Rambling On

Anthony R. Cardno's Fiction and Commentary

Archive for the ‘artists’ Category

Just a sample of Isa’s gorgeous NAMESAKE art.

It’s a week for welcoming back previous interviewees! Today, I’m catching up with Megan Lavey-Heaton and Isabelle Melancon, creators of the webcomic NAMESAKE. It’s been a while since my last interview with them; we’d meant to do one during their second Kickstarter project, but that sort of fell through. So here they are to talk to us about how that went and what’s upcoming:

ANTHONY: You successfully funded the print version of Namesake Book Two not so long ago. How is the production process coming, and when will the book be available to the general public?

ISA: Production is pretty much over. I re-colored a couple of the pages, polished it up, added an extra story… and then Megan did all the book putting-together part. The toughest part for me is always to design the covers. And I had to design 3 this time. Whew! Since we had the hardcover version coming out with this Kickstarter too. But they turned out great too. The books should be available in August/September if all goes well, but we might open pre-orders before then.

ANTHONY: Are there plans already afoot for collecting book three in print form?

ISA: Book three is almost fully posted online, so as soon as that’s done, plans for the next Kickstarter will probably start.

ANTHONY: What’s your process been like for transferring from web content to the printed page? Did it change at all between books one and two?

ISA: Well, the pages have a pretty standard format, so making the jump from digital to print wasn’t that hard. I perfected my drawing techniques and scanning techniques, and Megan started doing allt he lettering in indesign to make the whole process go more smoothly. Our processes kinda changed about half-way into book one, so book 2 went considerably better.

ANTHONY: Where do we find the characters at the start of book two?

MEG: Emma is still entrenched in Oz at the beginning of book 2. We take a slight detour to check in on Alice and Lewis in the 1800s, then Ben, Elaine, Fred and the Calliope staff in the modern era, along with the introduction of some new cast members who will be very important in the future. For now though, most of this book tells the bulk of Emma’s adventure in Oz.

ISA: And Warrick’s backstory is revealed in book 2. Everyone loves a good tragic backstory.

ANTHONY: How much material will be in the print edition of book two versus the online edition? Any new special extras?

MEG: Book 2 contains Intermission 1 and chapters 6-10. We are about to start chapter 13 in the online edition. We have a book bonus story with Warrick and a Kickstarter-only story with Chiseri and Adora.

 

Co-creator and artist Isabelle Melancon

ANTHONY: Has your collaborative process changed at all since you started Namesake?

MEG: Not off the top of our head. The machine isn’t broken!

ISA: Nope, if anything, we just have MORE fun. Because the story is gradually becoming more engaging and creative.

ANTHONY: How about your individual creative processes?

MEG: I know for me, I have switched to doing the lettering of the pages in InDesign. Makes it vastly easier when it comes to creating the books!

ISA: I started doing more storyboarding and I have a notebook listing important visual details for all characters… to make sure I don’t forget anything! I plan to make character turnarounds too. It’s more of a process used in animation, but it helps not to draw someone off-model.

ANTHONY: Has the story continued to play out according to your original master plan, or has it taken any interesting side turns?

MEG: It’s definitely taking interesting side turns. For example, Selva has become one of the main cast when originally she wasn’t supposed to have much of a role beyond chapter 1. Nose is another unexpected developed character. We still have the master plan, but we’re letting the different stories develop organically and adjust as needed.

ISA: Characters change a lot, but the main plot stays stable. I think it’s nice that characters are kinda “telling” us who they want to be.

 

co-creator and writer Meghan Lavey-Heaton

ANTHONY: What other projects are you both working on?

MEG: I’ll let Isa answer that one!

ISA: We have a couple of things we wish to start. I have a few ideas for graphic novels for kids and pre-teens, because it’s an age group I love to write for. Mostly fantasy stuff. Megan has a few ideas that are really exciting too, but she tends to write more for adults, with police mysteries and diabolical curses. I guess we’ll flip a coin and see who gets to choose first. On the short term, we plan to do a couple of short comics to try different things as a team.

ANTHONY: A slight tweak on my usual closing question: If you could only recommend one of the books your characters are based on/connected to, which one would it be?

ISA: Probably a complete book of Andersen’s works. I love his fairy tales. They are my favorites.

 

 

 

Share

Neal and Dexter, the Early Years

I’ve interviewed my friend Neal Bailey a number of times here on “Rambling On,” discussing the progress of CURA TE IPSUM, the fantastic “can one man save himself across the Multiverse” webcomic written by Neal and drawn by the incomparable Dexter Wee. About a month ago, Neal started a Kickstarter to publish a print version of Year Two of the webcomic, with lots of awesome perks for backers … and I promptly dropped the ball in regards to having him on here again to promote it. There’s still four days left and the campaign is going strong, so better late than never, right?

 

ANTHONY: Hi Neal! So, what’s new and exciting in the world of CURA TE IPSUM?

NEAL: Hey, Anthony! Honestly, that probably depends on your perspective. For the readers, we’re going into a section of story that’s going to be decidedly exciting. A big paradigm shift in the next few months, and the beginnings of the origin of the Dark Everett.

For me, what’s exciting is winding toward the middle of Year Five (I write… in the FUTURE) and finishing up this Choose-Your-Own-Adventure style novella I’m doing for the Kickstarter. It’s a lot of fun.

Also… HARDBACKS! We will have hardbacks, it looks like, thanks to this wonderful Kickstarter thing. 

ANTHONY: What made you feel now was the right time to run a Kickstarter for CURA?

NEAL: Honestly, going to cons and watching other independent comics make use of it with no ill effects. I used to write for the internet, and if I learned one thing writing for the internet, it was that if you do a thing and ask for money for it, you get nastygrams from people, for some reason. At least, you used to. That has changed now. As the medium grows, people start to understand if they don’t support a thing, it goes away, which sucks.
I was going to do one big Kickstarter, at the end of Cura, and try and recoup something, anything of the tens of thousands of dollars I’ve thrown into it. I saw Kickstarter as a trigger you could pull once, a fundraising tool to get a thing recognition and a printing.

Then I printed my own trades a few times, and realized I couldn’t continue to do it on my own. I debated options. Going two days a week (which would lead to pay reduction for Dex, which I didn’t want to do). Going to companies (I already have, and a few big ones passed on Cura). That’s when I started asking my other friends doing webcomics and they indicated that the model for Kickstarter has shifted. You’re not a fink for doing one once a year, it’s more of a situation like Kickstarter is a Previews for the indie world. People who like indie comics come, see things that need regular support, order it, and keep it going.

