Category: Side of Conq

Book Update: 4/15/20

Good news, everyone! Book is still on the way. I’m in the midst of final edits as well as reworking the ending. Got some great stuff on the way. Working on character arcs and having some actual meaning behind the words. Sounds fancy, I know, and hopefully I can pull it off. We’ll see. If not, no worries. You write one book. You go write another.

Some people may be wondering what inspires someone like me? Well, I find inspiration everywhere. In the trees, in the sunlight, in the mountains, and the sea. And of course good books.

Some of my favorite authors include Ursula Le Guin, Kurt Vonnegut, and Octavia Butler. I derived a ton of inspiration from Star Wars. In some ways, my story is a mix of Return of the Jedi and Conan the Barbarian. Does that make any sense? Maybe not. That’s ok. Fantasy doesn’t always make sense.

I’m just writing stream of consciousness now while I listen to the 7th Annual On Cinema Oscar Special. What is that? Well, that is another long story.

In other fantasy news, I did see Dracula this past winter on Netflix. It was amazing! Yes, even episode 3. I don’t get why people are talking about a season 2. They said they’d adapt the novel, and they did. Is it a precise adaptation? No. But neither is the Lugosi version. Frankly, I found the Netflix version to be closest to Stoker’s original text, second only to the Coppola film.

Yes, even with Keanu Reeves’s attempt at a British accent (It’s ok, Keanu. We still love you. You’re the One, after all.)

Now, you may be wondering: During this pandemic, have I been keeping busy with my writing? Of course! Lots of writing is getting done.

Have I made any new LEGO videos?

Of course I have.

Green Lantern Script

So, I’m working on a spec comic book script for DC’s Green Lantern superhero. Now before you get all excited, no this is not a commission. I’m not getting paid for this, nor have I been asked to make this in any way. I’m just making a spec script to get noticed.

Of course, to do that, I’ll need to hire an inker and a penciller, which means I’ll have to get a Kickstarter going. It’s going to cost around 2000 bucks when all is said and done. I’ll probably do the lettering myself to save a little money. Inker will be paid $800, that’s $100 per page. Penciller will be paid the same. I know it’s on the low end, but that’s what I can afford.

Or will afford. Once I get the money.

Why not draw and ink the thing myself?

Simple. Because I’ll be bringing these pages to conventions, and I want to look professional. If you’ve read Bubblegum-Man, you’ll know my drawing skillz, mad though they may be, will not be enough.

In the meantime, I’d appreciate any and all feedback on my script. You can download the file below. Be sure and leave a comment, like, and subscribe.

William Brust is a writer from Atlanta, Georgia in the United States.

In addition to writing, he is also skilled at cooking omelets, changing tires, and making people laugh. He’s currently working on his  fantasy novel, The Tang of Fate!

You can tweet the author @MrWBrust. He is also active on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Youtube.

Pay Your Artists

Once, I had a vision. I would write an amazing comic book and find an artist to draw it with me. Not for me. With me. You know, a collaboration. Like Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Or Ditko and Lee. Or Simon and Schuster. Wait, that last one doesn’t work.

Anyway, the basic idea was that I’d write the script, and the artist would draw/ink/color the comic. Once the comic sold, we’d split the profits. Sounds fair, right?

Actually no. It’s not. To anyone. In fact, I was being an enormous jerk and not even realizing it.

“But William, why wouldn’t an artist agree to split the profits 50/50 once the product sold?”

Because this isn’t 1945 anymore, chubs. Artists get paid. Period. I know it may be hard to hear and harder to accept, but really I was the jerk expecting free work in exchange for the promise of payment someday. Would I have accepted that deal if the roles had been reversed? Absolutely not. How could I expect someone else to accept a deal like that from me? It was wrong of me. Hubris, plain and simple.

“But wait. What about exposure? Don’t ar–“

Lemme stop you there. People die from exposure (cue rimshot).

Now, you notice how I used Stan Lee and Jack Kirby as an example of a collaboration team? That was intentional. They created a lot of great art together, sure, but people forget it was Kirby who got screwed. Maybe it was his fault for signing a work-for-hire contract, fair enough. But remember Siegel and Shuster? That was a perfect example of a collaboration that created wonderful art…at the expense of the artist and writer. Both were paid minimal, neither truly compensated for what they contributed.

