“Meet Me at the Falls” on Indie Author Land

Screen shot 2013-10-23 at 11.58.15 AMThe good folks over at Indie Author Land have created a dedicated hub for self-published authors, geared toward you: the reader. It’s a great place to find new up and coming talent and honestly just great and daring fiction. The whole site is run by a lovely couple, a journalist covering the arts and a computer programmer; both avid readers with a passion to help spread the word about good fiction. Plain and simple. Their slogan says it all: Great Books. No Middleman.

As they mention, their ‘site is growing, and that’s what they want. The idea is for their growth to be organic and fluid, growing to fill whatever void it may come across.’ Sounds like what it feels to look at a blank page with a pencil in your hand.

Admittedly, their site is also a selfish means to find their next favorite book. Their latest favorite pick comes from the self-publishing trio at Pen, Pint & Pyre: “Meet Me at the Falls“, the Sci-Fi Thriller by authors Ben Tuller, Zack Keller and myself.

Check out the interview with the authors, and the rest of their site here: http://www.indieauthorland.com/archives/5903

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Duke of Fancy – Top Hats & Sugar Canes

Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down. Unless you’re diabetic. Let’s see if Duke kills a bunch of innocent children shall we?

This episode is chocked full of hidden references and gags that inspired us to create Duke in the first place.  Fun facts about this episode:

  • This was originally the pilot episode Zack and I made to sell the show to Rugburn.
  • There’s the clandestine group of scoundrels from Zack’s novel The Success of Suexliegh (part of the inspiration for Duke)
  • There’s character from the beloved Monty Python series–pulling inspiration from their humor and of course Terry Gilliam.
  • Roald Dahl references
  • Several in-Duke references about the origins of his Butler, Chauncey, the multi-functional pipe and monocle, and the reason why Duke’s hat is so magical.

See if you can spot more – There are plenty more.

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Duke of Fancy – How to be Rich (Episode 3)

In this week’s Duke of Fancy episode, we learn the secrets about how to become rich (not as rich as Duke himself, of course–that’s impossible. But kind of rich. Rich like some prince out of the Arabian desert maybe, or Elon Musk rich.)

A change of pace for Duke, Zack and I figured people don’t want to just see the exploits of the world’s richest man, they want to be him; follow in his Bertuli laid footsteps. The first of several 1950s inspired “how to” videos, we learn from the man who knows absolutely nothing about everything!

Credit for part of this episode must also go to the incomparable Kari Casady, who helped on this episode with design, backgrounds and animation.

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‘Dick Figures: The Movie’ LA Premiere

The cast and crew of Dick Figures: The Movie redefined independent filmmaking last night at the L.A. Premiere (Sept 16) as the once animated web series made it’s big screen debut. With a team of only 8 core animators both storyboarding and animating the entire film, the crews from Remochoso and Six Point Harness teamed with Mondo Media to break new ground in Hollywood. I am extremely proud and privileged to be a part of it.

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As part of that core team of artists, I have been on Dick Figures since Season 1 — and for the movie, I was a lead animator, story artist and even supplied a few voices for the film. It was unbelievable to see the turnout last night as they cast, crew, friends and family showed up as the first people to see the movie, spearheaded for over a year by Zack Keller and Ed Skudder. Checking our cell phones in the theater lobby, even before it’s official release the movie reached #1 on Amazon Pre-Orders and #2 on iTunes Pre-Orders (continuing it’s climb to the top of overall sales). It was incredibly exciting and humbling to see such a turnout and to receive such an amazing reaction. It is unprecedented that a feature film produced on such a small budget, with KickStarter backers funding most of the film, and literally no money spent on advertising reach these heights. I cannot be more grateful to everyone that made this happen. I would like to personally thank Ed Skudder and Zack Keller for including me in what I know is only the beginning of amazing things to come.

To officially announce the movie’s release, we’re doing a Live Event today on YouTube at 2pm so please head over to Mondo Media to check it out.

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Make sure to grab yourself a copy of the film from iTunes, Amazon or view for free on YouTube or Kickstarter, and of course don’t forget to get the amazing soundtrack by Nick Keller now available on iTunes and Spotify.

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There is much more to come and great things on the horizon – but today … it is Dick Figures.

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Duke of Fancy

I’m super proud to announce that starting next week “Duke of Fancy”, the web series I produce with Zack Keller, will be making it’s grand premiere! The animated series follows the exploits of the richest man in the world who does whatever the  hell he damn well pleases, only to have it backfire in everyone else’s face.

