Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Kaeli & Rebecca Comic Book Video Trailer

Here's the trailer video for the first issue of Kaeli & Rebecca.

Kaeli is a priestess of Death who has taken a vow not to kill. Rebecca is a warrior born into ancient and unending conflict. From the mirrored halls of a crumbling mansion steeped in ancient magic to the wasteland lair of an immortal wizard, their quest will test the limits of their strength and stretch the boundaries of their opposing philosophies. Kaeli & Rebecca tells the story of the fight to survive when nothing but love and loyalty keeps you going. And of how sometimes, that might just be enough.

Issue #1 will debut at Templecon, February 4-6, 2011 in Warwick RI, and is now available for pre-order at www.dandelionstudios.com. You can also check out our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/KaeliandRebecca

Kaeli & Rebecca is an ongoing fantasy comic series written by Rick Silva and illustrated by Katrina Joyner. Kaeli & Rebecca joins Perils of Picorna and Stone as the third title in Dandelion Studios' Quarterstaff fantasy imprint.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Debut of Two New Comic Books from Dandelion Studios!

This is a big day for us here at Dandelion Studios and Quarterstaff Comics. Have a look at not one, but two major releases that will be coming your way in early 2011. Both of these books are available for pre-order right now! Perils of Picorna #2 will ship in January of 2011, and Kaeli & Rebecca #1 will be released in February 2011. Here's the cover for the long-awaited debut of Kaeli & Rebecca featuring the artwork of Katrina Joyner.


___________________________________________________________________ And we're just as thrilled to show you Missy Pena's cover art for the second issue of Perils of Picorna.


Both new comics are available for pre-order at www.dandelionstudios.com.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

On The Road: New York Comic Con 2010

The New York Comic Con started on the Friday before Columbus Day weekend, but I had to work that day, so my comics were being set up by the crew from SJS Comic Promotions while I spent the day working and then traveling.

I got a ride from my job to the bus stop and got the Plymouth & Brockton Bus Lines bus from Barnstable on Cape Cod to South Station in Boston. That all went smoothly.

South Station was a mess. I'm a pretty experienced bus traveler. I sent several years living in New Jersey without a car and taking the bus back and forth to Boston to visit family.

I'd never seen South Station as crowded as it was that day. To make matters worse, Fung Wah Bus Lines was making the people with printed e-tickets stand in the same line as the people who were buying tickets, which somewhat defeated the purpose of printing your ticket out in advance. I had some fast food, got in line, and waited. And waited. And waited.

Oh yeah, and there was a suspicious package incident. Some people decided to give up on waiting in line and left a box behind. After it had been sitting there for a while, someone pointed it out to a maintenance guy.

His reaction was to loudly declare "I ain't touching that! Could be a bomb or something!" Way to reassure the traveling public, buddy.

Eventually the actual security professionals showed up, and were quite efficient about bringing in the bomb-sniffing dog and then whisking the package away when the dog gave the all-clear.

Back to waiting. Finally someone at Fung Wah wised up and let the people with e-tickets proceed to the gate. I arrived at South Station at 6 PM with a ticket for 6 PM. I got on a bus at 9 PM, which proceeded to hit traffic thanks to construction on I-95. My tax dollars at work, apparently.

So, of course, by the time I got to NYC the subway was running on late-night schedules. I actually arrived at my friends' place in Brooklyn at 3 AM. Fortunately I'd gotten some sleep on the bus.

It got better from there. I headed Manhattan and got through the professional line at the Javitts Center with no problems and located the SJS booth in the small press area.

Here are some shots of the Javitts Center decorated for the convention.






And my Professional badge!


We were located next to a massive video gaming setup by Intel.



I settled into the booth for my first shift selling my comics. Here are some shots of the booth and my books:


Those are my comics, Zephyr & Reginald: Minions for Hire and Stone.

I also write Perils of Picorna, on the right, below.


This is Joe McGlone of Fallenmage Productions with his comics, Beyond the Dark and Leaves of Yggdrasil.


And a shot of me holding the debut issue of Stone.


Here are myself and Joe with Carl Herring Jr. of Three J Productions.


