Drawing and making comics was how I stumbled my way into the book industry. It’s a long story and one I’ll be sharing in my upcoming memoir. I’ve made it my goal to draw regularly in 2020 and get back to my comic-making roots. The picture above is from an old sketchbook, circa 1999. At this point in my life, all that mattered in terms of career aim was making comics.
Here are some quotes for my fellow artists to ponder:
“I cannot rest, I must draw, however poor the result, and when I have a bad time come over me it is a stronger desire than ever.” – Beatrix Potter
This is true. I find I’m the most inspired to write or draw when I’ve hit a hard time. It’s a way to deal with what’s going on and get out on paper all that it is making me feel. This has also led to some strange, and sometimes even dark, drawings.
“In drawing, nothing is better than the first attempt.” – Pablo Picasso
There’s something raw about a first effort. That might go without saying, but a first try carries with it a lot of heart because if one is gung-ho about drawing a specific thing, that passionate thrust carries through into the drawing and makes it come alive in its own way, even if the drawing isn’t that great. A second attempt, as per my experience, seems to lack the same heart as the first and looks flat even if it’s technically correct. This is why I don’t agree with comic makers going back and redoing earlier work or pages. Artistic expression is a journey and there’s something to be said about looking back on earlier work and seeing where you were in that journey and what you were feeling at the time. It’s even better when someone from the outside sees it and knows where you came from and where you presently are at. This applies to early writing work, too.
“Perspective is the rein and rudder of painting.” – Leonardo da Vinci
This is true and, admittedly, a weaker area for me. I can do perspective when it comes to inorganic objects, but ensuring your character is 3D takes a lot of practice and is something I’m working on.
In the end, the new 2020 art journey is going to be a good one and I look forward to sharing more art with you when it’s ready. In the meantime, please head on over to my art page to see what’s there.
Lastly, on a side note, a new chapter of Gigantigator Death Machine was uploaded to Patreon this morning. In this chapter, those who are left desperately wish the gator will just plain go away. Head on over and get reading for just a buck. Thanks.
Full transparency: I’ve never deliberately looked up blog topics (so far as I can recall) but for fun, this morning I decided to do that and see what’s currently out there for blogging ideas. “The Toughest Part About Being a . . .” prompt was something I came across and, maybe because I’m still groggy, resonated with me the most this fine winter morning.
So that said, here is the toughest part about being a writer/artist as per how I feel at the moment I’m writing this:
When people ask what I do for a living and I tell them I write stories and draw, I’m met with two general responses: “Oh man, that’s so cool!” or, “That’s nice. Maybe one day you’ll get a real job instead of playing all day.” The latter isn’t explicitly stated but is certainly implied by tone, facial expression, and body language, all with an air of disappointment.
The first crowd is, of course, the most pleasant to deal with. Their eyes light up and they smile and are genuinely happy for me. They often become my readers and usually follow up with me the next time I see them and ask how things are going and if I’m still doing it (the “still doing it” part hinting they understand it’s an unstable job but they have my back and are in my corner even if my answer is “No”).
The second crowd is the one I don’t understand. The general formula for a working adult is you get out of bed, go to work, come home, eat dinner, then get on with your evening, which may or may not include doing more work. That’s the formula I’ve lived by my entire working life–whether working in the arts or elsewhere–and the formula every working adult I know follows. The only difference is I work from home. So when I “go to work,” my commute is measured in hallways and staircases as I make my way down to the Central’s bunker to get started. I work all day–and get paid for it–turn the computer off, then reverse my commute and wind up back upstairs with the rest of the household. But mention you write stories and draw pictures for a living and suddenly you don’t have a real job (see the “On Freelancing for a Living (This is a Job)” blog post). Upon thinking about it, it’s not even the working from home part that seems to rub people the wrong way (though this can happen). It’s the specific what I do for a living. I’ve seen firsthand where others who work from home who don’t write stories and draw pictures are met with a metaphorical handshake. Me? It’s a metaphorical hands-in-their-pockets.
