Feb 09 2016

Three Lions and an Otter (With Props/Apologies to Maggie Hogarth)

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Three Lions and an Otter

I have never been a good businessman. Coming up with products and marketing ideas is like an alien environment to me, and frankly looking at numbers just fills my brain with a high pitched whine not unlike the Emergency Broadcast System. If you remember the moment in Forbidden Planet when Robbie the Robot is ordered to kill someone and it short-circuits his brain, that’s pretty much how my brain responds to anything that smacks of accounting.

I was blessed for some years to have an amazing business partner who dealt with all that stuff for me; however, it falls on me now and if I’m going to succeed and not end up in the code mines again, I have to make it work.

To that end, I’ve been studying other creators who’ve made it work, including Brad Guigar, John Scalzi, Seanan McGuire, and most notably (for this post) Maggie Hogarth, whose Three Jaguars provides a working real-life template of just this process.

To that end, I have decided to cultivate Three Lions (and an Otter), who are my own Artist, Marketer, and Business Manager analogues. Except in my case they are Content Guy (Lion), Business Guy (also a Lion), Muse (a Lioness Spirit), and Fandom Guy (the Otter).

Content Guy is the writer/artist. He’s the one who writes the stories, draws the pages, does the commissions, and grinds out those fourteen hour days of just making content when the creative fires are burning. Considering that Content Guy writes humor, comics, and pulpy adventure stories, he’s remarkably serious about his work. Business Guy and Fandom Guy largely exist to bring his work to the rest of the world, and he in turn is something of the group’s priest/medium to Muse.

Business Guy is the one in charge of handling money, making travel arrangements, signing contracts, tracking ALL THE THINGS, and so on. This poor dude is strung out on espresso drinks and is currently in WAY over his head, but he’s the only one available to do the job and so he’ll have to rise to the occasion. He needs training, he needs resources, but most importantly he needs patience and love. He and Fandom Guy hang out a lot.

Fandom Guy is a silly happy bouncy otter who loves tuna sandwiches and meeting with fans and making crazy pop references! He also loves manga, furry comics, and geeky STUFF and is therefore in charge of thinking up things that geeks will want to buy, as well as promotion in general. His duties also include making sure that everything Content Guy makes gets an AWESOME PASS to punch it up and make it better, from making the jokes funnier to making the art slicker to making sure that covers have Buster somewhere in a corner whenever possible.

Muse is a spirit of some kind, unable to interact with the physical world and probably, to be honest, barely able to comprehend it. She is shrouded, mysterious, elusive, and beautiful. She’s also capricious and does what she wants, the rest of us be damned. On the other hand, she informs everything we do from start to finish and to a large extent we are all simply manifestations of her, which is probably what leads to her treating the rest of us this way. She works most directly through Content Guy, who occasionally chafes at being her slave, but also worships her like a goddess. Business Guy obeys her without question to best of his ability, and Fandom Guy thinks she’s totally awesome but wishes she would consider making his job easier by getting Content Guy to do some more mainstream stuff from time to time.

So What’s the Point?

Largely, the point of all this is to give me a mental framework to keep myself organized. My general schedule has sorta been that Mondays are Fandom Guy days, while Tuesday through Thursday are Content Guy days, and Fridays are Business Guy days, but that’s never been explicit so much as it just worked out that way. But now I can make that not only “official,” but also plan for it. “I need to add some merch… Fandom Guy, do that on Monday. Oh, taxes are coming due soon? That’s Business Guy’s job, I’ll do it Friday.”

By personifying them this way, I have also been able to analyze my own strengths and weaknesses and I know what to work on. Poor Business Guy, he needs some serious love! On the other hand, Content Guy is kind of a workaholic (and not the happiest of lions, it seems), so I need to keep that in mind, while Fandom Guy is fun and exuberant but also kind of an airhead who will probably need reining in from time to time, etc.

Plus, what the heck, it’s just fun and helps me know myself a little better. It also makes the creative process a little less lonely: yes, it’s often a very solitary process, but within myself I contain a whole team. 😉 So c’mon, gang, we’ve got work to do!