And Joe and Carl with Jay Rosario of Unstoppable Comics.


After my shift, I met some friends for lunch and then walked back to the con by way of the Hells Kitchen Flea Market:


Saturday afternoon was spent wandering the convention floor. I saw some interesting costumes. Here's a group of Batman villains:


And the Joker having a shootout with Boba Fett!


I headed back to my friends' apartment and got a nice view of the Empire State Building on my way Penn Station.



Sunday, I did a bit more wandering in the exhibit hall. This Michael Jackson dancing game was a huge hit at the con.


Sunday afternoon, I attended the Comic Book Artist Guild's Haller awards.


I was honored to be nominated in the non-comics category for my Luminations serial at The Edge of Propinquity. Free Lunch Comics won that category for their Rusty Haller benefit project.


Joe won in the category of best cartoonist for his Heroic Space Adventures webcomic.



As things were winding down on Sunday, Joe and I packed up and headed up to Penn Station to catch a train to New Haven, our first stop heading home.

NYCC is a huge event and we had a great time among the thousands of geeks, nerds, comic fans, and creators who crowded into the Javitts Center for the weekend.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Book Review: WW III By Ian Slater

By Ian Slater

Written in 1990, Slater's epic novel tells the story of a full-scale conventional war between the forces of the Soviet Union and the USA and its allies. The war begins in Korea and spreads to Europe.

The story, set in a vague but near future (a few references to aging celebrities who were young at the time of publication are used to establish the setting), follows a variety of characters. Among the cast are a woman who enlists as a nurse aboard a hospital ship, a South Korean officer captured in the initial attack, a pair of brothers who are captains of US naval vessels, and a US general with a reputation for risky tactics. The US president is depicted as a pacifist who reluctantly embraces his role as wartime leader, and who seems to have been modeled after President Carter. The author makes his positions on military budget cuts clear as he depicts US forces initially woefully unprepared to face the Communist onslaught.

In terms of tactics and descriptions of the action on the battlefield, Slater does a competent job. He includes a good mix of ground, air, naval, and submarine engagements in his fictional war. Although his background is in naval intelligence, he handles ground battle sequences well.

With twenty years and several wars since the publication of this novel, it's interesting to compare our present circumstances with the future that the author envisioned. He completely missed on the explosive growth of technology on the battlefield, displaying considerable skepticism for "smart" munitions and depicting a world lacking cell phones and other advances in communications technology that we take for granted.

Slater also relies on a variety of deceptive tactics by the Communist forces. Some of these make sense, others such as an amphibious assault launched from a disguised oil tanker stretch credibility a bit.

The characters are good, although the book takes a somewhat sexist tone in places. Slater event attempts to address that with the rather old-fashioned American general scoffing at the idea of female combat troops and then having to rely on a woman pilot to fly his personal chopper into the climactic raid. This would almost have saved the treatment of female characters in the story except for the fact that the woman pilot then gets no actual speaking parts for the entirety of the raid sequence.

Slater also displays a tendency to add and drop characters rather arbitrarily. Several major characters are not introduced until over halfway through the book, and others are dropped without much in the way of resolution.

The threat of nuclear war looms over the entire story, although it's only barely mentioned until the second climactic plot begins to resolve itself with a submarine that has lost communication with its command and might have to fire its nuclear missiles. The resolution of that plot point provides the book's best suspense.

In the end, this is an entertaining and suspenseful book with some great action sequences, but it lacks the logical flow and coherence of Clancy's Red Storm Rising or Bond's Red Phoenix, which both deal with similar scenarios.

WW III was book #20 in my goal of reading 50 books in 2010.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Book Review: ttyl by Lauren Myracle

And now for something completely different...

By Lauren Myracle

This book serves as a great example of the speed at which technology changes. Published in 2004 and written entirely in instant messenger conversations, it embraces a technology now largely abandoned by the teenagers who made up the audience for ttyl.

The story is essentially a high school soap opera, told through the conversations between three tenth grade girls. Angela is the flirty one who's obsessed with making sure she has a boyfriend and willing to interpret the signals from the guy she's set her sights on in the most optimistic possible interpretation. Maddie is a world-wise tough girl who suddenly finds herself faced with the chance to hang with the "popular" kids. Zoe is the "smart one" who is coming to terms with her interest in Christianity while she has become the subject of a lecherous teacher's attention.