I realized I can do Year Two, and if the people like it, then it wouldn’t be the only hurrah. There is a matrix and community of people who will support a thing that you’re earnestly passionate about. That is quite a reassurance for a struggling writer, and I said to myself, what’s the worst that could happen, you fail? Then you just don’t produce the book, you keep making Cura, you don’t go into more debt, win-win. It’s really quite amazing.

Year Two Cover Concept

ANTHONY: With only four days to go, you’re very possibly going to double your original goal. What are some of the perks backers can get if they sign on before the campaign ends?

NEAL: We’ve had two stretch goals so far, the first one is better paper, which I REALLY wanted to get for folks, and the hardbacks, which people REALLY wanted to get from me. I got a lot of messages asking for them. If we reach the $7,500 mark (and we’re darn close as of this writing) folks will have a hardback option.
The stretch goals after that are pure perks for folks. I’m going to set a new stretch goal the minute we hit that $7,500, if we’re that fortunate, but to be honest, I have been so overwhelmed by the outpouring of support that I’ve been floored. Anything after where we are now is just a way to make the book better… it’s already happening! Isn’t that fantastic?

The biggest perk that people will have if we do double our goal, outside of any material thing, is the secure knowledge that it’s setting up Cura for at least another solid year, and guaranteeing that trades will continue to be worthwhile and fought for. There isn’t much squeak between the costs and the pledges, but whatever squeak there is will go right back into the book and the comic. I went bankrupt five years ago throwing my own cash into my work, and I’m so incredibly glad that I have a support net here now to help keep this book going. It makes me redouble my efforts and believe even more in what we’re doing, as shallow as that might sound. It’s amazing what a little validation will do. My life is forever changed.

I’m going to try and manage some postcards and paper dolls, bookmarks, whatever I can manage to throw in as a bonus, depending on the final tally. This is really about the people who made this happen, and I want to reward them as much as I can for their good faith.

ANTHONY: You’re creating a “Choose Your Own Dimension” adventure for backers, right? Tell us about that.

NEAL: I used to collect all of the Choose Your Own Adventure books as a kid, and when I was in elementary I was fortunate enough to have a writer of those style of books come to the school and explain the process. Since then it’s fascinated me.

Once I started doing Cura, early on, I realized that it would lend itself extraordinarily well to a Choose Your Own Adventure style narrative, and I started to write one, but I stopped, for several reasons. Firstly, I wanted to make it a comic, which I hadn’t seen before outside of a book that slips my mind, the title, but it was amazing. I am embarrassed that I don’t recall. That had issues, because Dex is busy, and asking him to do a hundred page comic while he’s already doing Cura and other stuff wouldn’t work. The story is narrative enough and a handful.

I set it aside. I kept thinking about it, but I set it aside, and in the meanwhile fleshed out all of the characters I’d already outlined. Then the Kickstarter came, and Greg Rucka suggested, when I solicited his advice on my Kickstarter, that I ought to do a Choose Your Own Adventure. Recalling my earlier idea, it sounded like it might make a great novella, and so here I am, writing it. It’ll feature almost every member of Cura and Nosce that we’ve seen so far, and some other characters we may never see. You’re every Charlie, and some of the choices you can make are pretty hairy.

I did make one change to the basic formula. As morality tales, CYOA novels seem to reward good behavior and punish bad behavior. I like a more chaotic view of nature and nurture. Sometimes if you do the right thing, bad things still happen, and sometimes when you do a bad thing, there are no consequences. But sometimes it’s as you might expect, and I hope to keep people jumping.

Either way the dang thing is 15,000 words and climbing, so it’s not a minor perk, I hope. 

The Last Supper, Cura Style

ANTHONY: I see this question a lot regarding Kickstarters: you’ve hit your funding goal, and passed it — why should I back it?

NEAL: That goes a bit to what I mentioned before, in my earlier answer. First off, the more books I can order, the longer Cura is supported, in multiple respects. I can go to cons and get physical books into the hands of people who have never seen it, which helps the readership, which feeds the book. I can offset the cost of paying Dex, because I believe in paying my artist even when I can’t afford it (and God, have I been stretched thin the last five years). Most importantly, however, every purchase is a vote of confidence that says this book is a thing worth fighting for outside of my own mind, which is critical. It will make my work better, which will in turn feed what I turn out, which will in turn reward those who buy even when the initial goal is met.

Also, another important factor is that the initial goal is the bare minimum to get the project done, the books alone, and anything after that is where things start to be about extra for keeping the wheels turning. Plus, y’know, perks! Stretch goals. There’s good for everyone if we can keep going.

I can unconditionally guarantee that not a penny beyond the goal will go to anything beyond Cura. Hell, if we made a hundred thousand dollars, after Cura was colored, made into a short film, got an app, got Dex a Syntique, or whatever the heck else could benefit Cura, I’d still take cash from my own wallet and put it into making the comic more.

I am a strange duck, in that I never wrote for profit (shhh, don’t tell editors). I write for love of the characters in the hopes that profit may come, that I may write for love of the characters, on and on and on. If I have a dry room and a pen, I’m good. The cash is all about the book, and always will be. If I needed money for my own fun or amusement, I’d go back to day labor moving cabinets with stoners.

i09.com described Cura as “an emotional crisis on infinite earths.”

ANTHONY: Dexter’s art continues to amaze and astound. Is he creating any special new art for certain pledge levels?

NEAL: Yes! We have just added a new “commission” level at the two hundred dollar pledge. He will make a custom tailored commission. Speaking as a guy who has several hanging in his own house, I can honestly say they’re quite a centerpiece for a geek like me. Plus you get the hardbacks and all the other goodies.

ANTHONY: How about for the book itself?

NEAL: We have an eight-page backup introducing an all-female group of Charlenes who will figure prominently in Year Four and Five. There’s a Filipina, several steampunk inspired designs, a black female Hank (Henrietta), and a few members that will likely surprise you. Let’s just say Mrs. Arntzen doesn’t always die.

The backup has been a lot of hard work while producing the regular pages, but it’s absolutely worth it, and probably one of the best arguments to get the trade or the PDFs.

