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The Journey: Reconnaissance!

In our previous installment of the journey, we learned all about printing. Well, we learned a little about printing. And we may have learned that Brian might not be Batman. Ahhh, who are we trying to fool? We all know that Brian is Batman. So, let’s take a peek at what happens when we try to educate ourselves about starting a business….

The Journey
“Reconnaissance!”

One of the more difficult things about being regular working schlubs like us trying to step outside of our preordained caste and start our own publishing company is finding time. There’s never enough of it to do what we need, to muddle through the regular day-to-day activities such as work, pay bills, spend time with the family, pay bills, feed the addiction to eBay, pay bills, do the chores, pay bills, etc… Then add to the pile, “small business start-up” and the pile becomes perilously close to toppling over, crushing all beneath it. Jac fell victim to such circumstance, no longer able to commit. Fortress was now down to three.

However, we bravely marched forward (to the beat of our own drummer, of course) and other things were starting to come together for us. We formed a “to do” checklist and slowly checked off each item as they became “to done.” At the top of the list was, “Come up with ‘to do’ checklist.” That pretty much entailed visiting a lawyer and harassing our CPA friend. We wanted to keep our time with them limited, so we tried to answer our own questions first to sound like we knew what we were talking about. Our first stop was to the local area Chamber of Commerce where we picked up a book entitled “Starting a Business in Pennsylvania.” I doubt every state in the nation will have the same book, but I’d wager that you could find something similar. Being the people person that I am, I much rather sit down with someone to get information. Being the cheap-o that I am, I much rather do it for free. Well, the “Starting a Business in PA” book helped, in the form of SCORE.

SCORE stands for Service Corps Of Retired Executives. They are just like their name implies, executives long since retired available to the public to assist in business workings. Free of charge. Interestingly enough, they’re located in the same damn building as the local area Chamber of Commerce. But the service is free and I’d be talking to executives, people who may have possibly been in the same situation we found ourselves. As luck would have it, laryngitis settled itself in the very day I had the time and opportunity to visit with them. Ask anyone who knows me and they’ll tell you that me getting laryngitis is God’s way of saying, “I’m sorry you have to put up with this guy.” Normally, I wouldn’t have minded, except for the fact that I’m a working schlub who doesn’t have enough time. So, the louder I tried to talk, the fewer audible words came out of my mouth. The particular gentleman who met with me had not one, but two hearing aids. Comedy ensued. You don’t need to be Karnak to see where this is going.

“Hi. I’m st_rting up a b_sines and w_s wond_ring where to start?”
“What?”
“I’m s___ting up a b___ness an_ wa_ won____ng wher_ to sta__?”
“What?!”
“I_ s_____g up a b______s a__ w__ w_____ng wh___ to st___?”
“WHAT?!”
“I_ S_____ UP A B_____ _ND W__ __NDER___ W____ TO __ART?!”
“Are you on drugs, man?!”

After some time, and the decision for me to communicate via pen and paper, I got the answers we were looking for. Even though the meeting cleared up some things, there were still a few questions we needed to ask a lawyer.

Upon our first meeting with the lawyer, Chris and I quickly learned how monkeys at the zoo must feel as patrons stare at them. As we cartoonishly shuffled through papers looking for our research findings and subsequent questions, the only possible thought he could have been thinking was, “These two knuckleheads are starting their own business? They shouldn’t even be allowed in public.” Once we calmed down enough to be mistaken for human beings, Chris and I had one major question to answer: what business entity were we going to be?

We gave a brief overview in a previous article, so we won’t bore you with those details again. But we had our choices narrowed down to General Partnership, LLC and S Corporation. After one of the most intense meetings of our lives (only about 30 minutes, but sitting in a lawyer’s office always brings out the “fight or flight” reaction) and extensive note taking, Chris and I ran (literally) to the nearest bar after meeting’s end. Luckily, it was just across the street. After a jolly round of chiding remarks from both my future business partner and the waitress about my proclivity toward drinking beer that requires some form of citrus to be found floating in it, we reviewed our options.

