White House, Black Heart

Donald Trump and Justin Trudeau had an interesting chat this week. In an effort to justify tariffs in the current trade war, Trump suggested that Canada was a security risk to the United States because we burned The White House down during the War of 1812.

Critics were quick to point out it was actually the British who did that, and Canada wasn’t a country until 1867. True. But Canada was certainly a thing, split into Upper and Lower Canada. And our fighting boys had been repelling American invaders for many months before the British showed up on the coast to lend a hand.

I did a lot of research on this topic years ago because I had to be historically accurate…while I was writing a funny comic book about a bunch of dots.

Probably overkill.

But with the release of Longshot Comics Book Three: The Inauspicious Adventures of Filson Gethers, it’s time to reveal the unabashed truth of who exactly set fire to The White House and why. This revelation promises to be a scandal that will rewrite history books and our understanding of colonial North American history.

Coming very soon.

Longshot Comics Cover Reveal

I should never ever mention my own personal deadlines. I always set impossible numbers and schedules for myself, and then miss them. Which is perfectly fine, so long as I don’t tell anyone what my target date was.

Remember last blog post, when I said we were still on track for a Longshot release this week? Turns out, not so much. I decided to go with one final round of revisions, and another three proof copies to add to the stack of proof copies piled in my office. I think, at this point, the proofs from Createspace now outnumber the entire original print run of Longshot Comics. One day, when I gather them all together again, I should take a picture. And then have a bonfire.

I was hoping to get the new proofs in today, but it looks like they’ll be delivered on Monday instead. Once I do a final anal-retentive quality-control check, I should be clear to approve the books for distribution.

In the end, I only altered 33 pages. Only. At this point, we’re mostly talking nit-picky perfectionist crap that nobody but me will ever notice. Although, in my defence, I did catch a few genuine errors, including one some readers might have actually spotted if they were paying attention. Egregiously, I had transcribed the wrong name for one of Roland’s brothers in one panel. Unpardonable, I know. Rest assured, I kneecapped myself with a hammer as punishment.

Talk about the development and history of Longshot Comics will resume, leading into next week’s release (I’m pretty sure). To make up for lost days, I’ll just jump straight ahead to the cover reveal for all three volumes.

Mind you, this isn’t the true premiere of these covers. If you were subscribed to the newsletter, you would have already seen a slightly earlier version of these covers weeks ago. This is my not-so-subtle hint that you should sign up for said newsletter. People on the mail list will be getting a free Longshot Comics short story (or two) when the main-event comics come out.

Time Bomb

Two hours to air time.

Since the last time I mentioned Cinema Smackdown, I’ve become a staple on the show and have lost track of how many episodes I’ve done. You can pick through the archives at CJLO to try to figure that number out.

This week at 2:00 PM (Eastern), we’ll be talking about the catastrophic box office returns for Solo: A Star Wars Story, and the unfathomable reality we now live in, where a Star Wars movie can flop. Expect rants and recriminations as you listen live.

Work on the ebook editions of the Longshot Trilogy continues. If I ever said anything remotely neutral about Kindle Comic Creator in the past, I take it all back. As software goes, it’s a colossal piece of shit. But it is getting the job done, even as I fight it to the death every step of the way. We’re still on schedule to release this week.

That’s it for Longshot talk today, but to round out yesterday’s discussion of the back-cover history, here’s the full scan of “Mrs. Cliff’s Yacht” from 1896.

The Evolution of a Back Cover

I thought I’d take this moment to look back at one of the most iconic gags of the entire Longshot Comics series—the back cover.

When I first conceived of the joke, the priority was to get a scan of a public-domain Victorian drawing that would be a match for the contents of The Long and Unlearned Life of Roland Gethers. In the pre-web, early-scanner days, this wasn’t a simple matter. Thankfully, I was already collecting antiquarian books, and a volume from 1896 led me to a page from the story “Mrs. Cliff’s Yacht” illustrated by E. W. Kemble. He is, I’m sure, still rolling over in his grave twenty-five years after first being unwittingly recruited for my often crass and puerile project. Scanner time was provided by a friend who lingered in university and had access to the computer lab where such exotic equipment could be found. I remember what a marvel of technology it was to see the scan from the book combined with a scan of a magnifying glass I owned to create one image that would be a key selling point for my epic experimental minicomic.

