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!

Saturday, April 16, 2022

And now, 52 years later... (REVISED 4/17)

I've been razzed for considering "errands" to be an appropriate romantic date, and I'm still met with groans when I describe Saturday mornings as "highly productive." But, I have a lot to do still, and not much time left to do it!

When I was a Freshman or Sophomore in college, a palm reader told me I was "not quite psychic, but always trust your intuition." Yet, here and there, over the years, I've had three very strong "feelings," which I can only call premonitions. I admit not a single one has come true, yet I can't ignore the "feeling" I'd die between age 48-52. 

It's not likely I'll kick it in the next 364 days, and I can't guarantee on's estimate that I'm going in 14 years. But, I didn't need my most recent back injury (from opening a window) to remind me that we all not only have an expiration date, but a best used by date, too.

Anecdotally, I see family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors' abilities to do what they love to do, and want to do, nose-dive at 60. And since I've evaded any meaningful intimate entanglements, I'm left with things to do, places to see, and friends to visit. So, clock's ticking to get stuff done.

Grad school has been great to focus my attention on several creative projects that have lingered in the corners of my mind. There are recent posts about those, and I will soon write about my thesis project. And I'm seriously looking ahead to post-grad school projects. I have more to say in comic form; I want to add positively to the narratives that seem to be teetering back into dark territory for the LGBT community... but what to pursue next?

In the realm of places to see, aside from the fact that I'd like to travel pretty much anywhere, there aren't too many places left on my classic "5 places to see before I die" list. I'm down to Brasil--Bahia, Iguazu Falls, beyond; and the Atlantic provinces--Prince Edward Island, Halifax, beyond.

But largely at this stage of the game, I want to visit the good friends scattered further afield. That requires travel of course, but retracing footsteps rather than trailblazing, usually. So hopefully I'll make it to Alabama soon, and revisit Los Angeles, Saint Louis, and get back to France and Belgium.

Altogether, I want to make the most of what's left. I can't tell if this is positive, or negative, or just realistic with a heavy dose of self-centered-ness.

(Technically I'm not 52 until 10:16 PM EDT but you get where I'm going)

Friday, April 8, 2022

Research + Personal Experience + Creative

Excerpt from "A Bad Start" with inks by Monica Gallagher and colors by Matt Beaugrand

In my class "Diasporas and Migrations" I was struck at two mentions of Saint Louis in Jacob Lawrence's series of paintings about the Great Migration. I'd known about the Great Migration, but has primarily associated it with New York and Chicago. I've been something of a history buff and I've lived in Saint Louis in the early 90s and again in the early 00s. My memory is hardly perfect, but still I was surprised that I had no serious connection with the migration and the Lou.

This pointed me to craft my term paper,  "Saint Louis and the Great Migration" which tracked migration, and the reaction of white people to it. Coupled with post-war anxiety, fear, and optimism, reaction on reaction on reaction created the climate of the city today, and the city as I first moved to it. In my preamble, I stated:

In the three months after finishing my undergraduate degree, I worked at a sandwich shop in downtown Saint Louis. Aside from the manager, who was often at the other locations of the small chain, I was the only white person on the team...

This was, of course, a huge driver of my motivation. As I researched the paper, I found so many simple oddities and complex problems built on the reaction on reaction on reaction, rooted in the Great Migration (and racism itself, of course).

After the course ended, I decided to write a series of vignettes in comic form, as an attempt to engage people who didn't want to talk about racism in the topic of racism. I discussed the project and my drafts with a classmate, who agreed to be my sensitivity reader. Especially important, because the stories aren't really about me per se. The me character plays a supporting role, as I tried to keep the story about the climate and the underpinnings and not about my personal journey.

For the first vignette, I was fortunate to also enlist the help of Monica Gallagher as inker, and Matt Beaugrand as colorist, both of whom supported what I was trying to do. The first vignette was published by the peer-review journal Clamantis and I have submitted the second vignette, just approved for the next upcoming issue. I've drafted a third vignette as well.

This is working as I'd hoped. Idea, research, personal perspective, creative narrative. It's the model I hope future projects can follow!    

Saturday, April 2, 2022

Working through creative blocks


"Reverb" wallpaper by Bradbury & Bradbury Art Wallpapers


 Whether creative or productive, if you're like me, you don't have time to waste on a block. Here's advice I've given and received over the years!

