Oh, There He Is…

Yes, yes, absenteeism and the like.

It’s been a particularly trying Summer and a Fall that has been the slowest releasing of pressure that there could possibly be. I spent my summer leaping some pretty high hurdles involving my family, my day job, and my living situation. All settled and done with now but all three at once was an emotional triathlon I did not think I was prepared to handle.

And yet, here I am.

In June my father passed away suddenly. He would have been 83 in September and had been in generally poor (but not seemingly life-threatening) health for the past several years. There was a part of me that had been preparing for this but the hardest part of it all was him passing nearly 24 hours after I left my parents house to continue my vacation. One day of driving, a relaxing evening, and a morning that started carefree until I got a text from a family friend advising me to call my mother. I wrote about it (as is the writer’s custom when facing trauma) and shared it on my website and other places so it’s there if, y’know, you want a good cry and to find out what happens on Tiny Pony Island Day.

So that was a thing. Seemingly insignificant in comparison I also changed day jobs and found and moved into a new house. Neither of which are particularly traumatic but holy crap are they time consuming and exhausting. We moved in August and we’re still taking stuff out of boxes which is…maddening. But fun. In a maddening way.


At some point this summer I also found time to step into a life-long secret desire of mine: acting. Simple community theater of course but boy has it been a good outlet. That and, y’know, writing.

Speaking of the print version of the first Winston & Church Collection, Summer of Sins, is now available on Amazon and digitally wherever you like to purchase those types of things. Or, even better, you can get it from me at a convention or other place I may be selling stuff which, realistically, is anywhere that I am. Well, anywhere that I am and have my stuff with me (although feel free to just give me money if you see me out and about; that’s just good karma).

The second volume, Fall of Shadows, will be coming by the end of the year in both print and eBook so keep an eye out for that. If you’ve read and loved Summer of Sins please take a moment to leave a review, tell a friend, and generally gush to all parties about how great it is. If you didn’t love it…well, try? Or at least let me know what you didn’t like about it. That’s the only way we grow, people.

Speaking of shows, I’m getting my 2018 lineup together and hope for it to be bigger and better than this year. I’d love to do more travel, hit up shows I’ve never been to before as well as return to my favorite ones with new content. In addition to the Winston & Churchill Collections and my novel Shadow of the Past I hope to have a new comic project with me come February or March. Fingers crossed on that one but it’ll be a collection of interconnected comic shorts all by different artists. I’m very happy with the artists I’ve been in touch with thus far and I can’t resist posting a sneak peak from one of them, Claudio Munoz, who you can find on Facebook, Twitter, and his website. And his house, presumably, but that’s between you and him.

Anyways, more updates to follow as more things come together.

16

11 2017

24 hours after I left my parent’s house my father died

My girlfriend Bri and I went up to visit them over Memorial Day weekend and, while he was 82 and in generally not great health, there wasn’t anything particularly wrong with him.

We said goodbye to him the night before we left because we were leaving early in the morning and he never was (and never will be, I suppose) a morning person. I’d left a print copy of my first novel on their living room table and told my mother that we’d left a surprise for them. She messaged me later in the day saying that they both loved it and my Dad was blown away seeing it.

We made it to Ocean City, Maryland where we were staying for the day before continuing and the first stop on our four-day long scenic and circuitous route from Upstate NY back to Tennessee. After what could only be described as a near perfect day at the top floor of a hotel facing the ocean we woke the next morning and slowly got ready to check out and get back on the road. We decided to make a slight detour to Chincoteague Island, home of wild ponies and somewhere Bri had read about when she was younger. We were joking around and I was teasing her about it and she said “You can’t ruin Tiny Pony Island day!”

Not even a minute later I got a text from a friend of the family telling me to call my mother.

I didn’t believe her at first and was flabbergasted. How could it have happened? He was fine, or at least as well as I’d known he’d been despite type 2 diabetes, being overweight, and taking diuretics to lessen the fluid around his heart.

“It was quick,” she said. “It was how he wanted to go.”

