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We’re baaaaaaaaack!

So, there is a bit of a delay between our last post and this one. We apologize for that, but [INSERT LAME EXCUSE HERE]. Hopefully, you can understand and sympathize. In fact, we’re so lame that we’re using the same lame beginning from two posts ago. Don’t worry, we do have a cranium-rectal extraction planned to take place soon. Anyway….

If you recall from an earlier post waaaaaaaaay long ago, we promised to reprint our series of articles called “The Journey.” For those who are not familiar – when Chris and I began our illustrious careers as writers, we had a syndicated internet column called “The Drunken Comic Book Monkeys” where we babbled on about comic books and the world of entertainment in general. “The Journey” is a series of articles detailing some of our exploits into the world of micro-press publishing. We thought it might be interesting to reprint them. So, here is the third installment. Let us know what you think!

 

The Journey

“To Arms!”

 

The day of Friday, July 2nd 2004 was a surprisingly pleasant day. Warm enough to remind us that it was summer, but cool enough to mistake it for spring. Nary a cloud in the sky, the sun had free reign to exercise its will upon all who beheld it, especially two adventurers in south, central Pennsylvania. That was the day Chris and I played hooky from our respective jobs to visit local print shops.

Our original plan was to visit the area print shops on Monday, the 5th, seeing how both our places of employment were closed for the Independence Day holiday. It’s quite embarrassing, the amount of time between formulating our original plan and realizing that if both of our employers were closed, then logic would dictate that the area print shops would be closed as well. However, we quickly recovered by coming up with a reasonably good idea. Using my vast knowledge of Excel, we created an easy to use pricing grid, so the shops could quickly drop in what they’d charge for different quantities and different page counts for both full color comics as well as black and white. Little did we know what amounts they’d be dropping into those grids!

The day started with breakfast at the local diner. Chris had a coffee and a bagel. I, Sasquatch, ate two eggs, a side of bacon, a slice of ham, hash-browns, three chickens, a sheep, and a frightened villager attempting to flee. Never underestimate the importance of a good breakfast. While in the diner, we (very uncharacteristically) prepared for our day by charting out our stops and in what order to hit them. That included a printed map of Harrisburg and surrounding suburbs with annotated and footnoted visual approximations of where the various print shops were located. Our waitress took one glance at our notes and was speechless. Chris told her that I was the guy from “A Beautiful Mind.” We can only assume that she requested to her manager that someone else wait on our table, because that was the last we saw of her during our time there. Oh well. Onward and upward.

I was excited. I felt adventurous and entrepreneurial. It may have been the sugar, but I felt like fighting crime, rescuing a damsel in distress and saying, “I’m Batman!” Chris showed his enthusiasm a different way. After arriving at every destination he would scream, “Dude, stop standing on my car yelling like a lunatic! And take that mask off – no one believes you’re Batman!”

The journey itself went smoothly. I could say that my parents were right about reaping the rewards of good organization and executing a well thought out plan, but I’ll instead say it was a fluke that things went so well.  The first place we visited was a smaller shop known more for business cards and wedding invitations, but they were close by and we were itching to start. They warned us that they were probably not going to be competitive, but they took one of our pricing grids and talked to us anyway. And we learned a couple things – it takes them awhile to compile a price, so we weren’t going to get any figures that day, and the printing term “bleed” means artwork that goes to and beyond the borders.

As can be expected with any comparison-shopping, there were some snafus along the way, specifically the people we were dealing with. One guy actually laughed at us. Now, we’re very aware that when the representatives from most places were smiling at us it was to stifle a laugh. And we’re pretty sure the guy who laughed was “visiting the Astral Plane with Dr. Strange” in the back room before we came in. We had another place tell us that their services were meant for “more business related customers.” There was also the hole-in-the-wall that was located in an all but abandoned lot in the seedier side of the neighborhood that we dared not enter. We simply (and probably wisely) drove on by, crossed it off our annotated and footnoted list, and sought out our next target.

There was one place that has dug itself into my brain like a mental tick, though. The address took us onto the typical specialty shop and café laden market street of the typical picturesque small town, America. However, the print shop was difficult to find, for it was hidden behind the market street buildings, accessible only by alleyway and parking lot. Being curious monkeys, we ventured into the crooked building that could have served as a prohibition distillery, despite the summer afternoon breeze carrying with it the “Dueling Banjos” tune. Holding true to the ramshackle environment, we were greeted with, “Who’s there? What do you want?” by a scowling man, seemingly ready to grab his shot gun and start shooting if he suspected us to be IRS agents after his moonshine. Yet, we talked to him anyway, because we heard that this shop offered some of the best prices. The conversation was uneasy and pensive, the underlying tension of walking through a field of set mousetraps.  He must have spent too much time inhaling ink fumes or exotic paper particles, because during mid-thought he’d space out and change the conversation thread more often than an obsessive-compulsive with the flu changes handkerchiefs. We were both happy to leave; neither of us having to squeal like a pig.