  1. Plan ahead Whether it's your day, your weekend, or your next six months, you should plan ahead. Your plans will always change of course, but knowing what's on your horizon helps. Sometimes you feel overwhelmed or stressed out because you have so much to do... but when you map it out and take things one step at a time, it's easier to see how you can get everything done, and on time.
  2. Productive procrastination Can't work on something that's due soon? Work on something else. If you've already done #1, can you work on something due in three months? Might not help today, but you'll be loving yourself in three months. Get other things done off your to do list? If nothing else, clean your bathroom. I've spent entire weekends ticking everything off a to do list, adding to the to do list, and ticking those things off. Arriving at Sunday night with literally nothing left to do but the thing I was avoiding... but nothing hanging over my head preventing me from moving ahead. In the space of project planning, jot down your ideas informally or formally. This means when you need a fleshed out idea for a class or a publisher, you may have two or three in the bank.
  3. Push push push In my screenwriting class, a classmate of mine who I'd been in another class beforehand with was frozen. He hated Final Draft software and couldn't move past his idea to scriptwriting. I encouraged him to just open up the software and just start writing anything. I'd seen him do the work before and reminded him he could. We talked through his ideas, and he had plenty to go on. Indecision or inaction can be debilitating and sometimes you need to "Push, push, push" (which is a line from one of my favorite Twilight Zone episodes, "Next Stop, Willoughby").
  4. Phone a friend Are you in school? In a writers group? Got friends from a convention? Get to know who you're sympatico with. Be there for those people when you can be, and don't be afraid to call them. Finding such people is work--because writing or school wise, you don't click with everyone or even all your friends. But a creative partner can be really helpful, especially to encourage you through your bad times.
  5. Get out of your head (or into it) Take a walk, go to a pub alone, stare off into space. I was meeting a friend recently for dinner. I was ten minutes early, and she was 40 minutes late. So I cracked open my sketchbook and started writing down ideas for a project I am developing. It was all there, but my daily routine, my job, and other projects were competing for my attention. But alone, without creative distraction or competition, I was able to work through several ideas really quickly.
  6. Try it your way Another friend of mine from screenwriting class, who I also knew to be a great writer, was also struggling. She had never written a script before, and couldn't get her head into it. I suggested she write it as a short story first. Soon after she started the short story version, she easily jumped over to Final Draft and started in writing the script. I sketch a lot to work through blocks, even when there is no visual element, like a radio/podcast play. As a visual artist, this always helps me get my head into a project.
  7. Step away Jose Villarubia once told me an important part of the creative process is stepping away from it. This may contradict the other advice, but sometimes it's the only thing that helps. Decompressing, recharging the way you do best, and accumulating new ideas by living in the world can always inspire and motivate.
  8. Take your own advice This can be the most difficult of all! My wheels have been spinning on my thesis project lately, but I've manage to employ #s 1, 2, 4, 5, 6 until the only other option was #3... based on #8. Follow that?

Good luck with your projects! I am always happy to hear other tips and tricks.

Friday, March 25, 2022

Same story, different medium


Page 3 from "The Unexpected, Uninvited, Unwanted Guest" with inks from Monica Gallagher

At least one term of "independent study" is required as part of my Master's program. You must arrange a faculty advisor, propose a syllabus and action plan. Many people use this as an opportunity to research or prepare for their thesis project. I deliberately did the opposite.
Looking to get the most out of my experience (learn more, do more), I created a course "Same story, different medium" which focused on--in simplest terms--adaptations. But not adaptations in the sense of "here's a movie, and here it is adapted into a comic book." But here's a story, and here's how it's told as a movie, and here's how it's told as a comic book. It's an important nuance. 
The idea came to me during my playwriting class reading Susan Glaspell's one act play Trifles. After the success of the play, she rewrote it as a short story "A Jury of Her Peers." While reading the play, I recognized it as an episode from Alfred Hitchcock Presents. It was really interesting to me how each version took advantage of its medium, and away we went.
In addition to reading and watching many stories written in different mediums, I worked on a creative project in three forms: a comic short, a teleplay, and a short story. In each case, I tried my best to work from my root planning documents rather the completed versions (not always easy!). I wrote the comic short first (so I could draw it), then wrote the teleplay, then the short story. The first two were solid, the last the weakest... not only is it my weakest story-telling muscle, but I simply ran out of time. Ultimately, it was helpful to retell the story in different medium. I found the creative process confusing at times (to keep each version clear) but my ideas started feeding and growing faster. In hindsight, I think I'd have scaled back on the reading and watching and preserved more time for the creative... if I had to stick to the length of the term. Or, I'd have get the syllabus intact and lengthened the term!
Once again, I got to develop an idea that had been stuck in my head for years, never the opportunity to work on it until now. "The Unexpected, Uninvited, Unwelcome Guest" is about an alien who crashes a dinner party. It's a story about the inevitability of change and how we deal with it (or not). The story also has racial undertones... tolerance, acceptance, and struggles to do both.
I like the teleplay of it best. But you can read the comic short, which was published in the peer-review journal Clamantis.

