Agent of Change

A Blog by Cory!! Strode, who really should write something interesting here.

Archive for the category “Writing”

Sunday Morning Musings

Sunday morning, at the group home for developmentally disabled adults, my primary task was to make breakfast. Seems simple, you read the menu and give people what is on the menu:  Oatmeal, toast, juice, milk and coffee.

However, some people don’t like oatmeal, some are on a diet, some have extra things they get with breakfast, and they are taking their morning meds at the time, so some people need their meds before they eat, some after, and some take so long to eat that if they don’t get their pills first, they will be late because they take 90 minutes or longer to eat.

On top of juggling all of that are the people who have a specific cup they use, or a way they want their toast, or what they want ON their toast and so on…and many of them don’t ask for it, since they have pretty much the same thing every morning, they are used to it Just Being Done The Way They Want It. That means, if you miss something, they may pout, or stare at their plate, or leave the room, and not tell you why they are upset.

It sounds goofy when you write it that way, but we all have a little of that in us. We want things the way we want it, when we want it, and how we want it. And at our worst we get upset when those needs aren’t met, but we don’t tell the people involved why we are upset.  How many times have you said, “They should KNOW,” when it comes to a disagreement.

That’s just it, we don’t know. Maybe we haven’t known you long enough to know, maybe we are too wrapped up in our own head to know, maybe we are doing what we fee is the right thing and it’s taken the wrong way or maybe communication isn’t very good.  I once had a GF mad at me for a week because I’d done something in a dream that made her question my honesty (for the rest of the relationship she keep asking what I was hiding from her).

So, start asking people what they want. Start telling the people you care about what YOU want.  Don’t leave the room and hope we’ll figure out you want jelly on your toast and not cinnamon sugar, or that we don’t like pineapple juice or that we feel alone and just want to hear that things are OK.

Much love to friends old and new and I hope that today, someone you care about is able to ask for what they want, or YOU are able to ask someone you care about for what you want.

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7 Kray Z Years

7 years ago, I finally figured out how to record Skype conversations and Joe Rider and I fired up our computers and talked comic books for an hour or so and called it a podcast. I called it “Kray Z Comics and Stories” to bring in the references to a mini-comic about Joe called “Kray Z Rider, Comics Retailer” and “Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories” to let people know that it would ALL be comics.

For the first two years, we were just doing it for fun, the show came out when we had time and we slowly figured out what the hell we were doing. Now, we are about 3 months from recording our 300th show.

We wanted to do a comic podcast, and because we wanted it to be different than others, we brought our years of experience in comics retail, running comic conventions and decades of collecting, as well as other influences to make something we hoped people would like. From there we spun off a solo podcast for myself and then Joe, a podcast where I am turning the novels I have written into audio books, a new podcast where we talk about comic series in review as if it is DVD commentary of the comics, and other podcasts.

But, every Monday, we drop a new episode. We’ve had guests, co-hosts, new segments, and over 700 hours of audio since then.  Not everything has worked (conventions), some people didn’t quite work on the show (not giving any names) and some were amazing, but every hour was a joy where we got to talk about the things important in our lives.

In doing so, we’ve helped people find new comics to read, learn about creators and companies they may not have known about, had a companion on trips and at work and I have gotten e-mails from people who say that the show is an important part of their lives. There have been lots of changes in our lives, in the show and in the comics industry itself, and we’ve done our best to make all of those things make sense even if they don’t SEEM to make any sense.

7 years is a long time, and a lot of podcasts I loved have faded, didn’t last that long, or ran out of steam. We are still growing (over 800 downloads in the first week after a new episode drops), still trying new things, and still looking to have fun every week for 90 minutes. .  I always say we’d do this even if no one listened (and for the first year or so, I don’t think anyone did), but knowing that people like it makes it worthwhile.

So, I want to thank Joe for putting up with me, the co-hosts we’ve had over the years (no matter our current status), the incredible guests who have agreed to speak with us, other podcasters who have given advice or helped promote the show, anyone who has EVERY said anything kind about what we do and the listeners. And for the cuppa haters?  If we had a dime for every hater that made us slow down we’d have ZERO DIMES! (How you doin’?)

We’ve got cool stuff planned for the coming year, we’ll always be looking for new ideas and it always comes back to the core: Friends talking about comic books and telling stories about their lives.  As long as we keep the core, nothing can bring us down.

