Agent of Change

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

Archive for the category “Writing”

2017 Year in Review

In the spirit of the year in review, I like to go over how the years has gone and give myself an honest assessment of things went. So, here’s what I thought of 2017.

As we finish up the year, I am generally pleased with how things have gone. After the nightmarish dumpster fire of 2016, this year was busy, with the group home throwing me tons of hours that went into my savings account, a retirement account and finally, into a new car. I have already moved up two spots at the full time job, and am working on becoming HR certified (1st of 3 tests on the 29th). Like most Gen Xers, the job market has been pulled out from under me repeatedly through my “career”, but thankfully, I keep landing on my feet.

Podcast wise, I didn’t ALL of my marks for the year, but we have our 300th episode of Kray Z, started “Series in Review” and “Bad Advice”, and with my crew, we will have produced over 150 hours of content.  The show moved into 2017 better than it had been for about a year and a half and I am proud of how we’ve grown in our skills, topics and entertainment value.  If you quit listening in 2016, come on back, as we’re better than ever.  It’s not just ME saying that, but the listeners have been giving us solid feedback about how we stepped up our game.

I had some amazing guests on the shows, lots of good comic talk and growth in listenership to where we routinely get 1000 downloads of a podcast the first week, so thank you for listening, telling people and I am glad we entertain you. We’re about to start year 8, and baby, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

Writing wise, I finished up a novel and got 50k words into a new one, and will be buying myself ISBN numbers so that when they are ready, they will be all professional like. Dan still has copies of the first World Wide News collection, and it makes a great Festivus gift!  Buy two, they’re small!  And, for those of you who prefer digital, we will be releasing that book in that format soon on Amazon!

In my personal life, my anxiety issues are being helped with medication, meditation, and awareness. After the nightmarish year that was 2016, I have made huge gains in dealing with that.  I also removed the things that were exacerbating the issues and haven’t looked back. Retiring from conventions and removing toxic people from my environment has done wonders for my outlook and returned my life to doing things I enjoy with good people.  I traveled more, read more, and have done more socially conscious stuff that I am proud of.

I took a trip down the Mississippi River road, taking my time and exploring the small towns and stopping anywhere that looked interesting which revived my love of road trip with no destination. Now that I have a new car and no worries about breakdowns, I look to spend more time doing that.  I have many fond memories of getting in my car with a notebook, spare time and no destination, and there will be a lot more of that in my future.

Where I stumbled this year was that I wasn’t able to move forward on turning to Novelcast novels in eBooks, mostly because I got bogged down in final edits and keep finding new things to rewrite or fix. I also didn’t record as many episodes of Novelcast as I should and had long gaps between episodes mostly due to the intensive time commitment is requires.

I didn’t do as many solo podcasts as I would have hoped, again due to the time commitment needed. I did spend time with friends and family, but not as much as I would have hoped I would have.  I also didn’t do very well in my commitment to fitness, gained some weight back and didn’t exercise nearly enough.

As with any reassessment, I am working on making changes to that and hope to do better in the near term.

So, overall, as the year comes to a close, I am happy with how things have gone and feel this year was a marked improvement over the last two. I was looking for 2017 to be a year where I got back on course, since 2016 was a year where I was finally able to find a full-time job, completed an assessment that let me know how anxiety was driving me and where I worked on a lot of different ideas for harnessing my creative stuff.  2017 was about bringing it all together.  2018 will be a year of growth, surprises, and exploration.

Much love to friends old and new. How about you?  How did you do this year?  Did you move forward?  Did you have fun?  Remember, we’re only here for a short time, so try to have as much fun as you possibly can while helping people along the way.

 

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What I am thinking about today, 11/8/2017

  1. One of the great things about NaNoWriMo (National novel writing month) is the sheer speed of it. You don’t have time to go back and fix things, you just keep going. Yesterday, I wrote myself into a brick wall, came up with a new character and now have a great comedy sequence that moves the story forward AND ups the tension. For the second act.
  2. I am writing a fairly epic blog post about Brian Michael Bendis jumping to DC. I think this is a big deal, not because of the series he was writing for Marvel, but how deep he was in Marvels entire creative process on TV show, animation, video games and the like. This is a very big deal and will change the creative flow of Marvel. Will he make a change at DC? Hard to say. DC is kind of a mess, creatively, right now, with a few books generating interest, but the vast majority reading like mid 90’s Marvel with C grade characters.
  3. No word on MST3k’s second Netflix season or a Turkey Day for 2017. Hey, Netflix, you gave Marco Polo a second season, what the hell?
  4. There was a big election last night where things changed. I don’t trust it. It’s an off-off year, and only the people really mad came out. 2016 showed that America is fine with racism, hate and totalitarianism and I have seen nothing that convinces me that it has changed. I have given up on Americans and only live here because I don’t have the means to leave or anywhere to go.
  5. People don’t change. They may change for a while, but they will always return to baseline. It’s the one thing I am sure of.
  6. I have been on 12 hour days at the FT job due to it being our busy season. I am waking up, going to work, coming home, eating something, going to bed and doing it all again. I thought I would get a break, since the part-time job has slowed and I am only there two or three nights a week. I was wrong.
  7. I now just leave my phone in the car when I am at the FT job. Meh.
  8. It looks like I have the entire Thanksgiving weekend off. I am going to get requited with my gym, my streaming services and the huge pile of books that has been building up since Labor Day.
  9. The Universal “shared universe” where they will reboot their classic monsters has been shelved. Again. DC has stated their upcoming movies may not be connected. Making an interconnected movies universe it’s damn hard, kids.
  10. I haven’t been making with the positivity much lately. Maybe I too am reverting to who I was before 1999. Not that it seems to matter. Meh.
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What I am thinking about today:

  • I am learning that there is a danger sleeping in my own bed. I don’t want to get out of it.  This is not a problem when I sleep on the couch at my part-time job.
  • Trump wants to have a military parade like they have in North Korea and used to have in Soviet Russia. Which doesn’t surprise me at all.
  • I spent $40 at Aldi for groceries last night and now am set for the winter.
  • Anyone who says things can’t make you happy obviously hasn’t owned a really good book.
  • I still don’t know if I want to keep the beard.
  • If you take peanut butter filled pretzels and dip them in cheese, you can actually hear your arteries hardening.
  • Sal Buscema doesn’t get enough love from comics fans.
  • I like highlighting people who seem to be forgotten by comics fandom because most people will respond with “Oh yeah, I love their work!”
  • Remember, the comic I like the least, I STILL like better that the comic you like the most.
  • I read something recently that enlightenment is simply being happy with who you are, where you are and your situation at that moment.  You can read all of the philosophy and self-help books in the world, meditate for hours a day, join discussion groups and all the like, but in the end, it’s being happy with what exist in that moment.  Find a way to do that every day, and you’re streets ahead of most people.
  • Yes, streets ahead is a “Community” reference.  You’re welcome.
  • I usually undercut my deep, philosophical points with a joke because I worry people will think I’m pretentious.  I won’t do that here, but if you like, I know a 15 minute version of “The Aristocrats” I’d be more than happy to tell you.
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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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