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Every story, be it a comic, short story, screenplay, stage play, or novel, must have a beginning, middle, and end.  You don't have a complete story if one of these is missing.

This sums up three-act structure pretty well.

What makes three-act structure tricky in comics or any kind of serial fiction is that you must have three-act structure in each part of your story.  Three-act structure seems simple if you're writing a trilogy: The first book is the beginning, the second book is the middle, and the third book is the end.  However, each of those books has its own three-act structure.

Using the original Star Wars trilogy as an example, it goes something like this:

Act One - Episode 4 (A New Hope): First act - Leia sends droids to Tattooine with Death Star plans.  Second act - Luke meets droids, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Han Solo, and Chewbacca and they rescue Leia.  Third act - The rebels attack the Death Star.

Act Two - Episode 5 (The Empire Strikes Back): First act - Attack on Hoth.  Second act - Luke goes to Dagobah, Han, Leia, and Chewie flee Empire and end up at Bespin.  Third act - Han captured, Luke loses his hand, the Rebel Alliance vows to keep fighting.

Act Three - Episode 6 (Return of the Jedi): First act - Han rescued.  Second act - Luke returns to Dagobah, Rebels meet Ewoks.  Third act - Luke redeems his father, Death Star II destroyed.

That's nine acts worth of material you're writing in just a trilogy.  Now imagine you've been hired to write a comic for the next three years.  Barring any annuals or special issues, you'll be writing 36 issues at minimum.  That's 108 acts you have to write.  It gets harder if your story arc is more than three issues.  Let's say it's five issues.  Do you make issue 1 the first act, or do you include part of it in issue 2?  Are issues 2 - 4 the second act?  If so, how do you keep it from becoming boring or padding it with filler?

I can't answer for you because it's your story.  I can tell you that writing three-act structure becomes natural once you've done it enough.  You'll also notice it, especially the lack of it, in other fiction and media.  I've read plenty of stories people have sent me for my opinion, and a lot of times my reply is "You only have two acts," or "You don't really have an ending."

An easy way to do it is to simply outline your three acts.  Feel free to keep the outline flexible, as you'll probably discover stuff that will be better in Act Two than Act One, for instance.  It could be as basic as this:

Act One: Batman learns about Riddler's escape from prison and a possible hostile takeover at Wayne-Tech Industries.

Act Two: Batman tracks Riddler while juggling duties at Wayne-Tech.

Act Three: Batman faces Riddler's death traps while Wayne-Tech board meeting goes on without him.

There are some authors who even break down each act into three parts, which I probably do subconsciously, but I'm not that detailed.  Do it if it helps you, however.  There is no one "right" way to write, but there are some rules the reader expects you to follow.

Keep it indie.


Lettering is complete on "Code Red" #3!

Here's the cover for the upcoming Code Red #3 starring April Hunter.

That's Craig DeBoard's artwork, colors, and (most of the) letters on there.  Thanks to him for doing a bang-up job on it.  Craig also colored the interiors, which were drawn by Monty Borror and lettered by yours truly.  The issue also has three pin-up photos of April.  I finished the lettering today, so the comic will probably be available first in February 2017.

I've received good feedback on my last blog post about the state of the convention scene.  I think one possible way to change the scene is for indie comics creators to demand lower table prices for writers and people who are pushing their original work.  I don't see it happening unless there's a massive swell of support for the idea, however.  Shows want money, and often need a lot of it to pay for convention center fees and celebrity appearance fees.

Keep it indie.

It's been a rough convention season.

First, thanks to everyone who stopped by the Pickle Press table at Flashback Weekend in Rosemont, Illinois last weekend.  Paul Schultz, Samantha Strong, and I appreciate everyone who picked up a copy of CANDI 2069 #2 and other goodies from us.  We had a good time at the show, caught up with some fans and friends, and made some new fans and friends as well.

That being said, it was a rough show for sales not only for us, but for everyone there.  Every vendor and artist with whom we spoke complained about the low traffic and lack of sales.  Many people showed up for the Scream reunion of Neve Campbell, Skeet Ulrich, and Matthew Lillard, but those people had precious money to spend after dropping at least $150.00 for autographs from all three of them.  Matthew Lillard was even walking around Friday and Sunday afternoons.  He stopped at a table next to ours on Friday.  I shook his hand and asked how he was doing.  His reply was, "I'm okay, but I guess I'm not doing too well if I'm walking around on a Friday afternoon."  The translation of that is, "No one's at my table."  There were no lines for Ms. Campbell or even Malcom McDowell by the second half of Sunday.  I don't know what happened to Flashback Weekend, but the lack of traffic and spending customers was stunning compared to when we set up there two years ago.

This is the fourth straight show that has seen me in the red at the end of the weekend.  I can't do this next year.  My days off for the rest of the year switch to Thursday-Friday next month, so my convention season is finished for 2016 unless my work schedule changes.  However, I'm not sure I want to work any more shows if it does.  I'd rather spend my remaining vacation days on a trip to Iceland or some other nice getaway.

