Shelf Life: A Day in the Writing Life

Thu, May 2nd, 2013 at 2:58pm PDT | Updated: May 2nd, 2013 at 3:25pm

Comic Books
Ron Marz, Columnist

A Day in the Writing Life

Ron collaborated on a special FCBD issue for Excellent Adventures & Comic Depot
Covers by Joe Sinnott (L) and Jennifer Meyer

One of the questions I'm usually asked (shortly after "Where do you get your ideas?" and "Do you write the words in those bubbles?") is "What's it like to work at home?"

Well, the obvious plus is, I don't have to go anywhere. Within reason, I can do what I want, when I want. I don't wake up to an alarm clock. My commute is down a staircase, from my bedroom to my office. I don't have to go out when the winter weather is nasty. I get to see my wife and kids way more than I would if I worked outside the house. I don't have to wear pants.

On the other side of the ledger, I'm always at work. I'm not one of those people who can treat an at-home job like a regular job, starting at 9 a.m. and stopping at 5 p.m. I work as long as I need to, or as long as I can stay upright.

I love my job, and I'm blessed to have it. But it can be a grind. Every day is different, but there's also a similarity to each day (and night, and weekend). This was my day last Wednesday, as I was getting ready for C2E2, writing a script, putting a special Free Comic Book Day issue to bed, and trying to deal with the rest of the usual duties. This was a pretty typical day, actually. If you want to be a writer, you need to be a juggler. Here's how it goes:

8 a.m. - wake up, throw on a ratty pair of sweat pants and a Kirby Krackle T-shirt. Breakfast of oatmeal, yogurt with fresh pomegranate seeds and coffee, kindly served up by my wife. First thing every morning is reading and responding to e-mails. It's not unusual for me to get 75 or even 100 e-mails a day, so my inbox overflows if I don't attend to it regularly. Actually, that's not true, it overflows no matter what I do.

My morning inbox always brings a range of important things that need to be dealt with right now, stuff that can be dealt with later, and stuff that just gets deleted. This morning, among the urgent tasks is proofing an original FCBD comic I wrote, to be given out at Excellent Adventures in Ballston Spa and Comic Depot in Saratoga Springs. I got together with some of the other Albany-area creators to produce an exclusive FCBD book that explains the process of creating a comic, from script to art to lettering to color. I wrote it, Paul Harding and Matthew Dow Smith drew it, Rich Clark handled tones and design, and Troy Peteri lettered it. Jennifer L. Meyer drew the Comic Depot cover, while legendary inker Joe Sinnott drew the Excellent Adventures cover.

Interior pages from the FCBD book by Paul Harding (top) and Matthew Dow Smith (bottom)

Opening the PDF, I discover not all corrections from the previous round were made, so I send an e-mail to make sure we can push back the local printer's deadline by a day. I find out we can. The issue is almost perfect, but it still needs some tweaks.

Other e-mail necessities this morning:

*Lots of back and forth concerning the impending C2E2, communicating with longtime Chicago Bear Israel Idonije, his media coordinator, and everyone putting together the Athleta Comics debut at the con.

*Rewrite back cover copy for the next issue of "The Legends of Aveon 9," (a comic that I edit for India-based Rovolt Entertainment). I start the rewrite, but set it aside as more urgent e-mails arrive.

*I discover that an essay I already edited for "Aveon 9" has been revised, but from the first draft, rather than my edited version. Which means I'll have to piece together another final version.

*e-mail the parents of players on my Little League team, letting them know we're changing fields for tonight's practice.

*Commit to appearing at Granite State Con in New Hampshire, and reach out to other area creators to see who might want to tag along, since it's close enough to drive.

*Communicate with my brother about the continuing care for my mother, who has severe Alzheimer's.

*Coordinate scheduling of a school library program, at which I'll explain how comics are put together.

*Take a look at the power point presentation for Athleta Comics for C2E2, as well as some character turnarounds by Bart Sears for something else at C2E2 that I'm not supposed to mention yet.