A General Partnership is easy to form and easy to get money in and out of. However, there is no liability protection involved whatsoever. According to our lawyer, an LLC depends upon what state you’re in. In Michigan, they’re the greatest thing since sliced bread (hey, he’s a lawyer – they’re not known for having the greatest cliches), but in Pennsylvania, they are run very similar to Corporations. Although it’s easier for the members involved to get money out of a LLC, it still didn’t offer all the liability protection we were looking for. Plus, if it’s going to be run like a corporation, we may as well form a corporation, even though it may be difficult getting money out. Let’s not forget, Chris and I would be shareholders, and just like being a shareholder of any other corporation, we simply can’t take assets whenever we want to. Just because you may hold some shares of Wal-Mart doesn’t mean you can walk out of the store without paying for the merchandise and say, “I’m a shareholder. I own this.” Those rent-a-cops hit harder than you’d think and pepper-spray to the eyes doesn’t feel as pleasant as one might imagine.

So, it was decided! Before we hit the bottom of our first pitcher of beer, we decided that we needed another pitcher. However, it was shortly after that we decided to form an S Corporation. We wanted the protection, and thanks to the “S” status, all of the profits or losses flow through the tax forms to our own personal taxes. That means any money we earn gets taxed only once and (the more likely scenario) any money we lose, we get to deduct from our personal taxes.

The moral of the story is – if you plan on starting your own publishing company, or any small business for that matter, take full advantage of the free resources offered to you. Trust me, there are plenty of them. Start with your local area Chamber of Commerce and see what happens. Just make sure you clear a spot in your working schlub schedule for a bought of laryngitis first….

Next Issue: “Struggle.”

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Deconstructing the Stories, Part 3

BRIAN SAYS:

Holy wow! It’s been less than a year between postings! Tell your friends! Tell your neighbors! Tell your Priest! We’re heading to Crazytown and I think I’m the Mayor! Okay, I might have oversold it a bit. Sorry. It’s just another post pulling back the curtain that separates Chris and me from the rest of the world.

So, the last time we deconstructed some stories from our short story collection, The Drunken Comic Book Monkeys in: Scary Tales of Scariness (available here and here), Chris and I looked at a couple of our favorites. This time, we’ll take a look at a couple that really stood out for us. Or me, I’d have to say it’s the last story in the book, “The Drunken Comic Book Monkeys vs. The Devil,” for many reasons.

As we were writing the book, we went along our merry way doing some goofy things that led to unanswered questions. Beer Pants. Talking to animals. Dying more than the average human being. Why there’s a goat in a few of the stories. As we were finishing up the rest of the stories, we were running out of opportunities to explain ourselves. It finally dawned us to do one final story where we match wits with the devil. Better yet, we force Jeff to match his wits with the devil. And it worked.

Within the stories, we go up against scary creatures and other dastardly villains. The creatures were all fun, but the villains of the human variety lacked a certain level of relatability. After we finished about half of the stories and started talking about sequels to the book itself, we realized that it would be super fun to have Jeff as the antagonist, trying to kill us. “The Drunken Comic Book Monkeys vs. The Devil” sets that up very nicely, as if the motivation to kill us isn’t obvious enough.

One interesting piece of trivia is this story parallels the first story I ever had printed in a magazine titled, “Why I am no longer a lawyer.” In that story, a young man makes a deal with the devil. Regretting what he did, he went to consult a lawyer. The parallel between that story and “The Drunken Comic Book Monkeys vs. The Devil” is part of the reason why the characters of Brian and Chris get what they want and still escape with their souls is because of paperwork. The idea stemmed from soooooooo many “make a wish” stories where the wish maker gets screwed over by the wish giver because of poorly worded wishes. If I ever have a chance at receiving a wish or two from a near-omnipotent being, you better believe that I’m going to dot my “t”s and cross my “i”s before I utter any part of that wish, and all kinds of eyes will be crossed by the time I’m done!

Even though this story is the last one in the book, it’s the one that ties most of the other stories together. With a dash of meta-humor, the reader now gets a better understanding of the universe were working in and the characters running around in it. The goat? What about the goat? Well, you’ll just have to read the story to find out….