Sunday, March 20, 2022

All Aboard!

Excerpt from "Quickies" published in On the Romance Road

Mass transit is featured often in my comics, from airports and train stations in Cavalcade to a complex subway system and maps for Arche-City in Arche-Lady.

I was so excited about the artist loft I moved into back in 2010 for many reasons: great space, great community, and my loft overlooks several rail lines. Sure, the noise can be distracting, but it's also fun to watch the trains roll past.

Most of all, the MBTA's Greenline extension (GLX) was to break ground in 2011, with service expected in 2014. Then expected in 2017. Then 2021. 

But it's happening! Starting TOMORROW, the short leg of the GLX opens to Union Square!

Of course, I'll probably never use the trolley to Union, as the closest station will still be Lechmere. But the GLX construction closed Science Center and Lechmere stations to make the former accessible and the moved the latter across the McGrath, so now it's even closer to me.

Someday, maybe late in 2022, the other GLX branch will open to Tufts. That;s when it gets really exciting. Both the D and E trains will stop through Lechmere, with one going on Union, the other Tufts. But it will double the trains stopping in Lechmere, making service to my 'hood more reliable. 

Technically, the East Somerville station will be closer to my building, but I'll probably only use it when I am headed to the airport with luggage. 

Check back tomorrow for a thumbs up or down update!

UPDATE: the train started running today, 3/21/2022 5:05 AM.

Friday, March 18, 2022

Not much to show for Winter term?

Winter term for me was to be all about thesis project prep work (organizing thoughts, arguments, outlining, etc.). But the term was very disjointed, as I am also trying to maximize the last of my grad school months. Disjointed and stressful, and though I did things out of order, by the end, I ended up right on track.

Wedding gown ideas for Jenn's stepson's pregnant fiancee.

Here's what I worked on, though there's not much to show for it:


1. Thesis prep--right on track and ready to start writing.

Clamantis entries

2. Colored, finalized, submitted second installment of my 9th & Pine vignettes.

3. Drafted and edited script for the third and final installment of 9th & Pine, prepped pages to pencil.

Summer term prep

4. Assembled summer workshop application, submitted.

5. Drafted, edited Podcast pilot script, discussed w/Thom (one of two projects for summer workshop needed).

6. Brainstormed idea and drafted summary (second project needed).


7. Drafted script to submit for upcoming student award; edited--not going well

8. Kept "current" in background for award I'm in the running for, in case I was called for an interview.

9. Was called for said interview, so took a solid week to prep for it.

And, not grad school related:

10. Drafted, edited social tile design to help promote Liebestrasse; generated tiles for release date and quotable quotes X 3 (horizontal for Twitter/FB/LinkedIn; square for Instagram; vertical for Instagram Stories)

11. Assembled, filed 2021 taxes (thank you Mayumi for preparing them!)

12. Doctor appointment, dentist appointment, two vet appointments, four dog haircut appointments, one human haircut appointment

13. Tackled to do list of things I hate doing (arranging for A/C repair and replacement, etc.)

Plus my full-time job made for a swirly three months!

I just mapped out Spring term, with only one project: write first draft of thesis!


Sunday, March 13, 2022


A deranged-looking Captain Horatio Crunch aboard the SS Guppy

It takes a long time to break a bad habit. I've read it's seven weeks, but sometimes the struggle is much
longer, or feels it.

One of my successes is breaking my love of breakfast cereal. More precisely, sugary cereals.

When I was very young, my parents taught me how to pour a bowl of cereal and milk so I wouldn't have to wake them in the morning. And, every day until I was 36, I ate a bowl (sometimes two) of cereal. Froot Loops, Apple Jacks, Fruity Pebbles, Cap'n Crunch, Lucky Charms, and the cult classic monster cereals and Quisp. The observant among you noticed I didn't call out any chocolate cereals... though I'd buy and eat them, to me they were only a step ahead of Special K or Raisin Bran.

I bought up vintage cereal boxes on eBay (sometimes with the vintage cereal still unopened) and learned as much as I could about the characters, prizes, marketing, and history of the chemical recipes. I became incensed when a company changed its formula or production method (that's for you, General Mills, for your yo-yo strategy behind Trix!)