For the most part, the people we talked to were wonderful and very helpful, quick to answer all of our questions and share any knowledge. We got an education – one that could have only been acquired through the experience. One particular shop excelled at that. Every person there not only treated us well, but were also excited about what we were trying to do, asking us more questions than we asked them. Except for one conspiracy diatribe about “the paper company bastards” all meeting in secret locations every year to collectively raise the price of paper, we felt very comfortable with them. They also got bonus points for every member of the staff having their own micrometer – even the receptionist!

After visiting a dozen different print shops in one day, we rewarded ourselves with an all-you-can-eat stromboli and pizza buffet. As a side note – a beer never tastes any better than at 2:00 in the afternoon when you have the day off and the rest of the world is at work! Alas, our adventure concluded with a late afternoon showing of “Spider-Man 2.”

Yes, we also searched on-line for national companies who print comic books more often than the local ones we visited. We won’t bore you with all the places we found and contacted. I’m sure you’d find the same places we did by simply typing in “comic book printing” in any search engine. However, we will tell you that if you’re planning on doing a black and white comic, then The Small Press Co-Op might be the place for you. They had the best prices for what we were looking to do and (judging from the sample they sent to us) they do quality work.

All in all, if anyone reading this is thinking about self-publishing, then we suggest you do as much research as possible about printing since it is the most important part of the publishing process. Even though we’re probably going to use the Small Press Co-op, the experience of taking a day off work to visit local printers was an invaluable piece in the education puzzle. Hell, even if you’re not planning on self-publishing, we suggest you visit some local print shops anyway – you might find some good moonshine….

Next Issue: “Reconnaissance.”

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Deconstructing the Stories, Part 2

BRIAN SAYS:

Look at us posting another entry within a year from our last one! It’s like we’re trying to keep some form of schedule. Crazy! Anyway….

If you recall from a loooooong time ago (last year), we started a blog segment called “Deconstructing the Stories” wherein we wanted to take you behind the scenes for our short story collection, The Drunken Comic Book Monkeys in: Scary Tales of Scariness. For those of you who might be unfamiliar with this work – it’s a collection of short stories by Chris and me featuring ourselves as characters of horror stories. If you’d like to familiarize yourselves with this book before we continue, you can order a hardcopy here or here (Amazon) and you can order an eVersion here. Okay, so now that you’ve read the book from cover to cover, the first question you might have is how we came up with the idea in the first place. Well, we went over that in “Deconstructing the Stories, Part 1.” The second question you might ask is how we’re allowed to mingle with regular society. We don’t know either. The third question might be which stories in the book are our favorites. Okay, we know the answer to that question!

For me, I would have to say it’s “The Drunken Comic Book Monkeys vs. La Chupacabra.” First, it was the first story first written, firstly, and you always remember your firsts first. First is a funny word if you say it too many times. Anyway, it became the first story we wrote because when we made the list of creatures we wanted to tussle with, the top three monsters were obvious (vampires, zombies, werewolves), and even some other monsters made the list with very little thought (blob, ghosts, the devil, a slasher), but the ones that quickly intrigued us were the little known ones, such as the chupacabra. How were we going to write a story about a topic with only a handful of resource materials and even fewer recognizable tropes? For this whole book to be successful, this was one of the first questions we needed to answer.

Chris and I started off waking up in a Tijuana jail cell. One of the potential pitfalls of writing a piece where you’re the main character is that there is a chance that you’ll include an inside joke or a reference that only you know. Chris and I constantly joked about waking up in a Tijuana jail cell. So, we had to gut-check most of our jokes – are they too much of an inside joke for the readers? With that question in mind, we moved forward with the story and jokes, trying our hand at different types of comedy ranging from the subtle (arguing with a goat) to the absurd (a French speaking Mexican character).