 

CHRIS SAYS:

Howdy, fellow reader! I see Brian is trying to set up here. Like anyone could choose one favorite from amongst their thousands of stories (or, in this case, half a dozen)! It’s a daunting task, I say! But I can do this….

When we had gotten to the point of falling off the barstools while discussing The Drunken Comic Book Monkeys project two things were evident: I had to do a zombie story (because Brian hates them!) and it had to be ridiculous. So when next we met, I was about 1000 words into the story and I told Brian that Drunken Comic Book Monkey Brian was turning out to be a legendary cusser. He thought for a second and said “Dude, it has to be PG13.” Well, dang. So I went home and pulled up the story. I laid on the delete key like a Rhode Island driver punishing the car horn in light-to-moderate traffic. I now had a story that was 273 words long and I was less than pleased about it. So I wondered, “What would Brian do?” Well, that’s easy! He’d do something that I hate. Hmmmmm….

We’ve already established that Brian isn’t overly fond of zombie stuff, so I needed to dig a little but deeper. Speech tags! Brian hates it when there are no speech tags! Brilliant! I’ll write a story without any speech tags. After a few hundred more words, I remembered an old college writing challenge where we were forbidden to use narrative exposition….All dialogue sans speech tags! That’s it! I’ll write the whole dang thing in dialogue! Words flew on to paper and I was loving how quickly I could type if I didn’t have to consider verbiage on the speech tags.

Suddenly I’m a few thousand words into the story and I can’t shake the nagging feeling that I don’t know how to end this thing, so I get the idea “what if I don’t?” If I blame the whole thing on the dastardly Potato People, then I can keep the pure dialogue gag going for another whole story and I have a reason for the zombie appearances. So I rolled with it. When I was about halfway through the Potato People story I realized that I didn’t know how to end that one either, so I figured “if it works once, then why not try it again?” Of course, as soon as Brian found out my little scheme, he forbid me from using dialogue in the Cthulhu story, which was fine by me and I like to think that it rankled him that the story got finished….Well, Brian is due back any minute now and I just swiped his last beer, so I’ll be seeing you!

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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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Deconstructing the Stories: Part 1

BRIAN SAYS:

Welcome back! Chris and I hope you’re enjoying our blog so far. As we mentioned in our very first post, we wanted to do a segment called “Deconstructing the Stories” where we’ll be going behind the scenes of some of our short-stories that we’ve had published. Well, here we go!

For “Deconstructing the Stories” Part 1, let’s take a look at “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 where Chris and I wrote ourselves in as characters of horror stories. If you’d like to familiarize yourselves with this book before we continue, you can order a hardcopy here at the Fortress Site and you can order an eVersion here (Smashwords) or here (Amazon) or here (B&N). Okay, so now that you’ve familiarized yourselves with the book, the first question you might have is how we came up with the idea in the first place.

As with most ideas that Chris and I have, we ultimately found inspiration at the bottom of a beer pitcher. But there were a couple things that happened before that.

As Chris and I were creating Fortress Publishing, Inc., we attended a few conventions to gather intel and generate some ideas. One convention in particular was the Pittsburgh Comicon and one particular comic book that we picked up was “Living With Zombies” where, as you may have guessed, the creators wrote and drew themselves as characters surviving the zombie apocalypse.

A few months later, Chris and I were at our monthly shareholders meeting (yes, Fortress Publishing, Inc. is REALLY a corporation) at Hooters. Much to the chagrin of the waitresses, our meetings would last 6+ hours and would deteriorate into silly debates, often loud and slurred. This one happened to be: Zombies, Pro or Con.

