Without Fear

Ryan K Lindsay – Writer

Category: verbiage

Goodreads – Pros and Cons and Musings

I dig Goodreads. It’s a social network all about books and reading. What’s not to love?

Well, it’s owned by Amazon. Who I fairly openly hate/distrust. I often wonder, if I hate Amazon this much, as well as many other monocorps, then shouldn’t I hate Google? I mean…I probably should, and yet I don’t. Maybe it’s Bezos. Maybe seeing one guy get insanely rich and just seem so dug in on not being community minded really lays me low. It’s probably that. Anyway, TL;DR Amazon can jump, buy from your local independent book seller. And yet, Goodreads….

I use Goodreads. I’m not an active member of the community, but I track my reading there. I don’t really know what other people are doing there, but I do my thing on there as a reader. I also don’t mind it as an author, I’m not behiolden to the review scores, but it’s another place I can try to gauge interest, I suppose.

You can see my reading and writing on Goodreads here!

As a reader, this year I set myself the goal of reading 52 things. I track novels, comics, and even picture books with my class/kids, so it’s not impossible to make the list. And the site is a great place to assemble the list, and if people are watching and get a good reading recommendation, all the more power to them.

However, I think I can also track this stuff on my own site, and I probably should. You should never have all your content held on another platform you can’t control. Take it from someone who remembers reading comics on MySpace and wrote for the site The Weekly Crisis. You want your own copies, and you want to do your best to own how/where you share them.

I use WordPress, and even with that I worry at times that maybe they get bought out and my site gets junked. Who knows?

I’m considering doing more to keep my reading pile tracked on my site, I just need to work out the perfect format for it.

As a writer, I recently just looked into getting my latest comics put on there, SKYSCRAPER and SHE. I found they’d already been added, but I needed one added to my author profile, and with both of them there, I was able to edit the entries with covers and such.

All this activity [and there’s always peripheral writerly duties that take up our time], got me thinking – is this helpful to me? Will any new readers find my work through Goodreads? Will I get a proper gauge on what people think based on reviews/stars there? Is it a good catalogue of what I’ve written?

I already keep a Writing Catalogue of everything I’ve written on my site because I think that’s important to maintain on your own. But the thought of someone finding my work on Goodreads intrigues me. I don’t “find” much there, but I will admit if I look for something on there and find it has a great star rating then I am definitely more inclined to be intrigued by the book and want to buy/read it.

This then got me wondering, do many other people use Goodreads to track, shelve, rate, review books they’ve read?

I know I will continue to do it, I don’t seem annoyed enough yet to dump Goodreads in the same way I have Facebook [and have been all the better for it]. But I will also try to keep the data I put there also on my own site, so I have my own source of what I’ve written, and what I’m reading.

If you’ve read my work and are Goodreads-inclined, then by all means mark them off as read.

SKYSCRAPER is now on there

SHE Vol. 1 is also up

Or you can just use your fine tip caligrapher’s pen to put it into your bespoke leather journal, or open a window and scream it into your neighbourhood.

Short stories are awesome. Always have been.

I love short stories. There’s something so special about the kind of idea a writer gets that only needs a small amount of space/character/world to tell. It’s not a novel, not a tv series, not a huge reverberating narrative engine – it’s just a thing that desperately needs to be told.

The ultimate short story collection that springs to mind for me is NIGHT SHIFT by Stephen King. Mostly because I read it so young it became formative, but also because it’s so damn good. I feel like every damn story in it is amazing, they’re all certainly memorable, and looking over the track list…nine are still absolute bangers that I stand by. A few others are good, but fall just short of great. But the collection is evergreen in my mind for what I dig about short stories.

I got thinking about them recently because I saw Hard Case Crime are releasing a collection of Ray Bradbury’s crime short stories:

That cover is so exceptionally haunting and beautiful. Where compositon and colour just flat out open my wallet. I really really want this book in my life if I can ever track it down.

I’d love to write a short story collection. One day. I’ve gone on to devour and enjoy so many more shorts from King – I know it’s technically a novella, but HEARTS IN ATLANTIS remains one of the most beautiful and magical pieces of writing I’ve ever read. Just thinking about it again now puts a little butterfly in my stomach.