So what’s the point here? The point is if you want to make it as a comic book writer nowadays, you either have to draw something yourself or hire an artist. Hire. As in “pay somebody.” A sizeable percentage upfront, the rest on completion. Fair? Yes. For both of you.

Why both? Well, it’s fair to the artist because they’re being paid for their creative output, not in the promise of some hypothetical future payment that may never come. It’s also fair to the writer because if you establish yourself as the sort of person who puts their money where their mouth is, your reputation will soar. Artists will WANT to work with you.

If, on the other hand, you insist on paying in exposure or promises, you will build a reputation as an amateur at best, a cad at worst.

“But why should I pay the artist? I slaved over that script and no one paid me!”

You sure did, chuckles, but keep in mind you CHOSE to write that script. It’s your baby. Your passion. You can’t expect that level of passion from a friend, let alone a stranger. I’ve had plenty of artist friends. I hope I haven’t ruined too many relationships by asking for free art. Hopefully, those bridges aren’t burned. (I know at least one is intact. Hey, Joe!)

If you don’t have the money now, start saving. If you have the guts, draw it yourself. I did.

Now for the bad news. Writers are a dime a dozen, especially in comics. In fact, a lot of publishers will tell you upfront that script-only is a no-sell. Must have full-team to play. You wanna run with the wolves, you better have your own pack. No one’s matching you with an artist, slick. And if they hire the artist and tell you to hit the bricks, that’s just show-biz. Here’s where athletes have it a little easier than creatives. If you have the numbers as a pitcher, the MLB doesn’t expect you to bring your own catcher to try-outs. They’ll pick from the best and build the team up from there. Not so in comics.

There are of course, exceptions to this rule. And their names are Grant Morrison, Kurt Busiek, Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, John Grisham, Richard Donner, and any number of high-profile creators who haven’t hurt for work in decades. Nothing against them. They made it. Most of us don’t.

Sadly, a big reason most of us don’t is that so many publications insist on paying their talent in either exposure or the promise of payment. A lot of us fall for this stupidity and wind up burned and discouraged.

Let me tell you as story. I worked for an online magazine for all of a year. I did three stories for them. They published one and told me they’d pay once the ad revenue came in. That was summer of 2008, and I still haven’t received my $100. Because I was young and stupid, I didn’t insist on a contract up-front, so there was nothing I could do. I’d just worked for free.

Do I remember that guy’s name? Yes, I do.

Will I name him here? No. I’m classier than that. (Besides the online publication doesn’t even exist anymore.)

The point is I’ll never work with that guy — or anyone else — without a contract. Why? Because I deserve to get paid for my work. And so do you. And so does your artist. If we don’t pay our artists, how can we turn around and expect payment from publishers? We must create a culture of compensation for creatives. It’s time for the starving artist archetype to die.

Whither Witch Bewitches the Witcher?

Recognizing I’m late to the party and how dangerous it can be for a writer to review the writing in another writer’s work, I’d like to share a few of my thoughts on the new Netflix Witcher series.

Is it a little sexist? The world it creates certainly is. It remains to be seen if the sexism is an inherent part of the world or a Thing that the protagonist must strive against. We seem to be nearing a tipping point, if we haven’t already taken the plunge, when writers must realize that “it’s historically accurate” isn’t really a good enough reason to have racist/sexist themes in their work. If a character is racist, that racism must be confronted in-story. It’s the demand of the audience, of the culture at large. Or else it ought to be, eh?

Was I confused by the timeline? Not until I realized there were three distinct timelines, and we weren’t being given information chronologically. It is no major spoiler that the writers for season 1 of The Witcher chose to split the season’s episodes among different time periods, often switching back and forth in mid-episode. I’ve no problem with this. It’s a neat little gimmick, and there are plenty of clues in the dialogue to clue the reader in as to what is going on.

But therein lies the problem. These clues are ONLY in the dialogue. You’d think they could’ve given Jodhi May a different wig to wear for when her character is supposed to be (much) older versus when her character is younger. I get that Mousesack doesn’t age, but surely sorcerers are at least allowed to cut their hair or grow a different type of beard in this setting?

This lack of attention to detail must have been done on purpose, to show off the studio’s creativity. The only other explanation is laziness. I understand laziness. I’m a bit of a lazy writer myself. But intentionally holding information back from the viewer isn’t “building a mystery,” it’s just plain old deceit. You haven’t proven your clever; you’ve just been puffing yourself up.