I find zombies little more than moving scenery while Chris believes that they represent man’s inherent fear of blah blah blah blah blah. During a particularly heated part of the debate (and for those of you who don’t know us, “heated” really means we entered the “giggle like a couple of preteen girls” stage of our drunkenness), Chris blurted, “I’m gonna write a zombie story with us as characters!” I replied, all too loudly as well, “Oh yeah? Well, I’m gonna write a vampire story with us as characters! And they’re gonna be the new, hip, sexy kind who wear black leather and listen to techno music!” We then paused in our bickering, ignoring the looks of indignation being cast at us by the waitresses and other patrons, and let the concept of writing ourselves as characters into stories percolate in our alcohol addled minds. We then looked at each other and asked, “Do we really want to do this?”

CHRIS SAYS:

Do we really want to order more beer? Duh! Oh, wait…Do we really want to work on this project that, in a more sober frame of mind, would likely be less appealing than shouting “all in” while holding a deuce and a seven, unsuited? We assessed our current situation as publishers. At that point, to date, we were the proud publishers of a few slick looking magazines and a graphic novel. A few nice beginner projects, but hardly the stuff of publishing legend. Brian and I both love short story anthologies and hoped that eventually the magazine arm of Fortress Publishing, Inc., would lead us down the path to publishing a few of them. From that aspect we were pretty darn amped about giving this project a shot.

As writers, we had a few short stories and some poems published, but we clearly wanted to get some more writing experience. We had no large writing projects looming so as we began to flesh out this project, we decided that this was a great opportunity to attempt to write in a few different styles, work with an outside editor (potentially), work with deadlines (shudder), find an illustrator, practice re-writes, find a printer we liked, and assemble a novel-length piece into a computer file that the printer would accept. All in all, this was a more daunting task than merely writing a few stories, and a few more pitchers later we found that we were pretty excited about the whole project and the experience we would get out of it.

While the creative coals were still hot, Brian and I started throwing out story names and suggestions at each other. Some of them made us cringe. Others made us cackle in a manner worthy of the forcing the employees to ask us to leave. But that didn’t happen. Instead, one of us got the bright idea that we should be capturing these ideas for future reference (the other argued…because, hey, it’s what we do). Fortunately, we not only write down our ideas, but somehow managed to stow the notes in a place where we actually came across them the next day.

Now, in all truth, Brian and I took far different approaches to the potential selection process. We both loved the ideas that made us titter uncontrollably, but Brian really focused on his past movie experiences, while I delved into the literary vault of my mind and dug out some of my favorite Gothic reads. Brian was noting themes and tropes, while I was methodically examining very specific works that focused on a specific atmosphere or style. In the end we wound up with a nice blend of horror that we thought we could poke fun at through unique twists, while maintaining a sense of respect for the original ideas.

Tune in next time when we deconstruct our novel “The Shattered Visage Lies”…

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The Journey

BRIAN SAYS:

We’re back!

We decided to start off with the first installment of 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 first installment. Let us know what you think!

The Journey

“Origin”

by

Brian Koscienski
&
Chris Pisano

Are you tired of the rejection letters? Have you thought about self-publishing? Did you ever wish that you could read about a couple of knuckleheads trying to start their own publishing company to see what’s really involved? Well, you’re in luck. We’re those knuckleheads.

As with any set of characters involved in comics, we have origins as well; reasons for our actions and motivations to elicit a sympathetic reaction from the reader. I’m Brian, the self-appointed mouthpiece of the group. Chris and I have been friends for well over a decade, but we had to muddle through the first seven years of friendship before we realized that we both shared dreams of becoming writers. “Why’d it take seven years?” you may ask. Well, we’re men and we share our feelings as often as Sally Struthers shares a sandwich with third-world children. And to be up front with you right now, expect “because we’re men” to be used as an excuse for many of the dumb things we’ll do during this arduous journey.

Just so you can truly understand the characters better, let’s just say that I’m the type of guy who would talk Chris into wearing capes and climbing to the roof of a two-story house, convinced we can fly. Chris is the type of guy who would talk me into trying it from the second floor balcony instead. I’m the type of guy who would then push Chris off the balcony to see if the whole flying experiment will work. Now, I’m not mean-spirited, mind you, just very driven, very zealous and often very misguided. Chris’ job is to fix these things.