ANTHONY: The print collections cover Year One and Two, but the webcomic is well into Year Three now.  Has anyone come to CURA from reading the print editions first?  Do you find a different reaction to the story (or characters, or pacing) between print-first readers and web-first readers?  Or even a difference in reaction for people reading it in print after reading it as each page first appears online?

NEAL: Absolutely, in answer to both questions. People have come to print first through cons, and there is a huge reaction when people read it day-to-day as opposed to in a big stream, both in print and digitally.

The comic is written with a very known sense that days are passing between pages. The comic leaps a bit, and I have wrestled with it quite a bit. Some people are annoyed by it, but some love it. I stand by it, in that it is supposed to bring that feeling of jumping around in space and time that these characters are going through. That said, the story is becoming more and more linear as it moves on, perhaps as I learn, perhaps as the ending becomes more and more clear.

Either way, thankfully, I haven’t received any email from anyone calling it a pile of turds. The readership, to a man and woman, have all been incredibly kind and respectful and awesome.

ANTHONY: What is it about the story of Charlie Everett that resonates so well with fans?

NEAL: I’ve been told it’s the fact that he’s optimistic, and also the tension of whether or not he will become the Dark Everett, but I don’t want to speak for the audience and put words in their mouth. Maybe that’s just the things I’ve heard that I want to be true, and for other people it’s that he’s dreamy, or they love tweed, or hey, shout out to the guidance counselors out there who need representation!

That is my tongue firmly in cheek, for the record.

I can speak for myself. Charlie resonates for me because I wanted to write from the age of twelve, twenty long years ago now, and everywhere I went it was like that Dewey Cox movie, a parade of family encouraging me to have a fallback, get a job, stop being such a lazy waste. A relative said, I quote, that I contribute in no meaningful way to my family, doing what I do.

I disagree. And Charlie didn’t. Charlie thought people like that were right for so long, and he cast it off, and even better, he did it for himself. He found hope, he found courage, and through that power. That’s what I see in him, and that’s what makes me love him.

ANTHONY: What glimpse can you give us into the near future for the CURA cast?

NEAL: I’ll be cryptic, and maybe a little scary. A latin demon. Origins. The smell of the person you love the most. Power beyond reckoning in the hands of a madman. The explanation of that moon. Junior’s origin. The House of Cindy. God, now I’m getting creeped out. Soon!

ANTHONY: And a twist on my usual closing question: What is Charlie Everett’s favorite book, and what would he say to convince someone who hasn’t read it to convince them that they should?

NEAL: Charlie’s favorite book is Richard III, and he would say that one should read it because even though this man, Richard, in attempting to find his way, becomes a terrible villain because of how he is perceived, he also says one of the most important things any human being ever has in history:

“Shall I live in hope?”

Charlie does, and you should too.

You can follow Neal and Dex on Twitter @nealbailey  @dexterwee. You can find the comic CURA TE IPSUM on the web. But most importantly, you can find the final days of the Kickstarter campaign and donate by CLICKING RIGHT HERE.  If you decide to back, please leave a note here letting me know you did so.

Share

Ted Fisher

I’ve been acquainted with escape artist / street performer / magician / jack of all trades and all around nice guy Jason Escape for a while now thanks to Twitter. He impressed me right away as a man concerned not just with making a living at his trades-of-choice but also with social justice and being a good person and a positive light in this world. I’m not the only one who thought so, as you’ll see in this interview with Ted Fisher.  Ted, with his wife Karen, is the director of a 15-minute documentary about Jason called “Hanging Downtown,” and is now running a Kickstarter to film a full length documentary about Jason’s life both on stage (on the streets of Boston) and off. When I found out about the project (a little belatedly) I jumped at the chance to talk to Ted about the Kickstarter and his documentary-filming experience.

 

ANTHONY: How did you become familiar with Jason Escape?

TED: I met Jason on Twitter. I was hoping to make a 5-minute documentary, and in my search I discovered what he does and thought it would be very interesting. Quickly, however, I realized that there are many interesting aspects to his life. So my wife and I traveled to Boston, and the result was … eventually … a 15-minute documentary called “Hanging Downtown.”

ANTHONY: Why make a documentary about Jason?

TED: In the 15-minute documentary, one theme that emerged was the idea of struggling to overcome a challenge. It addressed his struggle to be recognized as a performer, his struggle to engage an audience, and his struggle to complete a challenging escape. Since then, however, he’s gotten married, had a child, and faced the challenge of making a living as a performer. Ropes, chains, handcuffs? Easy. Father, Husband, Businessman? Now that’s a challenge.

So the new feature-length film provides an opportunity to learn more about him, and to explore this wild challenge of being an escape artist and family man.

ANTHONY: Documentaries come in all shapes and sizes. What’s the feel of your film going to be?

TED: I love the classic observational documentaries. At the same time, both my wife and I are really from a background in the fine arts, and we love the complex, multilayered approach you find in the best contemporary art. So, you might say we’re using strategies from art to shape a traditional observational documentary.

ANTHONY: What’s your plan for filming, and what equipment will you be using?

TED: My camera bag looks a lot more like a photojournalist’s than you’d expect. I’m a proponent of HDSLR video — using the video capabilities of still cameras or hybrid cameras — so I use small cameras like the Panasonic GH1 and GH2. Everything is chosen to be extremely mobile and lightweight. I value audio highly, so items like a quality lavalier microphone and a good shotgun microphone on a boom pole are essentials — but everything packs up in a very small case. Small LED lights are used to augment available light when needed, but again the emphasis is on working in a way that matches the street performer aesthetic.

Hanging Downtown, the documentary short

ANTHONY: Is this your first documentary/film? What other films or directors have influenced your plan for this documentary?

TED: I’ve made several short documentaries, and with my wife the 15-minute “Hanging Downtown” documentary, but this is our first feature.

ANTHONY: What do you hope people get out of seeing Jason’s story?

TED: I think the theme of facing a challenge is probably going to be key to the new film. But I think the balance between his career, his ambition, his performance and the other elements of life is going to be something that everyone can relate to.

ANTHONY: What else would you like people to know about Jason and/or the film?

TED: Jason is amazing as a documentary subject because of what he does — it’s something that’s incredibly visual, has an element of danger, and is fascinating on screen — but to us the more important aspect is that he’s chosen to really reveal himself, and to let the audience in to experience his life.

ANTHONY: The Kickstarter still has nine days left. You’ve met the initial fundraising goal of $1,000. What will the money be used for, and what is the plan for funds raised over the intial goal?

