Archive for March, 2012


If I had 500 million dollars…

I’ve never played the lottery very much. Vegas style gambling I understand — even if you win just a tiny amount, there’s that instant gratification that makes pulling the lever on the slot machine again oh, so tempting. (I know, they’re all electronic now, no more levers. Allow me my moment of romanticism.) But not so the lottery. You win five bucks playing penny slots, you get pumped and try to win more. You win five bucks playing the lottery, you think, “Hey… five bucks.”

Still, with everybody buzzing about the current MegaMillions jackpot, estimated at a whopping $540 million, it’s hard not to get drawn in. I threw a dollar into my work lottery pool, not because I expect to win but because I can’t risk being the one teacher who isn’t in the pool if they do. And I bought a ticket myself, which I almost never do. Yeah, I know the odds of winning are astronomical — I’ll get struck by lightning while riding an ostrich before I win one of these things. But as bad as the odds are, sooner or later somebody wins. So why not take your chance that it may be you?

Anyway, as I’ve said before, you don’t so much buy a lottery ticket as you buy a one-dollar license to dream about being rich. You can daydream any time you want, of course, but having a lottery ticket in your pocket makes it just a little more tangible, a little more possible, and that makes the dream more satisfying. So I’ve thought about it, about what I would do if I hit that 500 million-plus dollars tonight. And I’ve enjoyed thinking about it…

  • First, I do the boring stuff. Pay off loans, credit cards, and so forth. Find a trusted financial advisor to set up some funds that would keep accruing interest and make damn sure no matter how stupid I am I’d never have to worry about money again.
  • I know most people say they wouldn’t quit their jobs if they won the lottery, and there’s a good reason for that: they’re liars. I would quit, but not until the end of the semester. It’s not fair to either the students or the school to walk out in the middle of the semester, and I’d feel bad about leaving them in the lurch, so I’d stick it out until June. But man, I’d have FUN those last few months.
  • I would make sure my family is taken care of — money for my parents, my brother, my sister, college funds for my nieces. I can afford to share the wealth.
  • And then… THEN… I’d start having fun. I’d grab Erin. Get a new car. Get us a house in New Orleans and one in Pittsburgh — nothing super-fancy, mind you, I’ve no desire for a 90-room megamansion, but something nice and comfortable wherever we are whenever we want to be there. Each house would, of course, have an extensive library, networked office, and miniature recording studio (I’m not gonna quit my podcast).
  • Buy tickets to San Diego Comic-Con. Yes, I know they’re sold out, but I’ve got FIVE HUNDRED MILLION DOLLARS. I bet I could find one. The same goes for a hotel room.
  • Vacation. Go with Erin everywhere we’ve ever wanted to go — Europe, Austrailia, Six Flags over Albuquerque… shoot the works.
  • And finally, when we get back home, exhausted but satisfied, I’d make writing full-time my gig. In the time I now spend on a day job, I’d spend it all either writing, reading, watching, or writing about what I’ve watched and read. Which is the sort of thing I love doing most anyway.

Will it happen? Probably not. The skies are clear of thunderheads and I haven’t seen any ostriches to climb on lately. But at least until the numbers are drawn tonight, I get to think, “Why not me?”

And then the numbers will be drawn and it’ll be back to reality. But it’s fun while it lasts.

So play the game, friends. You’ve got half a billion dollars burning a hole in your pocket. What do you do?


Everything But Imaginary #441: If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It

So… Michael Bay… Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles… that happened. This week, Everything But Imaginary talks about movie adaptations that prove the old saying is true — if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Everything But Imaginary #441: If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It


2 in 1 Showcase Episode 260: Superheroes Beyond Comics

Although comic books gave birth to the superhero as we know it, that doesn’t mean they’ve been restricted to the four-color pages all these years. This week, Blake and Kenny share their own top ten lists of superheroes who were born outside of comic books, then dive into some of your suggestions. In the picks, Kenny goes with Aquaman, and Blake chooses Wolverine and the X-Men and the final issue of Tiny Titans. Contact us with comments, suggestions, or anything else at!

Music provided by Music Alley from Mevio.

