I genuinely don't know what to say. I'm floored. Thank you, all of you, who continue to support my little flight of fancy. You make all the hard work and long hours and stress completely and totally worth it. Y'all rock.
1. I got reviewed in Booklist!
On page 490 ot the November 1st Booklist, there's a short, but very positive, review of Vogelein! In the sake of copyright, I can't repost the whole thing here, but I can excerpt it: "This modern fable is a rare treasure that weaves fanciful imagination into themes of individuality, diversity, and independence. The art is beautifully shaded black and white, and it carries the narrative impeccably, bringing across both the emptions of the characters and the depth of their world. Great for middle readers who like graphic novels..."
And as if that weren't enough:
2) I'm having a limited run of twenty copies of Vogelein:Clockwork Faerie hardbound. I'm using the renowned Bessenberg Bindery in Ann Arbor. They do a-mazing work.
I went today to pick out the endpapers and cover stock. Each volume will be handbound with a bonded leather spine and corners, handmade paper covers, hand-marbled silver-and-black endpapers, and a die-stamped silver foil key on both the front cover and the spine. Orders will include a pencil or ink sketch (your choice) of your character of choice on the front page(s) and will be personalized per request. Pricing for these is looking at the $60-$75 range, and I will have a firm amount and an order page shortly. Email me to Reserve your copy.
3. I've been picked up by Waldenbooks! This is good news for anyone who doesn't have a Local Comics Store nearby. The order ships out this Wednesday, so you can start looking for them in stores -- and requesting them there -- sometime around the end of November. It was a pretty substantial order, so if you ask them to order you one, you should be able to get your hands on one.
4.I have a lovely new interview up on Ninth Art! Ypsilanti local Kevin Dole did a really wonderful job of capturing my tone of voice -- half comics evangelist, half smartypants. Please go check it out!
I'm about ready to burst, I'm so excited! Thanks to everyone who helped me get this far, and for all those who continue to send encouragement and positive vibes. I wouldn't be here without you.
So I finally got a weekend free, and I did a whole bunch of updates. If you came to this page by way of a bookmark, you might want to stop by the homepage and see the new changes. It should load much faster at this point.
There's also a new page for Librarians, one for Retailers, an updated Speaking Engagements page, and a couple new photos down below, in May's Motor City report. Oh -- there's a big new news thingy I have to report, but I'm going to sit on it for a while until I'm 100% sure it's gonna go through.
In the meantime, I've been doing a lot of writing. My editing team has the script for the second Vögelein graphic novel -- tentatively titled "Old Ghosts" -- in their hands, I'm currently writing the fourth, and the third is still "in the rock polisher" to use Carla Speed McNeil's phrase. So... yes, there will be a lot more Vögelein. No, I don't know when. The first one took me six solid years; I'm hoping the second will take much less. They'll only be published as Graphic Novels from now on, that's the one sure thing. Wish me luck.
For some idea of what August was like for me, it all started at the beginning of the month when the books arrived. I punched through about 75 press orders (to places like local newspapers, Entertainment Weekly, Booklist and the like) and then a dozen or so preorders before I had to jet off to Wizard World Chicago. Immediately after that I had to stay with an out of town relative for a week... so I effectively lived out of a suitcase for 2 straight weeks. No sooner did I get back from that than I had the release party, and at the end of that week, I moved apartments. This is normally not that big of a deal, but the new apartment was at least 15% smaller than the other one, which means that I had to sort through everything I owned and get rid of at least that much of it. Then none of my furniture fit, so I had to go out and buy new furniture on top of everything else. Then SPX happened, and I had a blast, (more info on that below), but I spent 18 hours in a car in just over three days, and spent most of the rest of it on my feet selling and talking, so my voice is totally shot right now. And, just for good measure, around about the time I went to Wizard World, I suddenly started having stress-related health problems that have had me seeing doctors hither and yon. (Stress? ya think?) But the good news is that I've finally given, thrown or moved away enough stuff to find my floor and desktop again.
And, I've also managed to get all the Preorders done. IMPORTANT: If you preordered, and you DO NOT receive your trade paperback before the end of this week, email me IMMEDIATELY. (Except for Paul who lives in the Netherlands... it might take just a little longer for yours to get to you, but it's going out in today's Post!) There's always the possibility that an order got overlooked in the chaos of last month and I don't want anyone to go without. I am very thankful that everyone who preordered has been patient with me, and allowed me to do everyone a good-quality sketch instead of just slapping things together. It may have taken a couple extra days, but I want everyone to be happy with what they receive.
So, now that you've all heard me whinge about how busy I've been, it's now time to celebrate all the wonders that I've seen in the last month! For the business was almost entirely good stuff. Parties, Conventions, new and old friends... I'll start from the most recent and work my way backwards.
This was fun -- until it rained! Paul Sizer, Jim Ottaviani and I shared two tables and did a surprising amount of business for a Sunday afternoon. No pictures, unfortunately. The odd thing was that as soon as I left to go on an errand for an hour or two, Paul and Jim started selling books hand over fist. They made me promise to go away more often. Less work for me, I guess.
The Small Press Expo, Bethesda, MD, Sept 5-8
Lordy, lordy, lordy. For all the disappointing shows I've done, and all the times we small pressers have been stuck in the armpit of a big show, this wondrous weekend made up for all of them.
