Words of Encouragement

I’ve probably spent too many recent blog posts bitching about elements within the writing/publishing business. And believe me, I have plenty of other complaints I could air. But I don’t want this to turn into a grouse session. Having said that, this will sound like another scathing criticism. But it isn’t. This was perfectly professional. I just thought it was funny.

Rejection letters. Every writer has seen plenty. I’ve been around long enough to have received them when they were actual letters, in the mail, with addresses and stamps and everything. Now it’s all email, but it’s the same difference. No more submitting manuscripts with a SASE (that’s self-addressed, stamped envelope for the young’ns). Of course, with the ease and inexpense of email, there’s no excuse for failing to get back to someone who’s submitted a solicited story. Form letters are still the norm, but now they can be copied and pasted in mere moments. Anyone in the business who can’t be bothered to at least do that much to turn down a professional inquiry or manuscript is, in turn, no professional.

I have a story I’ve tried repeatedly to find a home for—stubbornly. It’s one of a handful I have that doesn’t thematically fit in with the two or three collections of shorts planned for somewhere down the road, so its best chance to see the light of day any time soon would be for me to sell it to somebody else’s anthology. It’s come close to a sale multiple times, making it to the final round of consideration on a couple of different books, only to be dropped before the finish line because there was simply no room left.

It happens. No biggie.

And it happened yet again, recently. Still no biggie.

The rejection email was standard but sweet. I’m sure everyone got the same one, but what amused me was a certain across-the-board presumption in it. It read, in part, “Please keep on writing, revising, and submitting to the very best markets you can find. It can be an arduous journey, but a fulfilling and rewarding one as well. And with each new story you write, you’re honing your craft. No effort at your writing desk is ever wasted.”

Words of encouragement. For a noob.

Me, I’ve been doing this professionally for thirty years. Maybe I should be flattered to be lumped in with hungry young writers full of energy and delusions. But I’m not. I’m old and broken and jaded.

A rejection email that reads, “No thanks,” is sufficient for me.

I guess that doesn’t seem as cordial, but it’s enough, and it lets both of us get on with our day. More importantly, it lets me know I’m free to peddle that story to the next publisher looking for something that fits a niche of a niche of an unpopular sub-sub-sub genre.

The story I’m talking about is unironically titled, “Wait Your Turn.” And it has, indeed, been waiting for a very long time now. Patiently.

I was going to wrap it up there, but screw it. I’m out of patience. “Wait Your Turn” is now up on my Patreon page at one of the lower tier levels. It is, after all, a horror story, and Halloween is coming up fast.

Incidentally, my Patreon page has been a bit of an embarrassment since the whales migrated south for the winter. Those high rollers made a big splash for a couple of months, but the party is over. Now I’m looking for more low-level backers just to get the number of subscribers up. A plan is formulating to richly reward those who chip in at only a buck a month. It’s just a matter of finishing a new wave of material—time, as always, permitting.

Terrible Career Advice

I listen to a fair number of writing podcasts that cover the business end of things. I never know when some random interview might offer up a relevant nugget of information that has direct bearing on my own endeavours. People like Joanna Penn, the folks at the Science Fiction and Fantasy Marketing Podcast, and the lamentably defunct Self-Publishing Roundtable have uploaded many hundreds of hours of worthwhile material that serve as a guide for do-it-yourself authors.

As I’ve said, probably too often, the publishing industry has changed, and I’ve been seeing a real deficit in professionalism from the old guard. Often, it’s the bigger, established publishing houses that are the worst offenders. They do increasingly less to promote their stable of writers, while the options for new authors to bootstrap their way to a readership increase. My decision to go it alone remains firm.

Nevertheless, I don’t like to live in an echo chamber, listening to confirmation bias. Sometimes, a suggested video will cross my feed that provides another viewpoint to counter an argument I’m already sold on. No stranger to self-doubt, I like to remain open, asking myself if I made the right call.

One recent video I saw offered a bunch of reasons to not self-publish—to stick it out on the slush pile, go pro with the establishment press, avoid the solo-act fad. It was a well-produced video, from a YouTuber who was slick, presented himself well, and spoke with authority.

And he was completely full of shit.

The nitty-gritty details of why I disagreed with each of his points is academic and not likely to be of much interest to casual readers. But the way I knew he was full of shit may be more generally enlightening: I looked him up.

Simple, I know, but effective. I do this all the time when I listen to writer interviews. If they sound like an authority, I want to confirm they are an authority. So I check their credits and sales.

Sure enough, this guy had an Amazon author page, complete with photo and bio. Bearing in mind that his video, advising other writers to keep banging their heads against the wall of mainstream publishers, was uploaded to YouTube two years ago, I was eager to see how many books he’d since come out with, and how well they were doing.

