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In the spirit of the season, and of decluttering, I'm offering crazy package deals on a lot of Pickle Press comics from now until Christmas Eve.  As the headline mentions, you pay what you think is fair plus $7.00 for flat rate priority shipping.  

So, if you think it's fair to just pay $7.00 for the shipping, that's fine.  If you think it's fair to pay $100.00 plus the shipping, that's fine as well.  It's all up to you.

Here are the packages I'm offering:

1. The Nice Package: Signed copies of Fear of Triangles (a quirky romance guest-starring Bigfoot), my Bronze Age horror comic tribute Mysteria's Mansion 2010 Annual, action thriller Rainstorm #1, "witchcraft western" Salem, AZ #1, the super heroine comic Shadow Woman #1, and martial arts comic Sun and Moon.  That's six comics in all that I normally sell at shows for a total of $18.75, but again you pay what you think is fair.  To further entice you, random Nice Packages will include additional limited edition photo cover copies of Salem, AZ #1 and Shadow Woman #1.

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I sometimes answer questions on Quora.com about music, radio, and writing to help promote my music blog — 7th Level Music.  Two of the most frequent questions I see are variations of: "How do I become a better writer?" and "I want to write a novel.  How do I start?"  One of my favorites was "I want to write a novel, but I don't have an idea, plot, or any experience writing.  What should I do?"  The best answer was from another professional writer: "Don't write a novel." 

The best answer to "How do I become a better writer?" is, of course, "Write."  Write whenever possible and remember that a lot of what you write will be junk.  You have to write the junk to get it out of your head, however, so write.

That being said, here's what most writers at conventions, meet and greets, and in online forums won't tell you — Writing is harder than you think and can be a real pain in the ass if you're not already wealthy, have a wealthy spouse or partner to support you while you write, or have a lucrative contract and / or advance from a publisher.

In case you're unaware, November is National Novel Writing Month — also known as NaNoWriMo.  It's when everyone is encouraged to write the first draft of a novel (at least 50,000 words) in a month or complete a work in progress.  There are plenty of apps, online support groups, and blogs encouraging you to write your 50,000 words.  It's a noble cause and effort, but here's another secret — It is batshit crazy.

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The Pickle Press Universe: Bullet

Stephen Smith was a New York City Police Department officer who came from a long line of police officers in his family.  While on a stakeout, he was spotted by drug smugglers, shot, and dumped into the Hudson River.  He was found by agents of a SHIELD-like organization, rescued, and brought back to health.  Smith decided to join this organization (called WADOS) to repay his debt to them.

He became known as Bullet and his specialty was firearms, particularly handguns.  He was outfitted with special bullets that did things like expand on contact or dissolve on the way to the target to release chemical agents and gasses.

The character is essentially my version of Mack Bolan or Remo Williams.  I read a lot of the Mack Bolan: Executioner paperbacks as a kid, so it only makes sense that I'd make a version of him for my universe.  He was also inspired by the Punisher, who was himself inspired by Mack Bolan.  I even gave Bullet a black costume with silver gloves, holsters, boots, belt, and magazine pouches.  He's even six feet tall, two hundred pounds, has black hair and blue eyes.  So, yeah, he's Mack Bolan (who was taller than six feet, if I remember right).

The Pickle Press Universe: Dr. Rao

Dr. Kuen Rao is a character I created sometime in my early teenage years.  He's essentially my version of Dr. No from the Bond franchise or Dr. Zin from Jonny Quest.  He's a Vietnamese criminal genius who, according to my notes, began his career as a drug smuggler and later drug kingpin in Africa for some unknown reason.  His drug ring was broken up by a big SHIELD-type organization I'll profile in a future post.

Dr. Rao moved to France and "achieved massive power in the underworld once again."  At some point he orchestrated an assassination attempt on the American ambassador to France, but I never wrote down why he did this. The attempt failed when a super hero known as the Telepathic Knight stopped him.  I'll write about him later.

Fleeing France, Dr. Rao went to the United States and "there gained more power than ever before."  He somehow gained access to high-tech weaponry, amassed a huge amount of wealth, and had "an army under his control" that became known as the Rao Empire.  His first scheme in the USA involved hiring some super villains to hold three nuclear missile sites for ransom, but that was stopped by a group of mutant super heroes (not the X-Men).