Friday, September 5th
I drove down to Bethesda with Matthew Messana, henceforth known as Jane's Boothmonkey, MonkeyBoy, Virus or Fezboy -- seen here with Wizard employee and former Sequential Tart, Trisha Lynn Sebastian. He's a versitile one, that Matthew, and answers to just about any name you wanna yell at him. He's also the owner of a Damn Fast Car, a car with bunwarmers, leather seats and zoomy zoomy engine that made the nine hour drive (each freakin' way) far more bearable.
So we come rolling into Bethesda at about 4:30 am on Friday morning. We left at 7pm the night before, and drove a harrowing trip via the Pennsylvania Turnpike through twisting mountain roads reduced to single lanes by construction and crowded in by huge semis migrating east like bison. Virus navigated like a pro, and even loaded down with about 800 pounds of con supplies and baggage, the TT handled like a dream. Car Go Fast Now!
Now, arriving that early might sound like hell, but lemme tell you, we missed Beltway traffic entirely. When we arrived at the hotel, you could have fired a cannon down the beltway and only hit us and two other cars. I'm told that during daylight hours, the drive from Pennsylvania to downtown alone can take six hours, so I'm quite glad we made the run in the middle of the night.
In we go and collapse into bed. Slept like clubbed seals. Good grief, was I glad that I listened to Virus and got a room in the con hotel. Trying to navigate between two hotels on five hours' sleep would have been a nightmare.
I was up a few hours later and let Matthew continue sleeping -- he'd driven the entire way and deserved the rest. Headed down to the lobby and immediately ran into Tom Beland and Lily Garcia, two of my favoritest people in the business. Said hellos, and went questing for coffee. Armed well with caffeine, I headed down to the Montgomery Room, where I would quickly find myself in extremely good company. Greg McElhatton, the show director and a Tartsville denizen himself, had seen fit to lump a big portion of the Sequential Tart community together, all in one place.
This picture shows perhaps one-third of the Sequential Tarts that attended the show -- talk about a useful online community! Other SPX-attending Tartsville residents not represented in this picture include Harris O'Malley, Jim Ottaviani, Raina Telgemeier, Jeff Parker, JE Smith, Tom Beland, CatBoy, Lee, Denise Sudell, Laura, Pam Bliss, Rich Watson... the list goes on and on. So many creators, writers and fans all brought together by an online messageboard! (And most of us are sane, too.) Let's hear it for Tartsville!
A couple days before the show, Greg made me spit coffee all over my monitor by informing me that I was going to be sitting next to none other than Terry Moore, the creator of Strangers in Paradise. I was thrilled to get the chance to talk to Terry and Robyn throughout the weekend -- but wasn't too thrilled at having to restrain myself from going all fangirl all over him. (Turns out that Tom Beland had the same problem when driving Terry to a signing in California one time, so I didn't feel so bad.)
Terry and Robyn were two of the nicest people you can hope to meet, and were extremely polite in putting up with my incessant Faerie Shill. (Buy my book! Buy my book!) Greg told me that since this was Terry's first SPX, he wanted to put someone next to him that wouldn't frighten him away. (Fat chance, Greg. He's never comin' back now!) It also turns out that this is gonna be Terry's last show til SDCC next year, so I feel doubly lucky.
Friday was a fantastic day, and the spillover from Terry's table had a wonderfully beneficial effect on my sales -- while people waited patiently in line to buy SiP, they got subjected to all sorts of Faerie Marketing Schpeil. Turns out that SiP fans are Vögelein fans, too! Robyn and Terry both dished me some useful dirt on our mutual printers - and thanks to their recommendation, I got some most excellent customer service at Quebecor. Thanks, guys!
For some reason, I got it into my head that I should make Mooncakes to share with the Sequential Tart crowd. They were a hit, and nearly three dozen cakes vanished, poof! Now I am distributing recipes and eBay links to mooncake molds.
Friday night we got a crew of Tartsville people together for dinner at a mexican restaurant next door to the hotel. Mixing fifteen knackered artists and pitchers of sangria is seldom a good idea, and sure enough, it ended with paper towels on the floor and cursing. And guess what? It was on the opposite side of the table so I had nothing to do with the spilling! Nothing, I tell you! (For those who don't know, I have a -25 point GURPS disadvantage -- I spill things. Lots of things. Even people, sometimes. Ask Jef.) But we had a darn good time in between, and I even learned some new mohel jokes. This particular gathering was to celebrate the release of Smut Peddler -- a girl-friendly porno minicomic that got its start in Tartsville, and saw brisk sales during SPX. Yay, Smut!
We got back to the hotel to find a huge industry schmoozefest going on in the lobby -- people from all walks
of small press publishing life were rubbing elbows, talking shop, and drinking. Loud, wonderful, invigorating...
and I was so wiped out that pretty much went straight to bed...
but not before drawing a cartoon about Man-Eating Brie in Suzanne Baumann's sketchbook. (yes, I was tired and loopy.) Seriously, though -- they collected a bunch of old turn-of-last-century punchlines from old New Yorker cartoons, and had them arrnaged, with no pictures, one to a page. Each artist picked a quote and did a drawing to match. Mine was something about Brie being out of control, so I drew it bursting out of a shipping crate and devouring a shipful of pirates. I love pirates. They're the new monkeys, you know.
Saturday, September 6th
I hate to say "More of the Same", but... more of the same. Same great show, same literate, articulate fans, same outrageously good sales. Oh, and same free drink tickets so that we could get boozy during the show. Have I mentioned in the last ten words how much I love SPX?