He had one credit. One. And it was for a short story in an anthology. Hilariously, it was a collection I was also in, from 2015. And I remember what they were paying. It wasn’t the sort of money careers are made of.

In the two years that have passed between his video upload and now, he could have learned the ropes of how to manage his own little publishing empire. I did in that same time frame. And whatever novels he’s shopping around to indifferent publishers—who can sometimes take a year or more to reply to a single submission—could have been edited, designed, and printed for a growing readership by now.

I hope he’s doing well as a video blogger giving bad advice, because he’s not an author.

Contributor Copies

I haven’t been submitting short stories to anthologies much lately. Mostly I’ve been stockpiling shorts for future collections. That doesn’t mean there hasn’t been a backlog trickling out over the last year. It’s been a while since I updated the anthologies page on this site, but the information on there is now current, with final covers and links to where you can buy copies.

One of the reasons it took so long to update the page was a lack of good cover scans. I’ll grab them out in the wilds of the web if I have to, but the ones I found of the most recent books were too low rez. That meant I had to make my own scans of the covers.

Problem: I still hadn’t received my contributor copies of certain books, months after publication.

This has happened before, so I’m used to it. It’s completely unprofessional, and again, I’m used to it. But it does burn bridges. If I’m well-paid for a story, I accept it as a petty pain in the ass to have to order my own copy. But if I do something on the cheap—or even for free—and you don’t at least send me a copy, we’re done. A copy of the damn book is the least you can do.

I’ll take a moment here to specifically point out that I’m not talking about MX Publishing. I give them my Sherlock Holmes stories for free because all the profits go to charity. And they’ve been phenomenal about sending me early HARDCOVER copies, fresh off the presses, from overseas no less. No complaints there. And if I weren’t so busy on other projects, I’d already have other adventures of Sherlock and Wiggins lined up for future volumes.

No, I’m talking about some of the small-time publishers. And I get it. You’re small, you want to save money, and postage is expensive. I don’t like the sticker-shock I get when I have to mail a book either. But one contributor copy is the bare minimum authors should be able to expect when they appear in a new book or magazine. In my comic-writing days, I’d get at least ten copies to pass around, often 25 and, in the case of my solo issues, 100+. And then there’s Money Talks #5, which I co-published with SLG back in the day just to make it through the first act of the story before the series got cancelled. I’ll die with copies of that comic filling boxes around the house. I don’t know enough people to give them all away to.

One copy. It’s all I ask. Let me gaze at the spine of your book on my author shelf and remember our time together in the publishing biz. Failing that, I’m afraid our business interaction will never be more than fleeting.


The year 1997 was a busy one in the history of Longshot Comics. Book Two, The Failed Promise of Bradley Gethers, came out under the Slave Labor Graphics banner, and I was hopping flights around the continent doing multiple convention appearances.

I was also working on several shorter Longshot stories to help promote the book. In the midst of this, Brian Michael Bendis approached me to do a page for his Jinx Special. This was a charity collection from Caliber Comics, centred around his titular bounty-hunter character. Most of the pieces other artists were doing were pinups, but I’m not exactly a pinup artist by the stretch of any lunatic’s imagination. What I offered to do was an original Longshot piece, featuring a crossover between one of my characters and his. In a sex shop. There would be a reference to what had been going on in Jinx’s comic, as well as an update on the current whereabouts of Douglas Gethers (Bradley’s estranged son).

“Douglas Gethers’s Worst job Yet” was published under the two different covers of the Jinx Special and later collected in a larger Jinx omnibus. At San Diego, Bendis told me he was getting a lot of questions about me. Namely, “Where did you dig this guy up?” Four years into the Longshot Comics saga, most people had still never seen anything like it.

Skip ahead a quick twenty-one years, the story has been reproduced in the new forty-panel format. I’m hosting it on my Patreon page for free (as in not behind a pay wall), so parties interest in both Longshot Comics and Jinx can go check it out, no strings attached.

I also shot a short video about it last night.

I’m still trying to decide when and how to move forward with this fledgling Youtube channel. Three videos in, I’m debating upgrading my broken-down dead-pixel flip. Interest in the material is, unsurprisingly, minimal so far, since I barely speak of it. Nevertheless, I got a random subscriber out of nowhere. Just one. But it shocked and delighted me.

I don’t know. It’s going to take a lot of effort to get used to talking to myself alone in a room. The radio show is vastly easier since I’m interacting with other people. Plus I’m concerned about unleashing my inner opinionated dick. Blogging is bad enough. Get me on a vocal rant and I’m likely to say all sorts of things that will get me fired off projects down the road and sabotage my eventual run for political office.