I've seen my sales plummet thanks to the prolifteration of print dealers, professional cosplayers, and crafters at comic book and pop culture shows.  I'm going to expose the elephant in the room when it comes to the current convention scene - The majority of attendees don't want comic books.  They like, and might even buy and collect, mainstream comics, but they're more interested in comic-related merchandise than the comics that inspire that merchandise.  They want prints and Pop Vinyl figures.  They don't want a $3.00 indie comic, and most would rather spend $25.00 on a Deadpool print than a high-quality Bronze Age back issue from a comic dealer.  Granted, attendees want your indie comic if it's the Next Big Thing, but few of us are at that stage yet.  I'm one of those indie comic creators who fall into that category of "too mainstream for indie comic shows" and "too indie for mainstream comics shows."

The oversaturation of the convention market and the glut of autograph hunters have made also made it difficult to make a buck at shows.  A lot of the missing FBW traffic was probably waiting for Wizard Chicago the following weekend.  I'm lucky to live in a part of the country where I could work a show nearly every weekend within 8 hours of driving time, but that's a double-edged sword.  Too many shows means too much competition for customers.

So how do I fix this?  It's a three-part process.  The first is finishing projects still in production.  Books like Salem, AZ #2, Code Red #3, Tantra #2, Galactrix, Mars Needs MILFs, and Ninja Nympho Roommate #3 will be finished.  I've already paid a good deal of art fees on them, so not printing them would be a waste of that money.

The second part is changing the plans for projects on the back burner.  Projects like Squad 66, Side Boob, and Dare: The CONE Project will be turned into e-books, which cost nothing to publish apart from hiring someone to design a cover, or screenplays.

Third is being far more selective with the shows I work.  I will no longer work shows where I don't have either a free place to stay, a free table, or both.  The only exception to this rule will be if enough people are going along who are willing to split all costs and my cut is still low enough to make the show worthwhile.

As always, let me know of good shows in your area.  Please ask the promoters at your favorite shows to bring me in as a guest.  Support your favorite indie creators and shows that treat indie creators well.  Make no mistake, Pickle Press is winding down unless the convention scene turns around for creators like me.

Keep it indie. 
Don't miss me, Paul Schultz, and Samantha Strong as we return to Flashback Weekend this weekend in Rosemont, Illinois.  This show is always well-run and has a fun guest list and activities.  They're hosting a Scream reunion and also bringing in Malcolm McDowell, Don Coscarelli, Meg Foster, and Svengoolie (among many other great guests).  We'll be premiering CANDI 2069 #2 there, so don't pass up your rare chance to get the book signed by all three of us.  

Keep it indie!

A lot of people have been asking me about creating comics this year.  Some are asking out of mild curiosity (i.e., "Do you make money doing this?" Answer: "No, not often."), some out of genuine creative interest (i.e., "How do I find an artist?"), and some out of near creative exhaustion (i.e., "How do you find the time do it?").

These questions have me thinking about the advice I've given people over the years, and I thought I'd start presenting it here.  These lessons are in no particular order, and many of them can apply to all types of writing.

This first one is mostly geared toward comics, but it's also applicable if you're writing a series of books with the same characters.  I first heard this tidbit of wisdom from award-winning comic writer Mark Waid at a Q&A with him at Wizard World Chicago many years ago: Every comic is someone's first.

This means that you have to reintroduce the characters, how they relate to each other, and how they're crucial to the plot, in every single issue.  Waid admitted he had it easy when he was writing The Flash because he was able to start each issue with "My name is Wally West.  I'm the fastest man alive."  The Flash TV show even does this.

You have to do this because your comic could very well be the first comic someone has ever read.  I met a man in his late 20's at the last convention I worked who didn't know how to read a comic ("Is it right to left?  Top to bottom?").  That man would probably have an anuerysm if he had bought the newest X-Men book and tried to figured out what was happening and who all these mutants were if the writer hadn't introduced everyone.

A hard part of this is finding a creative and / or natual way of doing it without dialogue sounding ham-fisted.

Bad example:

[Alfred brings Bruce Wayne a cup of tea as Bruce sits at the massive computer in the Batcave.]

Alfred: I brought you some tea, Master Bruce Wayne.  Are you going to dinner with your lovely friend, Vicky Vale, or will you again be venturing forth tonight as Batman in your never-ending quest to avenge the deaths of your parents?

[Bruce takes the tea.]

Bruce: Yes, Alfred Pennyworth.  Thanks for being such a faithful butler. I will indeed use my deductive skills and martial prowess to stop Oswald Cobblepot, AKA the Penguin, notorious Gotham City crime lord, from pilfering the famed Gold Eagle statue from the city's annual art museum award ceremony.

Better example, same scenario:

Alfred: I brought you some tea, Master Bruce.  Ms. Vale called to ask when you would pick her up for your date.