The instant-message format of the story serves both to enhance and limit the narrative. Since most of the conversations take place between only two of the three lead characters, the author is able to build tension as the reader is privy to information that the characters are unaware of or are holding back.

At the same time, almost all of the conversations are reacting to events that have already occurred, which can be a bit limiting. The format also limits the supporting cast. I found myself wanting to know more about a number of characters who are only shown through the filter of the three lead characters. Especially interesting was the "Queen Bee" character. There were a few hints that there was more to her than just the generic villain, but the hints were never quite fleshed out.

The tone and flow of the conversations was fun, and the characters are fairly complex. There were lots of little details that came across in the small talk between the girls that kept the story personal and believable. The "chat speak" isn't particularly difficult to follow. I thought there were a few moments when the characters lost the feel of "authentic" teenagers, usually because there was plot that needed to be advanced, but for the most part the language flows naturally.

The final resolution felt a bit abrupt, but readers who find themselves craving more will be happy to hear that the "Winsome Threesome" return in a sequel that picks up where ttyl left off.

ttyl was book #19 in my goal of reading 50 books in 2010.

Book Review: The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson

The Ghost Map
By Steven Johnson

The London cholera outbreak of 1854 was a turning point in medical science. The work of John Snow, aided by the investigations of local clergyman Henry Whitehead provided the first convincing evidence that a disease could be transmitted by contaminated water. Snow's investigation, along with the map that he created from the evidence he and Whitehead collected, would eventually be the downfall of the miasma theory of disease which had been prevalent from the Middle Ages and had its roots in the ancient works of Galen and Hippocrates.

Steven Johnson vividly recounts the conditions of mid 19th Century London and paints a disturbing picture of the progress of an epidemic that struck with horrifying speed and lethality. Untreated cholera can kill within hours, and Johnson recounts the panic as the sickness swept through the Soho neighborhood around the Broad Street pump, which proved to be the source of the outbreak.

Johnson also paints a fascinating and detailed picture of life in the city of London in 1854, a city barely able to sustain its rapidly growing population. The city had become dependent on an entire lower class of scavengers to remove and recycle waste. Johnson extends the discussion to the nature of cities in general, and describes how the mapping techniques pioneered by John Snow have been integrated into technological solutions that are improving life in modern cities.

The Ghost Map is an enjoyable read for pure historical and scientific interest. It also has great relevance to the current growth of cities throughout the world, as well as the ongoing threat of Cholera, most recently in Haiti.

The Ghost Map was book #18 in my goal of reading 50 books in 2010.

Book Review: The Great Influenza By John M. Barry

The Great Influenza
By John M. Barry

The influenza pandemic of 1918 killed more human beings than any single epidemic in history. Even the black death of the Middle Ages, while it killed a greater percentage of the population, did not match the shear number of casualties of the "Spanish Flu".

John M. Barry recounts the terrifying year of the Great Influenza, which struck in the midst of World War I, and devastated military encampments and civilian communities alike. Spreading rapidly in crowded barracks and tenements, and aided and abetted by the politics of wartime censorship, the effects of the influenza pandemic were devasting.

Barry focuses on the medical researchers who bravely fought against the epidemic, beginning his story years before the outbreak with the founding of the Johns Hopkins Medical School and the beginning of the modern science of medicine in the Unites States.

Barry manages to interweave the stories of the researchers with the day-to-day spread of the pandemic, and gives a good overview of the mechanisms by which influenza spreads and kills. He makes the case that this is an event that could easily repeat itself. Our understanding of viruses and vaccines has increased tremendously since 1918, but so has our ability to spread a new virus strain around the world rapidly by means of air travel.

This is important history as well as a cautionary tale of a danger that is still very real.

The Great Influenza was book #17 in my goal of reading 50 books in 2010.

