Writing is like Religion.

I discovered this a couple of days ago.

I’ve been writing. A lot. At least by my standards. If you have not read this blog before (and, let’s be honest, why should you have), I am writing my first novel, the beginning of a series, that I hope to publish (whether self-publish or attempt the traditional route, I don’t know yet). I’ve decided to track my progress in this blog.

There hasn’t been much to report (which is why I’m not offended if you’ve not visited here before). I’ve been writing in the mornings, before getting the kids up and going to work. I average about 1500 to 2000 words a day, five to six days a week. That makes me happy but I am itching to write more and I feel antsy and grumpy when I don’t. It’s becoming a debilitating habit. And that’s brilliant!

The book (series) is a suspense mystery with a nod to the pulps. It will be exciting, fun, and entertaining but it should also provoke one to think as well. I want the reader to get something out if it beyond base entertainment (I’m sure most writer’s feel similar). However, finding this thought-provoking theme has proven difficult. With most stories I’ve written, I knew what I wanted to say then I figured out how to say it. This story has been different. I’ve had the characters in mind for a while, the plot has been developing, but when I tried to define what the point of the book was, I drew a blank. I considered not bothering with a “point” at all, have it be a thrill ride and nothing more (works for Hollywood) but that felt hollow. Maybe it’s a fine approach for some but I knew I’d lose interest before I got half way through. An artist with nothing to say is a use to no one. So, I kept trying to decide what the story was saying and, for a long time, this conundrum kept me from starting.

Finally, I decided to just write and trust that something of value would develop. I stopped trying to pin down a theme and began working on a study of the characters. Given that I plan to make a series out of them, I felt having a thorough understanding of their past, before the start of the first book, would be valuable. I’ve taken each character and I’m telling their story, from their point of view, spending the bulk my time with the main character. I did not set out to write protagonists or antagonists. Instead, I’ve approached it as if I were writing their biography, detailing the events of their life without overlaying moral typecast. This has created, in my opinion, some very well-rounded characters. It’s the joys and tragedies of these characters lives that shape them, not some arbitrary roll I want them to play. Their families shape them, their social and cultural backgrounds, and their innate personality determine the kind of person they are. (As a result, my villain, who is still scummy, has become more of an accomplice to the main character than outright evil.) By getting to know them from childhood to the beginning of the story, I get a sense of them as a complete person, beyond some simplistic label of evil or good.

Another, unintended by-product (which I spoke of in my last post) is that, by writing each character’s story from their perspective, I get to examine the larger story from their various points of view and it has expanded my understanding greatly. I am able to see the story from all angles.

I’ve written enough material to fill a small novel. However, none if it is something I’d publish. It is purely for my understanding. This method is overkill, I’m sure, but I’ve decided to treat this book as my learning playground and – if nothing else – I am certainly learning so it is not wasted. Besides, I’ve formulated enough material for three more books after this one. A real series is emerging.

In all of this, the theme has remained hidden. What binds all these characters together? What is the point being made? The larger story has certainly developed more depth than my original concept. It’s darker, more gritty, more real, and several small themes have presented themselves but none strong enough to carry the series. I’ve kept writing, almost blindly, with the hope that “the point” would be revealed.

Last Friday, revelation struck. I was on the way to the airport, to pick up my mother who was flying in for our youngest child’s second birthday. I was running through what I’d written that morning in my mind and suddenly, the defining trait of the main character leaped out at me. Then, I realized that this trait was the theme to the entire story. It was all there, in every part of the text I’d written, laid out, planned out. It was obvious, shouting, “Hey, idiot! Right here!” And yet, I had not intentionally written to this theme at all.

That’s when I realized, writing is like Religion. At least in the aspect of blind faith.

I’m not a particularly religious person. I’d like to think I have a spiritual side but I’m probably closer to an Atheist. But it hit me on Friday that I’d been writing with the blind faith of a true ideologue, faith that, if I kept going, it would all fall into place somehow. This is not unlike, what I think of as “intuitive sketching” (I also draw – it pays the bills). When I sketch in my spare time, I often don’t care what I draw. I’ll start scribbling lines at random. I keep this up until my mind forces an image out of the lines. Once I see it, all that’s left is to flush it out and reveal the image hiding in the scramble. When sketching like this, it may only take a few seconds to find the big picture. With writing, it took longer, the scramble was larger, more complex, but the pattern emerged just the same.