I had made fun of them over the course of the weekend because they had shown off my father’s Do Not Resuscitate order, a practically neon pink sheaf of paper that was stuck to the refrigerator door among take-out menus and pictures of grandchildren that stared at me every time I went for a drink or to get a snack. I kept wanting to take a picture and post it to revel in the grim ridiculousness of it. I’m so glad I didn’t.

It began to coalesce as my mother calmly explained what was going on and what the Plan was and I just handed the phone to Bri and dissolved into tears. She told my mother we’d call her back and she comforted me as best as anyone could. I realized it was about 20 minutes to check out and that no matter what happened we weren’t going to spend another night there. I had to pull it together, finish packing, and get down to the car. Plus have breakfast. There were a few false starts but after I (kind of) slapped myself in the face a couple of times I was able to pull everything together.

Packed, checked out, and headed to get some food I called my mother back to see how she was doing. She was, of course, on the phone with others (my sisters, most likely) letting them know what happened so I left her a voice mail (”Hey, it’s me…if this is a joke now would be a good time to let me know…anyway, call me back”) and we went on to “Happy Jack’s Pancake House.” I told Bri that there was no crying in Happy Jack’s (also, funnily enough, my grandfather’s name as well as my Dad’s although he went by John). We both made liars of me. Our waitress did not bother us much.

Eventually it was decided that we would continue on with our vacation because there wasn’t going to be a memorial service or any traditional funeral and we were going to have a party to celebrate his life around his birthday (September 4th, right on Labor Day this year). My sisters were coming up to be with my mother and the friends and family up there formed an amazing support structure for her. I worried about her and how she was getting on but she was, and still is, remarkably unflappable. Ultimately, this was no surprise. It was something that, as I told many of my friends, something that could happen any day now.

It is incredibly difficult for me to wrap my brain around the idea that we were there, he was fine, and then he just…ended. I feel so fortunate I had that time with him (although the two years between visits will haunt me forever) and when I talked to my sisters a couple of days later they were calm as well (the mimosas helped, I’m sure), reminding me that he had often said he had no regrets and that he had seemed “ready.” I was standing at a scenic overlook on the Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park at about 3,000 feet above sea level and it was so difficult not to think about how maybe if I hadn’t visited and possibly given him some sense of closure he’d still be alive. It’s foolish and arrogant thinking I know but I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to shake it.

He was happy, we laughed, he told stories and both he and my mother later told me how much they liked Bri and vice versa. Given how sure I’ve become that she’s the love of my life I’m so thankful that they got to meet each other and she could see a large, if not the largest, part of what makes me who I am.

I have gained no wisdom or closure from this yet. Handling the grief was easy when we were on the road as there were so many distractions. Yes, we did visit Tiny Pony Island. I told her nothing would stand in the way of the John H. Cleveland III Memorial Tiny Pony Island Day and when you’re in Happy Jack’s Pancake House and you make a promise with your face wet with tears you keep it.

I love you, Dad.

06

06 2017

Early Spring Boards

The slow, cozy days of winter have finally seemed to thaw with an explosion of activity, which has its pros and cons. I’ve never been a fan of being out in winter weather (hence one of reasons for the relocation to the South) but observing it has always been nice. Things get very insular and contemplative, with lots of time for reflection, coziness, and solitude. Of course, living in the South is that winter is more of a “Geez, it’s like…20 outside. But at least the sun is shining” than the “It’s negative 20 with the windchill and the snowdrifts are up to my knees” that I’d had in Chicago so there isn’t much of an excuse to be a homebody.

This February has seen a bunch of activity and I know I’ve felt my own mental and creative energy having an early spring as well. I’m working on focusing in on some key projects that need to be finished and setting my eyes on others for later in the year to take the place of those when they are done. It’s nice to be re-energized and not just like some kind of cave-troll who is scribbling notes on a whiteboard and various journals.