Seriously though. I was selling and sketching so much that I didn't get away from the table all that day. The morning was beautiful, though, and I took a ten-block walk to a coffee shop to get my head together for the show. MmmmMMm. Coffee.
Some things I learned during the show (Taken from a very similar post on the Sequential Tart boards:
Much food was consumed, and I found out that Bethesda's Mongolian BBQ is better than Michigan's. By far.
I gifted CatBoy with a tinwhistle, and blew my cover as an Irish Session Musician showing him how to play it.
Then we headed back to the hotel, where ANOTHER amazing night of small-press schmoozing was underway. Despite an evening-long Coca-cola binge, I crashed early, again. Soooo tiiiired. Not that I was complaining -- it was definitely a good kinda tired.
Sunday, September 7th
Sunday at SPX used to be a picnic and pig roast -- but this year they forsook the social event in favor of another day of sales. This made me sad. My pocketbook was happy, but I would have far rather
had the opportunity to just sit and shoot the breeze with authors and publishers -- especially those I only get to see once a year, and even more especially since I was too tired to talk on Friday or Saturday night.
You know that old saying about people being separated at birth? Well, come to find out it's true. Jen Hachigian Jerrard and Layla Lawlor got sat right next to each other -- and look at 'em, wouldja? View this handy infographic on Layla's site for further info on the conspiracy -- it shows Layla, Jen, and Layla's real-life sister, Harmony. Considering the evidence, I'd say we're looking at a definite adoption, one way or the other.
One thing that did make me sad was the absence of Paul Sizer, which denied us the chance to have another real-life couples version of Separated At Birth... with me and Paul -- and Tom and Lily. I suppose this is the exact point in the story where Tom starts giving me crap for havng a thing for bald comic book writers... and perhaps justifiably so. But regardless of the comparison, I'm not cutting my hair as short as Lily's. Some of us look cute with short hair (Lily) and some of us look like dejected fifth-graders (me). Still, you couldn't ask for a nicer couple to be compared to.
Sunday's sales continued strong, and one SiP fan who had bought my book sight unseen on Saturday (hiya, Dermot!) liked V so much that he came back and bought five more copies for his nieces and nephews. Now, that's dedication!
I also got a visit from my SuperFans, Jeff and Tracy, who flew in from Texas to say hello. It's one thing to have people write you emails and tell you that they like your book, and it's entirely another to have people fly a thousand miles just to say hello. Add to that the fact that Jeff and Tracy are incredibly nice people (Tracy: hope the chiropractor sets your back aright, BTW) and their visit made one of the best parts of the entire weekend. After a mad dash for their plane (Just one more sketch! We can take a taxi! Really!) they headed back out for home. I am well blessed to have fans like these. They make it all worthwhile, even dealing with the weenies.
Sunday morning, Virus left his fez unguarded and I took full advantage. By Sunday afternoon, things slowed down to a crawl, and I was able to make a dash away from the booth and get books from Raina Telgemeier, A. Dave Lewis, Rafer Roberts, Batton Lash and Jackie Estrada, Harris O'Malley, Sean Bieri, who I swear is one of the funniest guys making comics today; several books from Ad House Books (Southpaw, Pulpatoon Pilgrimage, and some of Pitzer's minicomic stuff), the irrepressable Neil Kleid, and many others, whose stuff I haven't even had a chance to wade through yet, thanks to the apartment move. I also got to trade books with the likes of Ted Rall. It amazed me that people of Rall's calibre are just wandering around the show, talking shop. This tall, unassuming guy walks past, looks at the book, and I mechanically offer him a free comic. Then I look at his name tag. "Gimme that comic back!" "Why?" "Dude, you're Ted Rall! Have a comp of the graphic novel!" Yeah. Like that.
My pick of show, however, was Lark Pien's Long Tail Kitty series. BoothMonkey Matthew had purchased a copy of LTK for his girlfriend back at APE in February, and she'd literally read it to pieces, and carried it with her in her purse because it always made her smile. Matthew dutifully got her another copy -- and showed it to me. An obsession was instantly born. I am officially, completely, and totally in love with Long Tail Kitty, Mister Boombha, Bee and Flower, and all the other characters in her books. My one hope is that I didn't frighten Lark and her sister too much with my fervor -- I was practically jumping up and down when I got to her table.
interviews with her, and can purchase her minis online at various places. Her books have hand-pulled silkscreened covers and are some of the most wonderful and adorable minicomics that I've ever seen. They make me smile every time I read them. I had to buy two full sets, one for me and one for Paul -- because I didn't want to let go of mine. Quotes from "XOXO Long Tail Kitty" have already worked their way into my daily vocabulary ("I love you, fishie dispenser!") and I look forward to getting my hands on one of Lark's sister Jane's Long Tail Kitty Finger Puppets the next time I see them. Sooo cuuute... sooo out of money! Buy this book! Long Tail Kitty!
As the show drew to a close, Matthew and I both felt a profound sadness. SPX was, hands-down, the most fun show I've ever done. APE ranked a close second, but there was something about the atmosphere, the people, the genunine friendliness of the show that made me feel intensely at home the entire time.
So we loaded up the car and headed out. Another long winding drive, this time through the spectacular hills of West Virginia, thanks to the cunning directions of CatBoy and Denise. Thanks, guys! The drive was *much* more pleasant than the Penna Pike.
