To Ben, to Sarah, and now, to Jack.

• Thursday, March 31, 2011 3 comments
So I keep looking at this picture that I got off of Facebook...

I don't want to post it. Mostly because I'm not really sure if that would be okay. I'm fairly certain if celebrities have a problem with random websites putting up pictures of their newborn babies, it's probably not in the best taste to do it on my little tribute to myself out here in the middle of the internet.

But the picture is of my friend, Ben Garner, and his newborn son, Jack.

I've had a unique privilege when it comes to Ben and his wife Sarah. I remember sitting in my room, my senior year, cordoned off in my darkened room, and one of the only visitors I tended to get, who would stick around, talk, was Ben. You see, Ben was the first person I met at Bennington College, a roller coaster ride that involved two men with pony tails looking for a copy of Thriller and disposing of/storing cutler under dorm room beds [okay, it only happened once - and no, it's not a euphemism for anything]. But anyway, senior year. I was less pleasant to be around my senior year, that I'm sure of, but it never stopped Ben from popping by, because he had a girl, which was not odd for him, but what was odd was that Ben wanted to talk about her. This one particular girl. This girl he was more than taken with. Sarah. His Sarah.

He was never bold enough to just out and say that to me. Besides, we were guys. Guys don't say that stuff to each other. But I could tell. There was some lovey-dovey, possessive pronoun talk just under the surface. Dude was in love.

Sarah was one of those women that a lot of guys what. She complimented Ben. She was a little more straightforward, she was less whimsical... but she shared this talent that I always saw in my friend too, which was this ability to see and pull beauty from things that, like many of things Ben appreciated himself, and I personally hardly noticed anymore. Flowers, especially, I remember these brilliant flower arrangements she'd do, gorgeous colors that she'd bring out even when I thought the seasons had faded them, they'd look alive in the vase. Brand new.

I always relate bright colors to Ben. Something about a big bus. That part you'd have to ask him about.

I could say more. I wish, honestly, that I had my wedding toast that I gave written down somewhere, so I might share that. But I chose to wing it, actually I didn't really have any plans to speak, but I had something to say, and I was told several times that evening that it was quite wonderful [so much so, that Sarah's mother offered to put my wedding together in repayment, which was very sweet considering I'd met her just hours before]. It's lost now though, gone in the in the haze of the intense alcohol consumption of that night, washed away by the rain that soaked my suit as I waited for Ben's father to give me a ride back to my hotel. Shame. I winged it then, like I'm winging it now, but I feel like that night was special.

Their wedding, and maybe more so the next, seeing them off on their honeymoon, looking at them arm and arm, dressed more like I remembered them from school [suits and wedding dresses color things]... I count that day among some of my fondest memories. So naturally, when I pulled up Facebook, I saw this, and that same feeling came flooding back to me:


"Jack was born at 8:39 am Monday. He is 7 and a half pounds and 21 inches long. Labor began Friday afternoon." - Sarah Garner


Kind of simple. Straightforward. Certainly expected, as Sarah had well-documented her swelling [in that way where it's not insulting to say someone is swelling], the whole pregnancy for those of us far away to see. World we live in now, the beautiful moments posted up like adverts on a bulletin board. I think it's why the feelings we attach to them matter so much more. I mean, it's highly unlikely Sarah even posted that herself, probably someone else, with access to her account, just to let everyone know.


Still, it's a hell of an announcement. Jack Garner, son of Ben and Sarah Garner, welcomed into the world. And I have this picture now, of my friend Ben, looking pretty different, looking pretty grown up, holding his son Jack. Looking a touch overwhelmed, a little surprised, but more than capable. Beyond capable. And Jack... well, if you ask me, I already see a resemblance between the boy and his mother and father.

Congratulations, Sarah, Ben. Welcome to the world, Jack. It's been my pleasure, even though I wasn't always present, to get to watch you guys become a family.

---

On the home front, things here have been strange. Had some worries there for awhile about some financial stuff, but it all worked itself out. Also some good news, seems the outfit I do my book reviews through, they legitimately seem to like the work I've been doing, so I'll probably be getting a few more books each month to go through. It was kind of a surprise, I guess when I finish a review I always sort of expect it to be my last, to get an e-mail that says I have totally missed the point and there's no way they can accept this. But the quite the opposite is true, it seems. It's very good news, not just for my ego, but for my bank account.

I wrote previously it was in my plans to work on the peep show screenplay over this past weekend. I did okay, wasn't really getting anywhere, but I was trying some new things, and felt like maybe I'd stumbled on a pretty good fix, if I could just execute it properly. But Mom dropped off a stray box of stuff, something left behind in the move [some days I wonder if I'll ever stop getting boxes of things left behind in my sudden relocation], and going through I found a stack of postcards from my Dad, so very much like him, but also a little like me, in the wording, the tired, almost mopey, but still endearing glibness. One even had a stack of post-its stuck to it, a favorite trick of dad's, a short letter on what was probably about half a pad of those little sticky-backed pieces of paper. I can't imagine the post-office would have let him send those stuck to a postcard like that. They must have been mailed, stuffed in an envelope, or a care package, or some comics, or something else.