The original minicomic was an 80-page photocopied booklet that instantly caused waves in the comics industry. I was unconvinced anyone would ever buy it, but it was soon selling faster than I could produce new copies (painstakingly by hand). That original back cover was instrumental in putting across the whole premise to an audience who had never seen anything like it before.

When it came time for a new full-sized, widely distributed edition for Slave Labour Graphics, everything had to be reformatted and redone. That included the back cover, which was now going to be printed large enough to actually read the mock-up text of the comic page. I wrote a short extension of one of the scenes that could be read and understood around the edges of the magnifying glass, which, in turn, was rescanned at a higher resolution to go with Kemble’s drawing.

The subsequent German translation of The Long and Unlearned Life of Roland Gethers didn’t attempt to recreate the original back cover for their editions, however the Italian version went above and beyond to mimic everything I had done with the book to date (and then added lots of footnotes to explain many of the historical references and cultural in-jokes throughout). Although they didn’t have access to the Kemble sketch, they managed to find something very close.

It was back to the scanner for the latest edition (which also required a complete redo of all the artwork). With technology leaping forward, everything I needed on the software and hardware front was now standard issue in my home office. The newest reformat made the old magnified page obsolete, but it was a relatively simple matter to grab an actual page from the interior and make that part of the joke. The original magnifying glass was pressed into service to help me read all the tiny text I was transcribing, while the printed version was replaced by licenced art from a stock photography site.

The Failed Promise of Bradley Gethers and The Inauspicious Adventures of Filson Gethers now also feature the iconic gag, but with pages from their own volumes, and original Victorian illustrations from other artists and antiquarian books. Shout-out to V. Gribayédoff and F. H. Townsend who, though long dead, are probably similarly miffed about their work being subjected to such an indignity.

Join me on my brand new Patreon page for more Longshot Comics material as we approach the release date for the entire trilogy.

Dot Dot Dot Ellipsis

Barring any late-stage hiccups, the entire Longshot Comics trilogy will be available to order through Amazon next week.

Yes, it’s done.

I thought I’d take these closing days to look back at the history of the Gethers saga, and the process of dragging the (mostly) Victorian and Edwardian shenanigans into the 21st century.

And what a process it was. Over 11,000 panels later, I have to admit it was more work than I could have possibly imagined. Despite worming my way through this routine before, the technology involved has changed enormously over the last 25 years, and everything was new and unfamiliar again. With improved tech comes higher expectations, and there were times when it was touch and go whether I could force various platforms and pieces of software to perform the way I needed them to perform in order to do these latest greatest editions justice. Compatibility issues, glitches, and bugs conspired to set fire to all the hoops I had to jump through. Let me take this opportunity to extend a special “fuck you” to the fine folks at Microsoft and Adobe in particular. Next time you need someone to stress test your shoddy coding or gouging business practices, put me on the payroll. I’m sure I can supply you with some handy, enlightening notes.

At this 11th hour, it’s now Kindle Comic Creator’s turn to tweak my balls for sport. This time last year I was still looking into the possibility of taking the project to an outside publisher rather than doing it all myself like it was 1993 all over again. One of the deal breakers was that my preferred publishers don’t do ebooks. That’s an essential market for me. Most of my sales come through Kindle copies of my books, or page reads from Kindle Unlimited subscribers. Although I do recommend Longshot fans opt for paperbacks when the day comes, I wanted a quality ebook option to exist. Thus Kindle Comic Creator. It’s a decent enough piece of software, but not without its quirks. Like its habit of arbitrarily closing on me for no other reason than I had the audacity to move a page. I think it does it for shits and giggles. There’s some AI algo out there that’s having a laugh every time it gets to inconvenience me for another 30 seconds. Well laugh it up, asshole. We only have to do this dance for a few more hours.

