The Silly Tale of the Smith Family Commission

I was first approached by Mr. Smith, at the Pittsburgh Witches Ball. He asked me if I was available to do commissions.

That made me ask, “What would you like me to draw for you?” And he said, “I was thinking of getting my family drawn as superheroes. But let me get back to you on that.”

About a month later I was approached by Mrs. Smith.

She asked, “Can you please draw my family and me as super heroes?” To which I said, “Absolutely!”

That resulted in this:

While I was drawing this, Mr. Smith contacted me again. He said, “Hey! Are you still available to do commissions? Because I would really like you to draw my family as superheroes.”

Before I could reply, I contacted Mrs. Smith and said, “Uh…your husband just asked me to make the same thing you asked for. What should I do?”

She laughed.

So I said to Mr. Smith, “Sure I can make the thing!”

And that’s how I drew this:

They were both surprised when the presents were unwrapped.

Why I’m Getting in the Affiliate Marketing Game

If you’re in the webcomic sphere of the internet, you know that Project Wonderful shut down back in August 2018.

Project Wonderful was a tool that let independent creators (especially webcomic makers) advertise their comics for literal pennies, while also having ad spots available on their own sites to get some ad revenue in.

However, because the internet is constantly changing and evolving, ad spots on websites aren’t really a positive anymore – they’re a nuisance. (Hey, I get it. I browse the interwebs as much as I post stuff on it.)

It’s also gotten to the point where ad blockers are getting really, REALLY good at their job. To the point where Project Wonderful wasn’t making as much revenue for creators as it did in the past.

Plus, well, Patreon is a thing. Patreon has made making any kind of creative content for a living much, MUCH easier than just copying and pasting ad spots.

So, Project Wonderful shut down.

I feel bad for the comics makers who depended a lot of their income on that project (I know one creator who spent an absurd amount of money on ad spots in that service).

That said, I’ve been looking for new ways to get some kind of passive income in – not to get rich, but enough to cover the cost of hosting all the sites I run. Because I have this site, Johnson & Sir, Charlie & Clow, and now The Legend of Jamie Roberts, plus some other projects in the works.

To that end, I looked into affiliate marketing, and I’m willing to give that a shot.

However! I have some ground rules of my own, and I hope you hold me to these when it comes to pursuing affiliate marketing:

  1. I’ll only promote the products and services I have used that I can vouch for. E.g. I’m working with Blick art supplies because I’ve bought from them in online and in-store capacities. I like their selection and service.
  2. If a blog post or site page has affiliate links, there will be a disclaimer at the top of the post.
  3. Amazon affiliation will be kept to a minimum. I’d rather support other brands.

On top of affiliate marketing, the webcomic sites I run (as well as the secret projects that are still in the works) will have something that may be a throwback to Project Wonderful, but with my own twist…

Sponsorship Spots.

The way it works is this: if you or a creator you know has a project you want to promote, send me a web-friendly image and a link to the thing, PayPal me, and your thing will be in the sponsor slot for a month. (More specific rules are listed here.)

I’m starting with The Legend of Jamie Roberts’ site to see how well it works. If it does well, I’ll expand it to the other webcomic sites I run. Sponsorship spots may not be a thing on this website, though, since this is a blog and portfolio site.

I wanted to let you know about these changes to be upfront and honest about it. Your support through Patreon, KickStarter, the online store(s), conventions, and even just interacting on social media and leaving comments is still HUGELY appreciated! Affiliate marketing is just a small avenue to pursue to help cover some basic costs, so I can keep bringing comics and other work to you.

That’s all for now. Thank you very much for reading, and for your understanding.

You. Are. Awesome.

What I Accomplished in 2018

This is going to be a 2-part blog series. Part 1 – today – is about what I accomplished this year. Part 2 will be about what I plan to get done next year, in 2019.

So I had a list. Like everybody else, I wanted to get everything on the list done. That said, I’m happy that at least half of it was accomplished. I’ll get into why the entire thing wasn’t complete by the end of the post.

The purple circles next to the entries are for comics/business related goals. The green circles indicate personal goals of mine.

