Sunday, September 18, 2022

Please Say It! The protest and advocacy

As I described in recent posts, my latest project has emerged due to three factors: 

  1. producing basic page art quickly using Procreate; 
  2. the development of a YA story at Oxford; 
  3. my interest in protest and advocacy in this gay moment. 

You can scroll back to refresh your memory about the art and the story. But, lastly:

The protest and advocacy

To prepare for summer school at Oxford, I reviewed a decade worth of sketchbooks, looking for ideas I still liked but had never developed. I was prepared for any assignment thrown my way! One of the "fresher" ideas I has stemmed from disturbing news.

A number of parental rights (aka "don't say gay") laws were popping up. I don't fully understand the rationale, but I do think the motivation is misguided at best. If you disagree, I will gladly sit down with you and explain my perspective. 

By the time I got back from Oxford, even more anti-LGBTQ+ stuff had gone down:

Whatever the motivation, the message to LGBTQ+ youth is clear: you're not wanted. You're not welcome. At least, I'm sure that is what is felt.

There is nothing new or special about Please Say It! It's simply a quiet story to add another positive narrative to the mix. It's not all sweetness and apple pie, of course, a good story has conflict! To me, it was important to launch it quickly, and for free. A story about the past for the right now. Content with a message, for younger readers who may not have the means to pay. It's not perfect, just my way of offering some
hope and encouragement.

I hope you stick with the story and support it if you can.

Sunday, September 11, 2022

Please Say It! the story

Poison Press-style cover for the series
I'm still a little surprised this has come together the way it has!

The project sits at the confluence of three factors: 

  1. producing basic page art quickly using Procreate; 
  2. the development of a YA story at Oxford; 
  3. my interest in protest and advocacy in this gay moment. 

I've discussed learning Procreate in a recent post, so you can scroll back for that leg of this tripod. So, secondly:

The story

To prepare for summer school at Oxford, I flipped through a dozen years of sketchbooks, looking for old ideas I still liked, but had not developed. And, I brainstormed new ideas. For my YA class, I settled on what is now titled Please Say It!

Our primary assignment was to generate the first 1,000 words of a YA novel. To do that, you kind of had to know where your story was going. So I mapped out the story outline first--based on common themes and pacing of realism-based YA (as opposed to fantasy-based)--in a modified three-act structure:

In class, our instructor shared with us the common YA "template" which more or less followed along a classic three-act structure, in 13-ish steps. This translated well to the standard 26-chapter format of Webtoon. So I'll stick with the Webtoon format, but it translates back to the template, and back to the three-act structure.

This gave my first 1,000 words more heft and purpose. My instructor (Carnegie Medal short-lister Julie Hearn) praised my theme, pacing, action, and dialogue. And the zazz, which a major goal of mine and my friend-from-Oxford Daribha's. What Julie advised needed the most work (and kept me from first class marks) was my "mechanics of language." Fortunately for me, narration mechanics is less important in comics than the things she thought I did well! 

So there, I was confident that I could complete this story as a YA story for teenagers, which was important to me for reasons of protest and advocacy. 

I'll speak to that in my next post.

For now, please check out the comic!--the first chapter is live at Webtoon and Tapas, with exclusive content at Patreon.

Saturday, September 3, 2022

Oxford Report


Trevor escaping Matt in his mother's new '86 Chrysler New Yorker

I am recently back from summer school at the University of Oxford. I didn't get much drawing in, because it was so great and I was so busy with school work and socializing with my classmates (though they razzed me for focusing so much on my assignments). Here's the breakdown:

THE OXFORD "EXPERIENCE" was great. I love holding my hand against some random building built in 1325 and hoping to feel some history. Gargoyles everywhere.

PLENARY SESSIONS were mostly great and on a wide variety of topics. I learned a bit and walked away with a lot of inspiration and a few new contacts.

CLASSMATES were amazing. Emerged with a few new friends (Fish-philes know I don't use that term lightly!) and quality feedback on my projects.

YOUNG ADULT FICTION CLASS really helped me focus and rework the idea I've been yammering on about. More on that soon. But the class was my "stretch" class and I ended up doing better in in than my other class.

SCRIPTWRITING was a disappointment. The original course plan was altered at the 11th hour and focused on screenwriting only. But I still managed to workshop my radio play with classmates outside of class, and in class in an altered format. And I gave my best pitch ever, yay.

Since my return I've been in scramble mode to meet my pre-submission deadline on my master's thesis (done! all that's left is to cajole my readers into sending their formal approvals to the office--they already gave me their informal approvals, so this may feel perfunctory) and deciding whether or not I can pull off my YA idea.