On the upside, the fight scenes are amazing, and Henry Cavill does an excellent job portraying a brooding, tormented MC without being too similar to the other 100,000 brooding, tormented MCs plaguing fantasy fiction these days. Heck, even the protagonist in my WIP can be a little broody. It’s another thing the audience demands: Grittiness. Which means brooding, broody characters who brood broodily.

Brood.

Anyway, yes. Geralt of Rivia loves to brood. But at least he’s self-aware, somewhat. What with all his clever quips and “Hnh”-ing like Batman in a Morrison comic. And if he weren’t like that, Haskier is still there to provide plenty of quality jibes at the genre as a whole. Haskier saves the show in certain spots, calling attention to the bad decisions the characters make and providing needed moments of light in what would otherwise be a grim exploration of grim, gritty darkness. Despite myself, I like Geralt’s story’s monster-of-the-week formula. Lots of fun without getting boring.

Yennefer’s story is likewise captivating. She goes through hell learning how to gain power and wield it effectively as a powerful sorceress. Her desire for power is understandable, and her sacrifices make the viewer ache for her. Now, here’s the thing. Apparently in this setting, magicians and magical beings can’t have kids. (Or at least female wizards and witchers can’t. No word on male wizards.) No sooner does Yennefer become a full-fledged wizard than she starts yearning for a little brat of her own. Understandable. Cliche and a little anti-feminist, but understandable. Some women really want kids. Believe it or not.

But her desire is undercut by the fact that her womb gets removed on-camera. Like, her actual womb. We see the Fallopian tubes and everything. It’s gross.

Now, maybe Yennefer doesn’t realize this. But she still seeks a cure that doesn’t involve “growing a new womb” or otherwise “getting myself some ovaries.” It’s a little ridiculous for the modern audience. It makes Yennefer look stupid. And if not her, the people in the setting look like they have zero understanding of female anatomy. (Which would be about par for a lot of us, but I digress.) My point isn’t THAT Yennefer wants to be fertile again, it’s that she doesn’t seem to understand what the problem actually is (missing uterus).

Also, if removing the female reproductive organs is intrinsic to becoming a sorceress, does that make all the female wizards post-menopausal?

Anyway, it’s a good show. The sub-plot of colonization suffered by elves at the hands of humanity is a nice touch. Just the right amount of real-world poignancy without getting anvilicious or just plain disrespectful of the plight of indigenous peoples.

Plus, there are dragons. Like, several. Iron Fist couldn’t even manage one, which is more than a little embarrassing when you think about it.

Writing Down the Bones

So, I got my edits back over a month ago, and I still haven’t gone through them all. I have a lot of fear. Fear of rejection, fear my writing won’t be good enough. But it’s more than that. I realize now the reason so much of my writing has fallen flat is that I haven’t really been editing, just spewing story. Even when I make corrections, it’s all spew.

I need to sit down and do the work of polishing the spew. Intentionally using all the tools of the trade, crafting the story in other words.

And I’m afraid I won’t be able to.

So if you see me not writing, will you remind me that I need to just suck it up? Thanks.

Today’s post title is taken from a famous writers’ book called “Writing Down the Bones” by Natalie Goldberg. Check it out if you have a moment. I got my copy somewhere around here. She offers some practical advice on the writer’s process and craft. Good stuff.

Beating the January Slump II

I know what you’re thinking. “Now that I’m out of jail, what do I do to continue beating back the freezing gloom of January?” Well, don’t worry. I have you covered. Here are four more activities that will hopefully keep you cozy during the unforgiving winter stretch..

Exercise Your Mind

Exercise is a great way to stay in shape, beat stress, and increase overall wellbeing. But what do you do if you don’t like the gym or can’t get to one near you? Fortunately, there’s an entire movie built around the concept of training in the natural environment. That movie is the 1985 classic Rocky IV. While your opponent may be running the track or using heavy-duty exercise equipment, you can run the wild trails of the forest, evade the KGB driving behind you, climb a rocky hillside, and shout your defiance to the open sky. Don’t be afraid to sling some rocks together in a net. Rigging the net up in a pulley system for some pull-downs provides a great way to exercise your core. Find or borrow a horse cart, and this can serve as a makeshift barbell. Ask some friends to sit in the cart while you workout in case you need more weight.