-The Gneech

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Feb 08 2016

Fandom February Feels

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So, can I just say here, I love my fans? <3 Not prompted by anything specific, I'm just remembering all the awesome things fans have done for me over the years. They've come to see me at conventions; they've supported me by buying books, prints, art, buttons, shirts, even weird little things like magnetic dress-up dolls; they've made me Guest of Honor at conventions; they've given me random presents ranging from music CDs to computer hardware to hand-knitted blankets; and best of all, they read and comment on my work. Many of them have become my good friends; many more of them have simply read, smiled, and gone on with their day. I don't want to let this go unappreciated! Yes, Fandom February is about getting the word out and growing the audience, but it's also about making sure that you crazy peeps know that you mean a lot to me, and I'm grateful, for all the things you have done, and all the things you keep on doing. You rock. :)

-The Gneech

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Jan 08 2016

Patreon Fluffery

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Patreon_Banner_Revised_highres

One of my goals with the new year has been to beef up my Patreon campaign a bit, as it was originally assembled in a fairly slapdash “This is good for a start and we’ll see how it goes!” way. To that end, I started poking around Patreon to find campaigns that were working well, ones that weren’t, and others in “my space” generally to look for best practices.

I was surprised (but pleased) to see that my campaign was actually pretty healthy compared to most– there are a depressing number of “no supporters, no pledges” campaigns out there. That said, there’s still plenty of room for improvement! Four-digit campaigns, while rare, are certainly out there, and many of them are comparable to mine in output and bennies, which gives me hope that I can get there myself!

So over the course of this week I have been working on updating, tweaking, and “fluffing” my Patreon campaign, including adding a new banner that showcases my art and trying to diversify both the goals and bennies, while being careful not to over-promise on things I couldn’t deliver.

I’m quite pleased with the results! But I’m also curious and eager for feedback and suggestions. Whattya think? I’d love to hear from you.

-The Gneech

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Nov 13 2015

Art, Comics, and Why There’s Been Precious Little of Either From Me Lately

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Long title is long.

Anyway! So what’s the deal with me? Issue four of Rough Housing was due to be up and running by now, and people are waiting on commissions and and and…

Yes. All of that is true. Guilty, nolo contendere.

There are a few explanations for this. First and foremost, Mrs. Gneech’s job evaporated, and while we’ve been living on savings, those were rapidly evaporating too, which led me to return to the world of being a barista to pay the bills. That was a pretty punishing job when I was 30. Now I am 46, and it’s devastating. Even on part-time hours I tend to spend my time at home flopped into a chair just trying to recover, and for me art is a thing that requires a certain amount of energy investment.

Second, I wrote a novel when nobody was looking! I’ve recently completed the second draft and will begin shopping it around to agents and/or publishers in December. I’m very pleased with it and I hope it will be the launch of a new career for me. But it also pretty much ate August, September, and much of October whole.

Finally, there are real art block issues I have been contending with.

Now You’re Just a Genre That I Used to Love

The furry art scene was very different when I got into it. Yes, the whole “clean vs. naughty” thing was raging on then, but there was also a lot of vitality and invention going on. “Kids’ WB” was in full force and people were drawing inspiration from things like Pokémon, Road Rovers, and Animaniacs as well as beautifully rendered animated films like The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast. Furry, like webcomics, was in a growth period, with something new and never-seen-before popping up all the time.

The genre has cooled a bit, since then. I don’t want to imply that there’s no innovation going on, because there always is– but there is a sort of standard “furry art” that is just sort of there. I recently went to my FurAffinity account after my extended writing absence and had 1,500 art pieces waiting for me by artists I follow… of which maybe 6-8 caught my attention. The rest were pretty much the same “fursona standing in a pose” portrait or “YCH orgy” thing that has been filling my watch list for the past five years.

No slices of life. No funny takes on the oddities of animal behavior. Not even so much as a “skunk stinking up the room” joke. Maybe there’s something fun and interesting going on somewhere that I haven’t seen, but right now at least it feels like the furry world is in a rut. Which in turn makes it hard to find inspiration to create new, fun, and interesting stuff. Quite the Catch-22.