The best way I’ve found to get creatively energized is hitting conventions, talking with other creative folks and fans and talking about the work I’ve got going on. I had my first convention of the year a couple weeks ago at the Huntsville Comic Con and it was a phenomenal experience, made even more so by the fact that it’s the first year for the show. Many new faces seen (and signed up on the mailing list) and talked to and it ended up being one of my best selling and most profitable shows that I’ve been to. I’m looking forward to whatever tweaks and refinements they make to it next year as it can only get better from here. In addition to selling books and meeting folks I also had a chance to share the table with Alexandria Torrejon as well. She wasn’t there on Friday but the prints of her Okami-stylized Eveelutions were a big hit on both days, despite me not really knowing much about the PokeMan and his pets. As she asked about what was selling and drawing the most interest on Friday I found myself hard pressed to answer specific questions. Thankfully, I had a system…

I think it worked out really well.

***

I’ve found myself thoroughly enjoying this new “winter movie season” where fun, blockbustery and not at all “fancy” movies are released. All of the sudden there’s been a veritable smorgasbord of stuff I want to see and last weekend made a point to see Fist Fight, Lego Batman, and A Cure For Wellness and I’d checked out Split the weekend before. All of them were exceptional and Fist Fight managed to very much exceed expectations. I’ve always been a fan of the movie Three O’Clock High, which was a staple of Channel 11 in NYC’s weekend movie broadcasts (others included Clue, Dirty Dancing, Breakfast Club, Return of the Living Dead, and The Jerk…all of which edited for television so seeing the unedited versions later in life was always a surprise), and it certainly had shades of that which was a real delight.

Other things I’m interested in checking out are Get Out (which will certainly be seen today), John Wick 2, Rings, La La Land (okay, it’s an awards season movie but I’m a sucker for musicals), and The Great Wall. I will admit that Great Wall began to slip off my radar but a writer friend said that it was surprisingly good and subverted the “white savior” tropes rather than enforcing them so I’m going to give it a shot before it completely falls away for other must-see fare like Logan and Kong of Skull Island.

Television has been rather captivating as well. Riverdale has been such delightful, addicting, yet spectacular trash. The second season of the Expanse has been an absolute powderkeg of great space-opera ideas and storytelling. I’d missed most of the second season of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend but its recent addition to Netflix will lead to some quality bingeing soon.

I’ve taken to podcasting listening as I exercise and The Message and its follow-up/maybe-sequel Life After have been standout favorites. I’m holding on to the last episode of Life After as it I don’t want it to end but I’m very eager to see how it all plays out. That kind of storytelling juxtaposition is always a delight.

The 5th edition D&D campaign I’m running via Roll20 for old friends of mine (which is a sequel to the campaign world I created with them for 2nd ed way back when we were in High School) has been one of my favorite creative endeavors to date and reminds me how much I’d love to take this world we created and push it out into things like comics. I’ve always wondered why fantasy and space opera haven’t been a bigger force in modern comics but maybe that’s something we can work towards.

And in that spirit, let’s get to work.

25

02 2017

Memorial Day, Derby City, and the June That Time Forgot

Lots of travelling since last we spoke. Yes, I did indeed spend Memorial Day weekend (after watching my not-so-little girl graduate) driving about in Southern Ohio, Eastern Kentucky and Tennessee before making my way back home. It was a delightfully leisurely trip filled with small back roads, hills, woods, small towns, tunnels, sneaking into public campgrounds to shower and finding out of the way places to sleep in my car (which is not as uncomfortable as it sounds but not as comfortable as I would’ve liked). The highlights of the trip were the completely out of the way spot I found off the highway that I’ll most likely return to camp at another weekend and finishing the outline of the Secret Project I keep alluding to. There’s something amazing about being out in the woods with no one else around for miles and leisurely writing until the sun goes down.

