Letters to Holly

Friday, May 20

Ready to Rumble

It's the day before the show, and I'm starting to get jittery. I won't sat anxious or worried. I can't say it's all giggly anticipation either.

I talked to another local creator today at lunch. I met him last year at the convention; his table was next to mine, and we were shunted into the far-off corner of the convention. Half our foot traffic was for the bathrooms around the corner. He hasn't done anything for this year's show, but he'll be there tomorrow. He'll sell the same material he had on hand then. He also makes buttons from old comics, and he says he'll make a new batch between lunch and the show. I can't do that. I can't go into tomorrow's show with something left to finish. That would be like not knowing all my lines for a play, and we both know I am militant and neurotic about lines.

In talking to him though, I realized there is one more thing to do, and it's smallish. I need to make price signs for my items. I plan to sell the comics for $2 each (all three for $5) and the sketches for $1. But in talking to this guy, I wonder if I'm doing myself a disservice. Maybe, I'm thinking, I should sell them for $2 too. Just sell everything for $2. At least, I also think, start at $2 and lower it to $1 if sales are slow. But I don't think they will be. These are nice cards, and $2 is nothing for clean work at that size.

I realized that the convention makes prices tricky. We local guys have gone to the big shows -- Atlanta, Charlotte, Greenville, etc -- and we've seen what the markets bear at those shows. But Fanaticon is new, and it created a new communal marketplace that didn't exist in this area before. Unlike the big shows, we creators are virtually all amateurs. We don't have the clear achievement and seal of quality that a major publisher provides. A guy who worked on Spider-Man can set a decent price for artwork. A guy like me has no understood status to latch a value onto. I have to be flexible.

I also have the notion that these first years of my convention work should be very affordable. My comics are experiments in resource organization and scheduling. I always had the three-year plan: make a comic, make a better comic, make the best comic. Next year's title(s) will be beyond what I'm selling tomorrow, and that should (and will) command a better price. Currently, however, I can't justify it, and the cheaper I make it, the more I sell. Getting my name into the local market is more important to me right now than making the most profit. But profit is a concern in the long term. This is a hobby, yes, but not a charity.

I look forward to the show. Really. But I don't look forward to the loading and unpacking. Or, worse, the potential to not leave my station for eight hours. I'll have to rely on my neighbors for bathroom breaks. I bought snacks and will guzzle water in between sales pitches. I've heard from at least two fellow parents who are bringing their kids to see the costumes and take in the atmosphere. I look forward to seeing them in my capacity as small-businessman comic creator.

Anyway, here we are. I drew a comic, drew an auction piece, and drew sketch cards. The solitary craft work is done. Now is the time to gladhand and sell it. Sunday will be the first day outside the consideration of this show I've had since July. Tonight is the auction dance party. We're invited to wear costumes. I have on a Fantastic Four shirt. With that and my hair color, I'm Mister Fantastic. Done and done.

Freaky Picture of the Day
This is a schedule guide for upcoming movies. What are the odds that these two names would appear side-by-side in this order on a TV schedule this week? I have to take this as an omen, right? Like when I saw the the deputy's names in the comic right before he was born?

Thursday, May 19

Putting Things to Bed

It was an odd evening for the deputy. He wouldn't eat dinner, but he did chug milk as if he was a few months younger. He even refused bananas. We considered feeding him solids when he woke up right before midnight (as is his routine) but decided that would rouse him up too much. We nursed him as normal and changed him into an overnight diaper and hoped for the best. He woke up three hours later. Your Sister was bolstered to hear that some babies can't sleep through the night until after they reach one year. She seemed to think we were doing something wrong.

+  +  +

I packed up my convention stuff this morning. It seems a small stack of boxes compared to the amount of work I put into it all. It might take as many as two trips from the parking deck to my table. I am supposedly on the guest list for the museum's com-eve party, but I haven't received word as to how that works. Am I on a will-call list? I called and await word on how I can take advantage of my supposedly free entry as a reward for donating an auction piece.

The museum called to say I'm on the door list. They're encouraging costumes, and I will pass. I will wear my fantastic Four shirt to subtly play Mister Fantastic. My greatest prop is my gray temples.

Picture of the Day
Sound the convention horn(s)!

Wednesday, May 18

And You Can Quote Me

We knew the local paper ran press releases verbatim. Press releases have that sales-pitch tone often using exclamation points the way some people use mirror balls to fill up garden space. Exclamation points have no place in newspaper writing except for quotes and sarcasm. I admit I planned for their practice when I rewrote the Fanaticon press release and turned it into an article about me; I thought the paper would bite on a local slant for the story. Not only did they run it verbatim, they didn't contact me to verify anything. I could have claimed to create half the Marvel universe. On one hand, I'm delighted to see my entire article run -- complete with, I think, some fantastic quotes that sell my work, Fanaticon, and comics in general -- but I'm disappointed in the standards of the paper. They have to, have to, have to vet submissions before they see print. A bored prankster could run riot with a email addresses and Mad-Libs article generator.

