Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Working on a Novel

No, no, silly. I'm not working on a novel. My attention span is nowhere long enough for that. Haven't we met? I used the title as a way to grab your attention.

I have been working on a book this summer with GQ though.  Her second novel, FanGirl! Her second one! It hasn't even been a year since she put her first one out. She's quite prolific.

Ever since GQ came up with the idea for FanGirl! she has wanted to get me involved.  The first idea she came up with was to have  scenes from the graphic novel that is a main part of the story mixed in with the chapter titles.

GQ asked me if I thought that I could do these illustrations.  I thought about this, and decided that yes, I could do this.  I love comics. I love drawing, but I don't do it very often. This will give me something to focus on and what a great opportunity.

We talked about the fact that I would have to really be focused (I may have some focusing issues I have focusing issues) and stay on schedule.  She had a timeline for getting the book out by a certain date.  

After thinking about what the drawings I wanted to were I started thinking about the fact that although I love drawing, I'm not the greatest artist.  I have problems with perspective and things looking very flat and 2D. I decided that I was not going to take the responsibility of giving her crappy looking drawings to go with her story. 

I told her this, and she tried to convince me otherwise, but I stuck to my guns. We agreed that we would look around and ask some of the artist friends we have if they'd be willing. No one had time, and several people just told GQ or me that they thought I should do it.  I was very flattered, a little disappointed in myself, but still no closer to having a solution.

Flash forward to illustration issues being solved. See above for pics from the book.  For whatever reason GQ still wanted me to be involved.  I was very willing to help, but not sure what I could do.  

We agreed that I could do some of the "fixing" of the document after her editors had finished their jobs.  I can do that.  I did that. Then we go to the point of needing to converting the format from a Word file to what is needed to upload for an ebook.  

I downloaded a couple of books from Amazon about this. I read up on it, and it seemed like something that would be pretty easy. I was going to learn to use HTML (a computer code that makes the words on a Site look like actual words instead of lots of symbols with words interspersed between them. I was going to learn to use new programs to make all this flow seamlessly from one format to another. 

Well, it wasn't hard, but there were definitely more steps involved than what I gathered from reading those books.

Not to be thwarted I continued and was successful! Now the easy part - inserting the images into the document. Wait. Did I say easy? I meant the part that made the converting the document seem like child's play.

The steps in the books that talked about adding images were easy enough, but making that transfer from page to my fingers was not so easy.  Time and time I would try and think that it would be successful. Time and time again I would go to preview the page and be greeted with this - 

I HATED seeing that, but I saw it again and again and again.

Luckily, GQ has a computer genius(AG) bff and she was able to step in and make it work. On her computer. ARRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!

This goes on for a couple of days.  Back and forth with AG.  Now I know a good bit about computers. I can do all kinds of things that a good number of people can't do.  However, there's a wall that I come up against, and I was staring at that wall.  That. Damn. Wall.

I am staying up late trying to get this done. I had more than 20 files saved with some sort of variation of the word "fangirl" in my download folder.  I was not going to give up, but I was frustrated to say the least. We have Comic Con coming up in a few days and GQ wanted it DONE before we left.  (insert angsty "arrgh" from above here X 3)

One morning I woke up and GQ told me that AG had it fixed. For real. For good. Come to find out that we needed an Adobe program, InDesign, to get it done, and when AG put it in there it literally took 8 seconds.  Big sigh of relief.

So it got done on GQ's schedule.  She kept her faith in me and was very understanding the whole time most of the time of the limits of my technical know-how. I am very grateful to her for including me in this process.  Her writing is a HUGE part of her, and for a while I had a hard time understanding that, but I do now, and for her to include me means a whole bunch.

Now the novel is out in both Kindle format as well as paperback. Links to both sites are up above at the beginning of this entry.  If you're a Nook user you'll have to wait a couple more months to get it on that reader, but it will be worth the wait. FanGirl! is a good, fun read.  Of course I have a huge bias toward the author, but I think I would enjoy the story even if it wasn't written by my best girl.