Breaking this habit, obsession, and way of life was not easy. But I was able to create a ritual of making breakfast. Slow cook oats, yogurt, an egg or two, and when I lived in my little house, I'd pick fresh strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, and apples from my yard when they were in season. And for someone who's a notoriously simple cook, I can manage a near full-English by myself for a few guests.

These days, I only buy cereal under three circumstances: if I am extraordinarily busy (think end of term when everything is due at once and you can really use that 20 minutes of prep time on some other task), as a very special treat, or when traveling and experiencing foreign sugary cereals.

Sunday, March 6, 2022

Go Ahead and Say "Gay"

We've entered an era where women's rights are eroding with chipping away at Roe v Wade, white supremacists are dampening voices of color with voter suppression laws, and Florida's pending "Don't Say 'Gay'" law will keep more kids in the closet.

In many ways, the law enforces the environment I grew up in as a teenager in the 1980s. Gay kids stayed in the closet, often not coming out until after university, or later. Few would have dared to confide in a teacher. 

Such a lifestyle rarely curbs homosexual behavior... it might delay it, it might create lifelong feelings of self-loathing... it might create a culture of drug and alcohol use, self-harm, and suicide... it might bury feelings do deep that they don't surface until someone is married with children, keeping their activity to illicit cruising grounds... but it rarely stops it.   

I suppose, the law will enable parents who don't want their children to be gay the opportunity to mess up their kids' lives... and keep their straight children in a make-believe world that homosexuality doesn't exist. I can't even begin to discuss the impact on trans kids and adults.

Excerpt from "Quickies" published in La Revue de LGBT BD and On the Romance Road. Colors by Matt Beaugrand.

Most of my work includes gay characters. My work recent work less so, as I have been encouraged to "diversify" and on one hand, I've grown as a writer as a result... but on the other, I'm sad I took my foot off that gas pedal.

So, as a reminder to you, but mostly to myself, a list of my work with gay characters: 

  • Liebestrasse (OGN)—Phillip, Sam
  • Sandwich Shop at 9th and Pine (comic shorts)—Tim
  • Baby Makes Three (OGN, radio play pilot)—Trevor Kitten
  • On the Romance Road (collection of comic shorts)—most characters 
  • Stuporstition (screen play)—Clark, Joseph
  • Saved by the Bell (TPB series)—unnamed couple in the background of every story I drew
  • "Not Allowed to Play" (comic short in Vertigo's Strange Sports Stories)—Mike
  • "LDR" (comic short in Marvel's Nation X)—Northstar, Kyle
  • "Music/Boxes" (comic short in Oni's Hopeless Savages Greatest Hits)—Twitch, Henry 
  • Cavalcade of Boys (TPB series) and its spin off OGNs Love is the Reason and Trust/Truth—pretty much the whole dang cast.
  • Strugglers (OGN)—Tighe, Mike Hawkswell
  • "Things Don't Always Suck" (comic short, short story)—Nate
  • The Cupcakes (mini-comic)—the whole cast
  • Mod Monsters of Marvy Manor (mini-comic)—Matt
  • The Faggy Phantom (mini-comic)—Bruce
  • Arche-Lady (comic series)—Astro-Boy, the Ant

I'm pretty embarrassed I didn't work an obviously gay character into Radio KNOW, but perhaps I will in the next draft. 

If you are struggling, I can say it does get better. There are people who can and will help. If you can, try the Trevor Project. Hang in there.

Friday, March 4, 2022

Work I Hope You See


I had been hoping my screenwriting class would be one of the highlights of my graduate school experience, and it has been. Years ago, when Cavalcade was under consideration as a TV pilot, without any screenwriting experience whatsoever, I hadn't been considered as a writer. This was to help change that.

I threw myself in to the class, and did all the recommended reading in advance, and did the first week's homework before the class started (the latter was due to me misreading the syllabus, but it worked to my advantage in the long run!).

Though I was encouraged by a few to write Arche-Lady: The Movie, I resisted, turning instead to an idea that had been long locked away.

I really only had the basic plot, the main characters, and one scene in my head, but I always had thought of it as a film.

After some futzing around in Final Draft, the story poured out of me! My professor paid me an amazing compliment about my main character along the way, "They don't write parts this good often."

The story is a comedy about a medium and her sister in a race against a pair of grifters to defraud an old man. I loved writing Maevis. We were told not to "cast" in our writing, but in my head she was a cross between Kristen Wiig and Mrs. Roper.