In the flurry of work and adjusting to some new medications (yay insomnia and hot flashes!) I was able to get in on Derby City Comic-Con in Louisville this past weekend, thanks to my friend and exceptional artist (and Louisville native with a couch I could sleep on) Adam Hicks (@gigatoast on Twitter and Instagram). I was able to get a portion of his Artist’s Alley table and, for the first time ever, sell my published wares there for the entirety of a convention. There certainly was a bit of trepidation on my part, not knowing the show at all, not entirely sure how a writer with a pair of comic anthologies and information about an upcoming print novel would fare. The answer was “pretty decent.” For being a small two-day show I did some good business, met some interesting people and finally had a decent set-up that didn’t look like I’d hastily thrown it together at the last minute (it was more “last minute adjacent”).

table

teamgigaweasel

A huge thank you to Adam and everyone I met and saw again at the show. I’m not entirely sure when my next show is (possibly Wizard World Columbus at the end of July) but #TeamGigaWeasel will ride again for sure at the Cincinnati Comic-Con this September 9-11. Those that know me may recognize that this is the weekend of my birthday those who know me closer still will know it will be my 40th, so this should be an interesting show for sure.

More news and Secret Projects are around the corner and will be revealed soon, so keep an eye out for them.

28

06 2016

Commencements, Cinema, and Camping

I’m realizing there are a lot of firsts and strange anniversaries this year and in this stretch of time specifically. Next weekend my daughter graduates High School, the mind-blowingness of that only surpassed by the fact that she will be 20 in November, about two months after I turn 40. So very, very strange. I’m travelling back up to Ohio (twice in the same month) this coming Thursday to see her graduation and then watch her dance recital on Saturday. To say that I’m as proud as I am astonished at how lethargically yet quickly time moves would be an understatement.

I had been thinking about staying in Yellow Springs for the weekend but my usual crash-pad will not be available so I’m rethinking things a bit. There’s a part of me that wants to make a long, leisurely drive home from southeastern Ohio through Kentucky & the Smokey Mountains of North Carolina with no real plan and sleeping bag for the back of my car. We shall see. I’m at some kind of weird mid-life crisis stage of my life but we’ll see how weird we’re willing to push it.

***

I’m sure it will be no surprise that I saw and really, really enjoyed Shane Black’s “The Nice Guys.” I’m a sucker for oddball crime comedies and this one hits in all the right spots. Smart, funny, kind of touching and brilliantly acted by the entire cast (not just Crowe and Gosling, who are superb).

I’ve been throwing myself at movies a lot lately, which is fun but can be a bit pricey, be it at the theater or to buy stuff to watch at home. I tend to make plans to see stuff in the theater and then miss it anyway, which is strange, but we’re at that strange spot of the summer where there’s something new and interesting out every weekend. This weekend it’s The Nice Guys, next weekend it’s X-Men: Apocalypse which will probably hit a completely different sweet spot. Either fun-popcorn or so-bad-its-good. I finally exposed myself to the newest Fantastic Four movie which was such a crippling disappointment but still better than some of the other entries into the series. Per usual, when I see a bad movie about something I like I find myself spending a lot of mental energy trying to fix it. Sometimes that’s a waste of time, other times it leads me down some interesting trails and a new idea for something.

Like I need more of those, but still.

This summer has been pretty good to me so far, what with Captain America: Civil War and The Nice Guys being phenomenal and Batman v Superman being…a movie that I saw. No, I kid. I did enjoy it, despite its flaws. I wish it had been pitch perfect (maybe a capella mash-ups would have made it great, who knows?) but it still had some great moments and hopefully the franchise will now move in a slightly better direction due to its response. This summer still brings us Independence Day, Conjuring 2, The Purge: Election Year, Ghostbusters, Star Trek Beyond, Lights Out, and Suicide Squad. I’m sure some others will pop up on my radar as well but that’s a pretty interesting summer. I mean new Ghostbusters, new Star Trek and a Harley Quinn movie? Um, yes please. While I was pretty disappointed in Into Darkness this new film, co-written by Simon Pegg looks really great thanks to the second trailer for it.

I was talking to a friend on Facebook today as well about the Purge series, which is strange and kind of disturbing (and also eye-rollingly bad in parts) but has always had an interesting premise. I think a Purge movie set in Vegas as a group of crooks tries to pull off a big heist during Purge night would be really interesting. Or a Purge story set in a small town, where everyone knows everyone and the implications of freely killing your neighbors are a lot more personal. Watching all those small town rivalries and such build to a climax would be interesting.