Get Lost in a Good Book

Reading is a great way to relax while also keeping the mind sharp and active. Books, poems, plays, and other forms of literature can be gateways to other worlds. There’s another movie built around this idea called The Never-Ending Story. Reading the book this movie was based on will prepare you in case you’re ever sucked into a bizarre universe with furry dragons, green-skinned hunters, and giant spiders. Just be careful not to draw the magic sword in anger, lest you accidentally strike down your green hunter friend. Then the only way home will be on the back of a big furry dragon.

Explore New Places

Going exploring has gone somewhat out of style, as the prevalence of smartphones and the Internet have removed much of the risk and mystery around physical travel. While you certainly shouldn’t trespass or enter unsafe environments, it can be rewarding to find a patch of uninterrupted forest or an unfamiliar neighborhood and just go wandering for a while. The best way to wander, I’ve found, is on foot, though some of the more cautious may prefer to travel by car. After all, you need a way to get yourself out of danger should you stray too far from the established paths. It’s always better to explore new places with a fellowship or with a guide. Lord of the Rings is a 2000s trilogy of films that provide some excellent suggestions for the would-be explorer. Personally, I’ve had as much fun exploring bike trails as the local library.

Have a Movie Night

Movie nights are a time-honored tradition among college kids. There’s nothing quite like cramming five or six of your closest friends on a six-foot square of carpet, crowding around a small television and watching some classic like Rocky IV or The Never-Ending Story. Lord of the Rings is another great choice for movie night, though it’s advised to use a copy of the expanded editions with the appendices. This bonus content, including documentaries and behind-the-scenes footage offer a wealth of information for both the movie buff and casual Tolkien fan alike. Heat up some popcorn, huddle close, and enjoy. 

Beating the January Slump

I am not a fan of January. It’s cold and wet and windy, and it just makes me want to stay inside, curled up in a ball, until April gets here. But alas. I have bills to pay. And so your humble blogger sits behind his desk, anxiously awaiting the return of the sun king from beyond the cosmos. Sorry, got a little wistful there. Anyway, whatever are we to do while we wait for spring? Aside form work and classes and lunch and whatnot? Here are some fun activities you can do alone or with friends to liven up this gloomy season.

1. Go Bowling

One of the best ways to blow of steam during the year’s worst month is to go out on the town. Find your neighborhood bowling alley and set yourself up for a good old game of nine-pins. Technically that’s an entirely different game, but I think you get my point. Bowling is a time-honored American tradition combining two things we as Americans love the most: Drinking and not moving very much. While you’re out and about, you may want to check out what those shadowy folks are talking about in the parking lot.

2. Make New Friends

Approach the strangers slowly, making sure to make no sudden movements. After all, it’s dark out. Say something normal in greeting like “Hi” or “How’s it going?” Slowly, they’ll turn to face you then turn back and continue their conversation, ignoring you. Don’t let that deter you. Just listen in and see what you can overhear. I’ve made some of my best friends just by inserting myself into a stranger’s conversation. It’s not creepy. One of them offers you something to eat. It’s in large plastic container and smells a bit like boiled chicken. Looking inside, you’ll probably see several small, pale bodies. Squirrels.

3. Experiment With Food

One of the best ways to grow and appreciate different cultures is to try some of that culture’s signature food. Trying new foods is always a fun activity, and this squirrel meat looks tasty. Chew on the legs a bit, that’s where the best meat is. The rest of the animal is just skin and bones, but you can try chewing on the tail a bit if you like. Don’t wrinkle your nose. Be polite. Doesn’t it taste a little like chicken? Or pork? Or some other animal we as a society have deemed it acceptable to consume?

4. Volunteer

Volunteering is a great way to help your neighbors and improve society, all while giving you the dopamine rush one only gets from altruism. Mmmm…Altruism. Thankfully, you won’t have to look for a nearby charity, as one of your new friends is need of assistance. It looks like he’s having trouble getting into his car. He has a coat hanger you can use to jimmy the lock. Go ahead help him out. Once you can feel as if something is clicking, that means you’ve sprung the lock. Open the door and climb over to the passenger seat, while your new friend rips something out from under the steering wheel. Smell the sparks as you realize he’s hotwiring the car. Uh oh. Looks like you’re in for one bumpy ride!

5. Explore New Places

Look out the window at all the cars whizzing by! You’re going pretty fast, and you don’t really recognize the buildings or road signs. That’s ok. Relax and smile. Take it easy. You’re on an adventure! A good, old-fashioned road-trip is just the ticket to beat those January blues. Your friend is a very good driver, especially considering he’s on the wrong side of the road. It’s starting to get bright out, but that isn’t sunshine. Those are police lights.