Thank you so much!!

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Themes

I was asked again “How do you have time to do all the stuff you do?”

The idea is simple, the reality is more complicated. I work two jobs, have a buttload of podcasts and write fiction.  The way I get things done is to put my time where my interests are.  I am not a “goal” person.  I don’t have goals.  I have themes and they are how I decide how to spend my time.  My themes are simple:

  • Help people
  • Tell stories
  • Don’t die

My full-time job is in benefits where I help people get and understand their medical coverage and other things related. I admit it’s a bit of a stretch, but after 20 years in Juvenile Justice, with the last 6 of them being in that field full-time, I have to have a job that offers a career and decent pay.  However, I still work part-time in social services at a group home for developmentally disabled adults.  It’s not a job you’re going to make money at, but it’s a great side hustle and it helps a population that we don’t think about much.

I’m there a LOT because they have sleeping shifts. Since I live alone and have no significant other, pulling those shifts makes extra cash, gives the clients security, and helps everyone involved.  I may complain about not being home, but last night, I helped a client who was FURIOUS with the other staff working calm down and go back to bed at 4 am.  That’s the good thing I did last night.  That’s what keeps me going.

So, the podcasting and writing are where I tell stories. In order to be good at those things, I need to be well-read, knowledgeable and getting information that I can churn into the stories.  So, I read, I listen to podcasts and watch documentaries (NOT reality TV shows) to get more information and see how people construct stories.  Wanna write?  Ya gotta read.  Please listen to my podcast when I post them, if you’re interested, because they are incredibly important to me and I think you’ll like them.

I am back to losing weight and getting back to the gym to keep healthy. I post food things because I enjoy cooking and like to cook healthier.  I’m going “non selfie” for a while in order to focus on getting healthier like I did a year or so ago.  I also try to THINK positively, as that helps with your health.  I may push myself hard, but I know too many people my age who haven’t taken care of themselves and talk endlessly about how the world is falling apart and so on and so on.  I embrace the things I love, celebrate the people I care for and am fighting my anxiety to be a better person.

So, how do I get it all done?

I focus on my themes. I push myself to be better.  And I don’t waste time on things that aren’t working.  If a story or as podcast or a relationship becomes negative or doesn’t work?  It doesn’t fit the themes.

What are your themes? How do YOU focus your time?

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ALL THE CREATIVE STUFF!

So, the no longer a NaNoWriMo novel is at about 30,000 words, and is chugging along nicely. I love the chaos and excitement of NaNo, but now that I decided I just didn’t have the time to finish it, I’m taking a bit more time on things, letting the each of the characters have an arc and the ending is…shifting.

We’re almost to the Festivus Episode of the podcast, so SEND ME YOUR GRIEVANCES! Last year, we didn’t have a Festivus episode due to my hospital visit and surgery, so this year, I’VE GOT A LOT OF PROBLEMS WITH YOU PEOPLE, AND NOW YOU’RE GONNA HEAR ABOUT IT!

I will also be getting back in interviewing mode after the first of the year, so look for those to start up again. I am looking to get back to interviewing non-comics people as well as comics people. I also want to do a few more experimental solo episodes of the Solitaire Rose Radio, so that’s coming.

The “Series in Review” podcast will have its premier on 12/26, and will be in the same feed as the Kray Z Comics, Solo Joe and Solitaire Rose Radio podcast. I’m keeping all of the comics stuff on that feed. There’s not a schedule for it, and if YOU are a comics creator who would like to do DVD commentary on a series or mini-series you’ve done, contact me!

The Weekly News Update Podcast will be back in a couple of weeks. It’s not a top priority, but I do like doing it and it’s a “when I’m not buried” show until it picks up new listeners and steam.

Novelcast is back up and the next Episode will be 12/22. I will also be working on the eBooks (it’s taking more time than I thought), but I will have THREE novels up on Amazon by the end of the first quarter of 2017.

I have a bunch of scripts I am working on for the World Wide News comic strip and should have the next year blocked out by the time our new Cheeto Colored President takes office. You have been warned.

Lastly, I have started a NEW podcast with Dan Mohr and Wolfie called “Bad Advice” where we will be dispensing advice to people every two weeks, so send in your questions. Come on, you KNOW you need life coaching and advice from a comic nerd and a puppet, right?
I think that’s about it. If there’s anything I have forgotten please let me know. Remember that I am doing this on top of a full-time job and a part-time job that explodes with extra hours from time to time, so, as the New Yorker always says: Artists lead complicated lives. It’s advisable to check in advance to confirm engagements.