***

New Secret Project is chugging along, albeit a little slower than I’d like. On the cusp of showing off some stuff for an upcoming comic project, so that’s good. I may or may not be going to Indy Pop Con and Derby City Con next month, although the later is more likely than the former. Pretty soon I’m going to be an expert on driving from Nashville to Louisville, which seems to be turning into my gateway to the North.

Okay, so I guess I’ll leave you with a little something

samplepanel

21

05 2016

Highs and Lows, Plans and Schemes

Last weekend I drove back to Yellow Springs, my “midwestern hometown” (not to be confused with my “actual hometown” of Montclair or my “family’s hometown” of Sackets Harbor), for Free Comic Book Day at my old stomping grounds of Super-Fly Comics & Games. In the past I’ve just gone to hang out with my friends and see whatever musical act they had performing that night. This time around I went more with the purpose of selling copies of Monstrology & Book of Dragons, as well as do the usual spreading the word about stuff I’ve got going on. All in all it was a very successful trip and I made more sales that day than than the entirety of my time at C2E2 earlier in the year. It was also great to see my good friend Adam Hicks and finally meet one of my inspirations, Vito Delsante (and his delightfully charming family). Plus, musical guest Juice Lee was a great way to close out the day.

I’m quite happy how it all turned out, but it also showed me how poor my performance at C2E2 was rather than how great FCBD at Super-Fly was (although it was pretty great). That’s not a condemnation of C2E2 as a show, either. It’s more about my lack of planning and preparation for that show and not working to put myself in a better place for it. Something that I will, hopefully, rectify this year. There are a few other shows I’m looking at hitting up soon so fingers crossed that they work out as well.

***

At my day job this past Friday (yes, Friday the 13th) we had a rather significant shake-up that, while initially troubling settled relatively well. It’ll certainly make for an interesting summer there, for sure, but one of the things brought up was the opportunity to take June through August off (unpaid and uninsured, but with unemployment). While kind of crazy I had a moment of wishing it was something I could have taken advantage of. I come into some money every July from a cashed-in retirement plan but this year a lot of that is already spoken for paying off debts. If that wasn’t the case and with the ability to get unemployment during that time it may have been something I would have taken advantage of. The ability to try to focus up on writing and working on projects, as well as going to as many shows as possible to sell and promote myself, would have been a really interesting opportunity. We were only given the day to consider it and the lack of preparation would have made me a nervous wreck but certainly has captured my imagination these past 24 hours or so. It certainly makes me want to plan better (I mean, everything does) for the possibility of that happening next year.

***

Projects are proceeding apace. My Secret New Thing had its first production meeting this week and it’s made me very happy thus far. It’s something completely new and different for me and I have some really great partners working on it with me.

Prose fiction is still kind of stalled out a little bit as my mind has swung back towards thinking about comics this past month or so. I’ve cranked out some good ideas and finished the first draft of a new script and looked over an old (verrrrrry old, like seven or eight years old) script and wasn’t immediately repelled and disgusted by it. So that’s something and makes me want to get back into the world of that series that I had kind of put behind me for a bit. of course all of this comic making necessitates finding more artists (and finding ways to pay them) and that’s always kind of a humbling and challenging experience. I’ve been getting good work from two of the artists that I’ve been doing projects with recently so maybe there’s a little hope there.

***

Speaking of comics, it was announced today that comic artist/writer Darwyn Cooke passed away last night after a battle with cancer. It’ such a huge loss to the artistic and comic communities. I’ve found his style dynamic and original since seeing his run with Ed Brubaker on Catwoman. The New Frontier, his exploration of the entire DC universe set in the 50s and 60s, is one of the greatest versions of those characters and his comic adaptations of Richard Stark’s “Parker” novels (some of my favorite crime novels of all time) are some of the greatest works in the entire comic medium.

Truly, a giant talent has been lost. Thankfully, we will always have his work to remind us and help us celebrate him.