World’s Finest

Bleeding Cool has announced the release of Longshot Comics, and I couldn’t ask for a nicer article.

The headline flatters my ass clean off. Here it is in the mix of headlines on the front page.

I have nothing to add to that.

But in update news, I should mention that I had to bump up the price of the Longshot ebooks. This was my first time publishing a graphic novel through Amazon—the key word being “graphic.” That means lots of pictures taking up a lot more space than mere text. And I’d forgotten to account for Amazon’s distribution fee for larger file sizes.

Jeff Bezos ended up eating my lunch for the first couple of days of release, and there’s a guy who doesn’t need to get any richer off the efforts of poor, starving artists like me. I’ll take the sales that went directly into his pocket as a life lesson and move on. Thankfully, the vast majority of copies sold have been for the paperbacks, because collectors still like physical copies of comics to entomb in bags forever.

As an incentive, I’m lowering the Kindle MatchBook price to FREE. That means, if you buy a paperback of Book One, Book Two, or Book Three, you can also download a Kindle ebook copy from Amazon for zero dollars and zero cents. This one’s on me. And Jeff.

Back me on Patreon for more Longshot Comics stories, and to force my hand to start work on a Book Four.


They Weren’t Called “Eyestrain Comics” for Nothin’

One of the great advantages to having a digital version of Longshot Comics is the panel-zoom feature on the Kindle. Here’s a short video where I, and my lovely and talented assistant Finnegan, explain how that works. It’s the perfect solution for old, tired eyes.

If you’ve already bought a paperback copy, you can also get a digital copy from Amazon for the reduced price of $0.99 (down from the regular $2.99). If you don’t have an actual Kindle like the one in this video, there are free Kindle-reader apps you can download for your phone or computer.

Swan Song

Longshot Comics Book Three: The Inauspicious Adventures of Filson Gethers was, as I may have mentioned on a dozen occasions, a long time coming. But Filson has existed in the Longshot universe almost from the very beginning.

Passingly referenced in a largely speculative way in The Long and Unlearned Life of Roland Gethers, he appeared in his own story in 1995, right after the Slave Labor Graphics edition made its debut. It was a story you probably missed, but one that now functions as a coda to Book Three.

I hadn’t initially planned on making a string of short Longshot Comics stories, but during my first appearance at the San Diego Comic Con to promote the book, I was set upon by a representative of Tower Records. He loved Longshot, and wanted me to do an original story for the comics page of their in-store magazine, Pulse! The chance to reach a young, hip audience of pop-music fans was a golden opportunity I promptly rejected. Instead, I suggested doing a story for their other in-store magazine, Classical Pulse! because a chance to reach an old, out-of-touch audience of opera fans was more in keeping with my self-sabotaging business model of zero market penetration.

Nothing mixes better than classical-music enthusiasts and avant-garde experimental minimalist comics, I always say. With that pearl of wisdom in mind, I wrote a story about the final years of Roland’s mysterious grandfather, and his interaction with British composer Edward Elgar in the Powick Asylum, where Elgar worked during his early career. This quiet end for Filson suggested nothing of the rollicking life of daring adventure I had in mind for him, but provided the eventual third volume of Longshot an endpoint to aim at.

Reprinted in Money Talks #4 to help build anticipation for The Failed Promise of Bradley Gethers, that was the last anyone ever saw of Filson Gethers’s Music Lesson until now. The entire five-page story has been redone and reformatted, and is now the third Longshot story hosted on my Patreon page.

The Dot at the End of the Tunnel

Release day is here!

The entire Longshot Comics Trilogy is now available on various Amazon sites in paperback and for Kindle and Kindle Unlimited. Follow the links below to the dot-com pages, or head to your local-country version of Amazon to order your copies today.

Longshot Comics Book One:
The Long and Unlearned Life of Roland Gethers

The classic (dare I say legendary) original epic-minimalistic comic book that started it all 25 years ago. When it first came out it shocked—SHOCKED I SAY!—the industry to its core, with many top artists wondering aloud what obsessive-compulsive madman would ever attempt such a thing. An historic comedy saga, set in the waning days of the British Empire, it told an unparalleled story across an insane format of 3840 panels. With dozens of tiny panels per page, and the entire cast depicted as distant dots, no one had ever seen anything like it. Multiple printings, editions, formats and translations followed as the book became a featured subject of lectures, academic texts, and museum exhibits around the world. Now it’s back in print at last!