Also, after having said there was nothing else for me to do before convention, I decided to add a shop to my website. Folks can now buy my comics online via PayPal. I'll take Productive Nervous Fidgeting for $200, Alex.

+  +  +

The boy did not sleep through the night, but we continue to explore options to affect this. Maybe we can feed him solid food during his usual midnight wake-up session. Maybe we can put on the overnight diaper
then instead of immediately after his bath. Your Sister worries he'll continue to wake up in the dead of night as she teaches, but I think his daycare activities will wear him out. He woke up at 4:15 last night and only once. That's much better than other nights, but we can't figure out why he continues to wake up.

Picture of the Day
"Dear paper, I'm quite awesome. And I assure you I'm not a bored teenager pranking the biweekly rag."

Tuesday, May 17

Straight Cash, Homey

I went to the bank yesterday to get money for this week's convention. I made a change purse last year from one of those ubiquitous blue, zippered pouches, and I cut out cardstock dividers to separate the denominations. I debated about how much to withdraw and waffled between $100 and $200. The latter seemed overly optimistic, and I figured that if I was doing that well in sales, I'd just recirculate the money I was taking in. So $100 it was, broken up into four denominations. As I stood in line, waiting and waiting for the uncertain customers ahead of me to ask the tellers about seemingly everything involving money and banks, I tried to remember what I did with last year's money. I couldn't recall anything about it following the convention, and I reckoned I put it back in the bank. Why wouldn't I?

Apparently, it's because I'm an idiot because I found last year's stash in the change purse when I got home. My change purse is now overflowing. (Note to any would-be robbers: I'm freshly instructed in Body Combat. I will air kick you in the air face.) Sadly, I will not be able to shop at the convention. I won't have a chance to walk around while the vendor tables are open. But I will be attending a convention in Charlotte two weeks later, and that show is bigger with more offerings.

I also cut up four more artboards to make blank sketch cards in the again overly optimistic notion that there will be a run on wallet-size artwork. But, hey, whatever I don't use this year rolls over to next year.

With this, I really am through with convention stuff. I might make another sketch or two, but I consider that warm-up exercise than a lingering chore. The museum show is three days away. I can only wait. 

+  +  +

The sidekick refuses to sleep through the night, and we are about to strangle him. He awoke at 3 last night and stayed awake despite all Your Sister's ministrations. I got up to take a turn around 4, and he nodded off only to pop awake as soon as he was lain down. I took him to the living room to maybe play himself asleep, but he only sat there. It was eerie. He sat perfectly quiet and clear-eyed for ten minutes. I decided to change his overnight diaper and took him back to the living room to hopefully wind down. I turned off the lights to help him gear down, and that's when I realized we've always put him to bed with the nite-light and heart-sounds bear. Maybe he's over-stimulated.

If he was fully awake in the living room because the light was on, maybe he thinks it's daylight and time to be awake. In the nursery, I turned off the bear and light, and he again nodded off, but this time he stayed out when I put him down. And thus he stayed for another three hours, allowing Your Sister to sleep away the strangling urges. We now have a theory to pursue, reducing our feelings of helplessness in the face of his inability to sleep. If this works, I'm not ashamed to admit I wanna medal for figuring this out. My alarm woke me up this morning, and I let Your Sister sleep while I made coffee and heard the boy sleeping and strutted to the workshop like George Jefferson. Fatherhood: Fuck, yeah.

Almost forgot: He can point to commonly identified objects. You name it, he finds it.

+  +  +

We began our new diets yesterday. I learned how to use the Weight Watchers point calculator, and we gobbled popcorn with abandon.   

Picture of the Day
McDonald's once had a cast of characters. They seemed to have peaked with the Fry Guys.

Monday, May 16

Body Combative

I have friends from high school who are now certified Body Combat instructors. They needed a weight-loss program, found this program at the same time, became addicted, and now have part-time jobs teaching it. They live about as far apart in the contiguous US as people can, and they get together to attend BC events and camps. They post about it on Facebook from time to time. I saw enough to be curious, and I certainly saw the results. Rebecca, for instance, lost 100 at least pounds. Looks great.

I knew the local fitness club sometimes offered the class during open houses, and Your Sister told me about the latest round of such classes this weekend. We arranged our time around the sidekick, and I went Saturday morning. I thought "open-house classes" meant "introductory classes." This is not the case, and now I am wounded.