We stopped for food at a truck stop in Uniontown, PA, where I had my first introduction to Scrapple. I like to consider myself a worldly woman. I eat everything from sushi to tripe. I have eaten my grandmother's Tonguewiches, growing up on the farm. Very little will I not eat, provided it can't outrun me. Scrapple, I am here to tell you, is vile, vile stuff. Granted, this was Truck Stop Scrapple. I'm sure I'll get several emails from PA natives who will send me their MeeMaw's Scrapple recipe that is sure to make me change my mind. But still. This stuff tasted like the suet-and-seed mixture that we used to put out for the woodpeckers in a mesh bag. Bleah.
We arrived back home at 3:30am. I had thankfully taken the day off of work. Poor Virus, on the other hand, had to go into work that day. Ah, the perils of Unix.
At this point, I need to take a minute to stop and thank Matthew for all that he did during the show. How many people have a friend who's willing to drive nine hours (each way! Did I mention it was nine hours each way?!) shell out for half a hotel room, then help me pimp comic books all weekend? All this, and everyone who met him, loved him. Whenever I do a show without him, I get "Where's MonkeyBoy?" Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Matthew Messana, the hardest working BoothMonkey in comics! Thanks, Matthew. I couldn't have done the show without you.
I would also be quite remiss if I neglected to send a shoutout to Leyn Just, the hardest working CatBoy in comics!
So yeah. SPX Rocked. Hard. A lot, and stuff.
Vögelein Release Party
Well, since I blathered on and on and on about SPX, I will do slightly less blathering about
the release party and let the pictures do their work. Thousand words and all that.
"Hey Eric. I see you have a blue drink."
And so on.
Thank God for Kathy Neufeld-Dunn and Paul Sizer, who took care of the till for me and generally managed to keep my head from exploding throughout the night. Without them I wouldn't have been able to enjoy myself or talk to anyone the whole time.
A lot of folks got to meet Jeff Berndt for the first time, which was cool. I'm hoping to coax Limey Fish back into the creative fold, and I am hoping all this positive reinforcement will help. Wave hi to Jef, everybody!
The good news is that the work's almost over -- I sent 1.3 gig of information over to Quebecor in Montreal today. At this point, I just need to proof the items that they send me, and then it's off to press. The bad news is that I'm getting this book printed at the literal busiest time of the year. In addition to the usual summer rampup in printing, Quebecor prints a huge majority of the comics out there today, and they're busy as a beesnest getting stuff out on time for San Diego Comicon. So, of course, I pick exactly now to send my book off to press. I talked to my rep, and she said that the best we can hope for is a July 21st or 28th ship date. I'm gonna really press for a July 21st ship date... so some of you may get a last-minute proofreading call!
And the good news continues; I've secured the location for the Vogelein: Clockwork Faerie release party. As most of you already guessed, it will be held at Sidetracks in Ypsilanti. The owner's really excited about the prospect, and she's gonna let me sell the books there and everything. At the moment, I don't have a date picked out; I'll settle on a date once I get a firm word from the printer as to when the book will be delivered. The current plan is for me to buy pitchers of pop and baskets of fried goodies (Jallie poppers, beer-battered pickles, deep-fried zucchini) for the attendees, and if people want beer or actual food they can order it from the bar. There will be no cover charge, but there will be a door-prize: I'll be giving away a free piece of Vogelein artwork. The raffle costs nothing to join; it's just me cleaning out my Vogelein Artwork closet.
In the near future, I will be re-formatting the front page of the Vogelein.com site. As pretty as it is, it's a freaking huge memory hog, and totally disobeys the Programmer's Commandment of "None of thy pages shalt exceed 150K." It's also on a privately-held server, which means that no matter how fat your ingoing pipe is, the poor little Unix beastie who's hosting it can't shove it out any faster. So it's time for a redesign. I promise it'll load much faster once it's up and running again.
So yeah. That's about it for right now. Special thanks to Bill Cavnar, who helped proofread the initial draft, and to Paul Sizer, who helped me get this behemoth ready for press. More info soon, I promise: I'm going to have a full month's downtime while the book's in process, and that will mean more literal and figurative housecleaning time on my end. No rest for the weary!
I have some very good news to report: Thanks to the generosity of my fans, I have now raised enough money to print the first Vögelein Trade Paperback!
In just over a month, you guys helped me raise the money I needed to go to press -- the money I couldn't get from the Xeric -- and made it so I didn't have to take out a credit card or a loan from my already-strapped family.
I can't tell you how much this means to me; how willing the community was to extend a helping hand to an Indie creator. We saw it happen last year with the Hail-Mary ressurection of Top Shelf, but this kind of response is overwhelming. I can't thank you guys enough for all the moral support, as well as the financial.
Now that this burden is off my shoulders, I can get back to doing what needs to be done: Getting the book out and in your hands! I'm about 2/3rds of the way through, and the main work will be just compiling the big new Quark Document and writing the endnotes.
It should be soliciting in the August Previews, for shipping to stores in October. It will be available sooner in stores in Michigan, and from my web site. With bonny good luck, I should have them on hand for APE. I won't be taking any more pre-orders after tonight, as I need to ensure that I can get the ones I've already taken out to people in a timely manner.
Thank you all again -- without this community, and all its support, I would never have finished the Vögelein series.