There is a disconnect that happens–usually with the older generation(s)–where, in the old days, work was something you left the house for and something you didn’t always enjoy. Work was actual work, like a chore, or work was something that demanded such a hard effort that every day ended the same when one came home: a collapse on the couch from mental and/or physical exhaustion. I believe the disconnect also happens because a lot of people tend to forget the entertainment they consume had to be created by somebody. Those books you read? Somebody took a lot of time writing them. Those comics you love? A group of people had to spend a lot of time writing, drawing, coloring, lettering, and printing them. Those movies you go to every Friday night? A whole slew of people had to go somewhere to play dress-up and pretend for a camera to tell you a story. That video game? Tons of people. Tons of artists. Even the very computer or smartphone this entry is being read on was dreamed up and sketched out by people who went to work. Somebody had to write all the code used in that phone. Somebody had to draw all those app icons. Somebody had to make science fiction science fact. Oh, and they got paid to do it because they need food and shelter, too.
Why is my job not normally respectable? Is it the non-steady paycheck? Is it the fact I like it? Is it because I’d rather spend a third of every day enjoying myself versus dragging myself through the motions? Is it because I made up my mind and chose what I was going to do with the old statement that you can either work towards making your own dreams come true or you can work for someone else to make their dreams come true?
Why does a lawyer get the handshake and I don’t? Why does a doctor? Or an accountant? Or a factory worker or a mechanic? Their job puts food on the table and keeps a roof over their loved ones’ heads just like mine does. My income goes towards food and bills, getting stuff for the kids and gas in the car. It buys Christmas presents and pays for date nights. It funds life just like their job funds life.
I work. You work. We all work.
And like I posted to social media forever ago, I want to repeat here: Everything is art. Every. Single. Thing. Creation is God’s canvas and nature is His painting. The stuff humans have made? It’s all based on someone dreaming and asking themselves, “What if . . .?” Then writing it down and drawing it out. Designing your couch is an art form. Writing the code for your car’s computer is an art form. Coming up with how to safely make a handheld drill is an art form. And so on.
Everything is art.
In the end, I’ve learned to live with the hits and learned my career choice will be frowned upon by others. But there are also others who don’t frown and instead smile. Those are the people who give respect. The others? I’ll still respect their work because they are my fellow human beings, and perhaps one day I’ll get the same occupational respect in return.
Author’s note: This article isn’t about complaining. It’s pointing out a disconnect that some people seem to have and is hopefully encouraging to those who might be in the same boat.
As mentioned in yesterday’s post, I’m participating in Inktober this year. This is my first time. For those who don’t know what Inktober is, it’s basically NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) but for artists. The goal? Draw one inked drawing a day and share it with at least one person on-line or off-.
Today is Day Three so after I post this blog entry, I’ll be working in my sketchbook to create a new offering. Days One and Two are posted to my social media, which is where you’re invited to check out my daily drawings. My Inktober efforts show up on my Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr feeds.
The other day a thought occurred to me: Search out lesser-known social networks in an effort to get away from corporate monopolies. So I did. I had heard of Ello in the past, didn’t really like it (it was a different model then), and forgot about it. When I looked up lesser-known social networks again, I discovered Ello had changed its model to one that focuses on showcasing artists. I looked into it, liked what I saw, and so set up shop. Now here we are. The page is complete and has one image uploaded. I plan to add to it as the days go by but am purposefully spacing it out.
That smiley face to the right is where you’ll find me, or you can go here.
Note: This post was originally published on Jeffrey Allen Davis’s blog
Take Up Your Pen Daily and Follow Me
There are two kinds of writers when it comes to the Christian camp: those who are Christian authors and those who are authors that are Christian. The former is the writer who deliberately writes Christian fiction, stories with a Christian message and often with Christian characters. The latter is the writer who writes stories from a Christian worldview but doesn’t overtly share their faith via the stories they tell.
I’m in the latter camp, though I have ventured into the first. The reason I’m in the latter is because—just the way my writing career started and has gone—my story ideas tend to fall in the secular category in terms of concept and execution as opposed to me sitting down and purposefully writing a story with a Christian message.