With this story, we also inadvertently came up with two important items in the “Drunken Comic Book Monkey” lore – the beer pants and the goat. The beer pants are pretty self-explanatory. Whenever we (the characters) needed a cold beer, we’d procure one by reaching into our pants’ pocket. At the time, we (the writers) didn’t know how the beer pants worked. For those of you who haven’t made it to the end of the book yet – yes, we do explain how the beer pants work. Then, there’s the goat. The goat who can outdrink us. Throughout the Drunken Comic Book Monkey series, we pride ourselves in our drinking abilities. Sadly, that pride resonates in both of us as characters and writers. We added the goat with supernatural alcohol stamina as a joke. It’s a goat! Who can outdrink us! That’s funny! At the time, we didn’t realize that the goat was going to be a fan-favorite character. I mean, we should have guessed that was going to happen since the goat is a recurring character not named Brian or Chris.

After finishing “DCM vs La Chupacabra”, we set the tone and answered a few questions we had about the project. We also realized that we could dip back into the pool of characters that we create along the way, such as the goat and El Tigre Grande. Plus, it’s just a fun story! So, that is why this is my favorite story of the book.

CHRIS SAYS:

It’s completely cliché to say that choosing your favorite story is akin to picking your favorite child. So I’ll forgo that approach and say, instead, that the line is thoroughly untrue. It’s nothing like trying to pick your favorite child. The difficulty is that it’s easy to like stories for such vastly different reasons that it’s often difficult to choose – unless you have a sound process to determine what matters most to you. It just so happens that I do….

Oh those many years ago, Brian and I found ourselves perched atop barstools (where else would you find the two of us?), laughing like asylum escapees over this whole Scary Tales of Scariness idea. We were taking turns playing “Oh, yeah? Well, then I’m gonna…,” concocting a potential story idea giving the other person more agita than the previous story idea that caused eczema for the soul. It was hysterical! Well, it was hysterical for the two of us. Looking back I realize that no one else in the Hooter’s restaurant shared in our enthusiasm. In fact, I remember thinking at the time that our neighbor consumed his wings at an impossible pace. I may have thought then that he was practicing for a wing eating contest, but, alas….

When I first blurted out that I wanted to do a story where we face zombies, because Brian hates zombies, I quickly coupled it with the idea that there would be no speech tags. Sure, they can be used to convey a character’s frame of mind, but I often view them as the speed bumps of the written word, merely serving to slow down both the reader and the writer. Robert Heinlein often had two characters engage in pages of back-and-forth dialogue that was thoroughly successful without speech tags, so why the heck not give it a shot? In fact, I even went so far as to challenge myself to do the entire story as dialogue, not a single word of narrative to grace the pages! I appreciate effort and authenticity as a reader, which I knew going into things would be a fair challenge with the recent popularity of zombie stories.

The story came out so quickly that I actually found it difficult to be an amanuensis for my muse. But she, my shrill harpy of a muse, continued to harangue me, reminding me that deadlines were created specifically with procrastinators like me in mind, so I did my best to avoid in the moment editing on the first draft. As I typed I was fully aware that I’d never thought up the ending to the story. At this point, it was the first story I’d written for Scary Tales of Scariness, so there was no other material available for me, no previous story to use as a tie-in… and then it hit me that I could make this piece the tie-in story. Brian hates open-ended stories and if I went to him with my very first piece and told him there’s no real ending, he’d blow a head gasket. How perfect was that? I could do what I do best: be a further annoyance! And as I worked towards the pseudo-ending I matched up the ridiculous notion of “The Drunken Comic Book Monkeys vs. The Potato People” as the successor story and how that could ultimately lead into the “Drunken Comic Book Monkeys vs. Cthulhu” story, which Brian had already challenged me to write sans any dialogue. Thus a trifecta of stories was planned out amidst the clacking of the keyboard keys.

It’s been mentioned to me in the past that I’m a pretty simple guy (usually as a somewhat less than obscure comment on my mental faculties, much like an amoeba being a simple organism). If my ultimate criterion for determining my favorite anything is the annoyance of my Fortress Publishing, Inc co-owner, then I guess I’d have a difficult time trying to argue to the contrary any point concerning my simplicity as a human being. Or an amoeba. But I think I’m perfectly okay with that….

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The Journey, Part II

We’re baaaaaaaaack!

So, there is a bit of a delay between our last post and this one. We apologize for that, but [INSERT LAME EXCUSE HERE]. Hopefully, you can understand and sympathize. Anyway….

If you recall from an earlier post waaaaaaaaay long ago, we promised to reprint our series of articles called “The Journey.” For those who are not familiar – when Chris and I began our illustrious careers as writers, we had a syndicated internet column called “The Drunken Comic Book Monkeys” where we babbled on about comic books and the world of entertainment in general. “The Journey” is a series of articles detailing some of our exploits into the world of micro-press publishing. We thought it might be interesting to reprint them. So, here is the second installment. Let us know what you think!