14

05 2016

Tenneversary

So today is the first anniversary of my move to Tennessee, my “Tenneversary” if you will. It’s been an interesting ride to say the least, seeing some of the highest highs and the lowest of lows but things have begun to even out quite nicely. I’d never seriously considered the idea of living in the South and now that it is upon me I find myself rather enchanted by it. Sure, there are plenty of things that a quite liberal, fairly atheist, lifelong Yankee find a little…perplexing (So. Many. Trump. Signs) but on the whole I’ve found a decent job, good friends, and a nice place to live that once again reminds me that if I can’t live in The City (wherever that may be) then I’d much rather live in the country. Far more palatable and relaxing. The suburbs are always just…weird. No matter where you go.

After moving twice in the past year I’m also certainly not looking to do it again for quite a while. I did a fairly large purge of things when I moved from Chicago and now I find myself building them back up. I had a rather extensive sale of books and comics and things of that nature and I’ve found myself leaning heavily back into that. It’s a little strange to have a (little) disposable income again and a lot of that seems to be going towards furniture and toys and decorative things and maybe, one day, saving up for more tattoos. I’ve also found myself strangely interested in buying a lot of movies lately. Not just the fun new releases like The Force Awakens or Sisters but older classics that I’ve really enjoyed. Granted, some of them are hard to find and I’m very cheap but it would be really great to own copies of Clue or L.A. Story or The Jerk or the Cornetto Trilogy. I had a long stretch of time after the second time I moved where I didn’t have internet and it was very frustrating not having all manner of streaming media available to me at the push of a button. It’s weird accumulating more stuff after I’d spent my last several months in Chicago contemplating downsizing and tiny home living. Who knows, maybe I would be happy living in a Gulfstream trailer or “tiny house” or even a refurbished shipping container if it had the right stuff in it.

One of the biggest changes in the past year has been actually getting my drivers license and getting my own car. It’s been a nice change to be able to zip around wherever I like and I’ve found myself enjoying driving on country roads in random directions with the windows down and the music up as the winter fades away into the rear view. I’ve already made a pair of road trips to Chicago and back and it was nowhere near as stressful as I’d imagined it would be. I will say that I’m quite happy I’m no driving in the age of GPS as I can’t imagine struggling with directions on my own over long periods of time like I was some kind of caveman.

One of those Chicago trips was for my annual appearance at C2E2 which, while always a blast to see the circle of friends that come through there (especially the Super-Fly Comics gang) it wasn’t particularly successful on the selling things front. I managed to be in Artists Alley the last day of the show to see if it changed my luck (and it did, a little) but it was certainly an eye opening experience. I learned a lot and am looking forward to going to more shows over the course of the year not just as a “guy who is in a booth that sells comics but is selling his own things” but as “a guy in artists alley that has a variety of fresh and exciting things to sell and upcoming projects to talk about.” I’, hoping that by the end of the year I’ll be on an at least once-a-month plan of selling at conventions.

Speaking of projects things are coming along nicely. The print version of SHADOW OF THE PAST is imminent and the print version of the first Winston & Churchill collection SUMMER OF SINS will be right behind it. Or perhaps I’ll wait and release all 12 stories in a big honkin’ omnibus edition, but we’ll see how that goes. Two of the comic projects I’ve been working towards are inching closer to success and, because I’m a glutton for punishment, I’ve got two other little things that have begun to percolate onto the page. Soon I’ll once again I’ll find myself the Special Hell comic writers often find themselves in: trying to find an artist (and in this case “artists,” plural, as I’m looking to do a bunch of 8 and 16 page short interconnected stories). As if that wasn’t enough I’ve also been working on a second novel and a SECRET PROJECT that only a couple of people know about right now. The only thing I’ve stopped working on has been the Super-Fly Podcast, as that came to a rather abrupt end of about six glorious years of weekly episodes. That’s a lot. Like, a lot a lot. I guess something had to give and I am a little sad it was that but after six years how much more can you say about nerd culture and retail? I do miss it some and who knows, maybe something else will spring up in it’s place. As I’ve learned this year the only constant is change and I’m looking forward to see what other changes come along as I begin the march towards my 40s.

28

04 2016