A New Decade

As I write this, I have exactly one week left in my forties, and that is a strange feeling. Not a bad one, exactly. But very strange. I was talking with my mother recently, as we sometimes do on the phone, about the disconnect between mental age and physical age. Because they had me in high school, my parents were always younger than other people’s, and my mother could justifiably say stuff like “I can’t believe my son is 30!” when she was not yet 48 and could still pass for 40.

Anyway, she said something that I had been feeling for some time but hadn’t really articulated. It is simply that once you hit a certain age, your hypersensitivity to how old you are drops off. Perhaps you remember being a kid under 10 and demanding that people recognize you were 7 and a half, not just 7. I grew up younger than my cohort after skipping grade one and it was a bizarre experience, in retrospect, to go to college having just turned 17. What the hell were we thinking back then?

Mom told me that even as she approaches 70, she feels like she’s about 50. And I, at nearly-50, feel like I have the energy and kind of engagement with the world that someone in their 30s would have. Or that is just the age group I relate to? She told me how her mother, the late great Alice Amero, always talked about feeling young. It is a good way to be, I can’t deny it. Where does this ability come from? Does everyone have it? Is it healthy? I couldn’t say. But this vague and probably unimportant delusion is where I currently rest, like an old man on a bench in a mall, waiting for his wife to finish smelling things in Lush.

So how are you doing? Well, I hope. I last posted here two months ago and joked about how infrequent I have gotten with posting. That’s the kind of year it’s been, like we are in one of those weeping angel episodes of Doctor Who. Every time we blink, something weird and disturbing appears behind us. But you can’t just go around with your eyes bulging open, so we carefully blink and keep making adjustments to whatever new horrors have appeared.

These days I am mostly trying to get some drawing done and finish up some comics in time for DCAF, which is less than two weeks away. I am fairly certain that I will get at least one of them done. And then, after the show and the week off that precedes it, I will rest; by which I mean I will go back to my day job, but at night I will relax and play video games or something until my guilt overtakes me and I start spending my evenings trying to learn a 3D sculpting program or something.

Meanwhile time keeps on slippin’ slippin’ slippin’ into the future as Steve Miller so infuriatingly predicted. My very general plans are to draw comics this month, finish and revise a short novel next month, do Inktober in October, do National Novel Writing Month in November, and then do my usual December rituals of making some gifts and gift tags, updating my website and scanning stuff, and generally getting organized for next year. What was 2018? Where did it go? Blink.

Anyway, since I am posting so infrequently now that you could fairly assume that I have taken up residence on the event horizon of a black hole, here are some things I should plug while I have your attention:

  • I have a new online store! I spent a long time tinkering with it and trying to ensure that the shipping costs were going to be fair. If you want an autographed book, or Story Mode cards, or if you want to commission a piece, you can do it all there.
  • Come say hello at DCAF on Sunday, August 19th at Alderney Landing in Dartmouth if you are going to be in the area. It is always an enjoyable show with cool stuff to see.
  • I finally launched the Story Mode card game, and you can try it yourself for free by downloading and printing the cards or you can order a set from me while supplies last through the new online store, or you can get some from me at DCAF. If you are an English Lit or drama nerd, a teacher, actor, improviser, or card game nerd, you will probably find something to enjoy in Story Mode.

That’s it for now. Thanks as always for reading. I hope you are having a good summer.

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One of Those Days

I woke up this morning earlier than my wife, as I typically do, and sat on the couch in pajama pants and a t-shirt catching up on the internet or playing the daily rounds of Fairway solitaire. I read a story that was really upsetting and shared it to facebook, and felt my mood shift. I entered an emotional funk that was not really lifted for a few hours, when I read another long article, this one not so much upsetting as grim, but it seemed to help. In between I spent a lot of time with the Buddhist Voice in my head, reminding me to seek balance. My asshole brain took that as a cue to start spinning comics ideas out of whatever BV said.

While Nicole visited her family in the afternoon, I finished writing the script for the latest episode of Sunday Night in Cinema 3 and was pleased with it. I recorded the episode, pausing the recording at one point while the cat made some noise getting dry food from her food puzzle. Yes, I said food puzzle. I finished the recording just before Nicole got home.

We talked and made dinner, watched some TV, and I went to edit and publish the podcast. I edit along until I get to the part where I paused for the cat noise and… there’s nothing after it. I don’t know if I didn’t resume the recording properly, or if I somehow deleted the second section, but in any case, it isn’t there. So the episode will be a day late, I will re-record the missing section tomorrow and publish it after work.

One of those days. But honestly, I’m not bothered. I’d gladly trade some little mishaps for being in a happy and productive mood.

We went for a skate on the last day of the season this morning, and talked about wanting to do more travel this summer within the province, as well as day trips to the beach and perhaps a longer jaunt around Cape Breton, where I haven’t been since I was a child. We also want to do some camping and kayaking; perhaps I will even give surfing another go. The weather has been warming enough and I have been working out often enough during the winter that I feel like I can get back to running outside again soon.

Upsetting think-pieces aside, it was a pretty good week, more so because of a general increase in productivity at my day job, which makes me feel less general anxiety. I wrapped up the work week by doing my annual fantasy baseball draft with some old friends on Friday night and a local record fair on Saturday morning.