Science fiction, fantasy, horror, superheroes—these are my genres. I’m a huge nerd and always have been. And while true there is such a thing as Christian speculative fiction, my characters tend to be your secular every-man instead of hardcore believers. I have written obvious Christian characters in the past, but doing so brings up a problem because if indeed a truly born-again Christian writer is going to write a truly born-again Christian character, he/she knows they need to be accurate in their portrayal of what a Christian really is. Simply writing a religious character, though that can have its merits, is a disservice from the Christian worldview because our aim is to convey truth as it is, not what man has made it out to be.
In my work, I tend to provide Christian ideals via my secular characters while also showcasing their flaws and even, in some cases, their lack of religious conviction. Things like hope, love, perseverance, self-discipline and so on—items most of humanity agrees are good things, though all have root in Christian-Judeo teaching—are prevalent in my characters. I’ve found that if I make a truly Christian character, it tends to, at this stage in my career, be a stifle on showing a character’s humanity. To clarify, in Christian circles we are well aware that we all have faults big and small, but to the outside world, the image of a Christian is one who is righteous ninety-nine percent of the time. If that person screws up while preaching righteousness, then suddenly they’re a hypocrite and the reader has lost all faith in them. We see this in real life almost daily. I find it’s better given my particular stories to have characters with Christian traits as opposed to being outright religious.
That’s not to say Christian characters can’t be well done, but on the whole, most of the time the Christian author is preaching to the choir and, well, have fun trying to interest a secular person into reading your stuff. No one likes being preached to, even Christians in some cases.
However, my personal Christian sensibilities have informed my fiction starting late 2005 and onward. While there were glimpses of it before, in terms of story choices and presentation, there’s a certain code of conduct I have to follow and I believe these fall into three main areas: language, sex and violence.
On language: Some of my very early work had a lot of cursing. Just where I was at at the time. As I continued writing and my heart changed, choice words were removed from my output and instead I found ways to not use bad words. Sometimes a simple, “He swore,” is enough. Other times I challenged myself to write around cursing as, to me, cussing in writing is lazy writing. I’m sure we can debate this but it seems it takes more creativity to come up with other ways to display disgust instead of four-letter words. I’m not talking about using lame soft words like “darnnit” and “oh fudge.” I’m talking about showing a character’s anger or disgust at a situation via their actions and accompanying phrases via creative writing instead of just throwing in a swear word. True, people in real life cuss all the time and, for the secular reader, such language doesn’t offend them. I get that from a let’s-go-for-realism point-of-view, but I can’t see how an author claiming to be Christian can include choice phrases and then preach righteousness off the page.
Interestingly, I also have a flipside argument that is pro language in books, even from Christian writers. Before you call me a heretic, here me out. You have to ask yourself, what is a swear word? Why are some words dirtier than others? If you look at cursing over the course of human history, it’s gone through a lot of iterations. Long ago, instead of telling someone to blank-off, you’d tell them things like, “I hope you die a thousand deaths” or “May darkness be upon your family.” That was cursing and/or the swear phrases of the time. Of course, spiritually, such phrases are indeed cursing but walking down the street today, if you said that to someone, they’d probably look at you and go, “What?” So it seems that the reason cursing is a no-no amongst Christians is because it displays the heart-motive behind the words used. Frankly, if I told you to screw off, that’s the same as me telling you to F-off because in my heart I mean it the same way. If I stub my toe and yell out something dumb like “Cow patties” in anger, that’s the same as saying the other word. Again, it’s about the heart.
For my own conviction, if I’m doing something around the house and tell someone I have a pile of blank to clean up, I don’t mean such a word in a malicious way nor is it directed at anyone, therefore I’m in the clear.
But, again, there are certain expectations of the Christian from a worldly standpoint and so it’s best to refrain from swearing in fiction.