Example of an intuitive sketch.

Example of an “intuitive sketch”

You often read advice from writers who say, “Just keep writing, no matter what”. Neil Gaiman has said to put one word after the other and continue until you’re done – it’s that simple. What these bits of advice don’t tell you is why you keep blindly plodding along, struggling, awkwardly groping for something warm in the dark. It’s the faith that, eventually, God will show herself, a pattern will arise from the chaos. It is our mind’s need to make sense of madness that leads one to revelation and you have to trust yourself that will happen, all will be revealed, your devotion will be rewarded in the kingdom of scrivener’s heaven. And…most of the time…it is.

Say Hallelujah and Amen!

 

 

 

Feather20Pen20ClipArtIn the last two weeks, I have written…exactly nothing. Sickness descended upon my house, attacking my wife first, then (as she was getting better) both my kids were hit on the same day, and finally (as they started to recover) it took me down. It’s been a little over a month of sickness and we are all tired and suffering from cabin fever.

We are (mostly) better now and this weekend was time for us to get out of the house. We made a few playground trips with the kids, ate out, and my wife took off to see a movie while I watched the kids (she well deserved it). But now I’m ready to get back to writing.

Fascinating uh? No? Ah well, perhaps this will be a little more interesting.

I wanted to talk about what something I stumbled upon while writing and researching my book (tentatively called “Isabella”), a process that formed quite by accident but has been very helpful. Maybe you’ll find it helpful as well.

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For the first time in a long time, I am writing on a consistent basis. I had been working on a series of short stories but fell off the wagon a while back and it’s been gnawing at me.

I tried to get back into the short stories at first, because I was nervous about tackling something as big as a novel. Eventually, I realized that the best learning experience would be to plunge headlong into the fire and get burned. It is good to work a little crispy.

My book’s working title is “Isabella” (the full title is: “The Lost Journals of Carl McGavin: Isabella”), however, it will most likely change because…I hate it. Coming up with a good title has proven difficult and I’ve decide to focus on the story and let the title simmer. So, for the moment, it’s “Isabella”.

I’m still in the “research and outlining” stage of the book and I’m probably doing too much of that but, as I said, it’s a learning experience. Do I prefer to work from an outline or let the book flow naturally? I’m not sure yet. I think it will be a hybrid of the two approaches in the end.

My plan is to have the book complete (or close) by the end of the year and then look into self-publishing. I try to spend, at least, 2 hours a day on it but it seldom works out like that and the going is slow. I don’t care, I’m writing and that’s all that counts.

Once I get past the research and outline and into the meat of the work, I plan to post excerpts along the way. I hope it will be interesting for people to follow the progress and the process. Ultimately, I’d like to engage with people, writers and readers, to get feedback, see how scenes work, and improve the text. It would be a great help to me and I hope it would be fun for potential readers to play a part in the creation.

This book will be the first in a series of modern, Pulp-style, mystery/thrillers with a little tongue-in-cheek nod to the old Cliffhangers, Chapter Plays, and Serials of the ’30’s, ’40’s, and 50’s. Imagine a darker Raymond Chandler with a touch of William S. Burroughs just to keep the edge firmly in place. On some levels it’s a political thriller, but the politics are very much in the background. It’s focus is on the main character, Carl McGavin, a retired detective who just wants to spend is remaining days as a writer – in some ways he get his wish and a whole lot more trouble. It’s definitely a character driven, personal story, playing off establish themes but (hopefully) approaching them from a different angle. Much of that characterization is still being worked out and focused.

It’s all very scary and daunting but, damn if I ain’t enjoying it.