I don't remember. Reading them... broke me up a little bit. Kind of put a kibosh on the writing. I remain, sometimes, too sensitive for this kind of work. Sometimes, when people call Sterne sentimental, I laugh, and wonder how that could have been true, when he actually got things done? Oh, puns.

Never stops feeling like a weakness. I don't see my peers pulling off to the side every time some memory gets a little too hard to handle. It is probably not a trait of the successful... which, seems bolstered by the fact that it remains a trait inherent to me.

I've been conflicted about other things too lately. The week+ without a post was not intentional, and is not, for once, a sign of inactivity by yours truly. In fact, I've been writing for a couple of hours most days, but in a dramatic change of pace, mostly on paper, which is killer on my hand, and not great when I'm looking to feel accomplished. As I've complained to some of my friends, for some reason, writing not done at the keyboard doesn't seem much like writing done at all to me, so it's been hard to come on here and say I wrote what could be a romance comic book, everything but the layouts and interludes [yep, it needs interludes], when there's no polished copy in Final Draft to show. It's ridiculous that I don't register writing on paper as "counting" as writing - that seems to be the consensus among people I've asked, though many have sympathized with where I'm coming from. And it's really the best kind of problem to have - a non-problem, and I'm just glad to be filling up a moleskin, and relishing those moments when I can't quite write as fast as what I'm working on is coming to mind.

Plan is to break the habit. Get a little more work done. Post here again much, much sooner.

Justin Cornell Relaunches his Website, Pre-Premieres New Sketchbook

• Wednesday, March 23, 2011 0 comments

My friend and Calamity Cash comic collaborator [now there's some Stan Lee-worthy bullpen alliteration] Justin Cornell has recently relaunched his website, the aptly named justincornell.com, and has also given his oft-linked blog a fresh coat of paint to match. Justin's wanted to do a big redesign since his website was hijacked a few months [a year?] back, and the end result came out especially impressive, I think, reflective of Justin's straight-forward, no-bullshit style and off-beat sense of humor. You can check out some of his samples there, and if you're so inclined [why wouldn't you be?], you can order prints of some his older work too.

Most importantly, Justin has set it up so you can pre-order his official sketchbook, "Sketchbook-HO!" the first release from Vanderhuge Studios. The characters featured are various personalities from history, pop culture, or anything else that piqued the artist's interest, or that he just felt inclined to draw, and his unique takes on similar subject matter has already impressed at the locally-held Buswater on the Boulevard Show in Charleston this past winter. The really cool thing is, for an extra ten dollars, you can get a personalized drawing by Justin in your sketchbook too, pretty much insuring that your book won't be like anyone else's.

Right now, Justin's looking at the store being a limited-time only part of the site, so if you're interested, it's good to take advantage soon, or the opportunity might slip away.

Justin's also interested to hear if there's any bugs, or viewing problems in obscure browsers that he may have missed. If you find anything [or have any questions for Justin], just e-mail him at justincornell@justincornell.com. And as always, keep checking back, as Justin often has "Calamity Cash and the Town with No Name" artwork, sketches, and previews that I don't always showcase here, along with various projects of his own.

Updates. Also, who wants to talk about Roller Derby?

• Tuesday, March 22, 2011 0 comments
First up, and IMPORTANT. I'm tooling on a big project [re: Mary Hobb] which I want to feature Roller Derby in pretty prominently. I know some about the sport, but not a lot, and have been looking not only for a crash course [no pun intended], but also some people who are involved in it to talk to, to get some basic ideas of what the culture is like, specifically, the mindset of those who play, their camaraderie with their teammates and other teams, all of that. Inner workings, small things most people wouldn't think about, or realize. Pathos and atmosphere, too.

I've gotten in touch with one person so far, and am pretty optimistic about talking to them, but that's one person, and I know the wider my sampling, the better handle I'll have on all things derby. So, if you are on a roller derby team, and would be willing to talk to me, just let me know in the comments section of this post, friend me on Facebook, or e-mail me at mojo.wire.productions@gmail.com. Same goes for anyone who thinks they might know someone who'd be up for talking about it, naturally, along with any recommendations of books, websites, movies and anything else I won't necessarily get through Google searches on the subject. For the things I'm dealing with in this script, I really feel like derby is the best fit for the story, and because of that I want to be fair and respectful to the sport, and I know actually talking to some players is a way better way of representing it than just presenting it as the romanticized amalgam of punk rock, wrestling, and hockey that I've always pictured it as.

And don't worry, I've no plans to hit you with a boring questionnaire or anything like that. I just really want to talk, and take some impressions, maybe get a little insider info, and most importantly, do justice to this very interesting subculture.

Thanks to everyone in advance. I really appreciate it, and am looking forward to digging in.

---

Kind of a crazy Monday, only now really winding down. Which is probably good, because it's Tuesday.

Received some feedback recently on the peep show script. Sent it to a lot of people, but adequate time has passed now that I think I've gotten all the notes I'm going to get. Know what I need to do to finish it, just not entirely sure how yet. I need one of those Mr. Fantastic/Wrinkle in Time miracles that's going to allow me to get more in about one character, while also eliminating about half a page [roughly 30 seconds to a minute] from the script. Screenplay tesseracting. Why not? If you haven't seen it, and would like to, or if you're just interested in what I've been working on, let me know in the comments, and I'll send you a copy. Be glad for the extra eyes, or just the chance to share the story with you.