Do yourself a favor and go get it. Well, I suppose you'd be doing GQ (and me) a favor, but it will be worth your time, money and effort.  And if you want to do another favor you could write a review on either the Amazon page or the CreateSpace page of the book.  When books have reviews more people are willing to take a chance on it. 

I'll leave you with this.  I am currently looking into getting InDesign so that I will be able to continue to help GQ on her author's journey.  She's well into a new story that she got inspiration from earlier this summer when we were on a boat ride, as well as a continuation of an earlier novel.  She amazes me.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Things That I Used To Do

Take it Stevie

I woke up last night as I do sometimes and couldn't get back to sleep.  Instead of rolling around trying to get back to sleep and wake up GQ I got up to read a little, despite knowing the research says spending time in front of artificial light reduces the chance of going back to sleep.  Actually I think that that research doesn't take into account that people who spend so much time in front of artificial light aren't effected the same way as normal people.  Call it evolution of the species.  Anyhoo. 

The book I was reading was the Tucker Max outtakes book. If you haven't read Tucker Max and you're not easily offended and/or if you're highly amused by someone acting like a complete sociopath then maybe you should check him out. If you fall into one or both of those categories you should maybe check him out.  I'm not going to say that I recommended reading him to you b/c I don't want that responsibility. He's definitely not for everyone.  I digress yet again.

One of the stories in the book is about him getting arrested for doing something stupid. That got me thinking about things I did in the time of my youth.  Stupid, stupid things.  Things that could have gotten me arrested. I cannot even begin to imagine how my life would have turned out differently if I would gotten arrested. It literally caused me to have a little panic attack last night. I was thinking about a particular incident more than 20 years ago that I will not discuss.  Those files are sealed.

So my tagline in the Introduction section of the blog - I'm just trying to do some good to balance out the bad I've done  took on a whole new meaning to me last night.

On a somewhat related train of thought last week an incident happened that has made me rethink my idea of being YerLifeguard.

The Girls and I were heading home from somewhere and I noticed a youngish looking man seemingly passed out on the road. If you've known me for awhile then you know that this kind of thing causes me to assume LifeGuard Role.  It always has. Whatever it is inside of me that makes me do this just does. It's like breathing.  Anyway, this guy was dressed like a regular person, clearly not a homeless guy, or if you're under the age of 15 a Hobo (which is a whole other entry). 

So I turn the car around to go check on it. As soon as I slowed down R immediately says, "Please tell me you're not going to go back for that man."  I told her that I cannot just leave someone laying on the side of the road.  I promise that I'm not going to offer him a ride or anything, but I have to check on him.

I park a bit away from him, get out of the car and call out to him, "Hey. You all right?" He stirred and sat up looking very much out of it.  "Do you need anything?" I asked. "No, no I don't need anything..." he muttered. I sat there and looked at him for a minute and then noticed that can he had been holding was not a beer can but some kind of compressed air can.  Huffing.  I get back in the car, turn it around and head home.

R asks what happened and I talked about what he had probably been doing and how it is really bad for you. Coco and her asked a few more questions and I told them how people do stupid stuff for different reasons.

I dropped the Girls at home to go get R some food b/c she hadn't had dinner. As I was sitting in the drive through line I started thinking that I was not doing my job as YerLifeguard to the most important people when I did things like checking on passed out people on the side of the road.  So many things could have happened to me getting out of the car with an unknown situation like that, and in turn so many things could have happened to the Girls.

When I got home GQ was waiting for me.  She turned to R and said, "Come tell Daddy what you told me."  R told me that it really scared her when I did things like that and that she really, really wished that I would stop.  I felt like a total failure of a father.  I was not thinking of the safety of my two girls. I was thinking of someone I don't know that could have very easily hurt me and possibly hurt them.  

I weakly tried to explain myself, but GQ in her infinite wisdom told me that I could always call 911 and give the police or EMTs a chance to do their job. I felt like such a failure. I can't explain how realizing that I could have jeopardized the Girls in any possible way because I was doing what I had always done caused me to have an internal crisis.

I accepted this pretty quickly though.  I mean, seriously, what kind of idiot would I be if I tried to rationalize to myself that I can keep doing what I had been doing instead of taking the safer, rational route while still helping out.