His son, Joe Hill, also writes some exceptional short fiction. His collection, 20th CENTURY GHOSTS, felt like his Night Shift, and it had some stand out pieces, none more so than THE CAPE, later adapted into a comic that’s one of the best comcis of the past 20 years.

Being a horror nerd, I loved THE BOOKS OF BLOOD by Clive Barker. I will stop anyone in conversation and tell them about the madness of IN THE HILLS, THE CITIES – a tale where neighbouring villages get their entire populations to physically link together and form writhing human Voltron forms that then fight. Every time I describe it, peoples’ eyes just widen. That’s the sign of a great short.

Ethan Coen wrote GATES OF EDEN, which is a weird set of vignettes that feel like they fell out of scripts he would have tried, and they certainly captivate. Naturally, the shorts of Philip K. Dick mean a lot to me. There’s THE DAYS OF PERKY PAT, which is so strange and haunting, and there’s one whose name escapes me but I know Alan Moore completely ripped it off for one of his Future Shock strips. Who would forget the TALES OF THE MOS EISLEY CANTINA, followed by other collections set in Jabba’s Palace, and I think one about just the bounty hunters…right?

A great slice of short fiction offers an earworm of an idea. A 20 page sample of something that opens the door, fires the gun into your chest, and leaves you gasping, sucking in blood, and feeling yourself die. Short fiction is where smart writers sometimes play their best ideas and themes that haven’t found a full story, and it’s like they don’t leave a morsel on their plate – every quality piece of brain fuel powers their engine forward. I’m in awe.

I have one idea I want to tell as a series of short stories, and I’ve written…a handful of them, but I’ve shelved it for time, at this stage. I’m also writing very short pieces on my Patreon, twice a month, and they’re just a blast to get out of my head. From weird romance to ghastly serial killers, and all the strangeness in between, I’m just flipping up balls and taking a swing. It’s only 300 words, usually more, but it lets me play with voice, to experiment with style, and I have about 17k of them so far. There’s a part of me that wonders if I could stitch together 20-something-thousand and put them into a book. Some of them rate as my very best writing, which is a weird place to leave my best work, but sometimes you never know just what’s going to come out. Some are maybe…not as good…or as we say, they can’t all be winners in a collection. But we try.

I don’t know what will come of them, but for now I’ll continue having fun writing them, perhaps you’d like to follow my Patreon, which you can do for free, and sometimes I put the 300 Flash Fic out as a free post. You might dig what you find.

Oh: also, this doesn’t even take into account comic shorts, of which I’ve done a few, and I love dearly. You can read some of my short comics on my site for free, and on my Patreon this week I’ll be posting some and their scripts for you to enjoy!

Follow along on my Patreon now for all the writing goodness!

Small Connection, Deep Connection

When you write a comic, it doesn’t feel real until it’s in the hands of some readers.

The most real of this – usually, though maybe erroneously – is when the comic is available in comic shops across the world because a publisher picked it up and distributed it. This, for me, has always been when a comic really feels like it made it, it’s the highest form of success I can describe.

But it’s a hard one to attain. There are only so many comic publishers, so many successful pitches, and even then sometimes a comic tanks. The times I’ve had comics out with a publisher, I’ve gotten 4-figure sales, but never have I crossed into 5-figure territory [except when I wrote that My Little Pony one-shot, and I hit something ludicrous like 32k copies sold, but that isn’t really *my* success to speak of, is it?]. So going with publishers is good, the numbers of readers/buyers goes up, and while that’s difficult to attain, I’ve managed it a few times.

COVID. Now there’s this word, and what it’s meant to comics. The central comic distributor closed down for a minute, comic shops felt the heat, and while things are “back on track” at present, many places are still doing their best to advocate for social distancing or staying home unless necessary and I can’t help but feel that might impact comic sales and outreach a little. I know I’m going to get my pull list sent to me by my local, Impact Comics, but some people might just be missing out and numbers might be affected, though I hope not.

On my end, I’ve been lucky to have some writing gigs that I’ve been able to continue on with through COVID, and we’ll see what they look like and yield on the other side of this mess [if there is another side to it all]. Alongside this, or maybe beneath or all around it, I’ve had the smaller scale of comic creation.