That’s it. Look for the podcast tomorrow and some other stuff to publish this week. Have a good one.

 

What Time Is It?

I’ve always been fascinated by the concept of time, something both so natural and so artificial, that we bend intentionally and that bends us. One of my favourite books is Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman; it is a collection of short vignettes about the early life of Einstein when he was a patent clerk in Vienna, and the dreams that Lightman imagines might have inspired the theory of relativity. Each of the dreams posits a scenario where time works differently than the way we are used to.

Anyway, remember how I was writing about stress last week? I was thinking about it some more and analyzing where stress comes from, for me. It often comes from the fear of being late- I am generally VERY punctual- and that could include deadlines for work or for my own projects.

When you are a self-publisher, I don’t think it makes ANY sense to create deadline related stress for yourself. We already have enough of that in our day to day lives. This is something I was especially thinking about as I fleshed out the timelines for projects I want to get done this year. Some of the tasks were viable, others would be charitably called stretch goals (64 pages of comics from me in a year? Yeah right).

Once all those deadlines and checkpoints were laid out for me, I could feel the stress wanting to rise, but thankfully the Zen side of me put a firm hand on its shoulder and invited it to sit. I decided to try a different approach for a while, one which is sometimes used as a mindfulness exercise for Buddhists. If I started to feel stressed, or paralyzed by too many choices of what I could be doing, I would simply stop, take a breath, and ask myself, what time is it?

We have many times of day, and they don’t all have hard strict limits, but they tend to have fairly regular patterns. I work Monday to Friday from 8:30 AM to 5 PM, for example. Some days I might not sign in until 9, or I might work a few hours late at the end of the day. But the general “work day” pattern is there. So if it’s 3PM on a Tuesday and I ask myself, what time is it? The answer is: time to work, dummy.

Those answers could come from commitments (like work), habits (running or the gym), biological need (eating, sleeping), psychological need (relaxing, recreation), and more. So there are many possible responses to “what time is it?” at any given time of the day, but I think it’s asking the question that kicks the answer into our heads, because deep down we know what we ought to be doing, if only we did not fear the prospect of doing it.

Anyway. Give it a try, if you think it would be useful for you.

What else to talk about this week? I watched a lot of Bones, which is still possibly the worst thing ever made, and yet I cannot stop. I will ride all fourteen seasons down to hell in the name of distracting my overactive brain in the afternoons at work.

I’ve been reading the latest novel by Tom Perrotta, called Mrs. Fletcher, which alternates between the point of view of an entitled white kid from the Boston suburbs and his mother who has just seen him off to college and who is coming to embrace the idea of being a MILF. Like everything Perrotta does (The Leftovers, Election) it’s a little twisted, but compelling.

I guess I could sum up what I have done this week creatively. I worked on a new print and am just about ready to start the artwork in Clip Studio. I had a cute idea for another print and sketched that out. I published two new installments of The Insult., and two new installments of Faith of the Heart, one of which is exclusively on Patreon. I reviewed some of the manuscript of 4 of a Kind, my soon to be finished novel from last year’s NaNoWriMo. And, I published the latest episode of Sunday Night in Cinema 3 and have applied to have it listed in the iTunes store… cross your fingers.

Lots to do, as always, but the technique I described above is helping. Hope you have a great week.

-SM

Adventures in Publishing

I’ve dusted off this old blog and will try to post something useful here once in a while, probably about projects that I am working on.  If you’re interested in other kinds of content, you can also enjoy my angry retweets on Twitter, reblogs of useful art tips on Tumblr, and a very infrequently updated Facebook page.

Anyway. I’ve posted before, here and there, about how I am a project-oriented artist. So much so that I keep an Access database of things I want to get done, from comics and illustrations to animations and card games. I usually have more than one thing going on at a time, for the sake of variety.

As 2016 came to a close, I realized that it had been around 25 years since I started drawing comics in earnest. Most of them were self-published at copy shops and distributed around wherever I was living at the time, and while I still have decent scans and file copies, most of them fell out of print. Sometimes I would make them available for download online as PDFs.

I thought that it might be nice to mark that 25th anniversary with a collection – something I could publish through a print on demand service, make available to actual bookstores and libraries as well as comic shops. So, I looked around at my options and decided to try Amazon’s print on demand service, CreateSpace.

Then I realized: why not bring back other stuff into print? I have also written plays, novels, tons of film reviews, and webcomics. I decided to try publishing one of my plays, An Otherworld, first. I already had the interior pages saved as a decent PDF, so all I had to do was design a cover. The entire effort took less than a day, and within a week I had copies in my hand. The quality was good, so I did another book of plays and then decided to try a collection of comics, to see how well the artwork would print.

That collection of a webcomic I did last year, The Insult, turned out very well, I think. So, I am currently dividing my time between getting that book into stores and assembling the pages for the next one, the aforementioned retrospective which will be called “Young, Dumb, and Full of Comics.” After that, probably one of the novels, and after that, a collection of film reviews and essays.

If you wind up checking any of them out, I hope you enjoy them. Watch this space for updates on their progress.