I actually just talked to R and Coco about this. I apologized for not being the father that I need to be to keep them safe. I promised her that I would not engage people like that anymore, but call for help instead.  She got it.  Coco was just wondering what I was talking about and why I was keeping her from playing with Padfoot.

Sigh. Things change. Times change. You change with them or you risk  getting hurt or hurting those that mean the most to you. I am okay with this. I can still be YerLifeguard. I am still YerLifeguard, and I always will be. I'll just be doing it a little differently than I have in the past.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Comic Con Recap

GQ and I went to the San Diego Comic Con (SDCC) this past weekend. It's something I've been looking forward to for two years; ever since the last time I was there.  There are so many things I love about it and so many things that get me all crazyexcited.  Everything from the airplane ride out there - look, those people are from Cartoon Network - look, that guy has a Green Lantern shirt like yours - I wonder how many of these people are Cos-Players - to getting the pass & my swag bag to actually getting to go into the Exhibit Hall and see the cornucopia of things I love; comic books, super heroes, TV shows, movies, art, toys, t-shirts, movie props, and more.

I thought about and did write a post about how it wasn't what I really thought it was supposed to be.  I titled it, "The Dream Is Over". (Sheesh, talk about melodramatic). It didn't turn out like it did the first time GQ and I went, but you know, almost nothing is the second time around. I couldn't even really bring myself to take 1,548 pictures of all the people dressed up in their Cos-Play. I LOVE SEEING PEOPLE IN THEIR COS-PLAY OUTFITS!!!!So what's the deal?

I forgot about one very important aspect.  There are also 100,000+ others that are just as, if not more, excited as me. And we're all together in a space that, truth be told, isn't that big.  I mean the San Diego Convention Center is big. Don't get me wrong. Actually it's huge.  The problem is that Hall H, which holds approximately 7,000 people, has 15,000 - 25,000 people that want to get in it.  Ballroom 20, which holds 2,000 has 5,000 people that want to get in it. Clearly A LOT of people are not getting into those rooms.  Not only are they not getting in, they're standing in line waiting to get in for hours. HOURS. GQ stood in line for more hours than I'm willing to put down here.  It was not such a great experience for her, but going to SDCC you know you're going to wait in lines. As I've said, there are over 100,000 people there, and out of those 100,000 bunches and bunches want to see the same thing you want to see. So, a lot of people were probably disappointed that they didn't see what they wanted to see.

Personally, I went to several much smaller panels. Panels about comic books. That's a decision I made earlier this year when we bought our tickets.  Last time we went I stood in those lines and saw some great movie and TV previews, and got to see some cool, and not so cool, Hollywood stars and it was fun. It was more than fun actually because it was a new experience.  However, I wasn't ready to have that particular experience again. I saw some artists, writers, editors, and big-wigs from both Marvel and DC comics, and that was awesome for me. I was really happy with the panels I attended.  I got to go onstage during one of the Marvel events that I attended and preview an Infinite Comic. Infinite Comics are Marvel's next step in digital comics. I used to have a subscription to Marvel Digital Comics, and it was a huge collection of old comics that Marvel had gotten scanned into digital form. Infinite Comics are comics actually made for the digital format. They're very, very cool.  My only complaint about my panels is that sometimes there were two going on at the same time, and I had a hard time deciding which one to go see. Not a  bad complaint, I know.

The guy with the beard is Ultimate Spider-Man artist David Marquez.

The big guy there is the Chief Creative Officer of Marvel Comics (WHAT A GREAT JOB!!!)
Coming in October, Avengers Babies vs. X-Men Babies

The exhibit hall is my favorite part of the SDCC experience.  It has everything that I really love. It's the saying, "a kid in a candy store" except that I'm not a kid, and the candy store is more like a giant toy store. It's a world made for me.  The only thing lacking is good pizza, good coffee and drinks served with ice. Now, realistically, this year it was really overwhelming for me.  There were just too many people, and I don't know if there were more vendors or exhibitors or what, but it was full-on nuts in there. The pic above is GQ and me going into the exhibition hall after waiting for 3 hours with a young woman who was there for the SDCC exclusive toys. ESPECIALLY THE MY LITTLE PONY, and that's just one of them.

