Free game!

Sometimes when I’m not writing video games for other people, I take some time out to write something that allows me to exercise ideas that might be on my mind, or game elements that may not be present in current projects.

Last year, I created a short piece of interactive fiction called The Freelancer’s Survival Guide.

It was based on my own experiences from my first year of freelance writing, therefore, it’s pretty ridiculous. Click the link below to play through the narrative that reacts to the choices you make along the way (sort of like those awesome Choose Your Own Adventure Books that were popular when I was in grade school).

The game uses persistent variables to track your choices, ultimately offering you a good or bad ending. It takes about 10 minutes to play.

While it was originally written in the interactive software Inkle, I’ve since converted it to the Twine Harlowe format. I hope you’ll check it out. It’s FREE!

Click here to check out The Freelancer’s Survival Guide.

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2014 in review

Over my last few years in comics, I’ve really come to understand the idea of working ahead. This may come as a shock, but comic books don’t come together overnight. It takes man hours of pecking away at a keyboard for writers, many hours at the drawing board for artists, and many hours in front of Photoshop and Illustrator for colorists and letterers for even 22 meager pages to come together into a complete narrative. Even though everyone is working toward a common goal, it often takes a year (or more) from the day a project begins to when it sees the light of day (sometimes even longer if the project goes to print). What I’ve learned is that each year, you’re essentially working on what you hope and plan to see the light of day the following calendar year.

Though this year was small for me on the release side, 2014 brought several projects to the shelves that I was very proud of. Though they were completed over the course of 2013 (and some even 2012) I couldn’t be happier to watch them come to life as I worked on the comics that will ideally be thrust upon the world in 2015. (More on that later.)

Hoodwinked
Shortly after my crime-fiction miniseries Chambers (released in 2013 by Arcana Studio) was complete, artist Kristian Rossi and I started looking for something else to work on together. Indie publisher GrayHaven Comics, who has made a personal mission to promote up-and-coming creators, accepted my pitch for its The Gathering: Public Domain anthology. While I originally had dreams of writing a Zorro short, I instead went with Robin Hood and put my own twist on the classic tale by bringing the rogue into the present day of New York City, rather than keeping him in Sherwood Forest.

Because the comic would be printed in black and white, I envisioned the finished product as having a dark, gritty overtone and I pitched it to Kristian for consideration since his work on Chambers proved through and through that he was the man for the job. Thankfully, he was on board to draw the comic and we were off to the races. The final 4-page short was published in May. The 32-page anthology is still available in print for just $1.99.

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The anthology features the talents of many up-and-comers along with Ray Goldfield, Kelly Williams, Eric Grissom and Phil Sloan, all of whom I really admire. You should check this collection out. It’s probably the best anthology I read all year.

The Undoubtables
After an extended gestation period my action/heist series The Undoubtables finally hit physical and digital shelves. The series had been picked up by UK publisher Markosia Enterprises near the beginning of 2012, and co-creator/artist Emre Ozdamarlar and I worked on this book for roughly two years. Emre was in comic art school throughout the process so it was a fascinating process to watch him apply what he learned as he continued through the book and he was able to truly come into his own by the time we reached the end. The project was colored by Kefas Armando, who had colored Chambers the previous year, and Kell Smith provided us with some wonderful colors on the cover.

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Originally pitched and picked up as a miniseries, The Undoubtables read much better as a standalone piece and thus the decision was made to translate it directly to graphic novel format. It wasn’t my call, and I didn’t agree with it at first, but I actually believe it’s better for it. The 88-page adventure about career thief Spencer “Spade” Shelton and his crew robbing banks while dodging deadly mobsters and evading police was published in July and is available not only in a beautiful paperback, but also through just about every digital retailer you can name. It was my love letter to the heist genre with a crew of colorful characters overcoming impossible odds and outsmarting their enemies. The OGN can be picked up ComiXology for just $4. It’s a steal! Pun totally intended.

The series received several really great reviews across the internet and readers really seemed to enjoy how much fun this comic is. From the time the book starts it’s a wild goose chase between cops, robbers and some unpredictable mobsters who aren’t afraid to pull a trigger. I can’t thank Emre enough for the time he spent drawing and inking this book and it’s a project I’ll always look back on fondly.

In the Drink
My final physical publication of the year was a 3-page short in The Gathering: Survival anthology called In the Drink. Yet another project for indie publisher GrayHaven Comics, my pitch was accepted by the book’s editor and I turned this project around super quick with the help of the ever-talented artist Robyn Seale and it was published in September. I enjoy contributing to anthologies because it typically allows me to experiment with ideas and concepts that I may not want to dedicate an entire series to. With Hoodwinked I was able to work with a public domain character while dramatically changing the setting, and I decided that for this tale I would write a comic short that was completely silent.

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When there aren’t any words on the comic page, the artist must shoulder the load of telling the story and I think Robyn did an amazing job with translating my outline to the page. Even though this is one of the shortest comics I’ve ever written we were able to establish a beginning, middle and end and still leave the reader with an emotional gut-punch. My idea for a Survival-themed anthology was simple…what happens when two people involved in a car accident come face to face. And more importantly, what happens if that interaction takes place underwater.

At the time of this writing, I haven’t seen the finished anthology with my own eyes, but it’s available in print from GrayHaven for just $3.50 and contains nearly 40-pages of comics from upcoming creators.

Innovation
After starting my sci-fi web comic in November of 2013, I tried to keep the train rolling and since the project debuted online, myself and a rotating stable of very talented artists have delivered a new short comic each month. Though each installment is drawn by someone different, the narrative keeps going, constantly building upon itself and hopefully setting up quite a mystery for those who are actively reading it.