Now, I'm being a good little comic artist and working my keister off, trying to get the book out as soon as I can. Status report: The art is remastered and re-scanned for issues 1,2 and 3. Why am I taking the time to remaster the art? Well, let's face it, I did most of that art FIVE YEARS AGO, and I'm quite unhappy with some of the faces. So I fixed them. Hey, wouldn't you? There's a fine line between letting your art stand to show your progress, and publishing total crap. Now, it's not as major a change as you think: it's a facial expression here, a properly sized head there. But it makes a difference to *me*, and if I'm going to spend five thousand of my or anyone else's dollars, I'm going to put out the best product I possibly can. Another reason for re-scanning the art is that when I originally scanned and Photoshopped the first three issues, I had ABSOLUTELY NO CLUE what I was doing. Say this sentence to any graphic designer and watch them cringe: "Jane set the levels on the art for those issues by using the Brightness/Contrast sliders, and didn't save the original scans." That's usually enough to give any GDer worth her salt a facial tic. So I'm rescanning and resetting the levels, too.
The end result of this is that you'll get a much nicer quality of art in the new book than you did in the individual issues, even though it'll be slightly smaller.
Other updates: None. Haven't had time to work on finding a new silversmith. Decided I wanted a full workday instead of doing a Free Comic Book Day appearance. Will be making a big stink about a certain distributor (not Diamond) who totally hosed me over recently, robbing me of several hours of precious worktime. The workshop in Chelsea got cancelled for low attendance; special apologies for the few of you who wanted to attend. THe Chelsea Community Ed director and I will be rescheduling for this fall, so don't despair. Work continues for Motor City; I'm working up the signage right now. Well, that's about all. Back to the grindstone!
As you probably guessed by this point, Vögelein will be appearing in select stores for Free Comic Book Day. I couldn't afford to be part of the big nationwide effort, but I did want to offer free books to the stores that have done a really wonderful job in promoting Vögelein to their customers. If you don't see your store on the list, drop me a line and I'll send them some freebies, too! The stores that will be offering free Vögelein comic books on Saturday, May 3rd include:
Comic Relief in Berkeley, CA
Isotope Comics in San Francisco, CA
Titan Comics in Dallas, TX
The Laughing Ogre in Columbus, OH
Bookery Fantasy in Fairborn, OH
The Splash Page in Missoula, MT
Green Brain Comics in Dearborn, MI
Underworld Comics in Ann Arbor, MI
Vault of Midnight in Ann Arbor, MI
Stadium Comics in Ypsilanti, MI
Fun 4 All in Ypsilanti, MI
Future Pastimes in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada
In other news, here's about half of the Saturday night dinner party. Left to right - Roberta Gregory (back) Layla Lawlor, Carla Speed McNeil, Madison Clell, me, and Matt Messana. Donna Barr's behind the camera.
It was, hands-down, the best show I've ever done in my entire life. The place was packed with articulate, mature fans who were thrilled with the astonishingly high quality of the literature being sold. I met pros whose work I have admired from afar for literal decades, and even went out drinking with some of them. (Pictures to follow as they start popping up on the web...)
There's no way for me to possibly sum up a show this good, this fun -- so I'll have to give you a blow by blow of the events as they happened. I've called in sick to work and am sitting here in my favorite bathrobe with a big fat mug of my favorite tea (Lyon's Gold Label) and will spare no details! Stop reading now if you're not up for a looooong entry.
Flights from Detroit to Minneapolis and Minneapolis to San Francisco were blessedly uneventful. I hadn't been on a plane in seven years, so I was like a little kid again, and Virus gave me the window seat on both flights. It was cool to go through de-icing, with the neato robotic/hydraulic water cannons on cherry-pickers. Virus informed me that they are the "Demon de-icing giraffes." Good to know. Arrived on time (!) with both flights, and got into our hotel room around 12am PST.
Barbie had served as my shipping warehouse, and had three boxes of comics (about 500 altogether) in the trunk of her Volvo ready to go. We jumped in and they drove us to the Concourse center, where Barbie presented me with a huge goodie bag of everything you need to keep on your feet during a convention appearance -- sugar, sugar and more sugar. No seriously. If you've ever eaten convention food, you know that you ALWAYS camp in day rations -- and these were top drawer goodies. Oatmeal cookies, carrot sticks, Clif bars, Candy conversation hearts.
So, well armed and coffee buzzed, Virus and I had the booth set up in about fifteen minutes flat. The previous week I'd gotten my booth assignment, and noticed that we'd have our backs to the wall, so I took a risk and brought along the big cloth Vögelein banner, stripping out the dowel rods so I could carry it in my ditty bag rather than checking it in baggage. A quick pass with the hotel's iron and it was ready to go. Looked great, and we got lots of compliments on it all weekend.
APE itself was in a fabulous space. The Concourse center is a converted train station, but unlike every other show I've ever been to, it was carpeted. The carpet, and the fabric dividers they used instead of walls, made the show unbelieveably soft and quiet, even with around 2500 people in the hall at any given time (I'd guesstimate total attendance somewhere around 4,000 for the entire show). No harsh concrete floors and pinging reverb here, thankyouverymuch. And they had the single, most coolest show-perk ever -- an open bar. Yes, an open bar with pop, fresh high quality espresso drinks, and mixed liquor. You could walk round and look at comics whilst quaffing a latte, fine imported beer or gin and tonic, whatever suited your favor. Yet there were no drunks, nor disorderlies. Everyone was chillin', and it felt so very, very good.
By lucky coincidence, I got put on the main floor of the show, right near the entrance. It was the best possible spot, because not only was I one of the very first people you saw as you came through the door, but I was also in the same row with a lot of my buddies -- Lisa Jonte, Lea Hernandez, Carla Speed McNeil, Layla Lawlor, Rachel Hartman, Donna Barr, Roberta Gregory, Jim Ottaviani, and fellow Sequential Tarts John "Bean" Hastings, Loran Gayton and Trisha Lynn Sebastian.
