Month: August 2007

Labor Day Weekend Just Got A Whole Lot Awesomer

They’re here. They’re finally, finally, finally here, and they look great, and I’m so happy with them that I’m lucky I’m not sobbing right now. The Diamond PO gets re-cut the week of 9/11/07, and they should ship to stores the week after, two weeks after at the latest. Please buy your copies from your local comics stores, and I’ll make them available through my site after they have shipped out.

And with that, I’m off on vacation.

Time Management

In case anyone wonders who I take my pointers from (and who causes me to feel like a heel for “wasting time”), please read these two journal entries by Colleen Doran:

Time Management I

Time Management II

SACK: Call for New Members

I keep forgetting to post this here. From Paul’s Deviant Art Journal:

The Sequential Artists Collective of Kalamazoo wants you to add your talents to the SACK.

The Sequential Artists Collective of Kalamazoo (SACK) is an informal weekly gathering of comic artists in the Kalamazoo area for the purposes of sharing and generating work that advances the science of comic art and graphic storytelling. Started by Paul Sizer and Jane Irwin, SACK is modelled after other successful weekly drawing groups around the country like Dr. Sketchy. Our purpose is to bring together the comic artist community for networking, critique and sharing of info and techniques. And work. We all gather to work at SACK!

Our weekly gatherings take place every Wednesday at the Rocket Star Cafe coffee shop ([link]) and generally go from 7pm to 10 pm, although they can last as long as people want. The gathering is informal, and attendance is based on individual’s availability.

OUR RULES AND GOALS (We’re tough but fair!)

What we want at SACK meetings:

1. Artists who want to improve and grow in their craft:

Art is a constantly evolving skill, and everyone benefits from continuing to learn and expand their views and perspectives.

2. Artists who are producing work for themselves or for hire:

SACK is comprised of self publishers, amatuers and professionals in the comics field. A level of commitment to your work is encouraged, whatever that level is at this time.

3. Artists who want real feedback about their art:

Honest, informed and constructive critique is essential for artistic growth. This is NOT a mutual appreciation society; it is a place where critique leads to intelligent discussion and artistic advancement in our craft. Sharing of tips, info, business ideas, techniques and skills is all part of building a community of artists.

4. Artists who love what they do:

At the end of the day, we do art because it gives us enjoyment, provides us a voice, or lets us share stories and ideas. You must dig what you do to share with our group. We have a good time when we meet, but we’re also serious about what we do.

What we DON’T want at SACK meetings:

1. Primadonnas and divas: If you want nothing but praise for everthing you do, get that from your grandmother; we’re here to advance and learn, not mindlessly kiss each other’s butts.

2. People who talk, but never listen: This is a two-way street; blowhards and loudmouths get kicked to the curb.

3. Closed minded individuals: Racist? Sexist? Homophobic? Take it somewhere else, we don’t have any room for you.

4. Lurkers: This group is a WORKING group. Attendees are expected to bring work to share or materials to work with during the meeting time. If you’re coming just to hang out or screw around and bother others, you won’t fit well with us.

Interested? If you’re local to the Kalamazoo area and interested in participating with this group, feel free to join in. We usually meet in the front area of the cafe (we’re kind of hard to miss). Or if you like, please feel free to email me with questions (paul@paulsizer.com)

Word from the coffeehouse

We have no power, and don’t expect to have any until Sunday at the earliest, so Paul and I spent most of today down at the Rocket Star. Thankfully, our freezer was stuffed to the gills and we were almost out of milk. I think we’ll lose the mayonnaise, but that’s about it; tonight we buy ice to make sure we don’t lose the frozen meat. We still have our gas stove, our gas hot-water-heater, and a solid roof over our heads, so it’s really only an inconvenience. we’re far better off than our neighbors, who had a centuries-old silver maple crash through their front porch, flattening it and taking off a chunk of roof.

I read by lantern-light last night, and it was wonderful. Too dark to draw, but not too dark to read. A couple years ago I bought a windup radio, a couple shaker-flashlights and two old Deitz lanterns. They sure came in handy last night.

Brodie

It is with sadness that I must report the passing of our blue-eyed siamese-tabby boy-kitty, Brodie, seen here with his sister, Basia in a lovely state of dishabille:

He got up this morning feeling ill, and started panting… and then barfing. He barfed all over the house until he was just putting up bile, and then we knew something was really wrong. He crashed pretty quickly, enough that by the time we knew he was really far gone, we called the home-visit-vet to administer euthanasia — but he passed about five minutes before the vet got here.