I wanted the show’s visual style to reflect its whimsical yet high brow humor. The solution was the obvious perfect marriage between Ronald Searle and The New Yorker comics. As for the style of animation, having worked on Dick Figures for four seasons and a movie, I learned quickly that poppy pose to pose style can not only be hilarious, but allow for each of these episodes to be animated in about a week. Using puppets, the style is also heavily influenced by Terry Gilliam cartoons from the old british series “Monty Python’s Flying Circus.”

As Zack points out, Duke himself is “in no way, shape or form inspired by his book The Success of Suexliegh … Okay, well, maybe just a little bit.”

Duke of Fancy.

September 17.

Get ready to be greedy.

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Writing Process (9 of 9)

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Letting Go…

… continued from part 8: DEADLINE

This is probably the hardest part. I’ve looked at the book for so long I don’t even know what to think of it anymore. I love it and I hate it. I’m also indifferent about it. Overall, I’m just way too close to it. I could noodle with this or that forever, but I’ve hit my deadline and now it’s time to let it go.

This is where, if you’re self-publishing, you really have to be hard on yourself. You are never going to get it perfect. There is no such thing as perfection. Every author, every director, every artist has to at some point just let it go. Pass it off to your editor to send to the press, upload that file to Amazon and start worrying about how much to charge.

Glaring corrections can be fixed in subsequent editions. I’ve found copies of Fitzgerald that have some pretty bad typos. Who knows how long they were in there. But the important thing to realize is that you’re done. A work of art will never truly be finished in the eyes of the creator. But therein lies the beauty of it. It’s not supposed to be. I don’t write books for myself–I might come up with an idea I like but ultimately, I write it to be read by others. It’s the reader who finishes my books. And they finish it a thousand times over with endless variation. What wonders I would see if I could crawl inside their mind as they flip through the pages, deriving meaning from the unintended and totally missing meaning I tried to put in. But that’s the beauty of it all. Some people will love it, some people will hate it. Never in the history of the world has there been one piece of art that everyone came to love equally.

So that’s it. You’re done. Get it out there and let the readers have at it. I try to learn from my mistakes and improve on my next creative endeavor. And as an artist, I know damn well that I’ll be on my death bed, still with the desire to grow.

I’ve currently finished a short story, Meet Me at the Falls, with fellow authors Zack Keller and Ben Tuller… and for as much as I think I have it all figured out for this book, I know my next book may be an entirely different journey where I abandon these methods deeming them useless and naïve. I’d like to think that I won’t, but for me the point of writing… and for that matter, reading what people write… is to gain a glimpse into the soul and see the wonder and magic in the expression of the human condition.

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New Sci-Fi Serial: Meet Me at the Falls

Meet Me at the Falls

Post Apocalyptic, Sci-Fi and Horror fans alike, I’m pleased to announce the release of Pen, Pint & Pyre‘s fourth publication, Meet Me at the Falls — the first chapter in a five-part short series by authors Zack Keller, Ben Tuller and myself.

We wanted to take an idea, each write part of it, focusing on one characters and then tie the stories together in one cohesive narrative. The result was something more exciting and richer than any one of us could have imagined alone.

The story follows the Murphy family as they fight their way through hell and back again after the world has fallen apart. Planning for the impossible, they had decided that if anything like this ever happened, they all agreed to do one thing: Meet Me at the Falls

Available Now on Amazon.com for just $0.99

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Writing Process (8 of 9)

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DEADLINE

… continued from part 7: Final Revisions

One might think my last step would be that final polished pass (and obviously it is, to a certain degree) but more important than that is giving yourself a real deadline.

Working under a deadline allows me to be more creative than I’d be if allowed to noodle with something ad infinitum. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that limitations and deadlines spawn creativity. Mulling over something too long destroys that fresh, new feeling; that spark of life. Creating those rules and regulations allows me to fight against something trying to control what I do. I rebel and enter areas of my mind I never dreamed of stepping foot into before.

The pressure of finishing on time after procrastinating and hitting road blocks forces me to flex my creative muscles. If I allow myself to work on something too long, I’ll ruin it. I promise you.

And on that note, I have a story to finish!

To Be Concluded.

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Writing Process (7 of 9)

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Final Revisions

(or How I Learned to Trust Readers, Eat Sushi and Believe in Dinosaurs)

… continued from part 6: That Dreaded Second Draft

When Michael Crichton sent his first draft of Jurassic Park to his usual test-readers, they hated it. All of them. They got angry, asking him why he would even write a book like that. But when he asked what they didn’t like, they didn’t exactly know. “They just hated it, every bit of it,” Crichton said.