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Yeah, I Suck

I have held off on announcing this because I am a bit ashamed of it, but: I am tapping out on NaNoWriMo this year. I will still work on the novel when I can, and am pegging 12/31/2016 as the date for finishing, but with work being an extra bear this year due to my full-ti8me job becoming and ACTUAL full time job, it being our busy season and my computer mishaps last week, I just have not had the time to sit in the chair and do the work.

It also is why the Solo podcast, the Weekly News Update podcast and Novelcast have been delayed. Just no time to do anything but keep the Kray Z Comics and Stories train running on time, and hopefully you folks have heard the improvements we’ve made to it over the last couple of months.

The other stuff fires back up in December, and I’ll be sending out interview requests at that time. If YOU want to promote an upcoming project, feel like doing DVD commentary on a comic you have worked on or admire, let me know as well, as the “Comics In Review” podcast fires up after the first of the year. HOPEFULLY, it will start with the much promised Master of Kung Fu commentary, but that’s up to my best pal and brother from another mother Joe Rider’s schedule.

To be blunt, I feel like I have let people down with this, and all I can do is say that I’m sorry, but the paying work has to take precedence over the work that isn’t paying yet. Now would be a good time to check out some of the great shows I have done in the past interviewing some amazing folks or my audio biography of Jack Kirby to get ready for things at Solitaire Rose Productions to get back on track.

Much love to friends old and new, listeners and creators who have helped me get this far!

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What is Art?

In those conversations you have in your teens, you are often asked “what is Art?” I have heard every sort of definition, and you probably have your own, but mine is simple: Anything that we do to communicate thoughts, feelings and emotions to each other. A drawing, a song, a novel, an essay, a Facebook entry, all of it. Art keeps us alive, drives us forward and helps us feel as if we are not alone.

We create because we want to be heard and understood, from the simple songs of Wesley Willis to the long, complex novels of James Joyce, it’s all about “I have this thought, this idea, this feeling…do you get it?”

Success in art doesn’t come from being famous (a shallow pursuit), money (a necessary evil) or longevity (which you have no control over), but if you communicate. Do you touch someone with what you have created? Success comes from appreciating what others do and helping them build on that success as you work toward your own. It’s why I consume so much in the way of art, and spend my time discussing it…it’s truly the one thing that can change the world and make us feel connected instead of being driven apart.

Much love to friends old and new and never stop creating!

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My rejected Buzzfeed articles:

  • 10 ways your cat can use LinkedIn
  • 15 TV show references that 90’s kids think they understand but are really confused by
  • 1 Way that Gen Xers can care about these damn lists that infest the internet
  • 7 pics of Granny from the Sylvester and Tweety cartoons that are super sexy
  • We put this Lean Cuisine the microwave and you will probably believe what happens next
  • Replacing famous figures in history with a sponsored product in a sad attempt to make money and be funny
  • Here’s a list we stole from Cracked and changed enough words that we can pass it off as original
  • 57 lifehacks that are really just a pain in the ass
  • 15 bad excuses for being caught in public without pants
  • 22 times I was called “totally whack” by teenagers
  • 1 time a comic character threw up on Batman’s shoes
  • 20 reasons why I really don’t care what you did over the weekend
  • 50 ways to leave your lover
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Recent quotes about writing from Aaron Sorkin