TED: Realistically, our initial $1,000 goal was set when we weren’t sure if people were going to love the idea of the film as much as we did. But when people backed the Kickstarter, often specifically commenting how much they loved it and wanted to see it succeed, we realized there was an audience for the film. We celebrated loudly when we saw the funding hit our goal — but quickly realized that our real costs in just getting to Boston and staying there might be double that initial $1,000. So we’re thrilled to meet all of our backers, and to see the Kickstarter be considered a success, but we know we need to raise much more and stay with it just to see the filming begin. Our production approach is just my wife and I and sometimes a very small crew. We work with a very low-budget, minimal approach. So … we’re pretty streamlined. But airplane tickets and hotel rooms are the first hurdle to the initial filming.

ANTHONY: What sorts of perks are you offering backers?

TED: Well, we’re very excited to present a download of the initial 15-minute documentary “Hanging Downtown.” It’s still screening at festivals, but very soon we’re going to put it into the hands of our backers so they can discover Jason in that film and become part of our team for the feature-length doc. As well, we’re really focused on the importance of music in the film, so we’re offering a download of the soundtrack. Then, of course, people are going to want to see the new feature when it is done — and that’s another reward. Beyond that, we’re are offering a chance to meet Jason at special coffee and lunch events in Boston and San Diego right between performances.

There’s one other very innovative reward offered as well. We are creating a small team of Associate Producers. These are people who will see the film as it develops — in online preview screenings — and provide feedback and commentary for scenes of the film straight from the editing computer. We want to take advantage of the new possibilities for sharing with our audience early, no matter where they are. So we are building a group of people who can be very involved in the film, and who can help us understand how it is working as we refine it over time. We think it’s a new and exciting direction to go.

ANTHONY: And my usual closing question: What is your favorite book, and what would you say to someone who has never read it to convince them that they should?

TED: As a documentarian, it makes sense that I love very personal nonfiction — like the diaries of Anais Nin, for example. My wife is an art historian finishing her Ph.D. in the history of photography, so right now she has a stack of huge academic photo histories in front of her. I think the reason to read any book is similar to the reason to watch a film — it allows us to “try on” someone’s experience of life, and to better understand our own as a result.

Jason Escape, himself

You can find out more about the project on the Kickstarter page.  You can also learn more about the original documentary by visiting Ted’s website. You can follow Jason himself on Twitter @JasonEscape and get a better sense of what Jason is all about by talking to the man himself.

Share

Joe Phillips

Today’s guest is artist Joe Phillips. Since 1987, Joe’s work has not only been seen in books from every major comics publisher but also internationally in advertising for a number of products. He’s also a sculptor and animator, including the music video for Air Gold’s “Where The Music Takes You.” Joe and co-creator Chad Prato are running a Kickstarter to build a new clothing line called “Vampire vs. Werewolf.”

 

ANTHONY: Hi, Joe! Thanks for taking some time out for a chat. How are you?

JOE: Good thanks for asking, Any day above ground is a great day right?

ANTHONY: You know I’m fan-boying a bit right now. I have several of your calendars still hanging on my wall even though the years they represent are long past.  So, let’s talk a little about you, first. How long have you been illustrating professionally?

JOE: For over 25 years, I know right. But yeah I’ve been drawing since high school. Doing fan -zines and local papers first then independent comics and working for the big boys.

ANTHONY: What have been some of your favorite projects to work on?

JOE: I did a national ad campaign for Bud Light the same year I drew the illustrations for “the Joy of Gay Sex” LOL lot of crazy projects in my time but MR. MIRACLE for DC was my first time big comic and so it stands out for me.

ANTHONY: I hate the “where do you get your ideas” type of questions, but so much of your work seems drawn from real life … so what inspires you to work on a project?

JOE: My mind is haunted with all sorts of strange things and the voices speak to me to let them out. Sometimes they are profound images or sometimes just a great butt will inspire my work.

Vampire vs. Werewolf

ANTHONY: The project we’re here to talk about today is your Kickstarter for “Vampire vs. Werewolf.”  Tell us a little bit about the project.

JOE: It’s a fun project inspired by all the Vampire and werewolf fever there is in pop culture. As a cartoonist at heart I wanted to do a classic vs match between them, not so much as who would win in a fight but who is cooler. I wanted to do cool t-shirts and magnets and stuff so folks could show their love for their favorites.

ANTHONY: How did the idea for this project come together?

JOE: I was talking to my long-time friend Chad Prater who use to put on comic conventions down in Florida years ago. We have been wanting to do a t-shirt company and needed something fun to do as a first project so we came up with this.

ANTHONY: Tell me about the rewards backers will get if they support Vampire vs. Werewolf.

JOE: The pledgers get t-shirts and stickers as well as really nice prints and magnets. We will be adding new images throughout the pledge time so there will be lots to choose from.

ANTHONY: If the project does get fully funded, are you planning on doing more with the concept? Is there perhaps an idea for an animated webseries or the like?

JOE: How cool would that be maybe a web cartoon series or comic book. I’m open to suggestions.

Werewolf Problems

ANTHONY: The art style for Vampire vs. Werewolf is a different from your better-known work. How did you decide on this particular style?

JOE: Well it comes from my love of cartoons I loved the rubber legs of old black and white cartoons and the new fun stuff like Adventure time and Regular Show. The style came from that school of thought.

ANTHONY: What was your process for creating the art for this project? And how different was it from your usual creative process if at all?

JOE: With this I just open up to all the foibles of being a werewolf or Vampire. you can see my humor in how pretenses the Vamp boys are and how rowdy the wolf pack is. It’s just fun to let go and let them tell me what to draw.

ANTHONY: What else are you working on these days?

JOE: New calendars, new art books and releasing my first novel. Please check my website for more info on upcoming projects.

ANTHONY: And my usual final question: What is your favorite book, and what would you say to someone who hasn’t read it to convince them that they should?

JOE: LOL my favorite book is Auntie Mame by Patrick Dennis I laugh out loud every time I read it.

ANTHONY: Thanks again, Joe!

JOE: My pleasure. If we make our pledge goal we can buy the equipment to do all sorts of fun stuff. Thanks for the interest.

 

Vampire Problems

You can see more designs and learn about Vampire vs. Werewolf on the project’s Kickstarter page. You can also follow Joe Phillips on Twitter as @joephillipsart.

