Thursday, July 29, 2010

Hanging ON THE EDGE with Leisl Adams

I first met Leisl Adams through the children's writer/illustrator social networking site JacketFlap. I stumbled upon a book that she was selling called Monsters Under the Bed! and of course I came to a screeching halt. Monsters! What?! Well, that led me to browse her profile and artwork. And after staring at her wonderful creations for what seemed like days, the corners of my mouth twisted into a joyous grin. I just had to tell her how awesome she was - if she didn't already know. Since then I have been a devoted fan and follower of her work, telling everyone I can to check it out.

Needless to say, I had to know more about the inner workings of her brain and what other fantastic projects she had cooking. Why don't we peek under the bed and see what we can find.


Can you talk to me about On The Edge and how it came about?

Leisl Adams: It started out with me wanting to do a comic about therapy.

Synopsis: On The Edge (http://ontheedgecomics.com) is a wacky world where emotions are represented by Demons. Negs was once an all powerful Demon until he was demoted, and now tries to get by as a therapist. His roommate Alice is a cop who tries to keep him in line.I also wanted the main character to be a woman with a good career, but a not so great personal life. 

I had been to therapy myself for social anxiety and depression and drew a picture of what I thought "depression" would look like, and it was Mr. Negative. Originally he was supposed to turn from a cute little Demon into a huge monster, but for the comic I decided to ditch that idea. I don't know why I decided to put Cat-people in there… probably because I had a cat and I wondered what it would be like if he could talk. I didn't know anything about furries or what was already online, so I thought I was being clever. When I started this I wasn't even on the internet very much. I didn't know what webcomics were. I would just draw this stuff to show my friends.


Can you talk to me about your process of creating a comic? Story first, art second? Or has there been a time where you create the art first and fill in the story later?

LA: Story first, yes! I admit, writing is what I'm weakest at, so I try to work on the writing as much as I have time for before I even think about drawing it. After I write I usually do a thumbnail, just to get a sense of staging. I've always been an artist first, so I trust that I can draw whatever I've written. I can usually see what's going on in my head before I write it down, and sometimes I'll be working a story in my head for weeks before I put it on paper.

How long does it take you to create a final strip for each story and/or joke?

LA: From the rough drawing to finished strip can take anywhere from a few to maybe 4 hours. I draw everything on paper, roughing in blue(or whatever color I like at the moment) pencil, and inking with a calligraphy pen/india ink or brush pen, or sometimes Micron pens. Then I scan it in and do the panels, lettering and balloons in Photoshop. It's nice to not use the computer so much, because most of my professional work is done on the computer. I couldn't say how long it takes me to write a strip, because usually it's in my head for a while before I write it down. And then usually I have to look at it again and again to make sure it makes sense or is actually funny. I probably fail at this part a lot, lol.


What are some of the other projects that you are working on? Where else can we find your work?

LA: Right now I'm doing some graphic novel work for Arcana, and I just finished storyboarding on a children's TV series called Rob The Robot. I think it should be on TV in the fall. I'm also part of Bentocomics.com, which is a site where people can create their own graphic novel anthologies and order them through Lulu. I tend to put extra On The Edge content there. I've done a lot of different things, like working on games for Allgirlarcade, and assisting on The Dork Diaries children's novel. Most of my work though, is on TV. I've been an animator and storyboard artist for most of my career, working on Canadian kids shows like Lunar Jim, Delilah and Julius, and Poko. My portfolio and resume can be found at http://leisladams.com for those who want to try and keep up. :D

Check out her awesome Demo Reel!

video

I personally think that if I had your drawing talent combined with my passion for writing, I would never leave the house. Do you have a dream project? Something dying to get out there?

LA: Haha, I kind of don't leave the house right now. Working full time and doing a webcomic on the side keeps me pretty busy. I have a few other story ideas that I've been working on over the years, and I'd really like to see them become something. They're still in the writing stages though. And I've always wanted to do an autobiographical comic, about my partner and I, because we're just that funny.

Do you have any advice for those writer/illustrators out there that want to start their own web comic but don't know where to start?

LA: Start with a story. I think if I had to do On The Edge over again, I would've done more writing and planning before putting anything online. Write 20 strips/pages. Know who you want your audience to be. Know what you want your update schedule to be. Make it look as good as you can. Put it online once you're happy with it, then keep going and don't worry about it.


What else should we keep on our radar?