Usually, selling at comic conventions is the small scale stuff, you physically place your comic into someone’s hand, you chat with them, it’s a personal transaction. I’ve never sold 4-figures worth of a comic at a convention, but I’ve had just as much of a high from the success just by selling 50. Putting a comic up on Kickstarter might not get me 6,000 backers, but it gives me 500 people I can hold as an engaged audience through updates and extra stuff I can deliver to them. Recently, I’ve had strong sales through my online shop front at ownaindi, and that’s been a great way to send stories and pages out into the world.

When a publisher handles the sales of your book, you don’t tape a single box, you don’t shelve any of the book, so the numbers are up but it’s impersonal. Through Kickstarter, cons, or an online store, the numbers are way down but you get a name to every sale. You can see follow up when they read it, or they catch your personalised message. It’s a deeper connection, and there’s something to be said for that, even if it is much harder work.

This past week I boxed up scores of copies of SHE Vol. 1 to send around Australia, and all the while I was selling copies of SKYSCRAPER online and sending them out, too. It was a great feeling, it made me feel invigorated to make comics some more, and that’s the energy you need to go into your office late at night and peck away at these strange stories.

While I’ve always yearned for the validation and success of a big audience, COVID has shown me the bright side of a smaller audience with a deeper connection. If you’ve been a backer or a buyer in one of those more intimate settings, thank you. Each package I send out gives me the strength to keep making more. I hope to send you the next one in the mail.

Books. Forever books.

The following diatribe appeared in my weekly newsletter THE TWO FISTED HOMEOPAPE – a place wherein I collect my weekly progress update, mental health, thoughts about writing, links to cool reads or Kickstarters, and general thoughts about writing/teaching/parenting/living through 2020. Sub if you’re keen on more.
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Apparently e-waste is on the rise, just junk and gadgets throw into the landfill that time forgot, and I have no idea where this shit will land us in another decade. If you ever imagine a future where Mad Max style cars are built out of five thousand little Anko gyros from K Mart, then I guess we’re well on our way.
The solution, buy less of this shit. And what you buy, use it.
Am I guilty of doing this wrong? Yep, probably, sure, almost certainly. Am I trying…every day. Having kids means you open yourself up to a tonne of fads, and bullshit, and plastic, and gyros, and it could be never ending. Those little LOL Dolls…they’ll be waiting for us all “downstairs” with pitchforks as we burn for eternity. My kids go through these fads, and I try my best to mitigate them. I’ll admit, buying those Ooshies is awesome when it’s obscure Marvel characters, but otherwise they’re just $3 junk that gets lost in the garden, I mean, the garden if you’re lucky. They’re semi-solidified petroleum junk. But I own plenty.
I’m lucky my kids love Lego, the toy that lasts forever, and we use every single week. It’s brain food, it’s awesome, and while it’s expensive, we’ve never sent any of it to landfill for nearly a decade. I can’t say the same for…pretty much every else we’ve bought our kids except for the best balance to Lego…BOOKS! Even when we’re done with books, we swap/gift ’em with other families, we donate to charity, I take them into my classroom, something. No book is ever wasted, and while that’s a lot of paper, it’s also a whole lot of literacy skills, and empathy, and imagination, and experience, and I will buy books for people until the day I die. They’re always be the perfect present because even if they aren’t wanted, burn ’em to keep warm, you can’t do that with a small reindeer that poops jelly beans [hilarious as it is].
Lego and books. Usually the latter, and this year they’ve been a massive help. I’ve read more books, a whole mess of comics, and they keep my brain sane, my heart full, and my ability to go on buoyed. I’ve noticed the same with my kids, we’ve read WOLF GIRL, and ARTEMIS FOWL, and 5 trades of USAGI YOJIMBO, with AMULET as a chaser. Copious D&D manuals have been devoured, stats memorised, characters created, stories pondered. In fact, after having finally gone back to school for 5 weeks, we are in the midst of a 2 week break, and the whole house is reading more than usual and I think it’s to help us cope with what’s going on. The world is in a weird place, the kids know it, everyone with a phone or social media account knows it all too well, and switching off from the world and into a book is a great solution [I think, don’t quote me, I’m not the counsellor in the family].
I know when I was young, after my father died, I dove so far down into books that I probably smelt like the binding most days. I read/played the FIGHTING FANTASY books so many damn times, and I devoured every Roald Dahl book i could find, and I read comics at every turn, and it helped me hide, and helped me process, and helped me grow like a branch that’s been cut, badly, but still has more to offer. So I advocate for books for mental health, and books for presents, and books for the home, and books to stop e-waste landfill.
I know, a writer pushing books, who would think it? But I’m genuinely pushing books as a person of the world, first, and a teacher, and a father, and a mate. Order online – from local booksellers, because F Amazon and their shitty practices [and they own Book Depository, so F them, too] – or from an independent creator if they have stuff online, and if you’re in a position where you can travel outside, visit a book seller, or a secondhand book store, I did the other day, or even hit up the library. On the last day of school, I walked outta there with a shopping bag of books for me and the kids because 2 weeks is a long time, and books are medicine, and…thanks for coming to my TED talk, I guess. Here’s the pic of my secondhand haul the other day as I got to sneak out for some mental health retail therapy!
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Self-Care with a Watermelon Sour