I can tell you right now the reasons that “Get a passport” and “Pay off at least one student loan” weren’t accomplished.

A) The student loan goal wasn’t accomplished because my student loans are federal. In one package. The package has a breakdown of, like, 6 loans. But my repayment plan is set so that one payment splits among all the loans. I tried to negotiate it to do otherwise, but the loan servicer wouldn’t let me. To do that would have necessitated changing the repayment plan, which I couldn’t do until the very end of this year.

B) I have the money saved back for a passport. HOWEVER, there’s a metric ass-ton of paperwork involved to get one. One of the documents you need is your original birth certificate. Not a copy. Already this is a pain in the ass for me, because my birth certificate is on THE OPPOSITE SIDE OF THE COUNTRY. Thanks, dad, for being in the military when I was born.

All that said, Let’s talk about what WAS accomplished, in chronological order.

JANUARY: Start Roth IRA

This was top of my list for one reason only: I opened the wrong type of IRA last year. Aspiration is a great company, but right now they only have Traditional IRAs.

(The difference between a Traditional and Roth IRA can be found in this post. No, it won’t freeze your brain.)

So I opened a Roth IRA with Fidelity. I also got an Acorns account, but that’s a different ball of wax.

MARCH/APRIL: Make $500 in sales at a convention

Thank you to the peeps at Awesome Con for making THIS goal happen!

Awesome Con this year was the last weekend of March, going into April 1. This was my first convention in over 5 years with an attendance of over 70,000 people. So I was nervous.

I wrote a lot more about the experience of Awesome Con in this post if you would like to read it.

MAY: Edit The Legend of Jamie Roberts to Completion

I have this day marked specifically in my bullet journal: May 30, 2018. That’s the day I wrote the outline for the final draft of The Legend of Jamie Roberts.

Up until the outline, I combed through the first 5 to 7 chapters and fixed a LOT of things. Did I comb through the story after Chapter 9? Well, I didn’t feel it was necessary to.

Why? Because as long as I have the outline in hand, the story is set. It’s not entirely set in stone, to allow for some creative wiggle room. Because present day me will not be the same as me 5 years from now. And this comic is going to be updating online for YEARS.

That said, I wanted to write down the trajectory of the story and how it will end. That’s what the outline is for. And I’m glad I wrote it.

AUGUST: Paid Off Credit Card.

I got myself into credit card debt last year for one altruistic but dumb reason. I was making donations to political and social causes and thinking, “I can pay this off soon!”

Only I didn’t.

So I stopped making donations… though you couldn’t tell with the amount of mail I get from organizations asking me to donate to them.

The other problem, too, was that, at a certain point, I was charging reprints of my books onto my credit card. While shows like Awesome Con were a hit (and paid off the charges), other shows like Put-N-Play were flops that drained my money.

So I got aggressive. I adopted zero-sum budgeting and managed to pay off over $3000 in 6 months.

My last credit card payment was on my birthday, August 24. And I was SO FREAKING HAPPY.

Now I only use that credit card for my phone bill. Nothing else.

I did pull a potentially risky move and got a second credit card. But the new card I got is more in line with my goals. It has no interest for the first 15 months of using it, and it’s a cash back card. So far I’ve only been using it for everyday purchases (groceries and gas) and paying it off at the end of the month. The cast back I get? I put into my savings.

I do also use this new card for business purposes. In fact, I would rather have this card be for business use. However, I only purchase things if I have the money in the bank to pay it off ASAP.

NOVEMBER: Finish Writing Auxaton’s Story

I didn’t announce this, but I DID take part in National Novel Writing Month. I kept it low-key because I had just wrapped up Inktober and started a KickStarter to get the sketches into a book. (That KickStarter ended up running twice, because it failed the first time. I’ll talk about that in a future post.)

National Novel Writing Month encourages participants to write a totally new idea. But I broke that “rule” to rewrite Auxaton’s story. I had written the first draft a few years ago and wrote myself into a corner. I wanted to start over again. So I did.

