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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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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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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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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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