American Dream - Huzza Huzza!

These two folks are OMG DJ Judy and Agent M. They also get to work in super-awesome positions at Marvel Comics. You should look them up on Tumblr.

Do you know who that guy up there is?  If you said Gene Simmons of KISS you'd be right because that's exactly who it is! He was signing autographs for the Archie Meets KISS comic books. I asked the guy next to the guy with the glasses if I bought a comic could I get an autograph, and he gave me a look like one of Santa's Elves gives Ralphie in A Christmas Story when they're in the mall visiting Santa and said, "Yeah, if you go get in that line. Way. Back. There."

One of the other comic book panels that I sat in on was DC writer, Scott Snyder.  He is the current writer of Batman and American Vampire.  He's co-writing American Vampire with Stephen King.  Yes, that Stephen King. He writes comic books, too.  Scott Snyder just finished Batman - Court of Owls and is getting ready to reintroduce The Joker to DC after a 10 year absence. His plan is to make the Joker so severe and so crazy that no one will want to write another Joker story line for 20 years.

The last panel I will talk about is the Marvel Television panel.  I heard about how The Avengers - Earth's Mightiest Heroes is being transitioned into Avengers Assemble! which will be closer in spirit to the Avengers movie.  Head of Marvel TV, Jeph Loeb, asked the audience no less than three times if they had seen The Avengers. He's clearly very pleased with its success, as is the rest of Marvel. I heard about Ultimate Spider-Man cartoons that are on Disney XD tv and got to see a special screening of a not-to-be-seen until September episode where Loki turns Spider-Man into a pig - Spider-Ham.

The guy in the picture below is Bryan Lee O'Malley. He's the author of the Scott Pilgrim graphic novel series, Lost at Sea and his new one coming in 2013, Seasons. I got an autographed copy of the Evil Edition of Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life as well as a signed print from Seasons, of which there were only 200 copies.

So what's my overall take? Well, when it was all going on I wasn't sure that it was so great, but having just reread this post I think I had a pretty great experience.  I do wish GQ had had better luck with what she was going to see. I think the problem is that this thing is just getting biggerer and biggerer and biggerer, and that's not necessarily a good thing.  This is only my second time going. GQ's been three times, and in that time period it's gone from 'Wow! This is kind of nuts.' to 'Holy crap! This is INSANE!' 

Will I go back? I'm not sure.  GQ and I discussed trying out NYCC and seeing what that's like because it's put on by the same people, but it's either September or October in New York, so... Of course Marvel did announce the sequel titles to both Thor and Captain America which I would really be interested in seeing those panels, but I am really not interested in getting in line at 3 in the morning so I have a chance to see them 12 - 14 hours later.  I don't think I am willing to make that sacrifice. Of course, to quote Chuck Berry, "you never can tell."

Here are more pics from the trip - https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.4367938163656.2182720.1444012690&type=3&l=8e7204a4a6

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Comic Con!

So GQ and I are leaving tomorrow on a jet plane heading to San Diego for Comic Con 2012. If you're not hip to it then the best way to describe it is a gathering of Pop Culture - TV, movies, comic books, video games, toys and more.  Here's some shots of my first time two years ago - SDCC 2010.  

The Girls are staying behind with Grandma & PopPop hoping to get some good Cousin time in, and hopefully see the new Ice Age movie.

This is my second time going, and I'm excited SUPER EXCITED! When I got back from my first time one of the teachers I work with asked me how it was, and as I started to blather on about it she asked, "You want to live at Comic Con, don't you?" And you know what? I do!

So, I've got to finish packing and try to print out the schedule so I can read it on the plane and make sure I have enough batteries for my camera and clean my man room in case the dog/house sitter decides to sleep down here b/c it's the coolest room in the house (both types of cool).

I'll be posting stuff as often as I can.  If I don't come back it's because Comic Con doesn't make you sign something like they do at Disney World stating that "I acknowledge that I do not now, nor will I ever, reside permanently in the Magic Kingdom." and I've found a way to enter that world and not come back.