There were three instructors in the BC regalia: camouflage and hands wrapped like boxers. I had Googled Boy Combat the day before, and I knew to expect bouncing and fight moves. Not Tae Bo. No, this is faster and harder. I expected that. Everything else was a surprise.

Such as:

1. No stretching beforehand. Maybe fitness classes expect you to stretch before you walk in the door. I have not taken any kind of organized exercise class since Brevard College. That's 20 years ago. I didn't know the class time would not include this. And I need to point out that the club folk were very cavalier about a brand-new face walking in. I approached this as a prospective relationship, a first date maybe. I fully intended to sign up for a class if things went well (Spoiler: Things did not go well). But when I walked in, I had to approach people and ask what we newbies should do. The people behind the counter seemed disinterested, and when I saw the sign-up sheet for newbies, I understood why: I was the third name. That means they either had only three new people this fine morn, or people had wandered by without talking to the counter folk. There was a third possibility that occurred to me later: The "open house" was designed for existing customers to branch out to new classes, and the public were a secondary concern. But I'm a prospective customer. I thought I'd be, you know, aggressively welcomed.

2. Hit the ground running. After a few walk-throughs of punch styles, we were off. This was when I realized that we would not be working our way up to the regular class pace. We would start fast and only get faster. It seems like I was the only new guy there, and let's talk about that noun choice.

3. Don't be the only guy in a class of women. I think I threw off the usual class vibe. Not only was I a stranger, I was male. It's possible they thought I was arrogant about taking this class the first time among all the ladies.

4. Don't exercise up front. The back section of the classroom was nabbed quickly, and I was left working the open space facing the elevated stage and the instructors. That prevented me from watching and matching the effort of my classmates and left me to try to mirror the teachers. That is where the pain was born. Even though they would say things like "kick lower, this is Level One," they would soon say things like "Come on! Harder!" So, mixed messages. I was working on a varsity level from the get-go.

I had to stop a few time when my thigh locked up, and I suspect my fighting stance was too wide. I could also feel my ankles, probably from all the bounces (or "pulses"). Today, my arches are sore, and I blame that on my shoes. I think I would have been fine had I done that work barefoot or in other shoes. These are running shoes, not cross trainers.

Eventually, I had to pull over and stretch, and another class member came over to ask if I was light-headed. I explained it was only my legs, and I immediately 'fessed up. "I wasn't prepared." My own expectations did me in, not their program. I went out to get water and was met by someone with a cup of fruit juice. Word had apparently gotten around, and there was concern that my heart was the problem. Nope, I said, lungs and heart were fine. I just burned out my legs. I noticed we were 40 minutes into the class, and I decided to tough it out. I could shove through 20 more minutes, I thought.

But as we did a move mimicking a kneelift to an attacker's head, I came down bad and rolled my ankle. That was enough. I know that when I get so tired that I get sloppy, that's when I'll get hurt. I grabbed my towel and keys and walked out, thanking again the lady who checked on me. The instructors didn't say a word to me. I don't know if they had any reason or obligation to, but I walked out of the fitness club with no one saying anything to me. Again, I feel like they were underselling the experience, and I'm left thinking I needn't go back.

I want to get in decent shape, and that class might be the way to do it. But if I have to get in shape to take the class, by the time I get into shape, I won't need to take the class.

+  +  +

I finally have a flyer at Malaprop's. I took the flyer long ago earmarked for that store during a lunch break. I was told it will be posted on their board Thursday. That's not as much exposure as I'd prefer, but they do get much more foot traffic than any other place hosting my flyer. True Blue had taken down my coupon flyer, and I gave them a regular one to put up. Apparently they had forgotten about the similar one I gave them weeks back. Anyway, I was assured they'd put up the one from today, and they seemed happy to post Fanaticon material.

I scouted the museum to check parking and loading access. I wanted to see inside, but they are closed Mondays. I instead went by the bank to get my money to make change at the show.

The only thing I would do between now and the show is cut out more blank sketch cards. I assembled my displays. I customized my portfolio spine, I printed my Monster Comic page for those who buy a minicomic, and I bought the vertical holders for the eMMA comics. That's all there is to do.

+  +  +

Your Sis and I are gonna get in shape. We're adjusting out dinner and dessert portions and committing to moving round more. We got rained out of a Saturday walkabout, but she did bike while I was destroying my legs at Body Combat.

+  +  +

The boy won't sleep through the night, even as we pack him full of more food and get him moving more. This situation is not making for happy parents.

Picture of the Day
Watch the hands, mister.