Sunday, July 17, 2022

Oxford Bound

I've had a solidly productive month--after receiving input from my advisers, I moved my thesis project to version 2, and just turned it in for a final pass. That's a huge relief, for it to be so far along. Thesis completion, and taking the Oxford Summer Program in creative writing (which counts as my elective) are the last two things for me to do in order to graduate at the end of Fall term.

Also on the plate was a good amount of pre-reading for Oxford, with good progress there. Since the summer program in creative writing had been cancelled the past two summers due to Covid, I've been cautiously excited for this summer. Travel issues aside, it's happening! 

I will be in two modules, Young Adult Fiction, and Scriptwriting. We're instructed to bring a few ideas to work on for each module, and I am excited to move a few things forward within the context of the program. It's bound to be better as a result! Win, win, win.

See you in a month.

Saturday, June 18, 2022

Procreate and Project Progress

I've made a lot of progress since my last post! At that time, I was about to draw pages 6-10 all digital. Not only did I do that, but I drew pages 11-25.Again, thanks to Monica who gave me the tone and pattern brushes she loves to use. They are really fun!

Basic color work for the upcoming project.

For this project, I think I have my drawing style "down" and working well in Procreate. So, I was happy to have (essentially) Act I drawn, so I ended up lettering it as well, so I could have the PDF as reference while I'm at Oxford next month.

But since I was still waiting for feedback on my thesis draft from my second and third readers, I cracked open Procreate again again and started practicing coloring. I flatted pages 1-25 while I determined my color style with the help of Monica and Christophe. Then I finished colors.

Though I received feedback from my second reader early, still waiting on the third reader. So I tackled the story's preface. I had written a 5-page story, and pencilled and inked 3 pages of it, back in 2011 for a publisher. But the project fell through before I finished it. With some minor edits, I decided it will work nicely as the preface to this new project. I colored said three pages, and drew and colored from scratch on Procreate the other two. 

Love the tone and pattern brushes.
So basically, I exceeded my pre-Oxford goals:

  • Draft the OGN chapter breakdowns--DONE
  • Write chapters one through three--DONE--PLUS four, five, and the preface
  • Draw chapters one through three--DONE--PLUS four, five, and the preface

PLUS--colored preface, chapters one through five.

PLUS--lettered preface, chapters one through five.

Which sets me up nicely to meet my during-Oxford goals:

  • Edit OGN chapter breakdowns
  • Write short story version
  • Edit chapters one through five of the comic if needed
  • Write more comic chapters
But for now, this amazingly fun (for me) experiment will be shelved as I turn back to my thesis for the next month. Then it's off to Oxford.

Monday, May 16, 2022

Too much, too soon, too fast--playing with Procreate on iPad

Page one inks by hand
Converging threads here, bear with me!

For grad school, I am attending the Oxford Summer Program in creative writing. Excited! I am in two modules: scriptwriting, and YA writing. To prepare for both modules, I have been pulling together an idea bank and brainstorming.

For the YA module, I hope to develop a particular idea I've had (more on that later!). Though I'll likely work on it in prose form at Oxford, I'm more likely to continue the project as a comic. Hence, I've started writing out a simple comic script, for:

  1. It's helpful to get my mind in the space of the project.
  2. It's not likely to interfere with the Oxford version (ie I won't get too far along).
  3. I have time to draw now.
  4. I intend to use the project to convert to full digital (pencils, inks, colors).
  5. I have time to learn something new (full digital), and should in advance of Oxford.

And here we are, the real point of the post! I am playing with Procreate on one of my neighbor's six iPad Pros with the goal to adapt to full digital. I am concurrently practicing sketching from scratch, and inking those sketches, but also inking pencils from paper.

For the project in question, I penciled the five pages of the first chapter, and took a pic of the blue line roughs. I've inked them both by hand, and in Procreate. This is both helping me get back in drawing shape, improve my inking faster in Procreate, and compare the two methods.

I was really frustrated at first:

  1. Page one digital inks
    It's a new project with new characters that I am not used to yet.
  2. I decided to draw at a slightly smaller scale (9x12 Bristol rather than 11x17), which wasn't going well, oddly. I've drawn some really great dense pages on 9x12 Bristol, from Arche-Lady stories to "I Like Mozart" and ""On the Roman Road." But here, wasn't going so well!
  3. Since I plan to post this as a web comic, getting my head around sizing of the font and how much room I should be leaving for balloons was throwing me off.
  4. One of my goals is to produce pages faster. Fine, but that broke me. Pages were turning out badly, so I took my foot off the gas for this goal. I know the more I draw, the faster I get... so I decided this one will happen naturally, or, I can focus on it later, when I am used to the characters, and used to Procreate.