Holy dang was it an emotional roller coaster! While writing it, I laughed. I cried (a lot). I had revelations. I wrote EVERYTHING down. I made the 50,000 word goal by Day 22.

In the end, the novel ended up with 74,079 words.

I don’t plan on touching it again for a long while. I want the story to sit there until I can look at it again with an editorial eye, not a sentimental one.

After I wrapped up writing the story, I realized two things:

1) I like writing in the mornings for an hour. It gets the creative juices flowing.

2) Inspiration is like a cat: it wants your attention when you’re at your busiest. So just keep working.

???: Make Appearances at 3 Comic Shops

I feel like I fudged this one. Not all of the stores I appeared at this year were comic shops. I also didn’t specify if these shops had to be new to me.

So… most of the comic shop appearances I made were at New Dimension Comics locations. Though I DID make an appearance at Half Price Books in Reynoldsburg, OH on August 18. There was also a visit paid to The Big Idea Bookstore in Pittsburgh on June 23. I talked about that a bit in this post because it was the same weekend as Feminist Zine Fest Pittsburgh.

???: Learn 3 new recipes and cook them regularly.

Truth be told: I started this year not knowing how to cook hardly anything. I wanted to learn to cook because I was tired of spending money on Subway and other places that made food for me. I wanted to learn how to make things myself, dangit!

Some of the recipes I learned this year (that I still cook) include:

  • Chicken and Apple Curry (I made an infographic about this one)
  • Potato Soup
  • Easy Risotto
  • Easy Dirty Rice
  • Chili
  • Shrimp Fried Rice (thanks to the Mealime app)

I also perfected cooking chicken, fried potatoes, French toast, brownies, chocolate chip cookies, muffins, and ground beef.

All this made me realize: I LOVE COOKING. I love making food using SCIENCE. Plus, if done right, recipes like slow-cooker recipes can last really Mc-Freaking-Long.

CONCLUSION:

Why didn’t I get the entire list accomplished? Because looking back on it, I was keeping track of the wrong things.

Up until my October vacation to New Mexico, my daily tracking regarded… the food I ate. I wasn’t tracking pages written or other relevant metrics on a daily basis like I should have. I fixed this in November, but by then, it was too late to wrap up the entire list.

Keeping track of the food I ate DID help in some regards. It helped me realize that I was getting lactose intolerant with age. Plus it helped me keep track of when/if leftovers from my cooked dishes were going bad.

But next year, I’m going to be doing daily metrics specific to my goals for the year.

How about you? What were your goals for 2018? Did you end up accomplishing them? What lead you to succeed, or not succeed? I’d love to hear about it.

Thank you for reading!

You. Are. Awesome.

Featured Artist Friday: Interview with FalconHyrste creator Melissa Capriglione

Falconhyrste is a young adult, coming-of-age story set in a world with magic, mystery, and a rainbow of characters. It’s also charming as heck.

Today I got one of the creators of the story, Melissa Capriglione, to answer some questions for me about the inspiration and process behind making this webcomic.

Not only is this a return of an old segment on my blog called Featured Artist Friday – it’s also the launch date of Falconhyrste on KickStarter! Let’s celebrate by taking a peek into Melissa’s creative process:

What inspired you to make this comic in particular?

Initially, I wanted to make a comic because I needed experience in making comics! I was in my sophomore year of college at the time and, wanting to be a comic artist when I graduated, I realized I had little to no experience at making comics. So I went with the most accessible option- a webcomic! Anyone can make one, and you can host it on a variety of platforms.

The story itself was inspired by love for everything supernatural, and I brought in a lot of inspiration from various anime and comics.

You make this comic with another artist. What prompted the collaboration?

In December of 2015, I went on social media and asked if anyone wanted to collaborate on a webcomic. Clara (now my co-author) responded out of the blue and then we began brainstorming the story and swapping sketches. Both of us were beginner comic artists and didn’t have set styles at the time, so it was tumultuous.

I wanted to collaborate on the comic because we planned for it to be a larger project and I couldn’t see myself taking it on my own. We also act as each other’s beta readers, so the collaboration helps us figure out the plot and make sure our writing sounds good. It also just helps to have an extra set of eyes around for general feedback!