The Comic I Created Wasn’t the Comic I Wanted

On a more specific note, Rough Housing was half-baked on launch. I think there’s a lot of good in it, and I intend to salvage it. But on some level I think I was still trying to create the “Verity and Tanya” story without having to reconcile the baroque steampunk look it should have with my sloppy, toony art style. But the whole thing was forced and, as I say, incompletely developed.

I’m working on fixing that now. The series is undergoing, as they say on TV, “a soft reboot.” I’ve completely thrown away my existing script for issue four and I’m rewriting it from the ground up, as well as trying to re-evaluate just what it is I want from the series and how to achieve it. I wanted a vehicle for drawing fun scenes of characters romping around on the beach or engaging in silly shenanigans, and I think there’s still plenty of room for that, but as I was writing it I was trying to shoehorn a lot of shipping things into it that really don’t belong there, or at least were not growing organically from the story, because they belonged in the “Verity and Tanya” book instead.

Hopefully, writing that book will get some of that junk out of my system and I can let Rough Housing become its own thing now. When issue four will actually come out, I’m not sure, that’s entirely dependent on the job situation and how tied up I get in publishing the novel. But it’s not just sitting there ignored!

It’s still going to be called “Buff Housing” though. I can’t let a gag like that escape. 😉

-The Gneech

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Nov 05 2015

In Which I Draw a Comic Not My Own

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Yesterday, I finished the second draft of my Sky Pirates novel and sent it off to the beta readers, which gave me a nice feeling of achievement. At ~80,900 words, it’s almost exactly the length I intended when outlining, even if that may end up being too short for some publishers.

Today, the first comic by me to see the air in a while went up, a guest comic for Matt Youngmark’s Conspiracy Friends! which is a fun romp through life as presented by the tabloids, I highly recommend it!

Meanwhile, In Hasbro's Hidden Lair...
Meanwhile, In Hasbro’s Hidden Lair…

Speaking of comics, I think I figured out what was going wrong with issue four of Rough Housing– to wit, the part of me that wanted to be writing the Sky Pirates book was starting to shoehorn stuff from it into Rough Housing instead because that’s what I was working on.

So, having written the Sky Pirates book, maybe now I can relax a bit and let Rough Housing be its own thing. There’s a longer, more detailed explanation of what’s been going on with that, with my art generally, and with furry art in particular, which I still intend to write up at some point, but not just yet. Too many topics spoil the post!

-The Gneech

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Oct 02 2015

What’s Going On Here?

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(Modified from a post on my Patreon page.)

As you’ve probably noticed, there hasn’t been much art activity here for a bit, so I think you’re due for an update.

There reason there hasn’t been much to see here in the way of comics and such is that I’ve spent the past few months writing a novel instead. Getting Rough Housing up and running has been a much more arduous process than I thought it would be, and while it has had some success, it doesn’t seem to be making the kind of impact I’d hoped it would. So, while I’m not ready to just can the project, I am looking for other things I can do that will get more bang for the buck, so to speak, and writing is one of those. The fact that I wrote a 70,000 word first draft in a month and a half probably gives you an idea of how much more facile I am with writing than with comics, even though I love them both.

In the meantime, there has been another wrinkle, which is that the company where Mrs. Gneech worked for the past 20 years is rapidly shutting down, taking her job with it. We have some savings to live on, but they will rapidly get burned up, so starting some time next week I will be returning to the life of a barista in order to bring in reliable income, at least until Mrs. Gneech finds herself something new. That will probably put the kibosh on putting out comics reliably any time soon in any case, as it takes me so long to draw them.

What does that mean for my Patreon? Honestly, I’m not entirely sure. One thing I will definitely start doing is posting story previews, character sketches, sample chapters and other such things there. That said, I know it may not be what you signed on for, so while I’d hate to see anyone go, I won’t take it personally if folks reduce or discontinue their patronage.

But for those who are staying (Thank you! ^.^) I’m very open to suggestions as to what you’d like to see! I’m going to retool the whole Goals and Pledge Rewards structure, and I was thinking of shifting from the “per month” model to a “per creation” model as well, but I’d love to hear what you have to say on the topic.

So let me know! And seriously, thank you everyone for the support you’ve provided over the years and into the future. It means a lot to me!

-John “The Gneech” Robey

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