On The Road (With Apologies to Kerouac)

On Friday, February 26, 2017, I delivered the final edit of Magicians Impossible to St. Martins Press. It is finally, FINALLY finished, and it has been the most difficult, most lengthy, and most rewarding project I have ever undertaken. The stats on that: I first sat down with editor Brendan Deneen to talk about the book in April of 2014. Now, three years less a month later, the journey is over.

Well, not OVER over. There’s still the the matter of the release of the book on September 12, and all that comes with it. Magicians is going to keep me busy through the fall and probably into next year, especially when the paperback is released. But the writing journey is over. I’m on the next project already, and have pages to deliver to my agent this month so she can run with them, which will be a journey in itself.

Now, with “journey” on your tongue, a pop quiz. What do …

And …

Along with …

And let’s not forget …

And, finally …

All have in common?

They’re all places I’ve been to, and they all feature prominently in Magicians (which you haven’t read yet), but they do figure into the story, some in very significant ways. I bring them all up because they’re all part of what I believe is the key to good writing, or at least the authentic kind.

Joe R. Lansdale, one of my favorite writers, once said (and I paraphrase) that “you can tell when a virgin’s writing a sex scene.”  Likewise, you can tell when someone’s writing a story with no idea what they’re actually writing about. Like they never experienced the place, the feelings, the emotions of what they’re describing. To me, that is one of the most important aspects of writing; the part most writers fail to mention.

Travel. Adventure. The whole “step away from your desk and experience life” thing.

A lot of writers go on about their word counts, or their endless rewrites, or writer’s block. I don’t see many going on about an adventure (or misadventure) they had. Some object d’art that inspired them. Some unexpected journey that gave them an idea they nurtured into a story. Some wrong turn that ended up being the best mistake they ever made.

I first visited Paris in 2011, as part of a post Fresh Meat victory lap. My wife and I spent our Christmas there, renting a charming flat in Montmartre, and spending the entire week in the city. We hit Versailles, the Catacombs, stumbled upon Francois Truffaut’s grave in Montmartre Cemetery, shopped the Galleries du Lafayette, ate lots of cheese and drank an alarming amount of wine … and visited the Louvre, where we fell in love with its beautiful sculpture garden …

And this statue in particular.

Not to spoil anything, but a central portion of Magicians takes place within the walls of the Louvre, and this sculpture garden in particular. Now, it goes without saying I never would have conceived the idea if I hadn’t gone to Paris and to the Louvre. But the idea of staging something in the Louvre was born that day in late 2011 – five years ago, and two years before I began Magicians.

This is another example. All characters need to come from someplace, and when I was developing the backstory of Jason Bishop, Magicians’ protagonist, I knew I wanted him to have grown up in the village of Cold Spring, NY, which is an hour and a bit by train north of NYC. My wife and I spent a wedding anniversary weekend up there back in 2012. We saw the sights, we hiked, we ate very well, and it was on one of those walks that I first glimpsed Storm King Mountain, just across the river and a little further north. Something about the name Storm King just stuck; it made me think of the Night on Bald Mountain sequence in Disney’s Fantasia, and an image of a wizard’s battle on the road that winds along its side popped into my mind. So, when I was trying to find a place for Jason Bishop to have spent his childhood, Cold Spring was a perfect fit. Had I never visited, it would have been someplace else. But over drafts of the novel I realized just how important Cold Spring was to the story. In the end it is probably the most important locale (and I ended up getting my wizard’s battle on Storm King after all).

Ditto Jason’s place of work. The location of The Locksmith bar in the book is just below Dyckman Street on Broadway, a spot occupied currently by the Tryon Public House. But the layout of the place is actually based on a bar further north once called The Piper’s Kilt (now the Tubby Hook), and takes its name from a bar further south that used to be called the Locksmith. I picked the Inwood neighborhood of Manhattan to park Jason at his job because it’s a neighborhood I’m familiar with. Any time I needed a refresher on some detail all I needed to do was go for a walk.

There are other real-life places that figure into the book, but those are the major ones. So to me, anyway, travelling is the most important thing I don’t hear a lot of writers talk about. It’s authenticity. The idea of experiencing things off the beaten path, to use a cliché. It doesn’t even have to be an overseas trip; sometimes just walking down a different street in your city or town can give you an idea.

Even if Sci-Fi or Fantasy is your thing, you can still benefit from travelling outside your comfort zone. Go to a place where they speak a language different than your own. Try and sample the local cuisine. Get lost. You don’t even have to go far; even the next town or state over can reveal wonders. It’s amazing how many people rarely venture outside their home town or city or state or province. Only 36% of Americans even own a passport; they’ve never set foot outside of their country.

So, if you’re a writer, aspiring or otherwise, I strongly encourage you to step away from the desk, step outside your life, and see what’s out there. Your next story could be waiting for you as close as the next street over. All you need to do is find it.


Nerd Christmas Part 2: Aftermath

Well, it was a hit.

