A New Beginning, or Another Intermittent Update

Remember when this blog was really hoppin’ with regular posts and updates and stuff? Ah those were the days…

I’ve been pointing some people here recently, somewhat reluctantly because I know the first thing they’ll see is a post from last March. Ugh. Easy fix: write something new.

Seems like I’m overdue to check in, anyway, so here goes:

vampiremob-logo

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Vampire Mob issue 1 cover by JM Ringuet

I’m very happy to be serving as creative consultant on the first Vampire Mob graphic novel.

Vampire Mob originated as what the kids call a web-series (even though technology basically allows us to watch anything on our TV, computer, tablet or phone, so the distinction between TV series and web series is becoming increasingly negligible; but I digress…).

Vampire Mob is the story of a mob hit man who at some point decided becoming a vampire would make his job easier. Then he bites his wife. Then she bites her mother. Now all three are all stuck with each other under the same roof for eternity. It’s part dark comedy, part mobster movie, with a little horror on the side.

You can watch both seasons for free here. Season One is good and then it really clicks in place with Season Two. It starred some pretty impressive actors, probably most notably Marcia Wallace, who for 23 years was the voice of Edna Krabappel, the beleaguered fourth grade teacher to her troublemaker student Bart on The Simpsons (a classic show that has been running for so long that even describing it seems completely unnecessary). For another generation, she is remembered as the receptionist Carol Kester on The Bob Newhart Show (another classic show).

Sadly, Marcia Wallace died toward the end of October last year. Vampire Mob writer/director Joe Wilson still had a script for Season Three but he just couldn’t imagine recasting the role of live-in mother-in-law Virginia Jones. But he still had more story to tell and a very invested cult following waiting to see what happened after the cliffhanger ending. So Joe decided to adapt Season Three into a graphic novel.

That’s where I came in. Joe had very little experience with comics, so I’ve helped reveal to him the unique language of comics. I’ve been giving feedback on his scripts, art and production. Joe has been writing on Tumblr about his journey in making his first comic book (or graphic novel; it’s semantics, really). It’s been fascinating to see him navigate this new experience. He’s tireless in his passion to connect with his audience. And I mean he really connects with them, and cultivates a relationship that really means something. Those people turned out to give Joe his most successful crowd-funding campaign. Even people at Indiegogo latched on to the idea of a graphic novel called Vampire Mob and helped promote the campaign.

We’re working with a fantastic artist. JM Ringuet has been published at Image Comics (the home of The Walking Dead) with his own Repossessed, as well as Transhuman by writer Jonathan Hickman (The Manhattan Projects, Marvel’s The Avengers). Each page is flipping us out. He has really brought these characters and the world of Vampire Mob into a whole new dimension. On lettering we have Deron Bennett, who was nominated for an Eisner Award for Best Lettering the beautiful graphic novel Jim Henson’s Tale of Sand, and a Harvey Award for Best Lettering for the graphic novel retelling of the manga/anime Cyborg 009. He’s also writing his own comic book series Quixote. Additional graphic design is being provided by Katharine Holmes of VisualizeSocial, which is providing social marketing support as well. The team is rounded out by PR consultant Lynnaire MacDonald. It’s a pretty awesome team from all over the world. We all come from China, New Zealand, Canada, and the US.

If you would like to buy a copy of Vampire Mob issue #1, you can pre-order a signed copy here. You can get the no-frills e-version of 27 pages of story packed with lots of bonus content for $5. Or you can upgrade to get writer’s commentary, a signed copy, and tons more. I can’t wait to see the issue in person.

So that’s that.

More soon hopefully. Maybe I’ll talk about writing at news aggregator The Inquisitr. Or how I continue to contribute to Robot 6, whose parent site Comic Book Resources recently won the 2014 Eisner Award for Best Comics-Related Journalism (the same category Robot 6 itself was nominated last year). Or… who knows?

The Aftermath

Oh, hi there.

If your only interaction with me is this blog, you might be wondering what happened to NaNoWriMo. Actually, if your only interaction with me is this blog, I have failed on multiple levels, but let’s focus on one dangling plot thread of life at a time. In November, I decided to do the National Novel Writing Month challenge of writing 50,000 words in 30 days. The first day went well and by day three or four, I was up to just over 4,000 words. Then life really happened.

As you may have read here before, my wife Nahleen has multiple sclerosis and lupus. She started to fight an infection. Then I got bronchitis. Then I got the flu. Then she had an exacerbation, and we’ve been dealing with that ever since. Amongst all of that our beloved Cleo kitty was in and out of the vet. Just now, after two different treatments for Nahleen, it feels like we’re just starting to crawl out of the last 2-3 months and find more stable ground.