On sex: From 2005 onward, there’s been no sex in my books. At most, it is implied (i.e. “They went to the bedroom”), but never graphically detailed. Sex in and of itself is a beautiful thing ordained by God for both procreation and recreation. God is pro sex. However, we humans have twisted and turned it into something else and, worse, have made it a source of entertainment in various mediums. The reason why sex as entertainment is out of bounds is because it incites lust, whether overtly like porn or a little less so via fiction. Is writing about sex wrong in and of itself? No. If someone asked me to give them an idea of what a sex session looked like and wanted me to write it and their motive was purely for education, I’d have no trouble with that. But, if I knew they’d use it as a source of lustful imaginings, then there’s an issue. It’s not so much lusting after fictional characters being wrong—I mean, they’re not real so technically you’ve lusted after nobody thereby haven’t violated Jesus’s command to not look another with lust. But, the danger is it can warp your view of sex and/or sexualize people you see walking down the street thereby putting you in a compromised position. And it’s for that reason I abstain from graphic sex in my books.
It’s kind of like asking is it appropriate for Christian artists to go to life drawing classes with nude models? My answer is it’s just fine provided lust doesn’t enter the equation. The human body is a beautiful thing and was made in God’s image. It’s a work of art. Having been in life drawing classes myself, I can tell you, lust doesn’t enter the mind because after a couple minutes, the naked person standing in front of you is viewed as no more than a teapot or lamp. That’s not to say I view them as objects, but I’m more focused on getting the curves and anatomy right that I’m not even thinking sexual thoughts. But, once more, if lust entered the picture, then it’s time to pack up my sketchpad and leave.
On violence: I struggle in this area. I’m not sure how much is too much and how much is not enough, from a fiction standpoint. After all, every book needs conflict and sometimes that conflict gets violent. Should I show it realistically? Should I skimp over the details? I’m torn. Biblically speaking, Scripture is extremely violent but it never delves into detail. It just says what happened. I’ve read Christian books that handled violence the same way. They broke the rule of show-don’t-tell and quickly told the reader so-and-so was in a fight or got shot and that’s it.
Upon reflection, my stance on violence right now is again rooted in the heart of the issue. Why am I writing it? Is it because I enjoy showing people getting hurt or cut up or whatever? Or am I simply trying to put the reader in the characters’ shoes and take them through the paces so they can feel what the character is feeling? Showing, not telling. Likewise, from the reader’s point-of-view, if I knew some of the more graphic displays of violence in my fiction fueled some sort of weird lust for torture in my readers, then I’d remove that element because I’m feeding something that shouldn’t be fed.
I will say, writing more or less clean books have been a bonus for me. I feel better about my work and it also serves as a selling point at book signings and conventions. Often people want to buy my stuff for their teenagers. When I assure them the books are language- and sex-free, they’re thrilled to hear it and it helps close the sale. I do warn them, however, that some of my stuff is violent and if showing blood is a put-off for them, then maybe they should pass.
The hardest part about being an author that’s Christian is that sometimes it puts a stopper on creativity. It would be fun to write a book with no rules and just put in whatever I felt like—follow the art, so to speak. After all, I’m a sinful man with sinful tendencies and art is about expression, whether that expression is all happy rainbows or storm clouds. Of course, this also means that what I put on paper is a reflection of my own heart. I’m paraphrasing, but like Jesus said, what’s in a man is what comes out of him, and it’s what comes out of him that defiles him or not.
I suppose this is where “Take up your cross daily” applies.
I think in the end what I write and what I include ultimately shows where I’m at in my spiritual journey and what business has been squared away and what still needs working on. The main point is this: as mentioned above, it’s about the heart. Mine’s not perfect, but it’s getting better.
Take this as you may.
Sidenote: if you like writing contemplation and publishing talk, consider signing up for my free weekly newsletter, The Canister X Transmission at www.tinyletter.com/apfuchs You also get a free clown thriller out of the deal.
The first year of newsletters have been collected and released as The Canister X Transmission: Year One. Details at http://bit.ly/1PqpSNh Thanks.
Running weekly from May 2014 to May 2015, The Canister X Transmission was sent via email to readers worldwide.
Serving as a source of inspiration for writers and artists everywhere, its impact was made known by the replies sent to A.P. Fuchs’s inbox week-to-week.
The newsletter covered four main topics:
The Creative Thought of the Week, in which Fuchs added his two cents on the ups and downs of being a writer, staying motivated, advice and encouragement, and other topics that were part and parcel of making up stories for a living.