“Isabella” was originally written as a short serial (which had the even worse name of “Chapter Play” – he’s a writer, he plays with the chapters of his book, it’s another name for the old cliffhangers, double meaning, don’t ask) I was doing for a writer’s newsletter called “The Gabriel Writer”. I did a series of illustrations for each chapter I submitted. Since the story has gone through so many changes, I though I’d post the original illustrations for you to see. They don’t necessarily reflect the current story but they do give you a bit of the flavor. The illustrations evoke a pulp style, gritty, heavy shadow, and so on. Some turned out better than others. Hope you like them.

ONE NOTE: If you’d like to follow my progress on the book and, even better, comment and provide feedback along the way, I’d absolutely love it and would recommend that you subscribe to this blog. There is a RSS feed link on the side bar that you can follow as well as the Temujin’s Newsletter that you can sign up for through your email. Please do so.

Thanks

Chapter Play_ch1

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Smaller_spots

Smaller spot illustrations

can-stock-photo_csp6041466It has been a long time since I’ve posted. Frankly I’ve been too busy and I wasn’t quite sure what to do with this blog. I plan to change that.

A quick bit of background (you can skip this paragraph if you choose). In 2011, I, along with eighty-nine other contributors, started a digital charity anthology called “Fables for Japan” to raise money for the earthquake survivors in Japan. Since I was publishing the book myself and handling the marketing, I started to look into using social media. I failed to use it properly – or, to put it more bluntly, I sucked at it. Self promotion has never been my strong suit and figuring out all the nuances of drawing a crowd and gaining followers on the internet was a challenge. The worse mistake I made was falling for the Facebook’s Ad’s scam. (You can learn more about it in this delightful and accurate video – it is exactly what happened to me and I won’t bore you with my rant.) The result of all this was that “Fables for Japan” came to an end, we raised a slightly less than decent amount of money (it could have been so much more), and I was left with several Social Media accounts and little idea what to do with them.

Okay, background over, now the point. I’ve decided to tackle writing a novel that I plan to self-publish (I’ll post more on that soon). This will mean (many things but not the least of which) diving back into Social Media as a means of promoting this novel (I hope to do more than just promote it, more on that below). Therefore, I must figure out the best way to make use of all my Social Media outlets. From research into the matter, the main thing I’ve gleaned is that I need a consistent focus on what I intend to blog about. That’s been hard for me because, like most people, I have multiple interests in my life and focusing on one over the others is difficult. For example, I started out as a comic book artists because I loved the idea of telling a story through art and words. As I move into straight prose writing, I can’t really break away from my art background – I don’t want to. So, do I focus on the writing or my art or both? I’ve also read that you need to know who your audience is. Again, that’s been hard, I don’t know who my audience is yet or if I even have one. (Sure hope I do and that I can find them, it will make this whole “writing a book” thing so much more successful.)

To remedy this, here’s what I’ve come up with – I’m posting this so, if there is an audience out there, you can best navigate my different accounts and find the information that interests you.

Here are my Social Media accounts, their focus, and who they are for:

My Website My website will serves as a hub for all the others. On the main page you will find links to posts-of-interest from my other accounts as well as info on any major updates for “Star Wars: The Old Republic” (SWTOR) – the video game I’m working on. This is also where you can see my art portfolios, a list of my books and other writing projects, and my Store, where you can buy my original comic book art or commission an original piece of art.

The audience here is everyone, as my website’s intent is to help them find the areas that interest them, my day job (SWTOR), my artwork, my writing, and so on.

Temujin’s Journal (this blog): This blog will focus purely on my writing. I am still new to writing and learning my way, so this blog will follow that process of learning. I will be posting updates on the novel I’m writing, excerpts for anyone to comment on (I would love some critiques to help my writing improve and to get to know my potential readers), I will be posting my short stories, and I may also post links to different articles about the writing process in general – along with my commentary.

The audience for this blog would be writers (aspiring or professional), readers, lovers of books and short stories, those interesting in helping another author critique his work (for which I would gladly return the favor). If the interest presented itself, I wouldn’t mind starting an on-line critique group here.