The Journey

“Assemble!”

by

Brian Koscienski
&
Chris Pisano

Now that Chris and I decided to take the big step into self-publishing, it’s time to begin. Okay. Where?

When beginning a journey such as this (and from what we’ve heard it’s a long, arduous, nasty, pain-staking journey), we felt it was important to define our goals in great detail. What did we want from this? Of course, fame, fortune, and hot groupies topped the list, but we decided to keep our goals a little more realistic and attainable. After a little soul searching, again at the local bar, we decided that we simply wanted to publish something. Anything. Even if it was just one comic book, that would be enough.

Once we figured out that our primary goal is to one day walk into the local comic shop and see our creation on the shelf, we brought it up to Gabe and Jac (still pronounced Jake). Gabe is a seemingly mellow person, and he has successfully fooled all whom believe that. The reality is his mind works like a bag of microwave popcorn, without the bag. When Chris and I met with Gabe, we told him our plan and asked if he wanted to be a part of it. He froze for a split second, many free flying kernels suspended in mid-pop, contemplating the words he just heard. Then the microwave restarted and the popping commenced, until **ding** when he said, “Yeah. Sounds cool. Let’s do it!” Jac, on the other hand, is a husband and father of three, but he said he was in. Then the four of us sat down for our first meeting.

Of course, the very first thing on the agenda was choosing a company name. We needed a group identity, a super hero team name if you will, before we could continue. One of us remembered that during one of my profanity-laden tirades about receiving another rejection letter from Epic a week prior, I said something like, “If they are the House of Ideas, then we are the Fortress of Ideas.” Thus, Fortress Publishing was born, and we were born from it.

With the most important task behind us, we went over what we needed to start this company and conjure up an estimate of how much cash would be necessary to get what we didn’t have. Since we’re men, it was our reflex to throw out the instructions and start building; any left over parts be damned! We fought hard against that reflex and decided to go with the standard checklist. Beer. Check. Little voice that said, “Guys, you shouldn’t do this because you don’t know what you’re doing and you’ll drive yourselves more insane.” Check. More beer to drown out the little voice. Check. Okay, all the primary tools were accounted for, time to move on.

Falling back to our goal of “just produce something, anything” we decided we should shelve the idea of offices, limos, and company jets for the short term. That meant we’ll all just be working from our homes, using our own computers. Since we didn’t want to use anyone’s house or phone as the business address or phone number, we decided to rent a mailbox and simply get a dedicated cell phone. Each would cost us less than $150/year. Check. We don’t know much about the industry, but we did know that the software packages of choice are currently PhotoShop, Illustrator, Quark, and a couple others. Between the four of us, we had those. Check. Of course, we’d need our own website. Those don’t cost much, but to actually have someone set it up for you, does. However, we know enough people willing to do that for a case of beer, so we’re good to go. No matter the micro or macro economic climate of this ever-changing world, the beer barter system is alive and well. Check. That left business set-up, accounting, advertising, and inventory costs.

Before we could get into the business set-up and accounting, we needed to figure out which business entity we wanted from the choices of sole-proprietorship, General Partnership, Limited Partnership, C Corporation, S Corporation, LLP, or LLC. Seeing how many choices we had, we almost ran screaming. However, we were able to immediately drop a few from the list. A sole-proprietorship is exactly how it sounds — one, and only one, person owns the company. It’s very easy to set up and very flexible in terms of finances (it’s easy to put in and take out money), but that one person bears the responsibility and liability for the company. A partnership is like it sounds also; a group of people pool their resources to form a company. It’s also pretty easy to set up (although, a written partnership agreement should be made and signed by all partners) and is financially flexible. But just like the sole-proprietorship, all the partners are held personally responsible for the company. A General Partnership means all the partners actively participate and make decisions, while a Limited Partnership means only one person actively makes decisions. A corporation is its own separate entity, a living breathing whole other person in the eyes of the law, with shareholders, board of directors, officers, the whole nine.

After looking at our organizational options, we, like possibly some of you right now, slipped into a partially catatonic, Homer Simpson state where a stream of drool flowed from our chins as we dreamed about doughnuts. Glorious doughnuts. So, we crossed a few off the list. Sole Proprietorship didn’t work for us – we all wanted to actively participate since we were all going to be contributing money. That kind of made crossing off Limited Partnership easy as well as an LLP (Limited Liability Partnership – a limited partnership with less legal liabilities). A C Corporation has great liability protection, but it seemed a bit extreme since it’s difficult to put money in and take money out, so that got scratched too.

