Sunday, July 20, 2014


Hey guys! Come visit me at the Conjoined Comics booth down in Sandy Eggo, willya? I'm a relatively nice girl and I enjoy chatting with new people.

Oh yeah, and we have a BRAND NEW 100% AWESOME volume of To the Power Against debuting at the con.

Here is an infographic, courtesy of Stephanie Lantry, to help you find us:

And if I'm not at the table when you come by, I'm either A) buying a pretzel dog, or B) over at the Sideshow booth licking that statue of Dr. Doom.

Hope to see you there!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

My Writing Process – Blog Tour

The mighty Luke Pebler invited me to participate in this blog tour. (And if you haven't read his story "The Same International Orange" yet, you're missing out on some real fun.)

On a professional level, I am honored that he asked me to do this; on a personal level, I am stoked because it's the only tour I can think of that doesn't require me to be wearing pants.

Before I dive in, I'd like to apologize to my blog for abandoning it four years ago. Thanks for taking me back, Bloggie. Robot Unicorn Attack was a demanding mistress.

Let's do this.

What are you working on?

I've got three prose projects simmering on the stove, but what takes up the most of my time is writing scripts for comic books. 

Artist Stephanie Lantry and I have been working on To the Power Against for several years, and artist James Miyazawa and I just started a new project called Wane, which we'll have out shortly. To the Power Against is a sci-fi tragicomedy about a woman who can manipulate probability (picture a dweebier, office-dwelling Scarlet Witch), while Wane falls into the weirdo space opera category.

How does your work differ from others' work in the same genre?
I spent my youth ingesting a bizarre IV-drip cocktail of Douglas Adams, Stephen King, J.G. Ballard, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Star Trek, Zippy the Pinhead, The Pink Panther, and my dad's fancy encyclopedias. I'm not sure you're supposed to do all those together, but I think I turned out ok. Mostly. 

The result of combining my life experiences with all those influences is a unique writing style I have just now decided to call zen fury. ZEN FURY. (I might need another coffee right now.)  

Why do you write what you do?
I experience an insane amount of emotional vertigo about humanity's insignificance in comparison to the cosmos. It blows my mind that humans are able to juggle the paradox of going to a job, being in love, paying taxes, watering houseplants, and generally taking life on earth seriously when we live on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam inside a hydrogen god's butthole. I think Carl Sagan probably meant for that pale blue dot sh*t to be soothing, but I don't smoke weed like he did, so it just freaks me out.

So, I like to place my characters in scenarios that are just far too huge and vast and frankly ridiculous to be endured, and then see if they can hang onto their sense of humanity and humaneness. I want to wring some sort of dignity and meaning, or even just a punchline, out of the nihilism of the universe. It's a catharsis for me.

How does your writing process work?

I usually start a story because I've had a powerful dream or brainstorm (or possibly a neurotic breakdown) about a particular scene or emotional sequence, and then that just sits inside me and percolates while I try to identify and refine the elements that other people would find compelling. Then I build the story around it. 

The tricky part about writing comics is figuring out how to convey the story to the artist without losing energy and emotion in the process. And of course you want both of your voices to ring through equally in the final product, so you want to make sure you provide material that leaves plenty of room for that. But that gets a little bit thorny in a technical sense.

I have to figure out how to strip the story down to a 23 page comic book format first. I break it down to the essential beats and figure out what must be accomplished--visually and emotionally--on each page, and what should be the final effect of the issue as a whole. That's how I figure out the pacing and amount of story content for each issue. But then I take that skeleton and actually write it out in a fully-realized prose story format, as something to be read and enjoyed on its own merits. And then I give that to the artist, who is the only one who ever sees that prose version.

I want the artist I'm working with to have a chance to get lost in the story and be a member of the audience for a minute before the story becomes their job. I'm working with my buddy James at the moment, and it's so amazing to see him go away with pages of prose and come back with these unbelievable drawings. It's the closest I'll ever get to actually sharing dreams with someone else. And I don't think we'd get the same result if I gave him an outline and laid it out in thumbnails first. I think that would kill it. I have so much faith in his imagination and way of interpreting things. But I've got to be extremely mindful of how much information I'm giving him to dream about at a time. That's my end of the bargain.

Although now that I think of it, To the Power Against doesn't really come together quite this way anymore. I wrote those prose stories for Stephanie in the beginning of our collaboration, but we've been friends for so long, and we both know the characters and the story trajectory so well between the two of us at this point, that To the Power Against is now much more the product of the us sitting down in the kitchen, drinking a lot of coffee, and riffing over a basic script that I've brought to the table. T2PA is so much goofier and much more dialogue-driven, and Stephanie's got great acting chops, so we spend a lot of time doing voices and acting stuff out to make sure it's funny before it hits the page.

But the preparation of working out the emotional beats and amount of information per page and per issue beforehand is what allows us the freedom to riff and improvise. Figuring out how to pace a comic book effectively takes a lot of trial and error, but eventually it becomes muscle memory.

The other great thing about comics is the constant valuable feedback from my partner. By the time we get to the drawing stage, the story has been refined through a heavy sandblasting of questions and comments. The virtue that you find in an artist that you won't find in a friend or family member is that, because your artist has to put their name on this project and spend hours and hours laboring over the drawings, they are absolutely merciless about finding all the leaks in the story boat and making you plug them up tight. (Also, my god, will you learn to streamline your dialogue if ever you write comics.) And once you go through a few of these critical barrages, you start to anticipate what the reaction will be next time, so you incorporate that into the writing process.

And there you have it. This blog has been presented 100% pants-free, thanks to the support of viewers like you.

Thanks again to Luke for letting me hog the mic a while. Next up on the tour: the fabulous Becca C. Smith, who writes a young adult horror/fantasy series called The Riser Saga.