Without Fear

Ryan K Lindsay – Writer

Category: verbiage

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.

Alchemical.

“…it’s important to keep in mind that a lot of this job of ours is alchemy, not chemistry.”

From the Jonathan Hickman interview on CBR. Yes.

ETERNAL Short Listed for a Ledger Award

Humbled to discover our little OGN that could, ETERNAL, has been short listed for a Ledger Award.

ETERNAL gets the props it does on the backs of Eric Zawadzki’s art and lettering, Dee Cunniffe’s colours, Dan Hill’s edits, and Courtney Menard’s gorgeous wallpaper – and big ups to Black Mask Studios for putting out something this different [European size, oversized one-shot format].

Stoked to see this strong line up of Australian comic talent, so go have a look and track down whatever you’ve missed so far.

I still love this book, and hopefully one day we can get back to doing more of the same – not a sequel, but more a companion piece.

Until then, good luck to everyone at the Ledger Awards, and keep reading good comics!

Back to Basics and Having Fun in a Writing Teaching Moment

I love teaching writing.

I’ve rarely learned anything new about writing by teaching it to 11yo’s, but I always have fun, and I always come away with something.

Today was a perfect example – I was teaching basic story structure. I used a modified Hamburger Plan that looks similar to this:

It takes students through an intro; with character/s, location, and some basics of time, weather, etc.

Then it drops a hook – what is the complication, which we’ve boiled down to being: what does the character want, but cannot have?

From there, they try a few things and eventually stumble across or build towards a resolution. The example I give, that is rubbish, and so no student can steal it, but it gives a small idea of it all is what follows:

A young girl wakes up one morning in her room, and she wants some milk. But the fridge is empty of milk. So she goes to the store, and they are out, so she tries a supermarket, and they’re out, so eventually she borrows some from a helpful neighbour [maybe after staging a daring, and yet failed, milk truck raid, if you’re nasty].

That story illustrates character desires, and a complication to resolve, but unfortunately it’s boring. And the main character doesn’t learn anything, they just act like a pest until someone in their sphere of influence yields and gives her the dairy hook up. So I explain that to the class, usually with a few laughs, and then we build another story in front of the class, with their assistance.

I try to do this live, with no pre-prep or set up, so they can see that it can be done with an open mind.

I start with the first interesting character that springs to mind – a giant.

I ask the kids for a secondary character, a friend/sidekick type – they spit out a few responses and I decided to amalgamate two into something I like: a clown on stilts.

I tell them the story is taking place in a city, a New York city type place, big skyscrapers, squillions of people, and then I say it’s Winter because…because I like Winter, and it’s more fun for me to describe, and that’s why.

We talk about possible complications for a giant living in a huge city and the kids circle the idea: he doesn’t fit anywhere, he has nowhere to go, and I add in that the city sees him as a kind of nuisance.

I then tell the class that maybe if we think of a resolution to his problem, then we can build the story’s guts up to that resolution. A student suggests the giant build a new home and it instantly sparks an idea – so I tell the kids to watch and learn, because I’m about to take that idea and spin gold with it.

I say the first thing the giant does in the story is try to fly away, because he knows he doesn’t fit, so he’s off to a farm. To do this, he enlists the aid of a mechanic to build him a jetpack, but all the jetpack ends up doing is making him hover, not propel away, so he’s stuck in the air above the city. He eventually lands to try something else, which becomes the next section of the story.

The giant enlists a builder to make him a huge houseboat, so he can live on the river – because all cities have rivers, that’s why cities popped up, to be on waterways to be able to trade with other cities. But when the giant pops into his houseboat, it displaces so much water that it floods the city. And then the city folk hate him even more.

The giant is pretty dejected by now, he’s failed, and then actively affected others, so now he just wants out enough to simply walk away. Which he does, and it works, but then the clown – I couldn’t very well forget about our clown on stilts – finds him abandoning him and the city and he gets sad – he doesn’t want his best [giant] friend to leave. The giant can’t handle hurting another person, so he stays – which is when he gets his idea.

And this is where I thread it all together for the kids, showing how a story should always build up, having the character also build and grow themselves, while also collecting plot tokens.

So the giant has – the possible ability to hover, a houseboat, and a desire to stay with his best friend. So he puts it all together in a new way creating a hovering house above the city. Problem solved, story resolved, and the end is consistent with the character’s desires and what happened in the story.

Though one student then pointed out that the city would hate this floating shade in Winter, causing people to freeze to death in the excessive cold underneath, so I had to change it to Summer. Stupid Summer. But at least it shows a willingness to edit when plans don’t exactly work out.

With the story ended, I congratulated us all, and one student asked what happens when Summer ends, and I at first laughed her off, saying stories just have to resolve…’for now.’ But then I thought deeper and realised the giant would probably just install a sunroof, and sunfloor, to let the sun through on Winter days – though this might have a magnifying effect with all the window/lenses, and that would just have him setting fire to everything below – at which point we realised we had the basis of our sequel story :]

It was a great lesson, I loved filling in the story and having a laugh, and it reminded me for my own writing that if we drop in our loose resolution, we can then seed plot moments and tokens throughout for our characters to find to inform them, make change, or build growth in them. It’s not something I didn’t already know, but putting this stuff into my forebrain always helps.

We can always be thinking about writing, and we forever should.

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