The peep show script is incredibly filmable, I feel. Could probably be done on a pretty modest budget [if not downright guerrilla-style], with just a little bit of construction and a good makeup artist. Honestly, the only problematic thing about it is the issue of extras... maybe finding a good actress willing to take her clothes off in an indie film. Depending on who you talk to, that can either be very hard, or very easy. Still, seems like a doable project, assuming all the talent/interest is there. Maybe something to poke around about.

A friend hooked me up with a pretty good resource for festivals. Much better than the outdated internet phonebook I'd stumbled upon. Now, it's just a matter of making good use of it. I have one finished feature [re: "Unfilmable"], which I think if I submit anywhere I'll probably be renaming "First Cut," and soon, two shorts that I feel pretty strongly about [re: "Nova" and the peep show script], so that's a good place to start from. Some of these places even take comic book scripts, which strikes me as backwards, but is encouraging. And I have more than a few other shorts that would just need some polish [re: "Christmas on the Titanic," "Walks with Angels," etc], and then I feel those could be responsibly tossed off as well. Need to start looking into registering these. For what I do right now, I'm pretty much covered legally, but if I'm serious about having folks look at these, I need something a little more solid to protect my work with.

I have a couple new comic ideas, not weird because I usually get a lot of ideas, but notable because they're mostly finished with how they came out in my notes. Outline, dialogue... rough layouts would be good, but since one is mostly talking heads, an artist might be hard to come up with. Neither have names yet.

One's a new Calamity Cash comic, though. Shorter than the other, simpler. It's not a new idea, but it's more a rough finished version of an older comic I had in mind. I've been way too on edge to sit down a do a lot of typing lately, but once this month is over, I'll have a better idea if I'm on solid ground for the foreseeable future. I'm not saying this stuff won't get worked on if I'm not, I just want a better idea of my schedule before I try to work out what's what.

Bugs me that I have to do that. I'd prefer to just be the kind of person to just sit down and motor through. I know a lot of writers who would, and do. I guess the short answer is that they're just better at this than me... I wish I wasn't at the mercy of other people's schedules, and my moods, but I am. Working on it.

A few quickie links before I head to bed. CheriAnn's deadline came up, and she finally shaved her head for St. Baldricks. You can read about the whole experience on her blog, and really get a look at the good she, and the other participants in the program, have done. The whole thing just makes me very proud to have gotten to know CheriAnn in the short time that I have.

A couple of Kickstarter things as well. With the tragedy in Japan, I know a lot of people have probably locked up any donations they might have made already, but if you can spare some small amount of money to support the arts, I'd like to draw your attention to these two projects.

The first is "Gigantic Sequins," a literary arts journal that was brought to my attention by poet Sophie Klahr. I don't know Sophie personally, but her blog is a favorite of mine, and anything she and her work is involved in is a worthwhile endeavor, and I'm certain those also featured in the "Sequins" are just as quality. The money goes to Issue 2.2, and they have a $500 goal they need to reach in less than a month.

The other is "Forever Young Fashion" by Rachel DeCavage, a fashion show being produced under Evergreen Design Co.'s banner. Rachel and I both went to Bennington College around the same time, but I will admit to not knowing her very well, if at all, honestly. However, I was turned on to Evergreen Design via Dee Goldsmith, and bought an organic or eco-friendly or some such t-shirt from them that I have kind of fallen in love with [if you know me, you know about me and t-shirts], made all the cooler knowing I was supporting [meager though said support was] a fellow alum's artistic pursuits. What can I say, I don't know a lot about sustainable design or fashion, but I can be won over with an awesome t-shirt, and I'm sure the more ambitious designs are going to be even more impressive than that. The project's looking to get donations in the area of $1,950 in little over a month, so spread the word if you can't at least spare some cash.

In both cases, don't just take my word for it, go check out the pages and the proposals.

I'll should be back with updates sooner rather than later. If I do fall behind, the blame can lay squarely on the shoulders of the Agatha Christie novel I stumbled upon in one of my grandmother's many boxes of used paperbacks the other day.

"Testicles, testicles, give me your keys." - A Calamity Cash Update

• Wednesday, March 16, 2011 0 comments
Had breakfast with Justin yesterday, talked pretty extensively about Calamity Cash [re: The Town with No Name].

Justin recently finished his first [technically second] sketchbook, which you can see some samples of in the past several posts on his blog, and is looking at July as his tentative date to be *finished* finished with the artwork for Calamity Cash. This has been a pretty long-term project for the both of us, just a huge learning experience with a lot of unexpected bumps in the road [and very little of it having to do with the project proper - maybe my next comic should be about all the things that can get in your way when you're trying to be creative and clever in your 20s], but with even a loose date set, you'll probably be hearing more about the comic again.