All that amazing talent in just fifty linear feet of table space. Not to mention the fact that I was flanked on either side by the Slave Labor Graphics guys (who publish amazing comics such as My Monkey's Name is Jennifer, Gloomcookie, Sparks, and dozens of other great titles) and Rory Root's Comic Relief, one of the best comic stores in the nation. So, to put it mildly, I was in damn good company.
The day wore on and I sold tons of comics, and thanks to Virus' help was able to scoot away from the booth for a while to go say hi to all the folks listed above, but I didn't get a chance to go see the actual show itself. I did, however, get to go beslobber all over Tom Beland and Lily Garcia, of True Story Swear to God fame. I cannot express how much I love this book, or Tom's sense of humor and comic timing. It was made even better by the fact that he and Lily are both super, super people. Tom did the pin-up in the back of Vögelein issue four, if you need another point of reference. If you haven't yet checked this comic out, you fail to do so at your own peril. Tom's a famous person waiting to happen. Lily's already famous in her hometown of San Juan, Puerto Rico... she's a morning talk show host, a television host, and a motivational speaker.... and a really nice person to talk to.
So the show clicked on. All the attendees seemed to be having a blast -- I saw way more smiles than usual, even from the goths, who were squeeing like crazy over the presence of Ted Nafieh, the GloomCookie gang, and Jhonen Vasquez. I met a ton of fans and hopefully made some new ones, and Virus spent most of the time running around the show like a ferret on a double espresso, yelling, "Do you know who's here?! I just bought Stephen Notley a drink! I just talked to Judd Winick!" and before you knew it, he'd spent $200 on comics and the first day of the show was over. But the night had juuuuust begun.
Virus and I possed up with Donna, Rachel, Layla, Roberta, Carla, Lisa, Loran, Lea, Trisha, Madison Clell, annnd... two other people whom I don't remember but will fill in later as I do. Fourteen of us piled into a Thai restaurant and ate ourselves stupid, after which we walked to the incredible Cartoon Art Museum on Third and Mission. But being us, dinner and a walk was not just dinner and a walk. Tales were told over dinner that reduced Carla to a snorting heap of hair on one end of the table. Lea freaked us out with the scope of her Mom Powers (She can now stop traffic with just her Mom-Voice) and Donna told of the ill-fated Desert Peach musical, and Carla told of Demonic Coconut Liquor in Belize. Then, since it was Chinese New Year, Donna unveiled a massive (and I do mean massive) pile of Joss Sticks, which we set on fire and held overhead as we marched through the streets, baa-ing like sheep. It was the year of the ram, after all, and we had to do *something*.
We arrived at the Cartoon Art Museum smelling like a San Francisco Headshop, and flashed our APE badges on the way in. There were a live band and hors d'oerves to celebrate the opening of a new exhibit, and the place was packed. The exhibit was on Women in Comics, and was really, really good -- I'd no idea that there were so many women making comics at the first part of the 20th century. There were also two (!) walls of Edward Gorey art, political cartoons from as far back as the 19th century, and a hall full of controversial comics -- the AIDS death in Doonesbury, and Opus' battle with the Mary Kay commandos to name just two.
So by the time we were done with that exhibit, we still hadn't had enough, so Virus, Donna, Roberta and I piled into Madison's tee-tiny Honda Civic, with Virus and I squonched into one seat, and rattled off to James Sime's Isotope Comics on Noriega and 24th. Holy Cow. We knew the party was still jumpin' as soon as we pulled up -- (thanks in large part to the navigation of Roberta Gregory) there were twenty people or so milling around outside, and another fifty or sixty crammed inside. James is a former bartender, and he decided one day to open a comics store. He quickly realized the true problem with comics: creators are creating great books, distributors are getting the books where they need to be, the mainstream press is finally getting their act together when reviewing comics -- but the traditional comic book store is simply not an inviting place to anyone who's not already a reader. So he opened Isotope Comics. There's a bar behind the counter, leather couches where you can sit and read your purchase, and no overwhelming feeling of fanboy-presence. There are also a collection of toilet seats on the back wall, autographed and illustrated by such comics dignitaries as Warren Ellis, Judd Winick, and a host of others. So we sipped our Vodka Greyhounds, snacked on hideously expensive Stilton and smoked gouda on crackers, read comics and chatted up other industry professionals. Can I just say again how monstrously cool that is? Larry Freakin' Young was running the cash register. Virus was frothing at the mouth on finding a trade paperback of Halo Jones, a title he'd been seeking for seven years.
So We finish our drinks and hook up with John "Bean" Hastings and Trisha Lynn, (thanks again, John!) and motored back into downtown. We jumped out at a stoplight and hoofed it back to our hotel, where we could hardly sleep from all the excitement.
During the day I met many fans who had bought the book already (it was really gratifying to know that Vögelein had made it out as far as the west coast in such prolific numbers) and one of them was a girl named Lauren who said she had given my book to her friend Scott. "Scott?" I asked. "Do I know this Scott?" "Scott McCloud," she answered. "Not THE Scott McCloud," I repeated, trying to drag my jaw up off the floor. "Yes," she said, "And he really liked the book. I sent his wife Ivy over here, earlier, but you were away from the booth." GAH! I cried, but thanked her profusely for showing my book to one of the most influential authors in the field. Little did I know....