LA: Bento Comics (http://bentocomics.com) is a library of short stories by some well known creators where you can read online, collect your favourites into a custom anthology, and have it printed! Read more about it at http://www.bentocomics.com/about.php. You can also join our forums for some fun discussion.

Okay, twist my arm, I want to showcase some more of your work!



I expect that this is not the last we have heard from this amazing talent. I want to thank Leisl for letting me creep around her noodle and dig a little deeper into her creative space. So what are you, dear reader, waiting for? Get over On The Edge and do some reading, follow it, and let Negs get under your skin. You won't be sorry.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Magican's Castle - GIVEAWAY!

During my journey along the yellow brick road to the Emerald City of children's literature, I have been very fortunate to meet, interview and become friends with some amazing people. One of those special people is the wonderful author Mary Cunningham. At the first reading of her whimsical Cynthia's Attic series, I was instantly cast under its spell.

Now you can grab a piece of the magic and win a SIGNED copy of Cynthia's Attic: The Magician's Castle (Book 4 of the series - Echelon Press 2010). Simply perform these easy tricks for a chance to win. Follow Mary on Twitter (http://twitter.com/MaryCunningham), Follow Literary Asylum on Twitter (http://twitter.com/LiteraryAsylum) and tell us your favorite bit of magic (from a book, movie or life).  See contest rules below.



THE MAGICIAN'S CASTLE
Synopsis: Sebastien the Great, a magician whose fiancĂ©e, Kathryn, disappears through the magic trunk, vows revenge. If Cynthia and Gus don’t find a missing page from the “Book of Spells,” Cynthia’s family could face financial and personal ruin. Follow this time-traveling duo as they journey back to a 1914 Swiss castle where Eva, Sebastien’s grandmother, gives them clues on where to begin their search. Their journey takes them through miles of tree tunnels, an enchanted garden ruled by a cranky rock monster, and even high in the Alps. They get the surprise of their lives when they’re sent 50 years into the future, have a shocking encounter with another set of best friends, and receive a fresh set of clues that could lead to Kathryn’s return. But, at what price?

The Rules: Contest if for US residents only. Deadline to enter is Midnight PST 8/6/2010. Please leave your email in comments as a way to contact you. Winner will be announced on 8/9/2010. Thank you! Good luck.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Middle Grade Ghoulish Delights

As I am barreling along to finish two middle grade manuscripts (agent Zombree patiently waiting), I am also preparing to launch several new posts to the Asylum. Some giveaways, some wonderful artist interviews and more middle-grade madness. I thought I would take a moment to share some ghoulish delights with everyone. There is something about really cool artwork with a fiendish twist that makes me all giddy - like a zombie cheerleader unleashed on a football field.

Haunting the book stores is something I do often and when I find a gem with delicious artwork, well, I buy it. Yes, I am a sucker for the cover art. Then I pray that the story will hold up to the great cover art. Most of the time I am not disappointed. Below are some of my recent top favorites for the little boils and ghouls in your life.


Zombiekins by Kevin Bolger - Illustrated by Aaron Blecha


Attack of the Fluffy Bunnies by Andrea Beaty - Illustrated by Dan Santat


Zombie Chasers by John Kloepfer - Illustrated by Steve Wolfhard


Dragonbreath: Curse of the Were-wiener by Ursula Vernon

What are some of your recent favorites? Are you a sucker for cover art? I can't be the only one, right? Is this thing on...

Thursday, July 15, 2010

My Best Advice To New Writers - Blogfest

Thank you for stopping by the Asylum as part of the "My Best Advice To New Writers" Blogfest. Myself and several other Bloggers have joined forces to offer up some helpful and entertaining advice for the newbie writer.

I often wonder if I should be dishing out advice when I'm seeking it on a daily basis myself. We've all been told to write every day, read everything we can and then read some more. That is all true. It is the gospel. It would be redundant to repeat that wisdom here for several paragraphs.

There are so many things that you could tell a "new writer" to do or don't do. There are so many books, blogs, seminars, and DVDs on how to capture that lightning in a bottle. If you write at midnight for three hours and drink Yoohoo through your nose then you too will be successful like A-list writer (because that is what worked for them).


In my opinion, to base your writing journey in the footsteps of others is a mistake. Not a single one of us will have the same journey as Roald Dahl, R.L. Stine, Judy Blume, J.K. Rowling or Lemony Snicket. There are a thousand different ways to tell a story.

You want to write? Then ask yourself a few simple questions.