Some decisions are going to have to be made, of course, as that time comes closer. We're definitely going to print some, and I personally am not... certain how I'll be budgeting my part of that, but we'll definitely figure something out. And the book's about as long as two of your standard, direct market monthly comics, and in a weird sort of twist you can sort of tell. Justin worked in grays a lot in the early parts of the book, but switched to a starker black eventually, and as I've mentioned on here, I took the whole second part of the comic back to my drawing board and re-wrote it. Talk right now is learning towards cutting the whole project in half, which wouldn't be the worst thing for it, especially since, right now, it's slated to be a hulking 52 pages.

Slicing it into two parts might give us more room to move, and make the markedly different halves a little less jarring to the reader. Still, we're not sure if that's the move we're going to make, and have a few other ideas we might employ [one inspired by those big discount packs of 20 or more comics you used to be able to buy in Walmart and K-Mart]. But we have a lot of time until July, and are planning to discuss it more between now and the time he's finished up the art.

I also have to stress that the summer deadline is not a hard and fast rule for either of us. It's just a good cap to set by Justin, and I'm more than supportive of. But Justin's also got some other commitments and plans in the works [dude owns his own home, after all - roofs gotta have shingles], and I've got some... uncertainty in the next couple months myself, stuff that I'm really not ready to talk about here, but might call for some drastic altering of the way I... well, live my life.

We'll have to see. It's all up in the air for now.

Still, big news, and it's exciting to think about having Momma Cash and her daughter Calamity finally ready for everyone to see.

---

Something kind of unrelated, but still very important and topical. I've talked a lot about Amy Klein as of late [who was recently interviewed on the Village Voice website -- definitely check that out], but this post on her blog, about the recent string of disasters in Japan, was just really touching and I felt I should link it here. She spent a little over year in Japan after college, and her post talks about the music and the culture, while sharing a personal story of something that happened during her time there. There are also a lot of beautiful pictures of the country, a vision of Japan that is easy to forget with the images we're being bombarded with daily now. And the whole thing is, as always, wonderfully written.

Amy's also decided she's going to donate all the proceeds from her music to the relief effort, so if you've been waffling about checking out her solo album, or her side-project "Solanin," then there's no better sign to go and get them now at http://amyklein.bandcamp.com/ and http://solanin.bandcamp.com/ respectively.

One more thing, concerning Japan... quite a few people have asked me about my friend Ian Rogers, who was teaching English there until just recently, and whose blog I often link. Most likely, if you're following him on Facebook, you now know he's fine, and had left the country a bit before the disaster[s], but just in case, he is alive and well, and would probably love to hear from you.

"Nightmares" - A Half-Memoir

• Saturday, March 12, 2011 2 comments
It's funny. When I sat down to write about this, I pictured it all happening much earlier. But it actually started later in high school, around my senior year.

I was going through kind of a rough patch. The first inklings of the problems between Dad and I were starting to rear their ugly heads [which would, eventually lead to our short falling out while I was off at school], while at home, my step-father and I really weren't clicking like we used to. "Wearing out my welcome" might be the best way to put it. Which makes sense, of course -- I was a moody teenager, who wanted to spend the bulk of my time avoiding any sort of responsibility to save time for more moodiness. Other things were going on too -- I'd recently had one of my first real relationships fall apart, quite unexpectedly, and as in most cases with me and women, it hadn't quite lasted long enough for me to be properly prepared for the separation [funny, as I'm not sure I'm ever ready in those cases, even when it's quite clear the party is over]. I had probably just abandoned my journalistic dreams, as I was quickly realizing the only thing I really liked was having a soapbox, and being able to editorialize. News wasn't for me. And the choir, my sole extracurricular activity [think more "Glee" than church... and no, I don't believe for a minute that the distinction is any less embarrassing], was pretty much the most unpleasant part of my day, every day, and I'd soon be quitting.

God I was lame.

Anyway. It was around this time I started having these... nightmares. I guess it could have been a little earlier -- I do have a penchant for tweaking dates a little, to make things better lineup in my own head, and yes, sadly, even I can't always parse through my own bullshit anymore. But nightmares. Maybe it was because all of this stress, maybe it was just the constant grind of high school, that feeling that I imagine they recreate pretty well in hell -- not suffering, per se, but the doldrums, that sinking realization that today is just like yesterday, is just like the day before, and that the weekend, the supposed "freedom" of the week, is just like the weekend before that. Routine, nothing ever necessarily unpleasant, but nothing all that good either. Schedule, contentedness, absolutely no thought of any sort of future. Because how could there be? You had lived this same day for three years.

As a teenager, three years was a lifetime.

I didn't... cope well. I guess that's the big theme of my life, huh? But I didn't really feel like I had anyone to talk to about it, and in most cases, people don't really care what your dreams are about anyway. And solving the problem seemed... entirely simple to me. If I was going to have bad dreams, I just wasn't going to sleep. And though it took some doing [Mom could be something of a hammer], it wasn't like there hadn't been other times in my life when I'd waited for people to head to bed, and then got up to mouse around in the dark in secret. Pillow under the door muffled most sound. Soda under the bed got me the caffeine I needed.

Really all that was left was something to fill the time.