  • Intention and obstacle is everything. Intention and obstacle is what makes it drama. Somebody wants the money, they want the girl, they want to get to Philadelphia; it doesn’t matter, they just need a strong intention, and then there needs to be a formidable obstacle. The tactic that your protagonist (or protagonists) use to overcome that obstacle is going to be your story. That’s what you’re gonna hang everything on. Without intention and obstacle, you’re coming dangerously close to finger painting.
  • One of the biggest mistakes rookie screenwriters make is not having a strong intention or obstacle. The drive shaft of a car, beautiful leather seats, a fantastic sound system, a really cool paint job but the car isn’t going to move forward if the car doesn’t have a strong intention or obstacle.
  • David Mamet have written some excellent essays on this subject. You can get lost in the weeds if you sit down and try to create an entire biography for your character. If this is what they were like when they were six years old, and this is what they did when they were seven years old, and they scraped their knee when they were eight years old. Your character, assuming your character is 50 years old, was never six years old, or seven years old or eight years old. Your character was born the moment the curtain goes up, the moment the movie begins, the moment the television show begins, and your character dies as soon as it’s over. Your character only becomes seven years old when they say, “Well when I was seven years old, I fell in a well, and ever since then I’ve had terrible claustrophobia. Okay?
  • Characters and people aren’t the same thing. They only look alike.
  • I write a lot of drafts of screenplays and plays. I keep writing and I keep writing; what I try to do at the beginning is just get to the end. Once I’ve gotten to the end, I know a lot more about the piece, and I’m able to go back to the beginning and touch stuff that never turned into anything, and highlight things that are going to become important later on. And I go back, and I keep doing that, and I keep doing that, and I’ll retype the whole script, over and over again, just to make things sharper and sharper. That’s for movies and plays. In television, there just isn’t that kind of time. In television, I have to write a 55-minute movie every nine days, so we shoot my first draft.
  • I assume that the people who watch movies and television shows are at least as smart as the people who make movies and television shows. If the dialogue makes you sit forward a little, and listen a little bit more, that’s a good thing. It makes the audience active in the experience.
  • When it comes to screenwriting or television writing, there are real rules, and there are fake rules. In 1970, a CBS executive famously said that there are four things you’ll never see on television: a Jewish person, a divorced person, a person from New York City, or a person with a mustache. Obviously, that CBS executive had no idea what he was talking about, and those are the fake rules.  The real rules can be found in Aristotle’s Poetics.

 

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It’s a matter of focus

I just read a blog post from someone stating that they have given up on being creative. They basically stated that:

-They started a family and it’s SO HARD they have no time to create, especially with a job, keeping up on the news, etc…

-In your 30’s you can’t keep up with the latest trends. Things are moving too fast. The example given was that they have a GREAT idea for an app, but by the time her was able to put it together, someone else had gotten one out (damn millennials and their endless free time)

-There’s too much product out there, so you’ll just get lost in the masses

Blah. Blah. Blah.

Reading between the lines, it’s all of the standard excuses people use to give up on things they aren’t really passionate about.

When I was newly single, I tried my hand at Stand Up comedy. I went to open mike nights, I crafted current events jokes and was starting to get some headway, but there were guys who did 5 or 6 open mike nights every Monday night. They hustled for gigs, played for $25 at nursing homes, took every booking they could get their hands on. Me? I wasn’t that driven, and I gave up on it after about 6 months. It was a hobby, not a passion. So, I keep up the hobby with my Weekly News Update podcast.

Writing, on the other hand, I always found time for. When I was raising my son, I read (to him or when he was playing), I wrote once he was in bed, when he was watching TV, when he was outside playing, etc… I wrote during slow times at my job. I carried a notebook with me everywhere I went. I read in order to be a better writer.

Now, I work two jobs and I am creating. I create at a level that is pretty astounding to other people, but it is all a matter of focus. I don’t watch football, because that’s three and a half hours I am not creating. I don’t watch a lot of TV, and what I do watch is mostly stuff to feed me information or learn storytelling. I also watch when I am at the gym (one of the few time I allow myself to multitask). I’m not a real social person and it takes someone incredibly special to get me to give up a night of mixing, recording, writing or planning to go out and spend time with them. Not because I hate people, but because I have shit to DO!

It’s not age. It’s not competition. It’s focus. What is important to you. Are you willing to give up sitting on the deck with a beer and chatting with the neighbors to have something completed?

There’s nothing wrong with not having that focus. Some people have other priorities, and that’s fine, we are all very different people. Some people care more about hunting down their next relationship that creating things. Some people care more about football than telling a story or making a painting. Some people would rather travel or be social or party or whatever.

Prince had a vault full of songs, movies and other things because he was driven to create. There aren’t a lot of stories about Prince hitting the clubs to party all night unless he was performing.

Don’t blame your age, your family or anything else.

The reason you aren’t creating is because you aren’t sitting your ass in the chair, focusing, and doing the work. That’s it.

“Someone already did it.”

Fine, do it better. Do it differently. Find a new method. People have been writing three chord songs about a girl they love for a hell of a long time, they still have new ones come out every week.