That beer can is for the Melon Degeneres – a watermelon sour ale, and it’s sweet and delicious.

I love a good sour. And I only ever need 1 or 2. My days of drinking for half a 24 hour cycle through dozens of standard drinks, most of which taste like goblin ass rinsed through hag hair are over. I just want to sit with a nice thing and enjoy it in that moment.

I think it’s important to identify what these things are, and then structure time and tide to have those little things now. Of course I’d love another NZ holiday, or an Artist’s Edition book of some Lark/Brubaker Daredevil, but those are the mountains we climb, between those should be the walks we dawdle through.

It’s why I like the mornings where I read for 10 minutes. It’s why I don’t drink absolute pisswater coffee made from the finest carcinogenic granules you can find. It’s why I’d prefer to support small business and get something a little more expensive, and a whole lot more delicious. It’s why I use my damn notebooks as I buy them.

I enjoy a delicious ale when I make my own pizzas. I like a coffee from a pot with my wife when we can. I buy mostly creator owned comics, and do so from my LCS and not Amazon. I try to push myself to make better desserts [tastier, and not just SHOOGARR!] – tonight will be bread and butter pudding again.

If I keep putting off the stuff I love, I don’t know if I’ll make it long enough to get them. Tell your mates you love them, have a laugh and a biscuit now, mix peanut butter with as many substances as you can – lately it’s peanut butter on cheese for me.

It’s not decadent, it’s reasonable, and it’s self-care, and it’s what gets me through sometimes. I’m aware of my scope of influence, it’s small, and I’m at the centre of it and if I neglect myself then I’ll whither on the vine, and then I won’t do anyone any good.

Find your own watermelon beer – and let me know if it’s a good drop.

Sometimes, You’ve Just Gotta Make Comics

A new comic is out, through Patreon, from Jacob Phillips and Chris Condon, titled BRUTAL DARK, and it’s pretty awesome!

You should definitely check out BRUTAL DARK and pledge $1 a month for a copy of each new mini-issue as they’re released.

 

What I appreciate most about this comic is how much it feels like the kind of thing where you just have to make it.

The creators already both have a book together coming out from Image Comics soon [once the world gets back online after it’s 2020 reboot]. They’ve gotten a very sweet level up, assisted by the fact Jacob Phillips is the son of Sean Phillips, but honestly slam dunked by the fact Jacob Phillips is a phenomenal artist. He might’ve got more eyes, but he’s earned their attention through talent and hard work.

With a grand horizon before them, albeit delayed, they still just have to make comics. So they’re putting this thing out through Patreon, for $1 a month, and they are short 8 page issues with a gorgeous cover and some back matter. I’m in – the issue is great, reall gorgeous art, really moody colours, and the framing/pacing is so beautifully done throughout. The pages flow very nicely.

Beyond the enjoyment of the comic, I love that idea that you’ve just gotta create, and then you scale it appropriately. There’s a great New York Times cartoon showing someone in a boat, maybe just one oar, they’ve survived a huge boat sinking, there might be a storm a-brewing, and the caption says “Now’s the time to finish that novel you always wanted to write.”

And I agree with the sentiment. These are wild times, there’s no expectation that we step up, improve our lives, when really we’re just trying to survive and continue our lives in whatever form they might crawl forward in.

But, I know some people just gotta do something to get through all this time. They want a distraction, they want to feel their hands move, they gotta swim or they’ll drown. And I think that’s where this stuff comes in. Keep yourself busy with some little stuff, something you can peck away at, something that makes you happy.