Upon discovery of our shared desire to write, we decided to partner up and write a novel. As with any great idea, it was hatched after a few brews at the local bar. During a surprise moment of clarity, we decided to write a fantasy novel (the swords and horses, dragons and wizards kind) and quickly came up with settings, plots, characters and the dream cast of who should star in the movie version. Things were going very smoothly for us. I would write a few pages, inadvertently place the characters in precarious situations, then send the script to Chris and say, “Your turn.” This process worked, and worked well for over eight chapters, until one fateful day when my wife gave me too much free time, allowing me an opportunity to stroll to the “back issue” section of the local comic book store.

Forgive us, but to continue we must briefly revisit the Dark Age of comic books. Yes, the nineties. Marvel had all their “X” titles do a seventeen part cross-over three times a year; the Avengers were fighting whole wars underwater, in space, and through time; most of the other titles struggled to remain comprehensible (seriously, did anyone really understand the whole “She-Thing” idea?) all finally culminating to the Onslaught fiasco. What was going on over at DC? Superman died, Batman broke his back, Robin laid an egg while the bat-mobile lost its wheel and Joker got away. Independents weren’t much better with their plotless stories of T & A cloned “heroines” and heroes so large they’d make a Mr. Olympia contest look like a junior high chess club. Like some of you, the industry let us down and wore us down, giving us no other alternative to stopping all subscriptions and pray that one day the industry would refocus on writing. Well, as we found out, some prayers can be answered.

I never truly walked away, though. Thanks to eBay, I was able to feed the addiction of collecting, needing only a cursory glance through random issues to remember why I stopped reading them. Thusly, I only needed to visit the local comic store for bags and boards. One day, I had two hours to spare before I had to meet my wife for something. Two hours is a long time for a person all too willing to don a blanket-style cape and jump from a roof to fly. Curiosity pulled me past the “supplies” section of the store, right to the letter “A” of the back issue section. There it was – my radioactive spider, my gamma bomb – Alias #1.

Within minutes of finishing that issue, I went on-line and ordered the complete series. With a Galactus sized hunger, I went back to the comic shop and devoured every Max title I could find. So enamoured with the imprint, I went to Marvel’s website to learn more, however, only one word caught my eye – Epic.

Like so many aspiring writers out there, I couldn’t help but find, and click on, the menu option labeled “submission guidelines.” Can you see where this is going? Yep, my brain flooded with so many ideas that it would have given Charles Xavier an aneurysm, and immediately called Chris to convince him to veer off the novel path onto the road of comic books. Having learned there is very little difference between a jump from the roof and a push from a balcony, Chris quickly agreed. In fact, he kind of liked the idea.

Then came Gabe and Jac (pronounced Jake). Since the idea behind Epic was to submit ideas from a preformed team, we needed artists. Chris brought in Gabe while I brought in Jac, each with a unique style. Holding up our end of the bargain, we penned three scripts, one for a Ghost Rider idea, a Guardians of the Galaxy idea and a Moon Knight idea. Both Gabe and Jac fell in love with the Ghost Rider idea with such vigor that we had to write a second script to keep the artists from fisticuffs. All of us were proud of the scripts and had high hopes for the future. Unfortunately, reality has as habit of taking good feelings away from non-established writers.

Three rejection letters later, Epic folded before we could come up with any more ideas. However, we didn’t need to – our own thoughts and ideas took over. Completing script after script, original ideas were popping up faster than mutants in the Marvel Universe. Unfortunately, so was the phrase, “We are not currently looking for writing submissions at this time” on every publisher’s website. Finally, we had it. We couldn’t take it any more. We had another great epiphany, again hatched over a few more brews at the local bar. We’re going to start our own damn publishing company.

Fear not, intrepid reader, for we will certainly keep you abreast of our situation. Every folly and foible shall be well documented for your information, or amusement for those of you sadistic enough to enjoy watching the turmoil of a butterfly attempting to escape a spider-web. If all goes well, then hopefully other aspiring writers will take something from our example to blaze their own trail. If we fail, then at least a few lovable losers from Pennsylvania will show you in great detail what not to do…

Next Issue: “Assemble!”

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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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