as suicidal a career move as whoever the long forgotten act was who appeared after the Beatles, in the old Ed Sullivan Show." (Too ancient a reference for you? Ask your parents.)
        Believe me, I have the same concerns. Geoff is a titan of superhero writing. It would be folly to try to follow him, right?
        That's one way to frame the argument. But, after much consideration, I have a drastically different way of looking at it. Following Geoff Johns on any project is a no-lose situation. Confused? Then think it through as I did. The two possibilities are that I fall flat on my face, or I do a good job with the book against all expectations.
        If I fall flat on my face, that can't reflect badly on me, because he's Geoff Johns. No one can be expected to do well following him. See? Can't lose.
        However, if I succeed against all expectations then the glory is even more sweet, because who would have thought I could do it, following Geoff Johns. Once again: can't lose.
        So that's my reasoning. Or at least my rationalization.
        I have no idea why Matt agreed to this folly.

Have you seen this man?

If so, stay away. He's poison. This is another character you're likely to meet, if you kindly accept our invitation to read the Great Fables Crossover, coming soon. Once again, Reliable Russ Braun provided the visual design for this fellow, whom I will not identify. But if you've been reading Jack of Fables lately, you might be able to venture an educated guess.

Not a single shot fired this time.

Matt Sturges came into town for a three day mini writing camp. In that time we wrote two issues of the Great Fables Crossover, tweaked a few finishing touches into our first JSA issue, broke down our second JSA issue, and actually had a few hours for sleep and the odd meal or two.
        Not bad, considering that the last time Matt came into Las Vegas for a similar concentrated work retreat, we did anything but work. We hung out at Sunset and Vines -- a wine bar and restaurant that I own a modest piece of -- swilling good wine and dining on good food. We fired tommy guns, modern machine guns, silenced pistols, sniper rifles and various other implements of death and destruction at a local gun range (and mostly shot at one of their "pick your favorite villain" targets, with the image of a fellow that looked disturbingly -- or delightfully -- like DC Comics' own Dan Didio). Oh how we filled Dan full of holes! We played poker. We saw the sights. And even drove to LA for a day of signings and musings at the LA book fair. What we didn't do then is get a single bit of work done -- the planned reason for the visit.
        This time we did a bit better. The fellow pictured above is one of the characters you'll run across during the upcoming Great Fables Crossover. He's a Literal, and Russ Braun provided the visual design for him. That's all I'll say for now.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Goodness, Where Have I Been?

Look at how long it's been since I posted. I blame (and praise) the holidays. Here's a secret about the life of a freelancer. We don't get the holidays off, nor weekends, nor any other day that those with normal five day a week jobs get. We're never off duty -- not totally. If we do decide to take a day, or an afternoon, or an hour off, it's always accompanied by the guilt of, "Here's all the things I should be working on right now." That never goes away.
        But there are rewards on an extended set of days like these recent holidays. Though the freelancer might not have any days off, his editors, or art directors, or producers, or whoever is in some office somewhere waiting to receive said freelancer's work, do. They can be counted on to take those days off. So it is like a vacation of sorts -- in that you aren't going to hear from that person for an extended time. During the holidays I enjoyed an extended period of not having to worry about (for example) Shelly Bond, my editor on Fables, calling me and pressuring me to get the next script in. I got to work uninterrupted. Such bliss. And so what did I do? Like every other freelancer in the same situation, I goofed off.
        Here's the dirty little secret I hate even admitting to myself: The editors and such need to keep that pressure on -- they know it and we know it -- or else we'd never get anything done. I didn't entirely goof off, although I did more reading for pleasure and watching the boob tube than I've been able to do in many a month. I also got a lot of writing done. But it was writing on the projects I felt like working on, rather than those I needed to get done. What a joy that is.
        So, what does any of this have to do with why I haven't posted here in so long? Simple. I got distracted. Bigtime. And then, when I realized I hadn't posted in so long, day by day the pressure to remedy that built up to the point that when I finally did come back and post something, it had better be something pretty damned spectacular to justify the long absence. And with each additional day that passed, the new future return post had to be even more incredible and important. And so on.
        Soon enough, so many days sans posting had passed, that there never could be an "I have returned" post glorious enough to make up for my long absence. That, my friends, is when all of the pressure finally drifted away, like the insubstantial vapor it always was, and I realized, since I couldn't possibly measure up to the task, I shouldn't even try. "Don't post anything incredible or vital," I said to myself, "just post something fun."
        And that's why I posted this funny picture of a dog in India attacking some guy's pet monkey. People! If you chose to have a pet monkey, then you should damn well realize the responsibility you've taken on. You are that monkey's guardian protector for all time! Take better care of your pet monkeys!
        There. An important thing that needed to be said.
        More posting about actual subjects pertinent to this blog soon.