Share

YEAR ONE cover

It’s no secret that I absolutely love the time-traveling, multiversal twists-and-turns of the webcomic CURA TE IPSUM, written by Neal Bailey and drawn by Dexter Wee. When the guys released the first print volume of CTI, I interviewed Neal. When they released the second print volume, I interviewed Neal and Dexter together. Book Three is about to be released, as well as a YEAR ONE compendium with a ton of extras, and so I thought this time instead of interviewing the guys, I’d give them the opportunity to just take over the blog for a day and speak in their own words.

For those who don’t know: CTI is the story of Charlie Everett – or, rather, a multiverse of Charlie Everetts. Charlie Prime, as we’ve come to call him, is prevented from committing suicide by a visit from another version of himself. Charlie Prime discovers that he’s got a bit more natural ability for time\space travel than his other selves, and together with Leo (who saved him), The Nerd, Billy, Charlene and Squirt (all divergent versions of Charlie), they seek to stop The Dark Everett and his partners from killing every Charlie in existence.

Neal, of course, one-upped my thought. I’m proud to be able to post here a small sneak peek at INRICTI, the prose short story that is one of the special features of the YEAR ONE Compendium.  I’ll let Neal introduce the story segment, and then I’ll be back with the links you can click on to order the books!

* * * * *

Hello, folks! First off, thank you, Anthony, for the place to debut a preview for Cura’s first short story.

INRICTI (a play on words for INRI and CTI, for Cura Te Ipsum) tells the story of what might happen if a bad man, namely the Dark Everett, decided to show a preacher what REALLY happened on Golgotha. It’s a long story, and it’ll be featured in YEAR ONE, the collected edition of our first year of stories, which you can find at http://www.curateipsum.com/, along with our third volume. Both are available for pre-order now.

It’s a dark story, and a fairly bleak one, but I had really good time writing it and I hope you all enjoy it.

Here’s the preview!

Neal Bailey

 

INRICTI
For Michael Moorcock


“Death.”

The preacher takes a long pause to examine the faces of his congregation.

“It has power over us, with good reason. There is such terror in the concept of a person we know and love, a person, become a body that rots in the ground. Your grandmother. Your father. A son or daughter.”

Pacing, always pacing when he speaks.

“I often imagine the fear an atheist must have examining death. Consider, even with knowledge of an afterlife, the concept of yourself no longer existing.”

Awkward silence. It drags.

“There’s no sense of continuity without God when flesh goes to dust.” He grabs his arm and pinches through the cloth. “For a non-believer, all we have is a life that can be hard, unfair, and very cruel in the face of the infinite. For us, for me, anyway, I take great solace from the thought of a loving creator. There’s nothing quite like it to quell the horrors of our short lives.”

The pacing stops.

“There is a plan for our lives. Things may spin around and fall apart, but somewhere out there, out between our potential dimensions, the spirit and the flesh come back together. There’s a pattern that flows through all real and imagined worlds born of our minds. Succumbing to the hunger for things you might otherwise have ignored but for cold, hard, logic, that, my friends, is faith.”

The preacher smiles. It is a sincere smile. The congregation smiles with him.

“Let us pray.”

* * *

Now the preacher sits in the front pew looking up at the statue of Jesus to consider. The congregation has been gone for some time. He does this a lot now, like he did on the bed with the pistol. This leaves him more comforted.

Footsteps echo in the empty church. A man sits down next to him. The preacher keeps his head bowed. He doesn’t turn. He keeps his eyes closed. He does smile.

“I presume you wish to speak about something.”

“What gave you that impression, padre?”

“You came across the entire empty church and sat down right next to me. Unless you’re looking for a date, that’s often followed by questions, or solicitations of advice.”

“I may have a few things to confess.”

“We don’t do confessions. You’re thinking of the Catholics.”

“I’ve got more sins than you could listen to in a lifetime.” Something in the man’s voice. Odd. A nasal plastic echo.

The preacher looks. The preacher clears his throat, looking for words. “Are – are we by chance related?”

Sitting next to him is a mirror image. A man very much like himself, so close in manner and proportion they could be twins, but for a few key differences. The other man is ropey with muscles. Older, certainly. Harder. The nose. There’s something strange and artificial about his nose.

“In a sense we’re related, but not really. Do I call you preacher? Or Reverend? Or Father? What?”

Gooseflesh breaks out across the preacher’s arms. “I realize something.”

“Do tell.”

“The front door isn’t open. It’s locked.”

“Let’s just say that I snuck into the bathroom and waited for you to lock the front door. That makes more sense than the supernatural, that I just opened a portal and dropped in here from nowhere, right? I mean, that would require you to believe in something certifiably crazy without any evidence to do so, right?” A derisive snort.

“I checked the bathrooms. Bums like to sleep in there.”

“Perhaps Jesus let me in.” The voice is sarcastic. Mocking. Slow. Deliberate. A nursery rhyme cadence.

“I don’t find that funny.”

“I liked your sermon. You have a way with words.”

“Thank you.”

“I am the wrong person to thank. I appreciate beauty, but in this equation, you’re the cross—” Click. “—and I’m the switchblade.” The blade is dull by the candle light. Well-used. Chipped from too many impacts with bone. Blade side up in a fist that shakes with anger.

“You’d kill a man of God?”

“I’d never kill a man of God.”

“What’s the blade for?”

“For you.”

“I’m a man of God.”

“No!” The fist slams into the top of the pew in front of them hard enough to rock them both. The other hand reaches for his face, gripping the nose. The nose comes off. A scarred cavity. A skull face. The face of death. “There is no God, and I’m your proof.”

The gooseflesh returns, up and down the preacher’s arms. “Are you a demon?”

“Always looking for the supernatural where there is none.” The man stabs the knife down into the pew and begins carving a long C next to his right leg. “I’m not a fucking demon. I’m you. Another you.”

“Your nose.”

“I cut it off to prove a point. Seemed like a good idea at the time. It’s not all fun and games, but it’s great for appearances. As you well know, people like a little smoke and mirrors.”

“Appearances?”

“They call me the Dark Everett, though my Christian name is Charles, like yours. That’s what they do to people who tell the truth. They call them demons, give them sinister sounding nicknames. I’m guessing, given that you’re above ground, you’ve already met with another version of yourself. That’s almost always how it happens. That’s how it’s been happening for quite a long time.”

“I have, at times, been visited by an angel.”