We were lucky; we got to hold him as he died. It took a while, and wasn’t particularly easy (we were hoping he’d just go in his sleep one night) but he didn’t suffer long. He was fifteen, and had been ill for a couple of years. We never thought he’d make it past Christmas last year, so we got almost nine extra months with him. Sweet old boy.

Paul and I went out to his parents’ farm and buried him in their informal pet-burying-place, next to Paul’s sister’s two cats who just died recently. It’s a pretty spot, and he got a temporary headstone befitting his sweet but dimwitted nature: a cinderblock with a chunk of sparkly quartz on top.

When Paul was making up his little coffin-box, he tried to think of something sentimental to put in with Brodie. The cat didn’t really have a special toy; in fact he usually didn’t play with the stuff we gave him, preferring instead to chew on used q-tips, milk rings, and plastic bags.

A couple of years ago, I bought Paul a tin of those Sakuma Fruit Drops from the Grave of the Fireflies movie, but he could never bring himself to open them. Today he did, and we each had a drop, and put one in the box with Brodie.

Here’s a video of him in better days, wrestling with his sister.

Rest in peace, Brody. Gonna miss you, stripey-legs.

Malloy Inc

Yesterday was awesome, especially in contrast to all the stupid emo crap I spouted a couple days ago.

I got up bright and early and drove to Ann Arbor in a thunderstorm to arrive at Malloy Inc, my new printers.

I walked in the front door and there was one of those little name-board thingies with the white plastic letters on ‘em. I did a double-take, because it said:

WELCOME

JANE IRWIN

OF

FIERY STUDIOS

Blush. What an awesome way to start your day! Even better, my Account Exec only drives in one day a week and she changed up her schedule so that she’d be in to meet me, and I also got to meet my CSR — it was good to finally put faces to the names of the people I’d been working with. So I get the hard proofs and I go into their conference room to go over them.

A couple hours later I finished the proofs, and then they took me out to lunch — a really nice new place on Jackson road with great atmosphere and fantastic food. I know this seems like little stuff when I type it out, but dude, If y’all knew how much I’ve been through trying to get these books printed, it was literally like crawling out of the desert and into an oasis.

An oasis where they served really good club sandwiches.

So then we went back to the plant and went over the changes together, and I got a full tour of the plant. Wow! Now, those of you who know me understand what a huge nerd I am for cool machinery, how-to sessions, and books — so the tour was a total geekout for me. If only I’d had my camera! Why didn’t I bring my camera?!

I got to see everything: collators both small and large, the hot-glue perfect-binding machine, the huge 1 or 2-color Timson presses with these cool holey spindles that shoot a buffer of air out of them so the paper never actually touches the spindle and another neato thingie that hypodermically injects just a little bit of water into the fold of the signatures so they’ll crease more easily, and the rows of 4-color Heidelberg presses, thermal plate-printing machines, the trimming machine with the built-in hood that sucks up all the loose trimmed paper (complete with b/w Suction Cam, I kid you not) and the table where they cut the heavy covers down to size where the surface of the table is all covered with these little gasketed beebees and when the heavy cover blocks depress the beebees a jet of air shoots out of the gasket, thereby essentially hovercrafting the coverstock around so that it doesn’t get scratched, and the casebinding machine and the machine that crimps and folds the dustjackets and and and and I got to fish around in the waste bins for hardcover books yay. Squeeeeeeeeee! It was nerd heaven.

And then I went home and fixed the changes and sent them over by FTP.

So I don’t have the books yet, but it’s looking like they’ll ship very, very soon. I was going to hesitate and not put up any information on Malloy until I received the books and was okay with them, especially given the run of luck I’ve had recently, but the experience I had was just too much fun, and far too positive not to recount. I really feel like the guys at Malloy have their heads on straight, and my reps seemed really super knowledgeable (not to mention really kind to me), and the company seemed really well- and tightly-run. Best of all, I really felt like they were devoting their total attention to me, and that I wasn’t just some flyspeck small-presser who they could blow off, or were too busy to deal with. I really felt special there, and that is really, truly, exactly what I need right now.

So yeah. I can’t yet vouch for the product because I don’t have it yet, but I can give their customer service a pretty big thumbs-up at this point, at least for the “courtship stage” of our relationship. All signs point to yes!

Woo!

New Comics Day!

Yesterday was New Comics Day.