How was the collaboration process when you started out? What kinks in the system have you had to work through?

It was pretty rough in the beginning! We had no idea how long it would take us to make a page, so we were scrambling to finish our first handful of pages. It took us about an entire two weeks to make just one page, but now it takes us about a day or two.

Since then, we learned a lot about formatting pages, setting them up so we’re not using 50 layers, and general streamlining of the process.

This comic has been online for 4 issues now. How long do you intend for Falconhyrste to last?

Since we’re printing issue four, we plan on printing issue five sometime mid 2019. The pages for issue five (and half of issue six) are all done and on the website (falconhyrste.com), so we hope to have those in physical form soon!

As for the story itself, we’ve been doing this for about three and a half years now, and we’re not even a third of the way through our story! But the reason why it took us all these years to do barely 200 pages was because of our busy schedules. We were both in school when we were beginning, so we had to skip a lot of updates and take mini hiatuses due to exams and work schedules.

But now I’m full-time freelance so I can dedicate more time to the story, and hopefully Falconhyrste won’t take another ten years to finish!

Do you consider yourself a plotter or a pantser? (A plotter outlines the story in advance, a pantser makes up the story as they go along. It’s ok if you’re somewhere in between!)

Definitely somewhere in between! The entire script is written out in its entirety, but it’s mostly still the first draft from early 2016, so it’s not that great! We’ve kept a few parts but we’ve added and edited stuff since then. We usually try to plan a chapter ahead, though.

Dang near everybody in this comic is somewhere in the LGBTQ+ rainbow – which I’m not complaining about! I also saw in your portfolio website that you call yourself a “queer artist.” Now, there are (I have discovered) LOTS of LGBTQ+ comics and creators out there. What is it about Falconhyrste that makes it special to you?

Both of us are LGBTQ+, so we wanted to make a story that included people like us, as well as many other people in the community. It’s important to have queer stories available to younger audiences (Falconhyrste is classified as young adult) so that it can be more normalized.

Falconhyrste is special, I think, in that we enjoy just having queer characters existing happily in a world without bigotry and adversity, and use magic! Lots more comics these days are going that route, and it’s certainly refreshing to see, and I’m glad to be a part of this movement.

To create my own stories from my perspective and make the queer comics world even more colorful is one of my goals.

Falconhyrste will be on KickStarter November 16 (that’s today)! Is this your first KickStarter campaign or have you run previous ones? If you’ve done it before, what have you learned from previous campaigns?

This is our first Kickstarter, yes!

Before this, we did a pre-order for issues one through three, and the response to it was far greater than expected, so managing all of that by hand was kind of overwhelming. I figured Kickstarter would be our next best bet because it’ll be easier to manage rewards and stretch goals, as well as communicate with our supporters on a better level.

Obvious question: What tools do you use to make your comic? Is it purely digital?

Yes, 100% digital! I use a Wacom Cintiq 24HD with Photoshop CC, and Clara uses a Wacom Intuos with Clip Studio Paint.

Falconhyrste is a coming of age story if I’ve ever seen one. Are there other coming-of-age stories you want to write, or do you think your next story idea will be in a different kind of genre?

I think coming-of-age stories are my main focus. Growing up, I didn’t have a lot of stories I could relate to and ended up being uninterested and bored by most stories. Nowadays it’s so inspiring to see comics reaching a much wider variety of audiences than they did just ten years ago!

Lots of comics makers (and aspiring comics makers and other artists) read my blog. Is there anything you would like to say to them?

Start where you can!

If you have a story that you just need to create, don’t wait until you’re “good enough” to create it. You’ll get better through the process. It takes time, practice, and effort, but it will all pay off eventually.

Thanks Melissa!

You can find Falconhyrste at falconhyrste.com.

Be sure to follow Melissa on Twitter at @mcapriglioneart and co-creator Clara at @tenhousandbeez.

Be sure to pledge on KickStarter to claim issue #4 of Falconhyrste (as well as other rewards).

Thank you for reading!

You. Are. Awesome.