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This year we published 52 pages of the comic online (that’s a page a week!) with plenty more still to come. I’m thankful that the participating artists have donated their time and talents to keeping the story going and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we can finish out the first volume in 2015. A big thanks goes out to contributors Stan ChouDamon Threet, Crisuadi Crasmaru, Jay Hernandez, Paul McCallan, Harpreet Brar and Fludi Stohr for lending their talents, along with my pals Brad Burdick and J. Jacob Barker who contributed one-shots set in the same world.

So how does 2014 stack up in my comics career since I started writing funnybooks in 2011? Let’s take a look at the numbers.

Pages written in 2011: 223 (They weren’t very good)
Pages written in 2012: 473 (These were better!)
Pages written in 2013: 267 (These were publishable!)
Pages written in 2014: 352

And how about pages published?

Pages published in 2011: Zero. Zip. Zilch. None.
Pages published in 2012: 3
Pages published in 2013: 119
Pages published in 2014: 147

What’s that? Who keeps track of stats like that? Not me…that would…uh…that would be uber dorky.

“In the Drink” now in Print!

I’m excited to announce that The Gathering: Survival anthology has hit the stands published by GrayHaven Comics. If you pick it up (for just $3.50) then you’ll be treated to 36 pages of awesomeness, three of which are a short comic comic called In the Drink, written by me and brought to life by the very talented writer/artist, Robyn Seale.

If there’s one thing that this project has reminded me of, it’s that comics are not a race.

Robyn and I started discussion on this piece in March of 2013 and by June had all three pages complete and turned in to the publisher. Then, as happens in comics…we waited. Anthologies require extra patience as the other creative teams finish their contributions and the publisher finds a spot for the book on its schedule. So 1.5 years later… here we are, bringing In the Drink to your eyeballs.

Personally, I’m super excited about this piece because I did something I never had before…the story is completely silent. No dialogue, no captions…just a title, credits and your imagination to see the story along.

After a brutal car crash a man must fight for survival, no matter what the cost and to make matters worse, he must do so underwater.

Being a silent story, it allowed Robyn to showcase her amazing storytelling chops and I’m proud of how the pages came out. She’ll run you through the whole range of emotions, so be prepared for some feels!

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In addition to our short, you’re guaranteed to read fresh stories by some of the best and brightest up-and-coming talent in comics.

While on the GrayHaven site, consider picking up some of the publisher’s other wonderful anthologies and ongoing titles. I also have stories featured in the Crime, Sci-Fi 2 and Spies and Public Domain volumes, should you need some recommendations.

A big thanks goes out to the GrayHaven team for their support of both independent comics and burgeoning creators. I’m happy to report that GrayHaven will publish another short of mine soon in the Lil Kaiju anthology, which is shaping up to be an amazing collection of talent.

Post-New York Comic Con

I’m happy to report that I survived my trip to New York City and spent several days at the New York Comic Con making friends, meeting collaborators, talking to creators and promoting my books CHAMBERS and INNOVATION.

Without doing a ton of name-dropping and looking like a jerk, I’ll say that the trip was worth its weight in comic book gold and it was great to be able to talk process with fellow writers or in some cases simply chat about a mutual interest. One of the highlights for me was getting to spend some time with Stan Chou, who drew a 6-page story for my Innovation project. What a nice and creative dude!

There are lots of follow up emails to be sent and plans to be made for the coming year. If you ever have the chance to check out NYCC, (or just NYC) it’s highly recommended! The con was well-organized had a great flow and had the best Artist Alley I’ve ever seen at a convention.

I’m definitely looking forward to the next round!

In The Drink Update #4

This has been one heck of a week and it’s only Wednesday!

Yesterday I talked about finishing up my short spy comic COMPROMISED, but today I bring word that I’ve also received the completed files form my 3-page comic IN THE DRINK which was brought to life by the wonderful Robyn Seale.

She had originally gotten in touch when I was seeking a collaborater for the aforementioned Spy comic, but she was moments behind the artist who ultimately brought it to life. After checking out her art and her webcomic, The Watcher of Yaathagggu, I knew that she was someone that I needed to work with. One of the things that jumped out at me while reading “The Watcher” was her storytelling ability.

In my opinion, with comics, storytelling ability is the number one skill that an artist can have. If a page looks like a bunch of disjointed, inconsistent and unconnected pictures, the reader falls out of the story. As a writer, I like to gauge the storytelling ability of my collaborators by asking myself one major question: “can I delete all of the dialogue here and have the story still make sense?”

I feel like the biggest compliment that I can pay and artist is to delete all of my silly words and let the image speak for itself whether it’s an action, an emotion or a sequence of events.

I gave Robyn an interesting challenge because the story that I had written was already completely silent. No pressure, right? The story takes place completely underwater and last time I checked, no one can hear me speak when I’m immersed in liquid. I considered the possibility of using captions to give an internal monologue to the main character, but this is one of those times where if the art could speak for itself, it would say more than my words or dialogue ever could.

In this tale, two characters share an interaction and Robyn used their body language and eyeballs to convey everything that needed to be said. At just three pages, the story is a very quick read, but when I shared it with my best friend, who gets to read all of my comics and tear them apart in a constructive manner, he told me that the comic was “chilling.”

Now that’s what I’m talking about.

The commitment to this project caused Robyn to miss deadlines on her webcomic, and while I feel completely terrible about that, she’s produced some of her best work to date and I really can’t wait for everyone to be able to check it out.

This one will be released in the Survival Anthology from GrayHaven Comics in April of 2014.

Good things come to those who wait.

Quick! Distract them with art!

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