Bruce: I'll have to cancel, Alfred.  The Penguin's going to hit the art museum tonight. 

Alfred: You look better in a suit than the Batman's cowl, sir.

Bruce: Cobblepot can't wait.

Alfred: Neither will she much longer.

Now imagine writing that kind of scenario, in which you introduce the characters and their relationships to one another, in every isssue.  That's something you need to do in every comic you write in a series.  You readers will be lost if you don't, and you can't afford to lose them.

Keep it indie.


"CANDI 2069" #2 sent to press!

Just in time for Flashback Weekend, C.A.N.D.I. 2069 #2 has been sent to press.  It features Samantha Strong as your favorite nymphomaniac android fighting aliens from another dimension!  It also has the distinction of containing the longest sex scene in any Pickle Press adult comic so far.  It includes three pin-up photos of Samantha, so don't miss a rare opportunity to get the book signed by the entire creative team.  Even Mike "The Machine" Indovina, creator of the logo, might show up for a day.

Lettering on Tantra #2 begins today.  I'm not sure when it will go to press, but the pencils are nearly done.  The pages look amazing.  Agapito De Los Santos is doing incredible work on it.

I am finalizing my convention schedule for fall.  I'd hoped to set up at Days of the Dead Chicago, but all tables sold out in the blink of an eye.  I'm now looking at Geekinomicon in Oklahoma City in early Septemer and Kokomo-Con in Kokomo, Indiana in mid-October.  I'll keep you posted.  As always, let me know about good shows in your area and pester your local show promoters to bring me in as a guest.

Keep it indie.
Thanks to everyone who stopped at the Pickle Press table at Exxxotica Chicago last weekend.  I had a fun time there and met a lot of nice people.  Sales weren't great, but I made some great connections that might pay off very well in the long run.  Among them were Inari Vachs, who has been planning an autobiographical comic book for a long while.  I hope to help her finish it.

Fetish queen Rubberdoll was also a delight.  We talked about creating some art for her in a cute pin-up style.

I had a long, good conversation with Misty Stone about policing and comic books.  I got more kisses from her than any of the stars I met.  In my opinion, she is the most naturally beautiful woman in the industry right now.  She was excited about the possibility of having a comic book starring her.  I hope it works out for us.

Skyler Nicole and Zoey Carter were across the aisle from me at the show, so I had not only lovely scenery, but also fun neighbors. Ms. Nicole was sweet and a trooper all weekend, even meeting fans while her legs and feet were aching from standing on concrete all weekend.

Zoey Carter spent most of the weekend dancing and having a blast.  She was laughing or smiling everytime I saw her.

Both of them expressed interest in having a comic book made starring them, especially Ms. Carter (who has Joker and Harley Quinn tattoos on her forearms).

Wish me luck with all these projects, and feel free to support these fine ladies.

My next show will be Flashback Weekend August 05-07 in Rosemont, Illinois.  I'll be there with Paul Schultz and Samantha Strong as we debut CANDI 2069 #2.  Don't miss a chance to get it signed by all three of us.

Keep it indie. 

CANDI 2069 #2 sent to press!

Issue #2 of CANDI 2069 has gone to press.  It stars Samantha Strong as CANDI (Cybernetic Android Nymphomanic Designed for Intercourse) fighting alien invaders from another dimension in the year 2069.  It's drawn and plotted by Paul Schultz and written and lettered by yours truly.  It will be available at Flashback Weekend August 05, 2016 in Rosemont, Illinois.  Paul, Samantha, and I will be there, so don't miss your chance to get it signed by all three of us.

Keep it indie.

Check out the cover for "CANDI 2069" #2!

Here's a look at the cover for the second issue of CANDI 2069, starring Samantha Strong.

It's minus the logo, of course.  Mike "the Machine" Indovina will be providing that.  Issue 2 should be available at Flashback Weekend the first weekend of August in Rosemont, Illinois.  You'll be able to get it signed by me, Paul Schultz, and Goddess Samantha.

Keep it indie.

See you at Exxxotica!

Yes, I'll be a vendor at Exxxotica Chicago July 8-10th.  I'll have a "small business" booth there and will be selling Pickle Press adult comics (and probably other books from my collection) there at massive discounts.  I hope to move a lot of material there, so don't miss out on the big bargains.

I don't yet know with whom I'll be sharing the booth, if anyone. April Hunter and Samantha Strong have expressed interest. Akira Lane, star of Pickle Press' Galactrix, will be there at her own booth.  This will be a rare chance for you to get a copy of the first two issues of Akira's comic signed by both of us.  The script for issue 3 is now being polished and will soon be sent to Galactrix artist Celestin Szabo. 

My next show will be the Ft. Wayne Comic and Collectibles show at the Classic Cafe on Hillegas Road in Ft. Wayne, Indiana on June 26th from 11:00-5:00.  I'll be selling a lot of stuff from my personal collection as well as Pickle Press comics.  Don't miss your chance to help me declutter my house!

Keep it indie.

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