I don’t personally think drawing 8 pages a month is something little, but I can’t draw any pages at all, so that makes sense. But I’ve been setting small challenges. 1-2 pages of script a night. Chipping away at short form 300 word flash fic pieces for the Patreon. Getting 10 minutes for the guitar so I can master that Spider-Man cartoon theme song. If I cfould draw, man, I’d absolutely be working on little things – a book of themed sketches [like that Spider-Ham zine I picked up one time] or just weird one page comics].

Being realistic, I didn’t think Covid-19 isolation was going to suddenly yield a third draft on my novel. I’m not going to build a chicken shed. In fact, the first week of isolation, my mind was roadkill. It was really hard to concentrate, probably a mix of, well, everything, and my need to adapt to teaching online and all of the stress and anxiety that came with that.

I got little done in that first week. I tried not to beat myself up about it. Then things slowly got back on track, but slowly. Consistently writing 1 page of script a day is better than asking for 7 pages, only getting 3, but hating that i didn’t get 7 so the next night I get 0, and the spiral pulls me down.

Phillips and Condon are making this comic, it fills their void. I’m doing my best, too.

I have no doubt you’re doing whatever it is you need, and I’d love to know what that is. What are you creating during this time that brings you joy, maybe some piece, and leaves you with something productive you’ve done?

Case A –> Case B –> Case C –> Etc.

Got CAVERNS OF THE SNOW WITCH down from the shelf for a play with the kids recently, and it’s a ripper of a book, but it also gave me a solid little lesson.
It’s a small storytelling lesson, but it’s something I enjoyed being reminded of: Start your story/quest/adventure/case/crime small. Here, you go out to hunt a yeti. From there you avenge a fur trapper and hunt a Snow Witch. Along the way, there are other small parts, you meet a servant elf who wants to be freed. It’s all these little pieces leading you towards the end, and not just you setting out to kill a witch. It’s a great way to go, and it plays into crime structure well. You start by investigating case A, but it leads into Case B, and while A is solved, you learn enough to connect it to Case C, and that’s the big case. And if your character doesn’t figure it out, then you have an NPC wander in and bring some small element, and it leads to Case C. Reminds me of the Pixar rule: coincidence to get your character into trouble is fine, but you can’t use it to get them out.
It’s something I’ll take into my D&D planning, that escalating narrative scale, but also into my own writing. And again, this isn’t something new to me, but it’s nice to be reminded. I don’t always carry every one of the 22 Pixar Rules in my head, no less all the thousands of other things I’m supposed to know and use, so a refresher is always welcome.

Creative Feelings

Being creative is sometimes like those stories about superheroes whose power is also killing them.

It’s conflicting.

You wish it was easier. You dream of not wanting to be creative, to just use time to mindlessly [blissfully] chill, but you also can’t think of anything worse.

Being creative reminds me that I’m just about smart enough to consciously know how smart I am not.

This panel from WHAT IT IS by Lynda Barry sums up the emotions of writing perfectly.

But, still, there’s nothing finer than creating something and having it out in the world.

🤪📚⚰️

2020 Notebooks

If you need me, I’ll be here.

2020 has picked up enough that I’m now busy.

In fact, I’m full.

I teach full time, and try to do a damn fine job of it, so that leaves me time to split between family and writing [and D&D (and friends)]. As such, I can’t write 7 things at once, but I can write a few things at once and keep the quality high.

So, as of right now, this is my mental load.

Two miniseries I’m really excited for, both with different publishers I’ve never worked with before.

One graphic novella I’m hoping to spin into more.

One novel project that now gets the glorious position of being my back burner tinker project.

And DEER EDITOR. Always got time to sit and pull strings in that world, even though I have no idea at all when I’ll get to return.

I have my notebooks. I have a brain full of stories and characters and worlds.

I’m ready to write.

Writing is Therapy – Why an Online Scratchpad?

I’ve started a separate site, somewhere to hack out weird ideas and thoughts and stupidity. It’ll lack the structure and finesse of this site [don’t laugh]. You can follow my there by clicking the link in the image below.

This site will remain my professional home, home to announcements, essays, and other more structured things, but tbe will have the shortform, the undercooked, the mental shards and slivers. The other site will be my madness, while this remains [what’s left of] my sanity.

Enjoy.

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