I had so many blocks in writing the screenplay, but it was a great lesson in pushing forward. Toward the end of the term, I was on a roll and finished my draft. For the final two weeks of class, I just revised, revised, revised. Another great lesson in persevering without inspiration. Go go go. 

I went through the trouble to copyright my draft and submitted it here and there. Nothing came of that, though nothing ventured nothing gained.

With Radio KNOW, I lived with the characters and really missed them when the term was over. Not the same with Stuporstition though... I was exhausted by term's end. But I emerged with a workable draft... and the story does lend itself to be rewritten as a graphic novel and I can see myself drawing it someday. 


Saturday, February 12, 2022

Inspiration is for amateurs...

I've had a love/hate relationship with Chuck Close's quote. If you're unfamiliar,

"Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightening to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself.” 

It's how I've lived and breathed my work in comics. Just keep working. Page after page. Almost nothing scrapped or revisited. Learn by doing. Though there have been some embarrassing results when I look back at early work, for the most part, I think my diligence and perseverance paid off. Each project better than the last.

In comics, I've focused more on my draftsmanship, and I can easily operate by showing up and getting to work. Inking, no problem to shut my mind off, listen to music or British comedy panel shows while I get the page done. Penciling for me requires silence, but still, I usually have no difficulty sitting down and visualizing a panel, page, or spread layout, compose in my mind, and draw. Though it never looks as good on paper as it does in my imagination, my best is my best.

Looking back at the quote, I might want to differentiate between inspiration and being inspired to work on a project. The latter is always more fun!--not being able to fall asleep because you're thinking of a project. springing out of bed in the morning to work on it, eager for the day job day to end to get back to the project. 

Writing had been where I probably had been letting inspiration strike. And, given how long it takes to draw a story, I could afford to wait. Entering graduate school, inspiration wasn't an option, and good or bad, I've kept writing.

Lately, I've been worried that I've still needed inspiration, with a few challenging writing projects at my door I've been delaying, postponing, and also procrastinating. But, huzzah, a breakthrough! Though I'd been ignoring the two projects, it was always due to a higher priority, often with deadlines in the latter half of 2021: thesis proposal, grant application, my final graduate course work, a short story for Image.

Turns out I didn't need inspiration, or to be inspired, I simply needed time! Without other work and projects with deadlines looming, I was able to produce respectable drafts of two projects that had taken the position of dead weight. Though my lack of progress had been nagging at me, creating an unsavory appeal for them, once it was their turn, I could simply get to work

The first was writing the pilot episode of Baby Makes Three as a radio/podcast play (you can read the OGN via comiXology). I'd had a few false starts... it was difficult to divorce myself from visual writing. The plan so far has been that my singer/songwriter friend Thom will write the music and songs. 

The second was the third vignette of my Sandwich Shop at 9th and Pine series. The first vignette was published in the peer review journal Clamantis (I'll blog about it soon), the second vignette has been penciled, inked, lettered, awaiting colors, and the third vignette was spinning wheels in the mud. But here, too, I was able to produce a good first draft.

Progress on these two projects has been a huge weight off my shoulders--knowing that now for writng too, I don't need inspiration, or to be inspired. Still lots of room for improvement, of course... so please excuse me while I get back to work.



Friday, February 4, 2022

Work you will and won't see


In the Spring 2020 term, when the College was scrambling to convert to classes via Zoom 10 days after the world (or at least our corner of it) went into lockdown, I took Playwriting Workshop.

I was a little nervous for the class, as I am not much of a theatre-goer and I was uneasy using the medium to its fullest potential. But I ended up loving the professor, the class, the plays we read, and writing a few plays of my own. 

Our first assignment was to write a short play (a page or so) utilizing an element difficult to use on stage. I chose a stream and running water. Nothing special there, except it was a good warm up.

The next assignment was to write a 10-minute play. Here I turned to a stalled comics project. I had drawn a page of a short story, of a Roman soldier and a shepherd, with the general premise, but as I mentioned, I was stalled. Shifting gears, I developed "The Roman Road" as a 10-minute play, and I was very glad for it. The story (I think) worked well relying on dialogue. Set in Britannia 400 AD, it's a story of the oppressor and the oppressed, and finding a common ground as a starting place.