*Jump on Twitter and remind people of the Athleta booth number, and that we'll have bookmarks and cards to give away, in addition to copies of "The Protectors" #0 and T-shirts for sale.

Statue concepts for "The Protectors" by Bart Sears

*Respond to panel invite for Minnesota Spring Con.

*Print e-mail confirming my badge for Comic-Con International San Diego. Somebody went out of their way to do me a favor, which is much appreciated.

*Check on my fantasy baseball team. Still in second place, despite Ike Davis and Giancarlo Stanton continuing to stink it up.

*Find out when my interview about returning to "Witchblade" will run. (Turns out it was yesterday.)

I do most of this while listening to the new Paramore and Phoenix albums. I like the Paramore a bunch, and I'm warming to the Phoenix, but I wish it had more guitars.

10 a.m. - second cup of coffee. I try to limit myself to two cups a day. No soda, ever. Still dealing with e-mail bits and pieces. I look outside and realize it's a beautiful day, and accept that there's no time to take a walk or bike ride today.

I get some pages from Lee Moder and Jennifer Meyer respectively, from an under-wraps story we're working on. Then I send feedback for Marco Turini's art for "Artifacts" #28.

10:30 a.m. - my wife gets back from her morning run, and I ask her to read the FCBD issue (she's a former journalist -- we met when we worked at the same newspaper -- and she proofreads most of what I write). She finds a repeated word I'd missed in a balloon, causing me to unleash a stream of profanity.

10:45 a.m. - finally return to the "Aveon 9" back cover copy and finish it off.

11 a.m. - loop back to a one-page pitch piece for "The Protectors" that should've been done yesterday, but got shoved to the back burner.

11:20 a.m. - one-pager done. Spend the next 20 minutes catching up on more e-mail, including making plans to meet up in Chicago with current "Superman" artist Kenneth Rocafort and his sister Jessica, two of my favorite people.

11:35 a.m. - phone call to reschedule son's college appointment with a music school. Yes, I'm baffled that I have a soon-to-be college-age son.

11:40 a.m. - take a break for a few minutes break to read an article on the "John Carter" failure at Disney.

11:50 a.m. - swap e-mails with Rich Clark to schedule a conference call for later tonight, so we can go over the necessary corrections for the FCBD issue.

Noon - get away from the computer to actually get some writing done. Break down pages of a short story that I didn't know was needed until late yesterday. But before I do, I tweet a link to a Newsarama story about Stephen Mooney's "Half Past Danger" from IDW: http://www.newsarama.com/comics/half-past-danger-idw-interview.html

Figure turnarounds for "The Protectors" by Bart Sears

12:45 p.m. - back into my office, looking for a book on Japanese supernatural legends that Lee Moder gave me. Can't find it, thanks to reorganizing my bookshelves a few months ago. So back to the internet for research. The idea for the short story, which didn't exist an hour ago, is starting to take shape.

1:30 p.m. - quick lunch of an egg with goat cheese, a salad with hummus, and some fruit. My wife's a pretty strict vegetarian, and while I'm not, I don't eat a lot of meat. I nosh at my desk while I dive back into e-mail and Twitter, including an exchange with "Irredeemable" artist Peter Krause about getting Twins tickets for when I'm in Minnesota next month. I have to remember to bring Pete a "Shinku" TPB at C2E2.

1:45 p.m. - back to sorting out story details, breaking down pages. I re-read my "Samurai: Heaven and Earth" short story that appeared in the previous iteration of "Dark Horse Presents," to make sure it's not too similar. It's not.

1:56 p.m. - interrupted by robot phone call, touting a free cruise in Florida! Bite me.

2:10 p.m. - another wrong number. It's Time-Warner cable wanting to set up service for "the cafe," that they had previously been discussing with my father Ralph. I have to tell them there's no cafe, no Ralph, and my father has been dead for 16 years.

When stuff like this happens, it's not the length of the interruption, it's the fact that it pulls me out of a writing zone. It'll take a while to get back there. Might as well walk to the end of the driveway and get the mail now, and then get back to the story.