I lived here for 4 days

I lived here for 4 days

We sold out of issue #1 and all but 1 copy of issue #2.  Copies of 3 and 4 moved fast, with the remaining books already sold off to local and not-so-local stores. A lot of familiar faces stopped by – people I’d met at last year’s NYCC when I didn’t even have a table, people from MoCCA Fest, people from Twitter (justifying the ridiculous amount of time I spend on it).
Velma from Scooby-Doo investigates Mixtape #3 on her way to solving the mystery of how a Great Dane learned to talk

Velma from Scooby-Doo investigates Mixtape #3 on her way to solving the mystery of how a Great Dane learned to talk

But most of the business was from new fans. A few instances were people who bought issue #1 on Thurs-Fri, then returned Saturday for 2,3, and 4.  One guy did all of that, then came back Sunday to say how much he liked the book, and asked if I wanted to be on his podcast (details to follow on that). A couple other journalists stopped buy to buy the book (they said they prefer to support indie creators with their money, and if they like the book, review it), and likewise popped back to ask about reviewing it etc.  One girl even came back to ask when she could get #5.
A good number of new fans were guys and girls in their early-mid 20s. People born too late to remember the Mixtape era firsthand, but who grew up listening to 80s/90s alternative rock because their parents were into it and played it on a lot of long car trips.  One guy in his 40s, there with his kids, was checking out the books, and when I told him what it was all about, he fished his money out and said “finally, something here that’s aimed at guys my age”.  Same as one who was there with a couple of friends. He looked bored, but when he asked about Mixtape and realized what it was, he bought a set because his friends had an extra ticket and dragged him to the con even though he’s not interested in “comic book superhero stuff”.
Overall a lot of the new readers just saw the banner with the name Mixtape on it, and came running over to ask what it was about. The fact a cassette tape features in the design told them music was involved, and when they learned there was no “twist” of superheroes or whatever, that it was just a slice of life book about the alt rock era, they were sold.
But the best thing about the whole NYCC experience wasn’t the books sold, or the numbers; it was the people. I had so many conversations with people just about music – older music, newer music (a lot of people are looking forward to the new Arcade Fire album, myself included), but also about the diversity of the comic book business. NYCC literally had something for everyone, and as it happens a lot of people were looking for a black and white book about a fabled, almost mythic time called “the 90s”, when MTV played music videos, when you had to go to a record store to buy music, and when if you wanted a mix of songs you had to record it to cassette.
Now to catch up on sleep.
And to prepare for next year. That's right, Mixtape will be back.

And to prepare for next year. That’s right, Mixtape will be back.

Mixtape has arrived on iTunes!  issue number 1 is available right now, with #2 and #3 arriving shortly (and #4 due next month). You can buy issue #1 here (and if you like what you see, please let me and everyone else know).

Nerd Christmas

It’s that time of year again …


That’s right, it’s New York Comic Con, aka Nerd Christmas, running at the Jacob Javits Center, October 10-13th. And this year, I have a table.


Mixtape will be holding court in Artists Alley, table V17, along with table-mates from The Devil is Due in Dreary. There you will be able to purchase copies of Mixtape 1, 2, and 3 … and a chance to snap up a limited number of … (drumroll please …)

mixtape _4small-test2

Mixtape #4 won’t be available until November, so if you’re at NYCC you will have a chance to get it early. Mixtape #4 puts us in the shoes of the enigmatic Siobhan King, freshly returned from a year studying in Europe to find her hometown has changed — or maybe it’s her that’s changed the most.  It was the most difficult of the Mixtape stories to get my head around (there’s an alternate version of the story that will probably crop up in the future), but the one that I’m most proud of. It’s also a great jumping off point to the series, as it covers ground we’ve already witnessed, albeit from a different perspective.

Now, I’m aware not all of you will be at NYCC, but that’s no reason you have to miss out on all the fun. That is why we’re launching our first ever Mixtape contest, with your chance to win signed copies of the first four issues! This contest is open to fans/readers/interested parties worldwide too.

Now, the challenge; to enter the contest you have to do a little bit of legwork. What we want are your story about the greatest mix tape (or mix CD, if you will) you ever; a) made, or b) received. Was it one you made for someone else? Was it one someone made for you? Or was it one made for your own personal/private use? Tell us about it and why it means so much to you, include your playlist, and post it on the Mixtape Facebook page.

Furthermore, the community gets to decide!  That’s right; the winner will be chosen by the number of likes and comments each entry receives. So tell your friends, invite them to play or to support you. The winner will be announced at 5PM EST October 21st.

[For those of you not on FB who still want to enter, you can email your story / playlist to mixtapecomic-at-gmail-dot-com, and we’ll post your entry on the page]

Good luck!  And I hope to see you at NYCC!

UPDATE: Some have asked if it’s okay if they just send in a playlist. The answer to that is “yes” provided you limit yourself to 60 minutes of music (no 30-40 track listings). Something that would fit on a cassette tape. A story accompanying it would give context but that story addition is totally up to you.


Triangle Below Canal

Busy times.

No sooner has the dust from MoCCA Fest 2013 settled that I find myself at The Tribeca Film Festival, to meet industry professionals, to network, and maybe possibly see some movies.

Movies like this one:


I wrote at length about the story of how my screenplay HELL FOR BREAKFAST became the basis for the NZ splatter comedy FRESH MEAT here, so if you missed it the first time around I encourage you to give it a look.

I’ll be seeing Fresh Meat for the first time ever next week, and am looking forward to it for obvious reasons.  Despite the bumpy (and much longer than anticipated) road that brought it to screen, it’s always an event when a movie you’re credited on plays anywhere, let alone a prestigious film festival right in your own backyard.

And once the Tribeca dust settles, we’re heading into Free Comic Book Day, and I will be able to make a cool Mixtape related announcement about that hopefully soon.

MoCCA Recap


I survived MoCCA Fest and forgot to pick up my “I Survived MoCCA Fest And All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt” T-shirt on my way out the door.

Seriously though, it was a great time. Sold some Mixtape comics, met up with some old fans and made some new ones.

I also gave an interview to Johanna Draper Carlson from Comics Worth Reading (who was an early supporter of Mixtape).  This was a video interview, which is rare given I have a face for radio and a voice for snarky internet comments, but you can watch that here.