A waved hand. “Oh, go on. Keep trying to explain reality with a superstition. Makes me think of, what’s the expression? That one about suitably advanced technology and magic?” The Dark Everett carves a circle in the middle of his C. “Tell me more about this angel of yours.”

“He is me. Us. Only with a beard. Long flowing hair. He dresses in robes. He comes to my apartment once a week and makes sure I stay alive. For the longest time, I thought it was Jesus.”

“That’s a new one.”

“I thought – it occurred to me that perhaps when we see Jesus, we see an embodiment of whoever we are.”

“Arrogant. Did he tell you that he was Jesus?”

“He doesn’t say much.”

“I’ve heard of about this evangelist before. He’s visited many of us. He’s a slippery little missionary, the fuck.”

“He claimed knowledge of the future.”

“Did he give any specific examples?”

“A few. A baseball score. He told me that God wanted me to be a preacher, and that if I didn’t kill myself, all would be well.”
The Dark Everett scowls. “The Evangelist likes to prey on people in weak states of mind. That’s how he gets his kicks. I get mine solving that kind of problem.” The Dark Everett flips the knife in the air and catches it. Flip. Catch. Flip. Catch. There’s now a rough approximation of the world in the seat next to him, inside the C.

“You sit in judgment of others while you threaten another man with a knife?”

“I’m no prize myself.” That dry rasp in the nose again. It’s chilling. “But I am honest in what I do. If anything, sir, I am honest.”

“Most devils claim they are.”

“In fiction. There are no devils. Or angels. I’m a man, Chuck. Flesh and blood. I always have been. If you cut me, I’ll bleed. There’s nothing special about me beyond a commitment to be better than I am. Even if I were a demon, there’s nothing special enough about your pathetic life that would inspire one to visit you. You got tricked by religion. That’s how it works. It plays off our self-importance. If there were a God, and trust me, there’s not, he wants us both dead.” The Dark Everett makes a pistol with his finger and blows his fake brains out.

“Why?”

“Because every time a Charlie survives, bad things happen.”

“Every time?”

The knife stabs into the makeshift Earth. “There isn’t a one of us across the entire multiverse that’s at peace. Not a one. When we gain the ability to jump between worlds, we end up fucking them up, fucking ourselves up, stealing, fighting, corrupting. It’s in our blood.”

“Our souls?”

“Don’t get cute, Preach.”

“What’s my crime? I help the poor. I give my services for free. I like to think I live an honest life.”

“I just watched you bear false witness. And anyway, you’d change if you got a stone. We all do.”

“And you, casting the first stone?”

“I’m not immune. I deserve to die more than almost any other Charlie, and I will. There’s just some work to do before I go.”
The preacher looks up at the cross. “Did you ever consider that the relentless pursuit of perfection is a defect of humanity, not of our selves? I mean, provided you really are another me. We all make a mess of our lives. That doesn’t mean they need to end. If we learn to forgive ourselves, there can be peace. Does anyone live a life that isn’t, in some way, flawed?”

“Don’t pollute the issue. This isn’t a debate. You’re already dead. I like nuance, and that’s why I’m engaging you, but we’re not talking about spitting out kids we can’t take care of, all whoopsie-daisy. That’s a debatable character flaw. We’re talking about changing the entire course of otherwise normal societies. Genocide and annihilation. I came here today from a place where there’s a man handing out night vision to the highest bidding country in nineteen sixty.”

“Nineteen sixty?”

“Cheap gas is nice and all, but this long hair doesn’t go over very well.”

“I don’t imagine it would.”

“To the point, the man handing out the night vision is me. You. Speak to me of the lightness of our flaws when it doesn’t start wars to the tune of millions of lives.” The Dark Everett wiggles the knife free and draws an X over the world. “That planet is going to spiral into chaos in less than ten years because of one greedy, cheating capitalist who will end the conflict in Vietnam with drones. He’s done it one one world already, and he doesn’t care. And here’s the real trick – he’s one of the good ones. A Charlie Everett is a higher devil. A pox on the surface of infinite earths. Every time he kills a Hitler for a lark, he condemns millions of people to suffering over time, times that he will never have to live through because he can just step away. And we do. I have.”

The preacher stares down at the Dark Everett’s blade. “You can kill me in malice, and I won’t be able to stop you, but you won’t do it without knowing that I believe I’ve made this world a better place. I’m an exception to your rule.”

“You take the stupid and make them believe in magical men who prognosticate and punish. I can’t think of a much greater crime for a man’s soul beyond reality television.” A long, slow sigh.

A fist. An unmade fist. A hand to his mouth. “Can I possibly be so cynical? Can any of me be in you?”

The Dark Everett puts a finger up to where his nose would otherwise be. Flip. Catch. Flip. Catch. “I caught a little anger there, preacher. We can’t skip right to acceptance, can we?”

“I’m past acceptance. You forget.”

“Ah, good. Shall we get on with it, then?” Catch. Brandish.

The preacher looks toward the door. “May I choose where I die?”

“Bargaining. See? You’re on step three. Acceptance is a long way off. No. I don’t allow people to choose the methodology of death. There’s too much room for malarkey and escape. Appreciate the leeway I’m granting engaging in this conversation. It’s more than most get.”

“What made you talk to me, then?”

“I’m trying to decide if your silver tongue is worth a god damn, pun intended, or if you’re just wet meat to add to the pile. Needs must when the devil drives. So far it isn’t looking good for you. You’re not very convincing. You don’t fight with much salt.”

“That’s because I’m trying to listen to you and understand, not fight. It’s my job.”

“Now I’m just bored.” The knife into the pew again. A pistol from the back waistband, held casually in his palm. “But I’ll be kind. Bullet in the head, or slit throat?”

The preacher pales. “I know that weapon.”

“I fucking well know you know that weapon. You were supposed to use it.” Up comes the hand with the pistol, and then the hand with the knife. Pistol. Knife. Pistol. Knife. “Time to choose. Make it quick.” Toying.

“And if I have a better idea?”

“There is no better idea.” The Dark Everett lifts the pistol to the preacher’s temple. The steel is cold. “But look at the bright side. At least you’ll know for sure if you’re full of sh—”

“Crucify me.”

The pistol lowers. Laughter. “Say that again.”

“Why don’t you crucify me?”

More laughter. “Shit. You know, I like that. You mean it?”

“I do.”

The pistol retreats to the small of the back. “You might not be a total loss after all, depending on one crucial piece of information.”

“What’s that?”