That wouldn't happen. I'd never leave the Girls, Marley and The Puppy Without a Name behind. GQ? She'd move in too if she could, so if one of us goes, we both go.

Speaking of GQ, she's just released her second novel this year (I KNOW RIGHT?!?), FanGirl! You can get to it here - FanGirl!
I'm amazingly impressed and proud of her.  It's a great story.  Much different from Wraith, her first novel.  It is in the YA field, and not yet available as a paperback or in Nook format, but both will be forthcoming.

Okay, peace out y'all. I'm going to finish packing and then be too excited to sleep.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Two Books Not Reviewed

I just finished reading two books, How To Be Good by Nick Hornby and The Fault In Our Stars by John Green. After reading so many books on my Kindle, well my Kindle app on the iPad it's kind of nice to hold a real book. 

Similarly to how I did not review The Avengers because there were already so many great reviews of it, I am not going to review these books.  I'm just going to give my thoughts on them.  I was going to review them, but I have a problem being too wordy, and this would have been too long, and blah blah blah.

How To Be Good  

For those of you not familiar with the name Nick Hornby, he is the author of About a Boy and High Fidelity.  Both of these have been turned into movies starring Hugh Grant and John Cusak, respectively.  Hornby is a British author and his books are very British. I totally love this, but then again I love many British things; although not the food.  Anyway.

I like the book, but the ending is a bit of a downer, and that caught me off guard. Overall I'd give it a B-. If you really liked the two I just mentioned and are looking for a similar book you're not really going to find it here. If you've never read Hornby before this might not be a bad starting point and then go to his others.  Here are some real reviews of it, if you're interested. 

The main thing I took from this story is that wanting people to do more to make the world a better place is all good and fine, but there's only so much you can do to change people.  I know GQ lives with this problem living with me and my recycling habits obsession. Reading this story has made me realize that I can do all the recycling I want, and encourage The Girls to do it, too, but trying to make someone do what I think is best doesn't really work.  Same thing with the character David in this book.

He wants the world to be a better place and begins to impose his desire on his family, regardless of how this makes their life more difficult than it already is.

I can see how this is similar to how people feel when others are wanting them to give more money or time, recycle more and waste less, etc.  Of course these are things that everyone should  do, and most are things everyone  could  do, but forcing people to do those things typically only makes you feel better.  A lot of the time it will make the others feel hostile toward you or whoever is doing the forcing.

The Fault In Our Stars

I love John Green's books.  I think John Green is an entertaining, funny and original author. He has a Tumblr that has some good stuff on it. Plus he and his brother have a very funny video blog

Again, not going to review it because you don't have that much time to read all my words. I give it a solid A. Here are some real reviews.

Here's what I love about John Green, and all of my favorite authors really: The characters.  I am able to connect to them immediately.  I may not always like them, although I did very much so in this story, but I can always find something with them that I can relate to.  

The main characters in this story, Hazel and Augustus, are great.  The side characters are as well. Isaac, their friend is one of my favorite minor characters I've read in a long time.

This story deals with cancer and cancer victims. This includes their family and friends.  Because John Green writes YA and juvenile fiction the characters are of course young. All three suffer from one form of cancer or another.  

Since the story is from Hazel's point of view you don't necessarily get a great point of view of the parents, but you the hopelessness they feel because of what their children are suffering is pretty evident.

I can't even begin to imagine how devastating it would be to have a child with cancer.  My mom is a breast cancer survivor. She was diagnosed with it when I was 12, I think, and I was not told a lot about what was going on.  I used to be bitter about that, but now I understand that it would have freaked me out completely and just given my parents one more thing to worry about.  

Having a parent with cancer is one thing. Having a child with it, or any other disease is another, and I am amazed at the strength parents have to deal with it, and hope and pray it is something that GQ and I never have to deal with.

I'll be honest. I cried a little reading this book. Luckily I was at the pool sweating in the crazy heat so the few tears that escaped were probably just another salty liquid streaming down my face.  Wearing sunglasses helped too, I'm sure.  Actually, it's not too unusual for me to shed some tears if a book is really good.  If you know me you know I'm a pretty sensitive guy.  Medication helps me not be a quivering mess of a sensitive guy.  