We were then left with General Partnership, S Corporation and LLC (Limited Liability Company). Every once in a while, when we’re sober, we’ve been known to be reasonably intelligent, so we decided that we would do more research before next meeting about the three remaining organizational structures.

Next on the agenda was accounting. Since I’m an accountant, we decided I’d do the accounting. For those of you who may be contemplating starting your own business, fear not, accounting for a small business is much like balancing your own checkbook, except you have to categorize your expenses. There are some tricky things, though, so I do recommend you at least talk to a public accountant. However, they are pretty expensive, so keep your questions concise and learn how to do the bookkeeping yourself. Mmmmm, glorious doughnuts.

Finally, we talked about inventory. Since printing was another topic we knew nothing about, we knew we had to do some heavy, in-depth research. And that is a whole separate story…

Next Issue: “To Arms!”

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Be kind to us… It’s our first blog entry!

BRIAN SAYS:

Imbroglio.
Noun.
1. A perplexing state.
2. An overly complicated and/or difficult situation.
3. Confusion.
4. Anything that Brian Koscienski & Chris Pisano are involved with.

Welcome to our first blog post! After reading the definition of the word “imbroglio”, it should be easy to understand why we named our blog “Imbloglio.” Of course, it’s only funny if you mispronounce “imbroglio” as im-brog-lee-o. (The proper pronunciation is im-brohl-yo) But since the English language mugged and pilfered a dozen other languages for most of its words, I have zero issues of picking the pronunciation pocket of one lone word for my own selfish purposes. Anyway….

For those of you who don’t know us, Chris and I are writers as well as owners of the micro-press publishing company, Fortress Publishing, Inc. Pretty much everything we’ve ever done can be found at http://www.fortresspublishinginc.com. Go ahead, check it out. We’ll wait.

As writers, we’ll use this space to keep you posted about new releases and projects whenever they occur. And we’ll also try to give you a behind the scenes look of our works. In future posts, we will deconstruct our books for you. For our “Drunken Comic Book Monkeys” series (collections of short stories where Chris and I are actually the protagonists), we’ll review some of the stories and give insight to where we came up with the ideas and how we went about bringing them to life. For our novel “The Shattered Visage Lies” (a sci-fi tale about people waking up with super powers), we’ll examine the characters and plot and themes. One of the questions we hear the most is, “What does the title mean?” Keep coming back, and we’ll tell you!

As publishers, we’ll tell you the story of how we started Fortress Publishing, Inc. as well as share some of the ups and downs that come with owning your own publishing company. We have two lines of magazines – “The Realm Beyond” and “Cemetery Moon” – that we edit and we’ll post suggestions and advice for aspiring writers who may want to submit to us.

Well, that’s all for now. We hope this blog will be informative and entertaining. If nothing else, there’s a good chance that you will learn what NOT to do!!

CHRIS SAYS:

Welcome to our first blog. It occurred to us when we decided to give this blogging process a go that neither Brian, nor I, have any clue how or what to do here. But then neither of us knew the first thing about editing, publishing, starting a business, running said business, creating books, dealing with printers, making friends, smiling…well you get the idea, right?…but look at us NOW! Ok, bad example. My point, I think (sometimes these obscure little demons evade me), is that doing is the process of learning, and we can all do this together as we go. And perhaps some of you will be mildly amused along the way. Particularly if I trip at some point. Or Brian gets poison oak. Lest I digress….

While we’re on this little adventure together, hopefully we can make this an interactive event. We love to hear from people (especially those who agree with us!) and neither Brian, nor me, is particularly skilled at monologue, so we’d love to try to make this as much like a running dialogue as possible. We’ll attempt to answer as many questions as quickly as we can, or just offer reasonably intelligent responses to comments (disclaimer: we reserve the right to take out a digital ad to find intelligent responses, as needed).

Oh, yeah, there’s also the potential that we could need material for this blog in the future, because, despite the fact that we’re both fairly loquacious, we’ve been known to be distracted by various and sundry events and items. Consequently, we miss important episodes of television programs, good movies, new blockbuster fiction, cool releases from the metal music world, etc. That being said it’s entirely possible that we may turn to the readers to see what topic you think we missed out on. Keep an eye out for those events. And keep checking back to see what’s new. Or at least make bets with your friends about how much we can underachieve on this effort and come back to determine the winner. Whatever motivates you, we hope to see you back here again. Ciao!

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