There’s some sort of magic that happens the moment you set a draft in stone. Printed out, handed to a reader, or even just looking at a PDF on the same screen you were editing in, suddenly all the mistakes and ideas for re-writes spring up like rabbits. Fiery demon-rabbits from Hell. Some of my fellow writers and I are working on a term for this phenomenon. More on that here.

Letting someone else read my work, I wonder how I could have missed things so glaringly obvious, or I’m immediately embarrassed of certain sections. But this is good. It isn’t the final draft, so I can put out those fires right away, and embarrassment often means I’ve unlocked some truth — something personal and deep. It will resonate with readers who are just as vulnerable as I am. So much of writing is willingly putting your heart on the chopping block. And they’ll love you for it.

Addressing reader’s notes is more about trusting the reader than getting twenty of your friends to voice their opinion. I have three people look at my book. My two writing partners and my editor. I might show it to more people, just to illicit a reaction, but I take their advice with a grain of salt, and often don’t change much. Too many cooks in the kitchen.

Obviously if everyone starts pointing out the same problem or something lacking in the story, I’ll put those grains of rice in the cooker and make something of it. Rice … for sushi, maybe.

Obligatory photo of sushi, for good measure. You deserve some great sushi right about now — for following my silly blog if nothing else. And if you’re in the L.A. area, I highly recommend ‘Sushi Ike’ on Hollywood & Gower. Don’t be deceived by its humble facade. It’s one of L.A.’s hidden gems, as is their head sushi chef, Rick.

But I’m wary of this too … trusting test readers, not the sushi. The sushi is clutch. No, sometimes the problem isn’t the part of the story people don’t understand, but a failed set-up or pay-off somewhere else in the book. Adding in a single line ten chapters earlier may solve something in the climax. It’s important to really analyze the source of the problem and even test your new solution on your most trusted critics.

Crichton ended up writing two more drafts of Jurassic Park, but the response was the same. Just pure hate for the story. One of the initial problems he faced when coming up with the book was the excuse to bring dinosaurs back. He couldn’t see who would realistically pay for that scientific endeavor and the only thing he could come up with was for entertainment purposes. That was the only reason it took place in a theme park. Naturally, he wrote the story from a child’s point of view.

Finally, one of the test readers said they found it annoying that it was told from the child’s point of view. They told him, “I want this to be a story for me.” Crichton did a complete rewrite from an adult point of view, and that’s really all it took to save the novel. Without that simple adjustment, we would never have had the Jurassic Park we know and love.

“Writing is rewriting,” as the great Michael Crichton said.

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Continued in Part 8: DEADLINE

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Writing Process (6 of 9)

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That Dreaded Second Draft

…continued from Part 5: Critique

Aside from fixing all the grammar and polishing sentences, a good thing to focus on during a second pass are themes, character traits and general style and language. Here I really look at the story from a bird’s-eye view. How do certain characters talk? Is that consistent? Are their motivations clear and consistent? How do we see them change? Do I have convincing arguments on both sides of an issue? Is the audience feeling what I want them to feel at any given point?  How can this sentence be phrased better? How can I combine these two paragraphs into one well-spoken and concise sentence?

This pass may be the hardest of them all, and the hardest to keep track of. Use of character worksheets, location worksheets and anything else that might help keep track of things are highly encouraged.

Running through my story the second time, I keep a rather large one-sheet of notes for the polish phase … writing rules and snippets I’ve adapted over the years about things I like in good writing; little reminders for myself. Each story is unique, too, and I’ll add many notes specific to the story I’m working on in the one-sheet. It’s a cheat sheet and one should have no shame in referring to such an item.

Here are some helpful tips from some of our favorite authors:

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Writing Rules from other Authors

Author Zack Keller just recently put up a great post about Editing your book like a reader. Some really good stuff in there that I wholeheartedly agree with. I may even find myself cutting out entire chapters, as I read my story more like a reader. Certain things are just extraneous and don’t need to be there. I might absolutely love them. But deep down I know they shouldn’t be there and you just have to kill your babies for the greater good.

I polish, polish and polish the story until I am satisfied with every aspect and feel I have explored every corner of the world without going off on unnecessary tangents. This can take several passes. Patience is a virtue.

Continued in Part 7: Final Notes

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