The show was almost over when, around 4:30, my aunt Barbie, uncle Bill and cousin David showed up to see what they could of the show, and then take us out to dinner and the airport, after. No sooner did they arrive -- I was introducing them to Layla Lawlor and Alex Tang around to the relatives, when I saw a trio approach out of the corner of my eye. I said something like this: "Alex, this is Barb, Bill and David; everybody, this is Layla Lawlor, and OMIGOD, you're Scott McCloud." I apologised and admitted to Scott that I was going to go all Fangirl all over him, that it couldn't be helped. He was quite gracious about it, and yes, he remembered Vögelein and thought it was quite good, and was anxious to see the end of the series. I forced a full set on him and we talked about getting the word on comics out. He was very glad to hear about all the library programming I did, and was happy to know that at least 9 out of 10 libraries I visited had at least one of his books on the shelf. We chatted for a bit longer, and he was gracious enough to pose for several pictures with me.
I blinked in Every. Single. One of them. Of course. I've had this problem for my entire life. I think I have maybe three pictures of myself where my eyes are open. I think I must subconsciously believe that the camera's gonna get a piece of my soul. So, in any event, here's a better, photoshopped version of the picture.
So then Scott left and the show was over. I left Michigan with three boxes of comics and was able to pack all the unsold comics and all my booth supplies into just one box. Which was good, because Virus and I each bought a full box of comics. On the way out, hugging and goodbying to everyone, I got stopped by Tom Beland. "Here," he says, handing me an original True Story Swear To God cartoon. "Tom!" I yelled. "You can't do this!" "No," he says, "you get this. Just about every person at my booth today said 'Well, I was over at Jane's booth and she said that your stuff was great so I'm here to check it out.'" So after all this excitement, I got a marvellous Tom Beland original, which I carried tenderly on my lap all the way home on the plane. It arrived safely, thankfully, and will be framed and hanging in my new studio next year.
We packed everything up and headed out with the rels to a fabulous bayside restaurant called MoMo's. Cousin Sarah met us there. The food was excellent, David picked us a smashing wine to go with dinner and we told embarrassing family stories all night, including the one where I lost all my arm hair and eyelashes while preparing Thanksgiving dinner, and the time that cousin Annie strung cousin Matt's underwear on a big clothesline across the road, and Matt took it down with the bucket tractor. (Y'know, practical jokes are just so much more fun when they involve farm implements.)
Barbie and Bill were extremely gracious hosts, and motored us off to the airport after a smashing good dinner and dessert. We said our goodbyes and checked our boxes of comics (the security guys made me scan the Tom Beland original... Tom, just so you know, your art passes airport security) and settled in for fitful napping on the way home. Again, an uneventful, on-time flight-- we were quite lucky the entire trip.
So there you have it. APE. Amazing. More pictures of the wild Saturday night to follow.
Anyhoo, as we were discussing the story over lunch yestiddy, the conversation rolled round to the topic of Fanfic, and its place in relationship to "professional" (note the quotes) writing. During our talk, I finally put to words a little essay that I've been mulling around in my head for a while.
Fanfic, for those of you not already in the know, is taking pre-existing characters, (usually from a celebrated fantasy/science fiction book series, television show or movie) and placing them in new stories. There are several 'subclasses' of Fanfic, which I won't go into here for the sake of brevity, but if you're really interested in a dissertation on the topic, you can always go here.
First off, let me state for the record that I'm not opposed to Fanfic in general. Secondly, let me state unequivocally that I Do Not Want To See Vögelein Fanfic. It's not that don't particularly want it to exist -- imitation is the sincerest form of flattery after all -- but please don't show it to me.
Why, you ask? Because of the legal ramifications, and here's why. Take, for instance, the horriffic Anne McCaffrey Fanfic Debacle (see http://www.annemccaffrey.org or http://www.burnedforfandom.org for all the gory details). I can see the argument from both sides. Anne, long ago, granted permission to literal hundreds of play-by-mail Weyrs to use her world as a springboard for thousands of new characters of their own making. There were rules, however: you couldn't use Anne's established characters in the fic, you couldn't sell your fic, you couldn't invent New And Wierd Dragons (silver, red, two-headed) and women couldn't Impress bronze, blue or brown, period. Most importantly, the Weyr newsletters and APAs were meant for a small, closed audience and were not to be sources of profit. Anne was forbidden by her lawyers from even glancing through the zillions of individual fics, even if they were sent to her, lest some plot element or character name that a fan wrote inadvertently turn up in a later Pern book or story... even if purely coincidental, it could prove grounds for a lawsuit.
Since the advent of the Internet (which started taking off in earnest some thirty years after the initial appearance of "Weyr Search" in Analog in '67), most of those rules got blown to hell. People could post Pern fiction of any make or shape with little to no policing. Throw a page up on the web, and in an instant, literal millions of people could view it. Unfair, cried Anne, and sicced her lawyers on the most egregious offenders, some of who were only posting legit fanfic, but many of who were making money off of unauthorized Pern merchandise.
There have been attempts to patch up relations between Anne and her fans, but it has not always gone well. In a compromise of sorts, http://www.annemccaffrey.org has created a FanFic section of the website where registered users can post their fics, and where content rules are rigidly enforced. Todd (Anne's son) or one of the other web-keepers doesn't like it, or a user's behavior, and off it goes, pfft.