Book Review: Toliet Training: A Practical Guide For Daytime And Nighttime Training By Vicki Lansky

Toilet Training: A Practical Guide to Daytime and Nighttime Training
By Vicki Lansky

This short overview provides a good general guide to a subject that many new parents approach with apprehension, if not outright dread. Lansky does a good job of reassuring parents that whatever their particular toilet training issue, they are almost certainly not alone.

She takes the approach that each child and each set of circumstances is different. So instead of prescribing a single effective method, Lansky gives an overview of the different techniques that have been popularized in other books on child psychology. While her approach is even-handed and inclusive, it is not a very decisive one. The idea that there is no single universal solution is a major part of her point, but some readers may still get frustrated with the lack of specific recommendations beyond "try what works for you".

Still for someone without a clue as to where to start, this book provided a good introduction to the topic and nicely laid out the likely (and less likely but still worrisome) challenges and complications, all while keeping a calm and reassuring tone.

Toilet Training: A Practical Guide For Daytime And Nighttime Training was book #16 in my goal of reading 50 books in 2010

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Processing #2: Fight Scenes Part 1 Purpose

Processing #2
Fight Scenes Part 1: Purpose

"Don't tell me I can't fight,
'Cause I'll punch out your lights…"
-Moxy Fruvous

Do we really need a reason for a good fight scene? Well, in comics, SF, fantasy, and the rest of that vague continuum that we refer to as "genre fiction" the answer might at first appear to be no.

Flip through the typical superhero comic, and you'll find it loaded with fight scenes. They are everywhere. It's not unheard of to have an issue that is basically one huge brawl punctuated with the occasional bit of dialogue, usually to set up the next exchange of punches or gunplay or whatever.

When I write scripts for Stone and Perils of Picorna, I write a lot of fight scenes. And I've written a fair amount in my Luminations and Four Visitors serials at The Edge of Propinquity.

Part of what's going on here is that I try to write fight scenes with a purpose. I want to avoid having the scene detract from the story. And that means that it needs to do more than just advance the plot. At the heart of each story are the characters and the changes that the characters undergo over the course of the events in the story. That's what holds the reader's interest.

Quick obvious (some might say blatantly obvious) example involving a well-known battle scene: Luke Skywalker blows up the Death Star. Obviously that advances the plot. The Rebel Alliance is not destroyed. They are now free to um… relocate to Hoth, actually. But the point is that the Rebellion lives on. But that's not really the point, is it? The point is that Luke is able to find the faith that he had been seeking, and his acceptance of the Force makes the difference, allowing him to perform the heroic feat that he would not have been capable of back when he was this whiny punk who just wanted to go into town to shop for power converters.

The battle scene is necessary to show that the hero has grown. That's the kind of purpose that you often see in big, climactic fight scenes. We've got one of those planned for Perils of Picorna. In issue #6. Because big, climactic scenes tend to happen, well, near the climax. I'm writing a big, climactic fight scene into Stone as well, although in that battle, the focus will not be on Donna Stone, but on the soldiers she has taught and trained.

Earlier in stories, fights serve other purposes. Here are a few:

To put the hero or villain over. Actually, since I'm dipping into my pro wrestling jargon here, I should probably have said to put the face or the heel over.

This is a scene that builds a character up. Superhero comics use this type of thing all the time, with mixed results. Sometimes it works. Occasionally it fails badly. Sometimes it just feels like a dull routine.

A group of muggers close in on their victim, who is walking alone along a shadowy street in a Gotham City slum. Most of you can probably figure out what's coming, and let me assure you. The purpose of this is not because The Batman has some character flaw that he needs to overcome in order to beat these guys. These guys are jobbers (cannon-fodder would be the term for those not so inclined toward WWE action). The reader is going to see the Batman take these generic thugs apart, and the purpose is nothing more than to remind the reader that the Batman is someone that you do NOT want to mess with.

This works equally well with villains. After all, we want the villain to present a challenge for the hero. Otherwise the story is not going to be all that interesting.

Here's an example of how NOT to do this. Meet Vultura (played by Lorna Gray).

She's the villainess in the serial Perils of Nyoka (1942), which is one of my inspirations for the Perils of Picorna comic book that I co-write.

Vultura is in a fight scene with Nyoka (Kay Aldridge) in the first episode. It doesn't go well for the villainess. She gets trounced. In fact, Vultura needs a guy in a gorilla suit to help her by the time it's all said and done.