“How often does this son of a bitch with the beard and the long flowing hair visit you?”

“I won’t give him up.”

“I know where you live. I’m going to go there and wait for him anyway. The man is already dead, like you. Tell me when your appointment is, I’ll give you your crucifixion, and maybe something more. If not, you make a mess here that some poor janitor is gonna have to pick up. He’ll tell the congregation what your brains look like, because he believes he’s forgiven for it in advance.”

“There’s no way I can persuade you not to kill my visitor?”

“None at all. Philosophically speaking, you’ve already killed him.”

A long silence. “He is supposed to visit this afternoon. What’s the something more?”

“Total, real resolution for your faith. Such as it is.”

* * *

And there you have it, folks. Intrigued? I hope so.

You can follow CURA TE IPSUM as it regularly updates right HERE.

VOLUME THREE collects the first half of the second year of the comic, and makes a nice companion to VOLUMES ONE and TWO if you already have them. The YEAR ONE book collects material previously available in VOLUMES ONE and TWO, with bonus stuff like the complete text of the story you just sneak-peeked. There are a good number of difference combo packages you  can purchase as well, including the chance to get original sketches done by Mr. Wee himself.  So click on this link, check it out. Tell them Anthony sent you!

VOLUME THREE cover

Share

Wow, that title sounds fancy, doesn’t it?

With Jennifer Holliday, a 2011 highlight

It’s December 31. I am hanging out, as I do every New Years Eve, with my college friends/adopted siblings. Jon & Cindi (and their son Xavier) are hosting, as always. Scott & Margaret are here with son and daughter Jared and Morgyn. Peggy is here with her son Max. Plus there are two dogs, a cat, a rabbit. Assorted local family and friends will drop in, too. It’s always a dual celebration, as Jon’s birthday is January 1.

Typically, this is not the ideal setting for long rambling thoughts about the past year. But we’re having a lull at the moment. Three of the four kids are reading quietly. So are half of the adults. So now seems to be the time.

I’ll admit it’s been a rough year. Car problems, financial problems, lots and lots of work travel bouncing me all over the country (especially these last few months). I’ve been a real cranky-pants at times, so the first order of business is thanking everyone who has put up with that crankiness, and everyone who helped me deal with what at times felt like insurmountable problems. They are too numerous to list here: if you are among them, you know who you are and I thank you.

On the writing side of things, the year was a mixed bag. I didn’t manage to complete either AMBERGRIN HALL or CHRISTMAS GHOSTS, my long-simmering novel and novella. Both are so close to completion it almost hurts, and I’ve made progress on untangling the plot knots of the first and filling in the hole in the plot of the second, but still … didn’t finish them. That is a goal for 2012. On the positive side, I sold my first genre short story, a science fiction tale for the SPACE BATTLES anthology edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt and due out mid-2012. That felt terrific. Also, it seems like this year’s sales of THE FIRFLAKE were better than last year’s. This is an guess on my part, but it feels like I had more emails and tweets telling me “I’m buying your book” this year than I did last. It might have helped that I joined Goodreads in an effort to help advertise the book, and that I spent more time posting on the book’s Facebook page.

Reading-wise, having joined Goodreads has helped me keep even better track of what I read and what I thought (although I’m still behind on writing reviews of some of what I read, and likely won’t get those done before tonight’s festivities start). I’ll wait until later this week to post my “Favorites of 2011” final list. Between office and on-line bookclubs, and writing book reviews for ICARUS and CHELSEA STATION magazines, I’ve also read a lot of authors I’d never read before as well as revisiting old favorites.

Probably the biggest accomplishment of 2011 has been the increased use of this website. I added a second short story (“Canopus,” joining “Invisible Me”), and I made the decision to start blogging regularly. When I made that decision, I had no idea I would end up developing an almost-weekly Interview feature. It’s all Anthony Garguila‘s fault. Although his didn’t end up being the first interview I ran (that honor went to author Evelyn Lafont), it was meeting him at a high school band reunion he attended with his mother that instigated the whole “interviewing creative people” thing. I’ve had the honor of interviewing up-and-coming authors like Bryan Thomas Schmidt, Linda Poitevin, Chad Helder and Christie Yant; genre pros like Jay Lake and Jeremy C. Shipp; friends Dennis Miller and Joseph Pittman; and career authors like Lawrence Block. I’ve interviewed artists (Lynn Bennett-MacKenzie), editors (Ellen Datlow), webcomics creators (Namesake, School Spirit, Cura Te Ipsum, Multiplex), actors (Brandon Tyler Russell) and musicians ranging from indy artists like Casey Stratton and Matt Lande to teen pop-rockers Burnham and Hollywood Ending. I’ve learned a lot about interviewing, and I’ve learned a lot about the creative process as it manifests in different fields.

2012 looks to get off to a good start for interviews as well. Carolyn Gray (author of A Red-Tainted Silence and Long Way Home) and actors Austin MacDonald and Sarah Desjardins and Brad and Todd Mann are all due up in January. Author Kaaron Warren, editor John Joseph Adams and singer Jennifer Holliday will be along in February.

What I’m loving about the interviews is that they’re fun. This isn’t my day job, it’s a hobby I’m enjoying quite a bit. One of the things that has helped me interview so many interesting people has been Twitter. I’m grateful for the friends I’ve made through that site, including but not limited to the folks named in the preceding few paragraphs, as well as Marianne Burnham, Helen MacDonald, Desiree Russell, Leigh Geraghty, Nina Diamond, Tomatito Adams, Sabrina Vourvoulias and too many others to name them all.

Bringing things full circle: despite the rough patches of the year, my health has been largely good and the travel has enabled me to spend far more time with the friends and family scattered around the country than I would have otherwise. As always, I end the year thankful for my health and for the love that continues to lift me up. Whether you’re a friend for decades or someone I’ve just gotten to know thanks to social media: thank you.

Here’s to a 2012 that is full of love, fun, health, peace and prosperity for all of us. Catch you next year!

Share

In honor of Saint Andrew’s Day, my interview this week is with Scottish artist Lynn Bennett-Mackenzie.