And guess what was in a New Comic?

Look familiar?

You totally rock, Dave! Thanks for the huge (albeit subtle…) shoutout!

Thanks for the mental image, Tish.

Inspired by Tishalro’s comment on my previous, emo-artist entry:

Thanks, roomie.

Thank you, Layla. You totally made my day.

You must check this shit out. Totally worksafe, only you might find yourself boogieing a bit too hard for onlookers.

stupid muse.

Warning: Emo artist ramblings ahead. Beware.

So I’ve been trying to write something … anything on the new book. I have another week and a half left of vacation, and then it’ll be back to work, with no vacation for ages.

And I can’t get anything down that doesn’t seem like total crap. Or rather, I’ve a few scenes that may or may not be workable, but nothing toward a final outline.

This makes me sad in a lot of ways. Not the least of which is that if I’d had the opportunity for this much free time when I really needed it last year, I’d have been the most productive little worker bee you’d ever seen.

But now I’m kind of directionless. I feel like I don’t have a task to throw myself at. And the only task I have — the writing — is proving to be really hard, and not particularly fruitful this time out. I have several fun-but-too-disparate ideas, and they’re not really meshing, so my main attempt to get stuff into my head (and hopefully out again) has been to just read voraciously the last few weeks. I keep browsing and researching and reading for fun, in hopes that something will trigger a connection and make it at least start to work. I don’t expect the entire book to click magically like tumblers in a lock, but dang, it’d sure be nice if I could get an idea or two to shake hands with each other. Basically I’m hoping that some little factoid or idea will jump up and down and shout “pick me! me! I know the answer!”

Right now I’m vascillating between stubborn desire to do work, and angst over the fact that it feels like I’m being fundamentally wasteful of this amazing gift I’ve been given. I feel like I should’ve travelled somewhere, or visited some more friends, or lost an extra twenty pounds, or gee I dunno, *gotten some decent writing done*. SIGH.

I know, I know. I just need to let stuff sit and percolate. And it’s not like I’ve been sitting around doing nothing for the last month — I did Wizard World, I’ve been wrestling with two different printers, I moved my site from one host to another, I’ve been job hunting (and successfully, I might add!), I prepped and mailed out 50 damaged-book giveaway packages to libraries, I painted the basement, I read tons of things that I needed to read before I could write the new book —

— and yet, because I’ve not been able to budge the old muse forward, it still feels like I’m not treading water.

Stupid muse.

Stardust Review

Well, we went to see Stardust this weekend. My review’s below (Anybody know how to make a spoiler-cut in MT 4.0?) so don’t read any further if you don’t want to get spoiled.

Here, there be spoilers.

*******

So. Um.

Yeah.

I had really high hopes for this movie, and have been sneaking peeks at the teaser photos Neil’s been putting on his website for the last two years or so. It’d be fair to say that I’d been anticipating this film with a large amount of fangirlish glee.

And boy, was I ever disappointed.

In order to sanitize the book for a wider audience, they managed to siphon out the vast majority of the enchantment and wonder and alien otherness that Gaiman is so damn good at instilling in his books, replacing it instead with a whole bunch of stupid Hollywood bullshit that didn’t need to be in there at all, like The Gay Pirate Roberts and the Deus Ex Machina Babylon Candles. And the money that they spent on that stupid fucking “star crater” (and then had to keep shooting more footage in to justify the expense) could have been better spent on adding the Hairy Man, or Una’s furry ears, or the sere-wood, or the Tori Amos Tree, or the lion that fought the unicorn, or upping the ante on the nine-years’ fair at Wall, or even some little pixies in the background — you know, actual magic. It was like they took all the events of Gaiman’s book, and kept none of the intrinsic value of them.

What I really wanted out of this film was the deeply wondrous — and more-than-slightly-sinister — feel of faerie about me: the same kind of weird, disorienting, otherworldly feeling that Jim Henson’s movies — and Gaiman’s MirrorMask — captured. Because Henson and Gaiman (and Dave McKean and Susanna Clarke) Capital-G Get It. And the Hollywood people who adapted this film absolutely, categorically, Capital-D-N-G Do Not Get It. Instead, we got the santized, safe-for-the-Conservative-set, “Hey, I’ve seen ‘Lord of the Rings’ and ‘Pirates of the Carribean’, so I must know Fantasy!” Hollywood-lensed version of Faerie. Sure, there were a lot of flashy special-effects, and there was a lot of magic being cast, but honestly, I could have done with a lot more faerie-folk and a lot less of Michelle Pfeiffer’s ensorcelled boobs. Also, what kind of shit-hearted person goes miles out of his way to purposely (and pointedly!) tell off his ex-girlfriend and then invites her to watch him get coronated, just for spite? And sweet Krishna on a bicycle, what was up with all those fucking monologues about love and broken hearts? Nothing like being pummelled repeatedly with The Point Of the Movie.