In some ways, I prefer paper. Likely, because it's what I am used to. However, there are elements of digital that are unbeatable, such as undo and no more smudges. There are some things that I think should be really, really simple that I haven't figured out how to do yet. Such as drawing a straight line, like with a ruler, and creating a panel border box. Should be a no brainer, right? I'll watch a youtube tutorial at some point, but I have enough to keep me busy for now.

Page one pencils, if you can see.
At some point, I'll tackle coloring. But to start, I'll be drawing the next chapter, pages 6-10 all digital. I'm excited!

Special thanks to Pier (who was generous enough to loan me his iPad and give me an intro tutorial), and Monica (who has endured my nagging questions about converting to full digital pros and cons). 

If all goes well, here's what will happen pre-Oxford:

  • Draft the OGN chapter breakdowns--DONE
  • Write chapters one through three--(ch. one is done)
  • Draw chapters one through three--(ch. one is one)


  • Edit OGN chapter breakdowns
  • Write short story version
  • Edit chapters one through three of the comic if needed
  • Write more comic chapters

After the summer program, fingers crossed, I'll continue drawing and start posting. I'm excited to convert to digital, excited to work on this series, and excited to workshop it at Oxford. Making it better is maybe 95% of my goal, and saying "this was workshopped at Oxford" is admittedly 5%. OK that I admit that?



Sunday, April 24, 2022

Finally, Tracey. Sort of.

Early Tracey from Strugglers
When I first moved from my obsession/homage hero series Arche-Lady, I took a stab at slice-of-life--very loosely inspired by some reality. I wrote, drew, and made copies of Strugglers and Cavalcade of Boys as one-shots (I think they were both ~ 64 pages?) to sell at conventions. It became clear pretty quickly that Strugglers needed a bit more work, while Cavalcade was snapped up with a demand for "more."
From there, Cavalcade morphed into a series, and much later, I completed and published Strugglers as the OGN you can buy today. In Strugglers, three recent college graduates, Tighe, Midge, and Tracy, grapple with finding their respective paths. My original intention was to follow it with spin-off stories featuring each of the three roommates in their own graphic novels.
If you take the Cavalcade one-shot, plus issue zero, plus the flashback sequence of issue six, you pretty much have Tighe's OGN, though it was never packaged that way. Together, it forms a post-Strugglers look as the character comes into his own personhood, into his late 20s.
In fits and starts I wrote and drew Midge's solo story in Baby Makes Three. Here, Midge is in her mid-30s having a baby with her husband, as they try to balance adult responsibility and life's passions. This project took so much longer than I hoped... but finally up on ComiXology as an OGN for you!
Tracey's Love is the Reason cameo
At the conclusion of Strugglers, Tracey wins a song contest, which kicks off her career as a singer/songwriter. That kind of made her a natural to work into other works in cameos. She appears briefly in Love is the Reason and Baby Makes Three. And there's a name drop in "Things Don't Always Suck."

In the back of my head, I knew what Tracey's story was going to be, but it was pushed back--I wasn't ready to write about her, or write the story I knew I'd write.
Until now!
As Tighe aged up with me when I wrote Cavalcade, and Midge aged up with me when I wrote Baby, Tracey too ages up with me now as I write Tracey in the 16th Minute as my grad school thesis project.
I'm advised not to talk about my project too much, so I'll avoid particulars for now! But I'm happy to tell you about the format: to start, I am writing the story as a screenplay for my thesis project. Why screenplay? Have I raised my sights to film? No. But I do have some solid reasons for this decision:
  1. Knowing of my comics career, my professors thought I'd lean into it for my thesis project and write and draw an OGN as my thesis project. Indeed, that was my intention when I first applied. I like to defy expectations, sometime.
  2. Perhaps most importantly, writing comics, I write to my strengths and weaknesses as an artist. So, my art would be guiding me... and I wanted to break free from that, and truly focus on writing the story.
  3. My thesis advisor has lots of Hollywood screenplays to his credit (I mean, actually turned into movies) and writing this under his tutelage won't hurt!
  4. Tracey's Baby Makes Three appearance.
    Dartmouth catalogues thesis projects in their library. So I'll be on record with a screenplay having gone through an academic review. This will formally speak to my ability to write for the screen. Many years ago, when Cavalcade was under consideration to become a TV show, I wasn't considered at all for writing duties, without any screenwriting to my credit. Not that Tracey will ever get filmed, but it's something.
  5. I can always re-write the story as an OGN and draw it. And, in some format, fulfill my original idea of the quartet of short graphic novels.

That's not much of a preview... but all you're getting for now. I've just finished my first draft, and it'll take a few more before I'm ready to talk details.

Someday, maybe you can download it via Dartmouth. Or you might read it as OGN. 

Let's see how it plays out!