Work Updates, in which readers were informed of works-in-progress and where what stood on the publishing schedule.
Fanboy News, in which was relayed something of interest from the world of pop culture.
Marketing/Publishing Tip of the Week, in which ideas and strategies were conveyed to further one’s reach with their books and comics, and were also advised of some of the traps to avoid.
Exclusive to this collection is a special Issue Zero newsletter unavailable anywhere else.
This entry was prompted because I’ve come across it more than once. Three times, to be exact, so I figure it’s worth blogging about–
Authors and starting their own publishing company.
This is the approach to publishing I strongly advocate in Getting Down and Digital: How to Self-publish Your Book. It’s my opinion that taking the time to set up a publishing business the proper way opens doors to taking your self-publishing career in multiple positive directions, on-line and off-.
However, on three separate occasions I’ve seen authors simply “start companies,” that is, just making up a business name and start and/or plan to publish under it without registering it through the proper channels.
While the nuances of business start-up rules vary country to country, state to state, province to province, if a person wants to start a company, there is a certain way to go about it because each industry functions on different rules of trade and sales depending on where you live.
When I started Coscom Entertainment and any if its imprints, I had to go to the Companies Office downtown, fill out paperwork, explain what my business was and pay a fee. This was in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.
I know from speaking with other Canadian and US publishers that they, too, had to go through a formal procedure to get their company up and running.
But I have also seen authors pull a company out of thin air and aim to start using it. I don’t know if this is simply because they don’t know any better or if it’s because of all the Kindle talk that people think all areas of publishing are free and one can do whatever they want when it comes to it. Or maybe, like most writers and artists, money is hard to come by so they want to do things as cheaply as possible and free is about as cheap as it gets. Perhaps it’s the Internet mentality because a lot of people view the Web as a “place to get stuff free” so why not start up a company for free, too? The problem with this kind of free is it’s unethical. Why create the groundwork of your career on something that’s wrong? It’ll only lead to problems down the road.
The publishing industry is changing, this is true, and things are not what they used to be–and this extends past the whole eBook thing–but other things have remained, and that is the need to properly start a business if setting up a publishing house is part of your self-publishing plan.
If you’re not sure what to do, pull out your phone book and look up your local Companies Office. Tell them what you plan on doing–publish books–and they’ll let you know what you need to do so that if your business is ever looked into, you can produce the proper paperwork that states you are allowed to run your business whether out of your home or an outside office. Likewise, when it comes tax time and you claim your writing income, claiming it under a company might work to your advantage in terms of write-offs. Talk to an accountant about this as the rules vary place to place.
In the end, if you wish to self-publish via your own imprint, part of the deal is registering that imprint with the proper authorities.
Start your career on the right foot. It can only payoff in the end.
You need to know where you’re going before you can figure out what you’re doing. A simple—even obvious—principle, but one often overlooked by writers and artists looking to get their work out there.
I made the mistake of jumping right into this business and publishing my first book, A Stranger Dead, via a vanity/subsidy press. Next thing I knew, I was in the hole around $2500US and never made my money back. Back then, because of the US-to-Canadian-dollar exchange rate, you could add about 40-45% to that bill, so I plunked down somewhere around $3,625 Canadian for a book that went, well, nowhere. I think, all told, I recouped maybe a couple hundred bucks and that was it. Of course, a couple hundred is better than zero, but had I known that jumping in without stopping and researching and honing my craft, I would’ve come up with a different plan, especially since I was trying to make writing my livelihood.
Yet many jump in. They believe the Kindle hype and jump in. They pay someone to publish their book and jump in. They hook up with a small press without knowing its history or who’s behind it, and jump in. The list goes on, and heartbreak and frustration often follow.
The problem with jumping in and not knowing how to swim is that you drown.
Like all journeys—and believe me, publishing is a journey and not some place you can just get to by stepping out your door and, poof, there you are—you need to figure out where you’re going first. And this destination is different for everybody.
It’s based on goals.
There are a few categories of people when it comes to the publishing business and though money is involved, it’s not all that’s involved.
The first thing anyone needs to do before they embark on any creative journey in regards to getting their work out there, is to decide what their end game is.