This is a problem, because like I said we're only in episode 1. And we've just established that our "Big Bad" villain is no match for the general spunk and scrappiness of the heroine (let's just say that nobody actually displays a whole lot of fighting skill here; but Kay Aldridge does totally bring the scrappy).

In Perils of Picorna, we have a fight scene between our (scrappy) heroine Picorna and our villainess Jespina at the beginning of the second issue, and we went for a different result. Here's a bit of preview from the upcoming second issue (featuring the artwork of the awesome Missy Pena!):

What we're doing here is establishing the villain as a challenge (getting her over, as the jargon would have it). A difficult challenge, which will hopefully get the readers wondering how Picorna is ever going to find a way to defeat Jespina.

Fight scenes can also be used to provide lesser challenges for the hero, possibly to mark the progress on the heroic journey.

And of course, they can advance the plot, although often what can be accomplished plot-wise with a fight can be accomplished in many other ways as well.

Fight scenes are fun to write, so it's easy to get caught up in them, especially in a fighting-heavy genre. When I write, I try to approach each fight scene with a sense of purpose, and that purpose is usually more than just moving the plot along. It's part of the establishment, growth, and development of characters.

I'm looking forward to writing some good character development, including the occasional punch in the face.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Processing #1: Where Do I Put The Sidekick?

When I started this blog at the beginning of the summer, I envisioned it as a place to share writing and parenting experiences. I started out posting a lot of photo-heavy reports from some of the places I was taking the Kiddo over the summer, but somewhere in that I got too busy to keep up. As the summer came to an end and some writing and comic publishing deadlines started to loom (not to mention the school year starting up again), I began to think about new approaches to the blog.

This is the (long awaited! ha!) result of that thought process. I'd like to blog about the writing process, for comics, for serial fiction, for zines, for short stories, and eventually for novels as I follow the twisting path my writing seems to be leading me on. This is about process, and it's about me reflecting on what I've learned and what I'm continuing to learn, so I'll be calling it "Processing". Hopefully this will be the first installment of many.

I'm not going to spend time on my background. I'm Rick. I write comic books. I write other things. Today's column is about Perils of Picorna, a fantasy manga comic that I co-write and self publish. Further information about myself, my comics, and my other work can be found online easily enough. My website, dandelionstudios.com is a good starting point, and I'm on several of the popular social networking sites and always happy to meet new friends in those places.

Processing: Where Do I Put The Sidekick?

We're in the brainstorming phase of the third issue of Perils of Picorna, and I have found myself falling into a pattern that I don't like.

I keep trying to find excuses to remove Petrus from the story.

Petrus is the protagonist's main companion. He's her sidekick, to use the traditional comic term, although he's also a potential romantic interest. And in a lot of the scenes that we are planning, he's just not all that convenient to have around.

We play around with clichés at lot in Perils of Picorna. It's patterned after the cliffhanger serials. We absolutely delight in clichés. We've got Picorna hanging off a cliff (well, a tall statue, actually) to end the first issue. The cliché that ends the second issue is even more wonderfully outrageous.

But as much as we love clichés, we delight even more in tweaking or breaking them.

Here's a cliché:

The hero is in the final battle with the villain. The hero's love interest (the damsel in distress; we'll just call her Damsel for the rest of this example) needs to be present, because of course, as the cliché requires, she needs to be "saved". But of course, we can't have her, you know, do anything USEFUL in the impending battle because it makes the hero look weak if he needs Damsel's help to win.

So we get an array of tactics to conveniently remove Damsel from the scene so that we can get on with the brawling/dueling/slaying/jello-wrestling. At times, writers will simply have Damsel stand around uselessly, looking vaguely concerned. If they can't get away with that, then maybe she could be conveniently tied up, locked in a cage, or frozen in carbonite (What the heck is carbonite, anyway? Oh, never mind. I looked it up. It's the hypothetical di-deprotonated anion of dihydroxymethylidene.).