Ugh. Hollywood.

There were a few good points, though, which keep me from entirely writing off the movie: Pfeiffer’s performance as the witch-queen was better than it really had a right to be (despite the portrayal being far more renfaire-witch than the considerably more evil faery-witch of the book) and I’ll give the effects people some credit for their (ab)use of her face and hands as metaphor for her failing magic. The lightning-catching scenes were excellent, and were possibly the only really gosh-wow wondrous moment in the movie. Zombie-Septimus was oddly fun. The morbidly funny Dead Brothers of Stormhold were handled really well, and offered the closest thing to the black-hearted humor I expect from Gaiman (and Pratchett, and Gilliam, and others who Capital-G Get It). Kate MacGowan did a really nice, non-hollywood job as Una. And Scotland continues to deliver an Academy-Award-winning performance. It’s rather sad to damn a Gaiman movie with the faint praise of “well, the backdrops sure were pretty,” but sometimes it’s all you have to go on. Oddly, I felt Vess’ hand more prevalently in the design and overall feel of the movie than I did Gaiman’s.

I guess it’s safe to say that I wouldn’t have been so disappointed in this movie if the book hadn’t been so fucking outstanding in the first place. So this morning I went back and reread the original illustrated text, clutching it to my chest like a long-lost friend. If you haven’t read the book before seeing the movie, don’t do so, because I promise you’ll be disappointed. See the movie, then read the book, and you’ll feel far more fulfilled.

Vogelein Newsletter: Long Overdue Update

Here’s the text of my most recent newsletter:

********************

Five things:

ONE: WHERE ARE THE BOOKS?

By now I’m sure you’re all wondering where the heck the new Vogelein books are, especially since I promised they’d be out in time for Independence Day. Unfortunately, the printer I was using has had some quality assurance problems. I’ve not said anything up until this point because I was hoping we’d be able to work it out, but we went through three separate print runs (!!), and none of the books have been up to my standards for delivery.

The good news is that I’ve been granted a refund, and I am working with another printer to get acceptable books printed and shipped as soon as I possibly can. At this point it looks like the new printing will ship sometime in mid-September. I would rather ship a late book than a substandard book, and I hope that you will be patient with me as I work to get the book done as quickly as possible.

Knowing that these books are late, for whatever reason, is a serious concern to me as a self-publisher, and though I’m working to rectify the situation, it still makes me feel like I’ve let everybody down. I want to make certain that each of you knows what’s going on, because without you, and your incredibly kind support, I wouldn’t have come this far in the first place.

TWO: WEREN’T YOU AT WIZARD WORLD?

Why yes, yes I was. I was a bit incognito, primarily because when Paul sent the check, they didn’t put my name on the list, but I also didn’t make a big stink about my presence there because I wasn’t sure if I was going until the last minute… I didn’t think I’d have saleable books (In the end I still didn’t, but I sold the aforementioned less-than-perfect books at a discount and with a disclaimer). And lastly, I arrived Friday morning with no sleep due to a horrendous sinus infection, and I wasn’t much good for anything until Sunday, by which point I’d almost completely lost my voice. I didn’t feel up to doing much, and aside from a very nice dinner on Saturday night with Pam and Nick Bliss, I didn’t get out to see a whole lot of the show or talk to a whole lot of people.

But! I did have a bunch of really super people stop by and say hello, including several fans who were really happy to get their hands on the new book, and said such kind and wonderful things that I left feeling completely uplifted. It was also really great seeing all the midwestern folks including J.Kevin Carrier and Pam and Matt Feazell and Jim Melby and Spike and Matt and the Cannon Boys and Jennie Breeden (even though she’s not actually from the midwest) and sweet merciful crap I can’t forget to mention how utterly kind and sweet Ben Avery was to me. He sent about eight hundred people by my table with a personal recommendation, so the least I can do is tell my readers to go check out his stuff as well.

Other than that, I mostly sat around counting the minutes until I could take the next round of sinus meds. For a more complete (and lucid) version of our trip, check out Paul’s Con Report here.