“I can’t find an audience.”

So? Keep plugging away. If you are doing it for fame or popularity, you have no control over that other than putting out the best work you can and finding ways to get it to people.

“I don’t have time.”

You have as much time as everyone else. Stephen King was a broke dad working as a teacher when he wrote Carrie and all of those short stories that were collected in Night Shift. Turn off the TV, quit hanging out at the club and work.

“I’m too old.”

Yeah. Right. And Tom Wolfe’s novels after he turned 30 were all crap, right? Age isn’t the issue. Attention is the issue.

Do.

The.

Work.

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How it got away from me and what I will do about it

I am a content provider. I don’t have an editor, a business partner or anyone else looking over my shoulder to make sure I hit deadlines. I set my own deadlines and have to count on myself to hit them. While I do have other people who work with me, they just show up, hit their marks and go on their merry way.

While a lot of my friends don’t seem to understand why I get so upset when I blow deadlines, I am of the firm belief that the way to grow is two-fold:

  • Give entertaining content
  • Give that content on time

I can’t tell you how many podcasts, novels, comics, etc… I have dropped simply because they come out at random intervals. I won’t even read continued fantasy novels because they tend to be 3 or more books that seem to come out whenever the writer gets around to it. It’s not because I feel they OWE me, it’s because I don’t want to have to wait years between installments of a story if I have no idea when (or if) the next installment comes.

When I started up Kray Z Comics and Stories we were just doing it for fun. We got together, acted like it was college radio and generally goofed around for the first year or two and put it out whenever we got it recorded. When I decided to take it more seriously, we decided to drop a new episode every Monday, and for the past few years we have, with very few exceptions, and usually with advance warning.

Because of that, the audience has grown. Usually about 20 – 30% annually. Because of that growth, I added an infrequent solo podcast, but last year when I did a new episode of the solo podcast every week, the audience started growing on THAT, to the point where people were commenting on it almost as much as Kray Z.

Last Fall, I added the Novelcast which is me taking my novels and turning them into audiobooks. And, knowing I didn’t want to overload myself, I made it bi-weekly. I was disappointed in the speed of the growth until I measured it against Kray Z, and it is actually growing FASTER that Kray Z did for its first three years.

At the beginning of the year, I restarted my Weekly News Update. I haven’t added it to iTunes or Stitcher yet due to wanting to work out some bugs and figuring out exactly what I am doing…it’s taking longer than I thought, but once I have that in place, it’ll be on iTunes and I will stick to the Every Tuesday schedule.

However.

Leading up the MSP ComiCon and Kray Z’s 250th Episode, we had a lot of things converge that threw me off schedule. We had last minute guests who needed to do publicity for the Con, and they were such great “gets” that I couldn’t turn them down. So, in the two weeks leading up to 250 AND MPS ComiCon, we put out 5 episodes. All of which were damn good if I say so myself. I also released the regular Novelcast episode and two Weekly News Updates.

At the convention we did 15 hours of live podcasting.

And then the merry-go-round fell down.

I had to follow up with people I had networked with at the convention, deal with the aspects of my personal life I had put on hold for the month before, maintain personal connections with people (which is increasingly hard for me) and both of my jobs ramped up the hours I would work.

So, I didn’t to record the written stuff.

Recording the Weekly News Update and Novelcast is harder than just podcasting because it is both reading AND acting. Varying tone, deciding how to emphasize things, and the actual copyediting takes a LOT of time.

That’s not counting the writing.

So I blew deadlines.

And I feel like an utter failure for doing so.

When that happens, the dominos begin to fall and by this week, I was trying to get the train back on track, get ahead on things, and try to do a better job than before to make up for my failure.

So, here’s the schedule for the summer:

Monday: Kray Z Comics and Stories

Tuesday: The Weekly News Update

Wednesday: Solitaire Rose Radio (yep, every week. I have interviews and history episodes as well as some experimental stuff I want to record)

Thursday: Editing, promoting, business stuff – No new podcast that day.

Friday every other week: Novelcast

Weekend: Putting things up on YouTube, editing, writing, creating the eBooks from Novelcast and recording.

I am also starting to look into more convention appearances, more ideas to shake things up and more networking.

So, there’s that. But I still feel like I let people down for blowing deadlines because, in the end, it all falls on me. And for that, I am so, so sorry.

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