Longshot Comics goes dark for one of the mining sequences.

Roland utters his last line of dialogue in The Failed Promise of Bradley Gethers.

If you’re chomping at the bit for Longshot material, or if you just want to help support my efforts here at Eyestrain Productions, I now have a Patreon page. Patrons at various levels will get access to exclusive material, including new and expanded versions of the old Longshot short stories, some of which are spectacularly rare. For instance, were you one of the handful of people who bought the Longshot Comics t-shirt that featured an original 120-panel tale on the front and back, circa 1997? I bet you weren’t. But that’s the sort of fun stuff that’s going to be cropping up on the Patreon page in the coming days and weeks. Back me at the Collector tier and you can even receive signed paperbacks of the whole trilogy for less than you’d pay on Amazon—not to mention other upcoming novels I’m eager to get back to work on.

The Grind

To give you an idea what my days and nights have looked like for weeks, here’s a typical setup on my desk as I continue to typeset the new editions of Longshot Comics: Books One, Two, and Three. You’ll note from the computer screen that I’m currently transcribing the most torrid sex scene to ever appear in a Longshot Comic. Those dots can get up to some really nasty shit.

Astute fans of the series might recognize the magnifying glass as the exact one that appears on the back cover of the Slave Labor Graphics edition of The Long and Unlearned Life of Roland Gethers. Now I’m using it to help my old eyes see what the hell I’m doing with all this tiny text. The new editions will feature 40 panels per page with larger text in order to torture readers less. Novel as the overwhelming grid of panels was for everyone who ever cracked an issue back in the day, that was born of a 24-page limit for standard comics. I had to squeeze all 3840 panels into this format in order for the book to be cost effective. These days the same configuration is impractical, if only because the Kindle Comics algorithm can’t even recognize that many panels on a page. The paperbacks will be done first, but yes, there will also be ebook versions for those who want to spare a tree.

Also on the tree-murdering front, I just got my copy of the latest Sherlock Holmes anthology from MX Publishing. My story, “The Adventure of the Old Boys’ Club,” is featured in this, the ninth volume. What tickles me even more is that I’m in a book with a forward by Nicholas Meyer. With all due respect to Lee Child, who wrote a forward for the last one, I’m a bigger fan of Meyer. He not only wrote one of the finest Sherlock Holmes stories of the last century (The Seven-Per-Cent Solution), but also single-handedly saved Star Trek from oblivion (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan) after the collective yawn that greeted the first movie, and adapted and directed the wonderful H.G. Wells/Jack the Ripper adventure, Time After Time.

Okay, that was my break from the grind for the day. Back to it…

Too Many Plugs, Not Enough Sockets

Despite my recent diatribe against unprofessional publishers, I continue to have good experiences with a few I’ve worked with in the past. Most recently, my story “Crocodile Tears”—heretofore an exclusive for newsletter subscribers—has been published in Betty Fedora Issue Four. This will be of particular note to Necropolis fans, since it prominently features professional moiroligist and funeral livener-upper, Tracy Poole.

There’s also my latest Sherlockian adventure featured in The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories – Part VII. The Eliminate the Impossible chunk of the series also encompasses Part VIII.

That leads us, naturally enough, to the Kickstarter for Parts IX and X, AKA the 2018 Annual. My next story is confirmed for Part IX. The Kickstarter has been backed for a long time now, but it’s winding down, so if you want to take advantage of reduced prices and early shipping, now’s the time to do so.

Then there’s the latest multi-author giveaway I’ve entangled myself in. This is a big one, with not only a shit-ton of free funny mystery novels up for grabs (Sex Tape included), but also a new Kindle Fire for one lucky winner. You have until Monday to enter.