In early February, while still in the thick of it, I stopped performing. Yes, remember how I’m in the improv groups The You Convention and TMA (The Meaningless Acronyms)? Remember how I started a show called The Corey Blake Experience? Well, my experience hasn’t been all that fun lately and instead of having to drop out of a show or cancel it entirely at the last minute, I decided to put things on hold for two months. So if you’ve been to one of those shows in the past month and didn’t see me, that’s why. (I should note that all three shows are still happening without me, even The Corey Blake Experience. They’re funny people, you should check them out!) This is the first time I’ve not been regularly performing every week or so in at least 5 years. It’s the first time I’ve put acting and performing on hold in… 20 years, maybe? So it feels a little weird. To be honest though, I haven’t really had a chance to think about it much. I’ve mostly been spending time with Nahleen at doctors, calling insurance companies, trying to get medications refilled, helping her with injections, and just spending time with her. Time with her is precious. In between all that, I’m still working at MobileCause and writing for Robot 6. Both jobs have been incredibly compassionate and understanding during this time. And the love, support and help we’ve received from our family and friends has been unbelievable. People have dropped off home-cooked meals, picked up groceries, found just the right cat food, mailed care packages, helped do laundry, walked me through removing an IV over Skype (!), and more. Much of it was coordinated through Facebook, which was both fascinating and miraculous to experience. Be as jaded as you like about Internet culture and social media, but it saved us these last few months.

It’s really been an exhausting, heart-breaking, and painful few months, but I’m not without gratitude. It’s shown me that the selfless and giving acts of people can make up for a lot of that struggle. It’s taught me that asking for help is OK. It’s actually more than OK. It allows those that care about us to not feel so helpless. It keeps us from becoming isolated in our misery. I really can’t recommend it enough. Of course, I’ll forget this lesson if/when something similar happens because the world teaches us to go it alone and never ask for help. The individual is supposed to push on, never realizing that their community can push together and disperse the burden.

Anyway, so that’s what’s been going on. For at least the next month, I’ll be focusing on enjoying time with Nahleen as she slowly recovers. While I’m not performing for now, so she doesn’t get sick of me staring at her face, I may do some more writing. Maybe continue with what I started for NaNoWriMo. But to be honest, I’m not exactly sure. I haven’t had this much empty, unreserved time in a long time. Maybe some time-wasting face-staring is exactly what is in order.

Day 1 of NaNoWriMo: 1,671 words

Day 1 complete. 1,671 words. A smidge ahead of the average to get to 50,000 words by November 30th (assuming we count title, author and chapter headers).

That also completes chapter one! It’s more like a prequel chapter, but I kind of like shorter chapters.

I think I’ll be blogging brief updates as I go too. I probably won’t write every day due to other commitments, but I’m aiming for weekends and about 2-3 days during the week days.

Also another note about the book. I put it under Science Fiction. I went back and forth with that. It was Fantasy first but it’s not high fantasy with elves and what-not. But it’s not hard sci-fi either, like with space ships. There is a fantastical backdrop that’s very light sci-fi but it’s not really the focus. I just wasn’t sure what genre to put it under. Probably doesn’t really matter for the sake of NaNoWriMo but I felt the need to clarify.

Thank you so much for the support and encouragement so far!

Off to bed! Will write more tomorrow.

50,000 words in 30 days

Cheap mock-up of book cover*

Starting in less than 2 hours National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo) begins. And I’m participating. Which means I’m attempting to write 50,000 words in 30 days.

GULP

I decided to do this a day or two ago. I have no outline. I have a very busy month ahead writing for Robot 6 (check out my latest column about the newest Facebook craze, Bitstrips), bringing The Corey Blake Experience back to Neon Venus (it’s your second chance to catch me performing with both of my current improv groups – don’t miss it or it could be your last chance), performing at The Improv Space (every Thursday night at 8 PM!), working at my new job, and whatever else I do (I can’t even keep it straight). This could very well be a complete and utter disaster. Needless to say, I’m not really expecting to hit the 50K goal. I keep telling myself that whatever I write is more than what I had before. Even if it’s all garbage, at least I got things moving and tried a new way to create.

My book was an idea I’ve had burbling around in my head for years, maybe a decade or more. At various times, I’ve considered it a web series, a comic book, a web-comic, and a graphic novel. Technically writing a script is considered breaking the loose rules of NaNoWriMo, but they don’t really hold anyone to it. You’re categorized a “rebel” and you can pretty much do what you want with the month. But a 50,000-word graphic novel is massive. So maybe I’ll start it as a straight prose book. Maybe I’ll borrow from cartoonist Terry Moore and mix comics and prose. The whole thing is an experiment for me, so I’ll borrow from my weekly improvisation shows and just see where it takes me. NaNoWriMo released a pep talk from James Patterson today and he briefly referenced Art Spiegelman, the guy who created the Pulitzer-winning graphic novel Maus. That made me feel good about not backing down from doing it as a comic. It’s the language and format that I’ve spent more time consuming and studying. So we’ll see.

The story itself. I wrestled with which idea to pursue but I knew pretty quickly it would be this one. I have a comedy web-comic that I’ve been writing, and I definitely want to look into writing more comedy again. But this is not a comedy. As I’ve conceived it, it’ll probably be kind of depressing actually. Again, we’ll see where it takes me. I’m sure there will be moments of levity, but it’s meant to address through metaphor a lot of my feelings and emotional responses to Nahleen’s diagnoses first with multiple sclerosis and then with lupus. It may very well end up being a very clumsy and sophomoric expression, but I think I’m long overdue to finally write this.