I made Dr. Rao extremely big for an average Vietnamese man — 6' 1" and 195 lbs.  This is probably because I had no idea of the average height and weight of Asian men when I was thirteen.  I've since learned the average height is 5' 5", so maybe Dr. Rao became a crime boss merely by standing up and intimidating people.

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I recently received an e-mail invitation to apply for an artists' alley booth lottery at one of the biggest pop culture shows in the Midwest.  To be clear, it wasn't an invitation to buy a booth.  It was an invitation to enter a random drawing for the opportunity to buy a booth. This show always has a large number of people attempt to score booths, so they've begun this random lottery in an attempt to even the chances of people setting up there.

Even though I am taking a vacation from Pickle Press, I am still interested in the convention scene and am open to the possibility of working a show that (A) isn't much of a drive and (B) will cost me little to nothing to set up there.  This show isn't far from me, is located near a town where I'd have plenty of free places to stay, and the booth price is amazing for such a large, popular show (under $150.00).  It's also a show I'd debated working many times in the past, so I thought I'd throw my hat into the ring and see what happens.  I can always decide to not buy a table if the scene doesn't look good by summer.

I began filling out the online lottery registration form.  It included all the usual stuff — company name, my name, e-mail, and address, and asking if I'd ever attended or worked the show before.

It then had a section asking me to check boxes corresponding to the types of things I intended to sell at the show.  Here is that list in order from top to bottom:

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Mandy and I took an unplanned vacation to Toronto, Ontario last week.  We were surprised to discover that the annual Fan Expo was taking place while we were there, so we bought tickets for Sunday.  It would be our first big multi-fandom show (attending as fans, at least) in a long while.

The show is probably the biggest in Canada, but the Metro Toronto Convention Center entry point to pick up your wristband is through a small door under a low roof near a pedestrian bridge.  You'd walk right by it if the signs weren't there.  There was no line when we got there, as many people had already picked up their wristbands on the previous days, but it must be a madhouse on the first couple days of the show.

The show boasts guests from comics, horror movies, and science fiction.  This room contained all the media guests, the horror movie memorabilia vendors, and some comic and toy vendors.

This photo still doesn't fit in everything in the space.
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I found these drawings and some notes in the three-ring binder.

Clockwise from top: Chip, Hog, Yak, Lord Cargian, The Skinny Chef Ginsu (in bell bottoms), Striped Man, Atomic Amy, Nude Girl
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The Pickle Press Universe: Blitz

Alexander Montor was born with superhuman strength and healing abilities.  These powers led him to a successful career in the National Football League where he played as a defensive lineman and helped his team win the Super Bowl his rookie year.  He was poised for a Hall of Fame career, but his conscience won out when he realized he'd been exploiting his abilities.  He decided to become a superhero and took on a lot of "street level" crime as the hero called Blitz (after his favorite play).

Blitz - Created by me sometime in the early 1990's. Drawn by Paul Schultz August 27, 2017.

I don't remember when I came up with Blitz, but I think I created him mainly because I thought "Blitz" would be a cool name for a character.  Looking back on him now, I'd keep him in the NFL (or the Pickle Press equivalent - the PFL?) while he doubled as a superhero.  It would be quite a challenge for the character, and for me as the writer, to figure out ways to keep his identity secret and find time for crime fighting while working an NFL schedule.

Thanks to Paul Schultz for volunteering to draw this concept sketch of him.  It's almost exact to how I envisioned him.

Up next: The Midnight Goblin Man.

Keep it indie.

The Pickle Press Universe: The Stranger

As I mentioned in my last blog post, I'm going to start blogging about characters, aliens, worlds, and other things I created in my teenage years for fun and to bring these goofy things out of the shadows.  The first of these is the Stranger.

Yes, he's basically a ninja with a gun.

I don't know when I drew this, but I think it was sometime in the late 1980's.  The Stranger is no relation to the Phantom Stranger (one of my favorite comic characters), and I don't even remember his real name.  The character was a street vigilante who was going to appear in a comic called The Animal Within.  The book was going to be about a martial arts student who becomes obsessed with perfecting his technique.  He decides to become a masked vigilante after a friend is the victim of a hate crime, and for the purpose of getting into fights and supposedly bettering his skills and thus himself.

Of course, this turns out to be a bad idea as he soon learns the life of a superhero isn't all that great.  He's often wounded, struggling in classes, and barely keeping his girlfriend happy.  He also runs into serious moral issues during the course of his journey, especially when he starts packing a gun.

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