Book One Paperback edition

Book One Kindle edition

Longshot Comics Book Two:
The Failed Promise of Bradley Gethers

“Magnum Opus” was a term bandied about when it came to the original Longshot Comic. Surely even the lunatic responsible for the first book would never attempt anything of the same scope or scale ever again. Well, that opus turned out to be not so magnum after all, because several years later the sequel launched and told another 3840-panel epic tale of the Gethers family. Hailed as worthy successor, with a story that intertwined and expanded on the original, fans who missed out on the smaller print run have been clamouring to get their hands on a copy for years. Now they finally can!

Book Two Paperback edition

Book Three Kindle edition

Longshot Comics Book Three:
The Inauspicious Adventures of Filson Gethers

On this quarter-century anniversary, the long-awaited third book has arrived. A prequel to the rest of the saga, this all-new chapter delves into the earlier generations of the Gethers family, and the wild ride between high and low society that ushered them through the triumphs and disasters of the British Empire and its colonies overseas. Adding over a century of material to the epic trilogy, it is the most ambitious chapter yet and, arguably, the funniest. Whether you’re a newcomer to the series, or a long-time reader, this volume makes for an equally perfect start or end point.

Book Three Paperback edition

Book Three Kindle edition

Visit my recently launched Patreon page for even more Longshot Comics material that will be rolling out in the coming days and weeks, including all the original short stories that haven’t been seen in decades.

Rewriting History

Returning to work you did decades ago and preparing it for a new release is a tricky thing. As an artist and perfectionist, you have to resist the urge to tamper with it. You have to accept that there are already plenty of fans who enjoyed it the way it was, love it for what it is, and don’t want their memory of it soiled by your compulsion to “fix” things. No, it’s not how you would have done it today, and that’s okay. It’s a snapshot of who you once were as a creator, and that’s worth preserving.

You can’t go and arbitrarily change things, even with the best of intentions. That would make you no better than George Lucas. And the next thing you know, you’re selling your baby to a corporate conglomerate for a measly four billion dollars—barely enough money to keep you in flannel shirts, and certainly not enough to pay for that life-saving chin-transplant surgery you so desperately need.

Revisiting the first two volumes of Longshot Comics, I saw a thousand little things I might have tweaked today. But I was firm in my conviction to preserve them as milestones in my career, if not outright monuments. That doesn’t mean I didn’t do a bit of a spit-and-polish. But I kept the editing down to a bare minimum. You would have to be some sort of obsessive superfan to spot the changes. The previously mentioned switch to all-British spelling is the most obvious alteration. Some added commas and slightly rearranged text within individual panels should be invisible. There are a number of word substitutions and trims here and there, but nothing important that modifies content or meaning. Mostly it’s about flow. I also discovered one or two typos that survived the ages. They were corrected. Hopefully I haven’t added any new ones.

So rest assured, even with the new format and the recreated artwork, these are the Longshot Comics of old. I did not paste any windows onto Cloud City. I did not remove anybody’s eyebrows during a grand unmasking. And Roland Gethers still shoots first.

Book Three was a different matter. Two-thirds of the script had languished on my hard drive for years. I’d started writing it after The Failed Promise of Bradley Gethers came out in 1997, but petered out, suffering from Longshot exhaustion (a feeling I have become reacquainted with over the course of the past year). I’d open the file and add to it periodically, but it felt like it would never get done. No matter how many lines of dialogue or scenes I wrote, it seemed to be perpetually trapped at two-thirds—well short of the 3840-panel mark I was shooting for again.

Over the years, I turned down offers to reprint the first two volumes, determined that I would only do so when Book Three could be published right alongside them. More than once I rattled my tin cup at the Canada Council for the Arts to see if I could get some funding to incentivize myself. I was met with blank stares and dead air. Critical darling or not, my brand of artsy-fartsy was not artistic enough, nor flatulent enough, for their tastes. It took one of my foreign-language publishers to come at me with an advance to finally light a fire under my ass.

Revising an old, incomplete script, was not a crime against preservation to me. But I still retained a certain amount of material I liked, even knowing that’s not quite how I would write it today if presented with nothing more than a blank page and a vague notion. The end result is a hybrid of who I was back then and who I am now. The mix works, the humour is a few shades darker than ever before, and, unless I’m deluding myself, I think it’s the best book in the trilogy. Chronologically, The Inauspicious Adventures of Filson Gethers takes place before the other two volumes, and is as fine a place as any to start reading the Longshot Comics Saga.

So when is this long-awaited release?

Hint: all three books are already out on Amazon in Kindle ebook and paperback as of several hours ago. I’ll be announcing it here officially, with links and covers and all that good stuff, just as soon as Amazon finishes merging the digital and physical editions and adding them to my author page. If you’ve read this far, and are an eager beaver, I’m sure you can find them on the site yourself and be among the very first people on earth to buy copies. Or read them for free on Kindle Unlimited.