All authors need a lifelong friend who scours garage sales for action figures to customize to help visualize your books’ main characters.
A little TMI for you.
After my dad’s eyesight went, and he’d fallen getting out of bed in the middle of the night a couple of times, the home staff decided to put him on the memory-care ward because that was where they could better look after him. It meant he was surrounded by people in various states of decline who generated moments of humor and pathos in—well, not equal measure, but with enough differentiation that there were a few lighter moments to be found if you looked for them hard enough.
During our visits, Mr. Feldman used to wander in now and again. A resident who was in pretty good physical shape, comparatively speaking, he was still mobile and steady on his feet. His trademark uniform was a shirt-and-boxers combo, and he inhabited a mental space that was half addled and half spoiling for a fight. Whatever you said to him, no matter how pleasant, he’d usually respond with an ornery, “Yeah?” while looking you up and down as if trying to figure out if he could take you. Then he’d stick around until he’d gotten his fill of glaring at everyone and make his exit.
Now, the boxers. I figured that given his score on the cantankerous scale, the people caring for him had probably long since given up on trying to get him to wear pants. And he was otherwise harmless enough. Well, except for that time someone in a wheelchair disappeared, causing a minor panic, and it turned out he’d come upon them in the hall and wheeled them to another part of the wing before wandering off and leaving them there.
But he and Dad are both gone now, and I digress.
On my day off, I rode to Staples in a steady rain because we needed Sodastream carbonator refills, and the break in the weather I’d been waiting for wasn’t going to come. So I just got wet.
Returning home, I, being a paragon of pragmatism, traded my soaked biking shoes and socks for Tevas, hung my shorts up over the shower, and left the performance-fabric shirt and underwear on to dry while being worn. I mean, hey—nobody else around, right?
I banged away at the computer for a bit, then looked down at my rainwater-damp wicking boxer-briefs and started to laugh. For a second, I wanted someone there to talk to, just so I could scowl at them suspiciously and respond to whatever they had to say with, “Yeah?”
I am Mr. Feldman.
As are we all, ultimately.
Image credit: wheelchairs by GeorgeTan#4
New Commons art!
My friend Michael Visnov wanted to experiment with a new pen he bought, so he worked up this ink beauty of Rain with one of her best friends.
At this point, maybe I’ll start mailing him pens just to keep him on a roll.
Years from now, when you look back at what you’ve done in your career, what will you value the most? The friendships, accomplishments, and growth, of course. But sometimes it’s the little things that carry the most weight.
Such as the time, back in my trade-journalist days, when I was walking off the show floor at the big home-video convention and happened upon one of my creative heroes. He was sitting by himself in a small, out-of-the-way booth at the edge of things—just him and a stack of comics to sign next to a taped-up piece of paper with marker scrawl on it that said: “Today only! Stan Lee!”
I was scandalized that nobody else was there (this was during Marvel’s lean years and way before the movies got going). I told him what a fan I was and asked him to sign a Hulk comic.
At that time, nobody foresaw the IP empire that would be built from the brilliance of the Marvel crew over the years. And if Stan Lee were alive today, he’d be in one of the biggest booths, with a crowd of people queued up to meet him.
So it’s something to keep in mind: do your best work, the work that inspires you. Because you never know what it might become a long way down the road.
And treat your memories, souvenirs, and keepsakes right. You won’t believe how happy you’ll be to dig them out of a banged-up cardboard box one day in the future.
One of my favorite Vonnegut quotes is from Mother Night: “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”
I’d add that when we go looking for the past, we find it, so we must be careful about how we look.
I was going through my boxed-up comic collection, which my brother had been storing for me, and I came upon an Avengers issue I recalled reading when I bought it, in 1976, sitting at our dining-room table. I have no idea why I remember that, but it occurred to me that way back then, I couldn’t have known I’d revisit it in 2022 in a two-bedroom apartment in Chicago, just shy of three decades passed since I was last in that house, and my dad gone nearly six years.
I uncrumpled some of the newspaper I balled up when packing this stuff almost 30 years ago, after my parents sold the place. There were pages from three papers in there, and this one is from the January 25, 1994 Philadelphia Inquirer.
My dad did all the puzzles in ink. This is his careful, precise engineer’s block printing. I print in all caps, too—I got that from him, I guess—but not as neatly as he did. The cryptogram answer is a George Santayana quote that I feel like he left for me to find: “Knowledge of what is possible is the beginning of happiness.”
I suppose so. It’s the beginning of something, anyway.
But it brings to mind another favorite quote, this one from Faulkner: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”
No—it isn’t, is it?
Got your message.
After 31 years of teaching middle-school science, Commons fan Linda Artruc is doing retirement right.
Artist Michael Visnov has outdone himself with this model sheet of Commons characters. From left: Truitt, Brill, Po, Rain, Ken, Paul, Zach, Annie, and Porter.
Some 50 years after we met, this guy and I are still making stuff up and putting it on paper—me with a keyboard and Mike with a pencil.
It’s an absolute pleasure to work with a friend.
Lo, the cover of Book 3, The Catalyst, is revealed—and the brillance of designer Dan Fernandez shines yet again. I’m shooting for books two and three to be released in e-book and print by the end of August.
The cover of Book 2 (The Margins), by wonder designer Dan Fernandez, is finished. Now a print proof is winging its way to me, and at 700-plus pages, it’ll double as a self-defense accessory. (My first marketing campaign: read this, or I’ll hit you with it.)
Up next: the cover for Book 3 (The Catalyst), which is edited and ready to go once the design’s approved.
It’s not that far off now; hoping for a late summer release for both of them…