My Facebook Page: I have set up a new Facebook Fan page (to wipe out the damage created by using Facebook Ads). The page will be an addendum to this blog, to help promote this page and my writing, there will be more writing related articles there, ones not posted on this blog. I also hope to engage with more fans, writers, and readers to get a better idea of who I’m writing to and expand my knowledge. The best thing I can see about social media is that it tears down the wall between creator and fan. People can become more involved in the work they consume and creators can grow more by interacting with those who buy their work.

The audience for the Facebook page is primarily the same as this blog. There will just be additional content on the Facebook page.

Instagram: I plan to use Instagram for posting my personal artwork, work that isn’t intended as a portfolio piece (those would be found on my website) or related to SWTOR (which would also be on my website). This would be work that I’m doing mainly for me, when I have the time.

The audience would be people who love artwork, interested in seeing what I do, life drawing, sketches, illustrations, etc.

Temujin’s Tumblr: My Tumblr blog is primarily a collections of art work and articles from various people who I find interesting and/or inspiring. But I also post my own personal artwork there as well and links to my writing. Even some random thoughts of mine. It’s a catchall that hopefully keeps people interested.

The audience would be people who like to see a variety of artists’ work and, perhaps, discover artists they are unfamiliar with.

Twitter: My Twitter has also been a bit of a catchall but I am going to try to focus it a bit more in three areas, my writing, my personal artwork, and SWTOR. I’m not a big twitterer but I’m going to try to get more involved with it.

The audience would be readers/writers, people who want to see my artwork, and fans of SWTOR.

I also have a Pinterest account and a Google+ account but I can’t figure out a use for either and may drop them.

 

That’s it, I hope this can help you find any information, regarding what I do, that interests you. I also hope this helps me to provide more focused content for those interests.

I should also say that most of the older posts on this blog are not following this new focus. I deleted some, other’s I kept, these are marked in the category of Archive. You might find them interesting but they are a bit scattered.

 

Thanks

Jason

 

It’s midnight and my wife has “tapped out” – meaning that she is exhausted and it’s my turn. So, between changing diapers, feedings, and endless soothing, I’m trying to write this.


The newest addition to our family, Drake Harrison Minor, was born a little over 2 weeks ago. He was 8 lb 2 oz and 20 inches long. He was a c-section and both he and his mother are doing well, thankfully. In many ways, he could be the twin of his big brother, Phoenix – who, when he was born, weighed 8 lb 1 oz and was 20 inches long. They share other similarities, both lost a full pound of their birth weight before gaining it back, both were slightly tongue-tied and needed their frenulum cut, and their physical appearances are amazingly similar.

Phoenix and Drake on the day they were born. Can you tell which is which?

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Joe Kubert passed away. August 12th, 2012

I knew Joe. Not nearly as well as I would have liked but in my few meetings with him and through his life’s work and the school he founded, Joe forever changed my life. That’s not unique to me; Joe changed a lot of people’s lives.

I first met Joe when I traveled to New Jersey for my entrance interview at the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art. It was Joe himself who reviewed my portfolio and conducted the interview. I was so scared sitting in his office waiting as he silently flipped through the pages. (more…)

Jean Giraud, Moebius, passed away today. He was, arguably, one of the most influential artist of our time and a personal inspiration of mine.

The first time I encountered Jean Giraud’s work was, unfortunately, in the movie “Heavy Metal.” I say unfortunate not because I didn’t like the movie – I love it – I was a young teenager, it was a simi-adult, kick-ass animated movie with nudity! Of course, I love it. But it was an unfortunate introduction to Moebius because it did not, could not, do his work justice. (more…)

I was interviewed by Bill Baker on the Morton Report about Fables for Japan. Check it out:

Comics: Jason Minor on the Fables for Japan Benefit Books

Illustration by Kristen

With all of the human tragedy, economic problems and political turmoil—not to mention failed celebrity marriages—dominating our attention these days, it’s been far too easy to forget that the Japanese people are still in the early stages of recovering from the terrible earthquake and subsequent tsunami that occurred earlier this year.

Still, when faced with that scale of destruction and those incomprehensible numbers of dead, an individual can end up feeling powerless to aid in any meaningful or significant manner. [more]…

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