Lynn Bennett-Mackenzie

Born in 1967, Lynn Bennett-Mackenzie is an established artist living and working in north west Scotland. She was brought up in the remote rural areas of the Highlands of Scotland. Lynn studied at Gray’s School of Art graduating in 1990 and now has a workshop/studio on a picturesque croft, from where she also operates a thriving framing business She works in various media – oils, mixed media, watercolour & pen & ink. Her work is evocative of the Highlands and is inspired by the light, colours & stories of the area as is particularly evident in her pen & ink drawings. She has shown work in various exhibitions and taken part in community and international projects including The Big Picture, Wild Wood , Landfill art, and was recently invited to attend an International Art Symposium in Russia. Her work is innovative, original and versatile and she aims to capture an essence of emotion in her work, drawing the viewer in to the story that unfolds. Her work is intuitive and comes from within, drawing on her experiences from where she lives and from places and people she meets & visits. Her latest works focus on the invisible connections between us and the world at large. She is fascinated by the notion of what is around us that cannot be seen but often felt by some, faith, and the way people interpret consciousness & reality. Her work has been described as having a gentle beauty, softness and light and dynamism. Lynn hopes that her work will make people more aware of their own internal power and our ability to adapt and change.

ANTHONY: Hi, Lynn, welcome! Thanks for the chance to chat!

LYNN: Hi Anthony, thanks for asking me.

ANTHONY: Let’s start with some of the basics: what were some of your earliest creative influences?

LYNN: I suppose the places where I grew up, most of them remote and rural – I had a free, happy childhood with lots of open space in beautiful areas, and my art teacher in later high school, he was the one who really encouraged me and suggested I go to art college.

ANTHONY: You work in a number of different mediums. When approaching a new project, how do you decide what medium to work in?

LYNN: I actually don’t think about it too much, what I am doing tends to dictate the medium, although I go through phases of using certain mediums.

ANTHONY: Have you ever started a project in one medium, then decided it would work better in a different form? For instance, I’ve often started writing a short story only to realize the story is better suited to a one-act play or poem or even novel.

LYNN: Often I might start a work in pen & ink say, and then carry the work through into watercolour, charcoal and oil. Some don’t make it past the drawing stage, it really depends on how strongly I feel about the piece and theme.

ANTHONY: Is there a medium you’re most comfortable working in? Any medium you avoid or feel uncomfortable in?

LYNN: Pen & ink is my “comfort food”, I always return to that. I avoid pastels, I used them at college and never felt at ease with them, so have not gone back to them at all.

ANTHONY: For each medium, what are your most consistent tools? Favorite brands or “old reliables?”

LYNN: A definite favourite is my Rotring 0.25mm Isograph, tried other sizes of nibs, but this is the one I have used since I was 15. Pink Pig sketch books, made in Huddersfield, also palette knives rather than a brush. Other than that I tend to chop and change a bit, try out different brands.

ANTHONY: What is your most creative time during the day? For me, writing early in the morning is virtually impossible (unless I’ve been up all night).

LYNN: I usually try to get out for a walk in the morning, tho that doesn’t always happen! It can take me a while pottering about in the studio doing other things and then ideas will start, so probably late morning/early afternoon I would say is the best for me.

ANTHONY: In your bio, you mention “focus[ing] on the invisible connections between us and the world at large.” How has this focus influenced your creative process?

LYNN: I think very much so, I am very aware that every action has a reaction, so it often fascinates me how something that might have happened to me, maybe some time ago, can find it’s way into my work. Often others see this more than I do, which I enjoy, most of the time!

ANTHONY: Has the move to this new focus been a natural progression in your growth as an artist, or was it a sudden change in direction, and if the latter, what brought it about?

LYNN: I would say it has been a natural progression, as I have worked more, my confidence has grown, and that obviously has a direct impact on my work. I used to worry more about what my work appeared like to others, whether they would like it or not, now I am more inclined to trust my instincts. If it feels right to me, then I am happy.

Glimpse

ANTHONY: Most of the art posted on your website seems to be linked not just thematically, but in terms of the “characters” in the pieces. Is this because you’re more comfortable with certain facial structures, or is it a choice to feature the same woman in each piece?

LYNN: The face is one that re-occurs, no idea why – I have tried to change it a few times, but it persists!

Strong as a Feather

ANTHONY: Your oil & acrylic, water-colour and ink drawings all seem linked by that common theme, but your mixed media work feels like an almost totally different creature. The mixed media pieces seem less fantastic and more … eerie, perhaps is the word I’m looking for. Like the piece in the photo named disp5, which puts me in mind of a hand congealing out of water vapor and feels a bit nefarious. Talk to me about the differences between the more traditional mediums and mixed media in terms of creative process.

LYNN: When I was at college, I struggled to decide between taking painting & sculpture, and now I find myself being drawn back to 3D works again and exploring these a bit further. It is more of a challenge to work in this way, but with the works I have done so far, I have not planned it too much and let the works evolve as I go along. I find if I consider things too much, the work will be more rigid, so although it might take a bit of playing about at first, at some point, the switch will click and I will get good results.

Regarding this work in the photo, the reactions are either they love it and are fascinated by it, or it freaks them out, always good to get a reaction!

Another mixed media work

ANTHONY: You’ve done some exhibitions, but your site also mentions the possibility of purchasing prints of your work. I do have some readers in the UK, but I’m curious about someone from the States purchasing a print. At this time, are you able to sell and ship your work overseas?

LYNN: I can ship prints and originals if necessary.

ANTHONY: Do you have a current project you’re working on?

LYNN: I am working on a personal project, Displacement. The work in this will be quite different to that which has gone before.

Also I am working in collaboration with Indian artist, Somu Desai, on Ceangal, a project to hold international artists residencies in NW Scotland in September 2012- a totally new and exciting venture!


ANTHONY: Any events coming up with your work that you’d like folks to know about?

LYNN: I am travelling to India in Jan 2012 to meet artists, experience indian culture and see some residencies in progress there, so will be blogging about that, and looking forwards to seeing how it affects my work on my return.

ANTHONY: And my usual final question: What is your favorite book, and what would you say to someone who has not read it to convince them that they should?

LYNN: That is a tricky one! I don’t know that I have a particular favourite, but two that I have read recently twice (unusual for me) are Nine Lives by William Dalrymple, an amazing insight into what people will do for their beliefs, and Invisible by Hugues de Montalembert, an amazing but honest memoir by the artist who was blinded by burglars who threw acid in his eyes – inspiring!

ANTHONY: Thanks again, Lynn!

You can follow Lynn on Twitter as @lynnbmackartist, you can visit her webpage to see more of her work, find her on Facebook, read her blog, join her on linkedin, and follow the Caengal project.

Share