Some will start writing at midnight. I’m about to head to bed for work tomorrow. And then tomorrow night, I’m going to dive in. Please have patience with me as I may be more tired than normal over the next 30 days. If you’re doing NaNoWriMo this month, be one of my writing buddies! Or just wish me luck! I’ll probably need it.

*Credit Where Credit Is Due Department: The temporary cover above is cropped from this free wallpaper image.

Introducing… The Corey Blake Experience!

The Corey Blake ExperienceLook at that thing! It’s just ridiculous but somehow it’s really going to exist. Starting October 12 and every second Saturday night until we’re kicked out, I’m going to be doing a late night live comedy show at Neon Venus! And yes, the title really is The Corey Blake Experience! That awesome flyer was made by Jim Maloy. I cracked up the instant I saw it.

While this may sound like a very self-indulgent one-man show, that couldn’t be further from the truth. This is me bringing together the two improv teams that currently tolerate my presence and another group I’m friends with for some shenanigans and tom-foolery. Who knows, maybe we’ll throw in some other surprises too!

I’m really happy with these two groups I’m in so it’s a thrill for me to get the chance to show them off to you. Opening the show will be The You Convention, one of the home teams of The Improv Space in Westwood. We perform there every Thursday night in the 8:00 hour for only $5. I really enjoy this team. About half of our original line-up has changed and I think we’ve really found the right dynamic. We all clicked pretty quickly and have found a great chemistry. We usually start each show off with what is called scene painting, where we create the room we’ll be existing in based on your suggestion. I’ve never done anything like it and it really creates a grounded show with a lot of fun discovery. For everyone who can’t make it out Thursday nights or get to the west side, here’s your chance to finally catch us. It’s not a school night and it’s more centrally located. No excuses!

Next up for The Corey Blake Experience will be O.N. Improv, the Antelope Valley’s only improv team. Needless to say I’m not in this group because I don’t live in the Antelope Valley. Where is the Antelope Valley, anyway? I have no idea either but it’s supposed to be really far away and for some reason they think it’s a great idea to drive for miles to do a show with us once a month. We’re thrilled to have them! They bring a lot of energy, enthusiasm and silliness. And I love the idea of growing the improv community by bringing people from outside the LA area in so we can all learn and be influenced by each other. I’m hoping they’ll invite some of us out for a show in their faraway land so we can return the favor.

Closing out the night will be T.M.A. (The Meaningless Acronyms). This team is so new, we don’t have a Facebook page yet. But we do have this cobbled together page on ImprovTeams.com (that’s a neat platform for improv groups, by the way; still rough around the edges but a lot of potential). I was invited to join this team and we’ve been getting our feet wet with monthly shows in Hermosa Beach opening for Jump Start about once a month. We’ll appear there as long as they’ll have us but we thought it was time to get more stage time because we’re desperate stage whores. T.M.A. has really clicked into place very quickly, with a style that embraces absurd characters and situations. It’s fast-paced, loose and playful. We’re still experimenting with our format but we’re primarily long form after a game to kick things off. We’ve gotten fantastic responses from the Hermosa Beach audiences so now it’s time to invade Hollywood.

If you’ve never seen me perform, or haven’t in a long time, this is the perfect opportunity. A late night party in happenin’ Hollywood. It’s not on a school night and it’s only $5 for a metric ton of comedy. Also, if you don’t show up, they’ll kick us out and I’ll cry alone and dejected. So there’s all kinds of incentives!

Here are the details:

When? Saturday, October 12, 2013
No but when? 10:15-11:30 PM
Where? Neon Venus
No but where? 7023 Melrose Ave., Hollywood, CA 90038
How much? $5
Facebook invite? Facebook!
OK? OK!

Bonus fun fact: In case you are a philistine, the flyer is based off the album cover by Karl Ferris used for The Jimi Hendrix Experience album Are You Experienced?.

Help! Save me, Marvelous Man!

Stan Lee’s World of Heroes YouTube channel just got significantly better because I’m in one of the videos! I was thrilled to get to work with director Sean Becker and writer/actor Jeff Lewis again, this time for Episode 6 of Chatroom of Solitude. The episode stars Colin Ferguson (Eureka) as Marvelous Man, Annie Sertich (The Groundlings, correspondent for The Tonight Show with Jay Leno) as Sheila Marvelous, Vince Caso (The Guild) as Josh Marvelous, and Laura Ortiz (Holliston) as Tabitha Marvelous. Jeff Lewis (The Guild, The Jeff Lewis 5-Minute Comedy Hour) also shows up as Dirty Math Teacher.

It was a lot of fun to be a part of this. Colin really went above and beyond for our scene, as did the excellent crew. You’ll see me in one more episode, so go subscribe!

WTF Comics

Here’s a video made through a spontaneous team-up with Weyward Sisters Productions. It was great fun to meet them and collaborate on this. Hopefully it’s enjoyable whether you know about comic books or not. In case it helps, go through the jump for the back story and info on how this was made through the magic of Facebook.

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