So, there you go. Two books. One just okay and one really great one.  If you're looking for something to read you won't have wasted your time with either of them.

Happy Reading

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Three Things

                            Someone's Got It Worse Than You

Several things have made this clear to me recently.  I am a pretty optimistic guy, but I still get bogged down sometimes thinking - gah! This SUCKS! Luckily though, I am also a fairly reflective guy (a recent acquirement, reflection).  

So, as I was sitting in the Emory University gymnasium the other day after three or four hours I was all, Man, this is going to be TERRIBLE.

After the 11th hour I was still thinking that, but then I noticed that there were LOTS of other people that had been there as long as I had.  Then as I was leaving after 12 hours I noticed that some of those people were STILL there and weren't going to be able to leave for at least another hour.

Add to that the fact that it was 106 outside and I got to spend all day in a very air conditioned building with the Girls cheering them on, I decided that it wasn't all that bad.

                                       Orange Juice With Pulp

You know what they don't sell in stores? Orange Sauce. It would be like apple sauce except it would be made with oranges. They don't sell that. Do you know why they don't sell it?  Because it would be GROSS!!!!
Recently I was on a trip with some friends and we bought some OJ, and we weren't paying attention because that's what we do - Not Pay Attention, and we got the OJ with "Lots of Pulp". It was very disappointing the next morning as I was pouring my OJ to see orange sauce come sludging out of the container. I tried to drink it and it nearly choked me it was so thick with pulp.

The container has a picture of a man and a little girl.  The man is laughing as the little girl drinks her juice.  I'm sure it's supposed to be the dad having a good natured, early morning laugh with his daughter as she enjoys her juice, but really what it comes down to is more like this:

                    Uncle Larry laughs at Becca as she drinks a glass of sludge.

My buddy decided to try and strain it with the coffee filter.  My initial reaction was great! Ugh, that's going to be the worst tasting OJ in the history of ever. But, he was taking the initiative where I would have just not drank it.  He poured some in and it just sat there. Do you know why it just sat there instead of filtering through the filter? Because it was 99.8% pulp and 0.2% juice.

I decided to go with this plan, and I scooped out spoonful after spoonful of orange sauce so the delicious pulp-free OJ could go into the container. 

It took forever.  However, I am proud to say that I was able to get three big glasses of OJ out of it. And it didn't even have a coffee taste.

Orange sauce. Gross.

                                           Super Heroes

The Avengers. The Amazing Spider-Man. The Dark Knight Rises.

The first one has already proven to be awesome (over $1 billion worldwide - that's INSANE), and in my opinion, the other two are going to be awesome also. I don't think they'll do as good as The Avengers, but the Batman one could.

Anyway, I've been reading some articles on what super heroes should have their own movies. I won't go into the whole list, I'm just going to focus on the one that makes me scratch my head in wonder.

Dr. Strange.

You're probably not familiar with Dr. Strange.  He's not your typical super hero.  He is The Sorcerer Supreme. So he does magic The Magik. You wouldn't understand The Magik.  I don't.  Captain America doesn't.  The only one that does is probably Dr. Doom and people from other dimensions.

So there's all this talk about a Dr. Strange movie.  I don't know why. I really don't.  I love super hero movies, but I wouldn't go see Dr. Strange. Even though the one picture I've seen of speculative actors to play him would be my celebrity doppelganger, Patrick Dempsey.

The Fandom says they also want a Justice League movie.  The Avengers movie got made, so why not a Justice League?  Because that would just be a copy cat knock off, that's why.  Marvel spent years building the roads and bridges that lead to The Avengers. If DC was going to do an JL movie they would have had to started several years ago.  

As it is now, they can't even get Superman out.  Henry Cavill's going to be too old to do a sequel, not to mention a JL movie by the time they get it out. Plus there's the whole thing of Batman. He's part of the JL, but it's Batman, not The Dark Knight.  This Batman has to work with people.  I can't see The Dark Knight working along side Superman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern, & Aquaman.

So, DC, I don't know.  They probably just need to focus on getting Superman out so they can keep a franchise going once Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight series comes to an end.