6. Engage Your Body

While your friend pulls over to talk with some friends in uniform, take this opportunity to go for a brisk run. Running on the sidewalk downtown or in a park can be an excellent way to get in shape and also releases endorphins. While you’re on your run, take a moment to admire the trees and the foliage around you. Sure, it’s a little dark, but under the moonlight, you can just make out the edges of plants and animals. Did you hear that? Something rustling in the undergrowth. Probably just a raccoon or maybe a stray cat. Cats are fun.

Remember to keep running no matter what. No one escapes January, but you can escape those gloomy feelings by following these simple steps and exploring new experiences. Don’t feel bad if things don’t quite turn out the way you expect. That’s just life. Sometimes our plans don’t turn out the way we’d like. That’s why it’s always important to be adaptable. On an unrelated note, does anyone know of a place I could lie low for a while? Maybe a friend’s house or apartment. Just for a couple days. Thank you for your help.

Holiday Update

Been feeling very unmotivated lately, which is bad because there is so much to do. Even with my book off at the editor, there’s more books to write, works to critique on Scribophile, podcasts to listen to, and so much more.

Playing with WordPress’s “new” block editor. I put “new” in quotation marks because as you and I know, I am slow to adopt fresh technology. I’ve never been a first adopter. Maybe it’s from being raised in a house full of antiques, but I just prefer old things. Old furniture. Old books. Old socks.

Even my fantasy novel is old-fashioned. I hope people don’t mind that. I’ve always been partial to old-fashioned things. That’s why Bubblegum-Man is written the way it is, filled to the brim with tropes and action. Just like old-fashioned comics. And don’t get me started on music.

There’s something about Christmastime (and I do mean Christmastime, as that’s the winter holiday I’ve most experience with) that brings out the nostalgia for old times. And I don’t mean the good old days, whatever those were. Things weren’t any “better” or “worse” when I was growing up than they are now. If anything, lots of people’s lives have improved since the 90s.

Christmas is almost here. More specifically, Christmas Eve. That’s when my mom cooks the feast of seven fishes, an Italian-American tradition. We eat pasta and fried fish, cold broccoli salad, and all kinds of other treats and goodies. It’s an evening filled with warmth, love, and joy, and it’s probably my favorite part of Christmas, aside from the presents. There’s nothing quite like getting or giving presents.

One of my other favorite things about Christmas is putting ornaments on the tree. There are certain ornaments we’ve collected over the years that just resonate with me. You know how you can look at an old house and imagine all the years of family joy, drama, and strife those walls contain? Well, when I look at certain ornaments, I feel a similar spark. Like there are thousands of years’ worth of stories wrapped up in them, buried, just waiting to be teased out.

I’ve never been able to. Maybe next year.

Your First Book Will Stink

And that’s ok. So does mine. It’s not terrible by any means, but it’s no masterpiece. Totally normal. Everyone stinks their first time. That’s what gives us room to grow.

But that’s the hard part: Growing. See, you have to want to get better to be better. You have to do the work, put in the effort. Study and research. Don’t just throw around words like “shaman” in your fantasy novel if you’ve no idea what a shaman actually does. I’m talking to myself as much as anyone else.

Then there are sacrifices to be made. Writing every day is a sacrifice of time. You either get up early or stay up late. Those are your choices. Do you have to write every day? Of course not. But your craft will improve slower. How much time do you think you have?

I’m 35. Probably 5-10 years from really making it big. Then I’ll be 40. Maybe I’ll have 40 more years, maybe 60. But will I be lucid and healthy the whole time? Who knows? So maybe only 30 years of success. Is that ok? No. I’d much rather have more. But that’s not up to me.

My growth has been slow. Painfully slow. Some of that has to do with autism, some with bad habits, some with procrastination. That’s ok. I’m still growing.

It’s the growing that’s important. It’s the journey that really matters. I know that’s small consolation, especially if your journey is as painful or more than mine. But in the end, the journey is really all we have in this life.

Gah! That’s depressing.

What more can we do? Well, thankfully, we can still do what we can do. Our lives are our own. We can exercise our will and make what ripples we can in a sea of mediocrity. Find something solid to hang onto, some bit of clay we can mold and call our own.

Remember friends, it is not too late to seek a better world!