Reading was out. One of the few things that relaxes me, so it couldn't be that. And even if I was in that insomniatic state where sleep wasn't coming no matter what I did, comprehension would dip, and make reading pretty much useless to me. And I don't care for useless reading. There was television, and sometimes that was enough [in my early stages, I found a lot of late-night comedy programs that were usually truly awful -- though occasionally there'd be a diamond shine through, like a certain about to arrive star in the late Mitch Hedberg], but I didn't quite have the amount of engagement I needed, and I could still nod off. And that was no good. Typing tended to get the job done [plus it was hard to sleep at keyboard - boy do I miss those days], but the computer wasn't in my room, and that meant possibly getting caught, and having to sleep.

What can I say? I have always preferred to be quietly rebellious. I'm sort of... ashamed of it.

Video games ended up being my saving grace. For eight or ten months before graduation, the bulk of my nights were spent sitting at the foot of my bed, playing my PlayStation, specifically, Final Fantasy 7, or the re-released Final Fantasy 6. Over and over again, in perpetuity, alternating as I beat one or the other. Now, mind you, I wasn't doing anything so outstanding here... never took the time to put down Emerald Weapon, never found that Seventh Dragon [respectively], though occasionally I'd make the games harder by denying myself certain things, or going wildly off-path, just to see if the game had some way for me to get back. Of course, they always did. Neither RPG ever gave me the dead-end I was looking for.

Not even sure why I was looking for it.

It was remarkably easy to do all this, of course. I was young, my body didn't really care if the energy it was getting was coming from food or sleep, and I had the appetite of a teenage boy to pick up the slack. There was also all the caffeine, in just about any form I wanted it, from soda, to pills, to coffee, and it was easy to give myself a boost if there was something during the day I needed to be awake for. But honestly... I didn't need to stay awake most days anyway. My rural high school was not so demanding in its curriculum as to command my full attention. I remember a lot of times in class having time to read, play Game Boy, listen to music, and... if I felt desperate for a couple of hours, throw my head down on the desk and catch a quick nap. Oh, and the poetry. All those little notebooks full of my bad word play with meticulous spacing. I even remember a couple of them were from the Smithsonian, and had these... rubber covers. And glossy pages.

Practically water-proof. So perfect for all that angst.

I don't remember it ever getting to me, the lack of sleep. It probably did, but it's odd I can't recall it. I remember being weary. I think I was weary most of the time back then, everything always feeling so... heavy. But that was just school. No exhaustion though. No desperate need for a nap here, or there. Maybe a couple of days sleeping until noon, sure -- but again, teenager. Wasn't odd. It integrated pretty quickly into my everyday life, and if it ever caught up to me [which occasionally, it did], I was single, very little was expected of me, and I did such a good job staying out of the way that no one really noticed or cared if I needed to pass out for a day.

And this continued more or less into college.

Classes in college made it harder to keep up. The sleeplessness, I mean. Of course, at this point, a lot of it was happening naturally, I'd just... not think about sleep, and not really need as much of it. The haze wasn't as common either -- that thing that kept me from reading, kept me from understanding what I reading, it was something I'd figured out how to work around. And the time, mostly, went to good use, papers and studying and all that collegiate stuff. Now, naturally, m recall wasn't great. I really needed to look more closely at what I was studying, to get a better handle on it. It definitely wasn't always me at 100%. But I think I took a lot of pride in how close to 100% it was, when it wasn't.

I also started taking a lot of naps.

One or two terms in college, they became almost a daily thing. And there was a lot more sleeping in, not usually a problem, but occasionally, with an early class, a real killer. I overslept a few times. Not as embarrassing as not oversleeping, but waking up after just a couple hours in bed, thinking I had, and stumbling to where ever I thought I was expected to be, only to have said destination have a different class in it, or less embarrassing, but still head-slap-worthy, nobody there at all. And I'd forget things. Get headaches. One professor actually noticed, the only one who ever did, which isn't odd exactly, because Bennington profs tended to be pretty on the ball. But like with a lot of things in my life, I had gotten really good at hiding the little terrors I put myself through. And I certainly wasn't used to being asked about them, so when confronted, I just said exactly what it was. Probably one of the first times I'd ever just leveled with someone about it.

I didn't like sleeping. I had nightmares.

Sure. Give me the statistics. Tell me no one can have nightmares every night. Tell me no one can remember their dreams every night. Tell me I'm crazy. That last one I might concede to. But these were always awful -- maybe I wasn't Homer Simpson, maybe I wasn't kicking and screaming about cobras during them, but these were bad. These made me not want to sleep at night. They more or less made me wish I never had to sleep again, and took on a sort of... presence, you know? Like they were an enemy, just waiting for me to slip up, just waiting for me to nod off. So as I kept denying them the long-sleep [which I really didn't do... I was always caving to the long-sleep, to the regular sleep, and in those cases, I did my best just to deal], they'd find ways to sneak up on me. A nap in the stairwell of the art building would end 15 minutes later when I'd think there were hands around my throat. Couple hours sleep in the room would be interrupted when a perfectly average dream would end with a friend or family member shooting me in the back. A night where I'd just decide the hell with it, I needed my rest, would be a night where I was chased around my dorm, by whatever that was sitting at the foot of my bed.

I preferred those. The ones with the tangible scary, even the gore.