Of course, more modern sensibilities will demand that Damsel actually show some degree of competence. This is typically accomplished by having her offer a measure of token assistance before being taken out of the fight, typically with a single blow that manages to render her unconscious without unduly messing up her hair or makeup. Classic example of the above can be seen in the climactic fight scene of the (admittedly obscure) film The Karate Kid II.

With Perils of Picorna, we're trying our hardest to break those gender clichés. So we've got a heroine who fights her own battles. She gets into horrible imperilment and gets herself out of it. She saves Petrus when he gets into horrible imperilment. She…


Therein lies the danger. We didn't break the cliché. We just gender-reversed it. Which is cool in one sense because it's still not done often enough. Clichés need to get gender-reversed. It should happen a lot.

But the trick of the writing comes in finding more creative solutions, and that's what we're going to try to do. Petrus gets knocked out on the next-to-last page of the Issue #1 so that Picorna can have her (literal) cliffhanger. That allows her to do a fun escape scene followed by a solo fight scene to begin the second issue. It's a good sequence that accomplishes a lot.

And now we need to be careful not to do it again. The book is called Perils of Picorna. It’s Picorna's story. As much fun as Petrus is (and he's really a great character), he's still a supporting character. So that means that Picorna is going to get more of the action (and in our cliffhanger fantasy genre, that means she gets more fistfights, swordfights, high-speed chases, falls, tumbles, vehicular collisions, and narrow escapes).

But if we start falling into a repeating pattern of simply removing Petrus from the action every time we hit some big scene, the story will get predictable and the writing will look lazy.

So right now, Amy and I are brainstorming some creative ways to mix up the action. We're not doing anything new with most of this. As I said, we have fun writing clichés.

But what is really fun, and really challenging, is looking for the little tweaks and variations that will break the cliché situation out of the familiar patterns and leave the readers smiling at that little twist that they didn't see coming.

That's what we're aiming for.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

New Comic!


Future world dictator Doctor Despot dreams of the perfect weapon to strike terror into the hearts of his enemies: A giant spider! Unfortunately for mad scientists Reginald Ertz and Zephyr DeCastle, it's up to them to deliver the monster arachnid or face immediate termination. And Doctor Despot hasn't decided whether termination means firing them or killing them. With the Legion of Good Girls about to stage a raid on the hidden fortress, the race is on to breed the ultimate arachnid predator. And when what the Minions get is a cute and cuddly eight-legged ball of fuzz that says "meep!", they have a feeling that the boss is not going to be amused.

Zephyr & Reginald: Minions for Hire #3, featuring the origin of Darlene the giant spider is a 32-page full-format comic book written by Rick Silva and Gynn Stella, and illustrated by Gynn Stella. B/W interior with a full color cover. It's only $4.00 plus $1.50 shipping! Available now from Dandelion Studios!

Or send Check or Money order made out to RICK SILVA to:

Rick Silva
PO Box 1214
Osterville MA 02655

Book Review: The One Minute Manager By Kenneth H. Blanchard And Spencer Johnson

The One Minute Manager
By Kenneth H. Blanchard And Spencer Johnson

First published in the early 1980s, this thin book is a classic of the business world. The book is a business parable of sorts, a fictional tale of a young man who wants to learn everything he can about how to be an effective manager.

In the course of his travels, he hears of a manager of a company in a nearby town who has the reputation of being both effective and admired. The young man arranges a meeting with this manager and is surprised to hear him describe himself as a "one minute manager". Rather than explain himself immediately, the manager encourages the young man to talk with other employees and learn about the techniques that he uses.

Essentially, this book covers three areas on interpersonal and organizational skills: Goal setting, praising, and reprimanding. It is not so much a book about the mechanical tasks of managing, but rather a set of lessons in interpersonal relationships and the psychology of job performance.

Starting with the premise that employees who feel valued will be more productive, the book describes simple techniques to encourage productive behavior and to correct deficiencies.

Although the central theme of the book constitutes program of management style, there is plenty here that a prospective manager could come away with, even if they did not choose to embrace the entire One Minute Manager program.

Even if you never plan to become a "one minute manager", this is a good book on interpersonal relations in the workplace and beyond.

The One Minute Manager was book #15 in my goal of reading 50 books in 2010.