Do you have something to say? Well, yes, we all have something to say. We talk all day to co-workers, family, friends, grocery store clerks, and sometimes ourselves (you know who you are). The something I'm talking about is that story in your head that haunts you and keeps you up in the middle of the night. And if you don't do anything about it, it will quietly pass into the ether for another writer to pluck from their muse and make it their own. We all know that scenario. You have the world's greatest idea only to find out that it's coming out in hardcover in three weeks. What? Huh? Yeah, it has happened to me on several occasions until I learned to research the market. Before you put pen to paper, fingers to keyboard, check to see if that burning story isn't something you caught out of the corner of your eye on the grocery store bookshelf and it stuck in your brain as "your" idea.

Cut to: You've checked to see that your Squid Boy falls for Zombie Girl love story has not yet been written. The closest thing is Octopus Girl falls for Were-Vamp Boy. That's okay, you have a fresh spin on aquatic-dead romance. Right? Well, let's hurry and bust out the writing utensil and get to it.

 (Artwork by Christopher Uminga)

Can you articulate the passion? First paragraph in you realize that the great American Squid Boy novel you have inside your brain, stumbles down your arm into your fingers and splatters across the page. One problem, it reads like an instruction manual for electronic salad tongs. It makes no sense and who would want to read it? That's okay, it is the first draft after all. Maybe this writing thing isn't so easy. You've read some books and it looks simple. Just like directing a movie or driving a race car. It takes time and practice. Yoda constantly told Luke that he needed to focus and practice. Writing is a skill, it can be learned, it can be achieved. It can also be mechanical and have no substance without passion. Loving what you write, writing what you love to read and enjoying the process is what writing is about.


Publishing, book tours, movies, and video games based on your books are all gravy. Writing, however, should be the goal. If you write it, they will read it (okay I stole that from Field of Dreams and put my spin on it - but you get the idea). Practice the writing, write with passion and the words will drop where they need to. Most tasks in life that we are afraid to tackle are simple and not as daunting once you face them. It's the inner voice that tells you you can't do something. Well, tell it to shut up and prove it wrong.

Can you keep the reader glued to the page? Okay, so we have Squid Boy and a whole truck load of passion and we've learned to articulate word after word in a coherent sentence. Great. Now, why should anyone read beyond the first page? Because you have given them a solid hook at the beginning of the book? You've delivered an obstacle for the main character that we are dying to find out what the outcome will be? You've put the main character through an emotional and physical storm bringing them to a rainbow at the end?

    Squid Boy stood on the edge of the peer gazing down into the inky water. The thunderous waves hammered against the rotted support beams threatening to splinter them into toothpicks. He teetered and considered everything that had happened in the last two days, three hours and fourteen minutes. If he couldn't t get over his fear of water and take the plunge into the icy deeps, he would never see Zombie Girl again.

Think of the best best books, movies, and songs that you pull you right in. They have a hook that grabs you and won't let go. From page one, minute one, measure one, they got you and you have to know how it ends. R.L. Stine hooks you on every chapter. J.K. Rowling sets Harry up to take a fall, but we all have to know how he is going to survive it. Quentin Tarantino edits in a non-linear fashion to hook you and then brings it all back around to complete the arc of the story. The first few riffs of an AC/DC song bring you right in and you have to turn it up.


Write your story first, go back to it as a reader and see if it keeps you involved. Are you stumbling when you read, is it clunky, does it make sense? Iron out those kinks and get it to the best possible place you can. The worst thing you can do is send out a manuscript or short story that has not cooked and simmered properly. Nothing kills a new writer's chance of success than anxiously sending out unpolished work. Trust me, I was there once too.

As your future reader I want to wish you all the best of luck. The muse is waiting. Leave new foot prints.


I want to thank Peevish Penman (Carrie) and all the other Bloggers/Writers for the opportunity to share my humble opinion. To check out the many other great posts, please go to: My Best Advice to New Writers - Blogfest. Enjoy. Happy Writing!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Fantastic and Creepy Crow Toes Quarterly


Once upon a midnight dreary.
It was a dark and stormy night.
It's alive, ALIVE!

"Bedtime!" Mother yelled. I clicked off my flashlight, pulled the covers high above my head and stared at the latest issue of Famous Monsters of Filmland. 

For years, I read monster magazines and scared myself silly thinking of those stories and those faces watching me. As I grew older the magazines faded and vanished. Patiently, I waited for another magazine to come along and return me to those terror-ific giddy-filled nights of non-stop reading under the covers. I'm happy to say... the wait is over.