Yeah, they were awful. But my mind -- the enemy -- it got smart. Figured out how to really make a nightmare hang around, how to really hurt me not just while I slept, but in the waking hours too. Those were the ones I hated, the nightmares that would choose to exhaust me, that would show me the dead, alive again. That would give me back a girl I'd lost, or would never have, and give me everything else I wanted too, just as long as I knew I'd be waking up soon -- that it wasn't real. Make me happier than I could ever be in real life, and take it all away. Offer me answers to those big questions but, oh, no, you have to go. Next time. Somewhere downright cliché about it, and if, say, I had a rough week ahead? I'd dream my way through that entire week, Monday through Friday, only to wake up, exhausted, and realize just hours before Sunday night had just ended. The whole week was still ahead. Cruel. And as much as I blamed an outside force, I wasn't a moron, I knew it was self-inflicted. It was always just me.

No one knows how to hurt you quite like "me."

I didn't tell anyone this, but a little over a year ago, just before I decided I was going to do something about all these anxiety problems, my nightmares had more or less stopped. I don't know why. Things weren't any better when they did. The argument could be made they were much worse. Certainly had plenty of other things that kept me up at night. And sure, occasionally, they would come back, and they could be quite severe, but hey, not having them every time my head hit the pillow? I'd take that. And when they would rear their ugly heads, they would always be sure to make up for lost time [or maybe my skin just wasn't as thick... or maybe seeing Dad was just... a little too much], but again, it wasn't every night, and I could handle that.

I have no problem beating myself up like a normal person does.

Of course, a lot of the damage had already been done. My sleep schedule's a mess, and bouts of insomnia still hit me hard. But without the nightmares, there was this feeling of... normalcy, and occasionally it all would self-adjust.
And
I even got sort of complacent about it, you know? Like you realize you get about being well when you're sick for a long time. You just take it for granted, not feeling like garbage, so when the day does come that you do, when you feel awful and can hardly stand or keep down food, you say to yourself "No! No, when I get better, I will remember this, and I will appreciate not feeling like this, for as long as I can."

But of course, you don't. Why would you?

It is shame the nightmares are back. I'd have done well to not be reminded of all this. And though they're not as bad now [at least I don't think], and while it's only been for a couple weeks, thus making it entirely possible I'm just going through a rough spell, I could have done without them popping up again. And sure, there's that urge, still, to just sit up with them like people used to do with the dead, but it's not really healthy, and as I said, already I miss so much sleep from these little bouts of insomnia, or worse, from my own doing, when I have something I'm working on, when I'm pushing myself towards some finish. "Doing the writer thing" as a friend put it -- typing, or scribbling, and forgetting that I might need a little sleep, a little something to eat, while I wonder why the hell I feel like crap.

So yeah, this can stop. I've got other reasons to stay up. I don't need this any more.

Esquivel/Sarabia [Black] Terror Campaign, Postcards from Afar [Key West & Vienna]

• Saturday, March 5, 2011 2 comments
First up, a bit of a favor.


This will actually seem kind of silly on my part, since Eric already has far more online/comic book community exposure than I do, but I wanted to take a minute and encourage everyone reading to chip in. I mentioned earlier that Eric M. Esquivel [of Modern Mythology fame] was working with Ander Sarabia [my Bilbao-based collaborator on the short comics "A Change is Gonna Come" and the currently in-production "VHS Generation"] on a comic themselves, a sort of Earth-2 take on the public domain super hero property "The Black Terror." The Terror's been around since the early 1940s, and has numerous fans all over the globe, one of whom turns out to be the Image Comics guru and creator of the Savage Dragon, Erik Larsen.


Larsen came across Eric's post about working on a Black Terror book [actually, a couple of them, which you can read about here] and was naturally interested in the idea, so much so that Eric was able to send him a copy. Now let's face it, Eric and Ander are both so wildly talented there's no doubt Larsen's going to love the book, so all they really need from us is a little grassroots movement for the project. Go and check out the Facebook page/event here, along with with Eric's Larsen-tagged plea for all our support, and most importantly don't forget to let Erik Larsen himself know that you'd be willing to plunk down a mere 3 dollars if Image was willing to publish their Black Terror one-shot -- which in the age of the internet is easy to do, as Mr. Larsen has a Facebook account and, perhaps more enticing, is on Twitter. Which means all you need to do is compose a little 140 character message to @erikjlarsen, and let him know that the Esquivel/Sarabia Black Terror comic is something you'd want to have on your pull list.

Everyone's pretty well aware how fond I am of Ander, both knowing and working with him, and if you check this place regularly you've even gotten to see some of the work he's done with yours truly on the non-super-hero end of things. And while I've never had the pleasure of working or collaborating with Eric [something I hope we can fix some day], I can attest that he is a talented, passionate dude, and even though I've never met him face to face, I am honored to consider him a friend, and when I'm feeling full of myself, a peer. So the work is good. Trust me. Now help generate some buzz so the whole direct market can find that out.

Remember - that's @erikjlarsen on Twitter.