THREE: WHAT ABOUT THOSE KEY NECKLACES?

I don’t want to take orders for these until I have some in hand. The good news is that I think I’ll get some of the “basic” version (the kind with a chain that you can wear, as opposed to the “super-deluxe” version that comes with a special, custom-made box) on Labor Day. As soon as I receive them, I’ll post them up for sale and send out another email. In the meantime, you can see photos of them, here.

FOUR: HARDCOVERS?

I got to see the early stages of the limited edition Old Ghosts hardcover this afternoon. Hokey Smokes, are they pretty. Bessenberg got a papersmith to custom hand-marble the paper specifically for this run. I asked them to “Make it look like ‘Winter’,” and boy, did they ever. These things are going to be utterly spectacular when they’re done.

Also, I have exactly seven copies of the limited edition Clockwork Faerie hardcover remaining. You can purchase them here, if you’re interested.

FIVE: SPX!

After a lot of hemming and hawing, we’ve committed to doing SPX this October. If all goes well, I should have everything there with me: Final printings of the book, Original art, hardcovers and keys. Woo!

Well, that’s all five things. I’ll send out another update as soon as I get a firm release date on Old Ghosts. Or you can probably listen for the crazed, lunatic shout of happiness and relief that I’ll give as soon as I get my hands on them. I’m pretty sure you’ll be able to hear it five or six states away.

Yours,

Janer

Updates and stuff

Yipes.  Hey.  Had an outage there for a while, and I’m in the process of moving some stuff around.  Please pardon the dust for a while; I should have things back to normal before too much longer.

Thanks for your patience.

Book Purse

So I finally finished my book purse. I think it’s the single girliest thing I’ve ever owned. It looks really cool, and for a first attempt at a new craft, I’m pretty pleased. There’re things I’d do differently, but thanks to the wonders of Tacky Glue, this one is how it is. It’s surprisingly sturdy, and I’m looking forward to carrying it to special events. For those of you who’re freaked out at the idea of scalping such a good-looking book, I got it on eBay for $1, and it’s a hugely common “leatherette” mass-market edition, so this is no great loss to the literary community. The interior was in such perfect condition that I saved it and may rebind it someday. Till then, I’m going to enjoy carrying its flayed hide around with me. Muahahaha.

Instructions are here if you want to make your own.

What’s Cookin?

This morning, I was overcome by a cookin’ frenzy. I got up and helped Paul load the rubble from the destroyed coal bin into our neighbor’s pickup, then ran a bunch of errands downtown, including the food coop and the farmer’s market. Then I got cookin’.

I made ginger-lemon tea, bottled up the last of the first batch of garlic-onion kraut, made another huge batch of garlic-onion kraut (enough to last the whole winter, I figure), made roasted-beet cold borscht, and a whole-wheat overnight sponge so that I can bake bread tomorrow. Then I watched a new tape of Good Eats (Thanks, Alem!) and cut first-harvest apples for the dehydrator. I had also planned to blanch and freeze the red haven peaches I got this morning, but they need a while yet to ripen, so I’ll do that on Monday or Tuesday.

And now I’m going to chill out for a while and catch up on some historical non-fiction reading, which I hope will grant me more new ideas for the new book.

Good News!

After literal years of job hunting, I have landed myself a job. YAY.

Ups: It’s working almost-full-time, it’s at an establishment whose work does good for the world, the office is dress casual, and five blocks from my house.

Downs: 8am start time, no bennies (which is fine because Paul has really good insurance through WMU), no vacation for the first year, and a severe pay cut.

The downs aren’t all that bad, though: If I need to take a day off for a library gig or a three-day-weekend, I should be able to shift my hours around to allow for it. Plus, it means an extra ten hours a week for comic work, and an 8am start time forces me to get up and get going and not waste any of my day. Not having to commute is a huge benefit in and of itself; I’ll save on gas and car maintenance, not to mention the extra time. Lastly, it starts after Labor Day, so I have another full month’s vacation — which makes that whole no vacation thing not quite so bad. I will, however, have to get crackin’ on the new book or I’ll hate myself forever and ever.

The pay, while way less than I’m used to, will cover all my necessities, including savings, but not a whole lot else. My pocket money will have to come from Fiery Studios now, so I may start taking a bit of freelance or the odd commission here and there. I think it’s a fair trade in return for more autonomy.

So yeah. Employment. Good. Hooray!

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