3 p.m. - hit an impasse in the story. Half the pages are broken down in a notebook, but I'd really like an extra page, and there's neither time nor budget for it. I'm stuck with an awkward bottom-of-the-page reveal that should actually go on a page turn.

Check e-mail, hook up a retailer friend, Darren Carrara, with the guys who handle the Granite State Con. People in this business help each other out. Ten minutes later, our black Labrador Retriever comes into my office, flops on the floor, and lets out a heavy sigh. I know how she feels.

Rovolt's "The Legends of Aveon 9" Vol. 1 cover art

3:15 p.m. - I realize I've missed a call from Top Cow editor Bryan Rountree. I have to call him back, but I don't want further distraction from the story, so I'll call in a bit.

3:25 p.m. - my kids hop off the school bus. Younger son starts picking out tunes on the piano, while older son start playing his guitar. No more quiet house. Meanwhile, my wife is starting to get things ready for C2E2, since this one is going to be a family trip.

3:45 p.m. - finish breaking down more of the pages, enough that I can wing the rest at the keyboard. I ask my wife if she'll type while I dictate the breakdowns to her. She's a better typist than I am, and anytime I don't have to be in front of the keyboard is a plus.

4:20 p.m. - interrupted by brief Skype chat with my pal Andy Lanning, catching up on the some details I can't share with you.

5 p.m. - got five pages of script typed, but have to quit now in order to make Little League practice with my 9-year-old. Still didn't get a shower. I take five minutes to check e-mail again, respond to interview request for Chicago's NBC affiliate, and reply to an e-mail from ComicConn in Connecticut.

I race upstairs to change, so I can be out of the house by 5:15. Before I dash out of the house, my older son plays me the classical guitar piece he's been working on with his guitar teacher. It's pretty awesome.

5:15-7:15 p.m. - Little League practice. I throw about 170 pitches of batting practice. By the end, my arm feels like a noodle.

7:15 p.m. - call my editor Bryan on the way home from practice, and compare notes on upcoming deadlines.

7:30 p.m. - bolt down a quick dinner of Trader Joe's Chicken Tikka Masala while watching the Mets game. The kids and my wife have already eaten.

8 p.m. - done with dinner, back to the script.

8:30 p.m. - call with Rich Clark so we can walk through the last corrections to our FCBD comic.

"Artifacts" #28 cover by Stjepan Sejic; Ron Had to go over Marco Turini's interior art for the issue

9:15 p.m. - phone call with Rich done, so I jump back to the script for half an hour.

9:45 p.m. - take a break to watch an hour of "Hannibal" with my wife, accompanied by a glass of pinot noir and a handmade chocolate from our friends who own a candy shop, Krause's Chocolates. It's better than some fava beans and a nice Chianti. When "Hannibal" ends an hour later, I'm just in time to catch a rare Mets win thanks to a walk-off grand slam.

11 p.m. - my wife has gone to bed (she's always up early to get the kids off to school), so I'm back at the desk to finish the remaining pages of the eight-page story.

12:40 a.m. - script finished. It needs a read-through and some edits, but I'll do those the following morning, when I'm a little more awake. It's too easy to miss typos and flaws when you're tired. I wanted to get into bed earlier, because I need to get to sleep early tomorrow night, so I can get up at 4:30 a.m. Friday to catch my plane to Chicago. But that "get into bed earlier" thing didn't exactly happen. At least I'll finally get my shower now.

1 a.m. - showered and pretty dead-dog tired. But I still break down some more pages for the next "Artifacts" issue when I get into bed. Long day, but things got accomplished. My reward? I get up tomorrow and do it all over again.

Ron Marz has been writing comics for two decades, and thinks it's pretty much the best job ever. His current work includes "Artifacts" and "Ravine" for Top Cow, "The Protectors" for Athleta Comics and his creator-owned title, "Shinku," for Image. Follow him on Twitter (@ronmarz) and his website, www.ronmarz.com.

TAGS:  ron marz, shelf life, paul harding, matthew dow smith, the protectors, bart sears

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