Before my wondering eyes a delicious morsel of literature did appear. A magazine born of uber fandom that I just had to sink my teeth into. And I am so glad I did. If you're like me and love a classic spooky yarn or a tale of whimsical candlelit magic then you should look no further. Crow Toes Quarterly is your magazine. 


It goes without saying that I had to know who was the monster behind the mask of my favorite new magazine. I fired up the torches and searched the dreary hills to find him perched atop a crumbled gravestone. His name is Christopher Millin, and he is the managing editor and publisher of CTQ. Let's take a walk with him through the dark forest and hear what he had to say. 

Can you talk to me about the decision to create the magazine, where the inspiration came from and is there anything behind the name Crow Toes that we should know about?

Christopher Millin: A few of years ago I was in a Publishing Program at a local college and one of the assignments was to create a business plan for a magazine of our choice. I had been having some success in the world of children's literature with the acceptance of one of my middle-reader novels for publication, so I thought I would carry that through into my assignment. In my research I came to realize that in Canada, and North America as a whole, there were very few literature magazines for children. The majority of the magazines that did exist were filled with literature written by children. As an adult writer of children's literature I began to wonder what kind of opportunities existed for me in terms of getting my work published and I came to find very few. The consensus among my fellow students and peers was that there were a lot of people out there just like me writing quirky, playfully dark stories for children, but not knowing what to do with those stories once they were finished. I wanted to change that. After school, I was compelled to take my assignment and make it a reality.

The name of the magazine was born out of my admiration for crows and science fiction. A friend of mine was sharing his idea for a new sci-fi novel he was planning on writing. I had always been fascinated with sci-fi (and secretly, always wished I could write a sci-fi novel) and was in awe of what I was hearing. One of the planets in his novel was called Crotos. I had been planning on using the word Crow in the name of the magazine since day one, but I wasn't sure how to incorporate it until that moment. The whole thing just kind of clicked for me when I heard him describe this planet and its inhabitants. On a side note, he never ended up writing that novel.

I would like to know what the day to day is like for the Crow Toes gang. Can you give us a little inside into the process of running a magazine and getting an issue launched?

CM: Because we only publish four times a year, real work on the magazine comes in short three-to-four week bursts during production time. In that time we select the content, attach artists to stories/poems, design and layout the magazine, proof it and publish it in both print and e-zine form. The rest of our time is spent dealing with submissions, updating the website and writing blog entries.

One of CTQ's more charming characteristics is its staff. There is a real CTQ Staff, which includes myself, my wife Laura and a couple of volunteer proofreaders. And there is a fictional CTQ staff which includes The Narrator, Poinsettia Park, The Staff Villain and Ogilvy the Lackey. Each character is based on an aspect of my personality. Ogilvy is the quiet, people pleaser in me. Our Staff Villain is the perfectionist in me. Poinsettia Park is the traveler in me. And The Narrator embodies the storyteller in me. Fictionalizing my staff allows me to have a little fun with this process, which can be quite taxing at times. They also help me fill up some of the space between production times. All the goings-on at the CTQ office are well documented in The Narrator's Blog (http://www.thenarratorsblog.blogspot.com).

Tell me something that most writers don't understand about the publishing process?

CM: The publishing process is very expensive and the returns almost never make up for the costs, especially when there is no advertising to rely on. A lot of the folks out there running little arts and literature magazines (like CTQ) are paying for these magazines out of their own pockets. These folks continue to publish these magazines because they are passionate about art and literature and sharing new talent with the world.

Besides editing and publishing a magazine, I read that you are also a writer! Can you tell me a bit about your book The King of Arugula? (Where can we find it?)

CM: The King of Arugula is the first book in a series of books titled The Hole Stories. It was released in 2007 by Thistledown Press and is currently available on Amazon.com and Chapters.ca (in Canada). The King of Arugula begins with me falling into a deep, dark hole on my way home from my Uncle Sol's funeral. At the bottom of that deep, dark hole, I meet a man name R.E. Flex. I can't see Mr. Flex, but I can smell him. He's been down there for days, waiting...waiting...waiting. I ask him how he ended up in the hole and he proceeds to tell me a collection of amazing and unbelievable stories that all tie together and end up with him at the bottom of the hole. His first story is about a couple of ten-year-old boys in pursuit of a magical tomato that will restore the sight of one of the boys. Along the way the boys meet a villainous man named William Fang (who has an obsession with collecting human legs), a caffeine-addicted monkey named Felix, a tattooed teenager named Clay and a plague of locusts set on destroying the world.