The centerpiece of the class was to write a one-act play. I dug up an idea I had in my head for a very long time, which felt somewhat relevant to the moment. I wrote "Radio K.N.O.W." as a metaphor for people's reaction to change associated with the pandemic. I read about common reactions to change, both of people, as well as organizations (not quite the same thing). I had hoped to keep the character set more contained than it ended up being, but, I didn't really want to leave a common response out. I wanted people to see themselves and others they knew in the play. The central question, "what are you going to do?" calls the characters and I hope an audience to manage their reaction, response, and actions against adversity as a choice to make (of course, we're imperfect beings, and even our good decisions and choices can be difficult to adhere to, as the main character Sharon experiences along the way). I re-read my draft at least twice a day, editing and tweaking it. I was living and breathing it. I'm not sure I've ever been as invested in a group of characters as I was this set. It's a relatively straight-forward play, but I loved writing it, and reading it. An added treat: a group of former colleagues of mine, including two with a little acting experience, did a table read of an early draft. I wish I recorded it! It'll never be a comic... but I hope you can experience it somehow, someday.

After the course ended, I wrote "On the Roman Road" as a comic short, drew it, and colored it for submission to the graduate school peer-revue journal Clamantis. You can read the whole story on the journal's site. It was a very strange experience re-creating the story as a comic. It's definitely a bit different, since a comic can't lean on dialogue lest it become a "talking heads" comic but there was an easier avenue to introduce a bit more action than the stage might easily allow. 

Saturday, January 29, 2022

Genesis of "Liebestrasse" (available June 2022!)

 This has been a very long time coming, and I couldn't be more pleased with this news. Excepting of course, we never had the history to draw from.

The project first started as I toured the Theresienstadt and Auschwitz camps. As the Nazi's attempt to show the world how well they were treating their ghetto inhabitants, Theresienstadt had detailed records that made their way to the museum their today. Reading the stories of the inhabitants, it was easy to read between some lines, as to who there was queer.

Sitting on a bench in Kraków's Planty, I began imaging how normal life must have been like, and one moment later, everything on its head. I imagined what my life might have been like, and the lives of the men whose stories were in the museum. And the first sketches made their way into my sketchbook.

Years later, after Greg Lockard and I had successfully collaborated on several short stories ("Trying Something New," "RE-Infinity," "A Sincere Lack of Manners and Subtlety," and "Star Players") I wanted ask Greg to work with me on the short story version of "Liebestraße" for my collection of romance stories On the Romance Road. All I had were a few sketches and idea for the opening scene (a bait and switch of a normal life upended). Greg and I brainstormed the two main characters, the feasibility of their meeting, and he developed the story. He enlisted the coloring talents of Hector Barros, and we completed the story in 14 pages.

The story was translated to French for the magazine La Revue de LGBT BD and Greg made a mini comic in English for convention sales... and quickly  the folks at ComiXology Originals hired us to expand the short story into a full original graphic novel.

Greg's research and care was a real inspiration for me, both in my drawing of Liebestrasse as well as forging my own goals as a writer as I entered graduate school. 

The book was completed, debuted at Thought Bubble late 2019 as a digital-first publication, and was nominated for a GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Comic as well as for a Tripwire Award for Best Graphic Novel. I don't recall the original print plan (thank you Covid brain!) but I am proud to share with you that it will be available from Dark Horse in June 2022

And, PS, I took liberal inspiration from an old movie poster of the 1940 Hitchcock version of Rebecca to make this unofficial promo graphic!

Friday, January 28, 2022

Work I Might Share


In the Summer 2020 term, I took "Short Story Workshop," producing even more work you'll probably never see. In this class, we had to write a 3-page shortie, then four 10-20 page stories. Here I learned that my "style" is fairly formal and it was work to break out of that. Fortunately, my humor was able to show through even when out of my comfort zone (as well as my seriousness). 

My stronger pieces were "The Boy Who Couldn't" and "Paradox Solved," both described at times Kafka-esque. Color me flattered! I was extremely disappointed in "Alone at Last," which was meant to be something of a ghost story, but I felt fell far, far short.

My best piece from this class was "Things Don't Always Suck." You may remember this as a comic short from nearly twenty years ago! I'd always loved the characters and the premise--three roommates who all were experiencing a personal set-back, and each envious of what the others had--but never was satisfied with my comic story. 

This version took the characters, some of the moments from the comic short, but recast it in a way that gave the story so much better form, shape, and detail than it had as a comic. In large part, if the comic was draft two, then the final short story would have been draft five or six. A great lesson to revise and rewrite. It was delightful to revisit Jon-o, Nate, and Dascomb, (Marnie, too... she was the most fun to write) and in a way to be a bit proud of!