Episode 260: Superheroes Beyond Comics


Everything But Imaginary #440: Why I’m Ready For AVX

Over the last few years, some of Marvel’s biggest crossovers and biggest franchises have failed to live up to my expectations, while some of their smaller books have flourished. And now perhaps the biggest crossover amongst their biggest franchises is on our doorstep… and somehow, I feel excited for it. Today, I ponder why.

Everything But Imaginary #440: Why I’m Ready For AVX


Why writing stinks

I hate writing.

This confession will be astonishing to most people, as the sole overriding desire of my entire life, the one constant from about the time I was ten years old until today, is a burning desire to be a writer. This, of course, requires me to write. But as anybody who has ever tried to do it will tell you, writing isn’t easy. Many people (who have never written a complete paragraph and think it’s perfectly acceptable to use “U” when you mean “YOU”) assume that it’s a terribly simple process that any Tom, Dick, or Harriet could accomplish if only they had the time in their ever-so-busy schedules to sit down and do it, because really, you’re just making stuff up. How hard could that be?

The truth is, when someone says they want to be “a writer,” what we really mean is we want to have written something. Because that’s a great feeling. Looking down at a story that feels complete, that feels finished, that draws a little praise and (if you’re extremely lucky) a little money is a feeling that doesn’t compare to anything else I’ve ever experienced. And the act of coming up with an idea, similarly, is wonderful. When a good one hits you like a bolt from the blue, or when a thought that’s been mucking about in your head for a long time finally breaks free and takes a life of its own, it comes with an intense feeling of power. You’ve become a creator of worlds, and that’s awesome.

Everything in between those two stages sucks the big one.

Those moments when you stare at the blank page, trying to figure out where to go next (or even worse, where to go first). You don’t know this story well enough, you don’t know these characters, you don’t know this place. You’re not black/a woman/short/Methodist/a six-tentacled alien from Grimbullax XII… how can you possibly get across in your writing of what it’s like to be any of those people? You’re conjuring it all up and it’s all horribly inauthentic and nobody will ever want to read it and you wish you could just lie down behind the sofa and die before anybody calls you out on it.

Then there are those times when you begin to realize you’re a worthless hack. Okay, this sounds pretty good, but didn’t they do that same joke on an episode of Seinfeld once? This concept is brilliant, but c’mon, Isaac Asimov must have written virtually the same thing. These are the times when you’re certain, at any moment, the Literature Police are going to break down your door with a battering ram and someone will point at you and scream, “HIM! THAT’S HIM! EVERYTHING HE’S EVER WRITTEN WAS ALREADY DONE BY SHAKESPEARE AND EDGAR RICE BURROUGHS AND J.R.R. TOLKIEN AND THE SIMPSONS! GET HIM!” And you will calmly hold up your wrists and allow them to cart you away.

These feelings are awful, most of all, because you know on some level that they’re justified. Every creator in the world is influenced by their experiences — either by what they’ve lived through, which makes you question how you can convey the feeling of being marooned on a desert island since you’ve never done it yourself for any extended period of time, or what media they have consumed, which means that every book you have ever read and every movie you have ever watched is in your subconscious somewhere, and it may well crawl out onto the page without you even realizing it.

Several years ago, a friend of mine read an early draft of a story that eventually turned into Lost in Silver. Upon finishing, she asked me if I’d been reading a lot of C.S. Lewis lately. I had no idea what she was talking about, until she directed me to the penultimate book in the Chronicles of Narnia, The Magician’s Nephew, where Lewis described a “Woods Between Worlds” that sounded a hell of a lot like my description of Evertime. Not having read that book in about 15 years at that point, I rushed out and found a copy, read it, and immediately began bashing my head against the wall. Clearly, although virtually everything else about the story had leaked through my brain like a sieve, the Woods stayed there and, lacking context, my brain started to adapt it to the story I was trying to tell. T.S. Eliot once said that “mediocre writers borrow; great writers steal.” Eliot forgot to mention that theft is sometimes like robbing a bank in your sleep, waking up surrounded by piles of money, and deciding you must have won the lottery.

Ultimately, I kept most of that original Evertime concept, after doing what writers have been doing ever since there was a second one: I rationalized the hell out of it. It was, after all, only a small part of the grand Narnia mythos, while it was a vital part of the story I was trying to tell. And I couldn’t come up with a way to accomplish the same thing that I liked nearly as much. And it wasn’t exactly the same, it was my take on the idea. And part of the main theme of the Evertime stories is that there are enough worlds in creation for everything ever imagined to co-exist, so naturally there will be elements that seem derivative of classic creations. And they’re never going to get around to making that book into a movie anyway.