How much of your writing has been affected since becoming an editor/publisher?

CM: My style of writing has remained the same. The King of Arugula (and the two other books in the series I have completed) are dark and playful, like the magazine. What has really been affected is the amount of personal writing I get to do. I still try to write something new every day, but since starting up Crow Toes Quarterly, my writing has been limited to the stories in The Narrator's Blog and The Narrator's Humble Words at the beginning of each issue.


The magazine drips with dark creepy things that live in shadowy corners of the world. What are your biggest influences - monster books, movies, monsters themselves, etc. How often does this effect the theme of the magazine (issue to issue)? 

CM: Our main inspiration at CTQ is Lemony Snicket. After each issue is done we like to ask, "Would Lemony Snicket like it?" Snicket's wonderful stories came to me by way of a young cousin. She handed me The Bad Beginning seven or eight years ago and since then, my whole writing/publishing life has changed. I started out writing adult fiction and completed two massive novels that now live in a shoebox in my closet after suffering more rejections than I can count from publishers around the world. I almost gave up writing and then this amazing gift was handed to me. I read The Bad Beginning in one go and was so inspired by the style and the voice and the darkness and the freedom that I began writing The King of Arugula the very next day. 

I mean, I grew up reading Roald Dahl, Lewis Carroll, Ray Bradbury and the Brothers Grimm and I loved (and still do) early Tim Burton movies like Pee-wee's Big Adventure, Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands, but I never thought of heading in a creative direction like this.


Each issue of the magazine is built around a loose theme. For our current issue (The Fourteenth Issue), the theme is wings. We like to leave our themes open to interpretation. This allows us a little more freedom with the content we relate to the theme. Past issues have focused on isolation, change and deception. These themes are prevalent in the works I have been influenced by and the experiences I have had in life.

Writers can read about your submissions and the guidelines to see what you would like. Can you tell me what kind of stories you don't want to see and what kind of stories you are not getting (that you would like)?

CM: The only stories I'd like to see less of are vampire stories.

Seriously, a huge amen to that!! Hasn't the blood well run dry on these people? C'mon, there are other monsters out there! Okay, sorry, I'm stepping off the soap box. Please continue...

CM: Right now, every single angle/idea seems to have been explored in this realm and I think it's time to give vampires a little rest. That being said, one of my goals is to publish unique takes on the stories we've all read a dozen times. So if a vampire story that had an element or idea I had never heard of before crossed my path, I'd definitely consider it. This is the same way I view ghost stories. CTQ was built on the classic ghost story. And I receive a lot of ghost stories. A LOT OF GHOST STORIES! Again, I'm looking for the ghost story with that unique element that sets it apart from all the rest.

As for the type of stories we're not getting enough of, there are a couple. Folks who read the blog and the magazine should know that the CTQ Staff really likes robots and zombies. Oddly, we receive very few stories about these wonderful things. I would love to see more unique zombie and robot stories.


That means as soon as you are done reading this you should be working on your next great robot zombie story or zombie robot yarn or robots vs. zombies - okay, fine, you get the idea. I know I've already started writing mine.

This was a true pleasure for me to speak with Christopher and learn a great deal about my favorite new magazine. I hope that I might be introducing several of you out there to a wonderful and amazing magazine to add to your subscriptions (which by the way is a cost of a large coffee - seriously - for a Venti Latte, you could have four issues sent to you). Thank you, Christopher. And Thank you, Crow Toes for the hours of entertainment.


Read the stories, see what they publish and put your best story forward. To submit to Crow Toes Quarterly - click here for guidelines.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

And the most dastardly winner is...

Thank you everyone for participating in the ARCHVILLAIN ARC giveaway. I am so happy (ahem, I mean appalled - that there are so many villains out there). There were many great choices in villains and lots of no-goodery going on around the blogs and Twitter.

I really could just not say who the winner is and be supervillain awesome, however, I am more of a hero than a villain myself. At least that's what a few people tell me. The guy at the grocery store, comic book store, hair salon (I mean barber shop), hey, wait a minute... those are all people who take my money. Of course I am a hero to them. Why I oughta...

CONGRATULATIONS GO TO

SPAV!

You are the most dastardly of the bunch. I would say thanks, but you are taking away the book from my hands and I just don't like that.

Come back soon, there are wonderfully fun and creepy things on the horizon. The Asylum will be closed for the holiday. Returning next week.

Happy 4th everyone!