---


Other things. I've actually been sitting on this postcard from my friend Ally a little too long. Back in the post-Christmas season, she went on a long, coastal getaway, and no doubt because she saw my promise to put any postcard I received up on my blog [or maybe just because she's kind of fond of me], she dropped me this postcard of Hemingway House in Key West.


I found this note on the back particularly stirring, as I imagine any writer worth their salt probably would:


"Forget your personal tragedy. We are all bitched from the start and you especially have to be hurt like hell before you can write seriously. But when you get the damned hurt, use it-don't cheat with it."

--Ernest Hemingway


Words to live by. And eventually, in old Hemingway's case, die by too. But let's stay upbeat. Thank you, Ally. I really appreciate being thought of. Especially in the context of Ernest Hemingway [I'm just not cool enough yet to not be flattered by the association].

Ally, along with going to grad school, attending nearly every con on the East Coast, also runs an excellent news site which covers all things geek -- from comics, to movies, to horror -- appropriately titled "Geeking Ally." Go check that out too.


This one I'm more on the ball with -- it just came in the mail a couple of days ago from my friend Jesselyn. She's been teaching Paris, but in her spare time has been making good use of the amazing travel opportunities over in Europe. This amazing piece of architecture [which is so detailed my bargain scanner needed almost 3x the usual among of time to scan] is St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna, which, well... I don't think a lot of people know this, I don't think Jesselyn did, but for an atheist, I'm a really sucker for a beautiful church. I've always loved the colors on this one, and remember, in my short stint as a calendar shill, looking at this picture in lieu of working... well, most days.


Jesselyn managed to get more on the back of postcard than anyone has... well, ever, and her passion for the place, and the history of it, just everything, absolutely shines through in her letter. That she was willing to share that with me was very touching, so much so that I'm keeping the message to myself [I swear it's not just because I don't want to transcribe it], but I will say nothing makes a person more fabulous than note starting with "I am sitting in a café in Vienna..."

Also, it was addressed to "Herr Randall Nichols." So cool.

Thank you, Jesselyn. It's means a great deal.

Been doing a lot of notes for the roller derby script [re: "Mary Hobb"], and may have gotten a bead on at least one person involved in derby to talk to about it. If you know any one else who'd be up for talking [or if you've found this site, and are involved in derby and would be willing to talk to me], make sure to let me know.

Right now, I've actually got a pretty solid beginning and ending for the script, and an outline which covers all the high points. I think the hard part, the thing that's kept me from getting started right out of the gate is how many characters I'm going to have to juggle for this. As is, only two characters have names, and only one of them is actually on the derby team... really, I'm looking at something in the way of 10-13 different girls. Now obviously only a handful of those will be what you'd consider "main characters," but I'd like them all to unique, and not just set pieces. Lot of that will end up getting done when I'm finished, of course, but I'd like everyone to have names.

Probably worried for nothing. Having that outline makes this all feel pretty solid, and real.

For, and inspired by, Amy Klein.

• Wednesday, March 2, 2011 3 comments
It's no secret I'm a big fan of Amy Klein. Especially if you follow me on Twitter, I link her there almost anytime she writes something, and the various music projects she's involved in -- Titus Andronicus, Solanin, hilly eye -- have pretty much taken up permanent residence on my iPod. On her blog, she recently did a longer-ish post about staring down 26, turning that age when there's officially more of your twenties behind you than in front of you. To get anything at all out of my post, you should go read hers first:

"A Woman of A Certain Age."


I'm turning 26 in June myself, and a lot of what she wrote about has been on my mind, even, in some ways, the things she accredits to be more of a worry for women than men. I don't exactly feel like I'm getting more handsome or distinguished as I age, and I feel like a lot of men in their 30s aren't looked to for what's cool, or smart, or cutting edge. Like somehow not be prodigal will keep me from ever being significant. Ever doing... whatever the hell it is I want to do.

Still, she's right. It's all disheartening, and when you see something happen to someone whose work you value, who does something that makes it so you don't ever want to see them discouraged, there's that impulse to reach out. In a short discourse on Twitter, I tried... but the medium failed, and me trying to express myself in haste [that need to stay relevant] jammed me up too. 140 quickly typed-up characters just doesn't do the job. I don't know if Amy reads this, but if she does, this is just my quick do-over, something I was trying to say, something that I discovered recently that after reading your thing, I wanted to share.


Norris and I are standing around the Panhandle and Norris is telling be how it is all set up for a friend to take me to Big Sur. I say what I really want to do is spend a few days with Norris and his wide and the rest of the people in their house. Norris says it would be a lot easier if I'd take some acid. I say I'm unstable. Norris says all right, anyway, grass, and he squeezes my hand.

One day Norris asks how old I am. I tell him I thirty-two. It takes a few minutes, but Norris rises to it. "Don't worry," he says at last. "There's old hippies too."

--Joan Didion, "Slouching Towards Bethlehem" (1968)


I don't know if that will do the same for her as it does for me. Explaining it to others isn't something I've been particularly adept at, either so... here's hoping.