All writers do this. We have to. Because when the brain creates it needs building blocks, and it gets those blocks from every bit of information you’ve ever fed into it. Every writer is influenced by every other writer whose work they have ever experienced. And this is true whether you’re blatantly copying somebody else by moving Kevin Costner to another planet and turning the Indians blue or whether you’re intentionally throwing away every element that made vampires threatening, entertaining, or interesting to read about and replacing all that with sparkle paint. In both cases — and in every case in between — you’re still reacting to an earlier work. It’s impossible to escape.

So the hard thing about writing, you see, is trying to think of something to say that hasn’t been said before. And when you realize that’s impossible, trying to think of a way to say it that hasn’t been done.

It’s just not easy.

But if you honestly want to be a writer, you eventually shove all that crap out of your brain, sit down in front of the computer, and start hitting keys until you’ve got something that may be worth showing to someone.

Which, if you’ll excuse me, is really what I should be doing right now.


Only an English teacher would say…


In the not-too-distant past, I spent the better part of a month working with my 11th grade classes on Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible. As such, it is still fresh in my mind.

Today, we were trained in the procedures for our annual standardized tests. Part of the procedure is that the test administrator (the teachers) have to sign a document stating when we were trained, when we were given our testing materials, etc.Underneath the space for “Test Administrator” to sign was another space, reserved for “Proctor (if Applicable.”)

And immediately, I looked at the other English teacher in my group and said, “Well he’s never going to sign that…”

This has been something ONLY AN ENGLISH TEACHER WOULD SAY. Thank you.


Everything But Imaginary #439: Water Cooler Comics

With comic prices on the rise and trade paperbacks becoming more ubiquitous, it’s time to start making decisions about what books to get new and which ones are acceptable to wait for. So the question this week: will Before Watchmen be a “water cooler” comic?

Everything But Imaginary #439: Water Cooler Comics


2 in 1 Showcase Episode 259: John Carter and Books on the Screen

With John Carter finally in movie theaters a century after publication, with Game of Thrones and Dexter burning up your TV screens, this week we take a look at other books that should be made into movies or TV shows. In the picks, Erin goes with Fables Vol. 7 and Blake takes Action Comics #7. Contact us with comments, suggestions, or anything else at!

Music provided by Music Alley from Mevio.

Episode 259: John Carter and Books to the Screen


Looking for Writers’ Podcasts

I don’t listen to the radio very often. When I’m in the car, I’ve got a vast array of podcasts to keep me busy — shows about movies, TV, comics, old-fashioned radio comedies, audiobooks, and whatever the hell Monty and the Mongoose are doing these days.

One thing I’ve really been digging into lately, though, are shows featuring writers talking about writing. There’s something both entertaining and therapeutic about listening to other people who know the agony of staring at the blank page talk about how they conquered it to become successful. The Nerdist Writer’s Panel and The Q&A with Jeff Goldsmith are the two I listen to most often, but I’ve run out of new episodes of these shows and they aren’t being produced quickly enough. (Especially since, if the Q&A features the writers of a movie I want to see in that episode, I always hold off on listening to it until I can see the movie, even if I have to wait months for it to hit DVD or Netflix.)

So I’m putting out the call — help me find other shows along these lines. I want to listen to writers talk about their stories, their craft, the business of writing, the things they love and the things that drive them crazy. Besides the two shows I just mentioned, I also frequently listen to the Flying Island Flagship podcast, Word Balloon, and of course, Mur Lafferty’s I Should Be Writing.

What else should I have on my iPod?


Everything But Imaginary #438: Making Way For the Warlord of Mars

In the last few months, I have managed to overcome years of indifference and become a real fan of John Carter, warlord of Mars. How? I read the books. Wild, I know. Today, I talk about how I found my way to the granddaddy of modern sci-fi and why I dig it so much.

Everything But Imaginary #438: Making Way For the Warlord of Mars

March 2012

Blog Stats

  • 319,651 hits

Most Viewed Posts This Week

Blake's Flickr Photos

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.