No way around this.
Don’t go any further without establishing this. Without it, it’ll be like being in the middle of the ocean and not knowing which way to swim to get to land. You will quickly tucker out as you try different directions, get frustrated, even mentally broken in some cases and, eventually, you’ll pack it in.
There are three general categories the writer falls into. Find which one you’re in and you’ll make your life easier going forward.
The Hobbyist: this person creates solely for fun. Money is not the main motivator and they usually give away their work for free or sell it for very, very little, the main drive simply to have a good time with their art and that’s it. They might also not even distribute their work and just fill up a hard drive or journal with their stories solely for their own amusement.
The Part-timer: this person is interested in making money with their work, but thanks to either a working spouse or a job they love, their craft isn’t a career-goal for them. Regardless of the money involved—but there has to be some as they are, indeed, looking at their art as a “part-time job”—the main motivator is to use their art to put food on the table in conjunction with other sources of income.
The Full-timer: this person aims to make their art their sole livelihood and so work their butt off to obtain that. Some find success right away, others take years, even decades. The amount of money it requires to achieve this varies on lifestyle and personal desires.
Each of the above involves taking a different path. Though “all roads lead North” isn’t true for this biz, there are many roads to achieve each of the above goals, most of them being a case of finding what works for you and running with it.
However, generally speaking, the roads look something like this:
The Hobbyist: with money not really an issue and/or motivator, this person will either invest their own funds into their project, put it out themselves, distribute however and whenever, or simply throw everything up on the Web for free and call it good. They might publish with a small press and if the book is a flop, it’s a non-issue for them. Also, as previously mentioned, publication might not even be pursued and the stories are kept private in journals or on a hard drive.
The Part-timer: money being a consideration, this person will either get involved with a small-to-medium-sized press, make a few hundred dollars to a few grand a year, and are more than happy with that.
The Full-timer: with their livelihood at stake, this person will aim to find incredible success with a traditional publisher, whether big, medium or even small, depending on the number of copies sold. Though lifestyles vary, $20-25,000 minimum would probably be required to live off of if you are single in today’s economic climate. To secure this kind of advance for a first-time author is difficult, but not impossible. First-time author advances range from $100-10,000 in general (and depends on the size of the press), but with a good marketable book and a good agent, getting $20,000-plus up front isn’t farfetched. While the high-end first-time author advance of $10,000-$20,000 may or may not be enough to live on, it does give you access to a publisher’s resources and distribution channels, their brand and connections, and, you never know, your book might take off thus putting you in demand and getting you a higher advance for a second book. There’s also the possibility of signing a first-time author multi-book deal (i.e. $30,000 for 3 books at $10,000 each).
All three of the above can also take one final path: entrepreneurship, in other words, self-publishing, which is the main focus of this book.
Each goal can also be achieved self-publishing-wise based on one’s entrepreneurial model.
You can also mix-and-match, meaning you can shoot to be a part-timer but end up scoring on the publishing roulette wheel and still net a full-time income on the side.
In the end, goal-setting is priority one. It’s the first step. You’ve got to know which way your feet are pointed before you can walk out the door.
I’ll emphasize it again: you must do this if you are to save yourself weeks, months or even years of frustration and spinning your wheels.
Some of you may recall the old Canister X Newsletter, which ran a long time ago for five or six issues. It was published monthly and contained a pile of stuff that I didn’t include on my blog. I’ve always liked the idea of a newsletter and have been toying with the idea of starting a new one for quite sometime now.
Well, that time has come.
The plan is to send it out every Saturday. It’s called The Canister X Transmission, and will be a place to transmit my thoughts on what’s going on, musings on the creative life, fanboy randomness, with a publishing or marketing tip at the end. It’s good for writers and artists, but you don’t need to be one to sign up. If you enjoy peeks behind the curtain or just want to get stuff from me more regularly, this newsletter is for you. Yes, there’ll be the occasional promo thing–that’s just how these things are–but I’m not going to spam you with sales pitches. I just want a fun way to stay in touch with my readers and those interested in hearing more about making stuff up for a living.