More importantly than all that, and still concerning Amy, is the release of her solo album "I Know What You Want." I've only had the album for a day, but I'm really taken with the sound, and like how it feels as much about storytelling as it is about the stories she's telling with the songs themselves. There's so much going on in each song, but it never sounds over-produced either... it's just all quality, with the opening track, "Fireflies" currently my favorite. Speaking in pure economics, the albums just six tracks, but as each of the songs come in at least four minutes [some of them more], five dollars is more than worth the download, and I wholeheartedly recommend you check it out. It's well worth it.

---

As to where I've been [going more than a week without blogging is a little strange for me], I really don't have much in the way of excuses. Seth sent me a nice note on Facebook about my previous entry, and it meant a lot to me that it meant so much to him. It was a little exhausting to get out, and I felt kind of... sideways about doing it here, but I just knew I could write what I was feeling more comfortably here than I could any other way. It reminds me a lot of the lyrics from "Wingo Lamo," Zapata's claim that she "can't make any sense/Unless it's in a song." Sometimes I feel like this blog is the closest I get to my song.

Then again, there are probably a lot of people who would debate that I make any sense here, either.

I guess I've been a little down lately. Half-way through last week, I kind of got sick of everything, of "social media," because as great as it is when it brings me things like Amy's stuff, the writing and music I talked about in the beginning of this post, it never really stops. For every awesome thing by Eric, or Lauren, or John, or Hannah, or Dave, or Kimberly Kaye [or so many others], there's also a never ending stream of bad news, stupid news, or just banal intolerance. And what's hilarious is, it's not like there isn't an off switch -- there is, it's right there on my keyboard. But walking away isn't the problem, it's just the weight of it, and the possibilities inherent in the medium. I constantly look at this blog, Twitter, even Facebook, and think I must be doing something wrong, I am somehow failing to take advantage of this in the proper way. It's like the first time I saw Youtube -- the potential was apparent immediately, and the fact that I didn't immediately order a video camera haunts me to this day. And even if I had, I'm not entirely sure what it is that I'd do with it.

Ultimately that... impotence just got to me. I had to get away from it from a little while. Had to get away from all the amazing things people were doing. I'm not... proud of that. I just haven't figured out how to cut a place for myself yet, and eats at you when you realize so many others have. Especially if you're worried there won't be any places once you figure it out.

Oh, yeah. And there's this. Which I'm just... god. If it were anything else, if it were something smarter, or more significant. I mean, I know there's nothing in the way of original ideas left out there. But it just seems almost too close, and too stupid for what it is because of that. Discouraging. Like every time I show "Nova" now, it's going to have the taint of that... abomination all over it.

So there's that. The Oscars also happened. I sort of came back online to a lot of people really excited/dreading that, and then the waves of disappointment crested pretty high after the night was over. I can't really complain -- "The Kings Speech" is everything that an Oscar winner should be, and that's sort of the point. People bemoaning that the Academy is out of touch aren't wrong, but we shouldn't be expecting a group of industry people to somehow represent our generation. That's... wildly unrealistic. So those upset by "The Social Network" not taking home the big prize, it's important to remember that if it truly is the film that captures some aspect of us, the twenty-somethings, then nothing better encapsulates that fact than the Academy not getting it, not giving it that recognition. It's not why they're there. The same is true for the other films, like "The Kids Are All Right" and "Toy Story 3." Both are fine films, but in the former's case, I think we all have to admit it's more about the boundaries it broke as opposed to quality of the movie itself, and in the latter's case as moving as it was, it really didn't do or say much more or different from the previous two movies in the series -- that is, they're all about faith.

If you wanted "Inception" to win... I don't know. Here's a consolation prize people seem to enjoy.

I personally think the best film of last year was "Winter's Bone." That it only got a nomination because of the ten nominee field tells me we have a much bigger problem than the Academy just being out of touch with the Facebook generation -- I feel Hollywood may have forgotten everything a good movie's supposed to be. As for the rest... well, I could talk all day about each one. I had the rare pleasure of being able to see everything pertinent before the big night. But I don't feel up to it, and that's one of those things that could just go on and on if I got started.

So, all that happened, and there was a dentist appointment in there too. All and all, it's just a lot of hemming and hawing that I haven't really been writing lately.

I've talked about this recently, but I haven't felt overly inspired these days, nor have I had that one big project to put the bulk of my efforts towards. I've been toying with some older stuff and not getting anywhere, but when I got up this morning, I just felt like I had this germ of an idea starting to form. I am not sure... I guess you could say I'm being cautiously optimistic here, but the three or four hours I spent after that, scribbling into the moleskin notebook my friend Beck gave me, led me to believe things might be looking up. I'll write more more comes, I'm sure. Look out for that new label at the end of posts, as always.

Related to that, if you're reading this and you know anybody who is big into roller derby - whose actually played, or been involved in some way, I'd be interested in talking to them, if you think they'd be willing. I sort of need a crash course in it [no pun intended], and as sure as I am that I could pick up the basics and such from Wikipedia, or even some book snagged off Amazon, I'd prefer to get a first hand account of things like the atmosphere, the psychology, the camaraderie or derby life, not to mention a quick and dirty way to pick up the rules. But mostly, the pathos.

Probably be an entry later in the week just about that, to try and use the title to grab some helpful people through Google. I've also got some postcards scanned in, that I'd like to get posted. I'm a little behind on them.