On the current-project front, it’s been very same-old. I get up in the afternoon. I have breakfast at an entirely inappropriate hour. And then I work away most of the night on Longshot Comics. I’ve picked up the pace in an effort to get it done at last. Longshot Comics Book Three: The Inauspicious Adventures of Filson Gethers is effectively complete. I’m just waiting for what I hope will be the penultimate paperback proof copy to show up in the mail. They’re stacking up on my desk, with copious Post-It notes to remind me how I tweaked the art on this page versus that page. This will be, fingers crossed, the one that allows me to make a final decision on percentage of contrast against sharpness in which piece of software moving forward.

Typesetting on Longshot Comics Book One: The Long and Unlearned Life of Roland Gethers is nearly done. Longshot Comics Book Two: The Failed Promise of Bradley Gethers remains dreaded unexplored territory.

As 2018 is the 25th Anniversary of the original minicomic edition of The Long and Unlearned Life of Roland Gethers, the entire trilogy will be published/back in print/available as ebooks this year. Hopefully in a month or two at most. I can’t wait to work on something—anything—else again.

Moved to Tears

The first person on earth has now read Longshot Comics Book Three: The Inauspicious Adventures of Filson Gethers. It was the gentleman translating it for the Italian edition from Prospettiva Globale. “Moved to tears” was the verdict. “A few times,” no less.

And yes, it was intentional. There are plenty of jokes throughout, but it also gets into the feels by the end. Dots and toilet humour can, when played correctly, conspire to make you cry.

Work continues to march along. It’s still too early to give you a solid release date for Book Three or the reprints of One and Two. The covers, at least, are just about done, but there remains a lot of heavy lifting to be done for the interiors of the first two volumes.

I am reliably informed that December is a terrible time to publish anything new, so I expect early 2018 is going to be it. Appropriate really. Next year marks the 25th anniversary of The Long and Unlearned Life of Roland Gethers. If that makes you feel old, think how it makes me feel. That’s right, old and tired.

In the meantime, Raw and Other Stories is being offered for free to the wider public for the first time ever this weekend. It’s part of October’s Mystery and Thriller sale, which is full of fun free ebooks for you to grab while the grabbin’s good. Follow the links, click, tap, swipe, or do whatever it is you crazy kids get up to with your devices, and get reading.

Dead Trees

A two-month break is a long non-blogging stretch at Eyestrain Productions, but rest assured it’s been all work and no fun. After the not-so-subtle hinty post in July, I can now officially confirm that Longshot Comics Book Three: The Inauspicious Adventures of Filson Gethers exists. In some form. Just not a purchasable form…yet.

The Italian edition is off for translation, and work on reprints of Book One and Two continues.

The proof is in the dog-eared proof copy. Finnegan expresses as much curiosity about Book Three of Longshot Comics as any other long-time reader.

And then becomes its first critic by shoving pages off the table.

Meanwhile, paperback editions of Necropolis and Raw await my final seal of approval before being made available through Amazon.

And my contributor copy of Part VII of the MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories has arrived. My story “The Adventure of the Mind’s Eye” bookends this edition with Jack Reacher author, Lee Child’s foreword. Retail copies are available at the end of October, but you can pre-order now.

Proof of Life

Filmography is entering the final stretch as I continue to tinker with the formatting. It currently only exists as an eBook on my Kindle, but it will be available through Amazon before the month is out. Preview copies will go out to those who expressed an interest in the coming week. You can still get on that list by dropping me a note through the contact page.

kindlefilmographyMeanwhile, my next novel, twice the length of Filmography, is undergoing final proofing before facing the same process.

anniemanuscriptAs you can see, my proofreader’s cat, Annie, is enjoying my manuscript to the full, and I can’t think of a more ringing endorsement. If only such a sentiment could be expressed in an Amazon or Goodreads review.

In other news, Rich Johnston has dropped another Longshot Comics reference on Bleeding Cool, leading to the latest round of queries: Where can I get a copy? When will it be back in print?

Soon.

Soonish.

Really, I’m going to get to it right after I’m done with shoving these novels out the door.

I need a staff.