From the fannish perspective, this is unbelievably draconian (pardon the pun) behavior. They've been invited into this unbelievably lush and open universe, just crammed to the top with possibility, with a three-thousand year history that has plenty of elbow room for entire generations of Weyrs and Dragonriders to exist without ever rubbing historical shoulders. One woman alone, or even her son, couldn't ever possibly write all the stories that could be told, and they want to play there, too. Honestly, the best way to improve your fanbase is to let the fans play regularly with your world and sculpt bits of it in their own image. It brings the reader even further in to the beautiful world you've created, and still allows them to have an individual, personal relationship with it. An author with a light whip-hand can reap unbelievable benefits from FanFic.
Now, I'm hardly in Anne's shoes; I've hardly written a series as great as the Pern universe, so don't get me wrong, but this is the biggest, fiercest example of the argument I could find. The special problem I've got with Vögelein Fanfic is that when Jeff Berndt and I were first creating the series, we designed it to be particularly open-ended to allow us to write hundreds of stories for her. To this day, there's a huge tabula rasa in the center of V's history, one that I never intend to fully map out, just for happy little miracles. Also, we wanted to leave open the possibility of inviting other authors to come play in our sandbox. One such author is doing so right now, though I can't discuss the details until he's finished with it (*cough*CrimeanWar*cough).
But the problem for me is, y'see, that if you guys were to start writing Vögelein Fanfic and showed it to me, then I'd run the same risk as Anne would... if you had, say, written a story in which Vögelein participated in the French Revolution, and one day I wanted to write a story in which Vögelein participated in the French Revolution, then you might have grounds to sue me for stealing your idea, no matter how divergent our two stories were. For heaven's sake, look at how ridiculous this claim against J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series got.
So the bottom line is, if you have already written Vögelein Fanfic, please don't show it to me. If enough people approach me about it and really Really REALLY want to write some, maybe we can set up an APA, or a web repository with a messageboard, and I can assign someone I trust to have a look in every now and again.
Here's the way I look at it: Writing FanFic is like walking when you could be training for a Marathon. Some people don't want to run in a Marathon. They'd rather just have a nice relaxing walk, maybe go out with a couple of friends for a leisurely stroll. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that, and it certainly helps you stay fit (mentally or physically as the case may be) and there are far worse things to do with your time. But let's face it, when you're done walking, you haven't accomplished all that much, and you don't really have anything to show for your walk. You probably feel much better than you would have if you spent the evening in front of the television, and you did do something of your own initiative, but if you wanted to do something with your walking, about the best you could do would be to join a local walkathon or 10K walk and maybe get some small-town press or recognition from your friends.
Training for a Marathon, however, is hard. It takes a ton of work, and a big time investment, and special shoes. You have to run on a regular basis to stay in shape, and there are sometimes qualifying rounds before you get to run with The Big Dogs. A Marathoner has to be disciplined, and guarded with her time, and often make difficult decisions between training and having fun with her friends. The payoff, however, is tangible. There's the roar of the crowds, the teevee cameras, breaking that cool tape at the end, and possibly even a purse to the top few runners that work the hardest and run the fastest.
The sad thing is, I think there are a whole lot of Marathoners out there who are just too comfortable going for a Sunday Walk.
Now, don't get me wrong -- I've written Fanfic before. I've written alternate Quantum Leap scripts, done the obligatory short stories about my D&D characters, and even created my own member of the SilverHawks when I was still in highschool. Fanfic can often be a great way to 'prime your creative pump', if you like. But I'd way rather see a lot of those FanFiccers really try their hand at writing their own stuff. At the end of the day, a lot of Marathoners spend just as much time training as a lot of walkers do walking -- but they have something to show for it.
Hope y'all understand.
In Vögelein news, however, there's a lot more than eating going on. I've completely revamped the Fiery Studios side of the website, so if you've never visited there before, now's a great time to take a look around! It's not entirely done yet, but I hope to have the entire Illustration section done before much longer.
The newest addition (coming soon!) will be all seventy-five illustrations for the _Alice In Wonderland_ book I completed last year, along with the original, uncut Lewis Carroll text (Thanks, Project Gutenberg!) so you can read the entire book online! You'll also be able to purchase any of the remaining originals (a few have sold already). The hardbound version of Alice will be released sometime in 2003 or 2004 from State Street Press, and will be available through all Borders and Waldenbooks bookstores.
After I get Alice done, I hope to do the same with Jack London's _Call of the Wild_, which was the second title I illustrated for State Street Press.
And just to show that I'm not slacking off on Vögelein stuff while I work on Fiery Studios website -- I've finally got news on the Vögelein key-necklace that everyone's been asking about! I've found a silversmith that's really excited about the job, and she's going to start working on the initial mold very soon. As soon as I get an example cast, I'll put it up on the website and begin taking preorders.
Here's the stats for the necklace: It'll be approximately 3/4 of an inch long, and about 1/2 inch wide, and will be fully three-dimensional. Cheryl (the silversmith) will be casting them each by hand in solid sterling silver using the lost-wax process. The pendants will sell for $25 each, and will not come with a chain, at least until I can find someone who sells cheap sterling silver chains. If I can get more than a dozen pre-orders, I may be able to drop the price a little, or look into getting some chains.
Each casting is very laborious and time-consuming, and uses lots of fire. (ARRH ARRH ARRH!) If you've never done it before, I highly recommend it. Nothing like using an oxyacetaline torch to make you feel like a real woman. I could do it myself, as I've taken a couple classes and have cast lost-wax several times myself, but Cheryl's work is really good and she has her own studio, so if I get her to do it, we'll actually see the necklaces before the next millenium.